‘Conscious Capability’ – George Harvey (1806-1876) – WikiArt
“The very fact of being aware of what is is truth.”
~ J. Krishnamurti
If you observe yourself carefully, awareness can be felt as a truly overwhelming presence. It is actually all there is, and that can be easily proved. Let’s take an experience like our current experience, since no other than this one present, living experience, has ever existed and will ever do. We cannot divide experience, make it into bits and pieces to be compared or analysed. Experience is not limited to its content. You cannot separate content from its recipient. That’s the first clue for our investigation: Experience is undivided, unbroken awareness.
But let’s not be too quick on this, and jump to an easy conclusion. Let’s look thoroughly at our experience. What are the things that occupy us? What is actually filling this presence of ours? Let’s take our thoughts for example. There seems to be a steady arrival of them in our mind. All kinds of thoughts. The organised ones and the messy ones. The scared, confused, barely audible ones, and the vindicative ones. The happy ones and the weeping ones. Some that are useful in the course of a day, and others utterly useless and gratuitous, that are here solely to soothe our broken sense of self, or escape from a dreadful, imagined reality. Let’s face it: most of our thoughts are actually mad thoughts owned by a barely identifiable owner.
Moreover, how many of our so-called thoughts are actually intelligible sentences made of clearly defined words? A lot of our alleged thinking is actually just an echo of what can be called proper thoughts, a pale and non existent activity that is here only to mimic the presence of a thinking self. These thoughts are actually only implied, and so is the presence of the self that owns them. We are inhabited by a ghost. Our thoughts are actually fairly rare occurrences, scattered in an ocean of being. And most of them only represent an idea or a belief. Certainly not a proper, intelligible self. Meanwhile, they distract us from the only real thing worth attaching ourself to, namely the empty space of presence where they freely run, and of which they are an appearance. This one looks like a more proper self, if you ask me. Awareness is all.
Now let’s look at another common occurrence in our mind: feelings. All these feelings that haunt our life and give it its atmosphere and its colour. Discover that when you approach any of these feelings, when you get closer and closer to any feeling that you may have, you will find a growing impossibility to name it or even spot it. Feelings are hazy things when they are felt from within their intimate making. Feelings are like transparent, self-effacing guests when we invite them in. They cannot sustain a close observation. Their existence is discovered to be negligible in the scheme of our present being — this presence that hosts them. They only acquire a pregnant form or reality when experienced from the distance of a self separate from them. Withdraw that sense of separation and feelings lose any positive or negative quality that we may ascribe to them. They become like passing, impersonal waves or currents in an ocean. Hardly something threatening or overwhelming from the ocean’s point of view. Place yourself from the right perspective of presence, and you will notice that most feelings lose their power. They appear and disintegrate in a flow that cannot be separated from the substance that owns them. This substance is worthy of our close attention. Feelings are then only seen as one of its passing, temporary, acquired forms. In fact, awareness is all.
Another guest coming and going in our experience is to be found amongst our many sensations. Sensations outline the presence of the body. They are also the echo of our feelings at the level of the body. But most of them actually go unnoticed. They are the most absent component of our experienced reality. They are so to say dormant occurrences. But give them but a little attention, and a foot will make its presence known in the field of awareness. Or a little finger. Or a quiet pain. An elbow. A beating heart. The reason why they are so unnoticed is that we give most of our attention to our thoughts and feelings. We live in our heads and are drawn towards outside appearances in the so-called external world. So sensations oblige us. They retreat. Sensations are elusive things in our actual experience. So our sensations as a ‘body’ are only felt intermittently, if we compare them to the presence that hosts them and the awareness that gives them their essence and reality. Our true body appears to be awareness itself and its physical counterpart is only experienced through its vehicle of infinite, aware being. So the body appears to be made of mind itself. Again, awareness is all.
