When asked by a student whether the teacher Francis Lucille can “say something about using the thought ‘I’ or ‘I am’ as a way of returning to one’s true nature,” Lucille replies:
As we take the I-thought, we take it with the intention of understanding, of experiencing the reality that it refers to. We take this I-thought and we allow it to guide us to the source, and then we abide in this source for a few moments. To begin with, the habit of agitation in the mind or in the body will take us away. At that moment, we can again gently take this I-thought, always in a living way, with a desire to experience its referent, our presence.
‘I’ is the highest mantra. In using it in this way, we avoid boring repetitions. It always remains alive, always directed towards its meaning. Just try it and be very determined, courageous, patient, and stubborn at the same time. Make sure that the juice, the perfume, is always flowing. Make sure that you are not simply singing the song without understanding the meaning.
We don’t have to repeat the thought ‘I’ unless we realize we have lost the feeling of presence. We use the thought ‘I’ as a reminder, as a line that takes us back to safety, whenever we discover we are lost. In this way we also avoid monotonous repetition. When we are abiding in presence, it is unnecessary to say ‘I.’ The ‘I’ mantra is only used in the presence of dryness, doubt, or lack.
This ‘I’ mantra is also the shortest form of highest reasoning, the shortest thought that takes us back to understanding, to intelligence (The Perfume of Silence, pp. 127-8).
Here, we find, very succinctly spoken of, one of the simplest, directest, and most powerful forms of meditation. Of course, in order to earnestly meditate in this fashion, one must already have learned to still the senses and to quiet the mind, and one must already have had a taste of Reality. (See, again, The Upanishads.) Only then will the mystery of “I” resound in all its fullness.
Why is “I” mysterious? Because the finite mind says “I” throughout the course of any day; however, it has no idea what it is talking about nor does it have a clue when it comes to what it’s actually referring. Only once I realize that I seem not to know what I mean when I say “I” can I, who seems not know myself but in the heart actually cannot but know myself, appear to step onto the spiritual path and therefore seem to seek to return to what one already is. At which point, the meditation above can bring one knowingly to know oneself as I.
Sit down, close your eyes, and say “I” or ask “I?” Then see where the mind goes and see also where it cannot go. Abide in Presence and should condensations appear (thoughts, feelings, sensations) as forms of resistance, just ask, “To what does ‘I’ refer?”
This meditation goes deeper and deeper. When it does, the ego’s resistances (the ego is resistance) will appear as ways of turning away from the actuality of I. Yet patience and the love of truth return one to Consciousness, to Self-abidance.