As you sit quietly and immerse yourself in the peace and stillness of your own centred being, you will gradually begin to experience yourself in an undistorted manner. You will sink below or rise above your usual sense of self and instead come upon the undistorted, clear conscious experience of Being–your Being. You will experience yourself as the specific conscious expression of an infinitely expressive Consciousness, Mind, Presence, or God. You will thereby intuitively know that you are more than physical and human, that your spiritual existence is guaranteed, immortal, eternal, and true, and that your Original Nature is absolutely good. You’ll know that you are creative energy, Spirit, a unique expression of God’s infinite Self-Expression, and that at your core is Goodness. This is what you’ll experience because, in some mysterious and uncompromising way, this is what we are. We are all made of God Substance, Consciousness, Love.
As you sit in stillness, experiencing the energetic feeling-tone of “you” (Level One), you will invariably begin to feel exquisite inside. You will begin to feel at ease, deeply relaxed, natural, perhaps for the first time in a long time. And as you relax, and as you feel the energy you are made of, you will begin to feel loved. You’ll find yourself feeling this way, inevitably, eventually, as you relax inside and allow yourself to become increasingly in touch with the loving goodness that is already in you–and it is already in you because that is how you were built. Love is the all-constituting substance of Being. It’s what you are made of. And you did not create yourself.
When you sit quietly and let go of every false self-definition, of everything you think you know about who you are, and then be what’s left, what remains is the untarnished presence of who you’ve always been and still really are. This untarnished presence manifests–shines–as pure, clear awareness and unconditional love. When you experience your essence, you will feel this natural lovingness within yourself without having to do anything!
When you feel the loving goodness inside yourself as yourself–as who or what you really are, you will acquire new self-appreciation. You will realize there is no basis for being self-critical or self-condemnatory, or for harbouring guilt for some known or unknown transgression in the past, and that you have done this until now simply because you have accepted as true certain erroneous ideas about yourself. It’s obvious to you now that when you wipe the slate clean and take a look at yourself for yourself, when you experience yourself as you actually are, you encounter a very different you from the “you” you thought you were. It now makes sense to disbelieve what was never true and embrace the new self-appraisal. You are You; God’s specific Self-Expression.
You will then no longer think of yourself in self-deprecatory terms, and you will, as a natural consequence, loosen and release every remaining tendril of self-condemnation and self-hate. It will be reasonable to do this, though not always easy. It will no longer feel sane, however, or true or realistic, to be self-critical. And since your behaviour has always been a by-product of the way you feel about yourself, you’ll notice in yourself an effortless, behavioural change occurring in response to this new self-evaluation. You will become more loving, more understanding, and more truly compassionate naturally. This is a vital stage of personal maturation and is of utmost social value.
Difficulty arises, however, because we are afraid to let go of what we think we know and be what’s left. We’re reluctant to ease up on the tight sense of control we exercise over ourselves because life is hard enough as it is. We don’t want it any harder. “If I stop controlling myself to be one way rather than another, who knows what might happen! If I let go of every pretense and instead be genuine, things might get worse. Who knows what devil might be lurking in my depths?” But it’s also beginning to dawn on us that we have blindly believed false and inaccurate concepts about who we are, and have been ignorant of our true nature until now simply because we have been taught otherwise, and that maybe we’re different from how we’ve thought ourselves to be, and that it’s time, now, to experience what’s really true once and for all, come what may.
It requires tremendous courage willingly to release all of our firmly held beliefs and face ourselves directly. Courage is required because we don’t know what we’ll find. We’re afraid our worst suspicions will be confirmed, or that we’ll uncover aspects of ourselves we’d rather keep concealed. And we may! But underneath it all, or surrounding it all, embracing it all is the creative energy of Consciousness, Identity, or Presence that we really are grounded in love and goodness.
