Awakening As Therapy
All-That-Is is one without a second. This is what is referred to in Christianity as “All is God,” in Islam as, “Allah is One,” and in Hinduism as, “Atman is Brahman.” It is obvious that each of us is in, of and by this One, which is All-That-Is. Thus it is, that this which we essentially, innately are is a singularity, the aware mandala of All-That-Is; the immanent is within the transcendent and as the hermetic mystics have said, “as above, so below; as within, so without.” If we don’t seem to be resting in the equanimity of the All-One, it’s a good indication that we have some misunderstanding of the way things really are; we have been “seeing through a glass, darkly” and not yet, “face to face.” Does this make sense to you?
In each of the spiritual traditions of this planet, (fn The Worlds Religions, and Forgotten Truth, by Houston Smith, The Perennial Philosophy by Aldus Huxley) the exemplars, the prophets, the saints, sages and shamans, the ones who carry the medicine of healing and wholeness have spoken of this misunderstanding as “the fall from grace,” “maya,” illusion, “samsara” a deluded mind-world of duality and separation shared by a species of consciousness. It is often spoken of as a dream, or an illusion. And it is declared again and again in each of our sacred, spiritual traditions that it is possible for each and every one of us to remember and return to our original nature, at one and at ease. This is called by several names, as well, including, awakening, realization, enlightenment, liberation, the marriage of heaven and earth, The Great Way, and union with the beloved or God, etc.
In fact, the esoteric schools of the world’s religions have curricula which have tended to produce these exemplars, the prophets, the saints, the sages and shamans and priestesses who are either the source of a tradition or those whom the rest of us revere as best representing our sacred traditions, embodying as they do, our highest, universal human values of kindness, compassion and wisdom.
On our planet it appears that now is the time for us to awaken together—however unlikely that may seem given the limited information we are privy to at this time. Circumstances have spun out of our control and there a spreading confusion and suffering going on within, among and around us--in our world, in our communities and in our families. When democratic processes are co-opted to further the agenda of a wealthy few who are the same guys that control the media, run the military-industrial complex and have the satellites that can tell what your are doing in you backyard from space, the only available solution may be a massive spiritual awakening of human beings all over this planet. I would say, without knowing whether it is even possible, now is the time. Wouldn’t you agree?
Fortuately, it has already begun. When the real truth is articulated clearly, we can’t help but respond. This is because what is really true is an expression of what is truly real and there is something in us that is truly real. It is the core of our being; it is what we most essentially are.
What is truly real within us is naturally resonant with the clear articulation of truth because it is that. When someone expresses the truth clearly, in just the right way for us, it slips right past all the defenses and habitual evaluations of our surface mind and the truth pierces our heart where it both reveals and resonates our very core. This is what I mean when I speak of self-evident truth.
Perhaps because I, myself, have had all these defenses and habitual evaluations as the default responses on the surface of my mind, I have found hearing the same wisdom shared in a variety of ways by different people to be of inestimable value. On the other hand, perhaps it is because the truth is like a perfectly clear diamond with many facets and as the light of wisdom radiates from it, each face shines with another nuance that makes the source of the light a little more evident.
In any case, I have found that by exposing myself to different people expressing variations on the meaningful themes of truth and awakening, using different metaphors, examples and parables has been helping me to understand more deeply. This is not so just for myself; many of my friends have mentioned to me or written to say that there is a great value experienced when we can hear the undeniable truth articulated in a different way by different people
Just today (04.15.02), before I could sit down to write, I received an e-mail from a woman, Karen Josephson, who expressed this very idea, “I really appreciated this book [The Awakening West—Evidence of a Spreading Enlightenment], and I find myself greatly pulled to what is expressed by these loving people, each in their own way. I love seeing the same truths coming toward me from many sources” Here, she refers to studying and working with Eckhart Tolle and The Course in Miracles. Karen continues, “I certainly feel a very dominant awareness in awakening now more than ever before. Your book has been both comforting and inspiring, and I wanted to let you know how well appreciated…” (fn used with permission)
Many of us have found it helpful to attend to different gatherings of people interested in awakening to the truth such as Satsangs and dharma teachings, to read books like The Perennial Philosophy by Aldus Huxley, The Worlds Religions by Houston Smith or Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages by the Ullmansm I Am That, by Nsargadatta Maharaj,, Whoso Knoweth Himself, by Ibn ‘Arabi,, etc. which are banquets of insight, wisdom.) When Lynn Marie and I researched and wrote The Awakening West, aside from wanting to spread the word that westerners are beginning to awaken in unprecedented numbers, our second reason for including the people we did was to give our readers the chance to hear the same wisdom spoken so uniquely by such different people. As you can see from the above excerpted e-mail, our book has been serving its purposes.
