Waking up the innate powers of connection to experience, and integration through practice.
For this written piece I want to assume something, offer something that is true and accessible in its first form, and highlight the principles that are demonstrated as a result.
My assumption is that yours and my senses work in much the same way, only differing in the degree of subtlety and particular detail. I also assume that we share the ability to connect to something, to a phenomena with our attention. By focusing with our attention we entrain ourselves to the object (or subject) of our focus. The connection deepens with repeated practice.
Another very important thing we share is the ability or the potential to be curious. Curiosity is a certain attitude of awareness to the unknown. Without curiosity, we can learn “by rote” and repeat certain patterns, but there is not the spark behind the action to also ignite joy and invigoration: the action is imitation only. Curiosity is fueled by something, propelling us forward effortlessly. We can be curious within repetition and discipline, but we must start with curiosity. It is like planting an orange tree before building a house, we work to construct the scaffold and the structure and so on, whilst knowing that the oranges are on their way. We can know that the house we build will be richer for its shared beginnings with the orange tree. Later in the life practice, the orange tree continues to give, and the life of the home is both structurally sound, and nourishing. In this way curiosity must be part of the foundation of any expedition of transformation practice.
There must be a certain level of innocence within this work: not naivety, but rather a lack of constrictive agenda. Our maps of meaning and value, and the story we tell about our experiences can either amplify or eliminate. An approach to practice that is open enough to allow the unexpected, to allow us to be surprised, is really essential to the process of making meaningful connections and learning through synthesis.
What I'm pointing to here is a certain power or character trait. It may seem an obvious statement, but consider the following: a thread has one loose end, as we follow the thread, we enter the weave, and as we pull and manipulate the thread, we change the weave. Curiosity then, is a way or method of pulling a thread, or following a trail. Using a curiosity with our senses in direct perception practice will have a certain affect on the weave. What we perceive will respond to that particular tone or attitude. It is not the only way to manipulate the weave, but having left gaps for the unexpected to flow through, we end up with a richer pattern, and a subtler experience.
So if the attitude of curiosity is at least somewhat established (or rediscovered), we can become aware of the way or feeling our attention works from that basis. Once the sentiment and practical focus are symbiotic, real change starts to occur.
But what is the weave? What realm do we want to focus our beings on? Assuming we can at least categorize the difference between thinking and feeling, ideas and sensation (or the combinations thereof), we can choose where to focus: thinking or feeling, imagination or sensation. I don't want to make value judgments on the personal practice of individuals, but rather offer a perspective on integration: Self-localization is the ongoing process of connecting to the resources of the present moment. I'm specifically referring to the sensory information presenting to the awareness, that precedes the layering of meaning that comes after. The assumption is that the attitude of curiosity is an open enough map to allow this direct experience to pass the filter.
So if we are practicing to localize the self, and approach deeper and deeper levels of embodied connection through direct perception, curiosity is a great attitude. By extension, trust is the glue of integrity. As the sensory experience within the present moment unfolds, as the weave shifts and shimmers, we slowly establish a deeper connection that is orientated around permission and non-violence; deeper subtlety, more reliable feedback; ongoing trust in the act of practice.
Another way to say this is that the mundane can be nourishing, if we approach our sensory experience with the right attitude, this curious focus. The point is not that we will have some kind of revelation (we likely will have many), but rather that we can begin to redefine success, redefine the feedback relationship with reality to allow the best conditions for simple satisfaction. Integration is moving towards the safety of being interconnected through voluntary practice, accessing resources made available according our own curiosity; personal allegiance with ever-present forces. The orientation around simplicity, localization and the present moment reduces the dynamic tension of transformation to a gentler level; I.e sustainable practice.
There is another assumption within this whole model: that practice can be in any moment, any space. That the living experience itself is one continuous thread within the weave of life. The way we wash the dishes, the way we sit and write, the way we sit and talk with friends, work and play, love and grieve, rest and travel. The way we move with each step, breathe each breath, all of this is the weave, and our particular point of awareness is a thread within the larger pattern.
