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By Johannes Helmold
Life, as we humans know it, is multifaceted and defined based on perspective. That is why it is important to see what life is like for each person. Not the kind of life that we have from day to day, but what life is in a holistic sense. Is life a series of illusions created by our senses? Is life just a mask for our soul? Is life a soul within the vessel of a body? I will try to answer these questions to pinpoint what I believe life is.
There are several layers to life. Ultimately, we are only pure consciousness. Beyond thought, emotions, and bodily sensations, we are simply consciousness. I know this because when I have gotten into deep meditations, I reach that pure consciousness. I believe that everyone, in his or her essence, is this non-reactionary, non-identified self. This is our most basic layer of self, even though we cannot seem to reach it easily as adults. However, infants seem to be in this state automatically. But perhaps they do not have an awareness that they are in this state. I believe the key to having a fulfilling life is to reach this state and to keep returning to it as often as possible.
After pure consciousness, we have our bodily sensations and perception. We identify with our bodies, even though it is difficult to say, “we are our bodies.” Our bodies are vessels that carry our consciousness. It is not the other way around. Most people see their bodies and think that they are their bodies, or that it is their life. Bodies perish, and the pure consciousness stands the test of time. It is a universal thing, within each being.
After our bodily sensations and perception, we have our thoughts. Thoughts are nothing more than reactions to stimuli and a way for beings to calculate. We give a lot of importance to our thoughts, but in fact, they are mostly random and uncontrolled. Controlled thought involves calculation, and sometimes we give conscious choice to what we are going to think about. But by and large, our thoughts are like ripples in our mind with a foundation of pure consciousness. Strangely, we consider our thoughts as who we are, or at least a large part of our identity. Our thoughts are not unique, in fact. Similar thoughts or the same thoughts are bubbling in the minds of those present and those past. The only form of unique thought is inspiration, where an idea comes spontaneously, as if from a divine place. But even inspiration does not comprise who we are and life itself.
Beyond our thoughts are our emotions. Emotions, like thoughts, are reactions most of the time to circumstances. They are also connected to the body through hormones and chemical reactions within the body. Therefore, it is incorrect to assume we are our emotions. Emotions are powerful and impacting, however they are no more than responses. Positive emotions are wonderful, but not as wonderful as when you are in the state of pure consciousness.
These three aspects—bodily sensations and perception, thoughts, and emotions—create the ego and superego. The ego is the part of our consciousness that creates our identity and says that we are separate from this and that. The superego makes conditions in our mind, such as “I cannot eat broccoli on Fridays” or “I am a poor person.” But overall, the ego and superego are manufactured through the accumulation of accepted thoughts about ourselves.
These are all the layers of the self, which comprises what life is. Yet, we have not gotten into what this life is that we experience. We experience our surroundings through our senses. Each creature in this universe experiences reality in a different way due to these senses. Then, what is reality? I believe true reality is the pure consciousness that we can tap into at any moment through various methods, or spontaneously.
We cannot say life is the compilation of all of life’s layers, as that would be missing the reality. With thoughts, emotions, bodies, ego, and superego, reality can be said to be subjective. However, the objective reality is pure consciousness, as it is the same for every person that enters into it.
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