Illumination: opening our space of consciousness

Illumination? What is? And why we could wish it?

Illumination“: the action of illuminating or state of being illuminated: such as spiritual or intellectual enlightenment. Is a state characterized by making less thoughts, almost no one, less reactivity, almost nothing, free of desires, and at the same time a sense of deep peace and also be very awake, very connected with all. There are many ways for achieve such state, but first of all, is a desirable state? Why we could wish it?

Donald Trump, a mind oriented to power and personal welfare

There are people that have a well balanced life; their minds are highly structured, oriented to personal wellness. Since they were young, they look for stability, surrounding by “appropriate, correct people”  and moving away from “inappropriate people“, they looking for the appropriate sentimental partner, also for a good job, etc. Are people that don’t worry for the problems of other unlucky people, is not their problem. Is a pragmatic position, even an intelligent  attitude. Death of relatives and friends is pragmatically accepted without ask themselves questions about the meaning of life. For such people, talking about illumination is merely a nonsense, a sort of escapism from the reality, without any utility nor interest. They are not illuminated at all, and also don’t wish it at all.

From a higher point of view, a broader perspective, such attitude is merely a mental construction, a mental framework: a set of thoughts, desires, points of view, that the person takes as the reality, their reality, ignoring all the other point of views that don’t coincide. Any mental framework for life is necessarily an enclosure for the person, that includes some points of view and excludes others. Are strong frameworks, and people identifies with them, they are their mental framework.

Richard Feynman: a mind oriented to science and personal welfare

Of course not all the people trying to have a life well correlated with their mental framework are successful; many people fail, having bad jobs, bad marriages, suffering a lot with the death of loved persons, having children that are not as expected, having chronic diseases, etc etc. Such unlucky people suffer a lot since the very moment life don’t coincide with their ideal mental framework. They are candidates for illumination, that can bring them peace and welfare even in their bad circumstances.

There are another people that, even living quite well, have an intellectual restlessness, an impulse to understand life with their ups and downs, not simply accept it, but understand. Other people feel compassion, a sense of unity with all the mankind, is not possible for them simply ignore the suffering of the people, they experience the will of help people without any reward. They are compassionate people. Both people with intellectual restlessness and compassionate are also candidates for illumination.

Consciousness beyond thoughts

Opening our consciousness

As we said before any mental framework for life is necessarily an enclosure for the person, is impossible understand life while we are enclosed in a mental frame (by the way the name of this blog, The Closed Room, referees to this concept of closed mental framework). Illumination requires break any closed mental framework, maybe not at all, but at least we need open a door or a window for let the light enter the room and enlighten it. Such room is our space of consciousness, habitually full of our thoughts.

When we let the space free of thoughts, other visions of reality can enter into. In the moment that visions enter in our awareness, it may happen that our mind closes back to them because such visions are not correlated with our mental framework, even they can be incompatibles with our old framework. We need an enhanced awareness for realize such resistance it the very moment that appears, then relax the mind, and accept the vision as it is: acceptance is the key word here.

So, for be able to open a door in our closed mental framework, we need

  1. first of all the will for it, the base motivation for work
  2. working for develop the abilities of perceive on the fly the emergence of mental resistances,
  3. relax it,
  4. working for develop the acceptance of whatever appears in our consciousness.

When we work in this way, we see how a consciousness free of thoughts, opened, relaxed, wide, peaceful, very awake, appears in our lives. There are many methods for work in this line, is not the aim of this short post to talk of them. This opened consciousness is the very start of the illuminated state, we only opened a door for fresh air, but is the first step, the necessary one.

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No words

Words represent concepts, actions, and relationships between them, they help us to get an idea of reality, and to transmit it to others.

But the reality is too big, too complex, to be enclosed, represented by ideas, concepts and words. The simple direct experience of what is happening, moment by moment, is beyond any conceptual description. The same life is itself indefinable. The most important things in our life are almost impossible to describe, and if we do, we reduce them, we are not able to explain them as they really are.

What do you experience looking at that?

Think of some important situation in your life; if we have to reproduce it in words, we can only mention partial aspects of the life experience we had, even if we are very good at relating events, our inner experience will resist being conceptualized, reduced to words.

We live all that we are aware of, and only what we are conscious of, but our own consciousness itself is beyond any exact description, we can only describe partial aspects of it. Therefore, our contents of conscience also resist being fully explained, reduced to words. Frequently we live states that we are not able to describe accurately.

We have been educated to conceptualize everything, we spend our lives thinking almost compulsively, but life itself is not a concept, nor any set of concepts, is much more than that. There are no words to describe life, as there are no words to describe what we are, the totality that we are. And yet, we can discover what life is and who we are, but for that we must open our minds to the non-conceptual experience, it is necessary to directly experience life with curiosity, with attention, without judging, without wanting to reduce everything to concepts , simply perceive and understand. And what we understand, we can not represent it with words, because we will be left speechless. At most we can only give approximations, indicate clues for understand, but do not go further, you have to experience it in the first person, it can not be full explained.

