Consciousness as Source

Written by Jamie Shavdia

 Consciousness -_Zen_Gateway_Article

If we are not careful our perception of our everyday lives can appear increasingly dull and listless.  Many people today are living their lives amidst this unconscious pattern, completely oblivious to where they have sprung from.  We get up, commute, work, commute again, eat…and then with just enough time left we collapse in front of the TV before bed. This is no life.  This is the worst kind of unconscious existence.  The days repeat themselves and through increasingly automatized thought patterns and behaviours, we can become stuck in a repetitive loop. There are untold versions of any given life yet whichever version you find yourself in, never forget your Source…as you would literally be nothing without it. 

As we have evolved, the human condition has become increasingly absorbed in the brain process of thinking, and we have lost awareness with our original Source that exists pre-thought.  As a species there is something in our cerebral functioning that leads us to look in the wrong direction, preferring to roam the landscape of our external world for fulfilment. We salivate with desire in the pursuit of success in order to validate our relatively singular, egotistical existence.  In our ego-based version of reality a subtle level of fear propels us forward, so to protect ourselves from life failure or even the unconscious fear of death.  We want more money to buy increasing amounts of shiny objects or perhaps we want to fuel the constant creation of projects that may boost ‘my’ status.  We are somehow consistently just slightly missing the mark, and real fulfilment never comes nor lasts.  We have moved from a state of ‘being’ to a state of ‘having’ and then in a perverse form of status anxiety we have moved from ‘having’ to ‘showing off to others that we have’.  In this blindness our Source is forgotten, yet it has never left us, not even for a moment.  This Source has taken many names, but ‘Consciousness’ itself will do for now, as fighting over a label only serves to diminish the deeper point.  

Consciousness exists before form, and by form I mean objects, people, bodies, and even thoughts and emotions.  In a sense Consciousness is nothing…no-thing…and therefore not a thing of itself.  Nothing, however, is not necessarily nothing-at-all, but rather that it exists at a level beyond the confines of our limited thinking minds.  Consciousness is awareness itself, being the observing or witnessing of all phenomena as it comes and goes, coming to be and ceasing to be.  It both exists and does not exist simultaneously, outside the realms of time and space.   As that which observes of all phenomena it never changes, because it was never born and therefore can never die.  Zen Buddhists along with many other spiritual movements over history, have had a relinking with this Consciousness at the very heart of their practice, which in many ways is the original meaning of religion itself (coming from the Latin root religio).  With deepening connection to Source which can only be experienced, one can live as a true human being, increasingly transcending the restricted realm of thought-based perception alone.  As the deepest level of Nature, Consciousness informs everything in the most fundamental sense.  Therefore all phenomena spring out of this Source, both coming and going, impermanent and always in flux.  Fuelling all phenomena it is unknowingly missed because how can something become aware of itself?  Therefore we miss it every time.

The problem we humans face is that as Consciousness manifests into different phenomena in its formless state, we believe we are what Consciousness becomes or attaches itself to.  Given that this occurs so strongly in the case of thoughts and emotions, our rigid belief in a fictitious little self, ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘mine’ arises as we interact with the world.  In our persistence, we come to be addicted to the story and narrative within this continuous thought stream, as we follow the path of me (and my life story).  ‘I’ do not realise and am blinded to the reality that I am Consciousness itself and therefore not the little fictitious ‘I’.  This is the reverse of what ‘I’ the ego has come to know to be true.  In returning to this Consciousness, the origin is revealed and a state of inner stillness arises, dissolving egoic struggle and thought based white noise.  Therefore to transcend the thinking mind whilst alive and to die in each moment is to be conscious and truly alive once again, as if awoken from a bad dream.

In Zazen (sitting meditation) we are training our awareness to both sharpen and settle down at the same time, staying focused on one thing amidst the chaos of the inner and outer world.  A whirlwind of egoic thought may still pass through the mind, where internal dialogue and images come and go, and the fires of the emotions (despite their temporary ferocity) do the same.  Yet in the meditative observing state, we are none of these things.  As we meditate through this chaos, acknowledging, accepting and not engaging with it, eventually the mind can settle down and we may provide the circumstances and conditions for something bigger than our internal movie to arise.  This is our true inherent Source, our innate Buddha, or from a more secular school of thought, we may call this Nature or Life itself. Most people as they live their lives are blind to this truth and it is there whether we know it or not.  Just as the Sun is covered by thick cloud it exists magnificently nonetheless on an overcast day. 

I believe I am doing things but actually Nature is doing everything, and without ‘me’ (the thinker) there is only Nature manifesting itself in various transient forms (a state of no-I).  This Nature existed before we did as a species, even before Life on Earth.  This is how fundamental it is.  Through our dedicated practice it may be possible to make this realisation, however this state of no-I is impossible to conceive through the realms of the intellect.  ‘I’ existing as the thinker cannot conceive of what no-I is.  It is vital to understand that the ego as a cognitive outcome operates under limited rules and assumptions, making the mistake of linear time and the limitations of physical space.  Consciousness itself is not bound by these same rules.  This is the foundation on which Buddhahood sits.  Having said this there is no ‘thing’ (as we know it) to get or achieve.  As soon as we create an idea about what this is, we may create a mental block, as we turn it into a thing which it is not.  In the end all we can do is continue to practice our seated meditation on a daily basis along with a balance of daily life practice.  This provides both the body and mind with the appropriate conditions for this to process to unfold.  Buddhist training temples exist to provide such circumstances for exactly this purpose, however our own normal lives should be considered as an equal training ground in which to practice.  To realise this allows us to see our common humanity and shared existence in the deepest sense.  This is an authentic and true form of freedom, freedom from attachment to form.  From this understanding, if truly felt and realised, is a limitless joy. 

So we must keep in our heart always whether on the cushion or in our daily lives, to meditate on this Nature, this Consciousness as Source, even if it is only in the periphery of our awareness.  Find the silent gaps and cracks in the thinking process, the in-betweens and the short periods of no thought, as a deep silence exists underneath, which may eventually lead us home.  In a calm meditative state Consciousness always exists but we all too often forget this as we get swept away by life in the narrower sense of the term.  We can bring this remembrance to the altar but we forget that the same is true in the supposed monotony of our daily lives and the office grind.  As we walk, move, think and feel we become over embodied, meaning we believe too much that we are limited at being situated in the body only.    Our true identity is everywhere and from the same Source Consciousness, with no divisions.  As I approach the end of writing this article I wonder whether I am writing this article for you or are we in fact writing it in some way together…may all beings be happy.

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Text copyright to Jamie Shavdia

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