How to Perceive Things as They Are
I'm not really sure when it started, or when people first noticed it, but my friends have always made fun of me for saying things are "interesting." Some exes would even get upset when I'd use it and not clarify. But the truth is, I find lots of things interesting and always have.
People sometimes ask -- good interesting or bad interesting? I say neither. It's just interesting. Maybe I just never lost my curiosity. Maybe no one has.
But I think what's really happening is waking up to what things actually are, and what exists.
Now it's really easy to look that over as just a sentence, but it's actually a special kind of experience that involves understanding, seeing clearly, waking up, and not having any additional thoughts or opinions. It's just perception, or witnessing (or mindfulness) or Zen. It's perception of things as they are. I like to call it Vision.
Vision has a lot to do with science, but it's a slightly different form and comes at the same experience from a different (but maybe not opposite) direction. It's related (but not entirely) what Einstein was alluding to when he said that Religion and Science were the same question and that they were codependent. (Not like your ex is, just interdependent.) Science tries to ask what exists and how to describe it and understand it, especially its components. Spirituality or "waking up" -- remember "Buddha" means "awakened one"-- is just seeing things as they are without excess mental activity. Without fighting it. With acceptance. It's a way of living that the Taoists and Zen Masters obsessed with and mastered. With of course the added objective of transforming one's life and approach to it.
This "Vision" is also a fundamental component of wisdom. Wisdom is the result of inner, true calmness that teaches you what ends are worthy of pursuit and clarity of knowing how to help someone (or yourself) get there. After my month-long silent retreat, this quality emerged sharply for a few weeks. The ends we guide others too are always towards Surrender. Vision is the outcome of Surrender.
And that brings us to the skills portion of this post that no one will read. I'm using Surrender here in the Alan Wattsian way, or in the Zen way; Surrender (capitalized) is the act of not trying to get anywhere and letting the body relax. Let's do an exercise. You can skip to 8, but the first 7 steps are important set up.
1. Sitting where you are take a deep breath that feels good. Not like a homework assignment. You're not trying to take a certain KIND OF BREATH or achieve a "peaceful" or "relaxed" state. At least, you will, but not by trying to. You'll only achieve it like a visitor who stops by unannounced, which is to say, when you're not expecting it to come. You just make an environment for it, like putting out a picnic blanket.
2. Take a couple more deep breaths. Easy ones.
3. Start tracking the full extent of your breath. You don't have to change it but try and keep it "smooth". Expanding and contracting at a groovy, melty rate.
4. Relax your shoulders and the muscles around your neck. Like you were coming out of the best not awkward massage of your life. (I find them all awkward.)
5. Start to feel the sensations in your chest too a bit or maybe somewhere else if you feel it.
6. Don't get too involved with your thoughts. Don't make a whole technique out of trying to experience some type of special breathing experience. It's not going to work that way. You'll only be "tight" and thinking the whole time, but your thinking will be "monitoring mind" or what the Kwan Um School of Zen's Founding Teacher (ZMSS) used to call "checking mind."
7. Just kinda chill there. It's okay if your mind wanders. Don't be a security guard. Or, just be a cool one. Like Carl Winslow from Die Hard. (Yes, I know I made a mistake. Multiple.) Just hear what's going on. See what's going on. Without an opinion. Without necessarily thinking it's amazing.
8. Ask yourself gently: "what is it?" This is where Zen and spirituality kind of part ways with this technique. Asking "what is it?" is like asking "what am I looking at? what is it? what is the actual event happening? without all my opinions and thoughts about it. Then just perceive.
I use this technique to think about things and analyze situations. I use it to understand people, politics, relationship issues, conflict, and life predicaments. And people usually like what I have to say.
They say it's interesting.