There is little point in our having a discussion unless we first agree, are we talking about apples or oranges?
With Simple Reality we are involved in a process of operant reconditioning a la Pavlov and we cannot hear the new bell ringing the dulcet tones of the NOW too many times. The shift from P-B to P-A can be facilitated by a dialogue with others or with oneself. To assure that such a conversation is both profound and pragmatic there are some principles that are essential. Some foundational basic assumptions underlying such an exploration would be as follows:
First, the highest human attainment is the experience of the present moment (Simple Reality) as opposed to illusion (P-B). Only a small fraction of humanity has consciously understood the distinction between the two narratives and yet Abraham Maslow reckoned that 80% of Americans have had an experience of the NOW which he called a “peak experience” at least once in their lifetime. Some extraordinary people throughout human history have said that awareness of Simple Reality is our natural state of being.
Secondly, a change in behavior is necessary to move from an unsustainable P-B to a sustainable P-A. The foundational aspects involved in such a process of change are worldview, identity and the behavior itself. Understanding the relationship among these elements would show that behavior is determined by identity and that identity is driven by one’s worldview. Hence, a fundamental and profound change in behavior must involve a change in one’s identity which is preceded by a change in worldview, context or narrative. A good working definition of worldview could be one’s feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values.
Next, the experience of the present moment, involves “feeling” as opposed to “emotion.” Understanding the distinction between the two is critical to attaining an experience of Simple Reality. To experience what we call “feeling” is to be happy for no good reason or to experience the joy of existence itself beyond the intellect. To distinguish between feeling and emotion is to distinguish the authentic from the illusory. Or as Seth puts it: “Once you learn to get the feeling of your own inner tone, then you are aware of its power, strength and durability, and you can to some extent ride with it into deeper realities of experience.”[i] You can ride with it into the heart of P-A.
Emotions, on the other hand are the result of a conditioned reaction and always result in suffering in the context of P-B. In the words of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: “Being dragged around by emotions destabilizes our mind, our day, our life, and ultimately, the welfare of our planet.”[ii]
The next basic assumption involves the need for a process or practice that can assist us in shifting both our worldview and our identity. That practice is sitting (Vipassana) meditation. We sit and get quiet and begin to focus on our breath. We use the breath as the ground of present moment awareness because it is automatic, it requires no thought and is the perfect thing to observe or “witness,” because as we practice observing the breath, we begin to create the separation from body, mind and emotions which is at the heart of a P-B identity.
The breath is the “Golden Thread” that will connect us to Simple Reality, our natural state of being. In focusing on the breath, we are shifting our identity to that of the observer, to that which is free of false-self identification. “When we stop speaking and thinking,” Thích Nhất Hạnh says, “and enjoy deeply our in and out breath, we are enjoying being in our true home and we can touch deeply the wonders of life.”[iii]
The final fundamental basic assumption is that we must make our life itself a meditation. We do this by learning to be in response to our daily experience rather than in a continuous reaction which is the common human condition. The Point of Power Practice is the powerful and practical strategy that will empower us to gradually transcend P-B. Each time that we are able to pause, breathe and choose response over the reaction about to “triggered” by our past conditioning, we demonstrate that we live in a new paradigm with a new identity as a compassionate human being.
Now we are ready to begin a profound dialogue and to take action to lay the foundation for transcendence. Let your inner wisdom, response and feeling take the helm of your ship Simple Reality and the intellect can provide the crew that can support your voyage into the joyous adventure of sailing the serene seas of the present moment.
[i] Roberts, Jane. The Nature of Personal Reality. New York: Bantam, 1974, pp. 12-13.
[ii] Rinpoche, Sakyong Mipham. “A Reign of Goodness.” Shambhala Sun. Boulder, Colorado, September 2005, p. 15.
[iii] Hạnh, Thích Nhất. “For 30 Years the Best Buddhism in America: Meditation.” Shambhala Sun. January 2010, p. 67.