Existential Phenomenological Psychotherapy – “Openness,” Part 1
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D., Editor, Michelle Mae, Transcriber, Erin Johannesen, M.A., M.D., Editor
What we’ll be exploring together today is awareness, becoming aware of awareness, and working with awareness, both with our own selves and with the other. It’s a very simple topic, actually, yet it’s not easy to hold awareness, to enter into awareness, and to become awareness. We often think that awareness is simply a cognition, being aware of a color or of a pretty picture. That is not awareness; that’s a cognition. [At first], awareness is a state. Initially, we think it’s a ‘state’ we enter into, and then, in time, it begins to open up, and it’s actually a field. Then a lot can happen that could not happen, if we were not in the awareness field.
There are a number of streams that reflect this course [this opening of awareness]. Different streams focus on awareness and on different ways of articulating it and of thinking about it. The major stream is phenomenology, or existential phenomenology, or continental philosophy. Phenomenology is like the Western counterpart to Eastern philosophy. Both share the same pre-occupation of what is awareness, how to hold awareness, how to enter into it, and how to transform within the context of awareness. Every system has a particular frame, a particular method. Phenomenology, whose father was Husserl, a Jewish -German philosopher in the 1900’s, would say, “What is the wonder of all wonders? Consciousness, and the doorway is our own subjectivity.” That really does hold it nicely. What phenomenology was pre-occupied with was the immediacy of experience: How to shift out of the analytic mind – the rational mind, the mind that helped you to get here, to find here, [to find] the address [of here]– how to step out of that [analytic mind] and enter [into] and utilize the immediacy of experience. That experience itself is transformative – [whether it’s a] good experience, no experience, a happy experience, or a tragic experience – that’s what actually influences us.
So in working with experience, [in working with] how to enter experience in order for something to happen, the first step in phenomenology is epoché. That [term] simply means ‘suspension’. One suspends the analytic mind; [we] shift into awareness, focusing, [with] no thought, gazing… and seeing what shines forth; what shows up. What do we experience? Then [there is your] experientially near articulation of the experience; it’s not easy to articulate, in an experientially near way, your experience of even what is going on what right now. So you learn to articulate your experience, not from your associative mind, but from experience; there is the power!
They [early phenomenologists] also believed that truth was not simply the adequation [or equating] of my mind with the thing, but that the truth was more primary, for it [the truth] has to do with what’s being experienced, and judgments and all [all else] follow from that. But if there are distortions from that beginning moment, the judgments will also be problematic. So, epoché is shifting out of the analytic mind and [out of] focusing on the mind and the instruments of the mind, [out of] focusing on thinking and thoughts, memory and memories, sensation and sensations, feeling function and affects, imagination and imagery, and the ‘otherness’ of this world. One suspends. One makes the shift, and one simply looks, gazes, perceives, but one perceives objects. It is an object-related experience. It’s my awareness of what is arising next to me; it’s my ‘awareness of’ …of your face, of my voice, of my hand. It is awareness of something.
It is this phenomenology of which Gestalt therapy is an expression. It’s taking that simple frame and, rather than talking about your problems, or my talking about my problems to you, it’s making that shift and focusing on the experience of what I’m talking about, or of what is being presented to me. It’s a function; [it’s] not your essence, [and it’s] not ontological. And that is what a lot of experiential therapies use; it’s very simple. There are a billion techniques, but, really, it is that simple. It’s also close to mindfulness… focusing, witnessing, and articulating.
