I’d like to explain one of the great mysteries faced by spiritual seekers. On the surface this mystery sounds simple. The most basic statement of it is this: You don’t have to go anywhere to reach higher consciousness. At some level you are already enlightened. All you have to do is to uncover this level within yourself.
There are countless versions of the same teaching. “Be still and know that I am God” is a religious version. So is “The kingdom of Heaven is within.” Outside religion a version from India is called “the pathless path.” However different, all these teachings imply the same thing: The seeker’s goal is here and now. There is nowhere to go, no journey to take, no distance between the beginning and the end of the seeker’s path.
The reason for the mystery is that this teaching hasn’t worked for thousands of people who genuinely want the experience of higher consciousness. Inevitably, they wind up struggling inside themselves trying to locate this mysterious place where enlightenment—you can also call it God, Nirvana, liberation, or self-realization—supposedly lies. Instead of being here and now, the goal remains elusive, far away, and invisible, even after years of meditation, prayer, reflection, contemplation, and other spiritual practices. It’s all very frustrating.
We can unravel the mystery, however, with a simple fact. There is only one reality. There is no division between reality “in here” (subjective) and reality “out there.” The beauty of this simple fact is that you no longer have to struggle within yourself. You only have to unveil reality. So how has reality been disguised from us all these years?
Whatever feels real to you is always filtered through your personal experience. The filter can have any source, usually a worldview you believe in: religion, myth, science, your own personal story. In every case the mind has created a viewpoint that gives you an interpretation of reality, making everything personal. As we each become accustomed to our personal filters, we buy into personal reality totally. If there is a reality independent of the mind, we cannot know it.
Every experience is mind-made, whether the experience happens “in here’ or “out there.” What we call a person is a conditioned identity. What we call the outside world is a conditioned projection. We participate every day in a process that took centuries to develop as human awareness fashioned reality to suit human needs.
Conditioning serves a purpose: to make experience seem continuous. Objects look stable; the mind is constantly active; time flows along. In reality, however, experiences are fleeting and evanescent. They rise and fall instantaneously and cannot be grasped or held on to. Holding on to your last thought is as impossible as holding on to a dream. Stitching reality together through a series of perceptual snapshots, which is what we all do, is very useful, but reality frozen into a series of snapshots isn’t truly real.
If you look at it directly, every experience happens here and now. Now is immediate and present. Once you notice the present moment, another now has taken its place. So now has no duration on its own. It cannot be measured on the clock. In reality, now is outside clock time; therefore it is timeless: the so-called eternal now. We experience anything outside the here and now as a mental projection. The past is a mental construct, including the history of the universe. Mental models created the Big Bang, giving time a beginning when in reality time has no beginning or end.