You Are Everything and No Thing – Neti Neti

The seemingly unlimited multiverse is only a minuscule display of your inexhaustible power to be. To be a human being, however exquisite and successful in worldly terms, is not your final manifestation; you are something else beyond the limited domain of form, something unimaginably more magnificent, which isn’t a thing.

Mindful negation (or the Vedic neti-neti, which translates to “Not this, not this”) gives us a refreshing alternative to the automatic habit of self-limitation which is Self-denial. It broadens our scope of focus by guiding us in our observation of our concepts and systematically seeing through them.

To know what we truly are, we must first find out what we are not. This is the purpose of the neti neti method. We aren’t a story the mind can perceive or conceive because the mind can only imagine. More specifically, because we can and do most beautifully express ourselves in countless ways, it’s clearer to say that we aren’t limited to our self-imaginings, however miraculously creative they are.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj describes shifting the focus of attention and becoming the very thing one looks at, experiencing the kind of consciousness it has—oneness—and becoming the inner witness of the thing. He calls this capacity of entering other focal points of universal Consciousness “love”. As love, we are simultaneously everything and nothing; the seer and the seen are united. You may have moments when you’ve witnessed something striking—a piece of touching music, the tenderness or play of your children or pets, a beautiful landscape or object, the loving words of a stranger—whatever it is, it’s your world for that instant. Giving your attention to it, you are absorbed in pure adoration and Awareness.

Sri Nisargadatta described himself as having the curiosity of a child, but his wasn’t a curiosity that made him feel insecure and hanker for refuge in worldly knowledge. In contrast, his security was in Self-knowledge, which is freedom from the separate self and its unstable world. He taught that as we embrace dispassion and detachment, we lose interest in the knowledge-based dream of duality and stimulate our interest in the truth beyond imagination. Then, curiosity becomes earnestness, zeal, and trust in one’s heart.

Ask yourself if your self-beliefs can capture your fullness. Are you limited to your self-definitions, or are they actually just finite expressions of your infinity? For example, “Am I male?” No, this label doesn’t capture all that I am. “Am I my age?” No, that’s just a number. “Am I my name?” No, that was given to me. “Am I this body?” No, my consciousness seems to transcend this flesh and these bones. “Do I have a consciousness?” No, not even consciousness defines me; it’s just a word with associated mental imagery. “From whence does consciousness emerge?” I don’t know, and that not-knowing feels liberating. “Where does the real me reside?” Here, there, everywhere, and nowhere.

Mindful negation – the neti neti method – dissolves the seemingly fixed roles we’ve attributed to ourselves and others, allowing us to appreciate our shared radical aloneness, which isn’t aloneness in the usual sense but the undeniable singular Source that we are. It’s the truth that speaks for itself when make-believe certainty is seen to be subjective and insubstantial.

To give our unconditional presence to the paradox of all modes of life is to hold
the key to true connection. We must remain undefended to touch the unknown, to open to wonder, and abide our suffering and angst—to expand our existential vision and permit our extensiveness. This is the art of living the life that we are.

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