Patterns. Making links, joining up the dots, creating connections – it’s an important aspect of our intelligence isn’t it? The ability to look at a small amount of detail and infer what is not seen from what can be seen. Perhaps this evolved with us as a survival mechanism, but there’s no doubt it’s a tendency we all possess.
When used positively, this ability of mind can lead us into creative thought as we speculate and reassemble ideas into new forms. At other times we can imagine future conversations, what others might be saying or thinking and where we allow these thoughts to run to negative consequences and invest these with belief we can cause ourselves needless suffering.
When we learn to watch the thoughts, to see what arises in the mind without judgement then we avoid belief in the content of thought.
It can be observed that that which arises in the senses continues to do so whether the light of awareness rests upon it or not. For example, the nerves in our skin to not cease sending impulses to the brain when we focus our attention on listening to a piece of music – we are simply unaware of them doing so. When abstracted in some chain of thought the eyes continue to react to light and send information, as do the other external senses.
So it is with thought, which can arise and run on in the background of activity, sometimes dimly and half formed, sometimes more imaginatively. A more vigorous interaction between awareness and thought than with awareness and the other senses can be observed as the former stirs the pool of the latter and brings its forms into sharper focus.
But what is this awareness? As with many such concepts, we rarely enquire deeply into its nature and can relate to it superficially as a noun in the way language renders it. Perhaps all that can be said about awareness is that it is observed to be an aspect of life whereby change is reacted to by animate forms.
In practice this manifests in plants and animals as well as smaller organisms. The mechanisms vary but the principle is not distinctly different. When we speak of awareness therefore we are not speaking of that which is in the purely human domain, nor that which can be said with any meaning to belong to a ‘me’ or a ‘you’.
Thought seems on the one hand to have the simplicity of familiarity about it but do we really understand this aspect of being? Thought can mirror and reflect that which the senses respond to. Thought is plastic, mimicking all, becoming none. The pool of thought can reproduce some of that which is sensed and awareness of such gives us perception – the distinction between sense ‘data’ and that which we understand it to mean.
The polished mirror of thought can even reflect some aspect of awareness which in turn, within awareness, perceiving its reflection gives rise to consciousness or self-consciousness. This in turn reinforces the illusion of a ‘self’, an apparently separate being with a distinct identity, associated with a form perceived to be separate. This illusion of ‘me’, once established, makes connections, creates links, joins up dots, taking ownership of habits, tendencies, predilections and beliefs as ‘mine’ along with association with apparently separate external forms – ‘my’ possessions.
When the illusion of ‘self’ is realised it is seen that that which arises in the present simply is as it is, without ownership or meaning – all apparent separateness and labelling additions of thought to that which is forever beyond thought. And with this comes a lightness as that which is observed is no longer identified with. Things no longer happen to ‘me’, they simply happen.
It is noted that that which is labelled the present is change, is motion and that which gives rise to appearance of that labelled ‘form’ through motion is that which is beyond all labels other than to say it is – perceptible but not understandable. Resting in this in the moment, so much of that which formerly was invested with meaning and importance fails to arouse these associations for there is none present with which they may be associated.