The other day as I was inquiring into some past shadow of mine, again I was hit by the astonishing discovery that I’m a mystery to myself. I honestly think this is one of the most amazing discoveries on the spiritual path. It has this taste of something that is both much more real and alive and simultaneously so unknown to itself. How peculiar it is that we constantly try to find ourselves, define ourselves, build ourselves…only to eventually realize we are a mystery to ourselves!
Digging into Past Shadows
I was sitting with my wife and as our new-found tradition goes, we started going into in-depth spiritual inquiry. It was time to look into a certain psychological shadow that has been haunting me since I don’t know when…I guess something that has been part of my family. I grew up as an Israeli Jew, with an intense Holocaust family background. In my own personal life I’ve suffered from many anxieties and fears, without truly knowing why. When I was 16 I has this energetic-psychological experience that was life-shattering. I won’t go into detail here. But since then, there was a before and after for me.
For years I wanted to go back to how it was before but couldn’t. Sometimes the pain would be unbearable. But in this inquiry with my wife, I started looking at my grandmother’s influence on me, and subsequently my father’s as well. My grandma lost her entire family (3 siblings and 2 parents) and had to flee Warsaw at the age of 16 after the Germans attacked. Her entire life she was bitter (albeit being a great grandmother) and deeply deeply sad. You could feel that she couldn’t let go. She always told me how awesome her family was. This sorrow, grief and madness of war memories was an energy I grew up with. But why am I telling you this?
Not Owning, Not Becoming
Let me explain…
As I went deeper and came close to these past memories, I started realizing the depth of consciousness looking at all this content. The story of my family background, my identification with a certain grandmother, and a certain father etc. And as that happened, the identification started to fade and consciousness remained unattached. As it stood dis-identified, it became clear that all of this is a story – me as someone who has a family, parents, a grandmother. I am simply a mystery to myself, unknown and undefined. While I experienced interacting with a grandmother, she was never “mine”, nor did I at any point become “my family”. I was always just this pure, innocent, mysterious consciousness that never becomes anything and never possesses a thing. Now that’s mind-blowing isn’t it! As consciousness I have no past and no story attached to me.
The deeper I looked into this, I started realizing that our entire life we can believe in a certain trauma, a recurring pain, because it is tied to a narrative we believe is us. And so one important piece perhaps in releasing ourselves from trauma, is the realization that we do not belong to anything but ourselves, nor do we possess things, people or places. Because then we can untie our sense of identity from those traumatizing memories that we link to places, people and things, and feel the restoration of a non-fractured sense of self. But of course it can be scary to just let go into this knowledge. We are brought up to believe we need to remember who we are, that our memories are us and that without them, we are nothing. But is that truly so?
Mystery and Memory
Recognizing our true nature is directly linked to our ability to let go of control. And it’s not only a control on the level of controlling events and things, but the control of knowing. We want to know who we are, where we come from, what’s our name, who are our parents and so on. It gives us a sense of security. Or at least so we were taught to believe. The awakening process into consciousness requires a progressive letting go of all of these attachments and an agreement and maturity to not be defined anymore by psychological narratives, memories and images of known things. We come to know ourselves by simply being ourselves.
But the being itself is a pure aliveness, an openness without any information inside it. That’s again why I say that I’m a mystery to myself. Although I am myself, I do not KNOW anything in that being. It remains empty and undefined. In other words, the mystery that I am can exist and live without a memory as its identity. Now this is a crucial point – memory is important for functionality but not as an identity. I as mystery, remain undefined by images, narratives and memory on the level of identity, but on the level of functionality, I use memories to function as a social being. But no amount of memories can disturb or change the fact that I’m a mystery to myself.
Mystery and Liberation
I guess I’m writing this blog post because the discovery of our own mystery is in the end our liberation. It’s a liberation from needing to be defined and from needing to become someone in the world. A liberation from trying to define your very existence by subjecting yourself to the world of thought. This liberation is emancipation and something we all want. But what’s so amazing in my opinion, is that I can never HAVE that freedom, I can never OWN it…rather, I can only be it and forget myself in it. I die to what I thought myself to be and remain free, remain a mystery to myself.
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