“To be born again, first you have to die. What has died, when this happens? The sense of what you are. The collected life experience, the personality, the ideas about things. Emotions. The contents of your head, in a big-picture kind of way, but also in the momentary way, in the form of a passing thought, come from nowhere and gone back into it. Values. All that felt like what you really were — what I really was — comes to feel insubstantial.”
~Jan Frazier, Being Born Again
Insubstantial is a good description. I’m inclined to also say transparent or unreal. And yes, all that stuff dies. Dissolves. Including – it seems to me, emotions. There is still feeling, but it seems there is a difference between visceral, raw, physical sensation/feeling and emotion. (Emotion comes after.)
What is perhaps most prominent here these days is a sort of commitment to disbelief. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say unbelief. There is no longer belief that what is thought, seen (as images in the head), or even necessarily felt (as emotions and even sensations in the body), is real. Or is what “I” really am. This lack of belief wrecks havoc with the mind, but all the stuff associated with belief, well, it becomes so insubstantial as to (easily) be unbelievable. What a paradox it seems to be!
So when there is a sense of an *I* – for example, “this body feels very real” – that belief (in this sense of an *I* or that “this body IS real”) isn’t believed. The mind can argue this until the cows come home. And will say, “Oh, but it IS real” – or change its tune just a wee bit and say, “Yes, of course, I understand that the body isn’t really real, but it is certainly relatively real,” and go on to try to say, “I can see it, feel it, it gets sick, etc.” and maybe even explain how one has to live in this world and so of course the form (this body) is relatively real. (And I would never argue with someone who was making these statements. But if they seemed genuinely curious about that feeling of relative reality, I might point them to some form of inquiry.)
Because, here’s the deal: relatively real isn’t real. Is a wave in the ocean real? As in a separate thing from the ocean itself? No. There is just ocean, “manifesting” as a wave here, “another” wave here. So yes, OK, we could say the wave is ‘real’ – but it isn’t real relative to the ocean. It IS the ocean. There can not be “relative to” when there is only one.
Can you imagine a world without time? Try to imagine that what we’ve always imagined to have happened in the past and projected as likely to happen in the future are not linear and separate ‘events’. The mind can’t conceive of it. But this is how it is. There is always, only, ever NOW. And even in the nanosecond that appears (to the human mind) to “follow” this moment, it (the moment that was NOW) is already a memory. It no longer exists, NOW. And it surely isn’t “real” in the past, because the past exists only in the mind. And the mind cannot, will not, can never, comprehend the present moment. It can only comprehend (create) the past and imagine a future (which is based on its ideas of the past). And the present moment isn’t relative to anything. It stands alone, eternal, infinite, unaffected and unblemished by anything ‘else’ (because there is nothing ‘else’). This moment is all there is, silent and unmoving, even as all that appears (to be separate, i.e., the ocean’s waves) dances within it. It’s all just energy, streaming. Waves waving. Physicists tell us that a hard table top really isn’t (even) solid. Feels solid. Isn’t. More space than matter. And matter, well, is it a wave or a particle? Apparently that depends on whether its being observed or not.
The mind can be very helpful leading us up to the edge of disbelief, but it can never cease believing. There comes a moment when it can’t lead anymore, can’t take us (itself) any farther, and that’s when it grows silent (though it might bitch and moan a lot before it shuts up). When it grows silent – truly silent – then, well, it no longer exists. It’s not like the mind is still there (somewhere, where?) sitting silent, watching. It ceases to be. (It never was, but what with all the noise it makes and human cultural conditioning that strongly suggests – some might say “commands” that we listen to it – we’re all pretty hard-pressed to not believe it exists. The mind and all its stories seem very real.)
But when it grows silent, then all sense/feeling of being an individual, separate self (body/mind organism) dissolves. All that stuff – a sense of separation, of the body being real – is generated by the mind. Waves cease to rise in what is seen to be ocean. What has seemed so real, so believable, is seen/known/understood (but not by the mind) to be illusory. There are no waves, there is only ocean. So everything, including the body is just (ha! … just!) energy. Doing what energy appears to be doing: manifesting as a ‘solid’ tabletop or a human being (who perceives table tops as solid), as a bird, a pile of horse manure, flies drawn to said shit. The sun, moon, stars and all that apparent spaciousness between them. All just energy. Streaming.
Death is like passing gas. One moment there is discomfort (perhaps extreme), the next: relief. It’s really that simple (whether it be death of the ego or the body). But it’s useful to let the mind keep leading us to that proverbial edge and to continue to question beliefs as they are noticed. All of them, including the one that has us convinced that we (however we define ourselves) are real.
And, ironically, even the one that tells us that we aren’t. (It’s maddening to the mind.)