I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Meditation Challenge again this year, and my plan for this blog series is to write a poem or reflection on each day’s practice. You can find all the responses on the landing page.
Listening to Sharon’s guided meditation today, suggesting we allow our awareness to expand so that it feels spacious and accepting, I had that sense of twinned excitement and calm that flutters through me when people speak of unbounded spaciousness and openness, of unfabricated awareness, preconceptual awareness, non-duality.
“Having gathered our attention to some extent, we allow our awareness to expand. As well as being aware of the breath, we also include a sense of the body as a whole. Allow awareness to be more spacious a sense of the body as a whole, including any tightness or sensations related to holding in the shoulders, neck, back, or face. Follow the breath as if your whole body is breathing. We hold all this in a more spacious awareness. ” And after we open our eyes: “Bring this expanded, more spacious, accepting awareness to the next moments of your day.”
The experience I have when meditating on spaciousness, an expansive unbounded skylike sense of what is, is closely allied to that sweeping and pleasantly destabalising sense of non-duality, wholeness, oneness, the melting & dissolving of conventional borders to which we may have become habituated, recognising the unfathomable truth that I am one with all and all beings are one with all.
As I meditated today, I was reminded of a dharma meditation and talk led by Lama Willa Baker (of Natural Dharma Fellowship, my local Buddhist group) last November, and I’m copying part of the transcribed session here (I transcribed much of it from an audio recording and retained most of her speaking style. Bolding mine.).
“In Dzogchen tradition [the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism that Lama Willa is particularly familiar with], this gaze, this non-judgmental, loving gaze, is understood to be innate. Not something that we cultivate anew, but something that is already deeply present. Not only in the human but even in the animal world, that all sentient beings have, a non-judgmental, loving, witnessing gaze.
And in the Dzogchen tradition that gaze has a name. It’s called Awareness, with a capital A. “Rigpa” in the Tibetan. but awareness. There’s a part of our mind, our experience, that is just nakedly and barely aware. I don’t mean “barely” as in almost, I mean “barely” as in nakedly aware, pristinely aware, that is pre-conceptual, like the very first moment of perception, before we’ve labeled me and that world out there, a non dual awareness; and that non-dual awareness from the perspective of this tradition is already paying attention, and it’s already bearing witness.
The other part of our mind, the distracted part, isn’t paying attention and isn’t bearing witness. But underneath that distracted mind there’s also a part of us that is doing those things and what meditation practice does is it gives us a way to see through the innate eyes of awareness, so that we are in this full-on practice of being radically present, non-judgmental, and open. We get on board with the part of the mind that is nakedly aware ….
And many of these descriptions of awareness offered by the lineage of practitioners of meditation over the centuries, some of the terms used to refer to it include these words like natural, natural awareness, Innate awareness, unfabricated awareness, unconstructed awareness. In other words, a wild awareness, wild within the self, natural to the self.
And those words invoke for us natural, innate, sometimes even the word ground, Earth, is used to talk about awareness: The ground of our being. The seed of Buddha nature, the ground of our being. These words turn us very explicitly to the outer wild, the outer wild as a mirror of the inner wild or the inner wild just as equally a mirror of the outer wild, that the practice of meditation is getting us down to the deepest, wildest part of the self, the most unconstructed.
We might even say the part that is opposite the manager. We are all very familiar with the manager in the self. You know this, the manager that constructs our world, tells us what to do, controls everything, the controlling manager of the mind; but there’s also this very wild animal in us that is free already, and very present, very aware underneath our thinking mind, underneath the manager, and so finding access to that wild is the practice of meditation.
That’s much of what we do in the practice of meditation. And so it isn’t surprising that in the Dzogchen tradition — the one that really emphasizes this wild within, the natural awareness, the nature of mind, natural, being the ground of our being as this home that we come home to in our practice — that many of those practices include open-eye gazing at the sky, skygazing practices, open-eye gazing at the natural world as a place of meditation, not gazing with the eyes closed, not meditating with the eyes closed, but meditating with the eyes open, so that the mirror, the natural world, is reflecting back to us the deep, wild nature within….
This witnessing of the wild is quite different from witnessing the specifics of the wild,
in which we name the trees, and we might analyze the way that birds interact, or we might analyze this or that. It’s not that kind of witnessing, that’s another kind of witnessing, a very conceptual witnessing, but this is a non-conceptual witnessing of the natural world, allowing that sense of difference between this and that to melt and dissolve.”
I don’t really have more to say about that right now except that this is the kind of landscape that feels like home to me in the outdoors as well as in meditation: expansive, spacious, essentially empty yet saturated, in the process of becoming, sensory (the feel of air moving, the feel of terrain, shadows, light, tide), uncertain, unbounded or whose boundaries are dissolving, a place that evokes and nurtures something pre-conscious and pre-conceptual in me. Unfabricated. Elemental. Open. Already Home. Belonging.
“I should like to be the landscape which I am contemplating, I should like this sky, this quiet water to think themselves within me, that it might be I whom they express in flesh and bone ….”Simone de Beauvoir, from The Ethics of Ambiguity