The Book of Yourself Newsletter

Issue 15: February 2023

Dear Friends,

The mild winter seems to have given way to a cold prelude to springtime. Of late we have woken up to frosty mornings after clear nights. The northern wind has been blowing its polar breath across the land and chilling the air. But everywhere there is the intimation of resurgent life. The daffodils are sending up their green shoots eager to replace the snowdrops and the willows are wrapping themselves in a soft green veil as they lean over their reflections in the water. When the sun shines the whole land rejoices. The Moon is waxing fast and will be full next Tuesday. All this week we have been enjoying the spectacle of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky. After the Moon they are the brightest lights in the heavens. I am sure the astrologers read in these celestial happenings the influences affecting the various signs in their financial, romantic and spiritual affairs. While the planets and the stars may have something to say about our fate, our task remains to take full responsibility for our lives.

The group that meets monthly to continue the exploration we began with the K course last year suggested we keep the theme of ‘what is’, as there is much more to it than we were able to cover thus far. Feeling that ‘what is’ is closely related with ‘awareness’, I proposed to add this topic for next time and tried to distil an overview of it from the reference material. Like last time, I thought this general text might be worth sharing through this newsletter.

K proposes facing and understanding ‘what is’ as the way of human freedom and wholeness. This wholeness implies the ending of conflict. K traces the origin of conflict to the avoidance or denial of ‘what is’. For him the seeing of ‘what is’ is not just a matter of restoring order in our lives, but of opening the door to the universe. However, living that way does not seem to be that simple and easy. Despite our best intentions, we appear to revert to the dualistic pattern of ‘what is’ versus ‘what should be’. Living with ‘what is’ involves, rather, a quality of choiceless awareness so that we do not judge according to the opposites. ‘What is’ includes everything, so there is no choice between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ qualities such as good and bad. Battling against the ‘negative’ qualities means we are back in the field of conflict. Choiceless awareness comes down to observing without the observer, without the past with its idea and measurement. Measure and idea distort perception and there is no virtue in action. When there is attention without the observer there is direct relationship with ‘what is’. For K this is living beauty and living love.

That would seem to be K’s promising outlook on our human condition. If our freedom and integrity depend on our perceptions, then that is in principle inherently available to everyone. Perception is the linchpin of change. For him the first and last freedom is the freedom to observe, on which everything else depends. He calls it by different names, among them the art or seeing. Part of the difficulty is precisely that such observation is an art rather than a technique. It requires a spontaneous creative response rather than the following of a system. K would add that such an art involves observing with the totality of our mind-heart, not with a part of it, as this partiality of observation is the factor of fragmentation. Without this total observation, as he puts it, we will be living in a small corner of the vast field of the mind and leading rather petty and confused lives.

K’s diagnosis is that the past is the basic factor that fragments perception and prevents seeing. We look at the world and at ourselves through a screen of conditioned concepts and images. These images distort seeing and feeling and prevent direct relationship. Whereas, as K says, the act of seeing is the only truth. The past conditioning with its images narrows the scope of the mind. The mind as we know it is the focus of comparison and measurement, which prevents the flowering of its own immensity. The partiality of our perception brings about the conflict between action and idea. So for K the needful revolution is possible when we are radically free from these factors of fragmentation and suffering.

Our culture and society condition us to function within a little corner of the vast field of the mind by the repetition of various patterns. These patterns are fragmentary and prevent sensitivity. The first thing is not to seek a method to become sensitive, for method is mechanical, but to be aware of the ways of the little corner and how living there makes us callous and violent. Seeing is understanding. And there is understanding when the mind is quiet, without an image. Seeing is for K the act of love and love is what makes the mind totally sensitive. In this sensitivity there is beauty. K says that without love our technical knowledge will destroy the world, as it is in fact doing. Love arises from the unbiased perception of ‘what is’. He maintains that where there is love we have nothing else to do.

Awareness is tested in action in relationship. Life is relationship and to understand it – and ourselves in and through it – there must be passive awareness of thinking-feeling, which reveals the superficial and deeper layers of consciousness. We are first aware through our senses. This first level of awareness is simple and uncomplicated and can be extended scientifically in all directions. A second level involves the psychological response to our sensations by identifying them and cultivating the pleasure and pain of desire. When we respond with thought-feeling to sensation, the object of perception is obscured by our associations and emotional involvement, and we end up confusing the word with the thing. This psychological response creates the ‘me’ and the ‘not-me’. The world is then seen not as it is but in relation to the ‘me’ of memory, from which division and contradiction arise. By observing without judgement, we eliminate this division in looking at things and at ourselves. The ‘me’ being the past, it is blind to ‘what is’. When the observer is totally silent, there is attention, which is love and intelligence.

