Let’s try an experiment in noticing together. First make yourself comfortable, and allow your breathing to come into a slow and steady rhythm. Place the soles of your feet against the ground and lay your palms face up in a relaxed and open position in your lap. Count slowly to four with your in-breath, then pause for two, then release and breathe out in a count of six. Follow this rhythm in a relaxed and open manner until you feel you have slowed down your breathing and opened into an attentive state. Let any nagging worries and problem solving subside, if a thought tugs at your attention, practice turning back to simply counting and noting the breath, coming into a state of direct experiencing.
Notice any sensation you may have in your right hand. Slowly clench and unclench the fingers. Now hold your hand in a clenched fist for long enough to notice how this feels simply as the perception of your experience as sensation. Do this in a curious way, just noting any responses and sensations. Release your right hand into an open palm. Now do the same with your left hand, clenching it into a tight fist and noting and being curious about this sensation. Now experiment with alternating clenching and opening the hands with a relaxed and curious attentiveness to simply the perception of these sensations. Now let this go and return to your steady breathing, hands open upward and relaxed in your lap. If your attention slips into thinking, or we could term it ‘noticing the content of thoughts’, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
Now experiment with speaking the following words to yourself, it doesn’t matter if you do this inside your head only or spoken out loud, or both, I’ll leave that up to you.
*tight, clenched, restricted, trapped, interrupted, and closed*
As you speak each word, notice any feelings, sensations, perceptions, images and thought associations that arise. Just noticing, and then releasing each word as though it is a pebble on a table in front of you, you are picking it up, inspecting it with a state of alert curiosity and placing it back upon the table before picking up the next word. If you notice your attention straying into the meaning / storytelling of any thought and or image association, bring your attentiveness back to just taking note. Pay particular attention to any simple ‘energy’ type sensations that may be associated with each word.
Release these words and practice two rounds of counting and attending to the breath.
Now in the same way, experiment with these words:
*Ease, flow, release, allowing, open, and receptive*
Simply note any corresponding sensations and associations as you inspect each word with your alert and attentive noticing. We make assumptions about words, and rarely attend to their nature as bundles of perception of sensation that we (humans) made up.
Release these words and practice two rounds of counting the breath.
In the same way, experiment now with noticing simply your attention. Yes, it’s curious isn’t it? You are noticing an attentiveness that notices noticing. Note how this attentiveness receives the perception of sensations travelling or settling, coming into focus and falling away. Also experiment with a sense of noticing nothing at all, simply abiding inside and as this alert attentiveness. Delve into this for as long as you like, returning to your waking state refreshed and at ease.
As you experiment with turning your attention int this way, you may note how the habitual thinking state, I call this ‘the story of me’, is a distraction from or avoidance of the quality of alert and present attentiveness experienced in the experiment. You are free to experiment in this way whenever you become interested again in experiencing attention directly. As you move through life, let yourself relax into simple attention and curious alertness with any phenomena that you encounter. I use the word phenomena to describe objects of perception like storytelling thoughts about the self, emotions, sensations, images, ideas and experiences of objects. Have fun and approach this lightly and playfully.
The more you experiment in this way, the more you will find that you may release identifying with the storytelling of thoughts, and slip into simply the receiving of phenomena into your attention. Attention is your authentic nature, perceptions of sensations move and evolve in transient patterns through your attention as clouds move and transform through the open sky. ‘Thought+emotion’ stories that are felt as anxiety, grief, fear, anger, happiness, and excitement come and go within your natural attention, they are received openly into your natural receptive state. These transient phenomena are not your identity, your identity is Awareness, that which is Unchanging.
The understanding that you are born and will eventually die reveals who you think you are is simply a collection of patterns of transient thoughts and sensations that are transient phenomena, attended to by open eternal unchanging Awareness, our true identity. We call this Love.