Week 3 – Image Awareness

And in another saying Jesus says a very strange thing He says “Those who have, they should be given more. And those who don’t have, even that which they have will be taken away.” Looks absurd! He is talking about awareness, because awareness attracts more awareness. If you become aware, you become capable of being more aware; every step leads to a further step. If you are not aware then every step leads you further away. The Mustard Seed by Osho

You have always been knocking at the wrong door, because all the doors of this world are wrong – unless you knock at the inner door, which is not part of this world. It moves with you, but it is not part of this world. You carry something within which does not belong to this world. That is your treasure, and that is your door through which God can be approached. Jesus says “grow in that which you are already carrying. The Mustard Seed by Osho

Awareness is the first step on the spiritual path. It is the key that opens the door. Without awareness we can only be fooling ourselves.

Awareness is on many levels, while we start with the physical level we also use awareness to understand ourselves intellectually. We use awareness of our thoughts and our words to understand how we interact with the world and what we are expressing to the world. How we react with the world is an expression of who we think we are. This is very subtle, every interaction we have reflects the image we have of ourselves, it reflects our beliefs and our subconscious rules.

The image we project to the world, is our persona. It is the way we dress, how we speak, our possessions, our job, how we define ourselves. This image is developed and changes over many years. Yet this image is a mask, it is a protection and a tool for protecting our fragile self esteem. Our beliefs are not religious, and they define us in a much more specific way. We have beliefs about what is right and wrong, good and bad and what we should and shouldn’t do. The beliefs and our self image go hand in hand and support each other.

All of this is so ingrained in us that it is rarely conscious. We react to circumstances, to people and to actions without being aware of it. These rules are instinctive, they are individual, but they are also communally shared, because that is what allows us to fit in with society, with friends and with colleagues.

All of us are like this. There is nothing wrong with it, yet it does hide our true nature. Behind the mask, the beliefs and the rules, is hidden our true nature. Unless we are prepared to look at ourselves, to examine ourselves, and to make ourselves more conscious then we will not be able to discover this true aspect of ourself. The tool of awareness allows us to go behind the subconscious and to become aware of ourselves more deeply. We try to become aware of our emotional feeling and our subliminal responses. This is the foundation for self knowledge.

It is easy, as you become more aware, to be self-critical and this is a defensive mechanism which prevents us from looking too deeply. So it is important to avoid this. Awareness is not about criticism, but about knowledge.

For many people spiritual awakening can be painful, because they believe that it means giving up this image and behaviour which is our definition of ourselves. Yet this is not necessary. This image is constantly changing. From our childhood, through our life, this image and belief system has constantly been changing, that is one way in which we know that it is not our true nature. The way of this course is to take advantage of that process of change and to replace that image of ourself with an image that reflects our true nature. The course aims to establish a goal and by focussing on that goal to allow ourself to change toward that goal. The speed of change reflects the level and consistency of focus on that goal.

If we can remain focussed and if we can establish what we desire, that change need not be painful, because we are not giving away anything that is of value to us and we are replacing our image by something that is of lasting and permanent value. So while we become more aware of ourselves we also learn to accept ourselves as we are. There is nothing wrong with how we are.

The spiritual journey is about moving from unconscious to conscious living. We have always been on a spiritual journey, yet it has so far been unconscious. As we step forward from here we start to become more aware of ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally so that we can remove our blockages to our spiritual nature.

Image Awareness
Each of us has an image that we present to the world. This image is who we think we are. We dress to support it, we act in ways which define it, even our thoughts reflect this image. We surround ourself with objects and possessions appropriate to our image. Yet all these things do not truly represent who we really are.

If we change the way we dress, change our job or the car we drive, would it affect who we are? If we go deeper and if we changed our religion, our instant judgements or the thoughts that we have does it affect who we are? If we look back, we find that we have changed what we believe, our prejudices and our sense of identity but we still feel like the same person. Spiritual awakening is about discovering that part of us which is constant and unchanging. That remains the same even if we change everything that currently defines who we are.

The image we present to the world is so much part of us that we play to it without conscious awareness. How we judge people, how we react to situations, our thought processes, what annoys us, what pleases us are in-built responses and to a large extent they define who we are and how the world sees us. Yet this subconscious behaviour also prevents us from seeing who we really are.

It is possible to become aware of this image we present to the world. Only once we become aware of it are we able to decide if it is serving us and if it is the image we choose to present. The first step is to become aware, to become a dispassionate observer, and only then do we have a choice.

Creating Your Self (from Entering the Circle by Olga Kharitidi.)
Look at yourself and all the other people around you. The one and only thing everyone is doing all the time is trying to make their self. Everyone speaks to this changing, growing being all the time, trying to shape it.

People have three main processes for doing this. They speak inside their heads about the past, reconstructing it by changing or erasing the things that don’t fit the being they are trying to create and by expanding the little things that help them along. They also think of the future, imagining what they will do, how they will look, what their possessions will be, and how they will be accepted by others.

The third thing people do is what connects them with the present. Unconsciously, they are always aware of other people’s perception of who they are and what they are doing and they continually react to this. Some of these reactions support their sense of self, while others tear it down. They see that some people are attracted to them and others are not. Most of the time, when they are around people who don’t support their sense of self, they experience what they would call dislike for those people. Conversely when they experience support of themselves from those around them, they create the feeling of liking those particular people. In this way people combine the past, present and future to create themselves. If you are attentive you will find this happening in any person and any situation. Look around. You will notice many interesting examples of it.

