Thursday, December 12, 2019

Awareness and Consciousness

If consciousness is the pervasive, intelligent energy from which all things emanate, what exactly is awareness? Is it a localized expression of consciousness within a living creature? I say "creature" because animals and plants are aware — although, perhaps, less self-aware than humans — yet probably more aware in and of their natural surroundings than we humans are.

A person's senses are less tuned to their surroundings because civilization offloads various tasks to specialists: food cultivation and gathering, security and protection, habitation and sheltering come to mind. Not having to do these things, the things we take for granted, actually dulls our overall awareness, making it more difficult for us to be, or to become, self-aware.
"To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are… Yet it is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and hence never had a good look at it. The result is that those most dissatisfied can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent, and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation."
~ BRUCE LEE - Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization
What role does awareness play in our lives? Is it necessary? Is it a quality or a skill we can learn or acquire? Is it incremental? Something we can gradually snuggle into? Something that connects us to higher consciousness? Something that illuminates and enlightens? If so, how do we acquire it? How are awareness and self-awareness related?

When we think of awareness, we might cite spatial, temporal, directional, and emotional as types of awareness.

Let's start with the spatial variety, a quality many people seem to lack even a basic sense of. Is that bad? Depends on how it affects you. In Paris, some streets are narrow and crowded: people walk directly into each other without thinking anything of it. They don't even try to avoid one another, leaving foreigners mystified. "Why don't they watch where they're going?" is a common reaction. Part of it may be cultural: the French don't respect lines; they cut right in and no one complains. What makes it even more startling to the outsider is the lines are long, but unlike, say, an American, they don't think cutting in is unfair. Welcome to Germany, where people respect lines and form them automatically.

Something I've noticed recently: in American grocery stores — the ones with narrow aisles — some people allow their carts to block the aisle, heedless that someone else is trying to pass. I try to figure out what's in the back of a person's mind when they block the aisle. Is the person making a statement on a subliminal level: "I'm not getting enough attention. If I block the aisle, people will notice my new hairdo."

Spatial awareness is a very basic form of awareness: you in relation to objects, animals, and people. I don't know which is worse — getting upset when someone blocks the aisle or letting it get to me. I compare this type of lack of awareness to being out of sync with the circadian rhythm; both are the result of an inflated sense of self-importance, which, itself, is the result of being over-civilized.

Which brings us to emotional or psychological awareness, the antidote for our detachment from nature and our self-alienation — the notion that when you block the aisle, you are aware that you are doing the blocking, and that someone is being blocked. This is the self-awareness, the self-remembering, that Gurdjieff and Ouspensky wrote about — being aware of self and other at all times so you can control, not only your conduct, but also your emotional response to every situation — what pathfinders like Gurdjieff and Gopi Krishna recognized as the doorway to the energy continuum of higher consciousness. 

If you stay at home, never go out, your life consists of the remote control and whatever's in the fridge. Once you step outside, however, you're in the world of emotional responses and self-awareness.

Growing up, I didn't think about self-awareness. Nevertheless, without my realizing it, my first thirty years were a quest for self-actualization and one of its offshoots — self-awareness. Everywhere I looked, every door I opened led to failure and further bouts of self-destructive misadventure, but I kept looking.

Then, one day in 1971, I began a meditation based on The Secret of the Golden Flower — without any foreknowledge or expectation of an outcome, either material or immaterial. No dreams of illumination, no fantasies of enlightenment. No Facebook, no Internet, very little word of mouth, it was a much different world back then. I was on my own before anything happened and when something did, I was still on my own.

What happened was kundalini, not an awakening so much as an earthquake that shook my body and unleashed a multitude of autonomous and autonomic resources that started to retrofit my body. Here "Retrofit" is used in its dictionary definition: an act of adding a component or accessory to something that did not have it when manufactured. Of course, kundalini was present, but like a computer program that includes a secret feature to be activated at some future date, it was dormant. It did not have to be added, only awakened.

All of which, at the same time it revitalized my being, revealed to me the self-awareness I had so vainly sought.
"This body of ours is something like an electric battery in which a mysterious power latently lies. When this power is not properly brought into operation, it either grows mouldy and withers away or is warped and expresses itself abnormally. It is the object of Zen, therefore, to save us from going crazy or being crippled. This is what I mean by freedom, giving free play to all the creative and benevolent impulses inherently lying in our hearts. Generally, we are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another. All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance… When the cloud of ignorance disappears… we see for the first time into the nature of our own being."
~ DT SUZUKI - What Freedom Really Means

And through this self-awareness, I became aware of the consciousness that is the Mother of all things — truly the gift that gives on giving. I was folded into it. And why not?

It's in us and all around us. Ready for us to become absorbed, assimilated, integrated into It free of charge. Yet, just as Suzuki warned us, our connection to it is tenuous and fragile. To not avail ourselves of it carries with it difficult-to-avoid, dangerous tendencies, so ably described here by Bruce Lee.
"There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others and thus free ourselves from the responsibility for acts that are prompted by our own questionable inclinations and impulses. Both the strong and the weak grasp at this alibi. The latter hide their malevolence under the virtue of obedience; they acted dishonorably because they had to obey orders. The strong, too, claim absolution by proclaiming themselves the chosen instrument of a higher power — God, history, fate, nation, or humanity."
 ~ BRUCE LEE - Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization
There are ways of avoiding these ensnarements; mine happened to be the unwitting result of kundalini meditation that, during the time I practiced it, never once did I encounter the term "kundalini," proving, once again, that labels don't much matter.

I didn't have to work at cultivating awareness; it was byproduct of the consciousness (as manifested through kundalini) that took over the superintendence of my being.
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