04 August 2010



For some reason some people cannot locate an I-sense. Mostly this is due to thinking that the I-sense is something mysterious and special, a special state to be newly acquired versus something we feel all the time.

This is entirely wrong. The I-sense, according to Ramana and my own experience, is open to all if you don’t make it difficult.

If you can’t find it, it makes things more difficult because you are stuck with staying in the void, emptiness, oneness state, and are bypassing the personal I, which is part of I Am, which will always cause a problem in the future for lack of attention.

Nisargadatta uses the term ‘I Am’ in different ways.

Sometimes he says I Am is the KNOWLEDGE that you exist. Sometimes he equates it with a sensation of I Am-ness.

It is the latter that some of the neo Advaitins ask you to explore. Find the sense that you exist. If you didn't have a sense of existence somewhere, you would not be acting or reacting in the apparent world.

For those who cannot find it easily, it is mostly because they are looking for something special, but it is quite ordinary. sometimes it is experienced as a tingling energy when you first turn your attention inside your body to the heart or abdominal area. Focus on the energy and it grows and changes. Just stay with it now that you found it and the rest just flows from that attention. Sometimes it is felt as a "presence" near the heart or abdomen, or a "fullness," or in many other ways as a quasi-body phenomenon. 

If you still can't find something you are willing to label "I Am," you can more easily get a glimpse by just sitting watching people at a coffee house, at a bookstore or at a mall. Do nothing else. Just look at any random person, perhaps a sexy woman or man, or a pathetic and ill looking person carrying or walking a dog.

Look inside towards the heart area. What do you feel?  Is there a reaction or tugging or energy at this area aimed at that person? Sexual, loving, disgust? If so, that is a part of you responding silently, feelingly, to the scene, the object. That tug is part of the I Am. Just continue this exercise until the I Am is more readily available.

Another way to the I Am, is to wait until something happens in day to day activities, where an emotional reaction is elicited. Feel the emotional/movement in you. That is part of the I Am sense too. That is the thing we talk about when we say "I am angry," or "I am in love." In fact, the sense of vulnerability, hurt and love are all strongly connected to the I Am sensation. Stay with it once you find it.

During sleep you have no knowledge that you are. Suddenly you awaken, and suddenly you know you exist, although usually that does not come to foremost attention unless you have been practicing a while. That is, along with consciousness, the knowledge that you exist arises.  Later, after spending much time with meditation, you will realize that the knowledge that you exist happens to something that is "you" in a way, that is beyond existence. The knowledge that you exist is incorrect. It is consciousness that exists and that consciousness, and the knowledge of existence comes to you, who IS even before the knowledge that you exist arises. That is, you are before existence and consciousness.

Besides the knowledge that you exist, and besides the I Am sensation, there is the concept that you exist as some separate entity in the realm of consciousness existence. That is, you assume that the word ‘I’ refers to something that exists within consciousness as an objective existence of some sort, much like Alice, Fred, Tom, Dick and Sheila appear to exist as separate individuals animating a separate body. The I-word supposedly stands in for that entity as a proper noun.

In me, that was the first to go. I saw that the I word was only a mental entity and there was no other semi permanent mental or personal entity that the I-word pointed to. The apparent I did not point to anything. I was only emptiness, and the emptiness contained everything, and everything was only apparently existing objects that only had existence in my mind. But it was no longer “my” mind, but the one mind. I had been only loosely linked thoughts in the one field of consciousness, until I discovered that I was that one field of consciousness and the thoughts were meaningless and transient.

This can be a very happy (or initially frightening since there is no longer anyone in charge) place. But it is not real. It is only constantly changing mental phantasy, as is the I Am sense. But until you can locate the I Am sense, the concept I, the word object I, and see all are empty, changing, with no permanent existence or status, you cannot maintain the state of oneness, which becomes transcendental knowledge even if the oneness state leaves.

There are many ways to get at the I or I sense that I have just pointed out. Once you get a taste, just keep it up.

There is the word I, There is the concept I. There is the I-sense of I Amness, a sensation. There is the knowledge that I exist. There are my emotional reactions to people, insults and other external events that elicit a heart-centered reaction and movement. Then there is the oneness state, which is after the personal I dissolves.

Then there is THAT which stands behind all this phenomenal/manifest stuff, which observes it all, and whose existence cannot be known in the way everything else is known, but can only be known by being it, which is a different kind of knowing altogether.

When I first started practicing in the 1960s, I followed the Ramana/Zen way of just repeatedly asking, "Who am I?" and looking for that I-source.  I always ended up staring into the Void from which thoughts emerged and disappeared in to. But I never found an I-sense that way. The Void properly should be explored as the non-essential aspects of I-Am-ness dissolve into nothingness under the focus of awareness. To bypass the various levels of I Am, including the personal, means endless problems and obstacles later, such as retaining ego level problems of rage, dependency, too much romantic love, etc., long after deep meditative states have revealed the primary presence of Nothingness, bliss and happiness. Something always comes up to disturb the happiness and bliss.


  1. Edji, this is an important piece of advise for a beginner. There are no words to show gratitude to you. And, I believe, this in itself is a gratitude. With your blessings,

  2. Perhaps this might be of assistance to some of us who still struggle in the search for the "I am" sense but what I have found occasionally useful is the "I am" mantra Robert prescribed in his book. While inhaling one says silently to oneself "I" and then when exhaling, "am". However, I would think it only should provide a temporary assistance and as such one needn't constantly resort to it when he or she can eventually attain this sense of beingness.

  3. Yes, Robert taught many methods related to self inquiry for beginners. Mostly no one stayed with him. They didn't get the deeper stuff.

  4. Dr. Muzika,

    During my run this morning I decided to try Robert's method of saying "I" while inhaling and "am" while exhaling. This felt very similar to what I usually do - just focusing on my breath. When I went into my 4th mile though I lost the I-am (mantra) and was rather simply running ... that always happens to me when the body stops resisting ... where the running happens effortlessly and I am simply running. It is more like the body moves and I am watching it move. My question is whether I failed to maintain the "I-am" state or rather I got into it? Is this what I have been experiencing for years - the "I am-ness"? I used to run marathons and this enjoyable feeling really was very predominant especially beyond the 6th mile ... I am very sorry that I do not have any meditation practice experience but wonder whether that was my own way of abiding in the I-am ness? I want to re-organize my life so that it incorporates the practice that you recommend. I also wonder whether I can integrate my running into my practice? Thank you for answering my question. Janet