Four Steps To Direct Awareness Download
The primary practice as a method to awakening to what is ultimately true. The audio for this series of podcasts was originally recorded on audio cassette. As such you may find the sound to be of a lower quality.
In the Mahamudra Prayer by Rangjung Dorje, one verse reads
Look at an object; there is no object: one sees mind;
Look at mind; there is no mind: essence is empty.
Look at both and dualistic fixation subsides on its own.
This is the path of practice embodied or implicit in the next section of Seven Points, practice on ultimate or awakening mind, Awakening to what is ultimately true. You will recall the instructions were,
Look at everything as a dream. Examine the nature of unborn experience. Even the remedy releases naturally. The essence of the path: rest in the basis of everything.
Right now put your attention on any object, your breath, a spot on the floor, it doesn’t matter. That’s focus. As you focus attention forms, and let that attention include everything that arises as sensory experience. Experience everything all at once. You may find your attention going to one object or another or a sound. And as soon as you do, expand your field of attention from that object to include everything again. And just keep doing that until you have some sense of resting in the field. [Pause] Now include all the internal material: thoughts and feelings, beliefs, and what have you. Keeping the field of all sensory experience, include all thoughts and feelings, all the internal material, so that there’s no inside or outside. [Pause] Now, this is another method of placing attention.
What was your experience with this? What happened to all of the concepts such as floor, heat, light, people? What happened to all of them?
Student: They dissolved.
Ken: They did? Still here. A dreamlike quality? Just experience? Yes?
Ken: Where did the awareness come from? If thoughts came up what happened to them?
Student: They came and went.
So, this is a different way:
Look at all experience as a dream. Examine the nature of unborn awareness. The awareness is just there.
Even the remedy releases naturally. Don’t get stuck on thoughts.
The essence of the path: rest in the basis of all experience. No? So, if you like you can use this method too. We’re full of methods.
What I’m trying to point out to you here is the possibility of working with and moving directly into the world of complete experience. It’s all there. Everything. All the experience is there. But one’s not formulating it in terms of concepts or ideas or thoughts. Yet, it’s just there. This is very different from the world of shared experience, which—as we’ve discussed before—is an abstraction from the world of complete experience. So, let’s go through this again and experience the shift between these worlds.
Is it particularly hot today?
Ken: Takes me a little while to register these things. Thank you. God, it feels warm today.
So, again focus. Pick any object. Direct your attention at it. And as attention forms include everything in the field, all sensory experience. Experience everything: floor, ceiling, walls, people, all the sensory impressions. You can even try looking around the room, moving your head slowly, so the field stays open, doesn’t collapse. Taking everything in. All at once, all at the same time. And as you do this, you may feel a little energetic shift in your body, a little pleasurable perhaps.
And then include all the internal material. All the thoughts and feelings, hopes, fears. All the emotions. And you may feel another little energetic shift. And so you rest in the sensations of the body, sensations of sight, all the different sights, sound. All the thoughts and feelings. No inside, no outside—just presence.
Now, look at someone and figure out what they’re thinking. What happens?
George: It’s mostly a sensory experience…
Ken: Right. Feel how it collapses?
Student: My experience involved looking at you, and I thought your thinking was turned off.
Ken: I assure you, I was thinking a mad storm up. [Laughter]
Student: No wonder you looked blank!
Ken: But that’s it right there—I looked blank. So, you moved out of just experiencing into formulating concepts. And then you moved into projection.
Ken: You didn’t? I thought I worded that so carefully. Pardon? Well, I deliberately said “figuring out what the other person was thinking” so it would move you into conceptual thinking and just go shooooo.
Where do we live most of the time? And we don’t notice how much effort it takes. Guy?
Guy: What is it about the face…
Ken: Well, I’m not sure that it really has anything to do with the face of the other person.
Let’s try another exercise. Turn to face the other person so you’re all in pairs. This should be interesting. Now, I know we’re…oh, Kathleen is out there isn’t she?
Student: She’s resting.
