The nuthatch notices edibles on a tree that other birds do not. Going upside down or sideways, the nuthatch has additional vantage points for noticing the usually not noticed.
A human being has no idea how unaware one is until something draws this fact to one’s attention. Yet, Awareness is the nature of our essential being. We can never turn off cognition. Humorously though, we typically only register a small bandwidth of what is possible to be known and experienced. Hence our focus in meditation practice of most of this year on and off the cushion.
No doubt, you are more aware now than you were ten months ago; more aware of sensations, feelings, perceptions and modes of perception, of mental processes and how they get triggered, how hard they can be to calm also. You probably have a better sense of consciousness – which might not be easily articulated but has been more tangibly experienced as distinct.
You now have a more correct, meaning informed, understanding of the mechanisms that comprise your sense of self. In Buddhist psychology, these five are knows as skandhas (Sanskrit), the five aggregates.
- Form includes all manner of sensation and thus the sense of existing and things having equal tangible, verifiable existence.
- Feeling includes all the modes of initial registration or registering any type of contact, any type of movement or modification such as the feeling of a thought, the feeling designated by a sense (dense or liquid, hot or cold, etc). Feeling is the actual registration of arising, of contact, of our mind and awareness going toward something or going away from it.
- Perception is a stirring of the ingredients in the soup of a particular being’s habits of consciousness. Thus, watermelon will be watermelon to someone who has seen it, tasted it, or smelled it but would be unknown to someone who never has been exposed to it. That person would not even know if it is a fruit or vegetable. A goat, having other habits of consciousness, would know it as edible and wouldn’t think about anything else. Perception is a foundation for biases, where one looks for agreement, as well as complacency (one’s comfort zone). Perception also is wide open, can be ever expanding or easily programed (brain washed).
- Mental processes/impulses take the input from the previous three and codifies that perceived set of data: “oh, this is watermelon;” “oh, this is blue, that is green;” “this is right, that is wrong,” “this is exciting, or this is dangerous.” Where perception (the registration of distinctions and characteristics) is the foundation of bias and of agreement, mental processes are resultant seemingly stable forms in our emotion-mind complex about anything and everything. Blue is blue, right? A dog is a dog not a tree, right? Abortion is a woman’s right to choose, right? Or abortion is murder, right? Codified. Stable. Established. — Emotion-mind processes also tend along habituated pathways of emotion-mind processes; thus are a self-fulfilling loop which is one reason why habits (of any kind) are hard to change.
- Consciousness is like the ocean in which all the fish, water mammals, kelp, shell fish, and plastic abide. Consciousness is a blank medium, but like the ocean, consciousness is morphic, vibrant, vital, easily impressed, easily activated. The activity of consciousness can be a porous presence, empathetically aware and interactive. The activity of consciousness can be turbulent, churned by the input of the other four skandhas leading to creativity, or restlessness, or anxiety/worry, or excitement, and so forth. The activity of consciousness can simply be to BE.
You are more aware and present than you were ten months ago (even moderately so). Let us celebrate the discoveries we have made over these months, including increased Presence and depth of moment to moment being. No doubt, you have started to wonder “is this all there is – work, go home, eat, sleep; work, go home, eat, sleep?” As one becomes more aware in any way and any measure, one begins to wake up from the sleep of habituated consciousness. We begin to wake up to the worlds within that are happening all the time, the world around us, the world of each encounter with life or others we have, and so forth. We begin to care more about others because no know how unawake we ourselves were. I rejoice in your awakening!
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche put it this way, ”
You may hear sounds; you may see visions and sights of all kinds; you may have thought patterns of all kinds. All of those are connected by a binding factor, which is the mind. Therefore, whenever there is mind, there are possibilities of being aware of whatever is happening, rather than reducing the focus of our concentration to one level alone. Overall, this is what we mean by mindfulness of mind, where the cognitive mind is actually functioning in its utter precision.
excerpted from Mindfulness in Action, pgs. 93-94.