The hidden reality
People go about their daily lives: shoppers shop, politicians pose, philosophers think, psychologists treat, and businessmen strategize. They eat, talk, have fun, struggle, rant and rave, kiss and make-up. But there is a terrifying reality hidden beneath the surface. The choppy, frothy surface may be wave-tossed or smooth as glass, but underneath there is a common thread in the vast mass of humanity. Although this truth eludes almost everyone, it has been emphasized with extreme clarity, at least from time to time, by a few rare followers. It sounds like a metaphor, but humanity is asleep – deeply asleep.
This is not a hyperbole, a poetic description or an analogy of the human condition, a social commentary on the condition of men and women. This is a literal fact. Almost everyone you meet or interact with is in a robotic state, reacting according to a million gross and subtle "personality" programs and subroutines. It's not just physical mannerisms, facial expressions, or postural styles that are subject to habitual programming. The full spectrum of human emotional reactions and thought patterns forms complex stimulus-response mechanisms. These do not require the presence of a real person, just as self-checkout scanners replace individual cashiers.
The awakened difference
What does being asleep, or conversely, a truly awake state imply? It simply means to be self-conscious, aware that you are alive, present, and that “you” are something different from your sensations, your feelings, your thoughts. You are neither your biology nor your biography. By increasing this self-awareness a little more, we know that we are something other and something more than the story or narrative through which we live. We can, time and time again, find this world we inhabit, by turns strange, comical, poignant, shocking, but always mysterious. To an awakened mind, the experience is fresh, strange, funny, alive and imbued with its own buzzing consciousness. Yet, looking at people's faces, you will perceive that they are fully identified with the story they are experiencing, the thoughts they have, the words they speak, the movements they make. You will not see in their lively conversations, nor in the thoughts and memories that pass across their faces, any sign of awareness of existence. Self-awareness also goes hand in hand with self-observation, which is directed in a more conscious way.
Awake and conscious falls
There's a huge mistake waiting in the wings, just champing at the bit to get on stage and resume the show. And it is the illusion that this movement away from mechanical existence is enlightenment, is a kind of extraordinary satori. The the in a sense, but ultimately it's just about becoming a real human being, a "normal" person. The constraints of the mindfulness movement are much more widespread. These teachings have obviously become remarkably popular over the past two decades, and have become the darlings of corporate and healthcare training, college courses, and large and small-scale programs. Although this has generated a new stable of mindfulness gurus who seem to have the answer, most are completely asleep.
Yes, it is entirely possible to dream of being awake. A big part of mindfulness is being attentive, focused, paying attention to what you're doing, not multitasking or getting distracted. This is only indirectly related to self-awareness or seeing oneself in the image, not being identified with feelings, sensations, events and stories. This is not the same as the traditional idea of objectively noticing one's own existence as another object experience. Nor is it necessarily an escape from the programmed and habituated self, the social, societal and conditioned persona or mask. Indeed, it is behaviorism in a new form or form of relaxation therapy or stress relief. This can have wonderful benefits in learning to be less reactive, to focus more, to listen better, to not get caught up in emotional states. This behavioral self-improvement, like literally any self-help, can be accomplished during “waking sleep.” Gurdjieff defined nocturnal sleep as the first state and the sleepwalking of waking and walking of daily life as the second state. In fact, self-awareness is the third state in this framework.
The vacuum scam
You are a field of consciousness. You are not a composite of cells, molecules or atoms. The atomistic concept was proven false by Plato's time and was abandoned until unearthed and revived by Descartes (1596-1650). Things exist as fields of meaning, on their own side, as the physicist explains well Wolfgang Smith and others. Thinking that the world around you is “in your mind” is a form of insanity. Likewise, the idea that you formed the perception of the outer or inner world from a chaos of energies and bits or particles is patently false. Yes, these fields, like all phenomena, are evanescent, changing, ephemeral. But these persist. The chair from a moment ago is definitely different by a tiny fraction of its entirety. But deep down, it remains a full chair, a full-bodied and fully expressed chair. The great problem with modern Buddhist thought is that it is tainted from the start by the strange machinations of materialism, and atomism in particular. To think that something is only the sum of its parts is obviously false, if not the idea of a simpleton. The human body does not contain 150 pounds of chemicals or atoms from the periodic table. It is made up of many higher order forms– organized cells, a highly organized tissue system, incredibly complex organ functions, and a mind-boggling overall integrity that drives an entire orchestra of a trillion cells. These energy and information fields exist on their own. The body is real, just like the mind, and not reducible to its parts, after which it no longer exists. But even then, it was still, in its entirety, a field of being and, in the case of humans, a field of consciousness.
This is also not the type of phenomenologisty which studies the subjective experience of people. In this sense, he also falls into the same errors of seeing the external world in a nihilistic way, as not being what it is, but a compound of ever smaller units, not ever larger meanings. large. Between nihilism and eternalism we have the middle way, the world of temporary or ephemeral reality. It is not invented by us, but experienced by our human sensitivity, however superficial or deep it may be, from person to person.
The observer who is not
One might think that this self-awareness is just a repackaged version of the "observer" approach to meditation or lhatong (clear vision). But it is often a form of self-auditing or behaviorism, as in mindfulness-based self-improvement. Once again, we fall into a sort of schizophrenic or artificial thought process – not a higher or higher order level of consciousness that is inherent and pre-existing. As one psychologist's blog perfectly puts it, "the answer is to develop a number of new neural pathways in the brain that act as a kind of surveillance system." The myth of the brain producing the mind – for which there is no evidence or logic – is now overlaid by the myth that you should monitor your mind with another part of the mind – at the same level. From the moment we are conscious of ourselves, we are external to the thinking and mechanical mind. This misunderstanding is terrifying, because any potential concept or method of awakening can be devoured by the demon of the waking sleep state, imagining new dreams upon its awakening.
Close but no cigar
Note that periods of awakening from the depths of waking sleep sometimes occur, even if momentary. It happens in a moment of surprise, fear, pleasure, or anything else that temporarily takes us out of conditioned, habitual stimulus-response patterns. But because it is not appreciated or understood for what it is, it quickly sinks into the sea of unconscious experience. Buddhists are absolutely right when they insist that “seeing” is fundamental to enlightenment or realization.
Without an accurate map of the psyche, a philosophical understanding of the inner landscape, opportunities will be missed and the wrong path will be taken, almost every time. For example, if I am consciously told to “scan my body” and be aware of each part, this is a great technique for relaxation and positive biological changes. But if I sense and feel the “I”, the consciousness that does this is consciousness. So there is a well-trodden path to awakening and the next steps after this fundamental leap. But the forces of sleep run deep, and we live in societies that depend entirely, from top to bottom, on the mechanisms of sleeping people. Wokeness is the ultimate threat to the unsatisfactory and literally inhumane world we live in today. There is no political or social solution to the human condition without awakened beings. And awakening is never intended to create such solutions, but is indeed the by-product of them. Simply observe yourself in your context for as much time as possible during the day, without worrying about the results or in order to “fix” yourself. If this is done, the intention is already the remedy which brings out from the lukewarm bath of dull mechanics, a shocking splash of the icy water of presence.
Asa Hershoff (Lama Jinpa), Kathmandu, October 2023
Dr. Asa Hershoff
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