All this is a question of sensitivity. But sensitivity is not a matter of choosing the beautiful over the ugly, which leads to the struggle of the opposites and the narrowing of the mind-heart. What matters is not the fair or the foul but the sensitivity that goes beyond both. Such sensitivity is essential for the discovery of reality, which can only be when the opposites cease. A fact has no opposite. It only has an opposite when there is a pleasurable or defensive attitude towards it. It is this dualistic attitude that destroys sensitivity and action. The activity of reformation born of an opposite implies contradiction and is therefore not liberating. Where there is choice based on idea there is contradictory activity, whereas action is always immediate, from moment to moment and free of contradiction. The mind is the source of contradiction because it can only divide and dominate. So action springs from quite a different source.

One of the things K continuously proposes as part of his liberating approach to consciousness and relationship is to observe without naming, which concerns the wider question of language and thought. This is a subtle issue since language and thought play a very important role in our existence. K chose to express his teachings in words. He used words to point out the danger of words. This suggests that the word as such is not the problem – otherwise we should not use them at all – but something else, such as identification with their time-bound psychological content. One first approach to this question might be to look at how our use of words, our naming, distorts perception, relationship and action. Naming means recognition, abstracting the thing into an existing category. This gives us the sense that we know it and so we don’t have to look further. Naming thus tends to prevent perception and sensitivity by giving us a false sense of understanding. K points out one enormous danger of naming, namely the way labelling alienates the humanity of another, which allows us to destroy them. Without it, we would relate to them, making it very difficult to bomb them and feel self-righteous about it.

The naming process is pervasive and an integral part of the psychological centre. This centre, as K describes it, is the memory of innumerable verbalised experiences of pleasure and pain. This centre is itself the word. By labelling our feelings we think we understand them, but we don’t. To know what our feelings are we need to separate the feeling from the label. Since the word is the centre from which we act psychologically, if there is no word there is no centre. Instead, there is an emptiness, a sense of being nothing. Since the centre is the source of division and conflict, its ending is transformative and liberating. When the mind is no longer made up of words and past experiences, it ceases to name and is quiet. To come to that point, however, we have to see how the mind works. This requires that we be constantly aware of everything that is happening inwardly. Watching the whole process dissolves the centre, the mind becomes quiet and can receive the eternal. K says this is real meditation.

From this inquiry it is clear that the quality of quietness of the mind is central to the liberating process of self-knowing as well as to its opening to the timeless dimension. This stillness, K maintains, is essential because that is the way we can face ‘what is’. If the mind is agitated, it interferes with perception, understanding and action. K dismisses all systems of quieting the mind because they reduce it to silence through suppression. For him such a mind is dead and uncreative. He says that the mind is naturally quiet when it sees the truth that quietness is necessary for understanding. Stillness of the mind does not come from withdrawing from the world or from relationship but when there is no process of isolation through identification and accumulation. In that stillness there is no projection of thought, which is mechanical and uncreative. Only in that stillness is the eternal discovered.

K speaks of understanding the whole process of the mind. This includes both the superficial level and the deeper layers of consciousness. Consciousness is its content but in essence it is a vast process of memory and time, the whole field of thought, feeling and desire. Most of us spend our lives on the conscious layer unaware of the deeper part. The unconscious is constantly urging and controlling but it cannot communicate with the conscious mind because the latter is too occupied. Dreams are a way the unconscious communicates with the conscious. The conscious mind starts with the urge to be secure and to make itself permanent. It adjusts and modifies itself in relation to the immediate environment. The unconscious is more deeply entrenched in the past and is aware of the deeper issues, so there is a tension between the conscious and the unconscious. If during the day we are aware of our motives and responses in all kinds of situations, observing without judgement, then there is no need for the deeper layers to project their symbols and visions in dreams. Then, K maintained, in sleep there is a deep state of meditation in which the unknown can emerge.

Once again, we have a subtle field of inquiry opening before us in this journey of self-awareness. This is, after all, our fundamental and inescapable challenge and responsibility as human beings. It is our life and life is to be lived fully.

Take good care, amigos, and experiment with choiceless awareness,


Photos: J. Gómez Rodríguez: 1. Morning, De Have, Lelystad; 2. Sunset, Het Bovenwater, Lelystad.

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