By Bob O’Hearn / 08.05.2016
When we consider the nature of our own apparently fragile existence, as well as that of the world and all of its varied phenomena, many questions tend to arise, so let’s take a brief moment and see if we can recognize what’s actually going on.
First of all, it’s obvious, with a bit of clear observation, that we are not living this body which we presumptuously call “mine”. Rather, this body itself is being lived. That is, we don’t willfully expand and contract our lungs, beat our heart, pump blood through our veins, grow our hair and fingernails, and so forth. What does?
Well, all sorts of answers have been proposed over the ages, but when it really comes down to it, we don’t really know. Our actual condition, we must finally admit, is one of not knowing, despite all the machinations of the human persona’s intellect.
Perhaps we can just say “life”. Life is living us, and likewise, it is living everything. Furthermore, nothing is happening independently of anything else, so we can also see that everything exists “dependently”. Nothing is really separate from anything else. Everything is connected.
Also, we can notice that we are not the same person we were as children. Everything has changed, everything except our awareness of being-ness itself. When all is stripped away, there is that one thing that has not changed: awareness. This awareness — it is not even “ours”, is it? We did not bring it into being, and whatever we do, it remains just as it is, regardless of the modifications of consciousness stemming from our fleeting notions, agendas, and experiences.
The more we step back, turn our attention around, and become aware of being aware, the more the vagaries of existence cease to puzzle and trouble us. All the questions we once imagined were so critical now crumble and dissolve, as we proceed with this simple practice of being aware of being aware. We are immersed for the first time in a silence. This silence, if we are to persist in it, reveals something wonderful — the most amazing miracle! It is indescribable, but those who have plunged into it will know.
In retrospect, the initial recognition which we all seem to share is “everything is real”. Beyond that, the next realization (perhaps after a spiritually transformative experience, like a profound NDE) is “nothing is real”. Both stages depend on the idea of a personal self experiencing them. When even that idea is eventually seen through (because we have recognized that everything is appearing dependently, and is being lived by a power or process beyond its own design), pure awareness spontaneously comes to the forefront. The emotional highs and lows spawned by hope and fear are replaced by simple ordinary living, undefined and unlimited by the previous self-absorption. We grasp at nothing, we turn nothing away, because that is just the natural way of being.
With grace, a kind of unconditional love begins to peek its head out from beneath the covers. It is unconditional, because it does not depend on satisfying the desires or soothing the fears of a personal self. The sense of personal self remains as a navigation tool in the midst of the objective world, but we know now that the objective world itself is a very provisional proposition, a kind of holographic projection, as is everything but this simple awareness that is prior to the body, and prior even to the consciousness which forms the constituent essence of all appearances.
The natural affection we now feel for all of life springs from the realization of both its amazing beauty — that there is something at all, rather than nothing — and also its impermanence — that nothing lasts, it is all just appearing, thriving, and disappearing in waves of some kind of ecstasy for which nobody has a name. It is one indivisible whole, a bright flash of light in an ebony dark, and even though it is also a kind of mirage, we can still say, with the same confidence of the illumined mystics, “All is well”.