2022-10-03-Consciousness (1 of 5) Knowing that Changes the Knower
2:57PM Oct 3, 2022
So good morning, good day everyone, whether it's morning or afternoon or evening for you. And then as most of you that are on right now know, I mean way for three weeks and happily teaching three week retreat, the second one we've done at our retreat center in Santa Cruz, California. And I imagine that some of you who are watching today, were at that retreat, I think there were some 140 or so people on it or 30, and 40. But 40 in person and another 8090 or so doing it online. And so it's this, it just ended two days ago, and Saturday, I feel kind of very much still in the momentum of the retreat. And then, with the with the teachings, they're still on my mind. I want to say something about the consciousness, the awareness, I see consciousness and awareness as being synonyms of each other. And in fact, in one dictionary that I have, you look up the definition for consciousness, it says awareness and look up the definition for awareness, it has consciousness, I'm sure that there are people who will parse apart more better distinctions between them, but in maybe in a simple persons English, that it's very easy to, to, to treat these as being the same. And but the question is, you know, what is it? What is consciousness? What is awareness? And I don't really know, exactly, but I have a theory. And it's a working theory, and that it's a theory with which I work there with the theory, they're kind of understanding with which I follow my find my way with, I'm in awe, by the capacity to be aware, to be conscious. And I see it the kind of is a metaphor is kind of like a spark, in the vast universe, kind of like a little candle that's burning. And we have seven, 7 billion of these candles burning and of consciousness, of brightness, of, of clarity, that, that we all all humans share, and to the degree to which we share it with animals and other sentient beings is, you know, it's not so clear, but there's a lot of different ideas about it. And so, I'd like to kind of relate this idea of consciousness to the basic tools of mindfulness, that consciousness is not a thing. It's not a static thing. But rather, it's a it's the image or the sense that the mind constructs for the gestalt of all the different capacities we have for attention, and all the different kinds of mental influences that might impact on our attention. And so, Gestalt means something that's kind of a hole that's larger than its sum of its parts. And, and so the mind has this capacity to construct to take and that's mind is a constructing Oregon, it takes in a lot of the data from outside and inside from all the different sense doors we have and the inner from the mind and the minds, memories and thoughts and projections of the future. And it's an amazing, the mind is an amazing organ of processing data information that comes in and then reconstructing in such a way that we can find our way in the world. One of the ways that I marvel that is that you can, someone can throw you a ball in the air, and your mind will calculate the physics of of when and how and where you will catch the ball. If it's a beach ball,
you'll calculate it very differently than if it's a baseball thrown at you as a fastball. You know, so there's a very different kind of calculation that goes on. And that includes the height of the throw, and the weight of the ball, the size of it, all kinds of things come into play. And, and your mind doesn't calculate the physics of it in a conscious way. But somehow it knows it takes all the data in maybe the memory of different balls being thrown and before, and understands the particularities of this time. So this is the minds ability constructed to make things. And we know that sometimes it's so creatively that or sees things dynamically that are not really dynamic in certain way. And so the old movie films, eight millimeter films where there's all these individual frames, that are still shots, but when they pass through the eyes quickly, the brain reconstruction as motion, there's no motion. On the on the screen, you see a lot of quack, still shots put on there. And, and so the mind constructs something. So their mind as a constructive organ. And it takes all the different capacities for perception, and awareness and knowing and recognition. And together could forms kind of a whole sense of what that is, that can feel like it's that marvelous sense of consciousness of awareness, open broad spectrum awareness. But the way people experience consciousness, and being aware, varies very much from person to person and from individual from day to day, depending on all kinds of mental factors that come into play. That, that's, that influence that sense of awareness and consciousness. So for example, if we spent a lot of time being distracted, then we hardly even know that we're conscious and aware. You know, we know it in the abstract, but we don't live in the, in the, in the intimate awareness of awareness, the intimate knowing of wow, this is amazing. Whereas other times, when we're not distracted, and maybe in some beautiful, natural setting, or looking at the sky and clouds, we might kind of marvel at the fact that here we are on this planet aware of the planet and, and how special it is, and, and, and it's, you know, quite something to be with someone as they die, and see that there's consciousness and then seemingly in that body, there's no more consciousness. You know, it's kind of, that'll happen to us at some day. So consciousness, the sense of it all can can depend on whether we're distracted or not distracted, calm, are not calm. And so, the sense of consciousness is influenced in different ways, by different ways in which we know things. And in mindfulness practice, there are different attentional faculties that come into play. And, and different people will use will specialize in different ones of these attentional faculties as their grounding into mindfulness. Mindfulness itself is not a particular function of a particular organ of perception, but rather is also a little bit of a gestalt of different things coming together to help us to be mindful, that may be as a narrower, smaller sphere of things than what it constructs the idea of consciousness.
So So today, I want to talk today and tomorrow, I think a little bit about in the rest of the week, some of these different attentional facts of facilities capacities we have and and what they are so we can recognize them, the more we recognize them or we can use them at different times in ways And I'll talk about the ones that the Buddha emphasized when he taught mindfulness practice. And there's about four different things that he ways of paying attention that he emphasized. And with the principle that we are changed as we use them, the observer, when we observe the observer, something, the observer can be changed by the observation. And, and that's the principle that we're using in Buddhist practice, we're observing, we're being mindful in such a way that we are changed in the observing, the simplest way of seeing it saying it is that as we observe, we observe in a calm way, we become calmer and calmer. If we observe our experience in an agitated way, it's easy to become more and more agitated. So, so how we're aware, is crucial for this enterprise of mindfulness, and allowing it to change us for the better. And so what I'll talk about today, and tomorrow, now it's almost time to stop is what I call knowing, which I see as a synonym for recognition, a moment of recognition, just the simplest recognition of something. Looking at a, at a cup, and recognizing that's a cup, that can be verbal, you know, recognition, or it can be kind of non verbal, cognitive recognition of a cup, we have a lot of non verbal cognition that goes on all the all day long. And, and, but if you take the time, to let your knowing of something, to really know it, to really kind of, in a sense, let yourself stop for a moment or more. And to really know the experience you're having or know the thing that you're with, know the cup that you're with, and, and then see if you can know it, in a calm way. begin experimenting with calm knowing of things. And that could be the homework for the next 24 hours, if you're inclined is to is to go, you know, during the course of the day, see, the manner by which you know the world you're in the your proceed way you're perceiving it, especially how you recognize what's going on? Is that in a hurry? Is it agitated as a tense as a contracted? Is it pulling away? What happens if to you to you, if you know if you recognize something, and the recognition itself has time to be done calmly, and then I'll pick up on this tomorrow. So I hope that makes sense. And and I hope that as we go through this week, you'll start appreciating both the different faculties for attention, but also how those faculties then might help shape our sense our construction of consciousness itself. So thank you very much and look forward to being here tomorrow.