According to an ancient Sufi story, there lived a king in some Middle Eastern land who was continuously torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would cause him great upset or provoke an intense reaction, and his happiness would quickly turn into disappointment and despair. A time came when the king finally got tired of himself and of life, and he began to seek a way out. He sent for a wise man who lived in his kingdom and who was reputed to be enlightened. When the wise man came, the king said to him, “I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price you ask.”
The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient payment for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you will honor it.” The king gave his assurances, and the wise man left.
A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring. The inscription read: This, too, will pass. “What is the meaning of this?” asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. that way, you will always be at peace.”
This, too, will pass. What is it about these simple words that makes them so powerful? Looking at it superficially, it would seem while those words may provide some comfort in a bad situation, they would also diminish the enjoyment of the good things n life. “Don't be too happy, because it won't last.” This seems to be what they are saying when applied in a situation that is perceived as good.
The full import of these words becomes clear when we consider them in the context of two other stories that we encountered earlier. The story of the Zen Master whose only response was always “Is that so?” shows the good that comes through inner nonresistance to events, that is to say, being at one with what happens. The story of the man whose comment was invariably a laconic “Maybe” illustrates the wisdom of non-judgment, and the story of the ring points to the fact of impermanence which, when recognized, leads to non-attachment. Non-resistance, non-judgment, and non-attachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.
Those words inscribed on the ring are not telling you that you should not enjoy the good in your life, nor are they merely meant to provide some comfort in times of suffering. They have a deeper purpose: to make you aware of the fleetingness of every situation, which is due to the transience of all forms - good or bad. When you become aware of the transience of all forms, your attachment to them lessens, and you disidentify from them to some extent. Being detached does not mean that you cannot enjoy the good that the world has to offer. In fact, you enjoy it more. Once you see and accept the transience of all things and the inevitability of change, you can enjoy the pleasures of the world while they last without fear of loss or anxiety about the future. When you are detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them. You become like an astronaut who sees the planet Earth surrounded by the vastness of space and realizes a paradoxical truth: The earth is precious and at the same time insignificant. The recognition that This, too will pass brings detachment and with detachment another dimension comes into your lie inner space. Through detachment, as well as non-judgment and inner nonresistance, you gain access to that dimension.
When you are no longer totally identified with forms, consciousness - who you are becomes freed form its imprisonment in form. This freedom is the arising of inner space. It comes as a stillness, a subtle peace deep within you, even in the face of something seemingly bad. This, too, will pass. Suddenly, there is space around the event. There is also space around the emotional highs and lows, even around pain. And above all, there is space between your thoughts. And from that space emanates a peace that is not “of this world,” because this world is form, and the peace is space. This is the peace of God.
Now you can enjoy and honor the things of this world without giving them an importance and significance they don't have. You can participate in the dance of creation and be active without attachment to outcome and without placing unreasonable demands upon the world: Fulfill me, make me happy, make me feel safe, tell me who I am. The world cannot give you those things, and when you no longer have such expectations, all self-created suffering comes to an end. All such suffering is due to an over-valuation of form and an unawareness of the dimension of inner space. When that dimension is present in your life, you can enjoy things, experiences, and the pleasures of the sense without losing yourself in them, without inner attachment to them, that is to say, without becoming addicted to the world.
The words This, too, will pass are pointers toward reality. In pointing to the impermanence of all forms, by implication, they are also pointing to the eternal. Only the eternal in you can recognize the impermanent as impermanent.
When the dimension of space is lost or rather not known, the things of the world assume an absolute importance, a seriousness and heaviness that in truth they do not have. When the world is not viewed from the perspective of the formless, it becomes a threatening place, and ultimately a place of despair. The Old Testament prophet must have felt this when he wrote, “All things are full of weariness. A man cannot utter it.”1
OBJECT CONSCIOUSNESS AND SPACE CONSCIOUSNESS
Most people's lives are cluttered up with things: material things, things to do, things to think about. Their lives are like the history of humanity, which Winston Churchill defined as “one damn thing after another.” Their minds are filled up with the clutter of thoughts one thought after another. This is the dimension of object consciousness that is many people's predominant reality, and that is why their lives are so out of balance. Object consciousness needs to be balanced by space consciousness for sanity to return to our planet and for humanity to fulfill its destiny. The arising of space consciousness is the next stage in the evolution of humanity.
