For a while now I can’t work out where, when I’m speaking out loud, the words come from; it seems like magic. The words come out without my knowing where they originate. They seem to emerge out of nowhere, even when I’m having a normal conversation.
When I want to think, I think in English (my only language), and I can comprehend what I’m saying to myself (obviously?). I’ve successfully ‘gagged’ my internal voice and when I do so, I can’t think. I can see pictures and have feelings, but no more. Perhaps like meditation? This is worrying me a little because it feels that ‘I’ am not in control — something is living my life for me and ‘I’ am merely an observer. I’m sure I’m not mad — can you enlighten me?
Answer by Peter Jones
As you seem to have already surmised, you ask a question that leads you straight into the depths of Yoga and meditation. Stilling the inner voice is a goal and a benefit. You say that when it is stilled you see pictures and have feelings, but the meditator will want to transcend these as well.
Fear not, you are not mad, or not obviously so, for thinking that someone else is living your life and you are just observing. The topic is too extensive for a simple answer but here’s an extract from The Ultimate Understanding by Ramesh Balsekar. It may not make immediate sense but you’ll see the connection.
“Living volitionally, with volition, with a sense of personal doership, is the bondage. Would, therefore, living non-volitionally be the way in which the sage lives? But the doing and the not-doing — the positive doing and the negative not-doing — are both aspects of ‘doing’. How then can the sage be said to be living non-volitionally? Perhaps the more accurate description would be that the sage is totally aware that he does not live his life (either volitionally or non-volitionally) but that his life — and everyone else’s life — is being lived.”
What this means is that no one can live volitionally or otherwise; that, indeed, ‘volition’ is the essence of the ‘ego’, an expression of the ‘me’ concept, created by ‘divine hypnosis’ so that the ‘lila’ of life can happen. It is this ‘volition’ or sense of personal doership in the subjective chain of cause-and-effect which produces satisfaction or frustration in the conceptual individual.
Again, what this means is that it is a joke to believe that you are supposed to give up volition as an act of volition! ‘Let go’ — who is to let go? The ‘letting-go’ can only happen as a result of the clear understanding of the difference between what-we-are and what-we-appear-to-be. And then, non-volitional life or being-lived naturally becomes wu wei, spontaneous living, living without the unnecessary burden of volition. Why carry your luggage when you are being transported in a vehicle?”
I hope the connection with your question will be apparent. For a deeper understanding of this view and the meaning of this feeling you have that your life is being lived while ‘you’ simply observe you would need to study mysticism.
For the full story you could try Krishna Prem’s commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. This would be diving in at the deep end. To just get your toes wet you could try any introduction to Buddhist doctrine. If you search on YouTube for teachers of non-dualism there are many relevant talks.and interviews. Rupert Spira, Mooji and Sadhguru would be three good examples and all talk about the issue you are asking about. For a gentle introduction you could try Carlos Castenada’s entertaining series of stories about his meetings with his teacher Don Juan, who spends much time persuading Carlos to still his inner voice and learn to live without it.
The only way you’ll get to the bottom of this issue is to study it by way of meditation since being told about it is not really much help, but there is a vast literature explaining that what we usually think of as ‘me’ is not ‘me’ at all but a fiction, while it is the observer who is non-fictional. This is the Perennial philosophy, and the Enneads of Plotinus would be as good a place to start as any.
It’s a fascinating, exciting and life-changing area of research. Good luck with it.