• December 3, 2017

    You have heard me say that sensing has immense importance in this work. Obviously sensing is the means by which we know and interact with our world. Our physical bodies are exquisitely sensitive displays of information about our environment. Sensing also tells us about our own physical state. Sensations are data. Can you accept this data or do you reject it?

    Sensing puts us in touch with the present and anchors the attention, which counterbalances the tendency of the thinking apparatus to steal attention and suppress perception and inhabit the past or the future.

    You have (hopefully) also heard me say that sensing enables us to monitor and transform the energies of the body, a process that enables us to waken higher faculties. Sensations are food. Are you able to digest this food?

    Sensing is a real experience…at its most basic, the movement of electrical and chemical processes through the nervous system. Sensing is the physiological capacity of organisms to provide data for perception. Being 21st century humans, we allow the thinking machine to structure this experience and even replace it. We like to think that we are sensing when really we are thinking about sensing. When I ask you to place attention on sensation, how many of you think about a part of the body you have decided to sense and then try to sense it through the medium of your thinking?

    Can you make use of thought to place attention and then withdraw thinking, allowing attention to penetrate sensation directly? Attention can then read many sensations at once and its unmediated interaction with sensation leads to most interesting energetic effects.

    Sensations are not emotions but thinking often associates sensations with past events which have emotional content. A sensory reaction then becomes an emotion. Can you take every sensation simply as data, impartially?

    The questions I am posing point to the use of sensations as the basis for our work on self. Without them at the center, we are just another philosophical school indulging in useless mental gymnastics.

    The bonus for impartial sensing is that you may discover that you have many more sensations than you thought. Have you considered this? You should be able to find more than a dozen different senses, not just the standard five. There is a sense organ, or sensor, dedicated to each sense. There is vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch, the five traditionally recognized ones. Our external sensory capacities also include temperature, movement or kinesthetic sense, pain, balance and vibration.

    Perhaps there are still more…the sensation of floating or weightlessness, claustrophobia or suffocation. Pulse and breathing. There are also internal sensations such as hunger, thirst and organic fear. Some people say we can sense abnormal salt and carbon dioxide concentrations in the blood. Some of us are able to sense electrical and magnetic fields. And what about the sensations that do not seem to depend upon a specific organ such as time, familiarity, perhaps even the sense of initiating an action?

    Can you get out of your head and into your sensations? My guess is that you will find that some of these sensations are operating in you just beyond your noticing but nonetheless having a significant impact on your experience of the world and self. It’s not that you need to name them. But if you allow them into your consciousness, integrate them into your experience, you may be able to be more voluntary, even harmonious.

    Perhaps certain places or circumstances give rise to the sensations of suffocating. Can you bring this impartially to awareness so you can deal with it?

    The early stages of zikr are about integrating sensations and bringing them into alignment with each other, especially pulse and breath together with hearing, the vibrations of sound in the body and making subtle rhythmic movements. Attention fully engages with sensing and the effect is cleansing…inharmonious sensations are pacified and made compatible with prayer and invocation. This is one of the meanings of remembering self.

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  • July 4, 2016

    I find that I do not feel very much compassion for the less fortunate, the victims of terrorism and so on. Perhaps I have no heart?

    If you find compassion in your life, it will be in your immediate surroundings, among the beings you meet, not events on the news. Compassion is shared feeling, not just shock or pity.

    Before you can have a heart, you must expose your heartlessness. Before you can have compassion, you must see your hatred and intolerance. To have success on this path, we must go ‘by way of the negative’, not asserting what we want but rather exploring what is. To find compassion, explore its opposite because that is something you can know with certainty, as you are.

    The ancient masters said: “The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.” We would all like to set out on a wonderful journey to remake ourselves in the image of our ideal. The journey must begin where we are.

    I cannot make compassion. It arises naturally in a heart which is not preoccupied with me, my wants, my thoughts, my reactions and, especially, my ideals. There is nothing less compassionate than an idealist.

    What do you mean?

    Idealists want the world to conform to their ideas. By its nature, idealism has the arrogance of prejudice and judgment. It looks to the future rather than the present. It makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

    What does it mean to relinquish?

    To relinquish is to voluntarily cease to keep or claim…to give up. This is the key. The problem is that we involuntarily hold on to the things we most want to change. With one hand we reject them, but with the other we hold them fast. This struggle occurs in the nervous system, electrically and chemically, the result of conditioning. It’s an addiction of sorts. Who would we be without this struggle?

    Relinquish the undesirable, it is said. Begin by observing yourself, not afterwards or analytically but in real time. Learn to adopt an impartial attitude—it is more important to see what arises in you than to influence it, judge it or defend it.

    You will begin to see the habitual linkages of sensation and thought that hold you together as you are. You will begin to uncover the self-images and personal narratives that get you through the day. They have been there all along, running in the background, influencing nearly every thought and action, nearly every posture and gesture. When you have seen one such pattern long enough, when you have exhausted all your emotional reactions to it, when all that’s left is a subtle distaste for what you see, you will be ready to relinquish. It is a death of self, one of many on the way. In my understanding, this work is never finished.

    Does something desirable arise after an undesirable thing has been relinquished? Surprisingly, it does.

    Related Post:

    Objectivity – July 29, 2015

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  • June 8, 2016

    Sometimes I get very emotional in my reactions to other people. What is my responsibility for the impact my reactions have on others?