‘Harmony in Blue and Silver: Trouville’ – James McNeill Whistler, 1865 – WikiArt
So now let’s come to the more serious, hard-felt, matter-like things of our experience. For example let’s take sounds. We think of sounds as occurrences existing outside ourself, to which we can choose to give attention or not. Sounds are present no matter what. We move amongst them. It appears to be so. But as always, we are drawn to more intimate occurrences like our thoughts or feelings that we think define us best. We are identified to them. We feel that we are them. Sounds, conversely, are not us. That’s why so many of them slip so easily out of our attention, desert our mind. We don’t notice them. They have been separated, pushed away, banned from the field of our being. We are not them. Sounds are only experienced as sounds when projected in an hypothetical outside and experienced by an hypothetical inside or entity. But withdraw that separate sense of self and sounds are revealed as the very tissue of our being. Their occurrence is inseparable from the awareness that hosts them and gives them their reality and pregnancy. So the self is all there is, and sounds in it now lose their separate existence. They are revealed as being some particular forms of our one self and being. There is no doubt: Awareness is all.
What about sights, will you tell me? Sights are the most pregnant part of our experience. They inform us on our close and distant environment, which we have traditionally named as being all the things existing outside ourself, away from the compound of our person. Sights equal world. No thoughts, or feelings, or sensations, have ever been ‘seen’. What we see is one thing only: our world or external environment. But only try to find a boundary between your self and the world out there and you will never find it. Your experience of the world is inseparable from your experience of yourself. Sight represents this absence of boundary. Sight is not seeing things that are external to you, but rather seeing the inside chamber of your being. There is no world separate from the awareness that hosts it, and gives it its reality. Body, things, thoughts, feelings are entities arising in and out of our one infinite and truly present being, which we cannot separate ourself from. They are entities having playful or tragic interactions and relationships inside us. We carry these entities in our being, but need not being identified with any one of them. We have one single identity: the awareness that creates and mothers our apparent world through the senses. So we are surrounded only by the immensity of presence. Awareness is our only appearance, to the point that only ‘it’ exists. We are nowhere to be seen in its presence. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds and sights? I’d be glad to really meet them outside the compound of their one substance and birthing matrix, which is awareness itself — all there truly is. I will repeat it another time: Awareness is all.
But we might object again: why then a body at all? What about this strange thing called a body? To which the voice of awareness could be made audible in the way of these questions: Where is the body’s existence outside the field of this newly discovered presence of our self? Where is the body exactly situated? Where does it draw its existence from? And what really can be said to be alive in us? Is our body is alive? What then of this presence that our body inhabits? Which of the two is truly alive — truly a conscious entity? Who exactly dies when the body dies? Is there anybody here that is consistent enough to actually die one day? And which day could that be? What is it that dies when no entity has been discovered to truly be? And what about the similar questions that could be raised on behalf of the world? What are these questions really evoking, at the moment when our self is discovered to be a vast non-existent emptiness? Or a dimensionless existent fullness? Are we really just ‘that’? Selfless Being? Is awareness really all?
The paradox is that only now, at that point of understanding, when our nature is realised to be selfless being, or awareness alone, can we truly be allowed to be a human being. At that point can we truly be allowed to live and relate. At that point can our thoughts have clarity and purpose. At that point are we able to feel our feelings as really meaningful and human. At that point can we hear sounds as breathtaking, little harmonious symphonies. At that point can we experience the world as a world pregnant with beauty and glory. At that moment can we experience our life as being made of love only. At that moment can our body acquire true presence and draw its energy from the energy of a thousand suns. And at that moment can we truly realise experience as being god’s perfect design. This is the point when chaos is seen as harmony, when suffering is replaced by happiness, ugliness transformed into beauty, confusion into understanding, enmity into love, separation realised as oneness, and multiple experiences as unbroken awareness. No matter what…, awareness is all.
Text by Alain Joly
Paintings by George Harvey (1806-1876)
and James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
– Other ‘Essays’ from the blog…
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