After they [the early phenomenologists] did that [suspension of judgment and articulating from the experientially near of experience] for many years, something else would start to happen, to every phenomenologist, no matter how scientific they were trying to be. All of them, even the existential therapists [who] became influenced by [phenomenology], would be focusing on the objects, and slowly but surely the objects would start to disappear. Then they [phenomenologists] would start experiencing states of void, of emptiness, of nothingness. Sartre wrote his book, ‘Being and Nothingness,’ and quit to become a Marxist to do something worthwhile in the world. He gave up on nothingness. There is this turn that they make – perhaps out of boredom – where they start to make the second reduction, not just shifting within the analytic mind into the awareness of objects, [either] internal or external, [and not just shifting within or] in the awareness state, but they began to [make a] turn where the object of awareness was its own self. That’s a big turn! At that moment, the object of awareness is awareness itself. With that turn, they begin to explore the essence of awareness, which at first appearance – right down the line [and for] all of them – appears like emptiness. I become aware of my awareness, I suspend my thinking, I suspend everything, I’m getting good at extension… and then [there arises] this nothingness, or void, or, if I’m in a tragic moment, [I will be] suffering lots of loss of an object that has organized my life for the past 20 years. Then [suddenly and completely unexpectedly], I’m catapulted into awareness, into nothingness, void…
But as they stayed with it, like Heidegger did – they had a lot of time on their hands – as they stayed with their experiencing of awareness, suddenly there is a void and emptiness, no-thing-ness, [and then it]would start to have a different mood to it, [a different]tone to it. It would start opening up as space, spaciousness, sky-like awareness. They begin to experience that awareness as qualities of spaciousness. Not only did they start experiencing energy – Hindus call it Shakti, Taoists call it Chi, Tibetans call it Thigles – but they started feeling the energetic dimension: That awareness is not only spaciousness, but it’s alive; it pulsates, it vibrates, and it moves. It is life force.
There are different ways of languaging the phenomenology of staying with your own awareness. Awareness is not dead, it’s not simply blankness, but it is clear. When they were in the awareness state and they would look around, everything had clarity to it. That makes sense, that awareness would have clarity and that it’s light; at some level, it is luminous. They began to discover that it [awareness] has field characteristics, that when they were in awareness, they could feel a field beyond their body boundaries. They began to think about fields between people; [they began to realize] that human beings aren’t just little entities – in the battle for food, sex, and more money – but there is this relational dimension, not only within the body, but in this world. They began to look at human beings as fields.
You can see in Gestalt therapy [how] all of that and [how one] thinks about that was taken [in] – what does this mean for doing psychotherapy? They knew there were two dimensions: The awareness of objects, which is classical, then you take the second reduction and something else starts to happen. Not everybody can do that; not everybody can become aware of their own awareness. Everybody you work with [in psychotherapy] can shift to awareness of objects, but to become aware of awareness, in certain ways, the normal curve runs the show. For those people who can become aware of awareness, a lot more change can take place; transformation can take place.
This [opening of the second reduction] brings us to the second stream, which is psychoanalysis, specifically, the form of psychoanalysis that was influenced by phenomenology – and the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott was a major person [here] – focused not on the associative mind and its associations, but rather on experience. And what interested Winnicott was why and how people changed. Some people could change, and some people could not. For some people, it was impossible to change. For others, change could take place. What he began to articulate was the importance of what he called ‘transitional space,’ or the intermediate area – [the place] in-between, – and [a psychoanalytic] school formed from that articulation. If a person [or if individuals] could access their transitional space, the transitional dimension of themselves, then they would have a place to be, and they could transform. Because more often than not, if a person [or individuals] came in [for psychotherapy] locked in a particular internalization of their family system, or locked into, or fated to be in, an object relationship with a particular way of relating, they could not access transitional space, [and without access to transitional space], it is more highly probable they would stay stuck in that repetition. So the capacity to access transitional space – the intermediate space between reality and fantasy, between thinking and feeling, between sensation and imagery – was foundational for the emergence of a sense of self. If you or a client can find that place ([and a client is helped in finding that space] partly because you were holding it with them because you had access to transitional capacity), then they could probably enter that state and hold that state, and from there, transformation could take place. That which is trying to change is not doing all of the speaking; you are not located in that particular internalization, schema, object relationship, drama, or narrative.
