Everything Is Going to Be Ok
I left my startup in 2019 and went through a tough period, which led to an interest in personal growth stuff. As I went down that path I started to bump into big questions like what's the point of life and what happens when I die?
I made it down to my foundational beliefs, only to realize there wasn't much there. I got interested in spirituality and philosophy, read the books, listened to the podcasts, and tried psychedelics, but the questions remained until a year ago when I went on a meditation retreat.
During the retreat we practiced Vipassana, a form of meditation where you observe sensations on your body. At first you feel obvious sensations, like the tickle of breath on your lip, but after 5-10 days of focus your mind sharpens and you feel vibrations everywhere.
At one point, I could feel my brain vibrating. It startled me, but after I calmed down and explored my brain, which I could feel as clearly as someone touching my arm, it dawned on me that my brain wasn't as interesting as what was observing it.
The me that was observing my brain didn't feel like my brain. It felt expansive and loving in a calm, eternal kind of way. I think of it as consciousness.
When I got back to my room I started crying. Normally, if I cry I instinctually try to stop, but this time, I attempted to be fully present. I was surprised to find I wasn't sad. I was in awe. It was the first time I realized, at an experiential level, that I was not just my brain.
Then my brain, which I could still feel, told me to stop crying because people might hear and think I'm crazy. My consciousness responded that there is no I, and my crying transformed into laughter (it's fascinating how similar the physical mechanics of sobbing and laughing are). Two parts of me were joking with each other. It must sound like I was losing my mind, but it's the most sober I've ever been.
That evening, as I was watching steam swirl up into the air out of my mug of tea, I wondered if my life was like the tea. The tea bag was my body, holding in the tea leaves of my brain, suspended in the water of consciousness.
My whole life I'd been stuck in a dichotomy. I thought that if life is so great, death must be really bad. But if death is so great and there's heaven or whatever, that makes life feel a bit like a shitty appetizer. It was the first time I realized that both life and death could be great.
Life is special, because it's the only time this tea bag, these tea leaves, and this water will combine in just this way at just this time. When I think about everything that has to align to experience life, it's incomprehensible.
And yet, all the pieces will be recycled over and over again. The atoms in the tea will become some other physical things and the water will evaporate, becoming clouds, then rain, then one day it will mix as consciousness with a different bag of tea to experience a new life.
For the first time, I was excited to live and excited to die. I was finally able to let go and trust nature with my life, which has not only allowed me to be less reactive and more present, but has paradoxically freed up more energy to exercise agency over the things I can control.
I'm still curious about what consciousness is. It feels like something foundational that our brains interact with, enabling consciousness to experience itself. Of course, I could easily be wrong. Maybe one day we'll solve the hard problem of consciousness, but until then, I'm not too worried about it, because everything is going to be ok.