That Is That is an intriguing and enlightening look at life's biggest question: Who am I? This book is a collection of the free essays and articles by Advaita spiritual teacher, Nirmala. It is intended to be an easy way to sample all of his teachings. There is no particular order and you are invited to wander through the essays as you please. Nirmala offers a unique vision and a gentle, compassionate approach, which adds to the rich tradition of spiritual inquiry into our true nature. He is the author of several books, including Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self.
What is this moment’s treasure? There is so much happening right now as you read these words. Thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations, and the whole world of objects and events are all taking place in this very moment. And yet, we often look outside this moment for happiness, satisfaction, freedom, and even our true nature. When you look outside of what is actually happening, all you can ever find is an idea or a fantasy. That's what not being in the present moment means, not that you are actually somewhere else, but that you are looking somewhere else. The only other place to look is in your own mind, at a story about another time, or even a story about the present moment.
The tricky thing is that our stories are very convincing. The mind is a good storyteller. And every now and then, one of our stories comes true: The thing we were imagining actually happens, although never exactly as we imagined it. And if we are honest, we have to admit that this is quite rare. However, any psychology student will tell you that an intermittent reward is more powerful as a reinforcement than even a constant reward. We are so powerfully rewarded when a story our mind tells comes true that we simply overlook the many times our stories turn out to be irrelevant.
Where is there a more constant reward? What can we pay attention to that is accurate and true? One thing we can say about our present moment experience is that it's always accurate and true. We don't have to wonder if it's going to come true or not, since it already has! So the content of our present moment experience is always true. Even the thoughts we are having in the present moment are truly thoughts. It is undeniably true that we are thinking whatever we are thinking, even if the content of the thought is not true. So every experience we are having right now is a true experience. It has some reality and significance, unlike the content of our thoughts, which may or may not have significance.
If our present moment experience is always real and true, why do we pay so little attention to it? Why aren’t we filled with wonder and curiosity about this endless parade of true, real experiences showing up in every moment? That fact that we aren't fascinated by what's happening in the present moment isn't due to any lack in the present moment but to the simple misunderstanding that we think that what matters is what happens, when what makes a moment satisfying and worthwhile is the awareness of what happens.
If our focus is completely on what is happening, then there's always something better that could be happening instead. And since our minds are good at telling us what could or should be happening instead, we tend to focus on what could or should be happening. If what matters is what happens,then it makes sense to pay attention to what we want to happen, or at least to what we don’t want to happen in hopes that we can prevent it from happening. If what's important is the content of our experience and, by extension, the content of our thoughts, then of course we'll pay attention to the content of our thoughts.
But what if the most important thing is what is aware of what is happening? What if what really matters is both the nature of awareness and the specific quality of our awareness in this moment? This is the nine-hundred pound gorilla in the room that nobody is talking about. The awareness of the present moment is a constant feature of every moment. This awareness is a complete mystery, and yet it is the source of all the joy, peace, happiness, satisfaction, and love we have ever had. It may seem like satisfaction and happiness come from what is happening, but satisfaction and happiness come from the flow of awareness to whatever is happening.
Recognizing this fundamental truth about the source of joy, peace, and love can dramatically simplify your life. It turns out that it doesn’t matter that much what is happening. The real treasure in this moment is always to be found in the awareness of this moment, not in the content of our experience. So it’s not that important if something better is happening or not. Discovering this simple perspective is like discovering you live in a candy store: Everywhere you turn is another goodie!
Beyond that, is the recognition that this endless supply of goodies is what you really are. You are not the content of your experience; you are the awareness that brings life and joy to every experience. Talk about not having to worry about what happens! Nothing that happens can change what you are, and what you are is the biggest treasure. It is hidden in plain sight, right in front of you, always in the experience you are having right now.