A baby is born. She is given a name. She grows up and learns all kinds of things from parents, teachers and friends. A personality is formed. She does her best to present her good qualities to the world. The other qualities she hides and stuffs down: they become her shadow. But all the while she walks around thinking she is a separate, unique person.
Then, perhaps, it dawns on her there may be something more to see.
Who Am I?
One of the fundamental lines of inquiry a spiritual seeker follows is simply this: who am I? In fact, the bulk of Ramana Maharshi’s teaching was to have his disciples contemplate this question.
One of the phrases I began using early on, to replace the standard “I”, was “the body-mind.” When I thought of myself, I thought of the physical body and the mind (which in this usage includes the emotions). And I began to notice these things effected each other, so it made sense to use a term which combined them. Later, I began to get glimpses of something called awareness or presence or the witnessing consciousness. So I expanded the noun to “body-mind-Being.”
Over the last several years, however, I began to recognize that in fact I really had no idea what is going on in this body-mind-Being. The beliefs and notions I had about it, one by one, began to be proven incorrect or woefully incomplete. And more and more I was left with what the Zen people call, “don’t know” mind. I really didn’t know who I was. Good!
A new term was needed. And it was then I began to refer to myself as “the mechanism named Prahas.” Or just “the mechanism.”
I like the term because it is so open-ended. When I use it, I recognize that I don’t know much about its functioning; its components; the ways in which it interacts with other mechanisms (people) and the world around it. I don’t know much about the bio-electricity and bio-chemistry of the mechanism. The word doesn’t imply a gender. The word emphasizes functioning; processing; a constant stream of happenings rather than a fixed entity; verbing rather than nouning.
For several years “I” was quite happy with the term “the mechanism.”
And then, during a recent meeting (where we explore many things spiritual), something profound happened. The insights came pouring in quite quickly. What follows is an attempt to unpack these insights in a semi-coherent way.
Many years ago “I” gave a speech to a group of educators. Here is a small portion:
“What is the context? Where are the boundaries?
Where do you end and I begin? You exhale a part of you…..
Moisture borrowed from a cup of java
(part Columbian or perhaps Andean)
mingles with carbon dioxide,
produced by the mitochondria of your cells…
You exhale a part of you, and then I, perhaps, inhale you.
Make you part of me, in some small, infinitesimal way.”
There is some wisdom here.
Imagine looking at “my” body and the space in a circle around it. Populate this space with a couple of other people, some plants, and a car with its gas motor running. Now imagine you had a pair of special glasses. When you put them on, all you can see is oxygen atoms (colored blue) and carbon dioxide molecules (red). And the glasses have a fader, so you can fade in and out the outlines of the people and car and plants.
What would you see? You would see a flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide particles. With every in-breath, a mix would flow into the physical body of Prahas. With the out-breath, there would be more CO2 and less O2. These molecules would disperse into the air. The plants would take in the CO2 and output O2. The car would be spitting out CO2 (if it has a catalytic converter). And so on.
When you totally filter out the outlines of the people etc, all you would see is a flow of particles. There actually would be no separation in the domain of oxygen and CO2. There would be no individual Prahas.
Let’s think about something which appears to be more concrete. The carbon atoms in the body. (Oxygen makes up 65% of the human body; carbon makes up 18.5%).  Much of the carbon in “my” body is derived from food. (After all, you are what you eat. 🙂 ) Instead of picturing a small circle around the body, imagine a circle of 200 miles radius, which includes “my” home, a bakery, a factory and a farm. Wheat is grown on the farm, and it contains carbon. It is transported to the factory which converts the wheat into flour. The bakery buys the flour and bakes it into bread. The mechanism named Prahas buys the bread, brings it home, and eats it. Yum!
The bread is broken down in the gastro-intestinal tract and yields carbon. “When combined with water, [carbon] forms sugars, fats, alcohols, and terpenes. When combined with nitrogen and sulfur, it forms amino acids, antibiotics, and alkaloids. With the addition of phosphorus, it forms DNA and RNA, the essential codes of life, as well as ATP, the critical energy-transfer molecule found in all living cells.”  All of these things (sugars, fats, etc) become part of the physical body of Prahas.
If we put on our filtering glasses and set them to see only carbon atoms, we again see a flow. There is not “my” body, separate from the rest of the world. No — there is a flow of atoms: from wheat to flour to bread to stomach to amino acids, DNA and ATP. From farm to factory to bakery to home. The separateness begins to disappear.
So what does this have to do with the term “the mechanism?” “I” had been thinking about the mechanism referring to the body-mind-Being named Prahas. But now, with regards to the oxygen and CO2 portion of the body-mind, “the mechanism” is referring to the system which describes the flow of these molecules in and around the body-mind. And if we want to be more accurate, we need to zoom out, and see the air-flow over the entire Earth! The mechanism with regards to O2 and CO2 is planet-wide! And we have seen we can also fold carbon atoms into the mix. The mechanism called Prahas could also be labelled “the mechanism called Planet Earth!” There might be a slight increase in the density of certain activities of carbon et al in the locality of the physical body named Prahas, but that’s just an increase in activity. The concept of “I” does not arise from the activity, nor is there any inherent specialness about it.
