Ingathering into Awareness
Often the question is asked how do I integrate this experience of the light into my everyday life? Some would say we should witness our experience or become mindful in our everyday life. The great existential phenomenologist Gabriel Marcel speaks about this dilemma. He comments that “to treat the inner self as a transcendental kernel or witness which has no relationship to our rational mind is quite a risk, for if the rational mind is split off from the kernel then one may find themselves dissociated stripped of the rational mind and entering a no-man’s land.”
Marcel says that we betray our own nature when we think of ourselves as a mere spectator or witness, (when we think of ourselves as a mere recording instrument). Many of us might in fact simply witness something and then note our emotional response and yet Marcel says we must go beyond this simple awareness of our affective response. We must see ourselves not simply as a spectator but also as a participant and understand that which we perceive may have some inner meaning for us. And this leads us to contemplation. Marcel gives the example of observing some phenomena and he describes the phenomena as a “spectacle as in front of me, facing me, before me. If a, however I say a spectacle is in me, inside me or within me then I have pulled the spectacle into myself. I am now at a stage where there is a blending of internal and external; between outside and inside”. He describes it as an ‘ingatheredness’, when one is drawing closer to something, without abandoning anything else. When one is contemplating the meaning of the circumstances one has ingathered, one must fully ingest these circumstances and contemplate what this means in one’s life, and what this means to one’s own self.
In the practice of becoming aware of awareness itself, one does not simply witness one’s life rather one enters into the field of awareness which is spacious, energetic and filled with light. The light is then infused into the circumstances of one’s life. The dualistic rational mind is not split off from one’s experience rather it is integrated into the light of the awareness field which is always present in us and around us.
For example: If a person were to become seriously ill, at first they may experience the illness with surprise and indignation and then gradually begin to pull the illness and the circumstances of it into intgatheredness, or that place of awareness. As they contemplate the illness and hold it in the awareness, the truth of the situation for one’s self begins to emerge. One may begin to discover what this set of circumstances means in their life and its relationship to themselves.
In Tolstoy’s short story “The Death of Ivan IIlych” the central character Ivan Ilych has led his life completely focused on achieving, legality, correctness and propriety of life. At the age of 45 he dies, after a long illness. During his illness and tormented by pain, he evaluates his life and decides he has missed both life and death, that he has wasted his time on deceiving himself and his family by focusing on correctness and his image in the world.
During his illness he begins to intensely hate his wife and family (who he has not ever loved) He hates them because they are healthy and are a mirror of his values.
As the illness progresses he is forced by the pain into a black hole, he lets go of thinking that his life has been correct and suddenly is struck on the chest by some force that causes him to fall to the bottom of the hole into light. His young son creeps into his room kissing his hand. He opens his eyes.
“And suddenly it grew clear to him what had been oppressing him and would not leave him was all dropping away at once from two sides, from all sides. He was sorry for them, he must act so as not to hurt them: release them and free himself from these sufferings. “how good and simple!” he thought, “And the pain” he asked himself. “What has become of it? Where are you pain?”
He turned his attention to it “Yes here it is. Well what of it? Let there be pain.”
“And death where is it?”
He sought his former accustomed fear of death and did not find it. Where is it? What death?” There was no fear because there was no death.
In place of death there was light.
“So that’s what it is “he suddenly exclaimed aloud. “what joy!”
So forced by illness into intense contemplation, Ivan Illych ingathers his experience and opens into being and being reveals his new direction.
Contemplation of ones circumstances by both the rational mind and in the transitional space beyond the mind in the place of the awareness of awareness allows the mind to digest and integrate difficult circumstances and open the wisdom of the mind.
Integration of the circumstances into the base of the mind, the awareness of awareness within, may reveal to the individual new solutions, new opportunity and a fresh beginnings incorporating this new set of circumstances.
Another example might occur if one grows up in a difficult family situation and later in life is attracted to difficult situations, one must ingather this information, look closely at what this means for ones’ life and contemplate whether this is the best alternative as an adult. Integration of the circumstances into the base of the mind may reveal our creative potential.