Contemplative attitude

Beautiful-Sky-710x533

Short contemplation

You are walking in the countryside, thinking of your things, paying little attention to surroundings; then, distractedly, you look away and watch a wonderful landscape, it was there for a long, but you didn’t notice it yet. In this moment, your mind stop, no thoughts, no worries, you only contemplate the panorama, and for a short time, you experience a silent and peace mind, a  mind only observing without any intellectual motion. However such state is not lasting, your mind is not trained for to keep silent, and after a moment the thoughts return. But for a moment, you was contemplating.

Escaping

Sometimes our mind exhaust us with tones of worries, remembers, pending tasks, and other stuff. in that times we want to escape to another place, hoping the distance from our habitual environment also be a distance from our habitual thoughts; sometimes it works, up to a point, sometimes not, because we took our mind with us wherever we go. Anyway, for a lot of people the only way to rest from their own mind is escaping to another physical place, or doing something distracting, like watch a movie, talk with friends, etc. All of this escaping ways are short, they are short relieves.

Lasting contemplation

At the beginning of the Christmas holidays I felt the need of escaping: after months of hard, continuous work, days of shopping, endless queues, family meals … come near. I really desired be calm, not all of these Christmas stuff, but, how can tell it to my family? It was impossible. Suddenly the idea came into my mind: wait a second …

you are looking for the state of contemplation, through escaping far away, to a calm and peaceful place, but you can adopt the contemplative attitude right here and now, no need to physically escape, instead, escape from your thoughts now!   

An attitude is a mental disposition, also a mental state related to such disposition. A trained mind can be directed to a mental disposition at will. So, then, I put my attention behind, behind my thoughts, in the center of the mind, an action to which every experienced meditator is accustomed, having done it daily for years: centering the attention in the middle of the  field of consciousness. I wrote about this meditation ability time ago in this blog: Centeredness of attention

The result was I found myself contemplating all my field of consciousness, thoughts included, also external things. The dis-identification of my own thoughts, a natural result produced by the centering of attention, brought me the peace I was looking for.

Ant it really works well … I was able to pass throughout all the “holidays” very peacefully, like I was alone in a far mountains watching a spectacular sunset. Have been the best Christmas I remember in many years. Obviously, the next challenge is keep such state even at work; hope I’ll be successful.

The canvas of the mind

Canvas and figures

Imagine we have in front of us a white canvas and a marker pen, and we feel the need, the impulse of drawing …hello1

If we are, or with training, we become a good experienced drawers, we have no limits in our artist expression … from simple forms up to complex ones:

canvas

Our mind tends to attend preferentially to the draws, the objects on the canvas, not on the canvas itself; but clearly all the figures need a canvas, a base, for be drawn, for exist: without the canvas base nothing can be drawn, this is clear. Are the figures more “real” than the canvas? Of course not, because canvas also exists, and furthermore, is a prerequisite for the existence of any drawing, so in some way, canvas seems more real than the figures. Because canvas have no form, our mind tends to ignore it.

Canvas of the mind and thoughts

Similarly, any thought arising in the mind can be seen as a figure, an object, created on a canvas. What is such canvas of the mind? We can notice it paying attention, and meditation is an excellent tool for train our inner attention. I only can recommend what I’ve tried for myself, but is not the only way: doing mantra meditation, that is, repeating slowly a word or a short phrase, at least twenty minutes every day … when we are able to pay full attention to the mantra, then we can try the next level of the training, paying  attention to the silence between words, expanding it (so we need to repeat more slowly the mantra), since the pause between the words be so vivid and clear than the words itself; that mental silence is the canvas of the mind.

As a paper, the canvas of the mind contains infinite possibilities, all kind of thoughts can arise from it. Paying more and more attention to the canvas it acquires more reality for us; eventually, with enough time, the feeling of a quiet ground will be noticed even without any mantra or meditation technique, it will be felt between the daily routine, giving us a feel of solid peace beyond any life circumstance. Why? because attention focused on anything get the thing into our consciousness, so putting together our  consciousness and a stable, non limited inner mental space gives us a expanded new perspective  of ourselves and about the external world. Is not difficult achieve such state, is enough with some weeks of daily training for be able to notice it, and some months for stabilize it. The benefits are important: we carry with us an imperturbable inner peace, with no limits, with no conditions, and in this crazy world such peace is inestimable.

 

“They say they think with their heads”

There is a story according to which C.G. Jung, the well-known psychiatrist, met while their journey to Mexico with an Indian named Ochwiä Biano (mountain lake), this one comment:

The whites always want something, are uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think they’re crazy.

When Jung asked him why he believed that all white men were crazy, the Indian replied:

They say they think with their heads.

Jung, surprised, said: “of course, don’t you do so way?”, and the Indian, pointing to his heart, said: “We think here.”

