In the last couple of years I’ve moved around a great deal living in half a dozen living situations. In the process I’ve been looking at how I create security, stability and a feeling a safety in my life. During this time I had very few of the usual things most people associate with security and stability, things like a house, a car, a job, a long term relationship or money. I’ve had all of these things in the past but in my process of transformation had to temporarily let them go one by one. My intention in letting them go for a while was not because they are negative or problematic but rather to look at my attachment to them and my motivations in having them in my life. You see, all of these so called sources of security have also been sources of suffering for me. They have caused suffering because they are unreliable, temporary and fail to meet my expectations. One thing we can say for certain about external sources of security is that they are temporary, they do not last forever and they change, often in ways we don’t like.
In letting these things go for a time and moving around so much while unraveling my identity (who I took myself to be) it became more and more clear to me that the only way I could find lasting security, stability and peace of mind was to look inward. However when you initially look inward you find the same problem as with the outward sources of security. Thoughts, emotions, beliefs and states of mind are as temporary and unreliable as money, jobs and relationships. If your stability, your grounding is based on thoughts and emotions you are in no better shape. I found this out the hard way but having exhausted these possibilities I began to look deeper.
At a deeper level I started to get in touch with something I could not describe very well with words. It is something many spiritual teachers call the witness or the watcher. In some forms of meditation the instruction is to simply watch or notice what is happening, both internally and externally. You hear a sound you notice it, you feel an emotion you notice that, you start thinking and you notice that. That’s it, you simply notice everything. In this process you naturally get distracted and start fantasizing, when you realize this you simple return to noticing without any kind of judgment on yourself. This seems really simplistic at first and often difficult because its not so easy to just notice without getting caught up in thoughts, feelings, fantasies or external events. But that process of noticing opens up a deeper level of consciousness, awareness.
When we feel angry if we can notice that we are angry and maintain a small degree of awareness, that awareness is the part of us that is not caught up in the anger. If we were fully in our anger, taken over by it, we could not notice it. The witness requires separating ourselves in a way from our experience. We can see it as a temporary passing state of mind and we then have the choice of not reacting from it, instead we can just feel the anger and let it pass through us. With practice awareness becomes something we can draw on for security and stability because it is always available no matter what is happening externally or what our state of mind is internally. Turning our attention to awareness has an effect of dissolving our problems because when we take our attention away from a problem and focus on awareness we no longer create the problematic story. We simply see things are they are from a calm peaceful state of mind so we can accept or we can see what needs to be done and do it without struggle. This is not a passive way of being but it asks us to pause and get in touch with awareness so that if we do take action in response to a situation the action is not a re-action but rather a conscious in the moment response to what is needed. This tends to produce a very different result compared to reacting to a situation.
Attention may be the most powerful tool we have to shape our experience. Most of our experience is a direct result of where we put our attention, where we don’t put it as well as the quality of that attention. If a friend of mine is supposed to meet me for coffee and she doesn’t show up and my mind goes into a story that she blew me off to hang out with another guy my attention is now going into creating a problem and the suffering that goes along with it. If instead I choose to put my attention on the raw experience of the moment I may find that I’m perfectly ok without her showing up, I’m drinking my coffee and enjoying the moment. My friend may have blown me off but much more likely something came up for her. It is interesting to look at your problems and what makes you suffer and see how your attention plays into that, how much drama is your mind creating and how many of your unpleasant emotions emerge from that drama?
In an even deeper sense, awareness is a direct connection to life or source. In awareness we are in touch with our true divine being. When one is fully present in the moment with attention focused on awareness miracles happen. Life is spacious and free and the natural abundance that we are all a part of can flow in and out of our life. There are no problems here, only challenges. There is no struggle here, effort is expended freely and flows with circumstances producing just what is needed. We all have the capability to experience this awakened state if we practice with awareness and directing our attention consciously. We are already free if we can just re-learn to live in that freedom……..