For now, I wish to speak of the truth. The truth is, by its nature, all-inclusive just as All-That-Is from whom the real truth derives, is, by its nature, all-inclusive. I have learned from experience in sharing sections of the material in this book with friends and acquaintances that some of this information is experienced as very inspiring, meaningful and profound. And some of this information is extremely disturbing and difficult to face because we do not want to realize that human beings could be so inconceivably cruel and heartless and evil [please note: this material is touched upon but not detailed in this article]. Nevertheless, for us to realize the truth within our own being, we have to come to understand the nature and mechanism of our confusion, even in its most extreme expressions.
There is absolute truth which is always and in all circumstances true and there is relative truth which is always true in the place and situation in which it is true but it may not be the truth of some previous or later moment. Each moment appears with its own relative truth for each individual participating; at the very least, we are each experiencing the moment from a different location in space and so our view of what is happening is unique, and at least somewhat different. In a moment where we are peaceful and loving, that is the truth of the moment. Moments where we are curious or seem certain or confused, angry or sad have their own flavor of truth; that is the relative truth of how the moment is for us. But the absolute truth is also true in each moment, regardless of the relative truth of that now.
In our every moment, it is absolutely true for each one of us, whether our experience is clear and friendly and open or contracted and unpleasant, that those experiences in all their richness arose within and passed though the open sphere of our awareness of now. If we were wholly engaged, giving all our attention, intelligence and energy to our story of the moment, we may have easily failed to notice the empty, open sphere of our being aware now. But we could not have experienced our experience unless there was this ever-present, open space of awareness in and through which all experience appears and passes.
The actual awareness of now is always aware of now. Again, it is absolutely true of everything that comes and goes, that it passes through the open, empty space of the actual awareness of now. When you consider that, isn’t it self-evident?
To me it sometimes seems surprising that we haven’t noticed this. But it is easy to overlook what is closest to us and evidently our attention has gotten so absorbed in our story that we just don’t notice the ongoing presence of being aware--until we do. And whichever particular now in which that occurs is revealed to be the singular, eternal now.
From a bit of personal experience I have to say that discovering and giving attention to the awareness itself is very rewarding. The habitual storms of the body and the mind begin to subside, gradually or all at once and there is peace, and openness, ease and presence. I would say that the conscious awareness of being is the single most valuable discovery of this lifetime; it is certainly worth inquiring into and cultivating. But this is something for you to discover, explore and verify for yourself; then, based on your own direct experience, you can say whether or not it is true for you.
As I mentioned above, my intention is to only say what is true. Firstly, I’d like to say that the truth is revealed in different ways and it can take different forms. There are truths that are reasoned and grounded in verifiable evidence; if you review the evidence and it is complete and the reasoning is valid, the conclusion is inescapable. There is also truth that is self-evident; both truth that is at once intimately personal and verifiable within our own experience and truth that is absolutely universal and, again, verifiable within our own experience. When I say verifiable, I mean that as we look for ourselves, the truth is self-evident; as described above and we know it with the core of our being. Self-evident truth is recognized in our own experience and we are thereafter, aware that it is so.
Although this experience is itself universal, the experience can only be described personally. This is simply because it is a personal experience. I describe it metaphorically as an “as if.” It is as if there is with in me a tuning fork stretching from the heart of my mind down into the wisdom of my heart. As I come within range of what is actually true about me, about a situation, about what is really going on here or about All-That-Is, this tuning fork begins to vibrate--I can feel it and I can’t deny it; it begins to resonate unmistakably in sympathetic vibration with the universal resonance of the truth.
The point is for each us to look within our own experience and see for ourselves what is really true. It is not really useful to have some external authority tell us what is true and then “believe” it. It is a matter of us recognizing within ourselves our own innate authority, the essential core of our being that is the immanent component of the immanent-transcendent unity. The resonance of the truth is a felt-sense in the sub-system of our being which is “in the image of” All-That-Is, so to speak. If what somebody is saying is really true, we may not like it but we sense within ourselves an undeniable, resonant, “Yes. I know this is so.”
This has been my experience in very different kinds of moment—moments when wonder led my mind to the brink of the mystery where it stopped, still, and reason could go no further. I slipped or fell into or found myself, an unbounded openness. At moments like these any conceptual thoughts reveal their innate substance-less-ness and whatever I had thought I was dissolves without a trace, like burning camphor, into presence and peace and vastness. No story; no agenda. I am just, simply being here as this space with its mysterious capacity to know both itself and everything displaying within it.
