Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Blink and You Miss It

The inner world may seem quite separate from normal life, but it is interacting and being influenced by it all the time. The question is how much do we know what is going on there.

There is a kind of threshold of attention. Below it most things go unnoticed, unobserved, and therefore, as we perceive it, it doesn't actually appear to happen. Or we dismiss it unconsciously, thinking something like, that’s not really me. But go above the threshold and suddenly it becomes an issue, grabbing all your attention.

There are signals going on all the time, in sensations in the body, in the mind and feelings, as well as outside from others, but which fall below the attention threshold. Either we do not notice them at all, or we phase them out because they are considered to be either too trivial or too much to manage. Or we do notice them, misinterpret them, the mind starts working them over, and we end up in trouble. In any case the result is the same - we go on accumulating those little experiences as memories leaving impressions as samskaras, little time-bombs in the mind.

What is happening in the present moment?

Somebody says something to you which you don't quite like. It creates a subliminal reaction. Do you notice your slight change in posture, the slight change of expression, the one eighth of a degree change inside? That moment - when we usually blink and miss it - is catching it in the present moment. And then being inwardly still, not reacting, remaining the observer. The aim is to catch it then, because it may be quite different from what becomes rationalized a moment later, when the first perception gets dismissed out of hand and trivialises it.

What you find in practice when you observe closely is that while it looks like you're moving in one direction the momentum may actually be moving in a different direction. (That's a bit cryptic but it is concisely accurate.) What also puts people off is that the intensity of experience increases at first - well it will if you pay more attention to it - but that intensity observed by the stillness of awareness takes you to the nucleus and then reveals stuff you had no idea of before. And when revealed, untouched so to speak, it has no further influence.

That all begins with catching it in the present moment. Keep in mind that nothing is trivial to the observer, to the awareness. Everything is seen equally. Because the smallest change is an indicator, the beginning of further changes that we do not yet know of. Miss it and it’s gone. And then everything just seems to remain at the same level of normal perception. And then we may even ask why nothing ever seems to change.

Choose the direction, choose the Intensity

As you go deeper into the inner world and the quieter you can remain, you can actually hunt the stuff down - choose the direction, choose the Intensity - that's called self inquiry. Then even if you do notice it well and become a keen investigator, the mind may still not know well enough how to leave alone. It's a very personal skill. You practice at it, continually, for a long time. It’s all related to the present moment; and there's no judgment there. The observation of the mind in this context is a meditation in itself, the essential one that is often overlooked. 

Trust for an instant in the absolute certainty of consciousness, a force or presence within as real as can be, as the underlying substratum, your true self - ever present, quite still, at peace, and totally untouched and unaffected by anything it observes. Why not? You can at least suppose for a moment. It changes everything. Then you need not mind anything the mind brings to notice, however it may originate. How we see is how we experience. And that’s the way out. Just be patient… and observe... just observe. Watch and wait… watch and wait…

Friday, 11 December 2015

First Impressions of Life

Are we a tabula rasa, an empty space, when we come into life? Or are there tendencies and inclinations that come in with us? Either way what is that first impression when the curtain goes up we make our entrance?

In 1979 I was travelling in Sri Lanka taking the first steps on a long search. I ended up staying in a vipassana retreat centre for two weeks. It was very austere. There was total silence and no eye contact with anyone. Male and female were divided, of course; we had a small cell each about 8' x 6'; the bed was just a concrete step, with no mattress or pillow. The day started at 4 o'clock with a hot drink; there were two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, which were completed before midday, then no food until the next morning. 

The whole day was taken up with meditation. The actual practice, to begin with was breath awareness. Just watch the breath, that's all, all the time. Lose breath awareness, when you know you've lost it, return to breath awareness. Repeat. Continue.

There were four scheduled sittings of one-hour each; the rest of the time was either for private meditation in your cell, or walking meditation around the veranda to relieve the body of sitting. The walking was done very slowly, eyes down, with full awareness of movement, and we were not supposed even to look up at the sky or the surrounding countryside.