This transitional space became a major focus, but to enter [it] and to hold it takes a little skill because initially it may feel like nothingness, emptiness, or void. So we need objects to help us hold that [that emptiness]: [We need] cultural objects, personal objects, and pet objects that help us hold [the nothingness]. As we learn to hold it, it [the nothingness or emptiness] becomes psychic space. This is all really simple, actually. [Yet] you can read thousands of pages and not enter into it. If you can hold this space and feel the support of the space, you have some freedom of choice. At that moment, you are not determined by reality or fantasy, by imagery, or by internalizations; there is a space.
Also, his [Winnicott’s] disciple, Masud Khan, or Prince Khan, who was the editor of the “International Journal of Psychoanalysis,” said that not only is our history made manifest, through internalizations or schema, [in other words,] through internalizing the family system [we came from],but also we anchor ourselves in the functions of our mind. Say five of us here are in the same family, and it’s not too much fun. So one of us thinks a way through it, another feels a way through it, and another has sensation, pre-occupations and gets a few addictions. And still another uses imagery as a way out and becomes an artist.
The functions of the mind become major anchor points for people. If you have the hysterical variety [if you have hysteria as the primary function of your mind], – and Homo gestaltus is the hysterical variety – if affect is your anchor, you can be lost in the sea of affect; it is your anchor, and is a major function with which you identify. To enter transitional [space], you may have to learn to release yourself from that [to release yourself from having affect as your anchor]. Or if you think, think, think redundantly, that [thinking] is your anchor, and it has to be released to enter transitional space. The same thing [may happen] with imagery, or memory – the ‘good ol’ days’ dominating everything to the point that there is no present and no future. With anchoring, something is better than nothing, no matter how bad it is; it’s better than nothing whatsoever. With the transitional [space, however,] we actually begin to experience nothingness, and we can work and live in it. Another name for transitional space is ‘liminal’ or ‘intermediate’ space; [one may not quite know how it happens, but] in some kind of way I’m [now in] a bit of space. Space helps change [to occur].
Another stream is Eastern philosophy. It has the same preoccupation: What is awareness? A great Dzogchen master in the Nyingma tradition says, “Although hundreds of thousands of explanations are given, there is only one thing to be understood. Know the one thing that liberates everything, awareness itself, your own true nature.” I like that statement. You could be a good phenomenologist; one could be a Heideggarian, a Winnicottian, but same thing: Know awareness. Awareness is not your thoughts; it’s not even your beloved affects. It’s not the history; it’s not the story. It is in-between. It’s very powerful just to leave the analytic mind and become aware of objects and stuff – that will move us a lot. But to make the next reduction, to make one more turn where you become aware of awareness itself, the very qualities of awareness begin to organize you, and you begin to discover that your mind is not your awareness. That is a big discovery! My mind – thinking feeling, fantasy, memory, sensation – is not my awareness; where was awareness? It’s rather obvious, you know?
The discovery is that awareness is not my mind. Have you ever discovered that? Have you ever felt that moment? That was a big deal for me. Then the qualities of awareness, like the qualities of transitional space, can begin to be made known. I can begin actually to experience the nature of my own awareness, which may feel like void, or emptiness, but if I can stay with it for a while, it becomes beneficent spaciousness, energy, clarity; it becomes clear, and also I feel more oneness. If I can feel awareness in my body, I’m going to feel more integrated. If I can establish myself in awareness or entrain my brain, then I can start embodying awareness and not just be in my affect – fun for me, but pain for others. Ultimately, you can see people coming into awareness – the little things light up on the imaging, [that is, the areas of increased metabolism or blood flow light up on a functional MRI of the brain]. Then, being in that [transitional] ‘state,’ I start to discover that it is a field. It’s not a psychological state like other states. It’s not an internalization; it’s not me and my favorite victim or victimizer posture. Awareness is not an ego state, to use that language. Awareness is unto itself.
