Dogzen Email Newsletter
Reprints of the Dogzen Email Newsletters
Number 3 - September, 2004
Awareness itself is completely empty. It doesn't have anything in it. It is the faculty by which one has experience, but it is blank. Think of awareness as the screen on which the movie plays.
Even though it is empty, we can assign a few attributes to it:
It is "space-like." It is the space in which experiences occur. Sometimes the Bönpo (practitioners of Bön dzogchen) go up on a hillside or out in the open to stare into the clear blue sky. This is a meditation that gives them an impression of the nature of mind - clear and empty space. Sometimes it is called "the field of awareness" to emphasize its space-like nature.
I also like to add "luminous." Awareness is a space with inner light. This is the light that illuminates the objects in your dreams. Your body is lying there in a dark room with its eyes closed, but you see a lit-up stage on which your dream unfolds. It can be fully-convincing light, even in a pitch black room. Actually, you only see inner light, whether you are awake or asleep. This includes the electromagnetic waves or photons from the sun that we normally think of as light. The "luminousness" of physical light is created only within the field of awareness, though few realize this. Any light you see right now is inner light. The light "out there" isn't lit up except by your awareness. See if you can right now directly experience how all light is inner light.
There is also "knowing presence." I used to say "knowing" and "presence" separately, but at one point I realized they are one and the same. This isn't intellectual knowing. It's not about knowing the names of the state capitals or the amount of wheat in Kansas. It is about the direct knowing that you have when you are having any experience. You can get this very clearly by just gazing at an object for a while and directly experiencing the knowing presence at that moment. Don't think about the object's properties (color, size, etc.), don't mentally take it apart or compare it to anything, and don't figure out anything. Just observe being present, knowing it without doing any mental process.
Presence is usually associated with an individual (for example, "I am present!"), but this is not always the case. Awareness can be present without a separated individuality, though this is pretty rare. The mind normally formulates a sense of self and associates it with experiences, thinking, feeling, the body, relationships, and so forth.
One day, in (about) 1972, I was sitting quietly on a sunny deck in Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz mountains. I had just spent about two hours in a sensory deprivation tank (an environment made to limit sensory information coming into the body). My mind was very quiet and I could clearly see how it was making a "me." Little by little, "I" let that go. Soon there was just pure presence with no separate individual. That state lasted about ten minutes, then "I" began functioning again. There is certainly a very strong tendency to be an individual. However, once it has been evaporated, the belief in it is diminished.
There is one other attribute of awareness, a very important one. This is that experiences arise within the field of awareness. All experiences that you have ever had are experiences that arose within the field of awareness. Awareness is the ground or base of all experience. However, awareness doesn't get changed by the experiences that arise within it. It's just the underlying ability or faculty that makes experiences possible.
Experiences are "impermanent." They arise within the field of awareness and then they complete or just disappear, making room for the next experiences. All the experiences you had in the past did this. They came, occupied your subjective field, and then went on their way, back to the void from which they came. All of them, except for the one you are having at this very instant, are actually gone. Records of some of them are stored in your brain so you can experience a memory of them, but the originals went somewhere and are now -- where? Just a part of the warmth of the world.
Was that fun for you? It was fun for me.
Until next time, fond regards, Edrid
Dogzen Evening Practices
7:30 PM to 9:30 PM at Edrid's house in Menlo Park.
After that, we will have a One-Day-Practice. We haven't decided on a date yet.
Hope you can attend,
Contact info: email Edrid at firstname.lastname@example.org