Direct Perception and Choiceless Awareness

Myrtle Creek joins the ocean

Myrtle Creek joins the Pacific

I was out at Arizona Beach Lodge for two days over this last weekend on a private retreat. Here are some of my reflections.

My interest is to connect with those of you who are engaged in their own exploration of consciousness on the background of their direct experience. For me ‘direct experience’ is the same as direct perception. I know that sometimes the term ‘experience’ is seen as that which is recognized by the mind after the fact. For example, I see a tree and then I reflect on that ‘seeing’ and the taking in of the image of the tree. In other words, there is a subject-object relationship.  Direct experience and direct perception for me point to the pure happening of ‘me’, as one integral part of this one beingness coming into contact with another integral part, which I, out of convention, call with the word ‘tree’.

In other words, when there is the sense of being totally immersed in that ‘seeing’ and the subject-object dichotomy is absent, my mind is in a state of abeyance, like disengaging the clutch on my vehicle. Then a quality of peace pervades my perception. This happens for me most pervasively in undisturbed nature, such as during the two days here at Arizona Beach.

This I call ‘connecting with the deeper reality of the present moment’, and when that happens, words sort of lose their meaning as does any re-cognition of the happening. On the contrary, letting go of past impressions, ideas and concepts seems to facilitate this direct perception. This is the actual intent of my yoga practice which I see as a deepening of the quality of unconditional acceptance and affectionate perception for all that I encounter and loving mindfulness in all that I do.

This happens on the background of choiceless awareness, such as I find expressed in the following lines:

“The Perfect Way is only difficult

for those who pick and choose;

do not like, do not dislike,

all will then be clear.”

(Hsin Shin Ming, Verse 1, Waley translation)

Arizona Beach 5-23-13

Sun Rainbow – Arizona Beach 5-23-13

For me this conjures up that sense of reality being much too vast for linear thinking to grasp in any way. The verb ‘to grok’ is definitely more appropriate. Similarly, the Buddhist term “Suchness” transmits to me that sense of just being with what is. When I am able to relax into that state, then the Way does show up and I can grok it because my focus is not constricted by my conditioned mind. The Way is akin to what I call Intelligent Infinity. There is a deeper cohesiveness inherent in the fabric of reality and I fail to realize myself as a part of it only when my perception is constricted and focused on one particular or a limited segment of the whole.

So ‘just sitting’, or ‘just standing’, or ‘just eating’, or ‘just listening’ is simply the thing to do when I am not called to function in this rather constricted hologram called ‘consensus reality’. Then I open up and can listen to the depth of silence and what it has to show me.

I like the short passage by Alan Watts from “The Way of Zen” in reference to the idea of “sitting in meditation” as a spiritual practice: Sitting meditation is not, as is often supposed, a spiritual “exercise,” a practice followed for some ulterior object. From a Buddhist standpoint, it is simply the proper way to sit, and it seems perfectly natural to remain sitting so long as there is nothing else to be done, and so long as one is not consumed with nervous agitation.”

Looking to the North

Arizona Beach – Looking to the North

There has been a shift for me over recent years, maybe most strongly since 2006 or 2007, when I began to feel the need to open up to a level of understanding that is more fertile than the intellectual understanding that I had gained over the decades prior to that. Only in the past few months, since the beginning of 2013, have I begun to see myself drawn to what I am calling “direct perception”. Now I recognize that many sages and teachers, such as Krishnamurti, have been pointing to exactly that with their teachings.

At present I am contemplating a lot of Zen teachings. Many assert that you cannot really “do” anything to bring about such direct perception, or “direct encounter with reality”, as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, but only let go of all grasping, trying and purposing and then, when an empty state occurs (which you cannot willfully bring about) – such direct perception happens, of its own accord. I guess it is about getting the feel for no efforting 24/7.

Looking forward to any response you might have, such as your own view on this topic and your direct experiences: do they happen to/with you? when do they happen? can you describe their quality? Thank you!

looking south Arizona Beach

Arizona Beach – Looking to the South

23 thoughts on “Direct Perception and Choiceless Awareness

  1. Pingback: Zen: Everyday Living and Working | heartflow2013

  2. Pingback: Dimensional Dancing Within Intelligent Infinity | seeingM

  3. Pingback: Zen: The Net of Jewels | heartflow2013

  4. In my experience direct perception comes from a place of total silence and stillness. It needs to be practiced and I don’t know a better practice than (regular) meditation, until we get to know that place so well that we can get their in an instant using our will power – I have to say that however controversial works of Castaneda are, he is very helpful and practical when it comes to getting to know and move our assemblage point (that determines the way we perceive/assemble our reality). The tricky part with direct perception is to stay present but get out of the way 🙂 This is absolutely essential for proper shamanic work at least…
    I really enjoy your thoughtful posts! xox

