Seeing Who
 You Really Are

Richard Lang

Richard Lang trained as a psychotherapist at the
 Minster Centre in London. He incorporates this training
 with Tai Chi and meditation practice arising out of 20 
years training. In this article Richard’s approach to the
 concept of identity poses a challenge and addition to 
the idea of a firmly ego bound identity seen as a goal in
 many psychotherapeutic journeys. His theme is
 sympathetic with Ken Wilber’s concept of a variety of 
levels of boundary which we can successively move 
through in our development. See Ken Wilber’s “No Boundary”.

In part, therapy is about uncovering what is unconscious, thereby releasing us 
from the control of unhelpful patterns. One of the aims is to live less fearfully, more
 creatively, lovingly, responsibly, truthfully. It is a never- ending endeavour, at least
 until we die.

Inevitably there are many ways to uncover our “blocks” and “work” with them. In
 this article I would like to introduce an approach put forward by the author Douglas
 Harding (On Having No Head). Though it follows in the footsteps of one of the
 oldest spiritual traditions, what Aldous Huxley called the Perennial Philosophy, it is
 almost shockingly original and contemporary. It has the deepest connection with 
objective scientific observation, but is a subjective experience. It involves noticing the
 difference between how you appear to others and what you are for yourself. This 
observation is deceptively simple, here is an indication of it:

From where you are you can see my face. I can’t. I see “nothing”. You can see two 
eyes but I look out of a single “hole”, an edgeless space. In this “Space” is presented
 the world. So from outside I am a person in the world, but from my point of view I 
am Capacity for the world. The world is in me. There is all the difference between 
the two.

How does my individual appearance connect with my central Nothingness? If you 
approached my face it would change in appearance. As you got close it would become 
a blur or, with the right instruments, you would see cells, molecules, atoms…..Move
 away and you would see a whole person, then perhaps a house, city, country, planet,
 star…..These are all appearances of the Empty Space at the centre, which is who I really am. They are regionally placed levels of my/our body/mind. Any way you look at yourself you are the centre and the whole every level in between. Lightly said!

The important thing is making a shift, personally in one’s life, from identifying
 with the outside appearance to being the Centre and the Whole. This involves 
faithful attention to truth. More about that in a moment. First I would like to show
 how this perspective helps us understand our own individual growth from babyhood
 to adulthood, and how our normal view of ourselves is the greatest block to our own 
freedom and health.

Four Stages of Evolution

There are four main stages in our individual evolution. First, the new-born baby is 
for itself faceless, naturally full of all the world. It is others who see it as a “baby”,
 separate and small. For itself it has not yet developed that self-consciousness. The 
second stage is the child, who is becoming increasingly aware of its face – the view of
 itself from outside – and with that its unique identity in the world, but at the same
 time still very much in touch with being “space”. This is the blessed condition of
 freedom before the “prison doors” close. The third stage is the normal condition of 
adulthood where we are fully conscious of our face and the identity that goes with it
. We have left behind being “spacious” and see ourselves primarily from the outside.
 The appearance in the mirror and what others perceive is you. This identity is
 limited, separate, mortal, stressful. Most adults stop at this stage and die believing
 that this is all they are. From being everything they have been shrunk to almost 
nothing. The fourth stage indicated in this article is seeing the difference between 
appearance and reality. My appearance, at whatever range, is limited. My reality here 
at my centre is unlimited and timeless. It is Capacity for everything. Stage four is
 similar to stage one, yet profoundly different, for now I know that for others I am a 
person. Or a planet , or country , or cells….And I feel this, sometimes identifying 
with my family or country or planet as much as, sometimes more than, with my
 individual human self. All the levels of my body that science has uncovered and which 
all depend on one another, and all the levels of my mind which psychology has
 explored, are here brought together in a single and simple map. At the Centre is the 
Substratum of all matter and energy. Subjective No-thingness, which is the same as
 the deepest Unconscious, now brought into the light of awareness and revealed as our 
common Identity, the source of every level of mind and body. You are that
.

