My aim for this month is to observe and pull against my identification with “doing”. This came about as a result of observing haste in myself. Although I have had very little success at pulling against haste, I have, through observing myself in it, been able to identify the emotions that set it in motion and come to realise that my emotional centre is far too attached to the belief that finishing tasks successfully and quickly will bring me happiness, or a sense of fulfilment, or make me feel alive.
Where were you a year ago, on the eve of 2016? Were you alone? Were you partying? Were you watching a firecracker spectacle from your kitchen balcony? Wherever you were, 365 days have gone by and the earth has completed a cycle around the sun. The celebratory nature of this annual milestone (or the lack thereof for those of us who spend it alone) creates memory, so that we can readily envision where exactly we were a year ago and gauge the duration of time that has elapsed. From our humble micro-cosmic viewpoint, we gain a glimpse into the grand cycle of a larger cosmos.
Take a breath. Experience the sense of I am here in its inhalation. Maintain that sense during the peak of saturation. Exhale consciously. Then maintain the sense of I am here during the interval after the exhalation. Your consciousness has just spanned your psychological moment. This short duration of five seconds on average is the lifetime of your ‘I’s. Every breath brings a new thought to your mind, or a new turn of repetition to an old thought. A day of 17 active hours (meaning, hours spent out of bed) contains 1,020 active minutes and 12,240 active breaths. A week contains 85,680 active breaths. A month contains 342,720. We will have taken 4,467,600 breaths from the beginning of the year 2016 to its conclusion in a few days’ time — and this is just one of several years that will have comprised our lives. When it comes to time, as measured by our breaths, we’re all multi-millionaires.
To know the truth about yourself? To become master of yourself? To be able to Be? In Esoteric Christianity, this state is symbolized by Paradise. It is a garden of abundance in which all creatures live in harmony. Man is appointed keeper of this garden and given to enjoy all its benefits, on condition that he avoid eating the fruit of a single tree in the middle of the garden…
“I am Lufthansa flight attendant Hans Schupfer and this is my crew manager Claudia Becker. We are very sorry to inform you that you cannot board this flight.”
“What? Why not?”
“If we let you on the plane, the Russian’s will not let you off.”
“What do you mean, won’t let us off?”
“See here in your passport: your Russian visa is only valid from the 19th. Today is the 16th. For the next three days, you have not a valid visa to enter Russia.”
A pertinent question makes us vaguely conscious for a moment — especially asked by us to ourselves. “Did I just do that?” or, “Did I really say that?” or, “Did I truly mean that?” It sheds a feeble light on our unconscious action of a moment ago, and despite the brief lag, exposes it to us. Thus aware of our sleep, we are already partly awake…
My cue has been said. I enter stage-right, advance slowly towards Macbeth, and with my head bowed down, announce: “The queen… my lord… is dead.” Silence seeps into the audience in the chilling interval before Macbeth’s response. The moment seems eternal. I am overcome by a violent perception. Who is the rich man that is satisfied with his lot? Those who are small desire to be big and those who are big desire to be bigger.
Attitude distinguishes ritual from routine. My external actions remain the same but my internal attitude is transformed. The attitude of “getting things over with” is replaced by the attitude of “reaffirming my aim.” I pull the bed cover off and step into my slippers consciously. I draw aside the shower curtain attentively. I observe my moving center shaving, brushing, and combing. I bring an emotional element to dressing by choosing a particular color and fabric of clothes. I savor the scent of my coffee brewing. More of me has been involved in the first half hour of my day, which after all, is always the first half hour of the rest of my life.
“We must find the fourth dimension in a purely experimental way,” concluded Ouspensky. In this spirit, let us conduct an experiment: take the remaining part of today as a scripted play — from the moment you finish reading this post. Your rising from your chair is scripted. So is your bumping against the foot of the table on your way to the kitchen. Your brewing a cup of coffee is also scripted, as is spilling some of it on your shirt, answering a call from your colleague, getting upset by her complaints, writing an email to your boss, etc. For two hours (the approximate duration of Romeo and Juliet), live as if the minutest detail of your day is predetermined, and as if you are its omniscient audience. Remember: the audience doesn’t change the play, nor should an observer change what it observes.
In which ways would you be different if you were able to maintain such an impartial observer?
Our driver has made a mistake. The car is now stranded on one lane trying to merge onto another. Until our destination clears, we are forced to dangerously block the approaching traffic. Cars are racing towards us. I sense a surge crawl from the base of my spine to the tip of my head in anticipation of impact. “Foolish decision,” I think to myself, yet in this life-threatening moment, finding fault seems more foolish than the driver’s folly. Does it matter who’s to blame if we’re struck dead?
In the last month, we explored the relationship of the heart and the mind to consciousness. This post brings what we learned to practical use by applying it to a three-part experiment. To get the most out of this experiment, avoid reading the instructions of the next step before completing the present one. A six-minute classical piece is divided into three parts. We aim to listen to each part (approximately two minutes) while being aware of ourselves.
“This is a leaf,” I tell my four-month old son. He stares in fascination. His eyes are witnessing something new, but he doesn’t yet know that it is called “leaf.” Nor does he yet know that he is called “Aviv.” Soon I will reverse the lesson: “What is this?” I will ask Aviv, pointing to a leaf in a picture book, testing whether he can recall its corresponding name. With enough repetition of names and images, images and names, he will gradually connect things to their accepted labels and develop the capacity for language…