In my last book, Searching for Rain in a Monsoon, I offered a series of meditative inquiries that focused on three themes: a) relaxing our efforts to manipulate/control the flow of perceptions; b) recognizing that our moment-to-moment experience is not capable of being captured by any of our descriptive/conceptual frameworks; and, c) becoming experientially familiar with basic awareness—the faculty of knowing that registers all experience—and seeing its inseparability from all perceptual phenomena.
At the end of the book, I offered a postscript, reflecting on what I’d come to see as the profound benefits of engaging in such “practices” and why I feel as passionate as I do about sharing and inviting others into this experiential inquiry, whether through my writing, music, teaching or research.
1. By relaxing our efforts to manipulate experience, we increasingly feel a sense of “at-home-ness” in the midst of whatever thoughts, feelings and sensations may be occurring, even those conventionally labeled as “negative.”
2. The less we seek fulfillment in some future moment, the more deeply we are able to appreciate how much is already present, how rich, how remarkable, and how miraculous each instant of life actually is.
3. As we relax the habit of trying to rearrange our thoughts, feelings and sensations in order to feel a greater sense of wellbeing or fulfillment, we gain familiarity with a different “order” or domain of well-being, one that is not defined by the presence or absence of particular experiences but is recognized to be present in and as the very flow of experiencing itself.
4. The more we come to see that our thoughts are simply interpretations of rather than absolutely true statements about the nature of reality, the less we are locked into, identified with or beholden to our points of view. This in turn leads to more open-mindedness, a relaxing of the habitual tendency to reflexively defend our ideas and ideologies, and greater cognitive and emotional flexibility.
5. The more we recognize that experiences can never be adequately captured by any of our conceptual, philosophical, or linguistic frameworks, the more we discover something about ourselves (and life) that lies utterly beyond any and all descriptions and interpretations, an unfathomable, mysterious, and ineffable depth.
6. That which is aware of this moment is naturally open to it; what is aware of experiences is effortlessly accepting those experiences; and that which is aware of the arising and passing away of phenomena is not struggling with those phenomena. And so, as we bring attention to awareness itself, these naturally occurring qualities (i.e., openness, acceptance, non-struggle) tend to come more and more alive in our direct experience.
7. As we recognize that no clear lines of division can be found experientially between awareness and its phenomenal content, we become more aware of another dimension of our humanness, namely an aspect of us that is unbounded, without division or separation, and freed from the tyranny of self-focus and its energy draining project of propping up, defending and protecting itself from whatever it imagines might threaten its psychological integrity and security. The recognition that what we call “self” is not as substantial, fixed or bounded as we imagined frees up tremendous energy as the habitual grasping and striving to obtain satisfaction for that imagined self, relaxes.