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GETTING YOUR BEARINGS
There have been moments in your life when you were pure awareness. No concepts, no thoughts like “I am aware” or “That is a tree” or “Now I am meditating.” Just pure awareness. Openness. A spacious quality in your existence. Perhaps it happened as you sat on a river bank and the sound of the river flowed through you. Or as you walked on the beach when the sound of the ocean washed away your thinking mind until all that remained was the walking, the feeling of your feet on the sand, the sound of the surf, the warmth of the sun on your head and shoulders, the breeze on your cheek, the sound of the seagull in the distance.
For that moment your image of yourself was lost in the gestalt, in the totality of the moment. You were not clinging to anything. You were not holding on to the experience. It was flowing—through you, around you, by you, in you. At that moment you were the experience. You were the flow. There was no demarcation between you-sun-ocean-sand. You had transcended the separation that thought creates. You were the moment in all its fullness.
Everyone has had such experiences. These moments are ones in which we have “lost ourselves,” or been “taken out of ourselves,” or “forgotten ourselves.” They are moments in flow.
It is in these moments of your life that there is no longer separation. There is peace, harmony, tranquillity, the joy of being part of the process. In these moments the universe appears fresh; it is seen through innocent eyes. It all begins anew.
The past has flown away.
The coming month and year do not exist;
Ours only is the present’s tiny point.
The Secret Rose Garden of
Sa’d Ud Din
We try so hard to overcome the separateness. More intimacy. More rubbing of bodies. More exchanging of ideas. But always it’s as if you are yelling out of your room and I am yelling out of mine. Even trying to get out of the room invests the room with a reality. Who am I? The room that the mind built.
We spend so much effort to get out of something that didn’t exist until we created it. Something that is gone in a moment. We’ve all had moments when there was no room. But we freaked. Or explained it away, ignored it, or let it pass by.
A moment. The moment of orgasm. The moment by the ocean when there is just the wave. The moment of being in love. The moment of crisis when we forget ourselves and do just what is needed.
We each come out again and again. We turn and look and realize we’re out—and panic. We run back in the room, close the door, panting heavily. Now I know where I am. I’m back home. Safe. No matter how squalid the room is, no matter how unmade the bed, no matter how many bugs are crawling around the kitchen. Safe.
These moments appear again and again in our lives. For many people it first comes as a glimpse into other states of consciousness brought about by emotional trauma, drugs, sex, nature, or a love affair. This glimpse reveals to the person that there is something more. That he or she isn’t exactly who he or she thought.
You may link these moments with the conditions out of which they arose. Perhaps it’s the moment of sexual orgasm when you transcend self-consciousness. Perhaps it’s a moment of trauma, of extreme danger when you “forget yourself.” Perhaps it’s when you are out in the woods away from people and you let down your defenses, loosen the boundaries of your self-consciousness. Perhaps when you are lazing by a stream. Perhaps when you are sitting quietly with friends you trust and love.
For surfers it is the moment when they come into equilibrium with the incredible force of the wave. For skiers it is when the balance is perfect. When our skills fit the demand perfectly, then there is no anxiety. Then we have proved ourselves. There is nothing left to do. In that moment our awareness expands.
These moments bring a sense of rightness, of total perfection, of being at-one-ment, of clarity, of feeling intimately involved with everything around you, of being free of the tension self-conscious thought brings. But you mistakenly identify the moment with the vehicle. You cling to these situations; you keep going back to them to recreate those moments. But you needn’t cling to the situations that have triggered them in the past. These moments of flow can happen anywhere, anytime. Throughout life, each of us has had many of these moments. They are ephemeral. But such moments are the essence of meditation.
What concerns us in this book are the practices, that increase these meditative moments in your life, until ultimately your entire life is meditation-in-action. Then all of your acts are part of the flow of the universe. Why meditate? To live in the moment. To dwell in the harmony of things. To awaken.
IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER
I’d like to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.
85 years old,
Your ego is a set of thoughts that define your universe. It’s like a familiar room built of thoughts; you see the universe through its windows. You are secure in it, but to the extent that you are afraid to venture outside, it has become a prison. Your ego has you conned. You believe you need its specific thoughts to survive. The ego controls you through your fear of loss of identity. To give up these thoughts, it seems, would annihilate you, and so you cling to them.
There is an alternative. You needn’t destroy the ego to escape its tyranny. You can keep this familiar room to use as you wish, and you can be free to come and go. First you need to know that you are infinitely more than the ego room by which you define yourself. Once you know this, you have the power to change the ego from prison to home base.
All that we are is a result of what we have thought.
The epitome of the human realm is to be stuck in a huge traffic jam of discursive thought.
The Myth of Freedom
Consider awakening on a usual morning. The alarm clock rings, you come out of sleep, focus enough to think “Alarm clock,” and reach over to turn it off. Your thoughts might go something like this:
“It’s time to get up. I have to go to the toilet. It’s warm in here. Do I smell coffee perking? I could still sleep for ten more minutes. Oh, I forgot to do the dishes last night. I need to go to the toilet. Gee, my mouth tastes awful. I could still sleep for ten more minutes. What was I dreaming about? Who was that person in my dream? Wonder if it’s warm outside. Boy, I’m hungry. What’s that sound in the other room? I really need to go to the toilet. God, I wish I could stay in bed all day.”
Thought after thought with the rapidity of a triphammer. Thoughts about what you hear, what you taste, what you smell, what you see, what you feel, what you remember, what you plan. On and on they go. A raging roaring river of thoughts pouring through you: “Think of me, think of me, think of me, me, me, me, me first, think of me.” And so it goes all day, until you go to sleep.
You are totally in the control of your senses and thoughts. The alarm sounds and captures your attention, draws your awareness to it. But “you” are not your ears hearing the clock. You are awareness attending to your ears hearing. It’s like when you’re reading something so absorbing that you fail to hear someone enter the room. The sound of their steps triggers the processes of hearing, yet you do not “hear.” For you are busy reading and thinking. Just as you are not your ears hearing, you are not your other senses either. You are not the eyes seeing, nose smelling, tongue tasting, or skin feeling. Only your thoughts are left. Here is where most people cannot escape. For they identify totally with their thoughts. They are unable to separate pure awareness from the thoughts that are its objects. Meditation allows you to break this identification between awareness and the objects of awareness. Your awareness is different from both your thoughts and your senses. You can be free to put your awareness where you will, instead of it being grabbed, pushed, and pulled by each sense impression and thought. Meditation frees your awareness.
A being whose awareness is totally free, who does not cling to anything, is liberated.
Wherever there is attachment
Association with it
Brings endless misery.
The Jewel Ornament of Liberation