    • Thank you! Yes, Castaneda’s term, “assemblage point” is one of those language codes, I believe, that trigger recognition in our whole system just upon reading (or hearing) it, if we are ready for it. Lucia Renee’s excellent book “Unplugging the Patriarchy” makes reference to that in a very graphic way – you would enjoy it. I agree completely, it is really a skill like any other that can be perfected by practice, like bike riding etc. – although the first happenings of this quality for me seemed (to my mind) to be something that happened when I was “out of the way”, which gave me the sense that i didn’t know how to reproduce the experience. Now I am able to attune, or calibrate myself by finding the right balance between alert awareness and lucid dreaming, similar to one who finds the right balance when riding the bike, although it is difficult to say in words ‘how’ one does that exactly. Thanks for deepening this contemplation ~ tomas ♥

  5. Reading Amit Goswami on quantum physics and he explores non-duality when the possibilities of experience and the possibilities of the observer collapse into existence. Sounds like you are experiencing this at Arizona beach. Keep us informed on how we can get there–to the “direct encounter with reality,” not to Arizona beach. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

  6. I am on the road at the moment and others are paying for access to my time for a bit so I must keep this brief here for now as I look out the window of the hotel in San Fran and watch the fog roll in and roll off the landscape…

    I look forward to contemplating your request tonight during the all night party otherwise known as a cross country red eye flight and I will get back to respond properly here when I am not on the clock :).

    Arizona Beach travels in and as all of us. Actually being there just gives a clearer reminder, sometimes :). I will feel the waves in the galley tonight. Thank you for this T!


          • For me experiences of this nature occur when I am within or as close as I can get to the frame/state of being that is not distance/time dependent with a separation of subject/object… or with that link I put above, one begins to look at these thoughts and the experiences they create as referring to this as a fold past the limitations of the concept of duration.

            For me, these experiences you refer to spontaneously occur when I focus my intent on contracting & expanding (folding & unfolding) into a place using the purist will past M’s identification of what I would lovingly refer to as her externalized ego self. I set this thought with intent and then just let it run in the background… coming and going in my awareness. Then what happens for me, is the internal thought constructs shift to a place that I am not the details making up the life and physical body of M, but rather that I am the energy of “love-oneness-connection” that is underpinning or creating these details into being.

            For example, I often do something that I call breathing the room. I start with just observing my breath in and out… sensation location in nose and lungs. Then I allow the expansion of that sensation to be a breath that is sourced located a bit further out around my body (for me this begins to feel like I am breathing on a wave of sorts). I am then pulling in the air that surrounds me and the action of breathing is not taking place just inside my body anymore… I continue this expansion riding on this wave until I am breathing in from the size of the room. By doing this, I begin to experience the blurring of the sense of separation from whatever is found in the room. For me this creates a subtle awareness that I am not a body breathing in a breath, but rather I am on, in and as the breath coming into a body… then, this breath is secondarily experienced as being my body breathing. Visually one could potentially use the scene from the movie the Matrix when Neo breathes in the coded hallway and the whole space around him flexes and breathes as him, with him as well! Doing this particular exercise out in nature, with no man made reference points or right angles of containment is like putting on a jetpack and rocketing to the moon, so take care and be ready to be the clouds :). This can also be done in the reverse by following the breath and it’s sensations inside as well.

            Ultimately for me, external nature exists unfolding from this place of connection at all times and can be the greatest and clearest teacher for reconnecting to our true place within it. What humans do with this nature, shaping and forming it under their will, is not bad or wrong, it just creates layers. These layers of separation that once were only external, over time we have internalized as who and what I am (these are messages from culture, education, religion, gender, body age etc). For me, these more readily fall away when I am completely away from any man made anything with and within nature in it’s most purest states. This is why “prophets” of old can often times be found heading into the wilderness or to mountains to commune with God… pure nature (and the breathing changes at altitude) help with the folding/unfolding process :). I also have had similar experiences when artificially breathing underwater while diving as well… and there you get the added experience of floating and weightlessness when you get buoyancy just right.

            There also are some very incredible things that begin to happen for/to me when I get in touch with the physical experience of spinning motions… anytime I can take my body and place it in a way that helps awareness expand out beyond or also back into the illusory boundaries of contained form. The clearest spinning teachings have come for me when I look at torsion fields and vortex dynamics.

