The Ultimate Fear, the Final Desire – Meditation on consciousness

“Maya means self-love. It indicates that all appearances are deceptive… In this world, the infatuation for self-love is the highest. This is the primary illusion, the original enchantment. Your self-love is seen by you as the world. The world is born with your memory ‘I am’ and it vanishes with its exit. There is none present who can die. As long as you do not become one with your Self, your needs will remain and will go on increasing.”

– Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Creation: the first desire

The impetus of the universe is desire: the desire to be and for experiential Self-intimacy. Before being sensed locally by the body-mind, consciousness is universal; it is All There Is. As such, consciousness could also be called oneness. This all-inclusive wholeness has neither individuality nor a distinct body or mind; it’s all bodies and minds. Out of oneness comes a unique body-mind and consequently comes the play of individuality, but the body-mind and its localized consciousness is never cut off or alienated from the whole of life. Because your oneness is All There Is, you are always alone—radically alone.

This universal consciousness spontaneously arises in a body-mind, among other forms, and starts expressing itself. The ego (a bundle of desire and fear) gradually claims that Beingness like a parasite, and starts to infer in duality a separate self with a personal existence which needs reinforcing and defending. The individual becomes seemingly divided in duality—in-divi-dual— thereby disguising oneness as the egoic mind. One manifestation of this is the assertion “I am someone/something in particular.” Notice how the ego bypasses the “I am” part of this Self-knowledge. The “I am” is so close, but being constantly preoccupied with desire and fear, the ego can’t handle this aliveness. “I” perceive myself to be dualistically isolated, deficient, and sometimes existentially lonely. As Nisargadatta Maharaj says, we must inquire into the nature of this “I”—to liberate it from its false imprisonment. This process is what Self-inquiry and meditation boil down to.

When what is boundless becomes apparently restricted to a distinct form, the suffering—fearing and desiring or aversion and attraction—begins. Ego projects a broken world of otherness, aversion, and lack. The pure I-Amness shared by all gets veiled and we inadvertently seek a way back to wholeness – nonduality. We are the whole universe but we think there’s something else outside us. Between us and our true home, time and space are imagined (through the play of Maya), confusingly creating a multitude of routes, maps, and guides.

When we know that we exist not merely as a human being but as oneness, there’s a possibility of discovering our radical aloneness—our seamless unity with life. In wholeness we lack nothing. Existence, being One, is you and yours; there is no one and nothing else. You’re radically alone and your aloneness is simultaneously empty and full—in the fullness of company or the emptiness of solitude.

What is the biggest fear?

The ultimate object of our fear is the extinction (or blotting out, or death) of our body-mind. Every fear holds the dread of bodily death. Hiding within our response to everyday threats (both physical and psychological, big or small) is the disquieting unconscious dread of extinction. For instance, even the panic we experience before giving a speech to a large audience can be life-threatening; our bodies prepare for the worst whether there’s an actual danger or not. Because our bodies and minds are limited, they are always in a state of vulnerability; they need protection. If we’re forgetful of Self (true nondual Self) and instead identify with our fragile biological shells, we’re bound to experience many shades of isolation.

Now, it sounds contradictory, but not only do we fear to lose our shell, we also desire to transcend it. Every desire aims to heighten and deepen our sense of existence. You desired a body because you wanted to experience being alive. But now you’re waking up to the fact that this human manifestation limits your entirety as Life and this is a painful quandary.

The main way we try to transcend the shell is through our relationship with others. We want to belong to something bigger than what we take ourselves to be, so we imagine otherness. Because we’re unsure about who we are, we try to find security and answers beyond ourselves. Through our emotional connections, we desire acceptance, approval, recognition, and to be valued for who we are. Of course, though relationships are not the solution, as long as they’re healthy, stable, and resilient, they can ease our fleeting insecurities.

Some even seem to bring us closer to what we seek—the home of our unmasked Self. But what remains subtly terrifying is that relationships can’t help us escape death. Our intentions in pursuing them are sound because we have an inkling that our shell is insubstantial and non-representative of our true identity. Our focus, however, in turning to relationships, is narrow and misguided because there are no others! We’re chasing phantoms. There’s only the light of our own I am-ness (consciousness). We are One, radically alone, and we can find the courage to gaze into the mighty all-consuming fire of consciousness. Only the false will burn, and only the truth will remain.

In Nisarga Yoga, Self-intimacy (true Self, that is, which is nondual) is true connection. In this sacred remembering, we find authentic acceptance, approval, recognition, and validation, which our desire-and- fear-based relationships could ever only promise. So, when you’re lost, isolated, and afraid, it’s not because there’s a link missing in your life; it’s because you’re unknowingly overlooking the fundamental truth that you are this ultimate link, the common factor, pure connectivity itself – the nondual life that you are.

Meditation on consciousness

Take a deep, deliberate breath. Notice that you’re breathing. In a way, you’re being breathed. Watch how the air enters and leaves your body. Listen to the sound of your exhaling and inhaling, almost as if a wordless mantra is being recited. You’re simply listening in and using it as a “metronome” to keep you focused on your essential Beingness. You may experience it as a feeling, a knowing, a resonance, or even a view of your permeating consciousness. Check into your body and notice that you’re alive. You might even say the words “I am” several times. Don’t analyse or try to quantify this sense of aliveness; just observe it and feel it. Feel the raw life energy vibrating throughout your senses, calling out to you with whispers of tenderness; dancing, pulsating, whirling with sobering joy. Can you sense your “self-love” – your love to simply “be” as Nisargadatta Maharaj called it? Aren’t you aware, perhaps subtlety or strongly, of a life-giving force moving through you and animating your presence? Contemplate where this energy arises from and let go of any intellectual answers which materialise.


From ‘Living the Life That You Are: Finding Wholeness You Feel Lost, Isolated, and Afraid’ by Nic Higham. Amazon: