“How do we connect with our Divine Self, and then stay connected?”, The Speaking Tree
First, I’m going to change the phrase to “True Self,” because if we say “Divine Self”, it implies that there is a “non-divine self,” as in this part of me is my divine self, and this part of me is my non-divine self. What we have is a True Self and a non-true self. The non-true self is the stuff that most of us actually identify as: our name, our ages, where we’re from, the color of our skin, our bank accounts, our careers, our titles, all of that stuff that we identify as self but actually isn’t. The reason that we know it isn’t truly Self is because is because it keeps changing.
The example that I always give about this is: if you’re driving down the freeway and someone calls you on the phone and says, “Who are you?” and you say, “I’m Exit 30,” they will say, “No, I didn’t say where are you, I said who are you?” So then you say, “I told you, I’m Exit 30, but actually now I’m almost Exit 31.” They would think that either you couldn’t hear them or that you had gone absolutely crazy. We understand intuitively that Exit 30 or 31 is simply the intersection of time and space that our vehicle is at. It’s true, it’s not a lie that that’s where we are, but it’s not who we are.
If I say to you that I am 45, female, white, American, and a sanyasi, well that’s all true, none of it is a lie, and yet, it’s what we’ll call the lowercase-t true. It’s true at this exact intersection of time and space. It’s not the capital-T Truth, it’s just telling you the story of my vehicle and where it happens to be right at this intersection of time and space. But our True Self is the Divine, the True Self is the essence. This body is just the container. So, when we connect with our True Self, what we have to do is sink beneath the container. If we’re stuck on the container, we’re not going to get to essence.
If I pick a glass up and I spend all my time at marveling how beautiful or ugly or solid or soft it is, it’s not going to quench my thirst. In order to do that, I actually have to drink what’s inside. The same is true about our vehicles. There’s nothing wrong with admiring the beauty of the glass, it just doesn’t do anything for my thirst. So, there’s nothing wrong with paying attention to our vehicles – we’ve only got one, and it’s a temple. If who we are is the Divine and the Divine lives in this vehicle, it means the vehicle is a temple. We have to care for it, we have to worship it, we have to take as much care of it as we take care of our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, and wherever the Divine resides.
And yet, we don’t confuse form for content, we don’t confuse packaging for essence.
Our True Self is the essence, is that spirit. There are so many ways to connect with it. One simple and easy way is through a practice called “neti, neti,” which means, “not this, not this.” We begin literally by saying, “I am not my orange saree, I am not my skin, I am not my bones…” Should anyone doubt that, the reason that we know that is true is because my skin keeps sloughing off, I get new skin every day, but “I” is still there. My bones break, but I’m still there. So, I’m not my blood – I could get a blood transfusion, donate blood, but I’m still there. I’m not my organs – I could get a transplant of one of those, but I’m still here. We then go deeper and deeper, recognizing that all of the parts of our body actually slough off and regenerate over a period of years. After every eight or nine years, you are brand new! If there is anything that you are holding onto that happened eight or nine years ago, it did not happen to you! That of course doesn’t make it right, doesn’t make it OK, but it didn’t happen to you.
So, we go through that and then we get a little bit deeper, and we say, “Well, I’m also not my emotions, I’m not my anger.” The reason I know that is I’m not always angry. I may be angry way too frequently but I’m not always angry. When I’m angry, I don’t cease to exist. “I’m not my depression.” I wasn’t always depressed. There are moments in which I’m not depressed, but I don’t cease to exist. I’m not even my thoughts because there’s a very small space in between my thoughts, and in that space, I don’t evaporate. If I did, if I were my thoughts and I ceased to exist even momentarily in between my thoughts, who would have the next thought?
So, we go slowly as deep as we can until there’s really nothing else to remove. If you do that in a very meditative place and you allow yourself to just sit there after peeling layer after layer, what you find is that there’s this beautiful stillness, this beautiful experience. Then, maybe something else will come to you: “I’m the child of an alcoholic.” Well, no, because that child is not who I am any more, my body has literally complete regenerated its cells since I was that child, and if you believe in past lives, it wasn’t true in my last birth.
So, we can remove everything that we identify with until we get into what the Buddhists speak about as nothingness and the Hindus speak of as everythingness, but it’s the same place. If I’ve got a jar of air and I break my jar, what do I have? On the one hand, you could say you no longer have your air, because you had this glass of air and it broke, that you have nothing now. On the other hand, you could say well, all I did was lose that dividing line between my cup of air and all of the air, so now actually I have all of the air instead of none of the air. Neither is right, neither is wrong, they are just two ways of looking at it, but you’ll recognize that they actually take us to exactly the same place. We all agree that we’re left with just air. And that’s the truth of who you are.
The last piece of how we can stay connected to that is just in remembrance. There’s no magic unfortunately. It would be really nice if you could get a Nicotine Patch-like patch, that every time you forgot, the patch would remind you, and you would somehow just get this infusion of remembrance and awakening. But we don’t have one. What it is is just practice, in the same way that when our mind wanders in meditation we just bring it back. When you start meditating, you find that your mind wanders more than it’s still and your meditation feels like you do nothing but keep bringing your mind back, but then slowly the spaces in between having to bring the mind back lengthen and it stays. You’re able to catch it faster and bring it back faster, and slowly you’re able to accumulate lots of consecutive moments of being there. This is what it’s like living within our True Self. It’s just about remembrance, coming back. A mantra is a great life raft to bring us back. Our breath is a great life raft to bring us back. They’re just techniques to bring us out of where we’ve gone and back into who we are. And slowly, slowly, you keep living as that.
The last piece of this though is just to remember not to berate yourself, because in this consciousness and acceptance of the invitation to live in that consciousness, to join and connect, to live with love and live with connection, it’s very important not to leave ourselves out of the equation. Many of us are very comfortable with connection, compassion, love, forgiveness, and seeing the Divine in all as a practice, as long as it relates to everyone other than ourselves. It becomes very difficult when we have to turn it back inward. Often what we get is, “Oh my God, you are so stupid, look at that, you forgot to be compassionate again.” So, where’s my compassion for myself? Here I am berating myself for not being compassionate to another, and that irony kills a lot of us. We have to just remember that as we work on staying connected, that it’s not just connected to God outside of us and in those around us, but connected to God within us. When we lose it, when we find ourselves disconnected, we have to have that same compassion, love, understanding, and presence for our lowercase-s self that wandered off that we have for those of us around us and for the world around us.