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11 October, 2008

Everyone inhabits a reality of non-change lying beyond all change


At the moment, the only physiology you can maintain is time-based. However, the fact that time is tied to awareness implies that you could maintain an entirely different style of functioning—the physiology of immortality—which would correspond to the experience of non-change. Non-change can’t be created as a product of change. It requires a shift out of time-bound awareness into timeless awareness. There are many gradations to this shift. For example, if you are under extreme time pressure at work, your body’s reaction to the pressure is not automatic; some people thrive under time pressure, using it to fuel their creativity and energy, while others are defeated by it, losing incentive and feeling a burden that will bring no satisfaction compared with the stress it creates.

The person who responds with creativity has learned not to identify with the time pressure; he has transcended it at least partially, unlike the person who feels constriction and stress. For him, identification with time has become overwhelming—he cannot escape the ticking of the internal clock, and his body cannot help but mirror his state of mind. In various subtle ways, our cells constantly adjust to our perception of time; a biologist would say that we have entrained, or locked in sequence, a series of processes embracing millions of related mind-body events.

It is all-important to realize that you can reach a state where time-bound processes can be realigned. A simple analogy demonstrates this: Look at your physical body as a printout of signals being sent back and forth between your brain and every cell. The nervous system, which sets up the kinds of messages being sent, functions as the body’s software; the myriads different hormones, neuron-transmitters, and other messenger molecules are the inputs being run through the software. All this constitutes the visible programming of your body. But where is the programmer? He is not visible, yet he must exist. Thousands of decisions are being made in the mind-body system every second, countless choices that enable your physiology to adapt to the demands of life.

If I see a cobra on the path in India and jump back in fear, the visible apparatus controlling this event can be seen in the muscle reactions I display, which are triggered by chemical signals from any nervous system. My increased heartbeat and panting breath are other visible signs that the hormone adrenaline has kicked in, secreted by the adrenal cortex in response to a specific brain chemical (ACTH) sent from the pituitary. If a biochemist could track down every single molecule involved in my fear reaction, he would still miss the invisible decision maker that decided to have the reaction, for even though I reacted in a split second, my body didn’t jump back mindlessly. Someone with entirely different programming would exhibit entirely different reactions. A snake collector might bend forward with interest; a Hindu devotee, recognizing a form of Shiva, might kneel in awe.

The fact is that any possible reaction might have occurred—panic, rage, hysteria, paralysis, apathy, curiosity, delight, etc. The invisible programmer is unlimited in the ways he can program the visible apparatus of the body. At the moment I stumbled across the snake, all the basic processes of my physiology—breathing, digestion, metabolism, elimination, perception and thinking—depended on the meaning that a cobra held for me personally. One sees the truth in a saying from Aldous Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you.”

Where can you locate a meaning? The quick and easy answer is to say that it is located in the brain, but this organ, like every other, is in constant flux. Like migrating birds, billions of atoms are flying in and out of my brain every second. It swirls with electrical waves that never form the same pattern twice in a life time. Its basic chemistry can shift if different kinds of food are eaten for lunch, or if a sudden mood swing is experienced. Yet my memory of the snake doesn’t dissolve in this sea of change. My memories are available to the programmer who stands above memory, silently observing my life, taking account of my experiences, always ready to entertain the possibility of new choices. For this programmer is nothing but the awareness of choice. It appreciates change without getting overwhelmed; therefore it escapes the time-bound limitations that arise in the normal cause-and-effect world.

The “me” who is afraid of snakes learned that fear somewhere in the past. All my reactions are part and parcel of the time-bound self and its tendencies. In less than a thousandth of a second, its pre-programmed fear arouses the whole sequence of bodily messages that produce my actions. For most of us no other “me” is apparent, because we haven’t learned to identify with the decision-maker, the silent witness, whose awareness isn’t defined by the past. Yet in a subtle way, we all sense that something inside us has not changed very much, if at all, since we were infants. When we wake up in the morning there is a second of pure awareness before the old conditioning automatically falls into place; at that moment you are just yourself, not happy or said, not important or humble, not old or young.

As I wake up in the morning, this “me” dresses itself in the mantle of experience very quickly; in a matter of seconds I remember that I am, for example, a 46-year-old doctor who has a wife, two children, a home outside Boston, and ten minutes to get to the clinic. That identity is the product of change. The “me” who is beyond change could be waking up anywhere—as a 5-year-old in Delhi smelling my grandmother’s cooking, as an 80-year-old in Florida listening to the wind rattling the palms. This changeless “me”, whom the ancient sages in India simply called the Self, serves as my real reference point for experience. All other reference points are bound by change, decay, and loss; every other sense of “me” is identified with pain or pleasure, poverty or wealth, happiness or sadness, youth or old age—every time-bound condition that the relative world imposes. In unity consciousness, the world can be explained as a flow of Spirit, which is awareness. Our whole goal is to establish an intimate relationship with Self as Spirit. To the extent that we create this intimacy, the experience of ageless body and timeless mind is realized.


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