Finding the “I”

This is an excerpt from my book Better than Sex

Awakening is not about changing the content of your experience in any way at all, or even about trying to change your thoughts. Awakening means simply to recognize the Open Secret that is experiencing all of this.

In this moment you are hearing sounds, correct? You are seeing the color and shape and size of things. It is also possible to notice thoughts passing. You say “I hear the sound,” “I see the movement,” “I was aware of the thought.” What is this “I”?

All day long we say “I” and “me” and “my.” “I want to go to the movies. I am bored. I love you. Look at me. Leave me alone. This is my body, my car, my children, my relationship.” But we do not really know what this “I” is. When we try to find it, we generally end up telling a story about the past. None of that story can be experienced now, except as thoughts.

We meet each other and exchange stories. Whoever you are, whatever your story is, thoughts will rush in to fill the vacuum and tell the story, but who is aware of those thoughts? Who is aware of the story itself? The story is made up of thoughts and memories. None of them explain the mystery of who or what is hearing the sounds, seeing the movement, and noticing the thoughts in this moment.

In fact, we all live in a kind of hypnosis. When we hear a sound, our attention is so completely kidnapped by the content of our experience that there is only the sound, no awareness of that which is hearing it. The same is true of seeing and feeling. When thoughts pass, the content of the thought takes us over so completely that we lose any sense of who is aware of the thoughts.

Awakening is simple. It is a moment of recognition where the attention really, deeply, profoundly shifts from this churning of identifying with thoughts, and feelings, and history, and story, and likes, and dislikes, to finding out who is actually aware of this moment. This recognition may happen just for a split second, and in fact it does all the time: at the peak of orgasm, during extreme sports, in the gap between being awake and falling asleep, we are always touching into this infinite realm beyond the mind. It might also be sustained for a few minutes at a time, or even hours or days. And it may become a constantly accessible undercurrent to everything else that is occurring.

Even the tiniest taste of this is life-changing.

The Concept is not IT.

As you read the words on these pages, you are reading concepts about awakening. But the concepts are not at all the same thing as the direct recognition of awakening itself. In just the same way, when you are very hungry, reading a book about nutrition and digestion may be interesting and informative, but it can never begin to satisfy your hunger. When you feel horny, reading or understanding about the hormones that generate sexual desire may be fascinating, but it will never, ever, come close to great lovemaking. Awakening means that the attention comes fully into recognition of itself. It means to recognize, in a moment of “Aha!,” that which has always been here, seeing movement, feeling sensations, hearing sounds.

That can never be something you have to work towards in the future, because it is already here. It is that which is already experiencing everything else, now, and now, and now. When Jesus had this awakening, he realized that “I and the Father are One.” When Buddha had this awakening, he realized that “I am not just Siddhartha the Prince. I am Buddha. I am awareness.”

Until recently, the few people, here and there, who tasted this were often men, and also frequently monks or recluses. In the last few decades, all of that has changed. When I started to point people’s attention to this, in 1991, there were very few people who had direct awakening for themselves. Most came for a “contact high” from someone else who had already tasted it. Today, when I travel and teach weekend seminars, or work with coaching clients one-on-one over the phone, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is dropping into this awakening for real, on the first morning or in the first coaching session. Many of my friends are also guiding people in this way: Jean Houston, Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti, Richard Moss. They all report from the road a massive explosion of direct awakening, at least in moments. The secret is out. 


From Better than Sex by Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon here.

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