As we embody and enter into awareness, we can start to integrate our mind. In fact, our mind starts becoming more attuned to it, and awareness can hold the mind. Not only that, but we can start to feel in awareness, feel through it, and think in it; our mind is not dissociated. I can even bring my internalizations into awareness and work with them. They become thinner, and some even dissolve. Sensation can be in awareness; it amplifies sensation, amplifies pleasure, but [amplifies] pain also. One can start to integrate the mind into the awareness field, which really helps change to take place. Awareness infuses the mind; there is more space. The mind becomes less real, less reified, less dominant, less pre-occupying. It’s just a thought… For that reason, I like Eastern philosophy. I like all of this stuff. I like meeting these different characters. Mostly, we learn from meeting the characters. Knowing about the energy dimension of human experience is really useful. And if you can work a little bit with the energy, it’s really useful; it helps bring forth the energy and the sense of the self. This all becomes skill; this all becomes tools to use.
Another tradition is Gestalt psychology, which is really becoming more popular than ever. What the early Gestalt people did was to take physics very seriously, and they began to think of human beings in terms of fields, which is what physics is all about, [and they viewed] not only awareness as a field, but also the sense of the self as a field. Our internalizations are also fields. They [our internalizations] are not just simply cognitive – a behavioral collage – that I try to beat out of my brain. I can do that, but something is still there. There’s no more thought; there is no more cognition, but I’m still there! That’s because of field phenomena. The generational field is alive and well. Internalizations are icons of field that you are living in. [In other words, you are never apart from living in the field, and all of your internalizations are themselves icons of field. Even when we take on our internalizations so completely that we live as though we are them, even then, we are still living in the field.] So, say I’m growing up, and it’s a victim/victimizer thing. I internalize that, and I become that. I’m a victim for a long time, and I go to Gestalt therapy, and I switch to the [other] side of the polarity; then I’m tough. Then I start to think that maybe this polarity, this back and forth, is really the same dynamic; I just switched from one side of the drama to the other…back and forth. I start to work on that [particular] cognitive behavioral internalization; it’s really helpful to try to transform that [internalization], to dissolve it. It seems to have a lot less power, yet at some level, I begin to sense that that internalization is not just a picture in my mind, not just an idea, not just an affect, but that there is something holding it, and that something is the context. It [the context] has a field quality. So, I now begin to think about my life and my generational field [in a different way that creates more useful space and possibility for me].
Those configurations [of my life and generational field] can be activated, and I can find my ‘self’ in them. Last year we walked through our internalizations; it became quite real in the room. That is because it’s a field phenomenon arising. Other people can feel what I felt, even though I’m not saying it. You just put the geometry out there, and the affects are felt and can be spoken to. So, Gestalt psychotherapy began taking fields very seriously and began to look at it. Like, how is it to think about us as fields, and [how is it to] work within fields and [with] the energy and dynamics of fields?
These states open and close; expand and contract. These fields organize our experience. What this means concretely, if you can really develop and hold a strong field of awareness, [is that] it’s sort of like big dog, little dog. The stronger your field of awareness, the less power the other fields will have over you and through you. The more you cultivate awareness, the more you learn to embody awareness, [the more your sense of] the ‘other’ can be dissolved. Awareness dissolves fields. If you go into some of the Eastern philosophies, with the images of goddesses and gods, which are simply metaphors of awareness, they are dissolving this and that.
That is what I wanted to say about all of those streams that we’ll be utilizing at different times, and that is basically the course. It’s very simple, and you can use any method you want, but understanding is very useful. If you want to work this way, you can try all of these techniques ad nauseum, but nothing is going to happen for you unless you are in awareness; unless you can enter awareness and stay in awareness, that other person [the client in psychotherapy] isn’t going to enter awareness. If you can become aware of awareness itself and you start experiencing field phenomena, then you will start having direct perception of what is going on – not good guessing, but you will sense it. Since one thing leads to another, and we influence each other a lot, the more [we experience awareness together, the more] we become experts at being in awareness. Whatever brand of therapy you are going to put your hat into, the more you have awareness, [the more you] live with [it] and work with it, [then] whatever you do will have some efficacy.
Question: “What is the difference between the nature of field of awareness and the generational field?”
