Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dharma Talk 017 - Awareness and Relaxation

I was recently watching the "Brain Games" television show on the National Geographic channel, I believe it was the one about Scams, and at the end of it Jason Silva said:

But remember being gullible isn't all bad.  If your brain wasn't capable of suspending disbelief you'd never lose yourself in a good book or get sucked into a movie.

I wanted to comment that for me, this "awareness" thing deriving from meditation took off and at a certain point we could say that it more or less took over my life.  One of the first times I noticed this was when I went to a movie and I didn't get sucked in.  Not for a second.  I was aware and present the whole time.  And I recognized that this was unusual, like, hmm, "this is new".

At the time I was participating in some regular video chats with several more advanced yogis.  I mentioned this phenomenon to them and at that moment, the screen of maybe 3 or 4 yogis suddenly lit up with everyone gesturing "thumbs up" into their webcams.  The place lit up with thumbs.  At that point I realized I was on the right track.

I don't want to be too obtuse about this - to some degree I can get a little bit absorbed or lost in something, but for the most part nowadays, I am typically aware.  I would be happy to bet money on whether or not I am present, because I know that is a bet I would win on average.  A friend of mine at the time, one of the senior yogis, remarked that he felt as if he was "stuck in the present".  Yes.

The key, though, is that even if I get a little bit absorbed into something, I am relatively unattached to whatever that is, and there is a flexibility with that, and there is even then at least a little bit of a foothold into the present.  There's a friend of mine that likes to sleep with a foot out from underneath the covers.  However covered up she may be, there's still that one little piece that is exposed to the ambient temperature.  So it's a little like that, a little bit of awareness that is always grounded in the here and now.

I'm reminded a bit of Les Fehmi's training that he refers to as Open Focus.  Same kind of thing.  A vipassana type awareness of space and volume is used to train awareness and to have an attentional flexibility between a narrow and wide or open focus, and to always have a little bit of that broader open awareness of the here and now.

The key that I referred to is this relative lack of attachment, and there is a certain kind of relaxation or tranquility that comes with that.  We can try to relax, but it appears that for the most part we must be aware in order to relax.  So awareness comes first.  If we are aware, we can be truly relaxed.  If you are lost in some kind of daydream, you might come out of it and notice that some part of your body was tensed up in response to your thoughts.  Once you come out of the fantasy, you see that your body is tensed up and it is often very easy and obvious to relax that tension.

When I watch movies, I sense when there are scenes that are interpreted as tense, and I kind of feel a little bit of that, but I don't really get sucked in.  I am aware, though, that people around me are in fact tensing up, and after a scene like that you will often hear a lot of deep sighs.  As people come out of that tense scene and gain some degree of awareness of the tension that they were holding, they naturally let go of that tension in the diaphragm, and relax.

There is this obvious level of physical tension that can be let go of, and maybe even more importantly I would say that there are levels where we could say that emotional tension can be let go of, and mental tension as well.  But it requires that we be aware, that we be aware very continuously, and that within that we feel all those little sensations and feelings and thoughts, and our resistance or craving of those feelings and sensations and thoughts, and that we see all this and allow the body to really see this and to maybe relax a bit.  And you just practice that kind of awareness and feeling and releasing for a couple of thousand hours, and there you go :)

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