A reader wrote me with a question, but unfortunately left an email address with a typo, so I couldn’t respond. And neither was there a full name. So I’m going to publish the question with any identifying information removed, and my reply as well:
Thanks for this great blog. I stumbled upon your article on Ramana Maharshi's self-enquiry technique that I have been practicing now for about 6 years.
I have read quite a lot on the topic. My journey was triggered by my layman interest in quantum physics which led me to the fascinating question about the very notion of I. Intellectually I understood what the I is not and that is when I stumbled upon the famous “Naan Yaar” / “Who Am I” by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
At the beginning I was surprised by how easily, at an intellectual level, I thought I could grasp Maharshi’s teachings. But now, after many years, I feel like I’m hitting a wall. For almost a year or so I’ve been feeling stuck. The enquiry brings me to this kind of empty space from where for example mental images sprout from. I can “feel” the space in which the mental image of another person appears, for example. But if I follow the rule you shared then as I’m aware of this emptiness, this could not be the source of the I.
Can you help me find out how to continue the enquiry and go beyond this emptiness of which I’m aware?
Answer: Nice to hear from you. Sure -- you are indeed aware of the emptiness. So what is the light by which you know the emptiness? Focus your attention on that light. Don't worry about 'going beyond' it.
At every moment, at every second, you are aware. So the "I" which is aware... of that 'empty space' or of anything else, right? Direct your attention there. What is that? You know the obvious, clear fact that "I am aware of..." What is that fact? Pay attention, and keep looking with great curiosity and intensity inward. Because the fact of your awareness is clear, but when you look for it it is a puzzle what it is. But look anyway.
Do this continuously -- that is the key. At every thought or feeling or anything that comes up -- every waking moment -- redirect your attention to the fact that "I am aware of it." Whatever that fact is, you know it intuitively. Direct your inward gaze there curiously, openly, seeking it.
And any time you think you have it, look at what you've got in your hands. Is it not a thought, feeling, etc.? That can't be it. You are aware of that. So re-direct your attention again.
So put all your focus there, searching, looking inward to that direct knowledge of your own awareness... discarding anything that you think it is. Do this continuously, relentlessly… until your eyes are opened.