Who Am I?
When a student complains about suffering to a Zen teacher, the student may be asked "WHO is suffering?" This may cause the student to become angry, rather than what the Zen teacher had intended: inspiring the student to become sufficiently curious to deeply investigate their situation. To do so requires letting go, if only briefly, of identifying with their story of victimhood.
After suffering enough (sadly, some never grow tired enough of suffering to actually learn from it) we may access a higher level of consciousness, and can observe suffering objectively. So “rather than being our thoughts and emotions, (we CAN CHOOSE to) be the awareness behind them.” Eckhart Tolle We learn that we actually operate at two distinctly different levels of consciousness: a stressful conditioned thinking mind AND an equanimous, unconditioned presence (awareness). WHICH to choose? The one we choose to be in more often, becomes stronger & more easily accessible, regardless of prevailing circumstances.
“The best indicator of your level of consciousness is how you deal with life’s challenges when they come. Through those challenges, an already unconscious person tends to become more deeply unconscious, and a conscious person more intensely conscious. You can use a challenge to awaken you, or you can allow it to pull you into even deeper sleep.” Eckhart Tolle
“ . . . you [become] mindful of the constantly changing conditions of sight, sound, taste, smell, physical perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. Through mindfulness practice, you [begin] to experience how conditioned the world is and how these conditions constantly change.
To free ourselves, we need to quiet the mind through some mindfulness in meditation. Then, instead of identifying with the changing conditions, we learn to release them and turn toward consciousness itself, to rest in the knowing. Ajahn Chah called this pure awareness, 'the original mind,' and resting in 'the one who knows.'
The senses and the world are always changing conditions, but that which knows is unconditioned. With practice . . . we can be in the midst of an experience, being upset or angry or caught by some problem, and then step back from it and rest in pure awareness. . . We learn to trust pure awareness itself.” Jack Kornfield, Buddhadharma, Summer 2007.