There are two levels at which our existence happens, but we are usually aware of only one of them.
The first one, I call it the practical level, or the practicalities of life. Most of what we do belongs to this level: eating, going to work, dressing up, going to a yoga class, preparing a tea, meeting a friend, planning for the future, studying, getting married, having kids, getting divorced, enjoying a movie, etc.
Then there is another level, which can be called the level of ‘being’, which is the recognition of a sense of presence, a connection with the sense that ‘I am’, that ‘I exist’.
The practical level starts and ends: I am going to eat, I am eating, I finished eating; I am going to go to work, I am working, I finished working, etc.
The other level, the level of ‘being’, the one in which I am aware that ‘I am’, does not start or end, but is always present; and it is this level what gives meaning to our lives.
It is true that the meaning seems to come from what we do, but it does not. It is an understandable misunderstanding because it seems to be that way, like the sky seems to be blue or the earth seems to be flat.
Meaning is found in the connection with the essence of life, which is in this sense of existing, of ‘I amness’. And for that, there is nothing to wait, because it is here all the time. For example, in – ‘I am‘ going to eat, ‘I am’ eating, ‘I’ finished eating – the eating, or whatever practical thing we do, starts and ends, but the ‘I amness’, the ‘I’, does not come nor go. It always is.
Because we truly believe that meaning comes from what we do, from what I call the practicalities of life, then we are always either waiting for something to come, or grasping what is here so it does not go…the two things that, at the practical level, will always inevitably happen. And because we are so lost at the practical level, and we forget or know nothing about the level of ‘being’, we look for meaning at this level, and because it is not there, a sense of emptiness, meaningless and pointlessness sooner or later arises in our lives.
For example, I teach a yoga class. What is important in the yoga class is not really the class by itself, but the fact that you learn about ‘being’. The practical aspect of the class, the gym, the breathing, the meditation, the philosophy, are all wonderful things, and hopefully they will help you have a great class, but is that it? Let’s say that at the end of the class you do feel great, at peace, and quieter. Great! But as useful and nice as that is, do you know how long it will last? Half an hour…May be one hour or, if you are lucky, until the end of the day but, that is all! Not long after, your old thoughts, old worries and stress will come back and that peace you got in the class will disappear.
The law is that whatever comes is going to go; whatever arrives has to depart; whatever is created IS going to be destroyed. At the level of the practical life, change is inevitable.
The meaning of the class – of anything – is not in what you get new, but in the discovery of what is always there, and that is ‘being’.
‘Being’ never comes, and so it does not go. ‘Being’ is. What we need to do is not to create ‘being’, but to realize that it is always there, to pay attention to it, to come into contact with it.
How to discover ‘being’?
It appears as our sense of ‘I am’, as the sense of presence, as the sense of existence, right here and now.
Stop reading for a moment, close your eyes (not really necessary, but helpful, at least in the beginning), stop, and pay attention to ‘being’, notice your own sense of ‘I am’, right now…
‘Being’ is what gives meaning to the practicalities of life, and not the other way around.
Without this ‘being’, the practicalities of life, or as I often call them, the ups and downs of life, as exciting, nice and wonderful as they can be (the ups), or as painful, difficult or heavy as they can be (the downs), have no true meaning. The real meaning is in ‘being’, and ‘being’ is prior to the ups and downs of life.
This is why ‘stopping’ is so important. Stopping is one way to say that we need to find silence, space and openness in our everyday lives.
The practicalities of life are the movements, the noise, the doing, the acting, the going, the coming.
But ‘being’ is the space of silence which allows all these movements to happen. And even if it is always there, it has to be recognized, it has to be noticed, it has to be re-discovered.
And in a way, everything I do, the yoga classes, the meditations, the talks, the retreats, the notes I write, all of it, has really only one aim: the discovery of this space of ‘being’, this space of presence that is here now, that is here all the time.
Without this recognition, as thrilling, exciting and interesting as our lives could be, sooner or later, the sense of emptiness will creep in.
But with this recognition, even the simplest, unpretentious, and most ordinary of lives will be truly meaningful.
Nothing really needs to change (even if things do change), but what is important is the recognition of ‘being’, in whatever we are doing, accomplishing, creating, asking, changing, achieving, loosing, finding.
This ‘being’ is always here, is always now.