“If you could get rid of yourself just once,
the secret of secrets would open to you.
The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe
would appear on the mirror of your perception.”
“Be empty of worrying,
Think of Who Created Thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”
Forget who you think you are
to Know what you really are.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence.
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Voice In My Head?
There’s a voice in my head.
It keeps talking to itself and to me,
Telling me my thoughts,
and telling me what to do,
and sometimes judging me.
What is it? Who is it? Is it me?
And someone’s always listening to that voice in my head.
What is it? Who is it? Is it me?
And someone’s always thinking for me.
What is it? Who is it? Is it me?
If I am that silent voice in my head constantly talking
to itself and to me, am I crazy?
If I was always talking to myself out loud
(without a cell phone at my ear),
I’d be committed to a psychiatric ward.
Sometimes I don’t think at all, and then there’s no voice in my head.
But, I’m still aware and exist and can listen to other things.
So how can I be my thoughts or the voice in my head,
if I’m still here when they’re not there?
So can someone other than that voice in my head please tell me:
Who’s talking? Who’s thinking? Who’s listening?
Who am I?
Ron’s recitation of “Voice In My Head”
Ron’s Explanation and Comments on “Voice in My Head”.
The foregoing poem was inspired and composed while I was processing unprecedented experiences and observations after my midlife spiritual awakening.
At age forty two I suddenly realized that I was not merely my physical body, its name and story, or its thoughts – the “voice in my head” – but that my true self identity is universal Awareness. That self identity experience was followed by previously unimagined, transformative and unprecedented experiences of peace, inner light, subtle energies and ecstasy.
Prior to that transformative experience, I was largely ignorant of Eastern or other spiritual teachings. But, spurred by great curiosity about what had happened to me, I gradually discovered that many spiritual teachings identified “ego” – our mistaken mental self image about who and what we truly are – as the principal barrier to spiritual “enlightenment”. And – especially from contemporary mindfulness teachings – I learned that identifying with the “voice in the head” was a major symptom of ego’s mistaken self image.
Though at midlife I temporarily transcended ego identity, it’s kept recurring while steadily diminishing since then. So I have been experiencing gradual ego attrition with ever growing happiness and fulfillment. Today I am happier than ever before, but still learning and transforming and rarely identifying with the “voice in my head”.
Of all contemporary spiritual teachings I’ve read about “ego” and “voice in the head”, I especially endorse those of Eckhart Tolle in which he cogently explains how “thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of human existence”. [see e.g. https://sillysutras.com/what-is-ego/ ]
The foregoing poem about “Voice in My Head” was based on my mystical experiences before I discovered Tolle’s teachings. But Tolle’s teachings about “ego” and “voice in the head” are especially powerful and helpful because they are based upon his extraordinarily powerful permanent spiritual awakening experience. (see https://sillysutras.com/eckhart-tolle-spiritual-awakening-story-and-teachings/)
Because often we can best assimilate and actuate spiritual principles through parables and stories, Eckhart Tolle’s awakening stories can help us comprehend the crucial transformative importance of self identification with eternal Awareness rather than with ego’s “voice in our head”.
In Tolle’s noteworthy book, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Chapter Two, he observes that “Some people never forget the first time they disidentified from their thoughts and thus briefly experienced the shift in identity from being the content of their mind to being the awareness in the background.”
Whereupon he narrates his own such experience which happened several years before his dramatic permanent awakening experience. It is hereafter excerpted, with my sincere recommendation that if interested you read and reflect on Tolle’s teachings.
