Submitted Date 04/17/2019

To this point, the pieces I've shared have been fairly well-grounded in this generally accepted conception of what we call "reality". I've shared personal experiences and inspirational messages — all of which could be objectively viewed and applied into daily thought. I'd encourage you to read those if you have not: "The Greatest Symphony: Finding the Harmonies of Life", "Let it Flow", "Moments of Peace: A Personal Story", "You Can Do It", and "What Inspires You?".


Today, however, I would like to pull up the stakes and leave the ground, venturing into the untethered, atmospheric realm of abstract and challenging thought. I want to have you step back and reanalyze who you are and what this is — "this" being our existence, our "reality". My intention with this is not to be condescending or to try to prove anything; I understand that I know nothing — that no one truly knows anything — and that the very nature of this piece is paradoxical, indeterminate, and ultimately subjective. My intention is simply to share some thoughts and ideas that have been enlightening to me and have allowed me to live my life best, and that I hope can provide you with some form of this. That being said, I will begin with a very simple question, and one that you could likely answer quickly and with great confidence: who are you?


"Why, I'm Jared Clawson! I'm 18 years old and about to graduate high school. I'm a writer who lives in Utah, loves hiking and music." And while this is not incorrect, as this is the character I identify with, it is also not necessarily correct.


You have this sense of self. It's the reason you do anything at all, the key being that "you" are doing it. From the time you were born to the very moment in which you are reading this, you've been experiencing this world through your physical body — all the sensations of joy, love, anger, displeasure, longing, etc. and the causes of them. You recognized what makes you feel good and what does not, where you feel comfortable and where you do not. As an infant your natural instinct was to do what served you best as a growing, living animal. Life was simple and primitive, but as you grew older and developed, these experiences evolved into your identity. When you began thinking for yourself instead of all your actions being out of that instinctual, primitive survival mode, you starting thinking "ouch, that hurt me," or "I really love this person," or "I want to do this". You began making decisions based on your newly developed identity, made possible by the miraculous instrument in your skull that we call the brain. It's that sense of self that everything is built upon in our society — to good, the bad, and the ugly.


But think, where does this "self" reside? Is it with your physical body? Well, consider the last dream you can recall that was intense and vivid, perhaps a nightmare. As you were dreaming, "you" still felt everything as if it were real, yes? Genuine feelings were still experienced by some form of "you," yet you wake up and say "phew, it was only a dream." But you're in a cold sweat, your heart is pounding, and you've been shaken. Although the dream was not "real" in the sense that is occured in this physical, shared world, you experienced it the same. So what experienced it, if not your physical body? Into what are these experiences impressed? Where are they stored, and from where do we recall them?


"Well," you'd say, "the mind, of course!" In general terms, the mind is interchangeable with consciousness, and it's that conscious that we identify with. When something happens to me — say I stubbed my toe — "I" am conscious of the pain that is being experienced and believe it is happening to me, Jared. That pain becomes — as long as I am experiencing it — a part of "me". But you are not what you are experiencing. No, you are simply the observer of it. You are not your mind (the collection of your experiences); you are the awareness of it. We just get pulled into these passing experiences, clinging onto them, and that builds the structure that we know as our "selves". But we are no more these experiences than a road is the cars traveling atop it.


To analyze the "self" we must break down what we know as "reality" into its components. When we do this, we begin to understand that we are not so much observing the universe outside of our "selves" as much as we are the universe observing itself within itself. The notion of the "self" — of "I", Jared Clawson — we realize is nothing more than an illusion — an arbitrary event risen out of the complex mechanics of the cosmos.


I read an analogy by Alan Watts that summed this up quite well: imagine the universe simplified as a fruit tree. This tree, like the universe, produces things through its mechanics, biological rules, and functions — in this case a fruit. Say a peach grows out of a peach tree, as we "grew" out of the universe, and became aware of itself. It saw the tree as its universe and developed a sense of self to reside within that universe. It begins to see itself as separate from the tree (Alan used "I" as a verb, as in producing this sense of self. You "I". The peach "I's"), yet that "self" is only an illusion. That peach is the tree, just simply a production of it — an extension of it. Of course, a peach cannot do this. It just so happened that the universe "grew" us and our ability to become aware via our brains.


