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The Paradox of Being: Alive and Aware

Sometimes I forget that I’m alive –– I mean, I know I’m alive conceptually but I haven’t tuned into it experientially. My meditation practice is to be aware of body, heart, mind, and the truth of reality. What is the aliveness that meditates?

Today I was out walking where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. As I relax my usual preoccupations with thoughts, ideas, opinions, something else comes into the foreground of awareness. The aliveness of the water, weather and myself all start to emerge from the cocoon of my familiar sense of self and reality. I love when that happens. I’m not just aware of what constitutes aliveness: body, heart mind, and the particular experiences of the moment but the aliveness itself starts to come alive. 

This is not the usual way we live or relate. We don’t usually focus or become aware of the aliveness itself. Mostly we are so focused on our experience that we don’t pay attention to what is experiencing the experience. Of course, it’s very important/helpful to be aware of experience but that is not the end of the story. At some point what’s experiencing the experience starts to interest us. 

Right now, as you read this reflection, pay attention to what’s reading it. Not simply who is reading it but become aware of the consciousness that is reading, thinking, liking or not liking what it’s reading. What is that? I love that switch in perspective–– not just being aware but what is it that is aware?

For me this kind of practice opens up the paradoxical nature of reality and the dharma itself. 

Three Practice Suggestions

  1. When you get settled in your meditation today be aware of what you’re aware of and then turn your attention on the awareness itself. Do forecast what you will find, simple be curioius and open to what happens.
  2. Once or twice a day try to stop being aware. See if it’s possible to be alive, awake and not be aware
  3. When you’re outside pay attention to the aliveness of nature (sky, sun, moon, weather, wind, etc.) and then sense your own aliveness.