You have two identities—an apparent, lower identity called the ego, and an essential Higher Self that is pure consciousness.
Your Higher Self is the unchanging, peaceful inner witness. This is your real nature.
Whenever you forget your Higher Self and identify with your ego, you come to experience joy, sorrow, pain, fear, anger, jealousy, temptations, an innumerable other physical, emotional and mental conditions.
There is a powerful affirmation that will help to shift your attention to your Higher Self. It comes from the ancient writings of the Bhagavad Geeta. It is: They are in me, I am not in them.
They are in me, I am not in them
Now you may be wondering what this affirmation means. What are the “they” that is mentioned here? And how can I not be in something that is in me?
While it does appear to be puzzling, when this affirmation is used with full understanding, it is very effective in bringing peace and calm to yourself whenever you need it.
Here’s what it means…
The “they” refers to the changing conditions of the outer environment and within yourself.
From the outer environment, you get affected by the words and behaviour of others and a slew of things such as the weather, traffic, the news and so on.
At a personal level, you are affected by changes in your body, emotions and thoughts. When your body gets sick or ages, you say, “I’m sick” or “I’m getting old”. When you experience feelings such as anger or excitement, you identify with them and say, “I’m angry” or “I’m excited”. When you take in some new information, you identify with your thoughts and may say, “I understand”, or “I’m confused”, or “I disagree with this logic”.
Being pure consciousness, your Higher Self never suffers any limitations, growth or changes. Therefore, it is not subject to disease, aging, or death. It is the tranquil inner witness that is totally separate and untouched by all these conditions.
To regain the peace that is who you really are, you must shift your identification to your Higher Self. The affirmation, They are in me, I am not in them will help you get there.
To understand the second part of the affirmation, “I am not in them”, let’s take the example of the ocean and the waves.
The ocean and the waves
A wave can certainly say, “I am in the ocean”. But the ocean cannot say it is in the wave because from the standpoint of the ocean, there really is no such thing as a wave. After all, waves are merely disturbances in the ocean that travel from one location to another.
Waves rise, exist and ebb away. They may be big or small, fast or slow. But all waves are modifications of the ocean itself. Whatever happens to them doesn’t affect the ocean in the least. The ocean always remains the ocean, no matter what the conditions on its surface are.
The “they” in the first part of the affirmation, “They are in me,” refers to the waves. The waves do not have an existence apart from the ocean. Since their existence and changing conditions do not affect the ocean, the ocean which has its own independent existence, says, “I am not in them”.
This is the significance of, They are in me, I am not in them.
Now, let’s imagine that the ocean forgets that it has its own separate existence and begins to identify with the waves. When they begin to rise up, the ocean starts to rejoice and says, “Look at how I am rising! I am so big! Wow! I’m travelling such a far distance!” And, as they begin to die away, the ocean laments and says, “Oh no! I’m growing old! I’m dying!”
Although this is only an example, this is the sad state in which we have fallen. Like the ocean who is identified with the waves, you and I have forgotten that we are the peaceful Higher Self that is a witness to all the changing inner conditions.
Practice of the affirmation in daily life
My guru, Swami Chinmayananda, gave a series of talks on chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Geeta. In his explanation of verse 12 where this affirmation is found, he gives us some helpful ideas to contemplate on. They will help us put the affirmation into practice in our daily life.
Swami Chinmayananda employs clear logic to prove that the thoughts we entertain cannot actually ever affect us. He explains through the concept of the Seer and the seen.
It’s quite simple, really. If you are aware of something, it cannot be you. For instance, if you can see the screen on which you are reading these words, you know you are not the screen.
Here’s another example: If you are standing at a riverbank and looking at the changing conditions of the water, you don’t get wet or swept away.
Similarly, if you are aware of your thoughts, they cannot affect you—unless of course, you identify with them.
When you identify with your thoughts, you forget that you are the Seer of the thoughts. And so, when a fearful thought arises, you accept it and take it to be true. You then add more similar thoughts to the first thought. Your mind begins to get agitated, your breath becomes short and quick, your heart beats faster and your neck and shoulder muscles tighten up.
All these symptoms arise from your identification with the first fearful thought. The thoughts are the seen and cannot in reality upset you, the inner Seer.
Like the waves in the ocean that rise, exist and die away in the ocean, thoughts rise, exist and die away in you, the pure consciousness. You remain separate from them all.
To solidify this affirmation in your own mind, practice being the witness during meditation. When you become aware of the thoughts, identify with your true Self and affirm, They are in me, I am not in them.
When you practice this affirmation in meditation, you will be better able to identify with being the inner witness and detach from your thoughts in your daily life. This is because the meditative mind is open and receptive to new ideas.
The changing conditions associated with the ego personality bring great stress in our lives. The affirmation, They are in me, I am not in them, is a potent remedy for the sorrows of being identified with them. It helps to assert our essential nature as pure consciousness and brings immediate peace.
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