Are you present? l Worship

By Sal Barba, PhD | Feb 07, 2018

Most of us do not question our basic state of consciousness that we live with in our daily lives. This is a fundamental problem that most of us do not realize.

Our lack of presence in our daily life is our principal problem.

It is what psychology and spiritual psychology refer to as “unconscious identification!”

We don’t begin to learn how to reflect until some time in our adolescence.

As children, we develop our self-image based upon what others tell us about ourselves. In general, we become identified with an image based upon what we learn from others, and it isn’t until later in our development that we begin to reflect upon our direct experience and discover a larger sense of who we are.

To pull ourselves out from this unconscious prison of self-identity, we must begin to step back, or bifurcate our observing self into an “I-thou” relationship.

There is the part of self that observes what is being felt or experienced.

I like the way John Welwood explains this emerging awareness: "All reflection involves stepping back from one’s experience in order to examine and explore its patterns, its feeling textures, its meanings, its logos, including the basic assumptions, beliefs, ways of conceiving reality that shape our experience…By comparison with identification, this kind of self-reflection represents a giant step forward in the direction of greater self-understanding and freedom.”

However, in most disciplines such as in western psychology and Buddhism, the client and/or student develops skill in examining their mind through a conceptual framework. For example, some therapies introduce conceptual reflection.

These therapists pursue an explanation or attempt to change the problematic contents of the client’s experience, rather than working with the client’s direct experience.

This relatively crude approach misses the opportunity in working with the client’s immediate, lived experience.

In some Buddhist traditions, such as in the Mahamudra tradition, the student learns the view from the teacher, who is connected to a lineage of great masters.

The teacher provides instructions/teachings that give skill to the student so the student may discover the vastness of awareness through their direct experience.

The danger, however, in this approach is that the student may confuse the view, which is conceptual, with their direct experience, because one can’t have a transformative experience if one remains at a conceptual level of understanding.

In the Mahamudra teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, there are two essential distinctions regarding reflection:

The first is Sems, which means to conceptually fixate on something such as thoughts, etc. The second distinction is referred to as Rigpa, which means freedom from fixation. Rigpa refers to a state of natural wakefulness without this or that, or without dualistic clinging to this idea or that idea.

The distinction between these two forms of reflection is important.

In the first one, we remain trapped in the stepping back form of self-reflection. As we mature into self-reflective skill, through the guidance of the spiritual teacher’s pointing out instructions that lead the aspirant to discover their direct experience, one learns to become accepting of one’s experience and become comfortable with relaxing in it.

This approach can also be experienced through some forms of contemplative-based psychotherapies with a seasoned psychotherapist.

Our presence deepens through learning how to be present with our direct experience because we discover how to awaken within our experience.

We begin to learn that experience and awareness are ungraspable.

Instead, we simply rest in the clarity of a larger awareness without any attempt to alter or invent our experience.

This is how and where we experience direct knowing, direct recognition (without conceptual reflection, such as in the duality of an I-thou relationship) of our own natural state without self-reflection.

 

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