Improvisation is a process of responding to the moment, making decisions within a state of flow that holds our attention and our sense of purpose. Improvisation allows focus through uncertainty, continuation through variation, and authentic connection to experience. Sensory improvisation then, is directing focus effortlessly in connection to sensory phenomena, relaxing into choice and curiosity in such a way that we nourished by our own awareness.
The way we follow the thread; pulling the string, affects the weave at large. We experience more of what we do; we are the weave, speaking back to ourselves through sensory phenomena.
One main implication of spirituality being that Spirit pervades all, encompasses all, permeates all. So you can be a punk rocker who spits on a tomb-stone, says yoga is a pile of rubbish and reckons spirituality is only for hippies, and even then is still a manifestation of Spirit, because Spirit precedes all ego-rational definition and differentiation... thus: One Zen Master to Another: "Oh... the Horror... the Horror..."... perhaps because the true compassion of Spirit, the true tolerance of Spirit does not even bother to claim it is closer to the truth than the punk...identification itself (with labels or experiences) becomes paler, loses its appeal, and possibly falls to the wayside.
We don't lose our ability to judge however, because our judgments similarly arise from an experience validated by our self-inclusive compassion.... We retain our ability to choose and prefer, but we are not slaves to our expectations or disappointments.
If all emanates from spirit, as the sages tell us, then right now, we have the possibility of experiencing liberation, we just need to recognize that the Self that is already liberated. There is no spiritual advancement, you either recognize your true nature or you don't.
The preoccupation and identification with spirituality can give us a kind of tunnel vision, only seeking and accepting certain flavors that validate our "spiritual selves", but the Self or the Witness is omnipresent, and importantly, infinite. This means there is nowhere it is not, there is no-one who is better or worse at spirituality, nobody who has more permission or legitimacy. Every being and experience benefits from the compassion of Spirit, and is held. All joy and hope, grief, pleasure, pain, fear and anger, happiness and disappointment, desire and disgust, peace and satisfaction, passion and depression, all is included. Even our existing identities, those polished and fussed over idols of ourselves, those too are included.
And it is not so simple to say that spirituality means "about meaning and purpose", because a focus on meaning and purpose implies a possible lack of meaning, and a lack of purpose..which in the true experience of Spirit, is a mute point, because assuming Spirit is the origin of all things, and permeates all things and all time, then there would be no meaning beyond existence itself, and no purpose because there is nowhere to go:
There is neither creation nor destruction.
There is neither destiny nor free will;
Neither path nor achievement;
This is the final truth.
Sri Ramana Maharashi
Every sentiment or desire for advancement is part of the weave that exists within the already omnipresent spirit.
However, Practices DO help us to better body/sense function, to explore pleasure, difference and activity... To better function in the human context, to have a greater capacity for compassion. Yoga and related embodiment practices help us to translate experience from suffering into equanimity, but all such experience, the former and latter exist within the envelope of spirit, and as such is secondary to the Real, the Unchanging.
So we can better align our attention-sense-attitude (through practice) with the surrender of identification with the temporal phenomena...but it is not the Spirit that advances, and it is not us that advances, it is only that we recognize the truth already inherent... that spiritual practices can lead us to a Transformation that raises our awareness above but including the differentiated realm, resting the true Self as unchanging.
When I say "all practices train the attention" I say that because that is what we have to work with...we cannot "increase spirit", or advance spiritually, because we already are that. The only improvement is the attention-sense-attitude at exploring and changing state, but all such change exists within the awareness of Spirit.
We practice with our attention, or to put more directly, attention itself practices experiencing/exploring... it is the naked awareness that perceives all phenomena. The source of attention IS the unchanging Self.
So training the attention is discernment, but identification with discerned elements is still limiting the true capacity of the attention; to recognize its own divine nature, permeating all manifest phenomena.
So we must practice but not identify. Explore and strengthen the embodied experience, but recognize the transcendent Self, the Spirit that is the source and seat of All.
Experience = Awareness. Awareness is not a thing, it is not differentiated, who is aware?
Advaita: Not Two.
Michael Maso Ellis