(Includes revised "I Am Awareness Exercises", Part 2)
Reflection: Being part of a spiritual community can take many forms. Sometimes it is an organized religion or an informal group with common beliefs. And sometimes it is a mystical family. We join some by belief and action, but into others we are adopted mysteriously.
I want to share two experiences with you.
Part 1- Going West
I'm on time to pick up the kids at school. I swing onto the Coronado Bridge, accelerating up the grade - blue bridge and a more blue sky. I approach mid-span, caught in a moment of flight that can happen on a bridge like this - suddenly surrounded by only blue sky and then, "I am giving you Mary as your mother." I instinctively look into the back seat, though I am driving alone. Is it possible to hear a thought in my right ear only? It is one of those moments, always unexpected, baffling, and leaving me wonder, "Did it just happen? What just happened?" It wasn't really audible, but it was a thought unlike my other thoughts. This one carried greater weight and importance, interrupting whatever else I was thinking before. "I am giving you Mary as your mother."
"Mary? I don't have any special relationship with Mary. Mary? Me?" Baffled, I re-focus on my driving, carefully steering my car to a stop at the toll booth. Reaching for my wallet, I pull out a $5, hand it to the toll booth lady, and wait for my change. "Mary?" I resolve to say a rosary every day, but that resolution lasts only a couple of days.
Part 2 - Going East, about a year later
Once again I swing onto the Coronado Bridge, accelerating up the grade, this time going east- more blue bridge and blue sky.
"Good, I'm on time to get to work."
I do a mental inventory of my bills and expenses.
"Great. I was able to get the tuitions paid, get tires.. . "
I approach mid-span surrounded by only blue sky.
"And I have enough left to pay the electric bill. Perfect. Wow, it is great how everything is working out."
As if on cue, suddenly to my right, standing on a small white cloud in the southern sky about a hundred feet high, dressed in deep blue flowing folds, I see Mary!
"It was Mary's help!" I am filled with shame.
"Ah, it was you! I haven't even thought of you!"
I want to hide under the dashboard, ashamed. My mind begins to reconstruct the moment quickly - I was looking forward. How could I see her to my right? It was an image in my head.
My thoughts are interrupted by one of those thoughts that come from a place other than the source of my normal thought life, "You have it all wrong. I wasn't made your Mother for you to do things for me, but for me to do things for you."
Revised "I Am Awareness Exercises", Part 2
Below are some exercises we can all use to help us find our mystical family.
Intention: I will discover and experience myself to be a point of awareness animating a body and mind.
"I Am" Meditation Part 2 (See previous blog entry for "I Am Meditation Part 1): We will do the meditation using vision. Try it later with hearing. Go to a place where you can see objects that are emotionally neutral for you. We do not want anything that is emotionally charged or especially engaging. For example looking at a chair is most likely emotionally neutral, whereas looking at a wall of family photos is emotionally more charged. Let's begin. Look around you. Notice the different objects you see. Notice the color and shape of the different objects. Identify a couple of them. For example, "I see a brown chair." or "I see a tree with green leaves."
After you have done this, turn you attention away from these objects, what we might call the content of your sight, and instead focus on the one doing the seeing. This can be tricky since it is not something we ordinarily do. Consciously be the one doing the seeing. Experience yourself in the act of seeing. Take some time to do this. Most likely it is a new experience for you so give yourself time to get comfortable with it. It might help to see yourself as being behind your eyes looking out at the world around you. Now be conscious of being the point of awareness observing the world around you. Your eyes may move from one object to another, but notice the one looking remains the same - making no sound, watching from behind your eyes. Keep your focus and attention on yourself as the one doing the seeing.
Remember we are trying to catch of glimpse of our self in the present moment, using it as a mirror to see who we are. This is not an act of imagination. You want to actually experience yourself seeing. It is happening. You are seeing. So just shift your focus to yourself engaged in the act of seeing.
Inquiry: What can you say about yourself, the one you experienced looking out at the world from behind your eyes? What are you actually like? Try the exercise again and see what you find. Also, see what it feels like to be you when your attention is focused on being the one perceiving the world around you. How can you describe yourself? What is your, the perceiver, like?
Active Meditation: Practice this meditation whenever you can safely pause for even a moment or two. Simply focus on yourself in the act of perception. It is an instantaneous shift in your focus from the content of what you are sensing and thinking to the one doing the sensing and thinking. It will add a subtle peace and stillness to any situation. After a while you will find that you can call upon this meditation for peace even during moments of stress and anxiety. You are getting in touch with your deeper self as awareness and releasing the peace and stillness you are into your everyday life.
Silence: Our silence exercise is very simple to explain. Sit quietly and be aware of your breathing. As thoughts come, simply let them go.
Why can this be so difficult to do, especially if you are already a silent point of awareness using body and mind to sense and navigate the world around you? The reason is simple enough. Being a point of awareness is not the experience most of us have in our everyday life. Our identity is most likely not grounded in being awareness, but in being a body and mind. Because of this, it is inevitable and logical that our attention is focused on and attached to the mind's thoughts and the body's condition. This is who we think we are. We are working on changing this identity with our meditations and other exercises. Silence will help with this as well. The identity we hold in our mind is the product of our mental activity and supported by our inner dialogue. When we turn our attention away from our inner dialogue by following our breath and by simply letting thoughts go as they appear, we are grounding our identity in awareness, while at the same time, weakening our identification with the mental image we hold in our mind. Consciously being silent gives us a lived experience of being awareness.
Our difficulty in doing this exercise will be in proportion to our identification with our body and mind. Recognizing this dynamic in your life, work with your body and mind like you would a child who needs to be assured they are loved, safe and all is well. They can be still and relax, allowing you a few moments of silence. If they are persistent, remind yourself, "I am loved, safe, and all is well. My mind and body can relax for a few moments." Then simply return to the exercise, letting the thoughts go and watching your breathing. Relax. You are loved, safe and all is well.
Service: We are seeing our self as a still, silent point of awareness using a body and mind. Most likely this is a new relationship with your body and mind. Practice noticing their needs and wants. Begin to care for them, knowing they are providing you with a great service in this lifetime. Do they need more sleep? Perhaps less stress? Are you feeding your body and mind healthy food? Are they getting enough exercise? They are under your control and depending on you. If taken care of your body and mind can give you years of movement, sensation, and pleasure. With your care and guidance, your body and mind can be an expression of love and compassion, bringing peace and healing, warmth and embrace to the world.
Intention Renewal: Allow the insight and experience of this meditation to deepen. I will discover and experience myself to be a point of awareness animating a body and mind.