So simply put, you are the universe. Your consciousness is just the awareness of the experiences the universe is "growing". "You" are just the universe that has become aware of itself and identified with your body's and brain's experiences. "You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing". That's Alan Watts, again.


Now, part of the human experience is the sense of "self," and we are bound to it, even if only an illusion. Though, it becomes quite a unique and special thing when you consider it. Out of all that the universe has "grown," we are some of the only things to identify with an "I" and all that comes with that image. I think it is a beautiful thing and, although an illusion, it is essentially real given that we are bound to it, and we treat it as such. Even though I am aware of the fact that "Jared Clawson" is an illusion, I continue to identify with and act according to him. And I love it.


That being said, why bother with all this abstract, eccentric philosophy and analyzation if I am just going to continue to identify with an illusion? Because — and this is why I share this at all — it allows you to view the world through a new lens that hopefully makes life more meaningful, fulfilling, and overall peaceful. When you can apply this understanding that you are one with the universe to your "self," things cease to be so harsh and difficult. Your mentality stops sounding like "me (or us) versus them (or it)" and more like "me (or us) with them (or it)". It becomes one beautiful, universal love and connection. You learn to stop clinging to negativity and are then open to focus more on positivity. Of course, not everyone adopts this thinking, and there are still nasty people out there, but hatred and negative feelings start to have less of an impact on you — whether they are directed at you from others or you are compelled to feel it for others.


I personally have felt a profoundly deeper connection to life as I have come to understand this. The things I loved prior only magnified in splendor and the things that had brought me undesirable feelings faded. I still experience negativity, as I am human, but it is much easier to simply let it fade away as another passing experience — no sense in clinging to it.


Now going into the wilderness is a much more fulfilling, meaningful experience, although it was already spectacular before. I see everything in which I am immersed as a beautiful reflection of life and myself — the flowing water, the outstretched trees, the passing clouds and the refreshing air. It's an escape from the urban life, yet I am not running from anything at all. I am only going deeper into myself. After all, I am all of that stuff. Even scientifically speaking, this is true; we are made out of the same biological components as all the world around us — we are not so separate after all. As I've heard it said, we are only made of stardust.


I listen to the gorgeously flowing music that my life has been blessed with and hear it not just as a pleasant sound that I enjoy listening to, but as an extension of nature — an organic, natural thing that is as much a part of me as my beating heart. I view it as the voice of the universe, a divine energy. In fact, we don't just hear music; we feel it. We vibe with it. It resonates with us. It's as if it allows us to go beyond our own humanity and catch a glimpse of glorious cosmic eternity.


But above all, this oneness allows us to feel nothing but unconditional love for one another, and that is the most fundamental, necessary thing. It makes visible (if it were not already) the divine spark in each and every soul. We are all the same grand movement, and in the end, we really are not so different. We're all in this together, and stepping back out of ourselves and viewing this thing we call life through a new lens allows us to see how silly it really is that we, as a people, insist on contention, hate, lust and greed. It's entirely futile — counterproductive, even. We produce these detestably unpleasant sounds, yet are we not all a part of the same brilliant song?


Meditation is quite simply returning to this oneness. That's all it is: stepping back out of the "self" and becoming that pure awareness — briefly foregoing the illusion that you are your thoughts. Because you are not your thoughts, you are the watcher of them. You are the most basic substrate on which all of them are built — this singular, one-dimensional awareness. This is why we feel so at peace during meditation. Without the "self" there is no suffering. You are just one with the universe.


We are subjected to this human condition and all of its issues. That is inescapable. And while inescapable and flawed, it has its beauty to it. We have our individuality and all of the wonderful things that come with that. It is not bad to be human, but if we look beyond that humanity we can — to an extension — transcend it and experience a greater, more full life with deeper connections to everything around us. We can feel greater peace — greater joy. We can begin to experience cosmic eternity. Because after all, we are it.

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