When you see very clearly that you exist, independent of the things that appear and disappear in your life—not separate from them, but independent from them—then your identity shifts from things to Being. When this happens, usually through the direct recognition of Existence itself, you inherit all the benefits inherent in Beingness-Existence. Bentinho Massaro
In this lesson, you will learn what “Neti Neti” stands for, and in the next six lessons, you will apply the Neti Neti Meditation diligently to different aspects of your experience, so that you can embody the realization that your true Presence is completely unaffected by circumstances.
You will stay with I-AM as clearly as you can, letting everything else come and go as it pleases, until you realize your independence—your freedom—from the things that appear and disappear in life.
The practices contained within the next handful of lessons will go a long way in showing you directly the immortal, eternal nature of your Self.
What is Neti Neti?
In Advaita Vedanta (Nonduality) and Jnana Yoga, “neti neti” is a Sanskrit expression meaning “not this, not this,” or “neither this, nor that.”
Neti neti is the Vedic method of analysis of negation. Using this method, the Jnani (the Adept) negates identification with all things of this world that are not the Atman (true Self, Presence-Consciousness). In this way, the Jnani negates the Anatman (the unreal, the transitory).
Through this gradual process, the Jnani negates the mind and transcends all worldly experiences until nothing remains but the Self (Presence, and eventually I, Awareness).
Instead of directing you to recognize what you are, this ancient practice instructs you to negate everything you are not, so that what you truly are will remain as self-evident, after having negated all the things you assumed were you.
It’s a filtering process of sorts that lets you see what’s false until you’re left only with what is true. It is like undressing yourself from all the clothes you have put on over the course of your life, until you are nakedly present as your true body of Being.
I think this practice is especially effective in shifting your sense of self—your perceived identity—from Person to Presence at this point in your familiarization process with I-AM, so I will give you my version of the practice in the form of The Neti Neti Meditation, below.
The Neti Neti Meditation
Step 1: Preparation
Make a list of the primary things, or situations, that you feel you—or a portion of you—identifies with. This list can be as long as needed; allow these items to organically come up in you and write them down.
An item on this list can be anything—from the body, to a starving African child, to the potential of a zombie invasion.
Whatever intensely grabs your attention frequently in life, and makes you feel some kind of significant charge, contraction, or importance can be added to this list.
Divide the items on your list into the following five categories:
- Stage 1 – Circumstances
- Stage 2 – Thoughts
- Stage 3 – Emotions
- Stage 4 – Physical sensations
- Stage 5 – Beliefs
Do this now, then come back with your list and proceed with the next step.
Step 2: Execution
Sit somewhere comfortable and relaxing.
As always, to aid in your body-mind relaxation, take a deep breath and surrender your interest in thoughts, things, past and future, until you’re naturally more aware of the eternal here and now.
Repeat each stage, as explained over the course of the next five lessons, as many times as necessary to free yourself—once and for all—from the false identification with these layers of your body-mind-world-experience.
Use the items on your list, and whatever other significant identifications come to mind, during the following practice.
Note: It might be helpful to read through the following text first, to get a good feel for the process, but to then use the audio version of this lesson for the exercise. This will allow you to relax and perform the meditation, while listening to my voice guiding you through the process.
Neti Neti Meditation (Stage 1) – “I Am Not My Circumstances”
Imagine, or simply observe, your present life environment and the circumstances that take place within that environment.
Look at each item on your list that is a circumstance, and notice any other circumstance-related appearance that comes up for you when contemplating your circumstances.
Especially notice the stressful aspects of your present circumstances, and practice with them. Include things like money, appointments, peer pressure, your boss, your partner, your kids, your move, and so on.
In other words, allow everything that causes some form of tension, and is seemingly external to your body-mind, to pass through your consciousness in this meditation, and observe each such item passively, ideally one by one.
Passive observation is naturally achieved by pretending to be—or by actually being—uninterested in what the appearances you are observing have to offer you. Bentinho Massaro
It is always helpful, before any type of inquiry, to start by feeling into—as clearly as you can—what’s always already here, true, and now. This clears the mind’s tendencies to distort your present activity, and thus allows the following meditation or inquiry to be utilized most effectively. Let’s call this The Starting Focus.
The Starting Focus
“I am here and now. I exist without effort. I am Present. I am Conscious. I am changeless. I am Pure Beingness. I-AM.”
“The circumstance I observe is over there, while I am over here…”
Go back and forth a few times between being centered on I-AM, over here, and the circumstance, over there.
“I-AM—before, during, and after the appearance and disappearance of the circumstance. Circumstances come and go, while I remain like the ocean remains, as its waves rise and fall, appear and disappear.
Since I am over here, and I remain unchanged by the comings and goings of my circumstances, I cannot possibly be my circumstances—for I am here witnessing their arrival, their temporary presence, as well as their departure.
All the while, I abide, I remain, I know my Self—I stay home.
I exist prior to, and am therefore more fundamental than, the coming and going of circumstances, of which I am effortlessly aware.
If I am conscious of the circumstances in my life, then I am that which is consciously present, not the circumstances that appear to this conscious presence.
I am Presence-Consciousness. I-Exist—no matter what. I-AM—independent of this circumstance or that circumstance. My fundamental beingness remains unaffected by circumstantial changes.
My true Identity is Presence-Consciousness. Circumstances are just a sequence of appearances created out of Being’s essential Presence-Energy, just as waves are made out of the ocean’s water.
Just as the water is unaltered by the dancing of the waves, my basic existence remains unaffected by the forms it uses to express itself.”
Summary of the Neti Neti Meditation
- Relax and center your attention on I-AM (The Starting Focus).
- Choose an appearance you have some lingering attachment to, or identification with.
- Go back and forth between focusing on the sense of I-AM, and seeing the appearance come and go, in front of you, until you…
- Recognize clearly that I-AM is who you are (changeless) and that you cannot possibly be the appearance, because you are aware of it. You are/exist independently of its comings and goings.
Repeat this powerful meditation with each item on your list of “circumstances” until you feel clear from believing you are attached to them. Clearly see you continue to exist with or without them, and that even while they are present in your life, you are already beyond them, free from them.
“I am not this, I am not that. I-AM.”
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