I Am This
Lately I have been listening to an audio program by the British spiritual teacher Jeff Foster. His teachings speak to where I currently am, I and I find them to be very effective for me. He rarely, if ever, uses the words “witnessing awareness” or “nondual awareness,” but it’s easy to recognize them in the realizations he describes.
Jeff teaches a way to realize the truth of who and what we really are through deep present moment awareness and acceptance rather than through meditation. He emphasizes that the witnessing awareness that we already are has already allowed everything that is present in this moment to exist – including our thoughts, feelings, circumstances, surroundings, relationships, etc. Who we really are has already allowed everything that exists in our awareness. Who we really are is the capacity to allow and accept all things that arise within us. Who we really are is loving awareness. We may or may not realize that this allowing awareness is who we really are, and to the extent that we don’t realize it we suffer when what is present in this moment is not something we like or want. But the allowing awareness is already there and already who we really are, whether we realize it or not.
He talks about the most horrible things in the world – war, the abuse of children and animals, torture, starvation, etc., and points out that these are already allowed into awareness, the awareness that we are. Nothing is excluded. And yet none of these are able to damage who we really are.
Having it explained the way he explains it allows me to see more clearly and obviously the teaching that I have heard a hundred times – that there is nowhere to “get” and nothing to achieve or attain, that we are already awakened awareness, whether we realize it or not. And that the present moment is the only moment in which we can ever realize who and what we really are.
After listening to him teach, I am thinking about my post from last December 5th, when I wrote about the pain of an encounter I had, and the methods I tried from the steps to get rid of that pain. Now I wonder what might have happened if instead I had practiced this present moment acceptance and tried to see myself as the presence that allowed the pain to be there, until it passed on its own (as every feeling eventually does). I want to try this next time a painful feeling arises.
To go a step further, beyond witnessing awareness into nondual awareness, he also teaches that everything we are presently aware of is what we are. What we are is not limited to our individual bodymind. It is everything we are presently aware of – every thought, feeling, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, etc. His teaching reminds me of another teaching I heard about several years back, called “on having no head.” Basically the idea is that you pause, pay attention to everything you are aware of, and pretend that you have no head – that everything you can see, hear, smell, etc. is your head.
Recently I found myself applying this teaching when I walked my dogs. As we walked down the street I make a point to look and listen with attentive awareness, and then think the thought, “I am this (everything I see, hear, and smell).” When I did this I experienced a subtle shift in my awareness. Something in me fell away, and I experienced an immediacy, a feeling of lightness, freedom, and happiness.
When I reflected on the experience afterward, I was shocked to realize that what fell away was my personal self as Teresa, the memories and history and stories of who I am, and all of my searching for understanding and meaning in life. It was all gone, and I was just everything that was present in that moment. My body was not eliminated in the experience. It was there, just as much a part of what I was as the trees and the street and the cars that passed by. But for a few minutes, it was no longer the center of my experience.
I was astonished at the possibility that this was the whole meaning of life, to just be whatever is, right now, in this present moment. Nothing else really mattered at the time I experienced it, except being this. It reminded me of the feeling I had in my second ketamine treatment – the feeling of being an infant, of being “brand new” in awareness, with no history. It also reminded me of something Alan Watts said.
“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” ~ Alan Wilson Watts, The Culture of Counter-Culture: Edited Transcripts