22 March 2011

the morning

Do you ever notice your own process of waking up in the morning? Do you ever watch what happens? This is interesting to me because in such a process I can see the active construction of identity at work. Haha. Hoho. My identity is so interested in itself!

Perhaps there has been some change in my life. Maybe some fundamental aspect of my life with respect to my work, place of living or key relationship has suddenly changed. Just to make this clearer let's say that I am upset by this change (though this is by no means necessary). Perhaps I am very upset and even view it as a crisis. I am not sure what to do or how to be. I may experience it as extreme grief. If I am able to sleep such grief may even wash over into my dreams. When I am asleep and not dreaming however, it is simply not there. 'It' does not exist, where existence means distinct with respect to a background. What happens in the process of waking up from such a sleep?

In my own experience, if I am watchful, I notice that grief, trauma, etc. is not fundamentally present in this moment of waking up. The memory of my identity happens very quickly so I must be watchful. I have 'practiced' noticing the first moments that I am able to notice. This is different than noticing the re-presentation of my own noticing that might take place in language such as "oh, I am noticing this or that." I realize this is problematic since it asks the question 'who is noticing?' That is specifically why it is interesting to me.

Perhaps you have had the experience of waking up in an unfamiliar place, with no idea of where you are? In my case, I have frequently had the experience of waking up with no idea of who I am. Initially whenever this would happen I would experience a kind of panic or anxiety, frantically putting in place the pieces to locate my 'self.' Well, not the first time I noticed this. That experience was initially blissful, but I turned away from it. Perhaps it is this way each time. Now I am more relaxed when this happens, though apparently not completely relaxed. As far as I can tell, I have never allowed myself to thoroughly abide in that state of not knowing who I am. In the initial moments of such a state even basic forms such as "up, down," etc. have no particular meaning. Then again, how would I really know.

Perhaps you have had a time in your life when someone dear to you has died, or the formal ways of relating to them have in some way changed altogether. Or perhaps you have simply realized that who you imagined 'they' were and who they 'actually' are have little or no correlation to one another. It is my own view that this latter case is the predominant nature of our 'relationships' in life. I do not mean this cynically as in 'I trusted them and they have proved themselves false!' I mean something more like the hallucination we have of some 'other' is more convenient to the perpetuation of our own constructed identity than to anything else. The 'some other' is someone you are used to seeing everyday or in some particular way and now you simply no longer see that person in any of those forms or ways. Of course there are degrees to this. In my own experience, watching what happens, I notice that I wake up without the 'knowledge' that the person is gone, or that some fundamental change has occurred. I may not be thinking about it, or aware of it in any particular way. The first moments of waking up are not iterative in that way. Perhaps I experience myself as having some relaxed loving feeling of intimacy which I (then) associate with that person or situation, as if they were the source of that in some way. In myself I notice that the association follows the felt sense of well-being and not the reverse. Then what happens?

I remember. I sense. I feel. I seem to connect a sensing, feeling, remembering process so closely in time that I imagine it is simultaneous. I pretend that such imagined simultaneity, in the apparent location of my attention, construes a self. I pretend this so thoroughly that the pretense exhausts my view of reality. I might represent to myself something about that as in 'getting real.' The sensations of my body, themselves a process in time and so a kind of memory become apparent to me. Thoughts and emotion, also perceived over time and so memory in an immediate sense, become apparent. I begin a construction, attempting to make sense out of all of this, though it does not seem a construction, since it is mostly unnoticed.

I am 'orienting' myself. My foot is sore. Huh... Why is my foot sore? What happened? What is my account? Sensing the soreness of my foot and accounting for it all happens so quickly with respect to the frame of my constructed point of view, that it can seem instantaneous. This quality can lead me to believe that it is all a pre-given, fixed condition. As conceptual memory arises a reverse of this occurs and this is fascinating. I am not first sad and grieving, like a sore foot, and then generating an account. I am first generating an account, as if whole and pre-given, and such sadness or emotional landscape follows this.

We are funny about the process of perception. We might speak of the sense organs, etc. We might imagine something about immediacy, even in our re-presentation. The entire so-called body-mind is a sense organ, structurally coupled with and as the whole of its 'environment.' We usually do not notice this because we are so self-identified with iterative thought as the exhaustive descriptor of our reality.

The world of my waking up in the morning simply is. My state simply is. Then I sense. Typically I first notice some aspect of my breath and breathing. Or perhaps I feel something about my heart. Other sensation follows. In that process some account begins, though it has already begun in the very first moment of noticing that I am noticing. That is a moment of noticing attention itself and the patterning of attention. The memory of the felt is the first memory that arises. The account follows, but so closely that I might conflate all this as if it were all happening at once. The account itself is not only memory, but associative as well and leads to other components of accounting and remembering that are not as immediately grounded in the sensate. I might literally remember something about yesterday, or the past year(s). I remember some structured pattern, as if it were a pre-given condition, rather than a product of my constructed point of view, even in the moments of that construction. It is dynamically self-reinforcing.