Space consciousness mans that in addition to being conscious of things - which always comes down to sense perceptions, thoughts, and emotions - there is an undercurrent of awareness. Awareness implies that you are not only conscious of things (objects), but you are also conscious of being conscious. If you can sense an alert inner stillness in the background while things happen in the foreground - that's it! This dimension is there in everyone, but most people are completely unaware of it. Sometimes I point to it by saying, “Can you feel your own Presence?”
Space consciousness represents not only freedom from ego, but also from dependency on the things of this world, from materialism and materiality. It is the spiritual dimension which alone can give transcendent and true meaning to this world.
Whenever you are upset about an event, a person, or a situation, the real cause is not the event, person, or situation but a loss of true perspective that only space can provide. You are trapped in object consciousness, unaware of the timeless inner space of consciousness itself. The words This, too, will pass when used as a pointer can restore awareness of that dimension to you.
Another pointer to the truth in you is contained in he following statement: “I am never upset for the reason I think.”2
FALLING BELOW AND RISING ABOVE THOUGHT
When you are very tired, you may become more peaceful, more relaxed than in your usual state. this is because thinking is subsiding, and so you can't remember your mind-made problematic self anymore. You are moving toward sleep. When you drink alcohol or take certain drugs (provided they don't trigger your pain-body), you may also feel more relaxed, more carefree, and perhaps more alive a for a while. You may start singing and dancing, which since ancient times are expressions of the joy of life. Because you are less burdened by your mind, you can glimpse the joy of Being. Perhaps this is the reason alcohol is also called “spirit.” But there is a high price to pay: unconsciousness. Instead of rising above thought, you have fallen below it. A few more drinks, and you will have regressed to the vegetable realm.
Space consciousness has little to do with being “spaced out.” Both states are beyond thought. This they have in common. The fundamental difference, however, is that in the former, you rise above thought; in the latter, you fall below it. One is the next step in the evolution of human consciousness, the other a regression to a stage we left behind eons ago.
Watching television is the favorite leisure activity or rather nonactivity for millions of people around the world. The average American, by the time he is sixty years old, will have spent fifteen years staring at the TV screen. In many other countries the figures are similar.
Many people find watching TV “relaxing.” Observe yourself closely and you will find that the longer the screen remains the focus of your attention, the more your thought activity becomes suspended, and for long periods you are watching the talk show, game show, sitcom, or even commercials with almost no thought being generated by your mind. Not only do you not remember your problems anymore, but you become temporarily free of yourself - and what could be more relaxing than that?
So dos TV watching create inner space? Does it cause you to be present? Unfortunately, it does not. Although for long periods your mind may not be generating any thoughts, it has linked into the thought activity of the television show. It has linked up with the TV version of the collective mind, and is thinking its thoughts. Your mind is inactive only in the sense that it is not producing thoughts. It is, however, continuously absorbing thoughts and images that come through the TV screen. This induces a trancelike passive state of heightened susceptibility, not unlike hypnosis. That is why it lends itself to manipulation of “public opinion,” as politicians and special-interest groups as well as advertisers know and will pay millions of dollars to catch you in that state of receptive unawareness. They want their thoughts to become your thoughts, and usually they succeed.
So when watching television, the tendency is for you to fall below thought, not rise above it. Television has this in common with alcohol and certain other drugs. While it provides some relief from your mind, you again pay a high price: loss of consciousness. Like those drugs, it too has a strong addictive quality. You reach for the remote control to switch off and instead find yourself going through all the channels. Half an hour or an hour later, you are still watching, still going through the channels. The off button is the only one your finger seems unable to press. You are still watching, usually not because anything of interest has caught your attention, but precisely because there is nothing of interest to watch. Once you are hooked, the more trivial, the more meaningless, it is, the more addictive it becomes. If it were interesting, thought provoking, it would stimulate your mind into thinking for itself again, which is more conscious and therefore preferable to a TV- induced trance. Your attention would, therefore, no longer be totally held captive by the images on the screen.
The content of the program, if there is a certain quality to it, can to some extent counteract and sometimes even undo the hypnotic, mind- numbing effect of the medium of TV.
