August 3-17, 2022
“Everything is OK, things are already alright. Nothing to change. Nothing to improve. Just relax.” -from Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope
On page 92 of that text, Cope, one of my first Yoga teachers (who was initially a psychotherapist) is explaining how the false self—what we might more commonly call the ego—shows up in our lives. He mentions in his second point that “just under the surface is a deeply felt sense that ‘something is wrong’ with the way I am.’” If you can identify that feeling in yourself, then we could simply say, “Ah, OK. Great. That’s an indicator of the false self.”
It makes complete sense that that feeling would be there. There actually is something wrong with the way I am, with “me.” The “me” that we are currently identifying with is what Western psychotherapy refers to as “the false self.” Yogis use that same term or idea by referring to it as “I-ness” or the “I-maker.” This false self comes with the feeling that we are a separate individual, forever cut off from and only ever loosely related to others and the totality of all that is.
Even just on its surface this thought is obviously incorrect feeling since nothing can be separate from any other thing. It’s a cliché, but it’s true and profound nonetheless: everything is connected. Western physicist David Bohm articulated this truth as, “We live in an undivided and indivisible universe, one that is unified and whole no matter how hard we try to fragment it.” He says that the universe—all of existence—is undivided; it is a complete, whole, unified, one. It is indivisible; it simply can’t be divided! It’s not possible to divide or fragment it, no matter how hard we try, and we definitely do!
We have the experience that something is wrong with the way we are since we’ve attempted to cut ourself off from the Whole! We’re trying to live as if separate from all that is! Fortunately, if we feel separate, we can know with certainty that that perception is completely incorrect. We’re just wrong. 100 percent wrong. If I feel and experience myself as separate, yes, there is something wrong with “me.” However, there is not really something wrong with “me,” per se, but just something wrong with how I am viewing and defining myself at that moment. More pointedly, what is wrong with “me” is that I’m operating under this inaccurate thought—that there’s something wrong with me.
Some of us may not believe that this simple observation of scientific fact adequately explains our persistent feeling of “wrongness.” Some may think something like, “Yeah, but Ti, that’s not the kind of wrong that I feel! There actually is something wrong with me besides just my viewing the Universe and myself in it incorrectly!”
If we think that, we can utilize Byron Katie’s The Work and take the thought, “There’s something wrong with me” as food for introspection. Using The Work we would first ask, “Is it true (that there’s something wrong with me)?” If we say “Yes,” then we next ask, “Can I absolutely know for certain that it’s true that something is wrong with me?” To that, if we are honest, we would have to say, “No, I can’t absolutely know that it’s true that there’s something wrong with me.” I may feel that there is. I may think something’s wrong. I may have a long list of things that I consider “wrong” with “me” or that I want to change, but I can’t actually know for certain that there is something wrong with me or the way I am.
I assume that by now we all have had thoughts that we knew were not true, perhaps even as we were thinking them. We have misperceived our feelings (think “fears,” for example) that weren’t accurate or founded in reality. So, the feeling or thought “there is something wrong with me” may also be inaccurate.
If that’s the case, then we are basing a large part of our behavior and thinking—and thus causing a lot of our own suffering—based on a thought that at best might be true but equally might be false. At that point, we can ask ourselves, as per The Work, “Who would I be, or how would I be, if I couldn’t think that thought (that there’s something wrong with me)?” We could also ask (not from The Work), “Do I want to cause myself to suffer by indulging in and acting from a thought that might very well be false?”
I come to these suppositions from the perspective of a devotee—which may or may not be your position. From that perspective, I view the situation as: ultimately there’s this complete, amazing, beyond-thinking, WHOLE, or Totality, or One. (Remember the “indivisible whole” from above?) If there’s something wrong with me, it would mean that there’s this whole, amazing Totality, and “It” “made” a mistake and had “me” be “wrong” in some way while the rest of the Totality is inherently perfect and complete in Itself.
On another level and perspective of devotion, the underlying energy of Creation is Love, which we can experience if we go into the feeling of ourself deeply enough. If there is apparently “non-love” happening somewhere, I simply view that as a manifestation of the human mind, which I know from personal experience is one way—possibly the only way—to cut off the experience and the energy of Love. “Me” thinking I’m wrong simply reveals that I am currently operating from the level of mind, which is not the deepest level of Being. It also reveals that I’m not abiding in Love, which I already knew.
The mind—which is the part that feels separate from the whole and thinks that there’s something “wrong” with me—requires anxiety to exist. In Sanskrit this fact is pointed out in the word “cinta” (pronounced “chinta”), which means “anxiety” and is also one of the words for “thought.” Thought—of any kind—is an agitation in our consciousness, which we can directly experience very easily and readily. It is inherently uncomfortable.
Whenever we are thinking a lot, we are not very calm. Inversely, when we are emotionally agitated or anxious, we know how fast our thoughts can speed up! Along with thought exists agitation and anxiety; along with agitation and anxiety exists thought. It’s a package deal. We also know from personal experience that the thought, “there is something wrong with me” is especially agitating and anxiety-producing. It’s an extremely painful perspective from which to live.
