I received an email the other day. It posed two questions that I’d like to share:
1) Why is it really impossible to go on living moment to moment with full awareness?
2) How come "unwanted thoughts emerge" and we can't wipe them off!!?
Sometimes I am inclined to think that we have an innate ("evil") tendency which we have to learn to know and co-exist with...but how!?
Good questions, I think. Right to the point.
So, why is it impossible to live moment to moment “fully aware” once we understand how nice that kind of life would be?
It’s because full awareness cannot be maintained through our good intentions, our meditation practices, or intellectual understanding.
Full awareness is maintained automatically by the body, our physiology.
Or in other words, enlightenment is a state of consciousness and each state of consciousness is supported and maintained by a specific physiology.
This is the nature of all states of consciousness.
Spontaneously we shift from waking, to sleeping, to dreaming.
We cannot will ourselves to remain asleep forever, or stay in a beautiful dream.
We wake up. And then, we cannot remain awake forever.
It is the same with remaining “fully conscious.” We cannot will it.
The Body has a will of its own.
If you have insomnia – intellectual understanding is no cure. The more you think about the insomnia the less likely you are to fall asleep. Telling yourself to go to sleep is a futile endeavor, only increasing your agitation.
Similarly, intellectually understanding that there is something called “full awareness” won’t produce the state. And trying to remain “fully aware” is futile. The moment our attention lapses full awareness is gone.
But, we can effect the shifting back and forth between states of consciousness to some extent.
We can go to bed, lie down and wait quietly. Soon the body slips into sleep.
Set an alarm clock. You are likely to awake on time.
And too we can affect the quality of our sleep or wakefulness by the things we do that affect our physiology. If we want to have a good, alert day and not to be dull or sleepy, we know that we need a good night’s rest, eat correctly, and avoid excessive drugs and alcohol.
This everyday knowledge of how to behave and support our everyday states of consciousness is similar to knowledge of spiritual practices: meditation, inquiry, yoga, Qigong.
All these practices help orient us towards fully awakening.
But, in the end, awakening to full awareness happens through Grace, when all the ego’s efforts get out of the way.
Or as the Sufi paradox states:
If you seek Him,
you will never find Him.
But if you do not seek Him,
He will not reveal Himself to you.
It’s a fine line to walk.
And this is the short answer.
There are other equally valid ways in which to answer the question. But, this is from a physiological perspective. It can be flushed out a bit by other comments I’ve made in the past.
But that’s it for today. As I wrote Mario – they are making me work at work these days.
(Some people have all the nerve… is that a negative thought surfacing? Oh, NO!)
So, off I go.
Hopefully, tomorrow I’ll get to Question #2.
Thanks to Carolyn Garcia for illustration: Svengali.