Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning the Summer of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.
August 22, 2010
Student: So what does it look like when one eventually lets go of the essential questions “Who am I?” and “What am I?” I mean at some point even these must lose their ability to push us anywhere if we’ve gone beyond our sense of “I.”
Michael: There is an automatic surrender of any self-reference as our “essentiality” reveals itself. This doesn’t mean that you never think anymore. Rather, thought becomes an option while acting on these options become choices that are informed at a deeper level of consciousness. So on the one hand you’re right, these questions no longer really push us. On the other hand, they offer us an orientation since questioning our most basic level of clinging, to the self or the “I,” keeps our awakening dynamic and engaged.
Student: So then how does teaching at this level work? I’ve seen you and other teachers use words to point a person beyond their questions and I just don’t get how it works.
Michael: I’m not really sure. It’s kind of a mystery to me. All I can say is that teaching, or should I say “pointing,” seems to involve the totality of being in one person that gets presented to what is, as yet, the unknown totality of being in another. It’s like a fire, where one log is burning brightly and a new log is placed next to the one that’s burning. First, the new log has to be ready to ignite, but once it is the more the fire can grow between the logs. The interesting thing is that anything can seemingly cause this fire to ignite. Words, silence, pain, pleasure; anything at all can point us toward what is beyond the clinging mind.
Student: At what point is there absolutely no confusion and no fear about this process?
Michael: Confusion is at the root of fear. Deep clarity ends any confusion. Therefore deep clarity offers fearlessness. Continually asking the essential questions, “Who am I?” and “What am I?” begin to take us to this place since they can always act as means by which we can get beyond our minds. Getting beyond the mind and its habitual patterns helps us stay afloat and effectively navigate our experience no matter what our level of spiritual attainment might be since this is the core of any deep spiritual practice.
Student: And we’re never done?
Michael: Let’s hope not.