The unmistakable resonance of truth has also reverberated within me even at times when my mind recoiled from the fact I was facing and its implications when the truth was contrary to what I had believed and was painful to face or even imagine. And a fair amount of the content of this book falls under that category of information which people find very disconcerting and disturbing. I am not pleased to bring this information to people’s attention. But I know that unless we face, address and include what is true, even if it is difficult to look at, it will consume us.
Self-evident truth is not a matter of me agreeing intellectually or emotionally with what somebody is saying; that’s just another temporary idea, the one I happen to be believing, in the moment. It reflects more of my conditioned pattern of thinking than anything that is necessarily innately true. When we agree with another’s ideas we think that what they are saying is true. But what we usually think is true is a reflection of the set of ideas we have come to believe. For thousands of years people believed the Earth was flat; it was never true and believing didn’t make it true, except in the minds and experience of the deceived believers. Self-evident truth is more fundamental than that—it is self-evident and it is actually true and not a fabricated and believed introject or projection.
Most of our concepts and percepts, together with whatever emotional nuances and significance have been associated with them have grow from a fundamental misunderstanding at the root of all our thinking in this 3-dimensional world of separation, adversity, violence and cruelty. In short, we believe that we ourselves and each other thing is somehow separate from the rest of all that is.
II--Everyone Knows What A Tree Is
For example, everyone knows what a tree is. At least we all think we know what a tree is. It actually seems so obvious to us, it seems foolish to reconsider the matter. Doesn’t it? Surely, everyone knows what a tree is. But consider this, what is a tree without sunshine? Without water? Without earth and air and the space of the tree and its surroundings? The tree that we think we know doesn’t exist in reality. Like everything else we think we know, it only exists abstractly and conceptually in our minds.
In truth, there is actually nothing, i.e. there is no thing that exists which is separate from anything and everything else, except abstractly, as an idea we have believed in our minds. And even those abstract ideas in our minds don’t exist separately from our minds, or our bodies or the food we eat, the water we breathe or the actual, enmeshed tree we believe we know as a separate thing.
Through the unique set of its own causes and conditions, every thing that appears in our world of experience is interdependent with everything else; nothing exists independently, in and of itself. Again, upon reflection, although it contradicts what I have come to usually think, this seems self-evidently true to me. Does it to you?
It is a fact that we have come to see things as separate and disconnected and the structure of our language and our inherited, cultural conditioning can make it quite difficult to recognize that the reality of things is actually another way entirely. Because of our bias we see, perceive and conceive of everything through a lens darkly.
This conceptual filter is so opaque that we usually don’t even notice the truth of our own experience. Right now, for instance, we can notice, if we take a moment to look, that the totality of our direct experience of the world is through our five senses and we can notice that our indirect experience of the world is through the labels, thoughts and evaluations of our sensations and our labels and thoughts appearing within our minds. We actually only see patterns of color and light and shadow and usually very quickly, with our minds, we interpret these patterns as objects, places and people. We actually only hear silence and sounds and, similarly, once our mind has interpreted them, we experience noise or voices speaking and singing, etc.; we experience our interpretations such as, we like it or we don’t. Directly we also smell aromas, taste flavors and feel textures, temperatures, pressures, tensions and relaxations and energetic vibrations. Abstracted from our direct experience of the world we think, “This is good or bad; it means this about me or you or our life,” etc.
Most of the time we humans label our sensations and thoughts, we evaluate them and devise strategies to avoid those we find unpleasant and perpetuate or recreate those we enjoy. We tend to live as if the thoughts in our mind are real and substantial and not just passing through the space of awareness which is always here. In fact, this labeling, evaluating and strategizing is how we usually navigate through life—assessing our experience in terms of who we take ourselves to be and what we believe our situation is and then, doing what we believe will avoid pain and suffering or prolong or increase happiness or well being. It seems like a reasonable strategy given the assumptions we are starting from. Unfortunately, because we misunderstand what is prompting us and what we are; we can never be satisfied by getting enough of what we don’t really want or need.
By the time we humans are pre-teenagers, we all have taken up residence this kind of mind-mediated world. We perceive and experience our life through a conceptual filter that has been conditioned by our families and the culture in which we grew up. Although our only direct experience of the world is felt as sensations, we primarily live in our interpretations and they are all conditioned on our believed idea of us being separate from what appears within awareness.
