Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit

Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
While Dr. Friedman is no longer with us, there are still many helpful resources on his site. Articles and resource links have been relocated to the top. His family hopes you might find them helpful. But since this site is no longer being updated, some links may no longer work.


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Tools/Skills for Life: Free the Ego, and You Are Free

"I AM"—Divine Qualities Have No Opposite, Only Absence

© 2009 Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved Worldwide 

The whole of Vedanta is contained in the two Biblical statements
'I am that I am' and 'Be still and know that I am God.'
—Ramana Maharishi, Gems From Bhagavan
Devaraja Mudaliar (Ed.)

All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than that?
'I Am' is the greatest of all mantras, the first name of God.
—Ramana Maharishi

Sage Ramana Maharshi says the "stillness" spoken of in scripture as "Be still and know I AM God" refers to "Being free from thoughts." True freedom of the "I AM" comes at the price of seeing through the mirage of the ego. Further, "'I am' is God, not thinking 'I am God.'" The "I AM" is inhabiting presence coming out of absence, all things manifesting out of nothing, without any separate self being an intermediary between one's direct experience and Being. The Self or "I AM" has no subjects or objects, no I am this or that. "I AM" is the all-embracing present Awareness observing present Awareness.

Ramana Maharshi says "Nirvana is Perfection." Given nirvana stands for extinct cessation, Ramana says that in nirvana, there is no subject or object, nothing to see, feel, or know. In "ceasing" the unreal, only bliss consciousness, Self and "I Am" remain. Many sages, spiritual teachers and writers know: "I AM" is the only self-evident truth.

Direct approaches to Truth have no stages and wholly accept the emptiness of existence and the fundamental Oneness of everything as an inherent paradox of this universe. Through the Pure Perception and eyes of Essential Being, all is observed as a perfect expression of itself and everything. This awareness has roots stretching back to the ancient Chandogya Upanishad, so influential in Hinduism, in which the ultimate consciousness and Absolute Reality is Brahman, "one without a second."

To be "one without a second" is to be impersonally One with no other or opposite, the space and consciousness of "I AM" in Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism, as well as "Buddha-nature" in Buddhism. Hindu Sage Nisargadatta Maharaj calls this "I AM THAT" ("Tat Twam asi"). The general principle is Brahman; Atman or the Self when applied to a person. Atman and Brahman are actually identical-universal Consciousness. The ancient Hindu Upanishads directly speak to a core awareness: (paraphrasing) We already are Brahman because Brahman is all there is. There is only Brahman.

Underneath every great truth is often an equal and reciprocal great truth, even as physicist Niels Bohr suggested. Underneath the great truth of "I AM" is the reciprocal great truth of "I AM NOT." In fact, in Buddhism the three characteristics of existence or experience are: impermanence (Anicca or the arising and disappearing of everything), suffering (Dukha or dissatisfaction) and not-self (Anatta or no essential nature to anything and only dependent self-co-arising).

Seeing through the "personal I" or "personal self" as purely a delusion yields to awareness of everything being essentially empty and nothing as well as full and everything, including oneself. Once "me" is seen through as an illusion, a natural Awareness unfolds on a transcendent level not conceivable before-who and what one truly is. One doesn't so much know Original Nature as much as is known by Original Nature. It takes being somebody to be nobody, to be who one is by knowing who one is not. It takes a self to see the not-self to inhabit the I AM. Paraphrasing Wei Wu Wei: I am, then I am not, thus I AM. Meister Johannes Eckhart said, "Only God can say I AM."

Once the false, ever-shifting ego is seen through, the "no self"-the nothing at the core of the Buddha's teachings-is revealed. When there is a seeing through and falling away of all that is unreal, only non-separation, the real, Original Nature remains self-evident. Sage Nisargadatta Maharaj declares one must be free of all concepts, including the concept "I AM." Thus, even the concept "I AM" is to be set afire and the ashes blown away. There is no self to be fearfully critiquing itself, there is no one acting in the present. Maharaj asserts, "Stay in the I AM, let go of everything else." In this space of freedom, all that remains is authentic, transparent I AM as Being.

Consider doing an experiment: choose to put aside looking outward to the world for a little while. Naturally bring attention inward. This simple and profound inner looking and listening awareness is available to anyone who quiets the mind sufficiently to attune to the inner silence, peace, and truth that are present at all times. At this very moment all that is, is This!-an abiding in Present Awareness as more of a feeling than a thought. This pointer to "what's so" in reality and Original Nature is here. True Self is experienced in this present moment awareness, the forgiveness of at-one-ment, moments of thoughtless flow, the space of creative inspiration and intuitive attunement to the One.

George Demont Otis     Gray Morn on the Presidio SF


There's God, and then there's not paying attention.
—Proverb, source unknown

The imaginary ego makes the false claim to create "me" with all its attendant feelings, thoughts, beliefs and actions. When the storyteller "I" is seen through as both false and non-existent, polarities still remain, now nested inside the Pure Perception of nondualistic Wholeness and Oneness. The dualistic world, nested in the nondualistic universe, is the essence of the authentic liberated self—being Totality, Wholeness and Oneness itself. All functions can thrive through the mind-body mechanism that occurs through Consciousness or Pure Awareness—a direct experience of Being, and not experience thought about by the fictive ego.

The divine qualities of Love, Light, Truth, Beauty, Kindness, and the Good have their opposites reversed through the lenses of the ego-e.g., hate, darkness, falsehood, cruelty, ugliness, and the bad. Conversely, in the Pure Perception of Original Nature, these qualities do not have an opposite. Each purely reflects God's Wholeness. Through Pure Perception, a felt sense of Being in this moment has no opposite, only Being itself.

The absence is as close as it comes to depicting what has no opposite—divine qualities in the Absolute Reality. Medieval philosopher St. Augustine was possibly the first to articulate this understanding with the precept "privatio bonum" or the "absence of good". Defining evil as the absence of good, for example, illuminates how paired qualities have an inverse relationship of absence and presence, rather than opposites.

The Absolute Divine possesses no opposite, whether appearing as qualities, virtues, or sentiments. All gets misperceived through the lenses of ego. An appearance of opposites is only two aspects of the same thing. The Tao Te Ching says, "When something positive occurs, it contains within it the seeds of negative and positive." Also, something appearing negative contains within it the seeds of the affirmative and negative.

Darkness is an absence of light; unconsciousness is an absence of awareness; phoniness is an absence of authenticity; being uninspired is absence of being enthusiastically inspired; and all ignorance, separation, attachment and suffering are only an absence of Oneness. Similarly, indifference is an absence of love; deception is an absence of truth; despair is an absence of faith; ugliness is an absence of beauty; cruelty is an absence of kindness; and abuse, violence, and war are an absence of the Good.

Only through ego's perception can the divine appear to have an opposite. So with Awareness there is no ignorance; ignorance is purely the absence of Awareness. With Presence there is no being "tuned out"; "tuned out" is purely the absence of Presence. In Self there is no "other"; perceiving an "other" is only the seeming absence of the "Self."

George Demont Otis     San Francisco Bay from the Presidio

© Copyright 2013 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.


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