Dear friends, colleagues, students
It seems important for me at this point to write of my realisation that while mindfulness is important it is really only just the beginning. If we accept that mindfulness has to do with remembering (according to popular definitions), it is valuable in that it helps us to separate out the observer from our thoughts, feelings and emotions. It appears that mindfulness has to do with identifying, recognising and naming forms of internal awareness (sensing, feeling, imagining and thinking) and developing knowledge through focusing on this internal awareness.
When we are able to develop what Ken Wilber calls an ‘internal centre of gravity’ – something grounded we can begin to locate at our core no matter what threatens to destabilize us from outside- we are then increasingly able to access a form of knowing that comes from within, that is authentic and not based on opinion or external forms of evidence.
Like many other developmental processes after a period of practising mindfulness we may develop a grounded sense of a witnessing awareness or observing self or seer that is aware of the reacting self going through its usual habitual machinations.
It’s not quite how it happened for me though, as it wasn’t a linear process.. as in other parts of my life I tend to get a taste of something much further ahead and then need to take time to integrate that awareness but over time I can see that the ‘monkey mind of automatic reactions’ has calmed somewhat down and my everyday awareness has begun to be more integrated with my peak experiences so that states of luminosity and illumination, as well as stretches of profoundly peaceful stillness and mental quiet and an expansion beyond the ego into deeper and deeper states of non duality are becoming steadily more commonplace.
I wasn’t quite sure what mindfulness was when I first started inquiring into its nature when I began this blog in January 2013….. having become more conscious of mystical experiences and the gaps between mystical and mundane experiencing I see that it is indeed about re-remembering, constantly re-membering to detach from the pull of mundane consciousness, which calls us to identity with conditioned thoughts and feelings. I now see my interest in both sociology and psychology more clearly, firstly the realisation from sociology of the conditional nature of many of our thoughts, feelings and actions according to worldviews of adults around us and the society in which we are raised, and secondly from psychology in its emphasis on the need for individuals to accept that to work only on the level of societal structures means that individual thoughts and feelings are never worked with directly.
While I have always been interested in philosophy I have only recently become deeply engaged with the pre-Socratic philosophers who I have learnt from the work and teaching of Peter Kingsley who knew that individual experiences of for example depression had to do with so much more than the individual but were connected to the devaluing of the feminine and nature in the aggressive pursuit of knowledge at the expense of wisdom in the West.
I began this blog with the idea that it was important to deepen our understandings of mindfulness. I now know mindfulness is just the beginning…. to become aware of the breath, or thoughts, feelings or the body is just a way to start detaching from the automaticity of much of our responses and reactions.
As Kingsley has shown, the Western path of mindfulness begins with becoming conscious through our senses. We begin to look and be aware we are looking, listening and be aware we are listening, feel our body against the chair or floor, feel the taste of our tongue inside our mouth, be aware of what we are smelling around us…. and doing this with all the senses at the same time. bringing them all together. We are then embracing our culture with its wonderful inventions and discoverings, but bringing much needed wisdom to balance and to highlight harmful forces.
In this way we are not leaving the senses behind as in Eastern teachings which say we need to attain a ‘sense-free’ awareness since reality is maya which we should turn away from but by consciously using all of our senses at the same time we may contribute to conscious evolution of humanity on this planet. If we do this we start to become aware, there is our sense of sight, there is our sense of hearing, there is our sense of feeling what we feel, our bottom on the chair, or our shoes on the floor. The hearing, the seeing, the feeling, the tasting, the touching. …. it is difficult enough even to do one of those consciously, but if we do them all consciously at once , we become aware of this infinite blackness between them, which is our own Awareness.
It’s not mindfulness exactly, but mindfulness helps us re-member to use our senses properly.. we are drawn out by our senses so easily, by our desires, our wants, our needs, particularly when we are out in the world, so we need mindfulness to remind us to come back, go within, check in with each of our senses and integrate them, something the ancient Greeks called ‘metis’ or ‘common’ sense. It does become easier over time but certainly takes a fair bit of mindfulness practice to help us keep re-remembering for a while.
Once we have a sufficient centre of gravity we can go deeper, and deeper and access wisdom from within which we then interpret and analyse with our intellect, just as in all the disciplines in Western civilisation – mathematics, physics, philosophy, medicine, biology, astronomy and so on, not invented by the mind but received and interpreted.. as suggested by the dreams of many famous scientists and inventors who ‘saw’ their discoveries in sleeping or waking dreams first… more of this next time…