The conceptual distinctions, labels, concepts, percepts and evaluations that we believe are true become a self-validating filter that contains and constrains our experience of our life. This filter is our frame of reference; it shapes the contours and dynamics of our story of our life, who we are and what’s going on. (fn I’ll cover how this becomes encoded in the habitual neural pathways of our physical brains in later chapters.) This frame of reference is projected, both out onto the world and interjected inward, onto ourselves and it determines our experience and perception of our self and our world. This conditioned mechanism is socially reinforced and it tends to feed back on itself and recycle our unexamined beliefs perception and experience, again and again.
The experience we humans have been living within is one of separation and disconnectedness. For the most part, we have been experiencing a polarized duality composed of a conceptual, static self and conceptually fixed others and world because this is how we have come to believe things are; we rarely have glimpses of any other way of being. However, as mentioned above, just because people believed that the earth was flat, never made it true. Any idea we believe is just another temporary mental construction; it’s just the one we happen to be believing now.
What I am getting at in as many ways as I can is that what we are includes but is not limited to our personal story of our life, our world and ourselves. This is our personal version of a collective misunderstanding of who and what we are that has been handed down for countless generations. It is temporary and our description of who we think we are will change many times in a lifetime before it is stripped from us when we die or when, by some grace, we recognize who and what we always have been while still livig. The recognition that what we are is other than just our story becomes self-evident when we notice that we are aware of our story in the same way that we are aware of the appearance of these words and what the seem to mean to us. The story of our identity and the world is just one of a zillion things passing through our awareness each day. Granted, our story is more durable than many of the impermanent appearances and events of our life. But it is no less impermanent and has already changed many times by the time we are adults and for me, at least some of the time, my story of myself can change rather dramatically several times in a day!
As I reflect on my personal experience, on the people I’d met and read about and the things I have read and studied, and I ee that this is true. Does it seem so for you? We humans do in fact, experience ourselves and our world through a glass, darkly. We live in our story. Until quite recently, it was quite rare in a human lifetime that All-That-Is consciously experienced itself through any of our beings, unobstructed. When this begins happening in our own experience, these breakthroughs are glimpses of our spiritual destiny; they are mystical revelations of our intrinsic awareness and innate being. Usually, whether they have been consciously sought or not, when these satories come, they change peoples lives rather dramatically.
When they occur spontaneously in someone who hasn’t got a frame of reference which regards them as a stage along the path to spiritual awakening, they can be very disruptive and confusing.
My dear friend Suzanne Segal was the most warm and bright being I had ever met. She told me that she was standing on a bus stop in Paris and as the bus approached, everything seemed to waver and by the time it stopped in front of her and opened its door, the felt-sense of self that she had formerly used as a reference point was undeniably and irrevocably gone. And in its place was what she came to call “the vastness,” simultaneously aware of its own boundlessness and yet, still aware of the surroundings she was in, as well as the confusion in her mind and fear in her body. After this happened, it never returned to “normal.” For a long time Suzanne thought that something was terribly wrong, that, perhaps, she was crazy.
And yet, to her amazement throughout this time, the functioning of her body and mind and personality was effortless, and even more skillful than when it had been mediated through the reference point she had taken herself to be. After some time, she realized that the presence of fear didn’t need to be taken to mean anything more than that fear is present in the mind and body. At that point everything opened up and she understood that the vastness that had displace her former, conditioned sense of self, is in fact the source and substance of everything that temporarily appears within it. At that point she could finally rest, at ease, as the vastness experiencing itself in these myriad forms of itself. (fn The Awakening West—Evidence of a Spreading Enlightenment, Lynn Marie Lumiere & John Lumiere-Wins & Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal for more of Suzanne’s story and perspective)
For those who have connected with any of the real schools of spiritual development, these glimpses of reality are beacons of inspiration for students progressing in the esoteric, spiritual schools of every religion and indigenous culture. Like jewels on the path these revelations are heralding the coming good for each and all, as Gurdjieff said.
We begin to experience, without our filter, the actual reality of what we are instead of the way we usually have taken ourselves to be. In these moments there is clarity and openness, a presence and peace, a delight in life and in response to life’s appearances, a spontaneous gesture of wisdom, kindness or compassion.
Usually when these awakenings occur, for most people I’ve known, including myself, either the profound stillness, the bliss, and/or the clarity and insight into the nature of reality are mistaken for the actual direct experience out of which these characteristics emanate like the rays of a sun.
This is because we have grown accustomed to looking for things like experiences and not yet seeing clearly the nature of the experiencer. In Tibetan Buddhism it is considered a misunderstanding of The View, the term used in Dzogchen for the conscious recognition of the enlightened view of being already what we always have been. The View according to Dzogchen is simply recognizing and relaxing into the empty openness of the awareness of now. Our innate nature is described as the intrinsic, self-perfecting state: its essence is empty, or openness, its nature self-knowing cognizance or awareness and its spontaneous self-expression as the apparent display of wisdom and compassion. In the Upanishads, the natural state of a sentient being is described as Sat, which means being or existence or emptiness, Chit which means cognizance or awareness and, Ananda, which is love, compassion and bliss.