Fortunately for us, if we flip the situation, we easily find that if there’s no agitation, there’s no thoughts: just peace and calm. Also, without thoughts, there’s no agitation: just peace and calm. The function of the thoughts—false self-thoughts—is agitation so that the thoughts can continue. At least knowing the function of the thoughts points to one way out of this “quandary.”
If it’s true that thoughts are agitation that exist to continue the agitation—and thus continue the thoughts—then the question becomes, “Do I want to base my behavior on (endless) agitation?” By now, we most likely know from experience that when we have made decisions with an agitated mind, we didn’t get the best results. If we try on the idea that “everything is already OK (with me)” even for a moment (Do it now!), we feel more at ease, right? Do you? Did you spontaneously have a deeper breath? Do you feel more calm? Bigger? At first, that thought “everything is already OK (with me)” will have those positive effects because, on one level, it’s a medicine for the other pain-inducing, false, mantra.
If we take this new “mantra” far enough, though, it will—at some point—reveal, challenge and test our commitment to the other mantra that “something is wrong (with me).” For a while, they can “live” together and we’ll feel better utilizing the newer, medicinal thought, but at some point, we’ll have to make a choice. Which thought do we prioritize—which thought will drive our behavior, our thinking and, ultimately, our destiny?
We could take one final perspective on the “something is wrong” situation, based on our own simple observation of the physical world. We know we live in a world of cause-and-effect. We ask the question, “Why?” of things because we know that for material phenomena happening in this world, there were one or more things that caused it.
Similarly, everything that is happening, all phenomena happening now, is contributing as a cause to some future effects. So maybe how I am and what’s happening now is the completely natural culmination of everything that happened before—the natural outcome of all of universal and personal history up to this point. Think about it: if all universal and personal history somehow could start over and repeat again in exactly the same way starting from the beginning, would the NOW be any different than it is? Based on all of history, “How could this moment be otherwise?!”
If I say there’s something wrong with me, I’m also saying that there was a glitch in the system of cause and effect that had something happen that isn’t a completely natural—even predictable—outcome of what happened before. What’s happening may suck. I may not like it, it may be painful, I may think it’s “not fair.” It may even be that I have to do something to change the situation for the future, but none of that indicates that it’s not “natural,” or even right in some way. We’ve all experienced painful things that, at least in retrospect, seemed completely natural and expected given whatever had happened before.
Now is a good time to remind ourselves that if we choose to play with these ideas—as I’ve mentioned many times before—these are for our own personal introspection and growth. We potentially try these thoughts on for what I and others have experienced as positive effects on our consciousness.
Keep in mind that these ideas are not for preaching to others or for judging others, especially to those in disadvantaged populations or those who may appear to be suffering. If we do share these ideas with others, especially in a judgmental and superior way, then they have the right to kick us in the shins or worse. This, for us, then counts as “everything, including that pummeling, is OK as it is.” And if these thoughts—or any that I share ever—don’t appeal to you and don’t feel as empowering to you as they do to me, then chuck the idea immediately. These thoughts are NOT for everyone! And you are under no obligation to finish reading this, of course!
If what I’ve written above still doesn’t resonate with you and you prefer thinking of things as happening by chance, you have more faith than I do. I see no “chance” happening anywhere. Things like flipping a coin may seem to have random results, I think that’s a rare exception to the fact that in the material realm, things happen from causes—though we may not know what they are. If we knew all the causes and factors, even flipping a coin would no longer appear random. Chance may simply indicate that we don’t know all the factors that caused the situation, whether an external or internal situation.
In this material world, we’re (always) living in a realm of paradox. Often it boils down to the dual fact that, yes, everything is perfect as it is (including myself), and there’s always room for improvement. If you are a devotee, you can understand it as, “God (or The Infinite) loves you just the way you are, and too much to let you stay that way.” With the first statement, note that “everything is already perfect” is in relation to the moment and points to how to be in the moment. “There’s always room for improvement” relates to action that I may choose to take in the moment.
Sadly most of us—especially those of us who are “pushers” (in contrast with the “sensualists”)—miss the present moment under the tyranny of the false self who is by necessity stuck on looking to the future. It is, by necessity, because the false self cannot exist in the present moment; it lives on the past and the future.
There are, of course, other ways that the false self shows up in our lives, per Stephen Cope and our personal experience. We can, though, try a different “fix” than just losing connection with our body and trying to live from an ego-ideal—a project that will inevitably fail anyway. Cope’s book is building toward getting us into “witness consciousness,” i.e. taking the perspective of being the observer of what is. Eckhart Tolle describes it as, “be the one who watches the thoughts,” which it turns out is who/what we truly are.
If our thoughts cause anxiety and our anxiety causes thoughts—and I apparently (for now) have no control over my thoughts—I can at least step back a little and observe them. That little step turns out to be huge and is sufficient to shift the whole unconscious process. Awareness, we realize, is a major “fix” to not being aware.