Living awake feels like being in a child’s story, a simple story about a simple thing. The restoration to innocence, to the time before time, with no possibility of harm. Once-upon-a-time. The garden of Eden.
That’s what it feels like. A person who has awakened feels like a little kid. Everything is fresh and new, every ordinary thing. How good it feels to brush your hair! How the trees look moving in the wind. The sensation of urine releasing.
You tilt your head at people’s complaints and worries, trying to understand. The effort to wring meaning out of every life episode, to pronounce it good or bad. Your heart breaks (but not for long).
There’s absolutely nothing going on, and how can nothing feel so substantial?
You do remember what it feels like to be caught up in problems (your own, your wife’s, your child’s, the country’s), to have it all matter so much, everything riding on one outcome or another. What it’s like to be convinced time is a real thing, to be tormented by its apparent brevity, haunted by aging and death. But now, you could just sit the livelong day, never read another newspaper, work on another project. Things smell good. You move from one savoring to another. The way light plays on a stranger’s face. It’s like when you were a kid, enthralled with the feel of warm sand falling through your spread fingers.
The pleasure of awareness is exquisite like that sand. There’s absolutely nothing going on, and how can nothing feel so substantial? What could be more delicious than this, just feeling this moment? How did you ever imagine any of that other stuff mattered so much?
Like a little child, you care nothing for time, nothing for people’s expectations. The world, the physical world, is the entire miracle. And here you are, in it.
Look! See, smell, touch! Oh, taste! Tuna! Garlic! Ice cream! Wine! Coffee! Lips!
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Before a child has been outfitted with the adult-made lenses we all learn to look through, before becoming entrenched in the ideas of things, of right and wrong; before categories arrive on the scene, before expectations, somebody’s idea of self-esteem, dignity — before, even, the name for a thing — there is direct apprehension. Encounter. There is feeling. No intervening mental filter. No urgency for an inner narrative.
This is what you are restored to at awakening, when the self you thought you were ceases to enthrall. Names for things are still there, retrievable. It’s still possible for thinking to occur. But only when you want it to. Thinking no longer runs the show, the constant noise of it. Thought serves at the pleasure of what you have discovered yourself to be: consciousness itself.
Anything mental is secondary, if it’s there at all. You have entered an existence made of primary experience — felt, sensory life, this moment. There’s no distance between you and what you’re aware of. You are what you experience. You and the moment are the same thing. This is the all-that-is.
The norm is awareness of what-is. This living consciousness is here for each episode of reality but does not mutter to itself about what it means. There is no spawning of opinion, fear, desire.
Often you are bewildered, the way a child is, at how people seem to be. No longer playing by their rules, you have to work a bit to remember what it feels like to be that way.
(Who is the grown-up here?)
But the almost universal way of being a person, which you can’t help noticing, has trouble holding your attention. You keep getting absorbed in the way the fabric feels against your arm. The airiness in your mouth when you sing. The world, you keep discovering, is constantly here. It’s what you find when life has finally stopped being about you. Even with all its apparent problems, existence is entirely miraculous.Jan Frazier