    First, you are only truly responsible for what you do voluntarily. You may be held accountable for your reactions but it would be a stretch to say you are responsible. Your reactions are just that, reactions. They are produced automatically so why pretend otherwise? You could try to repress your expressions, which could possibly prevent communicating the emotional effect to others, but there are many unhelpful consequences of repression, as we have discussed before.

    As a member of the work group, you are responsible for attempting to observe your reactions impartially. To observe impartially, you must not repress. Why is that? Repression is hiding your reactions, is it not? Repression is almost always the result of judgment and judgment does not allow impartial observation…it is the antithesis of it. Further, repression is a learned mechanical behavior which becomes just as involuntary as the reaction that is being repressed.

    As a member of the work group, you are also responsible for not blaming your reactions on others. Blaming others is not impartial and it also biases observation.

    After much impartial observation of self, you may come to know your reactions sufficiently well, and you may have developed such an indifference to them, that it may be possible not to express reactions AND not suppress them. Perhaps we can call this voluntary suppression. The impulse to react is held as energy, not expressed, neither defended nor rejected. Only then can it be said that you are responsible for the impact of your reactions on others.

    The likelihood is that joining a real work group will make you more reactive at first because the emphasis is no longer on being polite.

    There is no room for political correctness in a work group. The essence of political correctness is the idea that people have the right not to be offended by others. In a work group, you give others the right to offend you and you in turn have the right to offend. The right to offend is given because the opportunity to observe our mechanical selves in action has great value. It does not mean you set about to offend others for sport or pleasure. But it does mean that being offended is welcomed as a work opportunity, otherwise the work group is dead.

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  • February 21, 2016

    I sit in the meditation chamber. I agree to wait. I am not waiting for anything, just waiting. I am content with whatever happens. I am content with whatever will happen. It is enough to wait.

    Since I am waiting and there is nothing in particular to do, I ask to be alert. Can I be alert? Alert but not tense, alert but also relaxed.

    While I am in this state of waiting, not for anything in particular, just waiting, I invoke attention. Attention engages sensation as I wait. I summon a field of attention which surrounds me. I ask that attention penetrate my heart. I sit with this. There is no move to make. I can wait, not moving on.

    Energy arises. My body is intensely sensitized. Can I awaken now, physically, mentally, all that I am? Can I simply be?

     * * *

     The awakened state can be discovered in meditation. It does not require special efforts.

    What awakens? The parts of me that sleep. Which parts are sleeping? My physical organism, my mind and heart. They stumble about in confused darkness, enmeshed in dream-fragments, unable to gather the energy to awaken. Presence is always able to participate, waiting, willing to enter when called to take its place as vice-regent of the city of my being. But presence cannot enter when my city is sleeping and the dominion of presence is denied by my identification with other roles and aims.

    What is awakening? Lighting up the city with the correct energetic charge, harmonizing its different departments and stopping up the leaks. Who is to accomplish this work? Voluntary, impartial attention. It arouses energy and activates the heart, unifying the city, enabling presence to enter. The city awakens.

    But, before the desirable can be accomplished, the undesirable must be relinquished.

    Can the usual efforts to do something be abandoned?

    Can ordinary thinking be released?

    Can involuntary attention on habit-formed boundaries be withdrawn?

    Removing limits opens the way to a real encounter with the miracle of being.

    The city’s defenses fall away and sleep is overwhelmed.

    The secret is in the asking.

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  • October 16, 2015

    So you are really proposing a kind of hierarchy of possible states, from sleep to presence to awakening.

    Yes. Actually, it starts with voluntary attention, which establishes a separation in sleep between the machine and something not of the machine. This separation is very important. Voluntary attention, which we might call mindfulness, already introduces a restless quality to the sleep state. The machine still operates on automatic but it is observed.

    If the attention is impartial, meaning not directed by the head brain, that is another step, which is only a hair’s breadth from presence, the source of voluntary, impartial attention. Presence completes the process of dis-identification with something added…a sense of existing as something unidentifiable, ineffable, unboundaried, another kind of ‘I’.

    In presence, movement into voluntary states of invocation becomes possible, but these states are easily interrupted by the momentum of sleep in the machine. Nonetheless, these transitory engagements weaken the conditioning of the machine over time.

    Finally, we come to the awakened state. The machine is sufficiently energized by voluntary efforts of attention and presence that the heart awakens, providing the additional energy and assistance required to unite all the provinces of human nature into one kingdom, subject to one ‘I’. The awakened human is now a human being, occupying its intended place at the nexus between higher and lower, where matter becomes spirit and spirit becomes matter. This is where the Work begins.

    Now, I have made this seem a logical progression because our simple minds like to operate in this way. But the relationship between these states is often non-sequential and may involve help from unusual sources. The steps are a dance which covers the same ground in many different ways. Do not assume you can accomplish this path through your own efforts. Great humility is required. You will likely need a motive outside of your own enhancement.

    Perhaps I will regret this simplification which could encourage you to look ahead and fantasize about your status. However, Vajrayana teachers I have known occasionally introduced their students to the ‘view’ as they called it, and they did not seem to regret it.
    To Be Continued…

    Related Posts:

    Awake (2) – Oct 10, 2015

    Awake – Oct 7, 2015

    Illusion of ‘I’ – Sept 19, 2015

    Invocation – June 10, 2015

    Mastery (1) – May 15, 2015

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