[fn. I see Buddhism as a technology for the evolution of human consciousness, taming it through understanding of the limitations and mechanisms of Samsara and refining it wanting something real and lasting, wanting to escape the discomforts and dissatisfactions of human life, through aspirating toward and development of the enlightened qualities of universal love, spontaneous kindness and compassion, wisdom and peace of mind and onto full, conscious awareness of all things at all times or full awakening to what has always been so.]
More specifically, when this mistaking the rays of the sun for the sun itself, has occurred for me, I focused on an image or interpretation which, of course, became fixed as a memory once attention was drawn back into my story.This can be described as making the mistake of taking the experience revealed within the abiding awareness for the spacious openness of the awareness itself.
The clarifying key has come in the form of successively clearer and clearer recognitions of the empty essence of awareness itself. By its nature, awareness has no preference and it does not fixate anywhere. Those capacities are functions of the mind. This key is given back to us each time we let go of our story of what’s happening and, for the time being, disregard our ideas about what appears to be going on inside and outside of ourselves and rest as this actually present, spacious awareness of the whole present moment, including feeling whatever sensations are actually occurring—experienced directly, without labels. Any activity that emerges spontaneously from such resting is always appropriate and facilitative.
This, which is All-That-Is, has been called by many names referring to it both as a whole and as realized by one of us humans. These names include Great Spirit, the divine Mother of Life, God, God the Father, God consciousness, the Atman/, Brahman, Allah, the Beloved, Christ Consciousness, the non-dual awareness of a Buddha, and The Nameless One. This-Which-Is is always and everywhere what it is, regardless of what we may call This, or how we conceive or misconceive of this singularity displaying within itself as an endless diversity. It cannot ever not be all that it is in every location of itself.
As noted above, we can however, overlook the non-dual reality and that is what the human species has done since before history. This confusion has been passed on from generation to generation and it begins when we first decided that appearances are separate from the awareness in which they appear. Whenever it occurs, this mental activity creates within the ever-present awareness, simultaneously, a perception of separation, a sense of an “I,” and a strategy to change or improve our experience. By this understandable but confused mental activity we conceptually extract our selves from the natural flow of life moving through the actual awareness of now. Then, as we focus our attention into this mind-world/dream-body we have created for ourselves. we suffer the experience inherent in our abstraction.
Our human sacred traditions all speak of this as a fall from grace, a disconnection from our divine reality, a fundamental misunderstanding, the original sin. This fundamental misunderstanding in its most extreme forms results in the heartless, humorless and deliberately cruel behaviors most humans would call evil. (fn the word translated as “sin” came from archery and means, “off the mark.” The word ‘religion’ itself derives from the Latin meaning ‘re-linking’; similarly the word ‘yoga’ means union and the various yogas are esoteric paths to enlightenment.)
Like spiritual rivers pouring through the sea of human consciousness on this planet, each religion and indigenous tradition contains within it esoteric currents that can be discovered, explored and experienced. I have searched for and searched within several of these rich and ancient wisdom traditions. I can tell you that by immersing ourselves in these sweet waters, we can find ourselves swept along through higher states of consciousness and into ever more fully embodied awakening.
But all this is only necessary because we appear to ourselves to have become separate and disconnected; we can never be satisfied until we return to the Garden, so to speak, and realize that we have never really left, we only appeared to, in our story of ourselves
At some point on the spiritual path, either gradually or suddenly, we stop believing in the false identity that we adopted to adapt to the human world we found when we arrived here and that we came to believe was who we are. We stop taking ourselves to be something mind-made, conditioned and false. We discover, and gradually refine, our understanding of being and we get used to living as the open, awake presence we innately are and always have been. This awakening process/event within a human consciousness dissipates the old structures of identity and our identity resolves as this recognized, indescribable, empty-full awareness being.
Now is the time, my friends, I am inviting you to join us as we awaken together. Wake up. Now is the time for every human who still has a living heart to hear his or her own heart’s call and to awaken.
For surely everyone knows that the state of the world has gotten very distorted and confused. There is so much suffering; so many hearts have become hard and cold, cruel and violent. It appears to me that there are streams of cruelty and evil within human consciousness that seem to be intent on drowning the life out of this planet by forcing their misguided world-view on the whole species. Funneling the wealth to themselves, these groups of people control banking, manufacturing, agribusiness, armaments, drugs, education, pharmaceuticals, media, many religions and most, if not all governments, including the dominant factions with democracies as well as dictatorial regimes around the world.
