Now, there are guides to help you improve yourself in almost every conceivable way – fitness, nutrition, assertiveness, financial success – just to name a few. There are, however, very few sources of basic information as to how to step into your own dominion as the being who is charge of your interior space. This includes mental health and mental well-being, but also on a deeper level this brings into question the spiritual value of your choices to invest in certain patterns of thinking and behaving.This article is intended to start at the very beginning, and focus on the core question of what it means to actually be you.
You have found yourself in a very interesting place. At some point, all of you can recall with varying degrees of clarity having found yourself inexplicably, but certainly and palpably, being. You likely discovered this miraculous fact at some point in childhood, and it may be connected with a certain person, place, event, or other circumstance. Regardless, somehow and at some point, it became significant to you that you undeniably exist.
This may have been one moment of sudden, eerie clarity when the veil lifted, and you saw for what seemed to be the first time that there was a real space participating in reality, and that space was identical with you. It could have arisen in one of many forms. For some people, it dawns as the realisation of your own mortality as a pet, grandparent or some other loved one or relative passes away. For some, it is the sudden and strange sense of being cordoned off from the rest of the cosmos, as though somehow out of the totality of reality, a tiny, solitary atom of existence just sprang into being. For some, it comes as a sense of one’s self becoming smaller and smaller until you are just a head upon a pillow or sitting upon two shoulders.
However it comes, it is a moment of monumental significance. One might even say it is of absolute significance, since everything you have ever or will ever experience will be encapsulated within this strange state, this radiant conscious space in which thoughts and feelings occur, and from which the world before you appears as sky, stars, mountains oceans, and your own hands and feet.
This space that you operate from, that you are, is referred to as phenomenal space. It is the context in which all content occurs, consciousness itself. You can know it is you because every single thing about you can change except for this one thing. You may change nationalities, identities, names, roles, relationships, genders – even species, but never this. You may think the last example odd, but consider how even the strangest of your dreams was still a theater in which the contextual space which you was still the referential hub from which you operate from as an entity. You could have dreamt you were a star, an ant, or the entire sky, but awareness was nevertheless present, and awareness was irrevocably you.
It goes without saying that to wake up as this thing is utterly strange. People are mystified by the strangeness of death, that one should exist one moment and not exist the next, that one should go to sleep one last time and never again wake. Only rarely do we see the sheer strangeness of our inception in this life, awaking out of apparent nothingness as though someone could have woken up without having ever gone to sleep. Birth is a far more mysterious phenomenon than death, and reflects the same questions about the universe on a microscopic scale: how the hell could anything whatsoever come to be? How could being arise, how could consciousness unfold?
And of course, these are the timeless questions of all science and philosophy, the most poignant of human endeavours to ascertain the truth of the matter.
I remind you of this grand beginning because when you revisit the fact of your awareness, of your existence as awareness, you are beginning again at each moment. This is the beginning of your awareness in this immediately perceivable moment right now. You were not conscious in childhood, or yesterday, you are conscious here and now. This is the space I invite you to operate in for the remainder of this article.
And so I come to ask you: who is at the helm of your ship? I use this as a convenient analogy, because the body is like a ship, a vessel for the consciousness – but it makes no difference, you are entirely free to discard the analogy and select your own.
I don’t come to you presuming to teach you anything you yourself do not already know. I am in no privileged position. On the contrary, you are the author of your own space and this is the respect in which you have authority. You are in creative control, and you have no need of anyone to affirm or deny this to affect the truth you know to be true.
Sometimes there is remembrance of the simple fact of our being, and sometimes there is forgetfulness. More often than not, it is forgetfulness and being caught up in everything the perceived world has to offer.
Now, let it be said that this is quite normal. It may not be sane, or conducive to mental and spiritual well-being, but it is normal. Every human either does it, or has done it. The capacity to choose to remember (re-member: to collect together the multiple aspects of your being) is by necessity accompanied by the capacity to choose to forget. Don’t take my word for this, nor anyone else’s – find out for yourself, in your own living experience when, where and how you choose to remember and forget.
It happens with everyone cyclically, and makes no distinction between the saint and the man sitting on death row.
Who are you? Remember, because it won’t be someone else who tells you, it is you who knows.
I want to leave aside all questions of why the world seems to be the way it is. None of that is relevant here in this article. The fact is: the world as it is appears to you the way it does, and you are consciousness – again, find out for yourself whether this is true.
What next? You have choices to make.
Observe the patterns of your thinking, your behaviour, your emotions. Observe the entirety of it. Find out whether you can do this – there is no law claiming that you cannot, see for yourself.