But at first we don’t know this. We don’t know that goodness is at our core. We don’t know that happiness is the natural state, that this is what we’ll find. So we feel trepidation. We’re suspicious. And we’re likely to think all this talk about love and goodness is nothing but, at best, pure fantasy. But, in actuality we’re not absolutely certain this isn’t what we’ll find. We don’t really know whether it’s true or false. We don’t really know whether goodness or evil is at our core, or if we are some blurry mixture of the two.
Therefore, we need to courageously desire to know the truth, and then we need to go within and experience ourselves directly. Therefore, want to know the truth, once and for all. Want to know your truth. Let go of everything you think you know about who you are, suspend every idea you now have about what’s true and what isn’t, and open your mind to what’s actually so–to the living truth of you.
This is the most logical, important, life-affirming thing you can do. You’ll be glad you risked experiencing yourself with clarity. But it can be frightening, unnerving, unsettling. However, if loving goodness is both at your core and is the surrounding all-pervading presence of Consciousness that you are–and this is something you will only ever know by experiencing it within yourself as your deepest truth–then the more clearly you experience yourself as you really are, free of any overlay of conditioning and in spite of your fears, the more love you will experience. If love is what’s in there, then love is what you’ll find when you go within. But you won’t be convinced of this until you go within. Therefore, take the chance. It’s worth the risk. And it’s inevitable. You’re bound to succeed. You will no longer be so afraid to know what else is true about you, which will further encourage you to relax deeper, trust more fully, and genuinely be yourself without inhibition or pretense.
You will discover and know that love, goodness, and creative consciousness are what constitute your being because you will experience these attributes within and as yourself. You will simultaneously realize that you did not put them there because you did not create yourself. You were created by the creative God Force. The inherent creative goodness within you is not a mental construct that you attempt to adopt, not pretense or self-deception, not something you conjure up. It’s something you discover. You go in empty-handed, not knowing, and this is what you find. And when you allow yourself wholeheartedly to experience the core feeling-tone of the love that you are, you will spontaneously feel happy. You won’t have to lift a finger or change yourself in any way. It’s the way you were built. It’s what you are. The emotional feeling-tone of love and goodness is happiness.
There will be an overwhelming sense of authenticity about this experience. You will have no doubt about its truth. You will be convinced. You will also realize that it is not egocentric to be appreciative of the creative energy that you are. Nor is it arrogant, presumptuous, or conceited to feel good inside about yourself, or to be happy for no apparent reason, or to acknowledge that you are a perfect creation of the God Force.
You understand instead that it is egotistical and arrogant to believe anything else, for you are not a self-created separate energy. It is not any more narcissistic (in the pejorative sense) to experience self-love or self-appreciation than it is to appreciate a lovely flower or a spectacular sunset. The wonder and beauty of you is not your doing, and appreciation will be the natural response of anyone who realizes this truth. What a relief! You are not who you thought you were. You are the infinite Oneness in specific Self-Expression. How wonderful to be affiliated with the great God Force.
In order to experience the natural joy of Being–in order to be happy!–we do not have to fulfill any conditions that are contrary to our original nature of loving goodness. We especially do not have to be other than the way we are. In fact, it has been the lifelong attempt to be some way other than our natural being that has made us frustrated and unhappy. You cannot be anything other than you. Therefore, let yourself be yourself–be you!–and live your truth without inhibition. Discover the truth by letting go of old concepts. Make space for the new. Release every idea you have about who you are, and then be the you that remains. Being you is not a substitute for what you can never be. It is the gracious acceptance of what you have always wanted and have never been without.
Think of it like this: The farther you are from knowing your truth and experiencing the love you are, the unhappier you will be; the closer you are, the happier. Keep it simple. It works like this because goodness is at your core and because happiness is the feeling-tone of your original nature. But, really, whether you are “close” or “far,” you are always only a thought away. Your original nature is not, in fact, far away from you. It is not elusive. It is not someplace other than where you are, nor is it something you evolve or transform into or earn. It’s right here, yours, already.
