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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 25 the notion that practice is about making a new and improved version of “me.” This is the point where we may realize the need to expand our view of practice. As we increasingly understand that practice is not just about nice states of mind induced by concentration or absorption, nor just about freeing ourselves from our personal psychological conditioning, we may move along the continuum of awareness to what is often referred to as wide open awareness. In wide open awareness, unlike the con- centration mode, we are not focused on one particular thing, such as the breath. And unlike the mindfulness mode, we are not paying as much attention to the obser- vation of personal thoughts and feelings. It is not an amorphous awareness, but an open awareness with disciplined intention, without which there will be only spaciness. The intention is a continuous, soft effort to stay present—present to the air, the room, the body, to everything. As we become increasingly alert to whatever arises, awareness begins to ex- pand beyond our normal boundaries or limits of perception. There is a very par- ticular sense of being—a visceral experi- ence of presence—that can be activated by wide open awareness. There is a vivid- ness, as if you were here for the first time. Sometimes the feeling is almost electric. On occasion, our normal sense of who we are begins to desolidify, and our fixed boundaries begin to dissolve. We may have the momentary understanding that “all is one,” or the equally powerful un- derstanding that “all is love”—but those are still only moments. In the actual liv- ing of our lives, all of the messy stuff remains. Problems still arise. Fear still arises. Thoughts still cascade through the mind. The sense of self does not disappear (the belief that the sense of self needs to disappear is just another Zen myth). Yet, something changes. The sense of who we are, the sense of me, with all of my stories, loses its substantiality, its heaviness—and when we say “I” there is a knowing that it’s not quite the truth. Thus we begin to re- late to the clouds of “me” as just clouds. We don’t have to try to stop the clouds any more than we have to try to stop our