Resources to help you embody a sense of awake and connected wisdom
There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about what dharma is and how it can be applied to the modern world.
New concepts like secular Buddhism, meta-dharma and pragmatic dharma have been at the forefront of this. Lots of strands of Buddhism don’t really make sense with our modern understanding of science and the world, so these are a response to this.
My experience is different to these new concepts. It is more direct than this – it is being sincerely present with what is here in each moment. In some ways it is the most profoundly simple thing and yet it is almost infinitely complex and incredibly difficult to bring into reality.
This is not a process that happens with a sudden realisation – it’s a maturing of the entire system expressing itself through you.
When people say things like ‘you are already awake’ or ‘ just be present with what is here’, that negates the huge challenge of what it takes to actually be fully present in this moment with everything that is here in experience, without pushing things away or rejecting parts of yours or other people’s experience.
It’s painful, confusing and takes a huge reintegration process of all the personal and collective parts of experience that are complicated and hellish. Reality can be a really strange, scary and painful place to be fully present in.
Any ideas you have about what reality is are essentially false.
Unless you have gone digging through the entirety of your experience, then there are parts of yourself and experience that you are rejecting. This doesn’t mean that you’re not being present at all – it’s obviously a sliding scale of how present we can be in any given moment – but it does mean that anything that talks about being present as an easy thing to achieve is silly.
Once you let go of this idea, that presence or truth can be discovered quickly, you can bring the resistance and struggle into the fold too. That is part of your experience that can be embodied also. And the part of you that wants that part to go away. Also part of your experience.
This doesn’t come naturally. We naturally close off to parts ourselves that we dislike or that others have rejected. It takes work and effort to be able to open ourselves to feeling what is really there. We do this by opening our hearts to embody a sense of compassionate presence for what we are really experiencing in this moment – it takes a courageous heart, an open mind and the capacity to process lots of trauma.
This is a million times easier to do if someone is actively encouraging us to do this and accepting and welcoming these news parts of ourselves. When someone is holding this space for us, it can feel just like a pleasant relief that we are allowed to be ourselves.
The reward in doing this work is experiencing an immediate presence with what feels most true to you in this moment – the only place that truth can exist.
It also cuts through any concepts of solipsism or ideas that we can know truth in any fixed way. When we are sincerely present with experience we become aware of the interconnected nature of everything.
We realise that most of the information we are getting in any moment comes from our intuitive sense of the world, our proprioception of the environment around us, our heart’s knowing about how other people feel or the subconscious messages they are giving us or any other of the myriad of ways that we are inextricably linked to our external environment.
We can’t understand a truth from our minds or our inner worlds – we can only be an expression of what feels meaningful in relationship with the environment we find ourselves in in this moment.
The Three Jewels
One of the important things to recognise with this also is that the three jewels, as they are called in traditional dharma, are all equally important.
This feels vital to notice at this point in society. In order to wake up we need the three jewels to be in balance. Awakening is not a lone sport that you can achieve on your own. It’s a process that we go through together – you are in an environment that is conducive to you changing the way you understand and exist in the world.
Unless you aspire to be a maniac like me, who ended up developing serious psychosis and schizophrenia and befriending the Universe in order to go through it alone, we need to create the environments that are conducive to people waking up together.
The old Buddhist monasteries would have been these environments. Safe and secure spaces that people could get into altered states of consciousness and ways of being that contained less suffering compared to being in a more normal state of of consciousness out in the world.
In the modern world, most people don’t want to live in a monastery. I believe in a way of practicing that facilities awakening into profound and meaningful states of consciousness, while still being able to connect with the world around.
In order to achieve this, we need an updated version of the three jewels to support this.
How This is Different & Where Teachings Fit
- You don’t need some awake being to tell you how to live your life. You already know in your heart what is most important in this moment. You just need the space to show up in and the courage to be vulnerable and sincere. Practice is about connecting with this intention inside of us, other people can support us to explore and clarify this within ourselves.
- There is no ultimate truth. It is up to you to be open to receiving the information you are getting in this moment, recognise what feels true and meaningful and to tell your version of the story in a way that feels satisfying and empowering. Other people can offer frameworks, ideas and stories that might help us make sense of our experience.
- We don’t live in fixed communities anymore. This is actually immensely freeing – we have a lot more ability to find ourselves and not get stuck in oppressive or unhelpful relationships, situations or hierarchical structures. But this needs to be replaced with real connection and friendship between people, which takes work and commitment. We are sociable animals and the phrase ‘you are the 5 people you spend the most amount of time with’ is one of the truest expressions of what no self means. People can create communities where this connection comes more easily, more deeply and is ultimately more rewarding.