THE VOICE IN THE HEAD – excerpted from A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
That first glimpse of awareness came to me when I was a first year
student at the University of London. I would take the tube (subway) twice a
week to go to the university library, usually around nine o’clock in the
morning, toward the end of the rush hour. One time a woman in her early
thirties sat opposite me. I had seen her before a few times on that train. One
could not help but notice her. Although the train was full, the seats on either
side of her were unoccupied, the reason being, no doubt, that she appeared to
be quite insane. She looked extremely tense and talked to herself incessantly
in a loud and angry voice. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she was
totally unaware, it seemed, of other people or her surroundings. Her head
was facing downward and slightly to the left, as if she were addressing
someone sitting in the empty seat next to her. Although I don’t remember the
precise content, her monologue went something like this: “And then she said
to me… so I said to her you are a liar how dare you accuse me of… when
you are the one who has always taken advantage of me I trusted you and you
betrayed my trust…” There was the angry tone in her voice of someone who
has been wronged, who needs to defend her position lest she become
As the train approached Tottenham Court Road Station, she stood up
and walked toward the door with still no break in the stream of words
coming out of her mouth. That was my stop too, so I got off behind her. At
street level, she began to walk toward Bedford Square, still engaged in her
imaginary dialogue, still angrily accusing and asserting her position. My
curiosity aroused, I decided to follow her as long as she was walking in the
same general direction I had to go in. Although engrossed in her imaginary
dialogue, she seemed to know where she was going. Soon we were within
sight of the imposing structure of Senate House, a 1930’s highrise, the
university’s central administrative building and library. I was shocked. Was it
possible that we were going to the same place? Yes, that’s’ where she was
heading. Was she a teacher, student, an office worker, a librarian? Maybe she
was some psychologist’s research project. I never knew the answer. I walked
twenty steps behind her, and by the time I entered the building (which
ironically was the location of the headquarters of the “Mind Police” in the
film version of George Orwell’s novel, 1984), she had already been
swallowed up by one of the elevators.
I was somewhat taken aback by what I had just witnessed. A mature
first year student at twenty five, I saw myself as an intellectual in the
making, and I was convinced that all the answers to the dilemmas of human
existence could be found through the intellect, that is to say, by thinking. I
didn’t realize yet that thinking without awareness is the main dilemma of
human existence. I looked upon the professors as sages who had all the
answers and upon the university as the temple of knowledge. How could an
insane person like her be part of this?
I was still thinking about her when I was in the men’s room prior to
entering the library. As I was washing my hands, I thought: I hope I don’t
end up like her. The man next to me looked briefly in my direction, and I
suddenly was shocked when I realized that I hadn’t just thought those words,
but mumbled them aloud. “Oh my God, I’m already like her,” I thought.
Wasn’t my mind as incessantly active as hers? There were only minor
differences between us. The predominant underlying emotion behind her
thinking seemed to be anger. In my case, it was mostly anxiety. She thought
out loud. I thought – mostly – in my head. If she was mad, then everyone
was mad, including myself. There were differences in degree only.
The above incident not only gave me a first glimpse of awareness, it
also planted the first doubt as to the absolute validity of the human intellect.
A few months later, something tragic happened that made my doubt grow. On
a Monday morning, we arrived for a lecture to be given by a professor whose
mind I admired greatly, only to be told that sadly he had committed suicide
sometime during the weekend by shooting himself. I was stunned. He was a
highly respected teacher and seemed to have all the answers. However, I
could as yet see no alternative to the cultivation of thought. I didn’t realize
yet that thinking is only a tiny aspect of the consciousness that we are, nor
did I know anything about the ego, let alone being able to detect it within
May our deep reflections on perennial “voice in the head” questions raised by the foregoing quotations, poem and Eckhart Tolle story encourage our insightful observations and answers, helping us live ever happier and more peaceful lives.
And so may it be!
“Nothing’s either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.”
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him,
as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”
Great souls are they who see
that spiritual is stronger than material force,
that thoughts rule the world.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Yoga is the cessation of mind.”
~ Patanjali, Yoga Sutras
Thought divides Awareness as a prism divides light.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
When all thoughts cease,
we are at peace.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
This world is wrought with naught but thought.
Mind is matrix.
Consciousness is context.
Whatever we think, do, or say,
changes this world in some way.
Thoughts are thinks;
thoughts are things.
Thoughts form thought-forms.
All forms are thought-forms.
Body/minds are thinking thought-forms.