There are some programs that have been extremely helpful to many people; have changed their lives for the better, opened their heart, made them more conscious. Even some comedy shows, although they may be about nothing in particular, can be unintentionally spiritual by showing a caricature version of human folly and the ego. They teach us not to take anything too seriously, to approach life in a lighthearted way, and above all, they teach by making us laugh. Laughter is extraordinarily liberating as well as healing. Most of television, however, is as yet controlled by people who are totally controlled by the ego, and so the TV's hidden agenda becomes control of you by putting you to sleep, that is to say, making you unconscious. Yet there is enormous and still largely unexplored potential in the medium of television.
Avoid watching programs and commercials that assault you with a rapid succession of images that change every two or three seconds or less. Excessive TV watching and those programs in particular are largely responsible for attention deficit disorder, a mental dysfunction now affecting millions of children worldwide. A short attention span makes all your perceptions and relationships shallow and unsatisfying. Whatever you do, whatever action you perform in that state, lacks quality, because quality requires attention.
Frequent and prolonged TV watching not only makes you unconscious, it also induces passivity and drains you of energy. Therefore, rather than watching at random, choose the programs you want to see. Whenever you remember to do so, feel the aliveness inside your body as you watch. Alternatively, be aware of your breathing from time to time. Look away from the screen at regular intervals so that it does not completely take possession of your visual sense. Don't turn up the volume any higher than necessary so that the TV doesn't overwhelm you on the auditory level. Use the mute button during commercials. Make sure you don't go to sleep immediately after switching off the set or, even worse, fall asleep with the set still on.
RECOGNIZING INNER SPACE
Space between thoughts is probably already arising sporadically in your life, and you may not even know it. A consciousness mesmerized by experiences and conditioned to identify exclusively with form, that is to say, object consciousness, finds it at first almost impossible to become aware of space. This ultimately mean that you cannot become aware of yourself, because you are always aware of something else. You are continuously distracted by form. Even when you seem to be aware of yourself, you have made yourself into an object, a thought form, and so what you are aware of is a thought, not yourself.
When you hear of inner space, you may start seeking it, and because you are seeking it as if you were looking for an object or for an experience, you cannot find it. This is the dilemma of all those who are seeking spiritual realization or enlightenment. Hence, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”3
If you are not spending all of your waking life in discontent, worry, anxiety, depression, despair, or consumed by other negative states; if you are able to enjoy simple things like listening to he sound of the rain or the wind; if you can see the beauty of clouds moving across the sky or be alone at times without feeling lonely or needing the mental stimulus of entertainment; if you find yourself treating a complete stranger with heartfelt kindness without wanting anything from him or her... it means that a space has opened up, no matter how briefly, in the otherwise incessant stream of thinking that is the human mind. When this happens there is a sense of wellbeing, of alive peace, even though it may be subtle. The intensity will vary from a perhaps barely noticeable background sense of contentment to what the ancient sages of India called ananda - the bliss of Being. Because you have been conditioned to pay attention only to form, you are probably not aware of it except indirectly. For example, there is a common element in the ability to see beauty, to appreciate simple things, to enjoy your own company, or to relate to other people with loving kindness. This common element is a sense of contentment, peace, and aliveness that is the invisible background without which these experiences would not be possible.
Whenever there is beauty, kindness, the recognition of the goodness of simple things in your life, look for the background to that experience within yourself. But don't look for it as if you were looking for something. You cannot pin it down and say, “Now I have it,” or grasp it mentally and define it in some way. It is like the cloudless sky. It has no form. It is space; it is stillness, the sweetness of Being and infinitely more than these words, which are only pointers. When you are able to sense it directly within yourself, it deepens. So when you appreciate something simple - a sound, a sight, a touch - when you see beauty, when you feel loving kindness toward another, sense the inner spaciousness that is the source and background to that experience.
