Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning in August of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.


June 8, 2010

Student: Words get tricky here, so apologies in advance if this gets confusing. But I’m wondering if it is the I, or the ego, or the small self, or the mind, or whatever, that wants to get rid of itself in the process of awakening?

I ask this because it seems in this process like the I is the only one that thinks it can do the job. And yet it’s the I that keeps distracting itself from the very work it thinks it can complete at some future point in time? Who, or what, is it that allows the I to remain as it is? It gets so confusing.

Michael: The I that wants to get rid of the I is, indeed, the ego, or the small self, or the mind, or whatever flavor of contraction you like, trying to do the job that it can’t do. But the impulse to awaken is nothing less than the Universe’s impulse to expand through us. It’s an expanding Universe and we’re part of it, after all.

With this in mind, meditation is incredibly useful here since it puts us in touch with this impulse to open through an awareness that we might call “the I prior to I”. The I prior to the I, is the Big Self and it’s what remains when the I, or small self, is seen through. Ramana Maharshi called this Big Self the I-I. Isn’t that a great name? This I-I allows for everything to be as it is and is utterly open to all experience. It is the very presence that notices any thing that arises, at any point in time, and yet it isn’t a thing at all. It’s the awareness of things.

Student: From that perspective, it’s like I don’t exist without thought. In between thoughts I’m not anywhere to be found.

Michael: That works.

Student: Okay, so this whole thing seems to be tied to this fear of the Teacher that keeps coming up. It’s like I keep having the wrong-thought that there is something that needs pushing away. And yet I know that from the perspective that you’re talking about, there’s nothing missing. But being wrong in front of the teacher brings up a lot of I, it seems.

Michael: I can see what you’re saying, but clarify it a little for me. Tell me a little more about how this thought is linked to fearing the teacher?

Student: Because the feeling that something in me, or I, was wrong or bad or needed to be gotten rid of has become less and less prevalent in my experience. When it was there, it was behind the fear of sitting directly in front of you, as Teacher, completely vulnerable because that would mean letting go of what was a deep distraction. Does this make sense? In other words, the deepest distraction for me was that I couldn’t let go of I because underneath there was something that I thought had to be wrong. Or, worse, that there was nothing left of me at all. Which is really the case, but nothing is not what I thinks it is … before nothing comes to be found.

Uh. This makes no sense whatsoever. I can’t say it. Sorry. But, it was fun trying.

Michael: Meeting the teacher fully helps to burn away the clinging to whatever resistance the I offers. Put another way, the teacher better be at least a little scary because the good ones can see both the partial and the complete truth of what you are and are not.

Student: Teacher is the fire? No wonder it’s frightening… when you really start burning with the teaching and the teacher, there’s no way that the I can control the process.

Michael: So how does this I feel with no-thing to control?

Student: About as comfortable as burning alive. No-thing to manage or control is uncomfortable for the I. There’s this feeling of tightness, like being stunned – creating dis-ease where there really is none. Deep, present awareness of the breath can be a cure and a return Home, right?

Michael: Yeah, that’s why I’m in favor of breathing. Things tend to work out when we breathe.


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