Stepping beyond the net into the ocean of awareness

By By Sal Barba, Ph.D. | Sep 11, 2013

“To be intimate is to feel the silence, the space that everything is happing in.” – Adyashanti

In my previous column entitled “Dominion of the heart,” I accidentally omitted one of the 5 As by David Richo. “Allowing” is one of the 5 As for the maturation of adult love.

Allowing is necessary so that we might experience the freedom to live in harmony with our deeply felt needs, values and wishes.

Allowing supports us to become independent in relationship and in life, concurrent to learning the next level from independence to interdependence; seeing our interconnection with the environment around us.

This might be a good time to pause and look at your life. Imagine looking at your life from a personal picture journal. See yourself graduating from elementary and high school, possibly college, then your first job, your first love.

See your achievements, as well as steps that you haven’t taken; times of loss.

Now, look in the mirror: Who are you?

Consider what has changed in your body, your perspectives, pleasant and unpleasant experiences, your mood.

Ask yourself: In every time and place, what in me has always been unchanging?

Can you sense there has always been, is here right now, a consciousness that knows, a space of awareness that always perceives what’s happening?

If we can begin to realize this mystery within our own existence, our relationship to this changing world shifts into a larger perspective—one that minimizes the preoccupation with the narrative self!

Through the mystery of awareness we can hold the personal sense of self more lightly. We don’t react so strongly to things not going our way.

Sri Nisargatta writes: “The real world is beyond our thoughts and ideas; we see it through the net of our desires divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner and outer. To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes…”

Although, I have always be drawn to the promise of “enlightenment forever,” I have realized that this isn’t my path.

The idea of enlightenment for me is a concept—one that has the potential to lure us away from attending and relaxing in the space of our daily life. We can learn through this realization how to shift from a mundane life to an extraordinary life.

The journey of awakening for me has been a gradual, painful and troublesome process at times in weaning myself off from the addiction to the trance of self. My baggage is really the same!

Over the decades of my life the only thing that has changed is that I trust awareness, and my own felt experience of living and loving presence; acceptance of my experiences as familiar, relatively real to the sense of how I am in this moment with whatever my interactions are with what is before me.

At moments when I am most miserable, this trust in my sense of a loving presence and awareness resides in the background of whatever it is I may be struggling with and points me back to my way home.

When our life brings us intense pain either through a painful moment of realization in an interpersonal conflict, we can remember the wisdom of letting go, reflecting in awareness, offering our whole troubled, twisted sense of our controlling narrative self into loving awareness without eliminating anything.

Aldous Huxley puts it this way: “Each one of us is potentially Mind at large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of the Particular Planet…”

We don’t rid ourselves of our functional self. We just need to recognize the aperture of attention narrows when we find ourselves defending our narrative self.

In these condensed moments, our narrow focused attention is our key-navigational system guiding our ego-identified self; a self that is myopic, narcissistic and unable to see the negative impact it has on the environment around it.

We learn to unhook ourselves from our story lines by training in open awareness. Tara Brach writes: “How we pay attention determines our experience.”

If we do not reflect, our experience reshapes our brain into habits that can insulate us into a narrowed perspective, and “we don’t perceive our background experience…the ocean of awareness.”

The good news is that we can shift from our narrow-focused state to this more inclusive “ocean of awareness.”

As some of you know, mindfulness practices have become an integral part human interaction. As a health care provider, I use mindfulness in my integrative therapy with individuals and couples.

John Amodeo writes: “Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy has demonstrated effectiveness for people having repeated bouts of depression…This approach invites us to acknowledge our feelings and accept ourselves in a mindful, compassionate way, while pursuing what is important for us. Rather than trying to fight our pain or control our feelings, we embrace them but without being controlled by them...”

John goes further by writing: “Fearing the future or lamenting the past removes us from the moment only if we don’t allow ourselves to experience the felt edges of our fear, sorrow, or whatever is felt from the inside right now.”

We return to the present moment when we bring our full attention to the whole of our felt experience related to our thoughts or feelings.

I will continue to explore the skills offered in Dr. Amodeo’s book and others in the upcoming columns. Until then, stay connected and relax in the ocean of awareness.

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