But when you have realised all you can about this process, then you will come to the existence of the other Self, which is aware of and independent of it. This is your Heart Self, and it is where real freedom and magic start. It is the source of the great art of making a choice.

Self Observation From Awareness by Anthony De Mello
The only way someone can be of help to you is in challenging your ideas. If you’re ready to listen and if you’re ready to be challenged, there’s one thing that you can do but no one can help you. What is this most important thing of all? It’s called self-observation. No one can help you there. No one can give you a method. No one can show you a technique. The moment you pick up a technique, you’re programmed again. But self observation – watching yourself – is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you’re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I’m talking about self-observation. What’s that? It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as is possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalise what is happening to you. It means that you do not look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.

The reason you suffer from your depression and your anxieties is that you identify with them. You say, “I’m depressed.” But that is false. You are not depressed. If you want to be accurate you might say, “I’m experiencing a depression right now.” But you can hardly say, “I am depressed.” You are not your depression. That is but a strange kind of trick of the mind, a strange kind of illusion. You have deluded yourself into thinking – though you are not aware of it – that you are your depression, that you are your anxiety, that you are your joy or the thrills that you have . “I am delighted!” You certainly are not delighted. Delight may be in you right now, but wait around, it will change, it won’t last: it never lasts; it keeps changing: it’s always changing. Clouds come and go: some of them are black and some white, some of them are large, others small. If we want to follow the analogy, you would be the sky observing the clouds. You are a passive, detached observer. That’s shocking, particularly to someone in the Western culture. You’re not interfering. Don’t interfere. Don’t “fix” anything. Watch! Observe!

The trouble with people is that they’re busy fixing things they don’t even understand. We’re always busy fixing things, aren’t we. It never strikes us that things don’t need to be fixed. They really don’t. This is a great illumination. They need to be understood, If you understood them, they’d change.

Do you want to change the world? How about beginning with yourself? How about being transformed yourself first? Through observation. Through understanding. With no interference or judgement on your part. Because what you judge you cannot understand.

When you say of someone, “he’s a communist,” understanding has stopped at that moment. You slapped a label on him, and if the label carries undertones of approval or disapproval so much the worse! How are you going to understand what you disapprove of, or what you approve of, for that matter? All this sounds like a new world doesn’t it? No judgement, no commentary, no attitude: one simply observes, one studies, one watches, without the desire to change what is. Because if you desire to change what is into what you think should be, you no longer understand.

The day you attain a posture like that, you will experience a miracle. You will change effortlessly, correctly. Change will happen, you will not have to bring it about. As the life of awareness settles on your darkness, whatever is evil will disappear. Whatever is good will be fostered. You will have to experience that for yourself. But this calls for a disciplined mind. And when I say disciplined I’m not talking about effort. I’m talking about something else. Have you ever studied an athlete. His or her whole life is sports, but what a disciplined life he or she leads. And look at the river as it moves towards the sea. It creates its own banks that contain it. When there’s something within you that moves in the right direction, it creates its own discipline. The moment you get bitten by the bug of awareness, Oh its so delightful. It’s the most delightful thing in the world, the most important, the most delightful. There’s nothing so important in the world as awakening. Nothing! And, of course, it is also discipline in its own way.

Exercise – Morning Pages
From the Artists Way by Julia Cameron as it appeared in Kindred Spirit magazine

What exactly are morning pages and why should we use them? Put simply, morning pages are three pages of longhand writing. They are to be written strictly off the top of your head (No, real writing please). Pages may sound whiny, grumpy, even petty. Occasionally a brilliant idea may sparkle through, but more often it will be “need to do the laundry, forgot to call my sister, wonder how my dad is”.

When I am in a puckish mood, I call morning pages “Brain Drain”. They are used to siphon off whatever nebulous worries, jitters and preoccupations stand between me and my day. I am reminded of a wonderful old television commercial that portrayed test driving on the Baja Peninsula. As the truck bucked and lurched over rugged terrain the windscreen wipers went ‘thunk, thunk, thunk’, clearing away the dirt and debris that obscured the windscreen. That is what morning pages are; spiritual windscreen wipers.

Once we get those muddy, maddening confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes. We are honest with ourselves and others, more centres, and more spiritually at ease. For this reason, I often say that morning pages are a form of meditation. You are writing down the cloud thoughts that drift across your mind. In writing them down, you clear them.

Unlike more focussed journal writing, you do not set a topic for morning pages. Typically many topics will appear. They may tumble over one another, arriving on the page in a disorganised heap of fragmentary thoughts. That’s fine. Please don’t judge them or yourself.

The writing of morning pages is just early morning thinking set down on the page. Very often, that thinking will feel jumbled up. Remember, these are our wake up thoughts, nothing more, Again do not try to write here.

A day at a time, a page at a time, we wipe clear our vision of the world. We see what obstacles impede us, what roads are open to us. We become more alert to the shortcuts, switchbacks and dangers of the trail. In short we become present in our lives, and at once more alive in guiding them and more receptive to signposts that indicate alternate routes. We become explorers rather than mere tourists.

Write three pages a day. Write them first thing in the morning, whether you are really awake or not. Write the pages by hand, people have experimented using computers and the resulting pages are not the same. Writing by hand yields us to a handmade life, that is our goal. Clarity is a fruit of morning pages. We know what’s bothering us and why. Over time, we learn what we’d like to do about it. The pages even afford us rehearsal space until we choose to act. Remember that we all recover at our own pace. A word about recovery is in order here. It is my belief that the ideal is to re-cover the distance we have drifted from our authentic creative selves. Morning pages are a powerful way to do that.