Again, these are arbitrary responses, not [an absolute] truth, [but rather an opinion]; I would look at it – and all this has to do with pragmatics, which is an efficacious way to look at something, – I would look at awareness as unto itself and not as a psychological field in terms of the function of internalizations, of history and of that sort of thing. It’s innate and rises naturally. The generational field, where internalizations are iconic, is psychological. Psychology means it came from somebody’s mind and behavior, so the field that’s present is a psychological one, whereas awareness is unto itself and has qualities unto itself. For all of this [for all of this experiencing of field phenomena], when a person is in the awareness state, you can see certain things taking place in the brain. The brain is the negotiator of this [of this awareness] at some level.
Question: “… (inaudible at first) the more buffered you are from impingement…”
If you have awareness and it’s simply spaciousness, you haven’t brought forth enough of that dimension [enough of other dimensions of awareness] experientially. It’s all one thing, but how we experience it can have different qualities, such as space, energy, and luminosity. Though it is only one [though the field is only one field], how we experience it is not necessarily [the same from one person to another, or the same within the same person over time], for we experience things in time and space. At times, when we are very sensitive – if you have that curse or blessing of awareness – you are going to feel yourself highly impinged upon. You are going to feel highly sensitive; you will feel what you smell and see. A lot of people go through that at different phases as they meditate. The amplification of the energetic dimension will give a sense of substance, not that it’s a real substance, but more body [more fullness]. The more you work on the energetic dimension, bringing forth chi or shakti, [then the more] you will start to experience a natural buffer. [In this instance here,] the spacious element is dominant; you were born that way, so it’s useful to bring forth the energy. We will work on feeling the energy, chi, or shakti in here, then [we will work on] feeling yourself amplifying it. You will start to feel yourself plumping up from it; you will start to feel a fullness. That dimension of the awareness will bring a buffer around you. Sometimes, from my point of view – though the field is the field, – how we perceive it [how we enter and deepen awareness] is a step-by-step process. Some people just enter into it, but it can also be developmental [or incremental].
Another question: “If we can drop into the field any moment, is it simply that our capacity to be in the awareness field grows, or is there not some dance between our awareness and field and that [dance] is that the more we’re in the field, the more it grows.”
Great question… I’ll answer it this way. I can live in awareness; I can be in awareness, and then I can become aware of awareness itself. When I become aware of awareness itself that is when the field phenomena begin to open for me. Because the field phenomena begin to open for me, awareness itself becomes strengthened and habituated to being in the field. My personal awareness at this moment may not be in the field. I may have to access it a little more, and however I do that – falling into it, or having some efficacious [skillful] means, pulling it forth – that phenomenon of being in the field, of feeling the field through extension, becomes more pervasive. That [experiencing of the field] will habituate my awareness to my being in the field. My personal awareness isthe field, except the primary dissociation is between personal awareness and the field. It [my personal awareness] actually is the field, but without full benefit. [In other words, I may experience my awareness as separate from, or as different from the field itself because I am still stuck in the frame of a separate and individual ‘I’. This particular dualistic experience of “I in the field” is the primary dissociation of self from field, when, really, there is no difference, for “I am the field, and the field is me”.]
Another question: “You mentioned the field itself is energy, so, therefore, it can’t be static, but is the container of the field a static container, or does the field itself grow as our capacity to be aware of it does?”
The field is infinite in its horizons, vast and multi-dimensional. My perception of the field slowly but surely is getting better. So the field is infinite; you and I are completely in the field right now, but my perception of it is growing, and as my perception grows – and that’s what we’re trying to learn to do, how to enter it and extend it, – [then my awareness of the field grows also]. It’s true that there is a relational component. If all of you guys are in the field, then I’m going to enter out of resonance, or [if you are] with a great yogi, you will enter the field naturally, out of resonance, just as resonance influences all sorts of fields.