In an ordinary way, how often have we said let me sleep on this or that question which life presents. By morning we know the answer to the question. In the same way, as we meditate on the light of transitional space, after thinking about a circumstance in which we find ourselves the mystery of the inner meaning is revealed.
So right now once again, we will focus on the light, and as we do that the presence of the light gets stronger and clearer. Our rational mind, our feelings and sensations actually begin to become integrated into the light over time. And every time we hold the field and rest in it, we become more confident of our ability to ingather the light- to rest in this interior presence.
Right now we will go a little deeper, we’ll lean into the field even more now.
And as we lean into the field we sense the interior hermitage of the “great deep” as St Augustine called it. We meditate in order to connect with the inner presence of the “great deep” our most interior self.
Now we will take one step further and extend the light horizontally to each other. Here we keep our connection with our relational life. We understand as we dwell in the in the “great deep” compassion naturally emerges. Compassion is that capacity to hold awareness for oneself and the other. As Ivan Illych says: “How good, how simple” Compassion emerges naturally as one fills up in the “great deep.” We practice that bodhisattva vow here that suggests that we practice compassion not only for ourselves but for all sentient beings.
Marcel goes on to say that which makes us fully human is to be available to the other. To be as fully open as possible to the other… to be in touch with our own presence and the presence of the other.
Influenced by Martin Buber, Marcel distinguishes between the “I- Thou” relationship and the “I-it” relationship. In the “I- Thou” we sense the mystery, the presence in the other.
In the “I –it” relationship we think of the other to be moved, manipulated and at times disposed of. We cease to sense the mystery in the other.
Our current preoccupation with rapid response might fall into this category. We are conditioned to respond to the newest, the most recent email and or phone call that we are in a constant state of distraction… no longer present in our situation and no longer contemplating outcomes but responding rapidly to a situation as a spectator. Ingathering and contemplation maybe forgotten in favor of rapid response.
In the “I-Thou” relationship we sense the presence of the other, the mystery of the other.
Marcel describes presence in relationship “it refreshes my inner being, it reveals me to myself than I should be if I were not exposed to its impact”
If you like you can allow yourself to remember an encounter with someone that evoked the experience of revealing yourself to yourself or a meeting where this did not take place. Perhaps you were treated like an “I-it”. Ingather that experience and think about the experience. Notice the feelings and sensations, memories associated with that experience. Now allow the experience to recede into the space between your thoughts. As we contemplate the awareness of awareness, we sleep on the experience, (as it were), allowing our unconscious mind to have its own input. After meditating a short while, we return to the experience and hopefully the inner wisdom of the experience will be revealed.
The dilemma of presence, is that is in influx all day long, we have to be indwelling in the awareness field in order not to treat ourselves like objects or other people like objects. And as we hold awareness we have to be able to ingather and digest the ever changing circumstances of the day. It is definitely quite a challenge to be human and present all day long.
The great Dzogchen Master Namkai Norbu Rinpoche suggests one way of being in the experience of presence is to relax into whatever you are doing. The skillful method is simply the practice of being present to whatever we are doing. In this way we can then discover the experience of what he calls “instant presence”. We become present to whatever we are doing and present to our life and companions in life. Right now once again we will meditate in this field of presence which is easily accessed in the space between the thoughts. We put our attention on the space between the thoughts … this space begins to grow and we begin to feel more spacious…. extend this spaciousness throughout the body, we don’t dissociate, we stay grounded in the body. We extend towards each other and as we do that we relax even more. We may discover as we relax, a subtle presence arising within. And as we hold this presence in awareness, we relax even more and the doorway to the field of awareness opens with attention and relaxation.
We enter the field of non-dual oneness- awareness of awareness. The field becomes more illuminated, clarity increases and a sense of even deeper presence arises. Norbu says “Continuing in this state of pure presence is what really matters.” Dzogchen describes being in the state of awareness beyond the meditation period as the “self liberation of conduct.” This is the secret instruction of Dzogchen and the essence of being in the natural state. So today as we meditate, the meditation practice becomes our initial experiment into the field of being – this experiment and discovery can be extended in any activity throughout the day as we ingather and digest our circumstances.