” What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding’s exercises for discovering one’s own essential ‘headlessness’ are the best ideas I’ve yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people ‘get it but simply don’t believe it’ .” – John Wren-Lewis
” Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. You never get to see how things are on the other side of the street, so to speak. If it works, it is self-maintaining, including all the mistakes built into the mind set.” – Jim Burns
In the above quote, Wren-Lewis has outlined a method for seeing our own ineffable awareness, the first part of which is Douglas Harding’s ‘experiments’ or tricks. He outlines the second part as the need for a strategy ‘for stopping the hyperactive survival-programs from immediately explaining the perception away’, but only gives a hint as to how to proceed.
The Harding experiments are simple and direct, but must be practiced rather than read about for any effect to occur. I’ve noticed through the years what Wren-Lewis describes as the survival programs immediately explaining the trick away occur again and again, in myself as well as others: someone has a breakthrough at a Harding workshop, after practicing the experiments at home, or even after a spontaneous event while driving or eating, but soon the ego grabs hold of the ‘experience’ and lays claim to it. “Look what ‘I’ did,” it boasts, “’I’ saw what ‘I’ was looking out of, as now I’m seeing it, as I always see it, and so now don’t have to do anything more, so lets get back to the real business of doing whatever we were doing before this seeing nonsense came up.” This last part about getting back to business isn’t actually admitted, even in private, nor announced in public. Soon the person has no connection with the anterior seeing other than a vague memory and a new storyline about how they’ve finally made it to the promised land, end of the road, they’re off the hook.
There is nothing unusual about this. It’s the valuation that’s wrong, for it’s placed on observing a projected memory, rather than on actual seeing in the moment. The person believes that one instance of seeing what they are looking out of has somehow made the seeing permanent, when actually they are being fooled by the ego’s penchant for taking unconsciously referenced and projected memory, as reality. This process happens much faster than conscious worded thought. In a manic mind fraught with the demands of modern living, it is for practical purposes, invisible. The person thinks he is ‘seeing’ when he is actually remembering his seeing, and thus is fooled into never seeing again. How can this survival program of the ego be seen through, and how can we stop it from fooling us so completely? Can we admit our seeing is something that we must practice, perhaps for years, before it becomes an actual real time spontaneous state?
A possible answer occurred to me when I remembered the above quote by Jim Burns. We must somehow still the mind from its pressing quest to believe it has day-to-day life under control in every aspect just long enough to allow the survival program to relax. Then, when a breakthrough such as a moment of seeing what you’re looking out of occurs, you can observe the entire event without the ego’s overwhelming need to add it to its bag of survival tricks, thus relegating it to memory, projection and self-trickery.
A plan of action would require a period of isolation, a time set aside with no human contact. Especially no contact with the human system of emotional reactions such as family, the workplace, and all media, including the news, cell phones and email. Once isolated from outside influence, a person’s hyperactive reaction pattern will lose steam, and any event such as a glimpse into the anterior realm will not be immediately rationalized as a deed of the ego, but can be seen for what it is. The entire pattern of self-deception can be noticed, without identification, from the moment of ‘seeing’ to it’s relegation to memory and the ego’s attempt to claim it, and henceforth project it as proof of its accomplishment. This combination of isolation from outside influence long enough to still the mind, coupled with a earnest desire to perform experiments designed to see our own awareness at work, is a possible scenario for upping our chances at a breakthrough. For some a few days might be enough to break the pattern of mind chatter, for others, several weeks may be necessary. Aids such as fasting, meditation, and a resolve to watch for the need for distraction however it tempts, will help to calm the mind. It is getting harder and harder to find a place where one can be free from the mind’s manic reflections, and still stay reasonably comfortable so as not to spend all one’s time and energy battling the elements and other irritations, but it’s necessity has never been greater. Any effort towards this would be beneficial, any actual practice of it invaluable. The greater the resistance, the greater the reward.