A cursory glance at the world reveals that instead of having created bounty, peace and security for our human family, our human condition has instead degenerated to starvation and suffering for most of the planet. By promoting, financing and supplying over 40 wars on this planet at this time these few men have been creating a human genocide. For the so called affluent in the North and the West, we now have accelerated lives of meaningless work and equally meaningless distractions; natural resources have been monopolized and we now take in poisoned air, water, radioactive waste (thirty thousand tons of radioactive, depleted uranium were recently spread over Afghanistan, who know how much over Iraq) genetically altered, denatured and toxic foods. We don’t have to be very far sighted to see the edge of the cliff rapidly approaching when we consider how we are shredding the ecological web of life at a rate of a thousand species a week, or our increasingly impaired immune systems, the endless violence in our media and in our world with ever more horrific treatment of the majority of our human species.
It has been estimated that less than 2000 families, or perhaps better stated, the predominantly white males heads of some 2000 families pretty much run things on this earth. These people seem to push their agenda ahead regardless of what the other 6,500,000,000 of our human species may want for our families, our world and ourselves. Again, since these are the guys who can see what we are doing in the back yard from space, it seems to me that a massive spiritual awakening of individuals is our only hope.
III--We All Live in Two Words
We all live in two worlds. One world we all experience is conditioned, conceptualized and based in a dualized polarization of separation and disconnectedness, a believed world of fixed and finite things. The other world is the real world we contact through our senses before our labels and evaluations determine our experience to be experienced within our conceptual world. Clearly, each of these worlds appear whole and complete within the cognizant space of awareness. One has been called the tower of Babel and the other, the Kingdom of God. One is constantly changing and inevitably dissatisfying and the other is a stable realm of peace, contentment, wisdom and love.
Mystics, sages, poets and contemporary scientists from around the world have noticed everything is interconnected in a web of patterns and processes that is mutually sustaining and dynamically self-correcting. Every thing is inextricably intermeshed with everything else. This Universe is a self-sustaining system of self-regulating wholes within wholes; in all its vast diversity it is a constantly changing singularity within awareness. We label things and we think of and then regard them as separate and static. However, nothing is disconnected from anything and everything participates in and with everything else. Just as the earth is constantly bathed in light and radiation from every corner of the universe and the electromagnetic field around any sub-atomic particle extends out into space indefinitely, every breath we inhale contains molecules of air that have passed through every living thing since the beginning of life here.
Lets take a tree as an example. We all know what a tree is. But, tell me, what is a tree without soil, without water, without sunlight, without air, without the space it exists as and in? A tree, as we think of it, does not exist. A tree, as we normally experience it, is merely a conceptual abstraction that we have believed to be real and projected out onto the real world as an overlay. Whenever we think of anything, in our example a tree, what we usually think of and experience as that thing is an image appearing within our visualizing and thinking capacity; our image is composed of labels, pictures, thoughts, beliefs and evaluations. It is through this filter that we experience and relate to our image of ourselves, of one another and of our world. And so we usually live in a world we have constructed that more or less conforms to the three-dimensional world of separation in which the humans who were here before us were already living.
Our only direct contact with our world is our sensations. Sensations are not fixed things; they are perceived patterns of energy that are continuously changing. The way we experience our sensations has become disconnected from the sensation itself; we experience our conceptions of our life and we mistake our story for the living being that we are. No wonder we are unhappy and there is so much confusion and cruelty.
Whenever we encounter anything in our world or within ourselves, there is an experience of sensation. That is, there is a change in the energies within our awareness which registers as a temporarily stabilized pattern of sensation. Usually, when we encounter something, we label it, and then we decide whether what we believe it to be is good, bad or irrelevant to us. And we respond to it accordingly. We live our lives responding to what we believe life is giving us, as if our reification of everything and everyone was actually reality; and for us this polarized reification of reality is our experience of being separate in life. It remains as our experience of life until there is a glimpse of another way of being ourselves or its mechanism begins to be seen through, both of which are doorways into a more authentic way of being the one we actually are.
Our experience of living within our mind-world has been appropriately described as our human dream-body. This mind-world/dream-body is an illusion of static forms and separation in a three dimensional world that has been experienced as and believed to be real; it is partially inherited and conditioned and partially co-created by us a we adapt to life as we find it here after arriving. This continues until the false assumptions that form the basic structure of the whole conceptual edifice have been seen through. (fn 2 meanings of “seen through”) In actuality we have been both seeing and living life through a conceptual filter.
