‘You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.’
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle p. 52
The truth is that you cannot know your true self. You are your true self – already. It’s difficult to put into words, but when you know who you really are, it is not the same as knowing how tall Mount Everest is or knowing what your favourite colour is. These worldly things are known with the mind, with thought, with the intellect. These things are known by ‘you’, the ego who knows, the false non-existent self. Your true self is not known in that way.
It is ‘known’ without use of the mind or senses. That may sound preposterous and illogical, but that’s the way it is, and once you have experienced it for yourself it becomes an obvious fact.
‘You say “I want to know myself”. You are the “I”. You are the Knowing. You are the consciousness through which everything is known. And that cannot know itself; it is itself”
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle p.56
If like many seekers you are trying to find your ‘true self’, it is simply the ego trying to accumulate some kind of knowledge or experience. This is no different to how the ego accumulates other worldly knowledge to help us in our daily lives such as learning to drive. If however you just stay still and allow thoughts to subside, then this ego-sense eventually disappears. This is because the ego-sense continues itself through thought (and the associated sensations and feelings it strings together).
The disappearance of the ego when thoughts subside is temporary but it creates space for a deeper ‘knowing’. In Silence, when the ego is not present and acting, when thoughts have become quiet, it can be sensed intuitively (non-verbally) that the ego is not the true-self. It can be seen that you still exist even when the ego doesn’t.
In the extended experience of no thoughts it starts to become obvious that the real you is not the pattern of thoughts, habitual desires and fears, quirks and personality traits that we commonly take ourselves to be. The ego starts to collapse. The impersonal process of identifying as the ego starts to fall away. It is revealed that our true self is a deeper sense of Presence or Being that is constant, ever-present, loving, warm, clear-seeing and whole.
‘When you perceive without interpretation you can then sense what it is that is perceiving”
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle p.58
This ‘self-knowledge’ is non-verbal, which is why I used the word intuitive above – not to signify some fancy psychic phenomenon of insight, but simply to signify that this deeper-knowing is not with the mind or senses. Again, it is difficult to put into words, and if you have not experienced it firsthand it will not really make much sense, but Being simply knows itself, non-conceptually.
If thoughts subside and Being is tasted firsthand, when afterwards thoughts reappear, so does the ego. It’s then all too easy for the ego, which is who we normally take ourselves to be, to co-opt this experience and make the non-conceptual sense of Being into intellectual knowledge. Now in the same way the ego knows the height of Mount Everest or your favourite colour, the ego now knows that the true self is ‘Presence’ or ‘Being’. This is not ‘self-knowledge’. This is ego-knowledge. This is more illusion, a continuation of the imagined ego-self.
Really, self-knowlege is simply Being. It is revealed through Silence, through cessation of the ego. This clears space for the natural knowing to know itself. Prolonged and repeated silence has a clarifying effect that occurs without will or effort, will and effort being the ego.
‘Stillness is your essential nature. What is stillness? The inner space or awareness in which the words on this page are being perceived and become thoughts…You are that awareness disguised as a person’
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle p.3
Once It knows itself, the silence no longer matters: it doesn’t matter if it is quiet or noisy, and thoughts can function unhampered by the ego. Concepts of Being or Presence no longer apply. This is freedom. There is no identification here. Whatever happens is ‘allowed’ to happen, or more accurately, whatever happens simply happens. The Divine manifests itself continually, pouring itself into itself. Nice eh?