When Johnny Begood was eight years old, he experienced a horrendous event. If it had been an earthquake measured on the Richter Scale, the event would have registered as a ground-shaking, pavement-heaving 10.0. Now at forty-seven, he can still remember what happened as though it were yesterday. Please glaze your eyes slightly as we travel back in time: Johnny was helping his father build a plywood doghouse:
Gleefully, Johnny hammered the shiny nails, one after another: Thump, thump! Thump, thump! Whack, whack, whack! Over and over, he repeated the process, using his “real man” hammer that his parents had bought him for his birthday. Before his very eyes, each nail that had stood so tall was pounded down, until its head was flush with the surface of the plywood. HE WAS A CARPENTER! However, during the pounding of one particularly stubborn nail that was leaning off to the side, his left thumb somehow strayed into the territory that was the domain of the head of his hammer. As the taut forearm muscles of his right arm brought the hammer down forcefully, he remembers seeing (as though in slow motion) the head of the hammer a mere split second before it contacted the surface of his tender young thumb. A thumbnail that turned purple within hours was his reminder for the next few weeks. The lesson: Keep your free hand away from the strike zone of the hammer.
As life would have it, Johnny Begood learned something else from that incident. He learned that he liked to help other people by sharing what he had learned; to spare them some of the pain associated with his “lessons.” In addition to cautions about the proper use of a hammer, he was also inspired to advise his younger siblings and neighbourhood friends of the following: that fingers and spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel should never get too close; that raccoons in the wild don’t like it when you poke a stick near them; and that before sitting on the end of a tree branch, you should always ensure that the branch is still alive. Johnny’s love of sharing knowledge would continue for the rest of his life.
Later in life, Johnny’s most important lesson was related to his sudden recognition of his true Self when he was forty-two. The profound nature of the “experience” was beyond words. He realized, of course, that awakening from the dream of personhood had to be known directly; but he was still happy to offer pointers to seekers who approached him with their questions. Using the hammer incident as an analogy, he advised seekers to maintain a healthy distance from the strike zone related to the perspective of their person. In this way, events that happened to the body-mind were processed in a detached manner, which lessened any associated suffering. He also reminded them of their innate I Amness–Consciousness, in which, and through which, all apparent events took place. “Be That which is aware of the person,” he said, “not the person.” During some of his talks, he shared the following description of our essential nature from the Bhagavad Gita:
“Weapons cannot cut it, nor can fire burn it; water cannot wet it, nor can wind dry it.”
In the years his recognition of true Self, Johnny has known of several seekers who have realized their essential nature. In other words, they transcended their conditioning–the uninvestigated belief that they were the person. You, too, dear readers may recognize That which you truly are. Do you dare? No hammers required–just an earnest eagerness to know Truth.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2023 – R. Arthur Russell
P.S. Please share this article if you enjoyed it. If you’d like to view my latest book (This Taste of Flesh and Bones–released September 8, 2020), press here. My YouTube videos may be found through this link. May the content of either or both help you along your spiritual journey. 🙏🧡
11 thoughts on “Thumbs Up: Enlightenment 101”
Love the wisdom about the tree branch! 😉
Thank you, Victoria. 🙂
Another wonderful piece Arthur. The only thing I’m struggling with is the implied separation of body and mind: “Be That which is aware of the person, not the person.”
Everything I’ve learned advises strongly against division. If you have any thoughts on this matter I would greatly appreciate it. All the best Art!
Thank you very much, Jack; I’m glad that you liked it, and even happier that you asked a question about division. I know that this reply is going to be long (in my effort to share information that’s truly helpful):
I think the problem with the prevalent understanding about life and the body-mind (which is based on the materialism paradigm of “reality”) is due to division of a different sort–the apparent division, or separation, of the body-mind and the Spirit. In the materialism interpretation of reality, “persons” believe that the brain gives rise to consciousness–even though this has not, and will not, be proven. This erroneous assumption (termed the hard problem of conscousness) leads to all sorts of problems and fears. From the perspective of the person this gives rise to the belief that “i” began with birth and will, therefore, end at death of the body-mind. Natural, right?–this is what we’ve all been told and continue to be sold. What the majority miss is that the little “i” that is constantly worrying, or feeling proud of itself, is conceptual–through and through. It is only a thought–and we are not our thoughts.
The following quote from “I Am That,” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj speaks to this very point: “Before the mind–I Am. ‘I Am’ is not a thoughth in the mind. The mind happens to me, I do not happen to the mind.” The Bible also speaks to this in John 8:58, when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.”
One of the pointers that helped greatly with my understanding occurred through Rupert Spira. I was watching a video in which a woman had asked about how to practice self inquiry (by that I mean true Self–capital S, not the person). The woman finally agreed that her “person” was basically a bundle of sensations, images, feelings, thoughts, memories, and perceptions. Rupert asked her then to “notice” that thoughts–come and go; sensations–come and go; perceptions–come and go; BUT that we feel no less for their going. If we were the bundle of “stuff,” we should feel a sense of loss of who we are as thoughts, sensations, and perceptions go. This is clearly not the case.
This is much easier to understand when we begin and end with Consciousness, aka Spirit. Just as Consciousness gives rise to objects and persons and events in nighttime dream state, so, too, does Consciousness give rise to the perspective of the person, objects, and events in the waking state–which most beings erroneously mistake for reality. Consciousness is the one and only reality. Logically, we cannot have an experience in the absence of reality. Everything we know, everything we experience, occurs within Consciousness.
Please know that I’m not trying to tell you how to think or feel about anything. I’m only offering. When the shift occurs, it is experienced directly.
With that in mind, I’m going to attach the link to a short video I released recently , which offers a very different perspective of “reality.” It was one of my achor points of understanding on my journey. I hope that you’ll watch it. There are three short cloudburst videos attached to it.
Amazing and comprehensive answer, Art, one I’m truly grateful for. I’m about halfway through now but am taking a break-we’re in Marakesh on a much-needed getaway. I will say that I totally get the point about most believing that consciousness begins with the brain. I recently read a fascinating piece-HOPE I CAN FIND IT AGAIN!!-that spoke to the idea that the cells are the real brains-the latter only reacts to Info the former provides. I need to find that again because I saw how that directly connected to the universal One but I forget how now..Thanks for taking time for me. All the best.
You’re very welcome, Jack. I knew it was going to be a long reply, because I wanted to truly give you something to work with. The video that I attached at the end may have the most profound effect.
Take good care!
Thanks very much Art. I understand what you mean in all of your separate points but I’m having trouble putting it all together. Maybe it’s because we’re flying to Boston on Wednesday and trying to get everything worked out. I really appreciate you taking the time for me at any rate.
When I forget who I am, it helps to remind myself, “I am not my body. I am the one who is aware.” And keep my thumb away from the hammer.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I truly appreciate that and YOU!
I’m smiling. Way to go! I also find it useful to investigate the nature of the self that might be thinking or feeling something. Is it the little “I,” which is conceptual, or the real I Am That I Am? So happy for you.
When we know true Self, we stay out of that dreadful strike zone. 🙏🙂🧡
Well I do believe that you hit the nail on the head (lol) with the question, “Is it the little “I”…or the real I Am That I Am? That one little question pretty much sums up the entire search for enlightenment, I would think. I know one from the other, but the challenge is staying aware enough to embrace the I Am. A life’s work for sure!
I think you’ve got it, Julia! You might find this helpful: For about a year now, I have kept a sheet with a few reminders on a chair near my bed. Each time that I see it in the morning, I am repeatedly reminded of That which I—truly—AM. You might also find the video that I posted at the bottom to my long reply to Jack Everly. A different perspective for sure!