Ken: She’s resting, okay. So, look at the other’s person’s face, you don’t have to look right in their eyes. Use that as the focus and expand to the field. Now, because you’re looking at another person, when you include the internal material, there may be a little bit more of that. But include it all anyway. So you come to be present with no inside or outside.
Now we’ll make it a little bit harder. Without moving from that sense of presence, one of you describe what you’re experiencing to the other. Just a couple of sentences. And notice what happens when you start to speak, or even think about speaking. And if you collapse out of presence then go back and reset and go back through the four steps again: focus, field, internal material, presence. And then start to describe. And keep cycling back until you can describe it without moving from presence. The person who’s listening has the easier time at this point.
Okay, now the other person. [Laughter]
Okay, now if we meet back together here.
Okay, what was this like? How many found it difficult to maintain presence and speak? How many found it difficult to maintain presence and listen? People are not used to doing something and being present at the same time. Yet, this is precisely the ability we need to cultivate if we are to live in presence.
Student: What about children? When do they start dropping out of presence?
Ken: As they develop language. With language concepts form necessarily, and this is where the world of shared experience starts to develop as opposed to the world of complete experience. And everything in our family and society encourages us to move into that world.
Student: Is the idea to return to a child’s view?
Ken: Not at all. That’s the pre/trans fallacy that Wilber talks about. Because as a child we do not have the functionality of an adult. So while the preconceptual experience of a child is illustrated or can be an analogy or a symbol for the non-conceptual mind, it’s not the same as. Because even though I asked you to do this none of you lost the capacity to speak. That’s one example. That capacity didn’t go away, but many of you now see that there’s a bit of work to do in order to be able to engage the activity of speaking without dropping out of presence.
When you’re present that way do any questions arise? About who you are, your place in life?
Ken: Yeah, exactly. And it was very intentional that wording, it was designed to move you out of presence. Yeah, so you have this sense of everything collapsing. When you do include the felt sense of I, what is it?
Student: A concept.
Ken: Yeah, it’s a concept. It’s an experience. Nothing, yeah, and that’s it. It’s just another sensation. And it ceases to be the organizing principle of one’s experience which is what it is when you’re not present. Yes?
Guy: It seems to me that my own sensations seem so solid and distinct, it also seems that I also should be that way or should try to be that way.
Ken: Well, I arises in response or reaction to the sense of other. It’s the other arises first actually. And then a sense of I arises as a reaction to that. The sense of I arises as a reaction to the sense of other.
Well, Sartre, in a monologue called The Transcendence of Ego starts off very well. Now, I read this when I was at university and I thought the first few paragraphs were interesting because he describes, go to a park and sit down and you look at everything. And everything is an object in your attention. He’s not talking about presence, just everything is an object in your attention. This is your world until somebody looks at you. After that he chickened out, he didn’t take it any further. The rest of the book is quite boring. But he started off fine. Yes, Donna?
Donna: The bodhisattva vow arises in response to others. Does that mean there’s nothing to do?
Ken: I’m glad you raised this point. As I said there are many paths to a sense of presence. Many ways. In the experience that you had here just now, what is there to do? Is there nothing to do?
Student: Isn’t part of it paying attention?
Ken: This is what I’m asking. What was your experience?
Student: Whenever it collapses, my attention collapses, too.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. Suppose you’re working or sustaining that sense of presence and you saw someone fall down on the street?
Donna: I’d go over and help them up.
Ken: Yeah, that would arise spontaneously wouldn’t it? Without ever formulating a sense of person. You follow? So one doesn’t lose functionality here. But one is able to act from direct perception, direct knowing, without relying on conceptual knowledge. “Oh, someone’s fallen down and I’m going to help them up.” You feel how different that is?
Many of you have probably experienced this at some point. The action just arises. In the Tibetan tradition you will hear the phrase in Tibetan kor sum namdak usually translated as the three pure spheres or purified of the three realms or something like that. Three realms of activity. And the idea is no actor, no acted on, no action. Because those are all concepts. So if you’re just present and someone falls down, the hand goes out, catches their fall or helps them up. But there was no actor, no acted on, no action. There is just what happened.