By Caroline Knight
I lay awake in bed at almost 3am, feeling exhausted but unable to sleep. Something was bugging me but it was like a vague notion that I couldn't grasp. The feeling that there is something to get to the bottom of is not a stranger to most people; yet because it comes with a sense of confusion and discord, it is easier to drown out the notion with the unceasing chatter of the mind than turn inwards and bust through the years of intricate inner-construction to find the root.
Still, it was keeping me awake and there was no ignoring it. In frustration, I picked up my book in an attempt to tire myself out. I was not expecting those pages to present the key.
The problem is that on an average day we can't get to grips with our nothingness. The ego constantly wants to tell us we are this, that.. we are our experiences, we are our job, hobbies, plans for the day, new hair cut, tattoo we chose, choice in partner or the nice deed we did.
We seek validation constantly, whether it be through the mirror, our friends, our social media posts... The fortified, self-made prisons of illusion we live under are immense, created to maintain the stubborn ignorance of our nothingness. To drop them means a tooth and nail fight with the ego.
What... I am not important? I am not special? What I do is of no significance? The ego can't handle this. The weight of this realisation is crushing to the ego, in fact. I must be important, to someone at least. I must be loved. I must be able to make a mark on the world - my life must have meaning... it must have purpose. Accepting that this is not the case is painful, and goes against everything we ever learned. But this acceptance is the only place freedom exists.
No drop in the ocean is significant
Why? Like the waves in the ocean, each one comes and goes. The ocean continues. No drop is significant, but the whole can not exist without each of these drops. We have no centre - we are not in control.
Life is living through us, it's not that 'we' are living 'our' life. We ARE life, we don't 'have' a life. What justification must we provide for this existence? Why must we know why we are here, instead of just appreciating that we are? The chances of ever really knowing this are slim to none. Why waste your life trying to 'prove' yourself in order to pacify this demanding, insatiable ego?
Seeking reflection and validation in others is pointless. If everyone around you is suffering from the same problem, who is capable of validating who? Most 'love' that we experience is actually just exploitation, because ego is in the driving seat.
We are so accustomed to convincing ourselves daily that our motivations for the things we do and the confirmations we seek are based in some rational, normal urge. They aren't. The trickster that is your mind wants that you bow to your primal urges; decorates them in falsifications designed to distract from the truth, which is that we don't know who we are at all.
Who we are is nobody. No-thing. We want this to be false, but until we recognise that it is not, we will always be anxiously searching for the thing we insist on ignoring. I had read this in Gurdjieff's teachings before now but could only intellectualise it. My ego wasn't having it.
I wanted to 'get it' but I didn't. And then suddenly, because I could no longer ignore this nagging feeling of not being self-honest enough, it suddenly dawned on me.
There's nothing negative about being no-thing
Is this a negative realisation? Not at all. On the contrary. When it hit me, I jumped up. I found myself standing in my room, staring into space; I suddenly felt a kind of absence in my body. I only felt the essence operating my body instead of the personality that masquerades as the whole 'me'.
I thought of the times when I danced alone. Then I acknowledged only the force behind my heartbeat, the movements I made. Those were not a choice of the ego, and for no audience. Appreciation for the force that drives this body is recognition that there is a power way beyond anything the mind can dream up about 'who I am'.
I may never know it fully, but to glimpse it and feel it even occasionally is enough. It is humbling. It really is just a feeling. When the mind is constantly trying to narrate each experience, you are still in the grip of the ego. That's how you know. The space where you can know the real 'you' needs no words to paint the picture.
What does it matter what I do?
All of a sudden, my plans for the weekend seemed a little silly. What does it matter what I do? It doesn't mean I should do nothing, but I should see that all I do is a kind of folly. It's for the sake of the experience, not because I truly need to do or achieve anything.
I'm not going to 'get somewhere' if I complete all the tasks on my to do list. But in the things I do, I will remain present and not feel the need to give too much meaning to them. It doesn't matter where I go, who I am with, what country I am in. I don't need 'home', I don't need to be appreciated.
If you have seen, even for a moment, first what you aren't - then you have a much clearer idea of what you are. Which is interconnected, at the same time interdependent and... totally free.
You can have nothing from me until you die
In the Sufi stories, there is a saying 'you can have nothing from me until you die'. This refers to the creator and the death of the ego. You can truly appreciate nothing until you are able to separate yourself from this false identity. Not remove it, which is impossible - just remove it from the driving seat.
Stop asking, stop praying, stop seeking - the feedback you always get is that you don't know. If you want to know, stop trying to know. Drop the pretence; whatever the cost, it will be worth it. True freedom to appreciate, to stop casting endless judgments, needing specific outcomes.
This was not written by written by a 'writer', a 'dancer', or any of the labels that 'I' might like to identify with. Moments of real clarity are rare, but a genuine realisation requires no validation, no confirmation. It does not have to be accepted and it will not fade away overnight.
I only wrote this at all because if I feel that information has true value, then it should be shared. In the same way that I was helped to this freeing realisation by another persons words in a book, ideas must be shared if they are to have any value. But validated? No.