Like good phenomenologists, we’re going to suspend the mind, just for a moment. I don’t know why the first step is the hardest, but it is. Let’s suspend just for a moment. Then we will focus in. And of course our eyes can be open or closed to do this. It depends on your preference. And now, we’ll all open our eyes a bit and integrate seeing in the field and [integrate] being and talking. So we integrate almost immediately. A little bit of awareness, a little bit of integration. We want to feel natural; we don’t want to think the field is an altered state, or we will go into an altered state. We don’t want to think the field is trance because [then] we can go into a trance. We want to feel the field as embodied and as natural as possible. What we’re doing together is we’re learning to stay in awareness throughout the whole day, as relaxed and as simple as possible. Like all things, praxis [practice] is really helpful.
Now we’re going to talk about awareness again, for this course, for this semester, and we’re going to stay in awareness as we do it. Even if you fade out of hearing what I’m saying, you stay in awareness; [you] extend through your body. Extension is a method. Dudjom Rinpoche, a great Dzogchen master, said, “Extension is the secret.” You extend through your body. All of these different traditions use extension. This [extension] is like saying raise your finger. How you actually do that I don’t know; I have no idea how I’m doing this, do you? Same thing with extension; it’s like, “Oh maybe that is extension because I feel [something] taking place down here, and I’m raising it back up. Now I feel it in my hands.” It’s really rather non-conceptual, which makes it less rational. The words are simply indicators. They are not explanatory.
Now, let’s extend to each other. We do this naturally when we see someone we love. If you haven’t seen someone [you love] in a long time, [and then you see them again], you open. If you don’t like them the field contracts… but then you learn to stay open. Your perception of the field begins to stay open. Let’s extend to our generational field, to our ancestors. You and I are expressions of that [field], not just little entities. Let’s extend to our traditions, whatever that means to you. We will hold awareness, and as someone said, “Knowledge is action;” it’s really true – and here you guys are sitting. This is simply a preparation. Understanding does support action. You’ve got to know what to look for and play with it. Sometimes we’ll feel ourselves simply being aware of awareness itself, and sometimes we’ll actually feel the field phenomena. Why we can feel the phenomena is because other people are in it. Resonance really helps [us to experience] field phenomena.
I’d like to talk about the nature of awareness, which we’ve already been talking about. We’ve mentioned some of the qualities, such as spaciousness, energy, and clarity. There are others too. The yogis, like the Hindus, Shaivites and Dzogchen people, use the word sunyata. Heidegger used another word: Dasein. Sunyata has many different translations. I think the translations, to me, reflect different people’s experiences. One [experience or translation] is ‘emptiness’; the essence of awareness is emptiness. Another [experience or translation] is ‘void’. Another translation is ‘nothingness’. Another is ‘spaciousness’. When you feel space, there are more possibilities, [more] potential space, and then something can happen rather than nothing at all. Even Winnicott said if you feel emptiness that is really great because you are beginning [to] and ready to fill up. When you feel emptiness, you didn’t know it was there [before], but now you are prepared to fill up. So this whole thing of awareness and this phenomenon, sunyata, have something worthwhile. The most excellent translation, for me, is ‘openness’… sunyata as openness. Nagarjuna wrote it that way, as openness, as did Heidegger in his phrase ‘dasein’, which means ‘being there’, or the ‘there-ness’, an openness-like a clearing in the field. That awareness is openness. That is what we’ll explore now.
As I become aware of awareness, I am becoming open to openness. My awareness is open, plain, old, ordinary awareness has an openness to it. I can see you, feel you, have thoughts; there is an interchange of some sort. It’s openness. Personal awareness is openness. Then I start to think, “Oh, maybe I’m going to become aware of awareness. It might help me in my practices, as a psychotherapist or consultant.” Don’t know why, but I might try it. I start focusing my openness on openness itself. I start the praxis of becoming open. By becoming open, my personality doesn’t become Italian, or Greek, or extroverted. That’s not the openness that I’m talking to. I can look closed and still have this openness. So, we’ll explore that. Sometimes when we do this, you can close your eyes and go in, but you are practicing entering awareness as we explore.
