Saturday, June 16, 2007

Awareness and Consciousness are not the same

As a technical writer using words correctly is very important. It avoids sloppiness and misunderstanding. In the world of the spiritual seeker, two words are used interchangeably that shows a sloppiness that really does create misunderstanding. The two words are "awareness" and "consciousness."

These two words are different, and even though this is abstract territory to begin with, a distinction, I believe, might bring some clarity to spiritual seekers.

Awareness -
This term to me, is a field of potential. In the absolute sense, one could say that it is the root potential for any apparent object in the universe to appear. It is like a blank canvass on which anything may appear, and depending on the point of view, positionality, as Dr. David R. Hawkins, would call it, any content becomes conscious. The field is never disturbed by what appears on it. It is always the unchanged field of potential for objects to appear in consciousness.

Consciousness -
This term refers to what is in the field of awareness at any given time. IE, the content. Objects in consciousness may be anything that appears, music, thought, feelings, the moon, a cow chewing its cud. Consciousness is for the most part limited. For example, each person has consciousness, but the content is different. The point of view is different, which affects the content of consciousness.

Discussion points: Consciousness is dependent on awareness, but awareness is not dependent on consciousness. This is because the field of potential, awareness, has to be there first. Because it is there, content can appear. It is the content that manifests. In fact, the whole world is a manifestation in awareness.

What a person is aware of, of course, depends on the content of his or her consciousness. In a sense, consciousness is the sum total of the content of an individual. The content of consciousness in a bushman in Africa would be quite different from the content of a Wall Street banker, but both consciousnesses would be in the field of awareness.

Now comes an interesting angle for thought. Can awareness be conscious of itself? If we posture that awareness without content exists as the an a priori field, can it be aware of itself as a blank field of potential without content? I suspect yes. But this could be a fun discussion.

What caused me to get into the discussion above is the fact that I tend to be a person with a very strong thinking mind. In other words, my thinking function is dominant. Most of my enlightening experiences have come through thinking, from challenging my thinking, from expanding my thinking. Where someone else might be prone to lead from the heart, or relationship, the differentiation between words may not be important, or even significant. But, if your approach to freedom is through your mind, a book that is feeding you, feeds best if it done with well defined words and concepts. I don't want alphabet soup; I want words spelled out and arranged logically.

Of course, enlightenment is beyond words, and not in the linear realm of logic. But, if we are using the intellect as the starting point, and the vehicle, it is important that words are used well, and defined well enough so that subtleties are seen and felt.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I will be 58 in a few days. I heard of enlightenment when I was about 27. As soon as I heard the word and description of it, I knew that was for me. I felt somehow that is was the truth. Ever since then, I have been a seeker. I jokingly say that being a seeker is a curse. It's as if everything that satisfies others, doesn't interest me. I am not a ball of fun, although I am gentle, usually kind, and do care.

I have experienced intense bliss, unity, non duality etc., but it didn't last. Making love one time, I was no longer my personal self, but all men who had ever made love to a woman, and all men who ever would. The experience was the sum total of man making love to woman, from the beginning of time till the end of time. Now that was intense! I could not put this experience into words that would convince anyone else that I had that experience, but I knew that I had. I didn't need to convince anyone else.

It is this type of experience of the Universal that we call mystical. It is a oneness, a loss of self, and typically blissful.

Another experience came while I was rubbing my six year old daughter's back. I was doing that while listening to a J. Krishnamurti tape. Suddenly, I was in a state of mystical unity. It was an ecstatic oneness. It felt like eternity, and I could just stay there and be completely satisfied. The only problem was, there was no "me" there. I began to think, "I can't stay here. I have two kids to raise. How could I need to do anything if I stay in this state? Nothing mattered! Everything was already OK. So, as the me came back, the ecstasy started to wain. But as it left, I had the knowing come to me, "You have always been surrounded by absolute beauty, you are now, and you always will be, even though you may not be aware of it." One of the reasons it didn't last was that there was no "me" there Also, the ecstasy was too great--there was no way I could survive in that state.

After that there were some weeks of intense bliss. Easting a can of smoked oysters was orgasmic. Riding my bike was a trip in oneness. I saw my neighbor across the street. I wanted to just go hug her because of the love I felt. It was nothing sexual, but just such love coming from the experience of oneness. I didn't do it because I knew she wouldn't understand.

I would watch TV shows, and just the face of a jazz singer, performing, would make me cry.
Or a movie, even some TV advertisements would make me cry. Over time the bliss went away. Was the experience the experience described as mystical union? Yes, it was. Was it enlightenment. Probably not. Did it change me? Yes. The residue of the experience was that I knew there was a kind of knowing that was not questionable. I know that no matter what anybody said, no matter how much time passed, there was nothing that could ever dissuade me from knowing that what I experienced was absolute truth, at least a sample of it, a glimpse.

So, what does it mean that it goes away? Was a taste necessary to keep me on the spiritual path? Is enlightenment bliss, or is it something else? One of the issues that arises after such a taste is that everything else, after that, feels less than, not the truth. It's almost as if one feels condemned. It's like seeing the promised land, but having to die before you can return.

I had been observing myself for some time. I was aware of this search, and how it worked. It went something like this. Whatever mental position I was attached to was where I was. But I was not allowed to stay there. I would go to the book stores and search for a book that was close enough to where I was that I would read it, but just enough further out from where I was, that I would be stretched in the reading of it. Seeing this, a part of me said, well, it you look at this with a big picture view, why not just drop all attachments? Alas, I could not stop. I do enjoy reading, especially anything on spirituality, consciousness, or enlightenment.

Well, a taste is a taste. The question still remains, is this just an experience that was top of the chart, and nothing more? Was it a glimpse so I would keep looking for a deeper truth? Or did I now have to live the truth to experience the ecstasy again? Did it mean I had a lot of work to do to get passed this experience and into something greater, more permanent, such as enlightenment? Wish I knew.

So, what are my questions after many years of this pursuit of enlightenment?

1. If I am awareness, and not this limited body-mind, why is 99% of my consciousness limited to this body?
- If I stick myself with a pin, this body feels it, not anyone else.
- If someone else sticks themselves with a pin, I may have sympathy, but I don't feel it.
- I realize that I can only have these experiences and observations in awareness. But why is my experience limited to this body? If I am awareness, why not feel everything, everywhere? One answer would be that as a body-mind, I couldn't handle that much information and experience.

2. So, when I let go of the bliss, was I just weak? Was I being responsible, or was I being a coward. If I had stayed there, could I have somehow managed to still go to work? Care for my kids? I don't think so.