Editable Google Slide(CC-BY-4.0)
While the content of this essay is metaphysical, the intent is very practical. That is to say, that the question we are talking about, is presented here not as a fundamental truth, but as a therapeutic method. This question is meant to be practiced, not pondered about – and as a therapeutic method, it should work (at least to a certain extent), regardless of whether the practitioner believes that the ideas behind it represent some fundamental truth or not.
If this question is a medicine, then what is it supposed to cure? Everyday anxiety, fear, anger, unhappiness, separation, and desperation – feelings that haunt so many of us on a daily basis. Yet every now and then we find ourselves in a special state that renders us immune to all of those. The question and the discussion below are aimed at making it easier to drop oneself into such a state voluntarily, anytime, anywhere.
1. “The Small I” – local personal consciousness, self, what we normally refer to when we say “I” in everyday life.
2. “The Big I” – global interconnectedness of all things. Whether you call it God, Buddha, Allah, Yahweh, Brahman, Universe, Quantum Gravity or anything else is not important for the moment.
>>> AM I HERE? <<<
These three words may sound simple, but the question has a whole universe inside it. Let us consider three layers of this question, starting from the outside (the most accessible layer) and going deeper inside as we move on:
Layer 1: Is the Small I Here?
Is [the Small] I [aware of what is going on] here? I.E. Is the Small I fully present in the current moment? Am I paying attention to the here and now, or is my mind somewhere else, thinking about past or future or possibilities or places far away? Am I aware of and focused on what’s going on here and now or am I thinking of and worrying about something that is not immediately presented to me right now and in this sense is not real?
When you ask yourself this question, you have no other option but to turn your attention to the here and now; let go of the possibilities of the past and future and turn your attention to the reality of the moment. And when you do this – you start to see your worries for what they really are: ghosts of your own making.
The real power behind this question is the power of taking back the control of your own attention. If you let your “worrying mind” or the TV or your phone or a Facebook algorithm to be in control of your attention, then your whole mental state becomes unstable and can be easily carried away into the lands of worry. But if you claim back the control of your attention by deliberately pointing it at something in the here and now – then no amount of external circumstance can move you off your mental balance.
Layer 2: Is the Big I somewhere here?
Is [the Big] I [presenting itself to the Small I in something that is] here? I.E. Now that you are aware of the here and now, is there anything in this very moment (inside or outside myself) that is wonderful and joyful and relaxed, that is just doing its own thing? In other words, is there anything out there that you can see as the Big I showing itself?
In order to proactively point your attention in the direction of beauty, in the direction of the Big I, you first need to find what in the reality of the moment is beautiful.
Even in the worst of situations, there is still something (e.g. your own breathe, the clouds up in the sky, the flow of water in the washroom) that is beautiful and relaxed, that is just doing it own thing peacefully. Deliberately turn your attention to it – and you will find yourself in association with it, you will find that you are no longer separated from it. There is only a little step from beauty in one to beauty in everything, but this step can be as hard as it is little.
Layer 3: Is the Big I equal to the whole of here, not just to some part of it?
Is [the Big] I [identical not just to one thing, but to all things that are] here [, your small I included]? I.E. Once you have found one thing in the here and now that clearly represents the working of the Big I, you can turn your attention to other things (your very own self included) and try to see what in them appears to be not a representation of the Big I doing its thing. You can try to find something that is foreign to the Big I.
For this you must look deeply inside everything that frustrates you and quietly observe, trying to locate what exactly is foreign to the Big I. And the closer you look, the more you will see that there is in fact nothing in the present moment that is not representing the Big I. So everything in the here and now (your small I included) is just the Big I doing its thing in a variety of ways. Thus Small I is equal to the Big I and together they are equal to the whole of here.
And once you see that – even the notion of fear, anxiety, anger or frustration will become anecdotal, for how can one be afraid of oneself if one is at one with oneself?
Personally we’ve been successfully applying the “Am I here?” question for some time in this articulated way. If only we can take control of our attention, we can almost always get ourselves to the outer layer (getting Small I to focus on the here and now), at least for a few seconds. Every now and then we manage to touch the second layer (finding one thing in the here and now and fully appreciating it as a representation of the Big I). And only a few times in our lives have we come close to touching the surface of the third layer (seeing the whole world and ourselves in it as the uninterrupted workings of the Big I).
Through various mental, physical, and spiritual practices we hope to gradually advance in this journey that will take me back to here. How many lifetimes will this journey take is obviously an irrelevant question, since even before we started we have already arrived.