“Reality” is what we think it is.
“Reality” will never be what we wish it to be,
yet it ever will be what we think it to be.
Inner infinity projects outer “reality”.
Everything’s energy in Awareness.
Each thought is a notion,
ever in motion,
in an infinite ocean –
Love-thoughts bless the world,
but fear-thoughts afflict it.
Space/time is thought;
no thought, no time, no place.
Problems are thought;
no thought, no problems.
We live optimally
when we live presently,
but think optionally –
not constantly or compulsively.
Thoughts are then;
Life is NOW.
Life is perpetual;
thought is optional.
Bliss abides, when thought subsides.
Ron’s audio recitation of “Thoughts About Thought”:
Ron’s Comments on “Thoughts About Thought”
Until mid-life, I self-identified only with my physical body, its story and thoughts, and I never deeply considered what we call the ‘mind’ or its miraculous thought process.
Then, on New Year’s Eve 1974/5, I had an unforgettable out of body [OOB] experience in which from a bedroom ceiling I perceived each of my thoughts as a separate surreally colored kaleidoscopic form above my body which was face-down on a bed. These perceptions seemed very real – not dreamlike or hallucinatory. And they irresistibly raised for me an urgent new question: “Who or what am I?”
I reasoned that if “I” was on the ceiling of the room, while my body was face-down on a bed, I couldn’t be the body; and that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my thoughts were appearing below me, I couldn’t be the thoughts. And if not my body and not my thoughts, “Who or what am I?”
Thereafter, irresistibly and persistently, I began pursuing this previously unexamined enquiry with intense longing for an answer – which was bestowed fifteen months later. [See “At Mid-life, a Rebirth to a New Life ~ Ron’s Memoirs”]
Thus my persistent questioning process brought an awakening, which blessed and changed my life forever. It has convinced me that “Who Am I?” may be the most important question that anyone can ever ask; that by deeply reflecting on our true self-identity and persistently inquiring: “Who Am I?” we can ultimately experience a profound, life-enhancing psychological transformation process.
Ever since that midlife change of life, I have often wondered about the nature and power of thought. Thereby I have realized that almost all humans mentally self-identify with mistaken thoughts of who or what they truly are; that knowingly or unknowingly we become what we think; and, that our thoughts co-create this impermanent world.
Ultimately, I’ve surmised that our entire space/time/causality reality arises only from projected thought forms; that our reality isn’t ‘real’, but merely a holographic and kaleidoscopic theater of the mind, which for millennia rare Buddhas, sages and mystics have described as an unreal illusion – maya or samsara.
By meditating regularly, I gradually have learned to mindfully watch and control most thoughts. This mind stilling process has proven tremendously helpful in bringing me an increasingly happy life. And thus I have learned that happiness is a choice; that our thoughts can be powerfully important; and, that “when all thoughts cease, we are at peace.”
Hence I’ve become convinced that learning to choose our thoughts and mental attitude can bring us great happiness.
So the foregoing quotations and sutras are offered to help us find and choose ever growing happiness with the realization that this ever impermanent world arises only from our projected thoughts.
May such realization inspire our ever elevated inner insights benefiting all beings.
“What is birth?
Is it of the “I-thought” or of the body?
Is “I” separate from the body or identical?
How did this “I-thought” arise”?
Is the “I-thought” your nature?
Or is something else your nature?”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
What lives? What dies?
What laughs? What cries?
What sleeps? What wakes?
What gives? What takes?
What thinks? What knows?
What comes? What goes?
What’s grief? What’s bliss?
What’s that?! What’s this?!
The quest is in the question;
The question is the answer!
The question is the answer?
Ron’s audio recitation of What’s What?
