Ordered to be Free: a Meditation Learning

You are structured and commanded, i.e. ordered, to be free. That means you are required to do actions that will be acceptable only if you do them voluntarily. This basic contradiction that underlies our sensation of personal existence is the reason why most people are confused. It is the source of a nagging sense of frustration at the root of all civilized human existence. Thus, you are trying to solve a self-contradictory and therefore an insoluble problem: how to be responsible? 

The word “responsible” carries a contradiction. It carries freedom – you are able freely to decide upon your own actions, yet you must be responsible. You must do what you are told. So that paradox creates the sense of the separate self, which, if anything, is a hallucination. It doesn’t correspond to any observable facts whatsoever. Although separate and having a clear outline and identity in that sense, the separate organism is situated and inseparably constituted through its environment.  Although every human character is unique, the behavior of organism-environment is a single field of behavior. This is factual from the standpoints of physicists, biologists, and ecologists… and now, increasingly, educators, sociologists, psychologists, theologians, and philosophers

Yet, our experience, our sensation of our existence, does not accord with the facts. What seems necessary to do is not to “get rid” of the sense of a separate self; you can’t do that. You can’t clean grease from your hands using grease. Trying to get rid of it actually intensifies the feeling that it exists as a real thing. The self exists in the same way as a border between countries, i.e. as a social institution. Both are imaginary boundaries that have a certain pragmatic convenience to them. However, when you start mistaking social institutions for physical processes, you are under a hallucination. 

So then, could we go to a state of consciousness, without giving up the spotlight, or the faculty of conscience attention, and for constructing symbolic worlds if you will, by selection among our sense impressions? Could we do that, not by itself in a vacuum, but against the background of more generalized awareness? After all, every particular activity, every tracing out of details, requires a background. So the background of ordinary attentive consciousness is generalized awareness. Thus the more you become aware of generalized awareness, the more you realize, that you and the external world are a single process.

There is a Zen saying: “when looking for a pillow in the dark, the mind is all in the hands.”  One can shift one’s mind all over oneself. Normally, we think of the mind as something that is in the head. Chinese and Japanese people think of the mind as in the center of the chest, i.e. the heart-mind. Westerners think there is a little person inside their heads who directs it all. Beyond the mind just being in the hands, you can get into a state of consciousness where your mind seems to be all over you. Instead of feeling that you are looking at things, you feel rather that you are becoming them. The whole external world communes with your consciousness in a very different way than usual.

The reason why this can happen is, of course, that all that we feel about the external world is due to the structure of our bodies. What you are seeing now in front of you is how it feels in your optic nerves. Your brain, and all that goes with it, is translating whatever there is in the outside world into features of itself, called color, texture, shape, weight, and the like. So all that you see is you – really and physically. It must be added that one of the things in this external world is you. So you are both external and internal. You are something in nature, and all that you know of nature is you, and the trick of generalized awareness is to consider both of these things simultaneously. Sometimes it might feel as if everything you see is inside your cranium. And the next moment it might feel that your brain is in the middle of everything.

In this state of generalized awareness, you decreasingly discriminate between what is important and what is less important to hold in focused awareness. To enter this state, one must first slow down – to suspend judgment on what you ought or ought not to be doing. As you may have guessed, I am describing the initial stage of the process of meditation. Essentially, you cannot meditate well if you do it as a preparatory exercise for something else – you will block yourself off to the state of generalized awareness. Meditation is NOT self-improvement. Do not enter it under any such delusions. There is no one to be improved. 

Meditation is a form of enjoyment. It is a way of appreciating the universe so that all our senses become much clearer. All our senses, when not thinking about them in generalized awareness, become much richer than when we think about them. So everything starts to be more real, more alive, and more glowing. We enter into a state of non-judgment about things not as either good or bad.  In doing this, you are introduced to a fascinating world.

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