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1.3 When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.
The big word there is "unbounded." Consciousness without boundaries. Consciousness without limits. Sounds good, right? So what limits our consciousness when the mind is unsettled?
1.4 Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind.
The mind chatters. It creates thoughts all the time. Those thoughts tend to be very mundane and not very focused on the present. Sometimes my mind rehashes the last conversation I had with a friend. Sometimes it reminds me, over and over, of something I need to pick up at the store (except, of course, when I'm driving by the store). Other times my mind comes up with new ideas for yoga workshops or things to blog about. What my mind doesn't do is quiet down.
Underneath all that chatter is knowledge of our essential nature. Which is where things start to get tricky. Isn't it the mind that knows stuff? And if it is, how can I know anything if I turn off my mind?
If you saw the movie Shrek, you might remember Shrek saying "ogres are like onions, they have layers." Our minds are like onions. There are layers and layers of thoughts. The superficial thoughts prompt us to put another load of laundry into the washing machine. Then there are layers of memories. There are math problems and literary themes. And deeper there are reactions to the senses - touch, smell, sight, sound - that create the boundaries that turn clusters of molecules and energy into things. There is a layer of names for these things.
Underneath all those layers, at the core of the onion, is something that is not the mind. People give it different names - the watcher, the soul, the true self - but it is that essential nature that the mind hides. It is consciousness unlimited by the boundaries created by the senses and the associated thoughts. In other words, that consciousness is not constrained by the physical world.
Our true selves don't end at our skin.
When we cease all those layers of thinking, we can experience the limitless soul. That sounds pretty groovy if you ask me. But thinking is in the way. Before we can figure out how to stop it we need to know more about all that thinking that's going on. And that's for next week...