At an early stage of the inquiry into the nature of our being, we must investigate the issue of control. How much control or choice do you have in your life?
I've noticed that those who will not examine this issue have no foundation for going forward with meaningful inquiry. They have decided to stick with their existing beliefs, and this position precludes any breakthroughs or discoveries. If, on the other hand, you are willing to look with a fresh openness, you will gain many insights.
For purposes of this message, I'm going to put aside the issue of the personal identity -- that entity we often take to be located inside the skin line. Nonduality does not recognize the existence of such a limited, personal consciousness inside the body, and I'll be discussing that in upcoming posts.
For now, let's isolate the issue of control and do a thorough, ruthless examination of the degree to which we have control in our lives. In the last blog post, I focused on thoughts and emotions; this time, the investigation of control will expand into other areas as well.
Start with your physical body. Do you, as an individual, have control over your breathing -- or is this handled by God or the Life Force? Some force other than the individual must be in control, because you keep breathing whether you are aware of your breathing or not. You're breathing as you read this message, without any conscious effort. You breathe during sleep. Furthermore, you have no idea how to make yourself breathe. Breathing is not in your control. It might be more accurate to say that breathing is happening or that you are being breathed.
What about your heartbeat and circulation? Are you controlling that? Here again, the heart is beating without your input and also while you are asleep. You have no idea how the blood is moving around or what causes it to do what it is doing. Not in your control.
Genetics, DNA, etc. -- Not in your control. You are born with a genetic code you didn't choose. You have no idea how to "make" DNA or genes, for that matter. A complete mystery to you, and yet it determines so much in your life.
How about the digestive system? What do you, as an individual, do to control the digestive functions? Do you know the recipe for all the enzymes and when to release them? You know these activities are going on without your control.
Let's move on to the healing of cuts and bruises and the workings of your immune system. You certainly don't have control over those functions, although you may believe your activities have some influence over them. However, you can't direct the white blood cells and you don't control how or when your blood clots.
And let's not forget the functioning of the five senses. Do you know how to "wire" a sense of smell or touch into your body? Do you activate your taste buds before each meal? You haven't the slightest idea how the senses are operating or how signals are being sent from the brain throughout the body to make these miracles happen.
Our bodies, for the most part, seem to be running on automatic pilot. You might argue that you have some choice or control over some of these bodily functions, but it is very limited at best. Unquestionably, many things concerning your body are happening without any control on your part.
Let's consider the body movements of the human being. Do you believe you are in control of your movements? When you scratch your ear, or put your hand on your face, do YOU control each of these movements? You cross your legs or move your toes many times a day without thinking about it. Who initiates those movements? Right this moment, your body is moving in ways you're not even aware of . Who or what is in control of that?
Can you tell me which movements you made ten minutes ago -- and what you did to initiate those movements? Can you explain to me, in precise detail, how you get your arm to move? Or, is it more accurate to say that movement simply happens?
We know that body movements are happening even while you are asleep. You move your arms, legs, head and toes during sleep. Who is in control of these movements while you are asleep? Obviously there is some power that is able to move these things without you even being awake. What makes you think this power isn't moving them when you're awake?
Do you hand over the power to move your body when you go to sleep -- and then "retrieve" your control from God when you get up each morning? Somehow, when that alarm clock rings, we have the notion that we are back in control of our lives. What arrogance and foolishness.
We can also learn a lot by investigating the movements of animals and other creatures. You may think that when you walk across the room, you are making the choice to do so -- and have control over the movement. Seems perfectly logical. Not so fast.
If an ant crawls across the same room, you wouldn't say the ant made a choice and exercised control over that movement. You probably believe that the ant lacks sufficient brain function to make choices. The ant, you might say, is moved by instinct or Nature.
The most primitive insects and fish don't have developed brains, yet they move about effortlessly. Thus, it would seem that individual control or choice is not required for organisms to move. There is some power or force that can initiate movements for them.
Are you certain that humans are exempt from this principle -- and that you are controlling all of your own movements? Where is your evidence to support such a claim? Aren't human beings part of Nature? The human mind says that Nature is moving and controlling just about everything on this earth....EXCEPT the thoughts and actions of the human being.
I think the mind might have a flimsy case.
Here's another point to consider. We know that babies, shortly after birth, do not have developed brains that allow them to exercise conscious control over their movements. Some power obviously "moves" the babies. If you believe the child eventually does acquire control over his or her movements, at what age does that happen?
When does God hand over the controls to the child and say, "Now it's up to you. I'm releasing the control and you can now make decisions on your own. You can move your arms and legs when you choose." Does this transfer of control happen at two years old? Two years and six months? Does it vary for each child?
It's time to open up this examination to the entire world. Clearly, there are millions of things the human being does not control. This includes the weather, rivers and oceans, planets, stars, galaxies, plants, insects, fish, animals and so forth. How much control do you have over these things? You, as an individual, didn't create them. You don't control the rising and setting of the sun, or the movement of the ocean waves. You don't control earthquakes or tsunamis.
The fact that the human mind is able to think does not mean that those thoughts can actually exert control.
What is the difference between the bird singing and YOU singing? Perhaps the bird can carry a tune a little better. Seriously, however, one key distinction is that you have a mind that says "I am singing" whereas the bird's mind presumably does not have this ability to think. The bird doesn't need a thought in order to sing. Singing happens for the bird.
In the case of the human singing, the thought "I am singing" is not DOING the singing. It is offering a comment about the singing and perhaps an opinion as to who is controlling the singing, but it is not actually doing the singing. Can a thought sing? Does the thought "la, la, la" produce any sound or move the vocal chords?
Most people, myself included, don't even know the precise location of their vocal chords. They wouldn't know when flaps should be open or closed or how sound is produced. Yet sounds are produced. It simply happens, and I can't say that I am in control of anything in the production of sound.
I've raised a lot of questions here about the extent of our control. Several years ago, I accepted the invitation to investigate this issue and found that many of the beliefs I held for a lifetime simply weren't true. They consisted of unsubstantiated thoughts, and nothing more.
This can be frightening as we no longer have anything to hold onto. But it is only after honest investigation, and letting go, that self-inquiry can work its magic.