By Brian Tom O'Connor
A simple analogy for getting a sense of who you really are is the camera. So imagine a side view of the inside of a camera. Light from the world outside the camera comes in through the lens and is imprinted on a piece of film inside the camera. This is an old-fashioned camera. Or, if it's a digital camera, the light is imprinted on a photosensor, and saved on a memory card. Who sees the image of this light on the piece of film? Who sees the image of this light on the photosensor, or on the memory card? No one inside the camera, that's for sure. Who sees it is the photographer looking through the viewfinder.
Now imagine that the camera has some AI, that is, artificial intelligence programmed into it. Let's say that it automatically adjusts how much light it lets in depending on the brightness of the scene it's pointed at. It's automatic. Is there someone in the camera doing this? No.
Let's say it's attached to a Steadicam and there are internal sensors that detect movement, and these sensors are connected to a gyroscope that adjusts for this movement and holds the center of gravity of the camera steady. Is there somebody in the camera or in the Steadicam rig that's deciding how to adjust the center of gravity? No.
The AI that adjusts for how much light enters, and the Steadicam apparatus together give the camera its own nervous system, taking in information, obeying the rules in the algorithms, and sending signals to the motors that drive its actions.
Our bodies and brains are like that, only infinitely more complex, with many more sensors picking up information from the world, adjusting reactions accordingly, and recording all of this on its memory cards.
And here's the gist of all of this: We think we are the camera. We think we are the sensors and the motors and the memory cards. But we're not. We are the photographer looking through the camera.
But this is no ordinary photographer. This is a photographer with billions of eyes, looking through billions of cameras at once.
The AI algorithms are so busy with the information that is being sent to the photographer that it has no knowledge of the photographer.
But unlike a robotic camera, we can sense the photographer by quieting down the focus on the information we're sending, and allowing the feeling of being the photographer to flow back into the individual nervous system of the camera.
In this analogy, the camera represents our individual bodies and brains, and the photographer is universal awareness—our true identity—looking out through all the cameras in the universe at once. When we turn our attention from what is seen to what is doing the seeing, we create a sort of wormhole between the individual mind and the universal mind, creating a two-way flow where there was only a one-way flow before. But the sense of the photographer—universal awareness, that is—flows back to us in a different language than we use in our minds. It's non-verbal, non-conceptual, and it's sensed not with our minds, but felt with our hearts.
Of course, you don't have to believe any of this is true. You just have to play a "what if" game and see what happens. It's the act of imagining it that shifts your attention from the content of awareness back to awareness itself, and that's enough.
Here's a way to play around with who you truly are:
What do you mean when you say I?
Say to yourself, "I."
Look inside and see what you are referring to when you say "I."
It could be your body. It could be your thoughts. It could be your personality. It could be some location within you like a spot behind your eyes.
Whatever you come up with as an answer to the question, "What do I mean when I say I?" ask, "Who notices that?"
Notice that whatever you come up with that has a name or even an image that represents it is a concept and all concepts are known. Known by what?
Keep asking, and keep noticing what is noticing, back and back and back until you sense that who you are is wordlessly concept-free.