Many poets and sages throughout the ages have observed that true happiness - I call it the joy of Being - is found in simple, seemingly unremarkable things. Most people, in their restless search for something significant to happen to them, continuously miss the insignificant, which may not be insignificant at all. The philosopher Nietzsche, in a rare moment of deep stillness, rote, “For happiness, how little suffices for happiness!.... the least ting precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance - little maketh up the best happiness. Be still.”4
Why is it the “least thing” that makes up “the best happiness”? Because true happiness is not caused by the thing or event, although this is how it first appears. The thing or event is so subtle, so unobtrusive, that it takes up only a small part of your consciousness - and the rest is inner space, consciousness itself unobstructed by form. Inner space consciousness and who you are in your essence are one and the same. In other words, the form of little things leaves room for inner space. And it is from inner space, the unconditioned consciousness itself, that true happiness, the joy of Being, emanates. To be aware of little, quiet things, however, you need to be quiet inside. A high degree of alertness is required. Be still. Look. Listen. Be present.
Here is anther way of finding inner space: Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think “I Am” and add nothing to it. Be aware of the stillness that follows the I Am. Sense your presence, the naked, unveiled, unclothed beingness. It is untouched by young or old, rich or poor, good or bad, or any other attributes. It is the spacious womb of all creation, all form.
CAN YOU HEAR THE MOUNTAIN STREAM?
A Zen Master was walking in silence with one of his disciples along a mountain trail. When they came to an ancient cedar tree, they sat down under it for a simple meal of some rice and vegetables. After the meal, the disciple, a young monk who had not yet found the key to the mystery of Zen, broke the silence by asking the Master, “Master, how do I enter Zen?”
He was, of course, inquiring how to enter the state of consciousness which is Zen.
The Master remained silent. Almost five minutes passed while the disciple anxiously waited for an answer. He was about to ask another question when the Master suddenly spoke. “Do you hear the sound of that mountain stream?”
The disciple had not been aware of any mountain stream. He had been too busy thinking about the meaning of Zen. Now as he began to listen for the sound, his noisy mind subsided. At first he heard nothing. Then, his thinking gave way to heightened alertness, and suddenly he did hear the hardly perceptible murmur of a small stream in the far distance.
“Yes, I can hear it now,” he said.
The master raised his finger and, with a look in his eyes that in some way was both fierce and gentle, said, “Enter Zen from there.”
The disciple was stunned. It was his first satori - a flash of enlightenment. He knew what Zen was without knowing what it was that he knew!
They continued on their journey in silence. The disciple was amazed at the aliveness of the world around him. He experienced everything as if for the first time. Gradually, however, he stated thinking again. The alert stillness became covered up again by mental noise, and before long he had another question. “Master,” he said, “I have been thinking. What would you have said if I hadn't been able to hear the mountain stream?” The master stopped, looked at him, raised his finger and said, “Enter Zen from there.”
The ego asks, How can I make this situation fulfill my needs or how can I get to some other situation that will fulfill my needs.
Presence is a state of inner spaciousness. When you are present, you ask: How do I respond to the needs of this situation, of this moment? In fact, you don't even need to ask the question. You are still, alert, open to what is. You bring a new dimension into the situation: Space. Then you look and you listen. Thus you become one with the situation. When instead of reacting against a situation, you merge with it, the solution arises out o the situation itself. Actually, it is not you, the person, who is looking and listening, but the alert stillness itself. Then, if action is possible or necessary, you take action or rather right action happens through you. Right action is action that is appropriate to the whole. When the action is accomplished, the alert, spacious stillness remains. There is nobody who raises his arms in a gesture of triumph shouting a defiant “Yeah!” There is no one ho says, “Look, I did that.”
All creativity comes out of inner spaciousness. Once the creation has happened and something has come into form, you have to be vigilant so that the notion of “me” or “mine” does not arise. If you take credit for what you accomplished, the ego has returned, and the spaciousness has become obscured.
PERCEIVING WITHOUT NAMING
Most people are only peripherally aware of the world that surrounds them, especially if their surroundings are familiar. The voice in the head absorbs the greater part of their attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception - experiencing - takes up more of heir consciousness than thinking. They become more present. Others remain completely possessed by the voice in the head even then. Their perceptions and experiences are distorted by instant judgments. They haven't really gone anywhere. Only their body is traveling, while they remain where they have always been: in their head.
This is most people's reality: As soon as something is perceived, it is named, interpreted, compared with something else, liked, disliked, or called good or bad by the phantom self, the ego. They are imprisoned in thought forms, in object consciousness.
You do not awaken spiritually until the compulsive and unconscious naming ceases, or at least you become aware of it and thus are able to observe it as it happens. It is through this constant naming that the ego remains in place as the unobserved mind. Whenever it ceases and even when you just become aware of it, there is inner space, and you are not possessed by the mind anymore.
