On consciousness of self II

Dear Judit.

I’m glad you found those comments of interest and delighted some of our other friends did as well. Of course you should feel free to share these discussions as you like.

And I’m very happy that, in the spirit of dialogue, you chose to share your observations with me. I believe that they are very important. I think they are one example of inner revelations at which all arrive who meditate in humble search. The truths we arrive at are the same, but perhaps the most valuable thing is that our perspectives are different hence their nuances, and expression. Let me make a little detour or digression (and who doesn’t like divagations).

I was walking with Negro along a beach in Rio. He started to tell me a long and complex story. At some point I realized that he was drawing together threads of ideas he had explained over the last few years. But now, thanks to this story, I started to see how all the pieces fit together. It was a revelation, but more than anything I was overwhelmed at my stupidity. How had I not seen it? He had given so many clues and waited patiently and while I don’t know how others fared, I know I’d failed to even understand how to make the effort to fit these pieces together. I hadn’t even realized that there was an effort to make! I was devastated. Eventually I explained to him how I was feeling. And though I can’t remember his response word for word I can tell you the gist of it and that it moved me to the verge of tears (and still does). He said that is why each one of us is so valuable, each one has a unique perspective that only they have, their way of seeing things, and in sharing this they open up the way for others to see in new ways, and help complete our vision of reality.

As you note the idea of a register of the absence of consciousness of self is in fact a logical contradiction. If I am aware of consciousness of self it is not absent. It’s a wonderful paradox. You say to me “we think we are awake but really we are asleep” and my attention turns back to examine itself and I think “no here I am awake”. Of course in the next moment I slip back into my normal consciousness and everything once again becomes fantasy and empty words. How can I catch myself asleep if I’m not awake. Like so much of these works it is not as it seems. It is a trick but a useful one. It is as Negro said a matter of the “magic of the copresence”. 

Of course there are elevated experiences where that separation between the worldly and the eternal that you describe vanishes in a greater reality, however it seems to me that there is also a way of living and doing where that division effectively vanishes, not in ecstasy, or rapture but nonetheless in a functional way. Silo spoke of this in different ways at different times or so I understand him. When developing the theme of transference and self-transference for example, he spoke of the possibility of moving through the world with the world as the mind’s point of application. At other times he pointed to a doing (a way of being in the world) that was beyond the cold mechanics of the pendulum or the phantasmal optics of mirrors.

It seems to me that it is in the light of this other way that one can evaluate anew the meaning of the principles of valid action and begin to work with them in a deeper way. It is that possibility that in my own  private “slang” I call the Emerald Path. That’s a sort of mnemonic or mantra that helps me remember: that which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which above (or if you prefer, that which is outside is like that which is inside, etc). You might ask Roberto V about his take on all this.

Well, we know that all these ideas are connected and meditating on this takes us back to questions of levels of consciousness, and just as much to the themes of purpose and valid action.

So the practical questions you asked me about how I work with the simple meditation in reference to attention or principles is very much part of this theme. To switch the level of the discussion a bit, I’d say that my personal practice varies using different approaches at different times and then returning to them again. All of that I consider as part of my ascesis, this includes all my internal work, my studies, etc. I try to frame everything in reference to my ascesis/purpose. As the axis of that work I have my purpose, attention, the principles and the attempt to weave them into a permanent discipline. 

Around that permanent centre I have the other elements that make up my spiritual practice (to give it a perhaps misleading name). Some are more or less permanent, like my weekly Message meeting and the works connected to it. At times the work with the crafts has been an important element. Not so fixed in my schedule but really the heart of all of it is my ascesis in the sense of a particular kind of internal work where I sit down and carry out certain operations. The ascesis per se so to speak. But then I add on various other works, to clarify or strengthen certain aspects.  I might for example work on the relax over a long time in an attempt to investigate the deep permanent systems of tension, or I might investigate some idea or event. 

For many years I would try to follow a simple framing for all this (long before I knew of ascesis or had practiced a discipline). When I woke I would try, before opening my eyes, to set a tone for the day. I would think about what was coming up, how I would like to be (relaxed, open, attentive) and the difficulties that might arise and how I could  best face them (I was going to get shit at work, I was going to get pressured about paying an overdue bill, etc). I would recall the principle I had given myself to meditate on for this week. 

In the evening before falling asleep I would quickly review the day. I would look for moments of contradiction or confusion and moments of unity, joy, etc. I would try to look without self-criticism as if watching a movie or reading a story about someone. 

I found that if I gave no more than two or three minutes to these works it was sufficient. More and I tended to fall into reverie or divination. Despite, or because of, the brief nature of these meditations I found that after only a few days they changed my life in important ways, beginning but not ending with the fact that I realized that with the exception of really big events I didn’t generally know what I wanted or what had happened to me. It is like when one tries to track the rhythms of the centres through the week. Answering how much energy the various centres were working with is surprisingly hard; was today a 2 or an 8 in terms of happiness, attention or whatever? It should be easy but… I keep ending up with bigger questions: why don’t I know the answers? What kind of creature am I that I seem absent from most of my life as it unfolds? Who am I? 

As you said, there are many interesting themes to talk about in the non-virtual world. However, much as I’d love to see you and other friends in Europe I  have no travel plans at the present. I do hope I will be able to travel to the South for May but even that is far from certain. Mostly I can be found here in my cave. You are of course always welcome to visit. My cave has a room for other hermits and friends who pass this way. And there is always these other forms of interchange with have their own charm.

Warmest greetings and a big hug.