I am on a retreat in Springwater New York, this weekend. It’s spring and it all seems to be like a Terrence Mallick movie. I’ve been listening to people’s stories at the group dialogue session they hold here and there often seems to be an aspect of “I could have done it better”. Im not convinced that it is possible; to be other than what we are. The thought “I should have” serves to perpertuate non acceptance of what we are. We all have limitations as humans. I have found it more helpful to contemplate acceptance of that imperfection that I have been conditioned to be. And yes I am searching, but not for perfection or some blissfully utopian being. More for my lost humanity; compassion and humility that seems to have fallen away in the ongoing development of my selfhood. It can be realized at points often the awareness of it arising in silence.
There were six learned sages,
To study much inclined,
Who met to discuss Consciousness (About it each was blind).
Each hoped by observation To satisfy his mind.
The first sage thought of Consciousness, Awake or in a dream,
As an experiential flow With rivulets that seem To be so fundamental that “Consciousness is a stream.”
The second sage knew of Consciousness From his patients’ anguish; Their problems stemmed from urges They tried hard to vanquish. So, this great sage proclaimed that “Consciousness is a wish.”
The third followed Consciousness Back to its primal lair. He studied myths and legends That led him to declare “A Collective Consciousness Is something we all share.”
The fourth said the term Consciousness Is faulty in the West. In the East it is luminous, And that word says it best; Hence “Consciousness illuminates, And also manifests.”
For the fifth sage, Consciousness Is entering a gate By hypnosis, taking drugs, Or pausing to meditate. He concluded that “Consciousness Is something like a state.”
The sixth sage said “Consciousness Is easy to explain. Sight, smell, taste, and hunger, Touch, sound and pain, Are perceived, then Consciousness Emerges from the brain.”
Oft’ in academic wars, The disputants, it seems, Rail on in sheer ignorance Of what each other might mean, And while some dissect Consciousness, It still remains unseen.
THIS SPIN ON JOHN GODFREY SAXE’S NINETEENTH-CENTURY POEM “The Blind Men and the Elephant” describes the varying answers to the question: “What is consciousness?” The varying answers represent a significant development; however, that is often overlooked in contemporary discourse. After William James, arguably the founder of modern psychology in the United States, made consciousness a cornerstone of his investigations, the field was taken over by the behaviorists. For many decades, the prevailing dogma was that a phenomenon such as “consciousness” could only be discussed in subjective terms, and could not be properly studied by science with objective experimental methods.
Our ability to use words is an evolutionary step in human development. As in all evolutionary developments there is no guarantee that it will ensure survival of the species. Never the less it seems to have arisen for a reason. I am not comfortable with the line of thinking that implies that we are better off in silence and in apprehensive use of language.
Communication with others through language is fundamental to my sense of being however it may be that it can also be a block. It makes sense that I come to be comfortable with silence if I am to communicate honestly. There are times when words are not neccesary and in fact interfere with a more fundamental aspect of relating. That may be of something of us humans that is not knowable or reduceible quantifiable by science or the use of objective measures. I would venture to suggest that there is something of our reliance on these ways of relating, understanding and being that has taken us away from our essence individually in some and collectively in general. However it is that this essence is always a part of us there has come to be something of an over reliance on more specialized abilities that has numbed our awareness of this essence. Our use of words in these modern times can be both influenced and an influence in this way but it is not necessary that it should be as it is.
In my own experience, the use of words can be an extension of our essence if we are able to realize the limitations of using them and how it is that they inevitably project and reflect of our minds. Awareness of the limitations of thinking and our use of words can come to be a part of a life changing transformation. Part of that is coming to realize that words are not the experience.
I found this quote of Rupert Spira,s in his new book “What is Consciousness” very interesting. “Awareness assumes the form of the finite mind in order to simultaneously know and create the world but it doesnt need to assume the form of mind to know itself.” Ultimately our perception of existence and in turn our actions and creation of our world are affected by how it is that we come to know ourselves and how we extend and express that in the finite world.
I have spent many years searching to untangle the predicament of self. Unfortunately it seems that it has been, for most of the time a self sponsored effort that has only lead to greater confusion and deception.
This past week I attended a five day retreat with the Toronto based Satiphanna Buddhist group, which ended on Sunday and since that time there is something new that I have become aware of. There has been for all of my conditioned life a habitual tendency to seek to escape from the present moment. The conditioned mind is subtly creative and deceptive about how this is done. A part of that is the ability to rationalize this reaction and many others in quite sophisticated way.
This week I have been able to ultimately settle into the seeing of this and in doing so confront that raw urge to do so.