A World of Insecurity
Recognising the suffering that comes with living in an insecure world.
If I am going to invest my happiness, peace of mind, and identity in anything, it should be secure. It should be trustworthy and reliable, and it should never let me down.
“To invest our security in something that is not inherently secure is madness, and suffering is the result.” ~ Rupert Spira
Here’s the problem…
Everything in the world is insecure.
The objects, activities, cultural traditions and spiritual ideologies I identify with. My relationships. My teachers and their teachings. My career. My intelligence, health and wealth. My knowledge. My thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. All these things are inherently insecure.
Of course, most of the time, I ignore this truth and buy into the mirages that comfort the anxieties of my mind—fixed images cast up to provide temporary shelter from the unknown. From the unfamiliar. The unpredictable. The uncontrollable.
I may also delude myself that I can reign over these worldly things—that I can create a cocoon of control. That I can manage my life in ways that make all the things within it feel secure, stable and reliable. That I can build firm ground within the world to stand on.
But upon closer inspection, these worldly forms of apparent security are always found to be fleeting, rickety and constantly refracting. In building appreciation for this inconvenient truth, I realise that grounding myself in worldly things is a recipe for a life of confusion, frustration, misery and decay.
I may be able to keep the water out of my fragile little worldly ship for a period of time, patching up the cracks here and there. Still, eventually, the cracks and holes get too big and profuse to control the unstoppable force of the ocean from entering, flooding and sinking the ship in the process.
WHAT IS TRULY SECURE?
Is there anything that is truly secure, reliable and trustworthy?
Is there something that is always there for me, firm, stable, permanent and unwavering? Something that I can really ground myself in—that I can shimmy my bare feet into and stand tall with full confidence that the roots I grow there will find rich and nourishing soil that never degrades or erodes?
Starting right here, right now.
Whatever is truly secure must be here with me right now, right? Otherwise, it would not be able to fulfil the criteria mentioned above.
If it is not here with me right now, how can I possibly say it is firm, stable, permanent and unwavering? I can’t. It would be a non-starter…
So what is here with me right now that is truly secure? That will remain with me in any and all moments, no matter the mood or circumstance?
Obviously, it can’t be any of the particular contents of my conscious experience—my worldly perceptions, sensations, emotions or thoughts. These are always changing.
GROUNDED IN AWARENESS
Although the contents of consciousness change, an awareness of the arising and passing content doesn’t change.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Look for yourself. Go into it.
Notice that in every moment of your experience, there is, without failure, awareness of whatever is arising. It is simply impossible for this awareness not to be here. Do you see that?
Being sensitive to the nature of this awareness leads to a grounding in it. To speak and act from it. To identify with awareness as the clearest, most genuine understanding of what I truly am.
Doing so, I release the need to find psychological security and certainty in worldly things. Everything that arises in awareness is awareness, and so just another instantiation of what I am. There is no moving away from something or towards something else. The contents of my conscious experience may change, but I am always exactly where I need to be.
“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.” ~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Being grounded in awareness allows me to see the world clearly, without needlessly chasing or clinging to anything. To move without the distortion of worldly identifications.
As the worldly things loosen their grip and the chasing and clinging gradually cease, there is a sensitivity that invites more and more of my being into every moment, increasing my familiarity with the nature of awareness.
Opening up to this sensitivity further loosens my attachment to the worldly contents of conscious experience, as well as my fears of the unknown, the unfamiliar and the uncontrollable that tend to arise as a result.
The whole pattern takes the shape of this perpetual feedback loop that simultaneously releases my roots from the world and deepens my roots in an awareness of being.
In the world, but not of the world.
Importantly, (and perhaps seemingly paradoxical on the face of it) detaching from worldly identifications doesn’t mean I am less engaged with the worldly contents of my conscious experience. To the contrary, actually!
By identifying less with worldly things, I remove the fear, desire, anxiety, hope and rumination that lock me into mental images from the past (or of what the future should look like). Images that pull me away from the present moment.
Without these worldly identifications, I surrender and let go more easily. I attend more fully. Tread more lightly. Listen more softly. Love more deeply. Act with more passion and vitality. There is a greater richness to experience. An aliveness that comes with freeing myself from the known world.
WHAT IS AWARENESS?
With awareness being so fundamental, expanding on what I am talking about here feels worthwhile. What exactly am I trying to point to when I use the label ‘awareness’?
Let’s start with the fundamental jumping-off point:
Although the contents of our conscious experience may change, there is an aspect that doesn’t. An aspect that can be found in all experience. One seamless substance.
Disclaimer on the illustration above:
The illustration above can be a helpful way to point at the critical difference between the varying content of conscious experience and conscious awareness itself, which is always present. Importantly, and where the visual breaks down, the contents of conscious experience are not in any way separate from awareness. These aren’t two distinct phenomena! All the content of conscious experience arises within awareness. Or in other words, the content is made of awareness.
Awareness is a label for something I am attempting to point at:
I can label this ever-present substance as awareness, with the obvious caveat that the label ‘awareness’ and the concept of a ‘substance’ are always limiting and never fully representative of what is being pointed at. The Dao spoken is not the true Dao.
Nonetheless, the analogy of a substance (or maybe a taste or texture?) works nicely to describe what I am talking about here. There is a raw unchanging quality to awareness that is as real as the taste of fresh mango or the call of a red-chested cuckoo. A quality that is immediately apparent and stable, even as the content it appears as arises and passes by.
“Let what comes come.
Let what goes go.
Find out what remains.”
~ Ramana Maharshi
Awareness is what is there when we experience a moment of joyful laughter amongst friends and still present when we are told of the passing of a close family member. It is there when we are concentrating with an intense focus on solving a problem, and also while relaxing in a flowery field staring up with openness at the passing clouds.
The more we can learn to notice awareness itself—as having its own nature and being real and present across the many different modes of experience—the more clearly and easily it becomes to identify with awareness—to ground oneself in it.
AWARENESS AS THE SPACE WITHIN A ROOM
One final intuition pump is to imagine awareness as the space within a room.
There are also people in the room, which represent all our worldly perceptions, sensations, images and thoughts.
The people in this room we are imagining come in all shapes and sizes. Some are taller, and others are shorter. Some are kind while others aren’t. There are those who are loud, quiet, angry, happy, sad, energetic, and so on. A diversity of characters, entering, moving, changing, interacting, and leaving.
What is the relationship between the actions of the people and the space of the room? Does the behaviour of these people matter to the space? Does the space have anything to gain or lose by trying to change the behaviour of any of the people? Is the space itself changed when one of the people change?
What is apparent is that the space is independent of the people, even though the people are dependent on the space. The people wouldn’t be able to express themselves if the space wasn’t available.
What is also clear is that the space is present before the people arrive. It is present during their stay and all the antics that unfold while they are there. And, of course, the pace is present when the people depart. Going one level further, the space is present before the room was constructed and will be present after it is demolished.
The same is true of awareness.
Whatever is being experienced is taking place within (or as) awareness. And awareness itself does not fundamentally change in response to the contents that arise within it (the people that enter the space).
Like the space within the room, awareness remains as it is at all times—unmodified, unchanged, unconcerned.
Stable, reliable, unwavering and secure.
What better place to ground oneself.
What better place to call home.
“If work is all about doing, then the soul is all about being: the indiscriminate enjoyer of everything that comes our way. If work is the world, then the soul is our home.”
~ David Whyte
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