The realization of our true nature can happen in an instant. It can happen at any moment. However, often when we catch a glimpse of it, our mind quickly reasserts itself. Sometimes we experience a prolonged state of wakefulness before our mind takes back its control. These glimpses of our natural state arise in the space between our thoughts. They happen the moment we stop identifying with our thoughts. The shift of focus, from the content of our mind to the space in which our thoughts arise, is the shift from separation to oneness. No matter what we are thinking, thought is thought. Awareness is not affected by thought. As long as we identify with our thoughts, we are identified with what is changing and temporary. With a slight change of focus, we can shift our identity to what is changeless and permanent.
It is often said that the only thing we can rely on is change. This is certainly true if our focus is solely on the physical dimension of life, which includes our mental and emotional states.
Everything physical is subject to change. And our thoughts and emotions are subject to change. It seems as though we are currently experiencing more rapid change in our lives than ever before. Our jobs, relationships, finances, and living situations are all less stable than they once were. It is evident that security cannot be found in external circumstances. But when we shift our focus to what is changeless—awareness itself—we can experience the only true security there is. When we cultivate an awareness of witness consciousness, we are in touch with what is eternal. In this heightened state of awareness, we simply witness the ever-changing events in “relative reality,” yet stay grounded in a greater, or ultimate reality.
When I was in my late 30s, I lost everything that I had worked so hard to achieve. Without much warning, everything I had strived for and accumulated was gone. Despite feeling devastated, one of the gifts of this experience was that I no longer had anything left to lose. Therefore, I had no reason to fear loss of anything. From this experience, I was able to separate out my true self from my material possessions and from the circumstances of my life. I was aware of the “I” that did not change when everything around me completely changed. I decided that if I was going to rebuild my life, I was going to do it from the inside out, not the outside in. I knew that everything outside of me could be taken away in an instant. I had to find a way of recognizing my true foundation. In his book, The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell states, “The master knows that in looking forward there are endless possibilities, but looking backwards, there’s only one.” The truth of this statement became vividly clear to me and I realized I no longer needed to regret the past. I was also no longer identified with the “things” that change in my life.