Choose an object close to you - a pen, a chair, a cup, a plant - and explore it visually, that is to say, look at it with great interest, almost curiosity. Avoid any objects with strong personal associations that remind you of the past, such as where you bought it, who gave it to you, and so on. Also avoid anything that has writing on it such as a book or a bottle. It would stimulate thought. Without straining, relaxed but alert, give your complete attention to the object, every detail of it. If thoughts arise, don't get involved in them. It is not the thoughts you are interested in, but the act of perception itself. Can you take the thinking out of the perceiving? Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out? After a couple of minutes or so, let your gaze wander around the room or wherever you are, your alert attention lighting up each thing that it rests upon.
Then, listen to any sounds that may be present. Listen to them in the same way as you looked at the things around you. Some sounds may be natural - water, wind, birds - while others are man-made. Some may be pleasant, others unpleasant. However don't differentiate between good and bad. Allow each sound to be as it is, without interpretation. Here too, relaxed but alert attention is the key.
When you look and listen tin this way, you may become aware of a subtle and at first perhaps a hardly noticeable sense of calm. Some people feel it as a stillness in the background. Others call it peace. When consciousness is no longer totally absorbed by thinking, some of it remains in its formless, unconditioned, original state. This is inner space.
WHO IS THE EXPERIENCER?
What you see and hear, taste, touch, and smell are, of course, sense objects. They are what you experience. But who is the subject, the experiencer? If you now say, for example, “Well, of course, I , Jane Smith, senior accountant, forty-five years old, divorced, mother of two, American, am the subject, the experiencer,” you are mistaken. Jane Smith and whatever else becomes identified with the mental concept of Jane Smith are all objects of experience, not the experiencing subject.
Every experience has three possible ingredients: sense perceptions, thoughts or mental images, and emotions. Jane Smith, senior accountant, forty-five years old, mother of two, divorced, American - these are all thoughts and therefore part of what you experience the moment you think these thoughts. They and whatever else you can say and think about yourself are objects, not the subject. They are experience, not the experiencer. You can add a thousand more definitions (thoughts) of who you are and by doing so will certainly increase the complexity of the experience of yourself (as well as your psychiatrist's income) but, in this way, you will not end up with the subject, the experiencer who is prior to all experience but without whom there would be no experience.
So who is the experiencer? You are. And who are you? Consciousness. And what is consciousness? This question cannot be answered. The moment you answer it, you have falsified it, made it into another object. Consciousness, the traditional word for which is spirit, cannot be known in the normal sense of the word, and seeing it is futile. All knowing is within the realm of duality - subject and object, the knower and the known. the subject, the I, the knower without which nothing could be known, perceived, thought, or felt, must remain forever unknowable. This is because the I has no form. Only forms can be known, and yet without the formless dimension, the world of form could not be. It is the luminous space in which the world arises and subsides. That space is the life that I Am. It is timeless. I Am timeless, eternal. What happens in that space is relative and temporary: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, birth and death.
The greatest impediment to the discovery of inner space, the greatest impediment to finding the experiencer, is to become so enthralled by the experience that you lose yourself in it. It means consciousness is lost in its own dream. You get taken in by every thought, every emotion, and every experience to such a degree that you are in fact in a dreamlike state. This has been the normal state of humanity for thousands of years.
Although you cannot know consciousness, you can become conscious of it as yourself. You can sense it directly in any situation, no matter where you are. You can sense it here and now as your very Presence, the inner space in which the words on this page are perceived and become thoughts. It is the underlying I Am. The word you are reading and thinking are the foreground, and the I Am is the substratum, the underlying background to every experience, thought, feeling.
Discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking. Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid or any creative spark, which is how it still is for most people on the planet. You don't need to be concerned with the duration of those gaps. A few seconds is good enough. Gradually, they will lengthen by themselves, without any effort on your part. More important than their length is to bring them in frequently so that your daily activities and your stream of thinking become interspersed with space.