This openness of awareness, this sunyata, is not simply a psychological openness, or the openness of extroversion, or personality openness. It’s not simply being transparent, or my telling you all of my secrets – now I’m open, blah, blah, blah. But it’s primordial openness that can become so pervasive and unbound; it is basic and, to use this word, ontological. It’s not simply my psychology; it’s the beingness of my own beingness, and there is openness. This beingness of our being is openness. Awareness is open and opening. If I can shift to that and touch that, then I’m going to perceive more directly. I’m going to feel more directly; I’m going to sense more directly. I’m going to be able to sustain that openness, whether I like you or not. My base will become really broad, freer, and this innermost openness will start to influence my person. Our personal awareness can be closed, contracted and contained. Everyone has had that experience once or twice, [of being] closed and contracted.
In this phase, we’re looking at the obscurations of awareness: What hides and blocks awareness; what distorts awareness? But as I enter the openness of openness, I start to feel unbound; same personality, same character, and same neurotic [style], but I start to feel unbound; [I start to feel] more space. I feel less trapped and contained by the cage of my mind. If I’m only in my mind and in the instruments of my mind, I can only be as open as my thought or my sensation is. [But in this place beyond my thoughts,]I can start to touch awareness itself and become open to the openness. I can start to learn to embrace a lot of experience that I could not embrace simply with the structure of my personality, of my ego, of my thinking, feeling, and fantasy function. My base becomes bigger – bigger base, broader field. If I’m in my mind, because subjectivity does float, and I’m captured a lot by right or wrong, good and evil, better and best, truth or falsity, prejudices on top of prejudices, then my experience is profoundly limited. Or, if I’m in the sea of affects, I begin to be limited by my affective range. But this openness, to become open to openness takes us beyond the polarities of right and wrong, good and evil and so forth… and this openness can start to hold everything. That is why if I’m in pain, and I can enter this openness and that pain is held in this openness, I can be present to it and have clarity, have pleasure and live in it and with it, [live in and with the pain].
Our personality ego structure – and you’ll never get rid of it – can close the primordial openness. It can obscure and hide this openness. And this openness is a true source of [the] interdependency of give and take. It is also a source of oneness in its various manifestations. If I can be open to openness, I’m going to feel more connected than disconnected. I can hold more, feel more; I’m less bound by the definitions of my mind and my history. In becoming aware of awareness, open to openness, the body opens; it starts to feel more open. My mind opens, and through this great openness resonance becomes more apparent. If I’m simply in my mind, my cognition, affect, and sensation, I will not necessarily feel resonance. I won’t feel the chi, the shakti, the energy. I’ll read it with my mind, but I will not know it directly. Openness allows us to be in gnosis. ‘Gnosis’ is not a mystical word. You don’t have to be whole or a’ goody’; gnosis is a way of perceiving through openness. If you are a little bit psychic, you are open at a level that is very basic, and you have direct perception of this world.
This great openness becomes apparent, and the configurations of openness are felt throughout the field – pure openness. Openness is pure. I can have all sorts of feelings; I can hate you in openness. The openness is untouched. It really feels great no matter what is taking place. Because of openness of the openness, the innate openness, we can become more aware of what is, just as it is. To experience something just as it is, whatever it is, a lot of ego states cannot be activated: Victim/victimizer, or ‘weenie’… Because of our openness to this innate openness, which is awareness itself, we become aware, in a certain way, that everything is always open. We begin to experience the openness in another [person, in another sentient being]. That is actually a useful skill to have in the drama of psychotherapy, to actually feel a closed, unhappy person, who you don’t even know if you like, and yet if you can feel open to the openness in you, you will feel open to the openness in that person. Then natural compassion arises, which is not an empathetic moment – internalizing other people’s pain – but rather you will feel open to that openness, and that person may become open to that within their own self. So there becomes possibility, potential space, there – neither hope nor dread. Openness is a completely relational undertaking. It is rather hard to feel it in myself if I cannot experience it in the other because openness is unbound. It is pervasive of the situation that I’m in. The invisible becomes visible. The spacious field of awareness is nothing more than this vast openness and direct perception, or seeing into, that is the very nature of awareness, of pure openness.