Whenever someone resists their sensations or their interpretation of the sensations of the present moment, an experience of a sense of an “I” relating with disconnected, static things appears within awareness. This instant of saying, “No,” to the sensations we are experiencing or our interpretations of them creates the appearance of an I-sense wanting to avoid, fix or change how things seem to be; we set about getting or creating some thing or some future experience that will make us feel better and alleviate our discomfort, or so we imagine.
By examining this strategy in our own experience we can finally notice, firstly, that it doesn’t work--it actually makes things worse. But also we notice that it can’t work. Although the effort to change ourselves, things or “them” promises to make our experience of life better at some time in the future, when we look, we discover that, in fact, it only makes our present experience less satisfying and less present, if you know what I mean, and we end up living our lives anticipatiing a future that never comes. The problem with the future is, it is always in the future; it only exists as a conceptual imagination which we experience superimposed over our present moment in lieu of the actual now.
When we look at the mechanism of our action, we can see that what we’re trying to do is avoid a sensation, which we are already experiencing! Perhaps this isn’t the wisest way to proceed? We are say no to a sensation we are experiencing, then we conceive it as an identified thing with a label; we interpret it and project the cause of our discomfort either inwardly, toward ourselves, or outwardly, toward some other. Our interpretation of resistance just adds further layers of uncomfortable sensations, which we then proceed to reify with labels, descriptions and evaluations. It becomes a downward spiral of inevitable dissatisfaction. Collectively this strategy results in what the Bible calls the Tower of Babel, with the conditioning of the parents being passed on to the children, “…unto the seventh generation.’ The hindus call it mahamaya, the great illusion. The Buddhists call it the human karmic vision of samsara.
Living in the abstract world we inherited from our progenitors takes us out of direct contact with the present moment. Our life during these times consists of the discomfort of our interpretations and our reactions to our interpretations. Not only are we living in an abstract, conceptual mind-world/dream-body, but also our attempt to avoid or get rid of the sensations we originally found uncomfortable only prolongs and intensifies our discomfort. And yet from within our frame of reference, it all still seems so real and so true.
So, how do we disassemble this filter we see through, this frame of reference which makes our experience even more dissatisfying while promising to make everything better? There is a turning point when we recognize that we have been suffering our belief in this story of our life. Instead of following that well-worn defensive trail up, away from our sensations and into our habitual, conceptual interpretations which we’ve scrambled up so many times, we turn in the other direction and investigate the sensations we seem to want to avoid by are already, actually experiencing in the body. For the time being we turn our attention away from our evaluating, conceptualizing and labeling and begin to focus, gently and inquisitively, into our actual sensations in the body. We attend to the felt-sense of the moment. It is as if we say, “Forget my story; forget whatever I have been told or read or thought. What is the actual sensation of being in this body in this moment? What is it like to actually feel what I am feeling without labeling it and relating to myself in terms of the label?”
As we do this, we may find ourselves visualizing or labeling what we have been noticing. If that activity occurs, notice it. But turn once again away from the image or label and gently, notice the awareness in the felt-sense itself. Notice your direct perception of the pattern(s) of energy within the space of the body, now. Sensation can be described as the experience of energy moving now.
This experience of sensation is always and only now and it always and only occurs within the space of awareness. As we release our sensations from the constrictions of our labels we can begin to notice that even if they are quite uncomfortable, we are actually already experiencing them. Furthermore, we begin to notice that, released from our fixed idea, they begin to change and move. As a result, we are deepened, opened and made more alive for their having arising within and passed through us. As the sensations change we can notice that the space in which they exist and change and pass is permeated by the awareness. We begin to notice that space of experience and awareness are co-extensive.
Who we really are we already are. We cannot not be what we are. If, however, we are engaged, giving all of our energy, attention, and intelligence to avoiding sensations we are already having, we become identified with our story of our world and ourselves and we somehow overlook and fail to recognize the open space of awareness in which our experience is playing out. Whether there are walls erected to construct a building or they are torn down, the space is unaffected and remains the same. Similarly with awareness, whatever experiences of sensations, labels, thoughts and evaluations pass through it, this space with the capacity to know is untarnished and unharmed; it remains all inclusive and always just here.
We cannot deny that we are aware. We cannot deny that we are here. Everyone must admit that whatever they really are, they already are that, always. How could we not be what we are? Well, simply, we can’t not be the being we are except in our imagination and our story of separation. In our believed story we can imagine we are separate; we can imagine that we are this way and not that; we can imagine that he or she or they are the source of our suffering. However, the fact that we project and experience an imagination doesn’t make it true; the imagination is a static, polarized, conceptual reification of the dynamic, living whole which ever appears within the space of awareness. Just because we take it to be real doesn’t make it actually real, except in our personal experience.