Someone recently showed me the annual prospectus of a large spiritual organization. When I looked through it, I was impressed by the wide choice of interesting seminars and workshops. It reminded me of a smorgasbord, on of those Scandinavian buffets where you can take your pick from a huge variety of enticing dishes. The person asked me whether I could recommend one or two courses. “I don't know,” I said. “They all look so interesting. But I do know this,” I added. “Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses. And it's free.”
Being aware of your breathing takes attention away from thinking and creates space. It is one way of generating consciousness. Although the fullness of consciousness is already there as the unmanifested, we are here to bring consciousness into this dimension.
Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Notice how the chest and abdomen expand and contract slightly with the in and out breath. One conscious breath is enough to make some space where before there was the uninterrupted succession of one thought after another. One conscious breath (two or three would be even better), taken many times a day, is an excellent way of bringing space into your life. Even if you meditated on your breathing for two hours or more, which some people do, one breath is all you ever need to be aware of, indeed ever can be aware of. The rest is memory or anticipation, which is to say, thought. Breathing isn't really something that you do but something that you witness as it happens. Breathing happens by itself. The intelligence within the body is doing it. All you have to do is watch it happening. There is no strain or effort involved. Also, notice the brief cessation of the breath, particularly the still point at the end of the out- breath, before you start breathing in again.
Many people's breath is unnaturally shallow. The more you are aware of the breath, the more its natural depth will reestablish itself.
Because breath has no form as such, it has since ancient times been equated with spirit -the formless one Life. “God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature.”5 The German word for breathing - atmen - is derived from the ancient Indian (Sanskrit) word Atman, meaning the indwelling divine spirit or God within.
The fact that breath has no form is one of the reasons why breath awareness is an extremely effective way of bringing space into your life, of generating consciousness. It is an excellent meditation object precisely because it is not an object; has no shape or form. The other reason is that breath is one of the most subtle and seemingly insignificant phenomena, the “least thing” that according to Nietzsche makes up the “best happiness.” Whether or not you practice breath awareness as an actual formal meditation is up to you. Formal meditation, however, is no substitute for bringing space consciousness into everyday life.
Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment - the key to all inner transformation. Whenever you are conscious of the breath , you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind. But far from being in a trance or half asleep, you are fully awake and highly alert. You are not falling below thinking, but rising above it. And if you look more closely, you will find that those two things - coming fully into the present moment and ceasing thinking without loss of consciousness - are actually one and the same: the arising of space consciousness.
A long-standing compulsive behavior pattern may be called an addiction, and an addiction lives inside you as a quasi-entity or subpersonality, an energy field that periodically takes you over completely. It even takes over your mind, the voice in your head, which then becomes the voice of the addiction. It may be saying, “You've had a rough day. You deserve a treat. Why deny yourself the only pleasure that is left in your life?” And so, if you are identified with the internal voice due to lack of awareness, you find yourself walking to the fridge and reaching for that rich chocolate cake. At other times, the addiction may bypass the thinking mind completely and you suddenly find yourself puffing on a cigarette or holding a drink. “How did that get into my hand?” Taking the cigarette out of the packet and lighting it, or pouring yourself a drink were actions performed in complete unconsciousness.
If you have a compulsive behavior pattern such as smoking, overeating, drinking, TV watching, Internet addiction, or whatever it may be, this is what you can do: When you notice the compulsive need arising in you, stop and take three conscious breaths. This generates awareness. Then for a few minutes be aware of the compulsive urge itself as an energy field inside you. Consciously feel that need to physically or mentally ingest or consume a certain substance or the desire to act out some form of compulsive behavior. Then take a few more conscious breaths. After that you may find that the compulsive urge has disappeared - for the time being. or you may find that it still overpowers you, and you cannot help but indulge or act it out again. Don't make it into a problem. Make the addiction part of your awareness practice in the way described above. As awareness grows, addictive patterns will weaken and eventually dissolve. Remember, however, to catch any thoughts that justify the addictive behavior, sometimes with clever arguments, as they arise in you mind. Ask yourself, Who is talking here? And you will realize the addiction is talking. As long as you know that, as long as you are present as the observer of your mind, it is less likely to trick you into doing what it wants.
INNER BODY AWARENESS
Another simple but highly effective way of finding space in you life is closely linked to the breath. You will find that by feeling the subtle flow of air in and out of the body as well as the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen, you are also becoming aware of the inner body. Your attention may then shift from the breath to that felt aliveness within you, diffused throughout the body.
