Shining in Plain Sight

by Ray Brooks

This article first appears in Watkins Mind Body Spirit, Issue 55 

Just for a few minutes while you read this short piece, I would like to ask you to suspend all that you know

about spirituality—all practices, your beliefs, concepts and ideas. I would like you to look inward and taste the actual experience of your self, what we normally call I or awareness. What I mean by I is the knowing sense of I am, knowing and shining as its self.

You are here and now, that is a certainty. So let us begin from the only place you can begin—where you are.

For the sake of this self-enquiry I’d like you to not move on to the next question until you have really lingered on this silent knowing sense of I. These are not trick questions. Just  simply look at the experience of the sense of what it is like to be you. It may help to relax and close your eyes after you have asked yourself each question. Lets begin.

“Do I exist?”

“Am I aware?”

“Can I persuade myself that I am not aware—that I don’t exist?”

To doubt your existence or to doubt that you are aware would be absurd, wouldn’t it? To doubt your own sense of presence, the doubter must be present. Before you know anything else, I, this knowing-presence, must be there. The presence of I is always there, before perceptions, thoughts and sensations arise. There is no searching for this I and no resistance to the knowing of it. It is not just the knowledge that I am, it is the absolute wordless certainty that I am. I am and I know that I am. Rest in this knowing-presence— this I am. This is enough . . . but let us go on.

“By what means do I know that I am? What gives me the certainty that I am?”

Is this knowing-presence shining in its own splendor, or is there a thought, an imaginary person, higher self or ultimate God bringing this I am into existence?

This knowing-presence is undeniable and does not need any evidence or belief. This is not esoteric. What you are reading can sound esoteric only if you miss the simplicity of it.

Is there anything more obvious than this sense of this knowing-presence that you are? You are this presence before thought tells you that you are present. Awareness of this simple sense of I am is happiness itself and we all recognize happiness. To be happy we do not have to know that it emanates from our own being. We are not concerned with why we are happy, but during these moments, we are free.

The belief that this shining light is experienced by an individual who is separate from presence is the crux of

all our problems. This sense of separation, of ‘someone’ looking at ‘something’, is the very formation of a

personal entity, the illusion of an individual self with a story. From this personal entity, everything—body, thoughts, emotions, images—appear separate, creating a personal world of desires, fears, motives, causes, effects, and those wonderfully seductive experiences. Yet when we look, our actual experience is indivisibly

and inexpressibly one.

Don’t be concerned about how to stay present, just keep returning to this awareness of I am and I know that I am, and each time you return you’ll find your own completeness. On one of your visits the recognition that this knowing-presence is reality may dawn on you—it may dawn that you never left this knowing-presence and all that is appears in you, as you. You will recognize that you are not in presence. You are presence.



RAY BROOKS is a writer, musician and recording artist, internationally known in the  world of shakuhachi music. He is also the author of Blowing Zen: Finding an Authentic Life.

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