An “identity crisis” can be life’s greatest opportunity,
because it raises life’s most crucial question – “Who am I?”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Upon graduation from the University of Chicago law school in 1958, I became a Chicago lawyer. Two years later I was married and moved to San Francisco, rather than settling into married life in Chicago. An idealist then, I had quickly become disillusioned with the Cook County Illinois court system and felt that there must be another place where courts administered justice more consistent with truth, law and equity than politics. And because I previously had a very positive experience of the San Francisco ambiance and “vibes”, I thought the Bay Area might be such a place. Also, my new wife, Naomi, and I both believed that starting married life might be easier if there was a two thousand mile distance between us and our parents. So adventurously we moved to San Francisco after our marriage in June, 1960.
Unlike many others, I didn’t move to California to participate in significant Bay Area social ferment and transformation of that era. I wasn’t interested in Beatniks, Hippies, Flower Children, the Haight-Ashbury scene, or Eastern spirituality (of which I was then totally ignorant). As a San Francisco lawyer, I just wanted to – and often did – help unjustly exploited or downtrodden people with legal problems. But I felt compelled to work within the legal system on cases which came to me, and not pro-actively – except for certain civil liberties issues. Though as an idealistic lawyer I abhorred the tragic injustice and insanity of the Viet Nam war, and the authoritarian suppression of free speech at U.C. Berkeley, I wasn’t politically active in those causes, or in the feminist revolution with which I ambivalently sympathized. And I was quite ‘uptight’ about breaking any social ‘norms’ or doing anything illegal, like using psychedelics.
While keeping distance between us and our parents may have initially been helpful for Naomi and me, it wasn’t enough to prevent irreconcilable differences from ending our marriage fifteen years later. While we had long been stressed by our incompatibilities, for me the psychological seeds of our parting and of a new life beyond married life, were first sown at a 1974-5 New Year’s Eve party, at the Clarendon Heights home of doctor friends who weren’t as uptight about certain social norms as their lawyer friend Ron Rattner.
As we embarked for the party I felt inexplicably happy – happier than I had felt for a long time. And at the party this happiness kept growing as the evening progressed. So by the time that the new year arrived, I was very high in Clarendon Heights. All evening I had been sipping champaign and singing old Broadway songs around an upright piano played by a pianist with an unending repertoire of Tin Pan Alley favorites. The singing brought me back to happier times in high school and college when Dave Weiner, my multi-talented friend since kindergarten, would often lead similar singing from the piano.
After mid-night and customary “happy new year” proclamations, we ate a ‘pot luck’ buffet dinner. I enjoyed the food very much, especially the desert – a home baked cake. But soon after eating it, I began feeling very strange – like I’d never felt before. My brain felt anesthetized, so that I could hardly think. Believing that I was becoming quite ill, I asked Madlyn, the hostess, for a place to lay down. She showed me into a very small, dark utility room furnished with little more than a bed, upon which I quickly fell face down, after removing my eyeglasses.
Then, after lying face down on a pillow for a short time, I had an unprecedented and unforgettable out of body experience (OOB). It seemed that I floated out of my body and up to the ceiling of that small dark room. And from the ceiling, with my glasses on a bedside table, I clearly saw my body lying face down on the pillow. Then, with difficulty I thought: “How can I be up here, when my body’s down there?” And with every thought, I beheld a vividly colored kaleidoscopic form – a surreal thought form, which appeared below the ceiling (where I was) and above the bed (where my body was lying face-down).
All these perceptions seemed very real – not dreamlike or hallucinatory. And for the first time in my life they irresistibly raised an urgent new question: “Who or what am I?”
In later reflecting on my OOB experience, I reasoned that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my body was face-down on the bed, I couldn’t be the body; and, that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my thoughts were appearing below me, I couldn’t be the thoughts. Then, if not my body and not my thoughts, who and what am I?
Until then, I had always assumed that I was only my mortal physical body, its thoughts and its story; that I was a middle-aged secular Jewish litigation lawyer, married, with two kids, born in Chicago and living in San Francisco. But with ‘pot luck’ on New Year’s Eve 1974-5, those assumptions were forever shaken.
Thereupon, irresistibly and persistently I began asking the question “Who Am I”, intensely longing for an answer. This self-inquiry process proved an enormous blessing which changed my life forever.