What about thoughts? Surely a unique aspect of “my” personality is the way in which “I” put together thoughts internally. One of the things that makes “me” uniquely “me” is the set of beliefs, ideas, and expectations “I” hold to be true.
But when this notion is examined more closely, we can see that the vast majority of thoughts which pass through the brain arise from other places: books which have been read; articles skimmed; TV shows watched; conversations which have been had. There is a vast repository of thoughts, stored in all kinds of media, and transmitted from one person to another in all kinds of ways. It seems instead of calling it “my mind” it would be more accurate to call it “The Mind.” 
There is a collective soup of thoughts; a flow of thought-forms; a cloud; and there is a localized awareness of a tiny subset of these thoughts in the general vicinity of the mechanism named Prahas. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say in the realm of thoughts, the mechanism is a vast thought-processing and thought-transferring machine, at least as large as Planet Earth. “I” am this mechanism. To say something about localization is to separate “me” “my brain” and “my thoughts” from the collective soup. But upon deeper inspection we see there is simply no separation at all. Imagine donning the filtering glasses, setting them to see thought-forms, and fading out the outlines of “my” body, head and brain. What remains? Simply a flow of thoughts.
If you are starting to squirm in your seat as you read this, you are understanding. The embedded beliefs that “you” are “you” may be beginning to melt away.
This section relies on the fact that you, dear reader, know of the existence of chi energy. To explore this premise is beyond the scope of the essay.
When doing a tantra exercise, “I” have noticed a melting of “my” energy with “my partner’s” energy. If we are physically touching, our sweat is co-mingling. “My” exhale becomes “her” inhale and vice versa. The light and energy waves dance between and among our eyes. The energy flows through our bodies in many beautiful ways. In such a sacred sexuality exercise, it becomes very clear that “the mechanism” becomes the combination of the two body-minds and their energies. We see that what we thought was two bounded systems (“me” and “her”) is in fact significantly more unified.
We can see a similar phenomena when a group of meditators gathers around a table to dialogue and be silent together. Sitting with dear friends in an energetically interconnected space a dissolving happens. In those moments on an energetic level “the mechanism” is all of us melted into one.
We’ve already discussed the soup of thoughts. The same can be said about energies. It’s not “my” energy or “your” energy. There is a constant flow. “My” body-mind-Being is constantly being filled with and influenced by “external” energies.
Eventually we come to know, in the dimension of energy, there is no local bounded mechanism. There is simply an infinite swirl of energies of various frequencies.
We’ve looked at O2, CO2, carbon, thoughts, and energies. And in each case, we’ve watched as the notion of a separate “I” has disappeared before our very eyes. Now let us expand even farther.
Where did the O2 and CO2 and carbon come from? Our best science indicates that the heavier atoms were created in the fusion of stars located all over the cosmos. The flow of particles is not limited to Earth: it is inter-galactic. We are stardust!
So the mechanism is not “my body-mind,” nor is it even Planet Earth.
The mechanism is the universe! “I” am the universe! “You” are the universe!
When Al Mansoor said “I am god” this is what he was saying. He was saying the mechanism is the universe.
“I” know it has been said before. Same old same old. But these days the mechanism is seeing it so clearly. It has a different quality to it. It is intense and beautiful.
Coming Back Around to Individuality
Eventually we need to come back and acknowledge there is an actor local to Prahas. “I” don’t understand the nature of this actor. But “I” do know that “I” can decide to move “my” legs and they move. And “I” cannot decide to move a tractor in Nebraska. With regards to activation, there is a limit to “my” effectiveness. And in some sense this creates separation. Perhaps we could divide the universe into two sets: 1) things “I” can effect; and 2) things “I” cannot (clearly and directly) effect.
Here is an exploration to leave for another day. A very popular subject in therapeutic circles is the notion of setting boundaries. “I am not going to allow her to treat me this way any more. I am going to set a clear boundary. No more mistreating me.” Or how about: “I am not a dumping ground for your rage!” And then there is this statement: “I am not going to allow that negativity into my field.”
There is something to be said for these notions. And at certain points along the way, it might be important for a person to live this way. And — the mechanism can think of two examples of approaching things differently. It has been said, while meditating, if a loud noise is happening outside, to let the sound waves pass through. Don’t wish it was quiet. Rather, allow and accept the noise as part of what is happening in the moment. Don’t set a sound boundary. Rather, allow and accept the flow of sound as it arises.
There is also a story from a spiritual teacher. As it is remembered he decided to be totally still for several days, and simply witness without judgment what was happening. There was a point when ants were crawling on his body. Instead of wiping them off, he simply accepted it. No boundary setting there.
The moral of the story may be this: recognizing no separation, and living this recognition in each moment, are two different things. 🙂
Perhaps there is no conclusion. Perhaps there is just practice, moment to moment. The recognition that the mechanism is the universe comes and goes; is remembered and forgotten and remembered again.
Practice. Heartful acceptance. Breathing in. Breathing out. Love. Silence. Space. Formlessness.
And more love.
 I first heard this phrase used by my transformer formally named Wadud (now named Prasad).