Years ago, when I taught meditation using that phrase, it had plenty of meaning. Our mood, frame of reference, orientation, even how much caffeine or other substances (the inside) literally create how we perceive and, thus, interact with others and the immediate environment (the outside). Now, with the open-ended question of “who” (is thinking, is emoting, is wanting, is doubtful, is confident, is angry, is excited and so forth), we are recognizing that the “who” is a chameleon. The “me” is an ever changing actor on the ever-present stage of the moment; even when only with our self and the enveloping accoutrements of a moment. Our insides do, in fact, create our outsides.
“Noticing the usually not noticed” has matured into a living vipashyana practice: an ongoing potent insight practice. Insight into what? Into the “who” and its self-made reality constructs. Some constructs are shared or agreed upon with others, with society, or with tradition. Some are innocuous accepted frames of reference like blue, yellow, gender, or 1+1=2 though such are realized as arbitrary with a little analysis. Similarly so the sense of self: fundamentally, it’s arbitrary which is why it is so changeable and changing.
Revisiting shamatha basics is a reminder of them but also provides another opportunity to let be, for the do-er to see that it tends to make a big thing even out of no-thing. So, we sit. Quietly.
Each instant is a union of myriad, and possibly uncountable, factors. Causes and conditions, choices and preferences, aversions and avoidances all conflate and project a seeming moment, an apparational sense of self and what it ephemerally is experiencing.
Note all the mirage-like words.
This dream-like reality which is so real to our senses, emotions, common mind, and sense of self is the true meditation seed, which is why present-moment Awareness is the focus in this cycle of meditations. “Who” is an ever changing combination, an arising of factors stirred together by the unrecognized myriad factors mentioned above. And, the only way to experience this ever-changing “who” is to notice how changeable it is, how spontaneously arising it is, how costume oriented, too.
But that requires spacious openness which requires shamatha and its union with vipashyana. So, we meditate.
This meditation is simple, like so many that we do. The simplicity is a teaching and a training. I wonder if our modern world has almost obliterated simplicity? I wonder if, unless one has chosen a reclusive and rural life, is simplicity possible anymore? Yet, one has choice; every moment. Is simplicity a by-product of our environment and circumstances? Yes. But only these? No. Simplicity -the simplicity of Awareness- is our natural state like the simple clarity of the space all around you right now.
After sitting with this simplicity for a while, we complete the meditation and then reflect upon what is being conveyed, in part, in the Buddha’s teaching on “brightly shining,” and “luminous.”
There are many levels and layers to what is pointed at. We begin with clarity. Clarity is bright, specific. To read these words requires the brightness -the clarity- of the mind, the mental processes involved in reading and interpretation, as well as whatever specific emotional responses such as the ah ha’s that occur. This process -specific and vivid- plays out as one chooses clothes to wear, chooses words to speak, actions to take, as well as the specificity within robotic, unconscious actions or activities.
Emotions are bright as in distinct. Joy is distinct from happiness, doubt specific from worry. Each is bright in that each is recognized discreetly. The emotion of anger is sharp, clear, and vibrant. The emotion of desire is vibrant and alluring due to its vibrancy. Desire is why a moth goes to a flame, even when that means death. The vibrancy of desire does the same within a human being all too often: slow death through unwise habits with food and behaviors such as addictions for example.
More on this subject is on the podcast after the meditation. “Luminous is the mind, brightly shining” might not be experienced by someone as a lamp turned on or the sun in the sky. Nothing is wrong with that person or their experience. The error is thinking that the Buddha’s terms are that reductive and limited to visuals.