What you may find is that for very long periods, some longer than others, you have been asleep while the helm or the steering wheel has still been turning. It is never still – forces toss the vessel this way and that, to and fro, and action occurs in the world whether you are operating from a place of your dominion, from the seat of your awareness, or not. Decisions are made, events take place. There is either a decision on how you choose to act or react, or there is a delegation of the decision to take place at a lower level in which you do not claim your authority, sometimes referred to as ‘the draw of the lower self’. In any case, choice is happening, happening, happening.
The only question is: are you in the place you want to be? Are you wanting to be in a place of authorship in this life? If you are like any other person in the history of the species, chances are very high that you have deferred this authority time and time again. I want to talk about why this should happen. Let’s now take a look at the role of conditioning.
What is conditioning? Conditioning is a structure like a pathway that can be followed. Think of it as a conduit in which you have the choice to run your energy through. Conditioning could be anything, but the most common kinds of conditioning tend to be genetic and cultural.
Conditioning accounts for an utterly enormous amount of possible human behaviours, pathological or otherwise. The tendency to seek a mate, the desire for food, the aversion to illness and death, the repetition of traditional behaviours and practices, the safeguarding of certain values in society. Almost everything in your life that you can see, hear, feel or think is related to conditioning.
The more energy that has been invested through these conduits, the more easily they are relied upon and reinforced. They are chosen again and again, because these routes are familiar and they are ‘tried and true’ as part of your conditioned reasoning might assert.
It runs very, very deep. In fact, it can be extraordinarily challenging to find any space from it unless you meditate or at least spend time by yourself apart from the incessant influx. Think now upon smaller ways in which conditioning has a presence in your life. The choice to have a meal at a certain time. Isn’t that comforting? The choice to stay with food that you liked, and that your parents liked. Isn’t that comforting? The choice to align to what most other people you know think and believe politically. How does that feel? Does it make you feel safe, loved, part of something larger and more secure?
Now, a disclaimer: not everything that is conditioning is bad. Forget good and bad for a moment. I don’t want to evaluate any of these behaviours as good or bad. That is not my goal here. All I want to do is ask you to see where you are in awareness, where you are in your choice. Are you at the wheel, are you at the helm? Because the simple fact is, if you are not, all of the decisions you make while the real you is absent are being made elsewhere, and these routes of conditioning are very, very easy to pour energy into. They are safe, they are familiar, they are repeated by generation after generation, they have a momentum spanning lifetimes and everything your culture has is designed to grease the wheels of society in such a way that these routes are essentially self-maintaining.
This also includes personal culture, the habits, attitudes and behaviours you have acquired and assented to as an embodied ‘self’. Some of those may be violent, self-harming, vindictive, but they needn’t be. Conditioning also covers relatively benign things such as the way you dress and whether you like sports or build model railways.
What does your culture consist of? It could be binge-drinking on the weekend, or making yourselves nationally feel proud and righteous in order to separate yourself from other countries. It doesn’t matter, it is all conditioning, even the ‘good’ things. These are all very much self-regulating, and they are advertised in the most perfect way possible, because the next generation grow up exposed to the same assumptions and behaviours that their parents were. Every day parents advertise to their children. They advertise their religious beliefs, their worldview, their political beliefs, their national identity, and children won’t even know it is advertising unless they are occupying their space, and that may be a level of spiritual maturity they may very well have not come into yet. They will think all of the ‘facts’ they are digesting must be part of reality, and therefore something worth assimilating simply by virtue of existing.
So you can see the importance of being in space in which you can look at this influx from a place of discernment. You do not need any special education to occupy this space. All it takes is the intention to remain vigilant as what some spiritual traditions refer to as ‘the witness’ and what modern psychology refers to as ‘third order awareness’ (awareness of knowing that you are aware). All you are doing is viewing what is coming through as whether it is congruent, and here I am using this word to mean ‘resonates with your deepest understanding of how reality is’.
For example, you may be aware of the fact that some people are given medicine by missionaries to the degree that they are willing to capitulate to the religious instruction of another culture. You may find that this practice is not congruent, simply because if you are honest with yourself, you really feel that on the deepest level we are all deserving of unconditional help and such a thing should never be asked of a person in need. You may, or may not – that is your purview. This is not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad, but the intention to operate from your deepest knowing and from your space of who you are at the deepest level is how you move forward.
No one can tell you what decisions to make, or what you should feel in accord with as good or bad, right or wrong. You are not a puppet of cultural forces, unless you choose to allow such a manipulation to happen. When you are in your authority, you are operating from connection to the truth of who you are as consciousness. All anyone can ever do is to remind you of this. Find out for yourself whether any of this is true. If it doesn’t resonate with you, you are in your authority to leave it.
Simon P. Murphy is the author of His Master’s Wretched Organ, a collection of short horror stories that deal with questions of transcendence, terror and spiritual absolution.