            Eckhart Tolle also uses a good example of placing awareness into the feeling of ones hands. Once the sensation in awareness is placed there, then go and touch something that you love (person, pet, item or part of a place -ie. sand on beach) and then just watch what happens to the feeling of separation from that “other” whatever it is. For me, this too blurs the boundaries. I touch my beloved cat which no longer feels separate as “cat” and just becomes part of a sensation of riding deep purr-age using these hands which are not me or mine, but rather are tools of creation expressing and experiencing love that I am, we are:). Being a Merlina for a moment is a beautiful thing!

            Hope this makes sense and helps a bit.

            I have enjoyed the contemplation of your question greatly. It has sent me to some wonderful memories and has reminded me how where I put my conscious focus, my experience follows. 🙂 -x.M

            • I agree that such contemplation deepens my sense of connectedness, or better, that there is not even anything to connect, because that implies separation already. Nature, I believe, is such a coherent energy field that I can meld into it easily if I relax my ‘center’ as a separate entity. Yes, Eckhart Tolle pointing to the inner body awareness is often useful for me. Your description of awareness expanding together with breath awareness is a good observation and I enjoyed trying it out like that! 🙂 In a nutshell, the more we can relax the artificial layers/boundaries that conjure up for us the sense of being separate the more we can just relax into our original state. ☼ t.

  7. I feel urged and motivated to comment Francesca´s words:

    “I think it’s very hard for us in the West to be able to do that, because our cultural background instills a kind of guilt about ‘doing nothing’ “…

    It is doubtlessly so.

    But why…? Has our guilt to do with “doing nothing”?


    Has it maybe to do with the fact that we are so much immersed in “doing” so The Actual Guilt is an uneasy reminder, that, invariably since time immemorial we don´t really live, and accordingly, we ultimately miss something of great consequence, despite our clever and pragmatic life-style?…

    Isn´t Doing some kind of compensation for fleeing who we are…?

    • A couple of my favorites say that we are continually ‘murdering’ the Absolute by immersing ourselves in the trance of consensus reality – this speaks to the validity of what you mention here, Julien. It is very revealing that our conventional thought patterns circle around more the more trivial ‘guilt’ of “I must do something to earn my keep in the world”. So it is about going deeper to more underlying layers of the illusion – like the proverbial onion – in order to come to the ultimate fact that at the center of the onion there is…nothing. Then we can see what we can see when there are no ‘things’ to see. Thanks for taking us down the spiral another turn! 🙂

      • This realization for the ego, is the ultimate agony:

        “ the center there is…nothing. Then we can see what we can see when there are no ‘things’ to see…”

        And where are no “things” to see, there is everything to see…

        Pure seeing, no longer restricted by any point of view…

  8. The whole post can be “reduced” to this:

    “My mind is in a state of abeyance…”

    Abeyance….this beautifully resounding word…

    Let us listen to its sound and see what it whispers…

  9. I know what you mean exactly by direct perception, but I find it very hard to put into words – it seems to me to be that moment when what we think of as the heart and the mind meld into one and ‘seeing’ actually becomes one with ‘feeling’ or ‘experience’. It’s almost like inhaling that experience, if that makes sense. I’ve found with sitting that I started meditating one way and have gradually let go of that, firstly into trying not to do anything, which of course is doing, then just not trying but just sitting. I think it’s very hard for us in the West to be able to do that, because our cultural background instills a kind of guilt about ‘doing nothing’ – even teachings about meditation often encourage us to do something or try not to! It doesn’t always happen when I meditate and I don’t expect it too, but it is getting easier.

    • To communicate with words on this topic is for sure tricky ~ and I find that by coming to the limit of words my mind quiets, so that in itself is an interesting dynamic. I like your wording “inhaling the experience” as it gives the flavor of something organic happening, rather than mental. In my reading this morning I came across this: “Its realization requires effort over a long period of time and its premise is nothing less than a total, radical transformation of our perceptual processes.” He then goes on to speak of the peculiar quality that that ‘effort’ has – not at all our conventional effort. I sense it more like the continual ‘pressure’ you need in the garden hose in order for the water to flow – similarly a certain inner focus of our various practices, if we want to call them that, “merge to create a discipline of life, a discipline of the habits of body and mind and heart” as he puts it. (Mu Soeng, Trust In Mind) This comes close to your ‘heart and mind meld’. Thank you, Francesca, for joining in to this reflection! Tante buone cose! tomas ♥

I love your comments - What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.