Just another morning awakening
This morning, slowing waking from a difficult night’s sleep, I hear the honking of geese flying nearby.
I wonder how their experience of this morning differs from mine. I wonder what the core difference is that being human offers in this awakening experience. I wonder what I might open to in a way that would correspond to the geese’s instinctual connection with experience. Even though it is not automatically given as instinct, what could be there if I drop in and make myself available?
And so, instead of getting out of bed and going on with my usual morning routine, I pause and slow down. I’m curious, I pay attention. I sense my body and become aware of my slow diaphragmatic breathing. It feels instinctual, but I imagine that geese are not available to being conscious of it as such, or of their deep connection or unity with nature, whereas my human nature makes it potentially available to me.
As I enter into the breathing, I let go of the usual contexts of my day, my problems, my world, even of “my” breathing. I can tell that this sense of “me” and “my” is not really automatically given in this or any experience but is more a human capacity given by language and mind that becomes habitual and automatic and is taken as real.
What is given by mind, at least potentially, is the capacity to notice this and recognize that it is not a necessary part of the experience, and not real in the way it seems. And so “I” drop deeper into the natural breathing, moment to moment. It is not a spiritual practice as such, but something very natural and human that takes me beyond all these mental and linguistic categories.
It’s as if my whole body and being are immersed in the breathing. My attention is drawn into the flow of inhaling and exhaling, of filling and emptying. And there is a shift from “me” into being, in which the breathing is arising. It is a subtle but noticeable shift, nothing flashy and overpowering, but obvious.
My attention is drawn in, so that the breathing is a relationship with, or within, being. The inhaling opens into being as a fullness — all that is — and the exhaling releases into being as an emptiness or no-thingness — empty of any quality or category. And as the inhaling and exhaling are two modes of one breathing, so too, fullness and emptiness are obvious as complementary modes of the oneness of being.
All of this is an unpacking of an experience that was directly obvious in awareness, in terms of categories of mind and the words of language. Even the contents of the experience, the sensations and the breathing unfolding in time, were all like a vehicle for revealing something that is prior to experience, time and mind. And yet it was not some special mystical or spiritual awakening as such. It made itself apparent as the potential, the inner essence, of ordinary morning awakening — and really, of any moment of experience.
There’s nothing special about awakening from sleep, it just provides a natural opportunity for an awareness before the usual course of the daily routine sets in. Neither was this simply a merely intellectual insight or a special experience that quickly fades into memory or gets enmeshed in the experiential contents that happened to converge on this particular morning.
Yes, there was a ripeness for it, and yet it came forth so simply and naturally, not quite as what we’d call an effect of previous experience, and yet not quite what we’d call grace. It “happened,” and yet not in the way ordinary experiences “happen.”
There was nothing really special about this morning, this experiencer, this experience or this breath. The sense of “I” and all the rest doesn’t disappear, but it shifts into the context of being and is no longer primary and separate. The opening into being, as the universal and ever-present ground of all experience, could have been through anything, anyone and any moment. Like you, here, now.
Ed Hirsch facilitates a small weekly presence gathering in Lithia Park, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays , in the amphitheater-like structure just below the old park offices above the Upper Duck Pond. For more information, email Ed at email@example.com.