Most people are so distracted by their thoughts, so identified with the voices in their heads, they can no longer feel the aliveness within them. To be unable to feel the life that animates the physical body, the very life that you are, is the greatest deprivation that can happen to you. You then begin to look not only for substitutes for that natural state of well-being within, but also for something to cover up the continuous unease that you feel when you are not in touch with the aliveness that is always there but usually overlooked. Some of the substitutes people seek out are drug-induced highs, sensory overstimulation such as excessively loud music, thrills or dangerous activities, or an obsession with sex. Even drama in relationships is used as a substitute for that genuine sense of aliveness. The most sought-after cover-up for the continuous background unease are intimate relationships: a man or a woman who is going to “make me happy.” It is, of course, also one of the most frequently experienced of all the “letdowns.” And when the unease surfaces again, people will usually blame their partner for it.
Take two or three conscious breaths. Now see if you can detect a subtle sense of aliveness that pervades your entire inner body. Can you feel your body from within, so to speak? Sense briefly specific parts of your body. Feel your hands, then your arms feet, and legs. Can you feel your abdomen, chest, neck and head? What about your lips? Is there life in them? Then become aware again of the inner body as a whole. You may want to close your eyes initially for this practice, and once you can feel your body, open your eyes, look around, and continue to feel your body at the same time. Some readers may find there is no need to close their eyes; they can in fact feel their inner body as they read this.
INNER AND OUTER SPACE
Your inner body is not solid but spacious. It is not your physical form but the life that animates the physical form. It is the intelligence that created and sustains the body, simultaneously coordinating hundreds of different functions of such extraordinary complexity that the human mind can only understand a tiny fraction of it. When you become aware of it, what is really happening is that the intelligence is becoming aware of itself. It is the elusive “life” that no scientist has ever found because the consciousness that is looking for it is it.
Physicists have discovered that the apparent solidity of matter is an illusion created by our senses. this includes the physical body, which we perceive and think of as form, but 99.99% of which is actually empty space. This is how vast the space is between the atoms compared to their size,and there is as much space again within each atom. The physical body is no more than a misperception of who you are. In many ways, it is a microcosmic version of outer space. To give you an idea of how vast the space ins between celestial bodies, consider this:
Light traveling at a constant speed of 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second takes just over one second to travel between the earth and the moon; light from the sun takes about eight minutes to reach the earth. Light from our nearest neighbor in space, a star called Proxima Centauri, which is the sun that is closest to our own sun, travels for 4.5 years before it reaches the earth. This is how vast the space is that surrounds us. And then there is the intergalactic space, whose vastness defies all comprehension. Light from the galaxy closest to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, takes 2.4 million years to reach us. Isn't it amazing that your body is just as spacious as the universe?
So your physical body, which is form reveals itself as essentially formless when you go deeper into it. It becomes a doorway into inner space. Although inner space has no form, it is intensely alive. That “empty space” is life in its fullness, the unmanifested Source out of which all manifestation flows. The traditional word for that Source is God.
Thoughts and words belong to the world of form; they cannot express the formless. So when you say, “I can feel my inner body” that is a misperception created by thought. What is really happening is hat the consciousness that appears as the body - the consciousness that I Am - is becoming conscious of itself. When I no longer confuse who I am with a temporary form of “me,” then the dimension of the limitless and the eternal - God can express itself through “me” and guide “me.” it also fees me from dependency on form. However, a purely intellectual recognition or belief “I am not this form” does not help. The all-important question is: At this moment, can I sense the presence of inner space, which really means, can I sense my own Presence, or rather, the Presence that I Am?
Or we an approach this truth sing a different pointer. Ask yourself, “Am I aware not only of what is happening at this moment, but also of the Now itself as the living timeless inner space in which everything happens?” Although this question seems to have nothing to do with the inner body, yo may be surprised that by becoming aware of the space of Now, you suddenly feel more alive inside. Yo are feeling the aliveness of the inner boy - the aliveness that is an intrinsic part of th joy of Being. We have to enter the body to go beyond it and find out that we are not that.