In the case of a change in personal relationship I notice that the person is not there. Huh. How can I notice something not there? How does that happen? Is it possible in and of itself? In order to consider something not there and to so miss it and all that follows, we must also have some idea, memory or sense that it 'could' or 'should' be there. Perhaps we have a habituated memory that is readily available to us. It might also simply be a sense of possibility. Maybe we took that person a cup of coffee every morning as part of our daily morning routine. Now they are not there. We can only notice their absence from within a context of their expected presence, which we then actively negate. This seems to happen all at once and we might experience sadness, grief, loss, missing them... or sometimes elation, freedom, space, or release... or a mix of all that and more, including all our judgments about that we are feeling all that, or not feeling things we imagine we ought to feel.

In the first moments of noticing the coming into existence of our attention, there is only a state of being. It is not even 'our' state of being. It becomes 'our' state of being through a process of active remembering as sensation, cognition, emotion, association, etc.

When noticed, this once again, presents us with a kind of choice. What will we animate? How will we 'relate' to that which is animated? Are we more identified with the source of our attention arising and all the constructed reality which follows or with the prior state in and from which such attention arises? How would 'our day' differ in either case?

Morning 'practice' takes on an entirely different meaning when this is considered. Typically all of this happens so rapidly, in an unwitnessed way, such that we are simply in it before we have any chance whatsoever. To 'function' in the world we rely on this apparent immediacy. One small aspect of a morning practice is the witnessing of this, again and again in each moment, with each breath. This is one aspect of certain sorts of meditation. What is contemplated is the prior whole from, as and in which attention itself arises. This may not be immediately apparent in any first attempts. What might be apparent is simply discomfort, all arising from a kind of anxiety when the habitual, constructed self is 'interrupted' by such a process of witnessing. The 'meditation' does not cause the discomfort. The meditation is merely revealing a kind of habitual state. We seek to maintain something about the fabricated, mythological nature of our constructed self, as functional. Meditation is experienced as a threat to the survival of this constructed, enacted self.

Perhaps there are analogous ways to stalk such a self. Conscious movement is one such way. Pick some naturally occurring activity of your day like opening a door, eating, sitting down, standing up or perhaps taking a step after having been standing in place. Bring your attention to that activity and watch what happens. First simply observe all the details of it. In the observation begin to sense where you are adding things to the motion. Locate the places and ways in which you are tensed or tensing in the 'doing' of that simple action. Observe all of this without changing anything at all. Notice the way you are doing that so thoroughly that you could teach someone else how to do it exactly that way. You are a master of doing this simple thing exactly the way you do it. Then find some places where you can relax, where you can do less and still accomplish the basic activity. Allow yourself to consciously relax. You are still fully present and aware, just releasing some of the areas where you have animated 'extra' tension in the process. Once you have some sense of that, begin to trace back all the aspects of the motion. In what moment and in what way does that first step arise? Follow that. It will seem to all be happening at once, at first. Then you will notice that it seems to be happening over time. You can follow what happens just 'before.' Eventually this iterative quality also dissolves and you can experience a wholeness to the motion or moment in which all the 'parts' are apparent and a natural aspect of the whole, rather than added together to make the whole. You can even start with this disposition about some particular motion as the context of inquiry and contemplation.

You may imagine that such a contemplation will render you ineffective with regard to accomplishing the intended or imagined purpose you might associate with some simple action, such as passing through a door. This has not been my experience, but you can only determine that for yourself by experimentation. Therefore, pick something simple. Each moment, each motion contains within in it all other motions and the entire system of the witnessed and witnessing as a process. Once you have some capacity with this, then you might begin to contemplate the process of waking up in the morning. Or you could just start that. I find the process of waking up easier to observe than the process of falling asleep, in part because I have the conditional desire to fall asleep, which involves a cessation of such process.

If anyone tries any of these things, I would be interested to hear results, and perhaps sharing observations would benefit others also trying these things. Clearly my own understanding is limited and much of such practice often occurs for me in my own life as a kind of incremental failure. Often I am failing the attempt to consciously practice altogether. I can see it and remember it, but am not willing to enact it at different points in different ways. Sometimes I intentionally refuse to practice. I am saying these things to make clear again that I am not authorized, or self-authorizing to say anything about any of this, even if it reads to you as if I am. There are better accounts. There are more profound practices. What is written here is meant as part of a reflective space. That's all. The reflection may or may not seem to reveal something for you, if you have read this. There is no amount of practice or process or any such thing that can accomplish what already is. What already is cannot, by definition, be accomplished.

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