Obviously becoming aware of the Centre, of who you really are, is shifting to a
 place of freedom. In stage three we are in effect taking the face that others see, that
 we see in the mirror, and placing it on the central Void. We believe that we are
 essentially that. Positively, it consolidates a sense of individuality, of personal identity.
 It is becoming human. Some people hardly manage this and are “spaced out”, feeling 
transparent, uncontained. Sometimes they need institutional care. They have not
 really entered stage three. But to stop at stage three is to be stuck on one outside view 
of yourself. You are overlooking your central Identity. In fact by putting that tiny
 little face, that person, at the Centre you block up the source of all creativity and
 freedom. No wonder you feel small, poor, frightened, angry, depressed. Somewhere 
you know that in leaving behind stage one you have lost so much, and greed for
 example, is really a reaction to that loss. Going on to stage four is th
e regaining of that lost condition, with all its spaciousness, riches, spontaneity, creativity, freedom. It is ceasing to repress and deny who you really are.

Being Face to No-Face


Consider this perspective in terms of relationship. The baby is faceless – mother’s 
face is its own, but unconsciously so. Moving through childhood to adulthood we
 learn that we have a face. We are face to face with others. This is the almost universal 
model of relationship on this planet. From this outside viewpoint we are separate 
from one another. But to know only this is hell, a recipe for divisions and
 confrontation with others, the environment, ourselves. Stage four, whilst fully
 admitting stage three, is the consciousness that we are face to no-face with one
 another. I have your face and you have mine. I am Capacity for you. To live this truth 
is to overcome separation, dissolving the most fundamental block in our lives. It is to 
enter on a life of diversity-in-unity with others, a life of real freedom and joy. In the 
midst of all my struggling, with others, with myself, I discover that instead of tiny me
at the centre, separate and alone, Love is there, unlimited, overflowing, open, steady, 
forever! This is who we all are.

We as a species are by and large unconscious of the face to no-face perspective. 
What rules and drives us is the face to face model of identity. Sometimes it drives us
 to war. In becoming conscious that this is simply the outside view, and that our real 
identity is very different, we are blowing the whistle on what has become a very
 limiting manoeuvre, however important it is as a stage to go through. Continuing 
evolution, I would suggest, means placing our faces and our humanity where they
 belong – out there in one another, not here at the Centre. This leaves the Centre 
unobstructed, unblocked, and full of the world. This is real healing. It is loving. It is
 opening the doors on a new world.
 Already you can see that this is practical. And it is possible to start being aware of
 who you really are right from this moment. It simply means being consciously 
faceless, space for others, the planet, individual concerns, whatever. But simple 
though this is, it is extremely demanding. It means reversing a lifetime’s habit of
 identifying with your appearance. In a brief article like this I can only say that it 
works. It is not too difficult. We sometimes call this awareness “two-way attention”. 
If I am looking at you, or at any thing in the world, or even thoughts and feelings, my
 attention is also directed back into the unconditioned Space in which these things are
 happening. Face to No-face, sound to Silence, movement to Stillness, mind to No-
Mind. As you practice, it grows on you till it comes home in the most profound ways 
that you have never been other than the Centre.

The Fear of Disappearing

Another point, about death. Perhaps our deepest fear is of disappearing. When
 you see into your True Nature you see that your face and everything else about you is
 absent at the Centre. You disappear. If therapy involves confronting our fears, here is
 therapy in action. Perhaps some people resist “losing their head” because it has more than a smell of death. Nothing survives. The paradox is that the Emptiness at the 
Centre is supremely awake and alive, and rich beyond our wildest dreams. Images and
 myths of death and rebirth, of a spring of eternal youth, or wells from which you can 
endlessly draw things perhaps reflect this mysterious Fountainhead and Resource,
 hidden in the very heart of ourselves.

So I would maintain that awareness of the Central Void is a perfect and necessary
 complement to therapy, to awareness of what is emerging out of that Void, out of the 
Unconscious. And it undermines our basic habit and game, in fact delusion, of only
 seeing ourselves as separate objects in the world. I am not suggesting it is an
 alternative to therapy, but an ally. It is a natural development in humanity’s journey
 towards greater awareness, creativity, freedom, joy. What deeper step for a therapist 
to take, for example, than to see that as well as being a friend and mirror to her client, 
she also is her client, sharing the same indescribable Awareness. And if the client is 
aware of his Spaciousness, he enters into and goes through whatever is “coming up”
 in (and from) that Spaciousness without being a victim of it. He is looking into his
 mind and behaviour from No-mind, which is Freedom.

On Having No Head” DE Harding, Arkana 1987
“Perennial Philosophy”, Aldous Huxley, Chatto and Windus,
“No Boundary”, Ken Wilber.