How does the world really work? Who are we? Why are we here? For the last few hundred years, modern thought has been dominated by a scientific worldview, a systematic approach to the world, valuing what is perceivable and measurable. This has resulted in a number of remarkable achievements but leaves the bigger questions of life largely unanswered and has an unintended tendency to make life meaningless. If we are here as a result of random consequence, where is purpose and morals?
It also leaves out vast sections of human experience such as emotions, mind, and consciousness, relegating them to side effects. In the focus on details, we have lost the big picture and forgotten who we are.
|Photo by victor_nuno|
To understand who we are and what it’s all about, we have to turn this understanding on its ear. Lets start with what we know.
Our world is said to be composed of energy and forces, laid out in space and time. All of these are transparent, not perceived directly. Energy and time are only experienced by effects like heat or change. These are measurable, but only in relationship to something else. In context and in a closed system. By itself, out of context, such measurements as weight, speed, and position are meaningless.
Consciousness is the same way, transparent but known initially by inference. We tend to think of awareness as a side effect of brain functioning but actually it’s the other way around. Consciousness is primary. Mind, the process of perception and everything we perceive all occur in and arise from consciousness.
This may not make sense from our experience. Partly this is because the mind functions and filters experiences based on its beliefs. It is very difficult to see what the mind filters out. Also it is about the place we are viewing from. Let’s consider an analogy. How clearly can you picture the outside of a house if you have only seen the inside? If you perceive yourself to be this body-mind, you are residing inside the house. As we first begin to step outside through meditation or some such ‘consciousness expanding’ process, we begin to see the outside but at first only at night. Over time, we come to see the whole house in daylight. And then along comes a helicopter and we can get a tour of the neighbourhood, the town, the county, and so on. These ideas then shift from being strange to being obvious.
Our own awareness is the key to understanding what is. And we can discover this truth with simple observation. Whenever we have an experience or feeling, we can ask ourselves “Who is experiencing this?” This is known as inquiry. When we simply pay a little more attention to who experiences, our perspective begins to change and the process becomes apparent to us.
If we practice a technique to connect with pure awareness within, soon the clouds begin to clear and the nature of ourselves as the awareness that observes all becomes obvious. Then we begin to see how everything arises not in front of that awareness but within that.
Part 2 of 4