Right here, as you read these words, you are aware of them and what ever you may be thinking about them; you are aware that you are here. After just a little reflection, you must admit from your own experience that anything you can sense or name, conceive or believe is an object of awareness. You must admit that the whole of your life, including all its details and significances, appears within awareness. You are aware of it all; even your sense of yourself. All of these are objects within awareness. But what is the subject? In your own experience, without referencing something that you thought or read or heard from some authority, what is this that you are? What is this that is aware?
Clearly you are aware of even the slightest movement of attention, of sensation, of thought. If your move your attention from your nose to your lip, there is awareness of that movement. You are aware of your body; you are aware of you feelings; you are aware of your mind. But you, the one that is aware, what is this? In your own experience, what is this that you are?
As we finally begin to recognize awareness, we notice it is not a thing. It is not our idea of it; we are aware of that idea. It is not a feeling, a sensation; obviously, we are aware of them. What we are is closer even than our own body and our breath—for we are aware of them as well.
When we look for this that is aware, it is unfindable; we actually find nothing, no thing, a space-like emptiness, an openness. Nevertheless, awareness is here, now. What is this? Looking again we notice there is actually nothing here and yet nothing is aware; it is like empty space and yet this profound emptiness is alert and awake. Amazing. Don’t take my word for it, look for yourself. As you notice this openness you can see that it carries with it a knowing capacity which notices the emptiness of this space. Can you find any boundary or even a center? All the time, in every actual now, there is this boundless nothing, and yet, it is naturally cognizant of both its mysterious spaciousness and every thing which appears with in it. An unobstructed clarity in which, unimpeded, the appearances of anything and everything can and do seem to arise, exist and subside. Amazing. Isn’t it?
IV--The End of Evil
He drew a square
To shut me out;
A thing to flout.
But love and I
Had the wit to win;
We drew a circle—
And we drew him in.
The end of evil occurs at the end of time. The end of time begins now and lasts forever. It is only by freeing ourselves from the tyranny of our conditioned, fabricated identities and releasing ourselves wholly into the actual present moment that the illusion of separation and the dualized polarization of our world collapses into our open-hearted presence. In any moment this can happen for any one of us and as it happens for more and more of us, the appearance of evil will be squeezed out of our collective reality. Once we actually realize that what appears as an “other” is another appearance of our self, we feel only love and caring, we can only wish to assist, to share goodness and beauty and truth; we cannot bear ill will and we certainly cannot intend to use or harm them.
We come to realize that others, just as we ourselves, have only thought, felt and done the best that could be done given their conditioned frame of reference--the way the world looked at that particular moment, given the information and interpretations that were available to them at the time. As we recognize our own ignorance and our innocence, we can face our wrongheaded notions, we can acknowledge our mistakes and, feeling remorse at what we have done and the suffering we have caused, we begin the process of reconciliation and forgiveness. As we move through this within our selves, the sins of others are understood in a much larger context.
The very word “sin” is translated from an Aramaic word associated with archery and it simply means, “off the mark.” And so it is, we come to understand that we ourselves have been living within a world created on a foundation that was off the mark. We have fundamentally misunderstood our uniqueness as an expression of the one that is all that Is to mean we were personally separate from everyone and everything else, separate from the Divine source and force of life, separate from our own actual, essential self. Although this was never really the case, we have constructed, perpetuated and lived within a world, a Tower of Babel built of our own confused, abstract distinctions, concepts and beliefs.
As I see it in these terms, the question before us is how do we bring about the end of time and minimize the amount of suffering as we do so; for there can be no solution to our spiritual problem at the level of politics, economics, race, religion, ethnicity or class. This is because the problems that we are facing within ourselves and among our institutions are symptomatic of the fundamental misunderstanding nearly everyone in our species holds that makes this world seem separate from what is meant by the terms, the Kingdom of God, a Buddha Realm, the Great Way, etc.
Clearly we each must “work out our own salvation diligently” as the Buddha instructed in his last words. Also, we each in our own way must face and address the evil in our world and the suffering it creates. I invite you to explore for yourself what I am saying here. We must come together and communicate about more than corporations’ news, weather and sports, about more than celebrities, fashions, revenge and things. We must open the conversation that allows us to awaken together.
I invite you to feel free. I offer these imperfect and incomplete words to you for free. You will respond however you do. You may read them or not. You may pass them on if you wish. In any case, feel free.