The Potency of Awareness


 It is perhaps more than common for some of us to live almost exclusively 'in our minds’ - which is to be in that state or condition of being that is, as it seems, out of touch with one's own ‘intuitive’ and ‘feeling’ capacities.

 This is the condition of the brainiac. The brainiac seem to be somewhat reluctant to explore the deeper dimensions of himself.  Typically, such a one is ready to argue at the drop of a hat but tends not to be attentive to, or listening for, deeper levels of awareness, both in himself or others.    

 But we have all known since Luke Skywalker took off his father, Darth Vader’s, mask that there is always more to even the most powerful looking  humanoid than the way he ‘presents’ to the world. There is always so much more lurking beneath the surface.

 One way of describing the attempt to ‘live in the mind’ only is to say that it is the giving of one’s attention exclusively to one’s “eager, explaining mind.”  

 The tendency of the “eager, explaining mind," according to philosopher, Jacob Needleman, is to “race ahead into complications and ingenuity without end or without substance.”  The “eager, explaining mind” is concerned to become “clever, brilliant, or imaginative."  In a word, it wishes to impress.  

 Needleman, with great humility in ‘What is God?’ confesses that his own "explaining mind" had often “pushed hard to be right, original, bold, or up-to-date.”  It wished to receive recognition and worked hard at honing the ability to score intellectual points.   

 This philosopher warns that it is ever so possible to remain fixated in such a mode for all of one’s days instead of learning to inhabit the whole of one’s being. As Needleman puts it: “I saw in many of my valued friends and teachers a “heartless brilliance and cleverness." They remained cragfast brainiacs by a practiced inattentiveness to their hearts and souls. 

 Jacob Needleman encourages the search to inhabit deeper dimensions of being. He calls us to meet and greet the ‘soul’ that exists behind the mind.

 Now he is careful to say that by ‘soul’ he does not mean some kind of inner 'entity' but rather a “vibration of one's inner being.”  So by ‘soul’ he means a certain energy activated in priceless moments of illumination. He says about it: “I clearly remember the moment something deep inside me started breathing for the first time.”  

 Jacob was a little boy when he awakened to “something behind my thoughts and my desires and fears, something behind my self, something behind “Jerry” which was and is my name, the name of me from childhood." 

 He calls the awakening his “second breathing,” his “first breathing of the soul." In a heightened state of awareness, as he looked up into the sky to behold millions of stars, an entirely new instrument of seeing had all at once been switched on in him. (p. 5) 

"In an instant, a powerful neutral current of energy streaked down both sides of my spine - so quickly I had not a moment to have a thought about it or an emotional reaction to it.” 

 He calls this awakening the stirring of “spiritual emotion” and claims that such a state results from a “gathered attention,” or, “the attention of the heart.”  

 Our 'souls may appear,' says Needleman, as the result of being awe-struck or because of a crisis. Or, ‘soul’ may rise up as the result of a state of profound self-questioning. 

 It seems often to take a crisis for the awakening to occur but the experience is always available to us. “Every day," as Needleman unforgettably puts it: “every one of us experience this energy of soul in its most embryonic stage.”  'Soul' is released or activated. However it is almost always immediately lost or forgotten! 

 Which is our great loss for, as he expresses so poignantly: “The quality of man's attention is the key to the meaning of our lives and the possible growth of our being.”  And even more strongly: “Our lives are what they are in large part because of the weakness and passivity of our attention.”    

 If insufficient attention is paid to ‘soul,’ our tendency is to go into a 'drift mode,’, which means that consequently we will become 'drifters - listless, dull, and lackluster. 

 The all too typical story is of a downward spiral unless we counter our usual inattentiveness, or passivity. As Needleman warns: By choosing to be passive “we are taken," that is, "our attention is taken, swallowed by our streams of automatic thoughtwe constantly disappear into our emotional reactions; we are taken by our fears and desires, our pleasures and pains, by our day-dreams and imaginary worries. 

 “And, being taken, we no longer exist as 'I, myself, here.'  We do not live our lives; we are lived and we may eventually die without ever having awakened to what we really are - without having lived." (p. 204, 205) 

 Now, Professor Needleman was put in touch with even greater dimensions of himself upon the occasion of meeting D.T. Suzuki, the Zen Buddhist monk. 

 The encounter reads thus: “I heard movement behind the closed doors.  I tried to pull myself together. A nice looking Japanese woman opened the door and said that Dr. Suzuki would see me now."

 “The next thing I remember is not the size or shape of the room, nor the furnishings, nor the lighting, nor the kind of chair I sat in." 

 “I remember only the face and figure of Suzuki himself - especially the eyebrows, which seemed to grow out from his forehead like enormous wings.  He was old, slightly built like most Japanese. I vaguely remember a cardigan sweater and a bow tie. But what I do remember very clearly was his presence."

 "My mind went blank. The sight of him instantly went through my armor.  For a few moments I was simply a naked mind neither anxious nor confident.” For a moment, Jacob felt himself to be fully present and whole.  In a “fleeting moment” it was as if his 'mind' had become “diffused through his whole body.”

 Jacob’s 'mind' or better, his 'attention,' had filled up his whole body.  Awareness was flowing through the totality of his being.

 In this instance, Jacob was most truly in his ‘right mind.’ He was experiencing that profound integration which Yoga calls ‘samadhi.’  

 In such a state of liberation it is said that, “you use the hands only when they are needed, you use the legs or the eyes when they are needed and no time or extra energy will be wasted." That is because when one’s 'right mind' is equally distributed over the body, it is no longer 'localized' or 'partialized.' 

 In such a state, the ‘mind,’ or ‘awareness,’ is integrated with the 'whole of you.' You have become one with the song you are singing or the instrument you’re playing. In a certain sense, you have 'become awareness,' or recognize that in your deepest nature, you are 'awareness' itself.

 Suzuki's effect, through his presence and very few words, had been to pierce through Needleman's armor to give him a glimpse of a possible unified and harmonized state of being.

  This is the potency of 'awareness,' or the power of attention, to lead the human being into an inspired state of being.