Ordinarily, we exist in what we might call the outer body. Our identification is through the senses which include the mind. We think of ourselves as others see us. We picture a body and a face that we have met in the mirror. Because others have varying opinions of our ‘person’ality, our identity is somewhat confused. Sometimes we think of ourselves as kind and generous, other times we are mean- spirited. Some people perceive us as direct while others, as arrogant. Some people see us as passive, and other people see a weakling.
It is not that one perception is truer than another but rather that our real being resides on a deeper level than the personality. We know that our personality has been shaped in large part by our family, school, religious upbringing, social conditioning, and the interaction with the personality type that we are born with.
At some point, an inner longing to know ourselves on this deeper level arises, and this is the fuel to propel us on our quest. This inner longing wants to know itself. It wants to discover what is real and what is not. And so, the conscious journey begins. We look into psychology, we look into Yoga, we explore religion, we are pulled by the path of love, or alternatively, we discover meditation.
We can call meditation, the conscious movement into the center. Meditation begins with an act of will. It begins with a desire to know oneself. In order to know oneself, we begin with mindfulness. We begin by bringing attention to each and every act we do. We observe ourselves eating. We eat with awareness. We witness the hand moving towards the plate. We watch the food coming towards our mouth. We pay attention to the tasting and then the chewing. We take note of how the food makes us feel. This attention to our acts can be extended to any of our activities when we remember and allow the time to do so.
Through this process, we are reclaiming our energy, our attention, which normally is being projected out into the world. It is because of this scatteredness of our energy that we have no sense of ourselves. There is no energy at home. We have scattered our energy by chasing dreams. When we begin the journey with mindfulness, we start reclaiming that dispersed energy. Now we have begun to reel in our attention, to bring home our awareness. We have begun the conscious journey home.
With this gathered energy, we can begin to direct the attention inwards. We enter the inner body. We feel ourselves from the inside. It is a more subtle form of sensing. It is not through the senses but behind sensing. It is a sensing in wholeness. It is undivided. We begin to sense a center to our being. We feel an inner flame.
With the help of meditation, we practice techniques that are designed to move us from the periphery into the center. These techniques are simply tools to help us make the jump out of the identification with our body-mind into the inner being, into the inner body.
So let us now in this moment, direct our attention to our interiority. Let us feel the sense of being in our interiority. Let us find that which is referred to when we say I. What is I pointing towards? When we point to ourselves, do we point to our head? no, we point to our heart. Let us feel from the inside that reference point, feel our center.
Following the breath is helpful in moving us towards our center. The breath is a link from the outer to the inner because it moves in both worlds. Watching the breath, following the movement of the breath, brings our attention and starts focusing it inwardly. We simply observe the breathing. We are not interested in changing the pattern of breath but instead are interested in the observing itself. We want to strengthen the observer, and the breath is always available.
We feel our center, and resting in this interior space, we watch the breath. Incoming and outgoing. Incoming and outgoing. All the while our sense of well-being is increasing because our energy is resting at home. It is self-nourishing. It is self-healing. It is being in love. It is not love for something or someone; it is love, being love.
We notice that with this following our attention inwards, there is a feeling of energy moving down from the head and into the body cavity, into the torso. We may feel ourselves centered in the heart area or even in the belly but we do notice a movement out of the head. It is through the brain that we project our attention outwards, through the senses including the mind, so when we redirect that energy on to its return journey, we feel that the energy moves back out of the head and down into the heart.
It is important to note that we are retracing the steps of the unconscious outer journey that we have made. We made that outer journey perhaps looking for ourselves or perhaps just in the spirit of exploration, but then we got distracted. We are now making the same journey but in the opposite direction. This means that at least unconsciously we know the way. We have already traveled the route.
It is in our interiority that we gather our attention. We feel ourselves. We experience Being. It is not the same kind of sensing as when we sense an object in the outer body it is a more diffused sensing mixed with a knowingness. This we can call Being. We know that we are and feel that we are.
It is with this gathered energy, this increased awareness, that we are able to begin to witness all that passes before us. Up until this point, we had no being with which to observe. We had no one to witness. Now this attention has created the witness. It is because we have moved beyond or below the outer body that we are fully able to be a witness to it. We are now able to observe the workings of the body-mind because we have moved into the inner body. From this vantage point we are able to witness its comings and goings. We are able to watch consciousness emptying itself. It is from here that we allow our unconscious to see the light of day and dissolve into freedom.
Once we come to a knowingness of our being, we come to an individuality, we know ourselves as something quite apart from the outer body-mind. Then the real self-inquiry begins. It is from here that we see that the inner body, the Being, is also an object in our awareness and let go into no-body, no-self.
More from the collected and uncollected posts of Prem Purushottama.