Become your already-existing naturally happy truth by spending quiet time alone every day to meditate. At least once a day sit down for a few minutes by yourself, stop moving, stop thinking, and just be. Deliberately be still. Close your eyes, relax, breathe, be aware, and consciously experience your present moment of conscious awareness. Immerse yourself in your own unique feeling-tone. Feel you. Bask in the exquisite experience of being alive, of conflict-free high-energy peace, and become thoroughly familiar with the core tone of who you are.
This is like dipping cloth into dye. Each dip of the cloth strengthens the cast of the dye and enhances the color. Here, however, you are dipping yourself into you. You are experiencing you. Each time you do so, you become more you; that is, your sense of the authentic you is enriched. Each dip into the silent experience of you washes away more false ideas, which enables the real you to shine forth more clearly to yourself and others. As you do this, something new and very interesting will gradually begin to happen. You’ll find yourself becoming more intuitive. Your mind will seem to expand, and your inner voice will start talking to you more clearly, guiding you, telling you what to say, what to think, where to go, what to do with your life. As you will discover, this is the source of right action. I will say more about this later.
Therefore, as you directly experience the living truth of who you are, two wonderful aspects of being become apparent. First, you come upon the core of goodness. This will promote a new, expanded, and truer sense of self. It will give your life new meaning, and you’ll find yourself feeling happy for no apparent reason. Of course, there is a reason. Happiness and love is the stuff of which you are made. You can obscure your awareness of it, but you cannot get away from it. You cannot actually change it.
Second, the inner feeling–or inner voice–starts speaking to you with more clarity. Or rather, it’s not that the inner voice now speaks with more clarity, but you’ll start hearing it more clearly. It will become more obvious to you, and harder to ignore. This internal communication from the deeper regions of Being can become, if you are willing, your new guide to appropriate action in daily life. You will feel good inside about who you are and be increasingly effective in all your actions.
Let’s move now into a practice mode with regard to all that has been said so far. We’ll continue with three more exercises. These have been specifically designed to help you experience the loving goodness truth inside you.
One of the first things you may notice as you sit in stillness is that your body vibrates or hums. The center of this hum is in the area of your heart and throughout the length of your spine, your core. This is where love vibrates most obviously. The purpose of the next two breathing exercises, then, is to direct your conscious feeling-awareness into the area of your heart and core and thereby increase your sensitivity to the vibratory hum. You’ll feel the love vibration inside yourself that will cause you to feel profoundly loved and profoundly safe, and you will thereby spontaneously become more loving–more of a pleasure to be around. This is good for you, and it’s good for others! These exercises are worth a few minutes of your undivided attention. Enjoy them.
Lie on your back with your eyes closed and palms flat on your chest. Begin by gently breathing in and out, aiming the breath into the chest so that you feel the wishbone at the base of your sternum expanding with each breath. Do this for a minute or two.
Then allow your breathing to flow in and out naturally, effortlessly, without any intervention on your part, and simply station your awareness in the center of your chest at the base of the sternum–where your hands are–and feel what you feel. Feel yourself breathing. As attentively as you can, note the changing sensations in the area of your heart that accompany each breath as it flows in and out.
Breathe in and out of your heart, lie absolutely still, be relaxed, and allow your breathing to flow freely and easily. Make no attempt to regulate your breathing or control it in any way. Some breaths will be deep, others shallow. Every breath will be different. All you do is remain aware of the ever-changing sensations that accompany breathing in the area of your heart.
As you practice this technique, let each breath remind you to stay centred and present in the now. When your attention strays, notice it has done so and then bring it back to the feeling-awareness of the ever-changing sensations in your chest. Do not think about the breath, nor about the meaning of love. Simply experience what’s actually there to be experienced. Stay with what’s happening. Shift from thinking mode to feeling mode, and experience your unique feeling-tone emanating from your heart center. Be especially on the look out for pleasurable sensations of warmth, expansion, or spaciousness, and notice how the movement of breath seems to fan and increase these sensations. Willingly give your undivided attention to this exercise for ten minutes.
