published: January 2019

Sri Aurobindo Learning Center: The mystery of the Self


by Dr. Eric Weiss, MFT

Many spiritual teachings tell us that we should “dwell within.”  But it’s not always clear to me where to look for the inward dimension.

I sit and meditate, and I often find myself trying to let go of the world around me.  I know that I spend most of my time thinking about, and trying to master, the outer world.  So I try to let go of the outer world and go within.  Perhaps I pay attention to my breath, or to my bodily sensations.  But is that really inside?  Isn’t my body also part of the world?  So when I attend to sensations in my body, rather than going “inside,” I am just transferring my attention from one part of the world (outside my body) to another part of the world (inside my body).

It must be the case that the world is one whole thing.  And if the world is one whole thing, a thing of which I am a part, then it’s the same world inside my body and outside my body.  The world is that from which both the inside of the body and its outside are carved.  Every sensation to which I pay attention is part of the world.  If I want to really go inside, then rather than paying attention inside or outside my body, I must pay attention to the one who is paying attention.  Who or what is that?

Who is that observes my sensations, my emotions, my thoughts, and yet is none of those?  Who is it that is other than any definition of it I can possibly give? To truly go inside puts immediately up against the mystery of the Self.