We are only peripherally aware of our surroundings, and to an even larger degree, our immediate local surroundings. Since there is nothing new, the little voice in our head absorbs most all of our attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel because sense perception is what fills their conscious state. It forces a sense of presence. When not present, we are in ego. Our perceptions and experiences are distorted by judgments that have more to do with our past then our present. As soon as something is perceived, it is categorized, labeled, interpreted and compared with something else. It is either good or bad, based on some past life experience or meme. This seemingly new life situation is actually a train of thoughts and therefore part of what you experience the moment you think these thoughts. They are not the subject, they are the experience. One can add a thousand thoughts to the train of thought, and you can thereby increase the complexity of the experience of yourself, but you will not end up with the subject -- the reality. The seer is that which is prior to all experience, but without whom, there would be no experience.
This reminds me of the tree that falls in the forest routine, ie., "If there is no one to hear it fall, is there a sound?"
So, who is the seer, the experiencer? As you read the words on this page, who is it that is doing the reading? The answer is consciousness. What is consciousness? I don't know the answer to that. In fact, science does not deal with this concept since it has not figured out a way to measure it. The traditional word is spirit. Since it has no form, and all knowing is within the realm of duality -- subject / object -- then without the knower, nothing can be perceived, felt, thought or known. Only forms can be known, without a formless dimension, form could not exist. And the answer is no, if a tree falls in a forest and there is no one to hear the sound... There is no sound. Form is the luminous space in which our reality in the natural arises and disappears. What happens in this space is relative and temporary, timeless yet eternal and at all times reliant on the observer to exist.
The greatest obstacle to experiencing inner space and discovering the seer is for us to become so enthralled by the experience that you lose the "self," the "seer," in it. It means that our consciousness actually gets lost in its own dream. We lose our presence and get caught up in the life situation, the drama, the emotion. This has been our state since the beginning of time. The allegory of Plato's cave illustrates this idea.
The trick here is becoming self-aware. You cannot know consciousness or even measure it; but you can sense spirit in any life situation no matter where you are. Through a state of utter presence, the words on this page are perceived; and thoughts become manifest. It is the seer, the "I am," that is the under-pavement to every experience thought or feeling. We are spirits having human experiences, not the other way around.
I use breath meditation to create inner space to manufacture gaps in the stream of thinking. Have you ever been unable to get to sleep, caught in a loop of negative thoughts? If you do not place a gap in the stream, your thoughts become repetitive, uninspired, and devoid of creative flow. Being aware of your breathing takes attention away from the stream of thoughts and creates gaps that punctuate the endless flow. This is one way to generate self-awareness. By becoming aware you begin to notice the sensation of breath. One conscious breath is sufficient to create a gap, a pause. I suggest using breath meditation throughout one's day as an excellent technique for bringing awareness of one's consciousness to the forefront, if even for a moment.
Because breath has no form as such, in ancient times, it has been associated with the concept of spirit. The fact that breath has no form is one of the reasons why breath awareness is an extremely effective way of bringing space into your life, and bringing awareness. Whenever you are conscious of breath you are present. Conscious breathing stops your mind and unlike a trance state or sleeping you are fully alert to the present moment. You rise above thinking. You are ready to respond to a new life situation with right action vs. simply reacting with a preconceived, predetermined, pat answer that may or may not have served itself well in the past but is incongruous with the present situation.
While I was living in Beijing, China at the Lama Temple, I witnessed an exercise in the power of presence. I met a monk named Nyima Passan. He was 63 years old and had been studying martial arts for the larger part of his life. I watched an interesting exercise whereas Nyima was at the center of a circle of 10 of his best martial arts students, all wielding wooden practice swords. The students were instructed to take blows at the master at random. The exercise lasted for approximately three minutes, during which time the master evaded or blocked blows consistently the entire time without a mark on his body. They explained that the technique required the master to become present and focus on the energy of each blow vs. watching the students and reacting. The reason he focused on the energy of the blows was because Nyima had been blind since birth. By quieting his mind and responding from feeling, his focus was always on the next on coming blow. He explained that in reality he need only be concerned about one blow at a time. Unlike the ego, the spirit is able to focus on the true reality vs. the illusion most of us perceive as real. The ego is always distracted by its own needs, desires, and fears. Had Nyima come from ego, he admitted he would have been struck repeatedly by his students who far outnumbered him.
The ego asks, "How do I make this work for me?" The answer is typically fear-based, full of judgments, distractions and riddled with bad data from a past experiences that do not really reflect the current situation. The other answer comes from a genetically programmed response like "fight or flight." Using presence as a state from which to respond, one need not even ask the question. When you refuse to react directly from ego and instead respond from presence, we merge with the situation. We can then bring space around the question, we listen, we observe. The solution arises out of the situation itself. If action is possible or needed, you take "right action" that is appropriate to the whole. Once the situation becomes resolute -- alert, spacious -- presence remains. All creativity comes out of inner spaciousness, from spirit. Spirit needs no credit and always comes from a place of love, compassion, quiet presence, even in times of battle. Ego comes from a poverty-based, fear-induced consciousness that typically is ineffective, if not, at best, inefficient as it responds.
Many thanks for your "likes" and thoughtful commentary. Your participation is appreciated and your recognition is always honored. Best, Peter
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"Think Yourself Young" now available on Kindle -- I discuss diet and meditational techniques according to the Tibetan Monks that I was able to interview living amongst them while at the Lama Temple in Beijing, China. These folks appear to be able to stop physiological time dead in its tracks, with the net result being a high-quality life beyond 120 years.
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