Waking up in an environment that is as stunningly beautiful as this one is, I can not help but be drawn to topics that interest me at the core. In the context of abject silence, blanketed by wildflowers, tall oaks and wind breezing through tall pines, all captured in an aroma of earth and sea, I love to contemplate aesthetics and specifically consciousness.
What and who am I? I mean what about who I am gives me the capacity to appreciate and call something beautiful or to call something love. The context is a plot of land minutes away from the sea and from ice ponds on the piece of land that we New Englanders call The Vineyard. There must be several acres of pristinely cultivated land that yields not only the brightest of red tomatoes, but also is dotted and spotted with more colors than the eye can count. All this is set in silence. I can not hear any human made sound. No lawn mowers, no leaf blowers, no exhaust, no fumes, no a trace of human activity that is anything but throughly respectful to sustaining the environment. Even the water is heated by the sun. Birds flutter and tweet and the breeze blows through a sun drenched screened-in porch.
Can you tell that I am happy? Can you tell that I am in love?
I am keenly aware that the setting and the people here are all contributing to an exuberance that is not always possible while existing in the hum-drum aspects of my ordinary life. I do not have a big-life, and ordinarily I am scarcely aware of that fact; but today, here and by juxtaposition, I am experiencing the fact that both quantity and quality effect my days and my moods of consciousness.
I am attempting to experience a visceral understanding of being as opposed to knowing. I find that when I sit with the attempt to meditate that I do not want to pull myself away from the beauty and the sensations of delight that are running through me. I do not want to trade in the experience of exhilaration for the experience of stillness. As I pondered this, I began to wonder if I was perhaps understanding a greater resistance. Meditating is difficult for me, but also for many people. And when people talk about the difficulties with meditating they usually talk about a condition where they are unable to simply stay focused on the moment and their mind drifts to thoughts or visions or concepts and ideas, more exciting than stillness or breath.
The desire to run away from the stillness might be the same in this moment as it is in any other moment. I do not want to leave my dialogue. I do not want to leave my persona and the experiences it is creating in the moment in order to experience a moment of “simply” pure consciousness.
Pure consciousness is a form of being that is removed from the egoic perceptions, including the perceptions that are specifically created as a direct result of our linguistic competence. If my egoic self is the result of evolution and if by extension my persona–who I tell myself I am, is a product of that evolution, then it would seem that meditating is actually a return to a more primitive aspect of the human condition. Essentially meditating looked at this way is a regression to not only an earlier aspect of my life, but, indeed a return to a less evolved human condition that existed prior to humans linguistic.
To void oneself of thought, one has to be able to turn off the portion of the mind that creates thought. If we think of this in terms of location we are saying that in order to meditate one has to be able to get away from who one has decided that one is to a place in the mind where the ego is not functioning. This place is perhaps more akin to experiencing nothingness than it is to a location. But for sake of language, let’s say for a moment that the ego evolved or grew out of the brain as a cluster of activities that allowed one to categorize and synthesize events and experiences. As this ego grew both from the macro point of view and from the micro point of view, it became associated with learning about the world that it was born into.
I am firmly convinced that my dog is capable of the same experience of lying in a spot of sun at home in my city apartment as well as it capable of enjoying a spot of sun in this idyllic Vineyard environment. To be honest, that is not the experience that I have. There are conscious moments during which I seek out an aesthetic environment in order to be able to experience more joy and more exuberance that I can find in my “ordinary” life.
In other words, in order to facilitate my experience of joy, I create conditions in which joy is more able to be allowed in to consciousness. So here, this morning, sitting in a porch with the sea breeze and the colors of the world dancing in my senses, it is much easier for me to relax into a kind of state that is absolutely wonderful. From where did this joy come. It seems unlikely that it actually comes from the setting as much as it comes from my allowing the setting to be absorbed in a particular fashion that then registers as exhilaration. Aspect of consciousness that are not being impinged upon by ordinary responsibilities, are open to the wider sensation of being because my more primitive senses are more acute than they might be in a less idyllic setting.
So, have I suspended higher, more elaborate forms of consciousness as I allow myself to relax into a cradle of pleasant sensations. At least, I think that I have. But it may be less that I have escaped from the egoic persona as much as it a different concentration that is providing this moment of joy.
I seem to have closed down avenues that in another setting would bring me closer to synthetic thinking and instead I am simply contemplating the experience of the pure sensations and because they are each so pleasant, I do not have a requirement to “do” something with them. Instead I am simply able to feel the experience which is a more elementary human condition than is complex thinking.
At the same time, the aesthetics of the location are so stunning that they open up a new rivulet of consciousness that is unchartered and therefore more amenable to creativity. My consciousness is both elevated and suppressed at the same moment. I am aware of the simplicity of being and also am gratified by the experience that this simplicity offers in terms of being able to have progressive or new combinations of experience leading to my openness to creativity as opposed to my being open to the routine to my ordinariness.
My being able to suspend my customary dialogue about who I am, about what persona has evolved with me since my early years of existence, allows me to use the same circuitry that I use to navigate my environment in a new and creative manner making it seem to me that I am existing outside my persona. In actuality all that I am doing is being or existing outside of my habit or routine. And this fact is so delightful to my consciousness that i think I am in a different state.
It may be that I am not in a different state at all, rather I may be using an unfamiliar combinations of circuitry. The same set of circuitry that creates my ego, but rearranged in an unfamiliar pattern–the new unfamiliar pattern my be what I call my creativity.
Nonetheless, the experience of creativity is a sound mechanism for me to be able to use to exit my narcissistic ego. As I move from one state to the other–location, or circuitry–I find within my frame of reference a newly born capacity to rearrange either negative thinking or bad-habit thinking, or simply ordinary routine thinking into a sort of synthesized newer version of the old egoic me. Because this feels so good, I am able to label it well-being and with Practice I am able to remember this sensation of well-being and with low-key effort I can call on this remembered-wellness most any time that I want to.
In a future essay i will take up some of the reasons why this remembered wellness is only available most of the time and try to shed some insight on how we can increase the number of times and situations that this remembered state is available.