More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Better sleep, reduced anxiety, decreased pain, enhanced mental clarity and creativity have all been documented in research studies. When one version of these practices works for us, we naturally tend to stick with it. After all, it is called a “practice”, right? Something we do over and over again to become proficient at it. There is still value in exploring new options every once and awhile, expanding horizons to see what else is out there. One such practice of intense, immersive mindful focus is described by Christopher Wallis in his book The Recognition Sutras. In addition, Wallis, also known as “Hareesh”, has videos demonstrating these thousand-year-old practices in a gentle way easily accessible to Westerners.
Meditation on Reality involves becoming very intimate with our five senses, and even our interoception, the perception of sensations from inside the body. Interoception has been called “the hidden sense that shapes well-being.” What goes on inside our bodies is usually sub-conscious; in other words, we don’t pay much attention to it. And yet, since our emotions are part of this felt sense of who we are, they all have aspects related to bodily sensations. Becoming aware of these internal sensations (without judgment!) not only gives us better intuition about our health and well-being, it gives us control. Becoming aware of what is going on in my body allows me choice: choice about how I will care for my body, choice about the beliefs and attitudes I hold about my body, choice about actions which align with my own unique well-being.
The Meditation on Reality sounds a bit simpler than the actual practice, and yet reaps unexpected rewards. Sitting in a comfortable position, we allow our eyes to relax, almost shutting if you want, to be just barely aware of light coming in. We take in the entire experience of seeing, noting everything in our field of vision, noticing what is “behind” the seen that is aware of seeing. Once we are completely immersed in seeing, we can add in hearing. Can I maintain my focus on seeing while also noticing the hum of the refrigerator, traffic noises, the ringing in my ears? Again, shifting to who or what is perceiving the sights and sounds helps me be able to immerse in both of them simultaneously. Then I can add in what is going on in the body, starting with the simple awareness of how my buttocks notices what it is sitting on. What is the feeling of my hands and arms on my thighs or beside me? Are my feet touching the floor? Oh, and again, what am I seeing and hearing while my body is doing these things?
It takes a great deal of effort at first. I can barely notice all three things for 60 seconds before I am exhausted. With practice, I can lengthen the time very gradually, constantly pulling myself back to sight/sound/sensations, like paper-training a puppy. I start to become proud of myself for how long I could do it today. Oh, so I can add in thoughts too? And what about emotions? I notice I am irritated at how still I have to be to notice sight/sound/sensations all at once. Can I relax into accepting that as well? All of these things are actually going on while I sleep, yet I usually tune them out while sleeping, preferring to remain motionless when the alarm goes off. Is it possible to have body asleep while the mind is awake, as described in the research of Dr. Joe Dispenza?
Today, with the aid of some quiet meditative music, I was able to do this for an entire hour, constantly re-focusing on sight/sound/sensations. I added in another Hareesh practice of moving my awareness from the organs in the head to the base of my heart. What is it like to see out of the eyes “up there”? Are the sounds all hitting my body even as they hit my ears? Remembering to add in WHAT/WHO is aware of all these things keeps centering me back to all of it at the same time. I start a series of experiments of what else can I add in and still keep awareness of ALL of it:
Add in the feeling of complete love for my partner, as when I pet the back of his neck.
Add in the bigger “energy of Love” that so delighted in being aware of these “minor” things, It gave me Life.
Add in complete contentment with all of this, even the aches, pains, irritations, sadness that comes as I immerse myself in noticing it more.
Add in compassion for all beings who suffer as I have. May they also notice these tiny bits of Love and Life.
Add in awareness of the tiny grain of grit near the door, all the awareness of every green leaf on the planet, of all living things having some level of awareness around the world constantly.
Notice that this is happening 24/7 to 7+ billion people on this planet, this solar system, this galaxy, this universe. What about the other planets, galaxies, etc. out there? What/Who could possibly be aware of all that simultaneously?
That tips me over into true mind-boggling awe that I can connect my awareness to all of that simply by simultaneously noticing my own vision/hearing/sensing/contentment/compassion and more. IT, whatever this awareness is, is doing this, including me, 24/7, in a Reality beyond the concept of time or space. I notice that adding in gratitude is actually the most expansive experience. It connects me to all the rest, and allows my awareness to go where it has never been…