Actually now a days there are a revival of the role played for the body in decision making, strange as it can seem for our intellectualized society; there are IQ, intelligence quotient, but also EQ, emotional quotient, and emotions born both from body and mind, and even SQ, spiritual intelligence quotient. The body reacts to the environment independently of the intellect, and with training we can feel their instinctive messages. If Jung was true with their theory of collective unconscious, our body, thought the individual unconscious, is able to connect with the collective one and get information beyond the scope of our intellect.

Maybe the ancient tribes was true, and the excessive use of intellect in the developed societies is the source of most of our troubles, maybe is time to recover our body intelligence, our connection with the Nature and the whole.

 

 

Meditation on individuality and self-realization

Individuality

The evolution of species has endowed us, the human species, the quality of developing a sense of individuality, the quality feeling ourselves as someone separated from the rest of our environment. At physiological level this ability is related to brain region called the neocortex, which also have all mammals, but in our species is especially developed.

From birth we have a potential for individualization, to be “someone” separated from the outside world. As the person physically developing from childhood, adolescence, reaching adulthood, personality is formed, that is, a psychological “construct“. Then the innate potential of individualization uses personality  to create the illusion of the existence of a separate, autonomous individual, an individual separated from the external environment.

We say illusion because personality is a more or less unstable web of ideas and memories: the person is not really their personality, but has a personality. Clear here there is a certain contradiction in terms: “person” comes from the Greek próposon, and referred to the mask worn by actors in Greek drama theater; clearly this mask shapes how the actor is shown, the person is the mask, personality, his performance, but the actor is not any mask.

mascares_gregues

Ancient Greek dramatic masks

But what really makes us individuals is not any personality, but the ability to be individuals; we are individuals as we have the ability to be, the personality is built, and is renewed day by day as an expression of that innate ability.

Meditation on the ability of individuality

The mind has, among its many wonderful qualities, a particularly curious one: it is able to observe itself, as in a mirror, using the functionality we call attention, the ability to focus the mind on an object, whether physical either mental. Attention is usually either serving our thoughts or abroad if we are doing an activity that requires it. But we can train to serve one’s mind, delving beyond personality, reaching the bottom of the mind.

Level 1: relaxing body and mind

For a “standard” person, that is, a very busy one with an endless list of occupations, concerns, problems, etc., to divert attention from the thoughts can be difficult. That is why the first step must be to calm the mind, let her relax, but without losing the attention; thus we freed from his bonds attention. There are many useful methods to achieve this first stage, we will not talk about them here, just mention one of the oldest and most effective, besides simple: abdominal conscious breathing, which focus attention on the breathing process, to be be slow and relaxing.

Level 2: mindfulness

If we get some ability to stop the mind and yet maintain the active attention, without falling into drowsiness, we are ready to start the next most advanced stage: draw attention to the back of the mind, seeking to connect with our potential for individualization, trying to “see” with our attention without intermediaries. It is a process that can take months or years, but for us we have that possibility exists, and has been reported by numerous testimonies.

Even without fully complete attention-deep, the practice produces remarkable effects. When training such attention, we have the ability to direct or stop direct the focus at will, regardless of thoughts or external events. When we are able to direct attention at will, we can be aware of anything inside or outside, without thinking about it: is a state called mindfulness. There are currently a lot of literature about mindfulness, and mindfulness meditation, but indeed mindfulness is a state of the attention, not a meditation: you can reach the state of mindfulness through any meditation technique, once it has worked enough. We will not discuss here the benefits of such a state, because as we have already mentioned there a lot of literature. Mindfulness has also been described as an end, as a goal, but in fact it is merely an intermediate step in the process of self-knowledge and self-realization, a state that must be achieved before accessing deeper levels of self-knowledge.

Level 3: connecting with our deep self, self-realization

If the person really has a compelling need to know, to know himself until the very end, then he can continue working, deepening attention, looking for the source of the individual, seeking to live, feel, just the sheer ability to be someone, beyond any intellectual content. It is a very interesting process, because as we discussed is the mind itself that directs its focus beyond any object, whether physical or mental. A priori it seems a contradiction, that the mind is able to know a primary potential that is not related to anything, but with training and perseverance the goal can be achieved, and have done so many truth seekers of different traditions.

That ability to be someone is in itself a potential self, but a self do not leaning on anything, is a “self creator”, that from the experiences of life is surrounded by a personality through which it is expressed. But the inner self is not any expression, is no expression, is pure “selfhood”.

Effects of self-realization

When the mind connects with the pure potential of individuality we gradually realize we are somebody regardless of external circumstances, need not identify with anything outside to be somebody. In fact, absolutely everything that exists becomes external to the self: the person focuses on the deep I, and from there she “see” both inside world and outside world. As a result, absolute freedom of thought and action is experienced, because by not identify with anything regardless of all is achieved. Also, you are somebody, and that somebody is indestructible, no matter what happens: an  unusual mental and emotional stability  is achieved. The mind is always calm, not only during daily minutes of meditation; as a result the emotions are soft and positive, negative emotions do not fit in a calm mind and a trained attention. Fears also disappear because the person knows she is indestructible, being someone beyond body and mind.