As much as possible in everyday life, use awareness of the inner body to create space. When waiting, when listening to someone, when pausing to look at the sky, a tree, a flower, your partner, or child, feel the aliveness within at the same time. This means part of your attention or consciousness remains formless, an the rest is available for the outer world of form. Whenever you “inhabit” your body in this way, it serves as an anchor for staying present in the Now. It prevents you from losing yourself in thinking, in emotions, or in external situations.
When you think, feel, perceive, and experience, consciousness is born into form. It is reincarnating - into a thought, a feeling, a sense perception, an experience. The cycle of rebirths that Buddhists hope to get out of eventually is happening continuously, and it is only at this moment - through the power of Now - that you can get out of it. Through complete acceptance of the form of Now, you become internally aligned with space, which is the essence of Now. Through acceptance, you become spacious inside. Aligned with space instead of form: That brings true perspective and balance into your life.
NOTICING THE GAPS
Throughout the day, there is a continuously changing succession of things that you see and hear. In the first moment of seeing something or hearing a sound - and more so if it is unfamiliar - before the mind names or interprets what your see or hear, there is usually a gap of alert attention in which the perception occurs. That is the inner space. Its duration differs from person to person. It is easy to miss because in many people those spaces are extremely short, perhaps only a second or less.
This is what happens: A new sight or sound arises, and in the first moment of perception, there is a brief cessation in the habitual stream of thinking. Consciousness is diverted away form thought because it is required for sense perception. A very unusual sight or sound may leave you “speechless” - even inside, that is to say, bring about a longer gap.
The frequency and duration of those spaces determine your ability to enjoy life, to feel an inner connectedness with other human beings as well as nature. It also determines the degree to which you are free of ego because ego implies complete unawareness of the dimension of space.
When you become conscious of these brief spaces they happen naturally, they will lengthen, and as they do, you will experience with increasing frequency the joy of perceiving with little or no interference of thinking. The world around you then feels fresh, new, and alive. The more you perceive life through a mental screen of abstraction and conceptualization, the more lifeless and flat the world around you becomes.
LOSE YOURSELF TO FIND YOURSELF
Inner space also arises whenever you let go of the need to emphasize your form-identity. That need is of the ego. It is not a true need. We have already touched briefly upon this. Whenever you relinquish one of these behavior patterns, inner space emerges. You become more truly yourself. To the ego it will seem as if you were losing yourself, but the opposite is the case. Jesus already taught that you need to lose yourself to find yourself. Whenever you let go of one of these patterns, you de-emphasize who you are on the level of form and who you are beyond form emerges more fully. You become less, so you can be more.
Here are some ways in which people unconsciously try to emphasize their form-identity. If you are alert enough, you may be be to detect some of these unconscious patterns within yourself: demanding recognition for something you did and getting angry or upset if you don't get it; trying to get attention by talking about your problems, the story of your illnesses, or making a scene; giving your opinion when nobody has asked for it and it makes no difference to the situation; being more concerned with how the other person sees you than with the other person, which is to say, using other people for egoic reflection or as as ego enhancers; trying to make an impression on others through possessions, knowledge, good looks, status, physical strength,and so on; bringing about temporary ego inflation through angry reaction against something to someone; taking things personally, feeling offended; making yourself right and others wrong through futile mental or verbal complaining; wanting to be seen, or to appear important.
Once you have detected such a pattern within yourself, I suggest that you conduct an experiment. Find out what it feels like and what happens if you let go of that pattern. Just drop it and see what happens.
De-emphasizing who you are on the level of form is another way of generating consciousness. Discover the enormous power hat flows through you into the world when you sot emphasizing your form-identity.
It has been said:”Stillness is the language God speaks, and everything else is a bad translation.” Stillness is really another word for space. Becoming conscious of stillness whenever we encounter it in our lives will connect us with the formless and timeless dimension within ourselves, that which is beyond thought, beyond ego. It may be the stillness that pervades the world of nature, or the stillness in your room in the early hours of the morning, or the silent gaps in between sounds. Stillness has no form - that is why through thinking we cannot become aware of it. Thought is form. Being aware of stillness means to be still. To be still is to be conscious without thought. You are never more essentially, more deeply, yourself, than when you are still. When you are still, you are who you were before you temporarily assumed this physical and mental form called a person. You are also who you will be when the form dissolves. When you are still, you are who you are beyond your temporal existence: consciousness - unconditioned, formless, eternal.