Expanded heart breathing
Sit on the floor with your spine straight and eyes closed. If you are unable to sit on the floor, use a chair. Be comfortable. Take a moment to become quiet and prepare yourself.
When you are ready, begin with ten or twenty fairly deep, gentle, continuous breaths, endeavouring to achieve full expansion of your chest and rib cage. Allow the sternum to rise and swell forward as you breathe. Go ahead and exaggerate it, but be very, very gentle.
Then inhale fully, again lifting upward with the sternum and expanding your chest. Hold the breath for a comfortable length of time, somewhere between five and twenty seconds, and as you hold your chest gently open at full expansion, feel the sensations in the area of your heart.
Feel the obvious sensations–the physical sensations of stretch and fullness accompanying chest expansion, the feeling of satisfaction, of air-hunger being satiated, and of air-hunger arising again as the seconds go by, your heart beating, your desire to exhale–but feel the deeper, subtler energy as well. Feel the energy of love in the area of your heart as you hold your chest open. Then exhale quietly, releasing the breath at a comfortable pace and relaxing deeply. Do this twelve times.
With this technique you are increasing your sensitivity to the vibratory feeling-tone in the area of your heart. Think of this as a vortex of energy in the vicinity of your physical heart but not your actual physical heart. You will be able to feel this vortex of energy with increasing clarity with practice. Do not attempt to hold the breath as long as you can. Hold the breath only as long as is comfortable. You should still be able to exhale smoothly, quietly, without panic. There should be no strain whatsoever. Exhale when you receive the inner cue to do so and keep the breath soft, strain-free, and peaceful. This is not a contest. It does not matter how long you hold the breath. Use the technique to increase your sensitivity to the inner feeling.
When you have completed the twelve breaths, sit absolutely still for another minute or two and simply be aware of how you feel. Station your awareness in the area of your heart and core and feel what you feel. Stay aware of the changing sensations that accompany breathing in the area of your heart, the sensations throughout your core and body, the space around your body, and especially the overall energetic feeling-tone of you. Willingly let go of everything you think you know about who you are, and allow yourself to experience you with clarity.
Who am I?
Sit with your spine straight or lie flat on the floor on your back. Close your eyes and take a few moments to become quiet and still. Relax your body and allow yourself to become intimately aware of your breathing. Observe the natural flow of breath in and out of your body.
Then put aside everything you think you know about who you are and ask yourself the question, “Who am I?” Ask the question but do not answer it. Instead, feel the answer. Feel who you are. Feel the energy of you. Answer not in words but in the direct experience of the energy that you are. When your attention wanders from this very personal self-experiencing and you notice yourself thinking other thoughts, ask yourself, “Who is thinking this? Who is having this thought?” The answer will always be “I am.” Then ask yourself again, “But who am I?” Then again immerse yourself in the feeling-tone truth of you.
When you notice yourself suddenly aware of a particular sound or sensation, your attention pulled away from the feeling, ask yourself “Who is hearing this sound? Who is experiencing this sensation?” The answer will always be, “I am.” Then again ask, “But who am I?” And again blend with the feeling-tone truth of you. Find out who you are through direct experience. Keep bringing your conscious awareness back into the conscious experience of you in the now.
There is no adequate mental answer to the question. The vibrant silence is the answer. And so, be still and know.
Erich Schiffmann is an accomplished American Yoga Master widely known for his award-winning video, Yoga Mind & Body. He is the author of a best-selling book, Moving into Stillness. At age 18 Schiffmann was accepted by Krishnamurti and was accepted to study with him in England. He deepened his practice of yoga with Desikachar and Iyengar in India, and with Dona Holleman and Vanda Scaravelli in Europe. He is married to fellow yoga master Leslie Bogart, daughter of film actors Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and currently resides in Santa Monica, California. He can be contacted through his website Freedom Style Yoga.