If I’m really trying to figure out everything in my life as a therapist – I’m trying to figure out this guy – it really might not work too well. But if I’m open to that openness within myself and if I can sense that openness in this other person, then the possibility of transformation, a la Winnicott, becomes more possible, at least between myself and that person. I may become a therapeutic person, or ‘object’ as the books say, for this person. Becoming open to the openness within me, I can sense or feel that primordial openness in you, though you may be really whacked out. My noticing that [openness] in you is compassion, ultimately (and compassion is not an affect). Compassion is a word that reflects primordial openness. Because of the openness to the openness, at this level of myself, there is no limited reification, no fixatedness. When I become open to openness, this [opening] is the least fixed aspect of me. When I’m in my plain old Rudy awareness, I have a lot of fixations, a lot of likes and dislikes, more than you know, or want to know! But if I enter openness to this openness, a lot more space, a lot more unboundedness, a lot more creativity arises for me. If you happen to be with me, you will experience this [openness] too.
So being open to openness is really useful. Your personality can remain the same. This is a blessing for many of us! You don’t have to change; this course is not about changing your personality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a personality change, actually. But in being open to openness just as I am, my perception becomes radicalized [becomes more spacious and full of possibility]. I become more radicalized at that moment. More actions become possible. Rather than fighting my mind or wrestling with my internalizations, immediately we’re [instead] being held and infused by this openness. My thought, which can be rather concrete operational and highly prejudiced, becomes open. My affects, rather than just being a discharge of liking or disliking, become an instrument. We actually feel through our affects; we feel the field through the affects. Affects become an instrument of attunement to what’s going on, but I’m less charged about it, less dominated by it. It becomes attunement. As this openness infuses my mind, my memory becomes less dominant. I’m not viewing you from my high school moment. I’m not viewing you from memory. One of the greatest of the analysts said, “Between memory and desire, that’s the power where healing takes place.” Becoming open to the openness, I am not in memory so much. You feel that at times? Can you believe that? In my being open to the openness, that openness opens me and begins influencing the mind, and so, rather than just the mind influencing everything, now my imagination becomes influenced [by openness]. I begin, though the organ of perception, actually to imagine or to see what I’m not seeing without that infusion.
As we become open to the awareness of openness, the ‘thereness’ [of being in this place at this time] – which is basic and fundamental, but I’m not aware of it – changes, for as I become open to the openness, individual moments feel less substantial to me. Individual moments feel freer to me, less bound, less heavy, less dense, less determined, and less like ‘this is it’. They feel less substantial; there’s more play [more space, more potential]. The capacity for play arises as there is both openness and a lack of substantialness, a lack of determination [a lack of being defined], – “this is your rotten nature,” or “this is your good nature.” When there is no substantialness dominating us, the possibility of play arises. It’s not always easy being open because it feels rather unsubstantial, vast, and spacious, but not completely real. The nature of appearance is openness becoming manifest, manifesting out of and through openness, and I begin to experience everything coming through this openness in me. What I say, what I feel, what I think, and how I talk as you and I meet begin to take place in this openness. I often like to sit next to people rather than our looking at each other, just sitting next to a person. Sometimes it’s easier to be in the openness. It takes us out of the inter-personal definition. Just sitting next to the person the openness just seems to open. There is one field of openness. We hold it together; the person articulates the experience out of that. When it’s really grounded enough, then I think we can look into the gaze, actually be present. Being in the interpersonal situation in and of itself is not being open to openness. This radical openness allows a sense of oneness to come into play, rather than separateness. In being open to openness, oneness begins to take place.
Openness is complete in and of itself. When we are in that openness, that primordial openness, we do not necessarily feel lack. When we’re not in that openness, I can feel a lot of lack. When we’re in openness, in and of itself, there is completeness. This openness is wide open, it is uncontrived, it’s unfounded, it’s not strictly invented, it’s not a thought, but is everything, and the more open [I am], the more [experience] I can embrace in the purity of openness.