By David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)
Most of us are so caught up in the demands of our outer lives that we forget to examine our own inner experience of life from moment to moment. If we look deeply we will see that we seldom allow ourselves to experience our own lives fully and directly. Yet if we are not fully experiencing our own lives, our actions may not bring us fulfillment or connect us with the true nature of reality.
There are two primary aspects of our experience of life
The first level – which is the primary factor we are most engaged in – is our experience of life as interpreted by our own minds. This includes our own thoughts, emotions, memories, fears and desires, and other personal reactions that arise from our contact with the external world.
This experience through the mind is “interpretative” in nature. It is our experience of life as colored by the changing contents of our own minds. Our mind’s contents distort what we experience and remove us from the objective reality of what we see. The result is that our experience of life reflects more our personal compulsions and limitations than what life really has to offer. Our mental and emotional reactions do not always help us understand life, and frequently result in misperception and wrong action.
The second level of our experience of life is our own direct unmediated experience through our inner consciousness that exists at the core of our being behind and beyond the mind and its reactions.
This direct experience is unconditioned and “non-interpretative”. It has no conceptual or emotional content but consists in being choicelessly aware of things as they are moment by moment. Most of us rarely fully dwell in this state of direct experience. We only touch upon it in a limited manner when our mental reactions become temporarily suspended. Yet without such direct non-interpretive experience the interpretative level of mental experience would not be possible.
We are closest to the direct experience of life in moments of peak awareness, when we are fully and wholeheartedly attentive to a person or event. This occurs when forget who we are, what we want, and what our opinions are – when we let go of our baggage of mental constructs and are fully present in the experience. Moments of inner peace, artistic inspiration, meditative insight, feeling one with nature, deep feelings of love, compassion, devotion or joy are but some of the many ways we touch this direct unitary experience of life.
The third level of the Media Maya
In addition to these two levels of our life experience, direct and interpretative, is a third level particularly important in the modern high tech era. It is our experience of life through the mass media and new technology.
The media, particularly of an audio-visual nature, with its news and programs is another interpretative level of experience, but happening outside of us unlike our mental experience that occurs within us. It reflects how whoever runs the media wishes to influence us. We often uncritically accept what the media presents. We pick up, cut and paste or pass on the ideas of others as our own, without having properly understood them. We take the ideas or views of others uncritically, which can block our own direct insight from functioning.
We should note that it is possible to use the media to help promote a deeper experience of life, but we cannot underestimate the fact that the media has an inertia to remove us from direct experience. It is a mechanical and manmade system apart from nature and our own organic being, which are much more intricate in their formation and movement. The social media can be better as we can have a more creative role in using it, but still cannot substitute for our own direct unmediated experience of life that is beyond any expression or definition.
Living the Vicarious Life
The result of our way of life today is that our own direct experience is compromised. We live vicariously through various heroes, celebrities, leaders, teams, programs, media events and social formations that have little to do with who we really are as individuals. Most importantly, we lack an awareness of our own thoughts and emotions and what they are breeding for us. We cultivate intricate opinions about events in the outer world, but miss the much more relevant consequences of our own thoughts and emotions. For example, we may allow fear to exist within us and not question it, until it inhibits our ability to function in life, merely distracting ourselves from it with new forms of entertainment.
So how do we reclaim our own direct experience?
- First, we must learn to turn our awareness within and examine our own minds through regular meditation, observing and witnessing the movements of our own thoughts.
- Second, we should connect with the world of nature through spending time in nature with a silent and receptive mind, wherever truly inspires us and makes aware of the deeper cosmos.
- Third, we can study the teachings of great gurus who achieved the state of Self-realization or unity consciousness, not theoretically but with inspiration and contemplation.
To accomplish this profound quest, we must be willing to let go of the mind and our ego identity, which are based upon interpretation, not upon direct experience. We must embrace our inner unity consciousness that allows us to discover ourselves in all of life.
We must realize that reality is a Self-revealing mystery that is inherently beyond all names, concepts, numbers, categories and explanations. It is an indivisible overflowing field of pure consciousness in transformative vibration, embracing the core of our inner being and the whole of nature.
There is ultimately nothing to know and no one who could know it. There is only a boundless field of Self-awareness, what the Vedas called “Brahman”, the supreme reality, the absolute of Sat-chid-ananda, Being-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute. That is the essence of all direct experience within us from which the outer world arises as but waves on its infinite sea.