Conduct and observance

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Monday, January 8, 2007

The location of consciousness

I like this picture of a bromeliad because it has these three little blossoms spiking up from the center that remind me of baby chicks with their mouths open, wating to be fed.

Our ordinary consciousness is in its infancy, poorly fed, and consequently very localized, but through practice, at least some part of it (hopefully) learns to stay poised in its nest hoping for a decent worm or two.

Gurdjieff mentioned to Ouspensky that man's development can in some ways be measured by just where his consciousness is located- for example, most of us have it in our heads, but some might have it lower down in their body, for example the chest or the solar plexus.

Recently books have come to my attention which "advocate" what the best location for consciousness is, arguing that in Japan they value a consciousness that resides in the belly, not the head. Some people use expressions for this such as "being more grounded."

It's true, there are such experiences, and they are good. But this does not mean that an experience of consciousness in the head is not good. That idea probably stems from the tendency we all have to devalue the familiar, and assign an artificially high value to the unfamiliar.

In my book, any experience of consciousness is good relative to no experience of consciousness. If you find it in the head, be grateful! However there is a broader aspect to this question.

There is a consciousness of the whole body. It is composed of the assembly of the awarenesses of all the inner centers- all seven of them. So to speak of any one(or two, or so on) centered consciousness as "good," or "bad-" or whatever, misses the point, because it tends to direct us towards yet another partial experience. Of course a new partial experience is very interesting simply because it's unfamiliar, but if we buy into it as the whole ball of wax we're still getting short changed, just in a new and more exciting way.

Undertaking the development of a consciousness that penetrates the entire body is a different and more whole way to approach this question. This is an effort towards a balanced awareness. Gurdjieff's enneagram is a geometric picture of such an awareness. It is interactive, dynamic, and complete.

As I have mentioned before, the material needed to feed the development of such an awareness is acquired through the long term study of conscious attention to breathing. Zazen is one vital tool in initiating such a study. We need to be working in the mud and roots, as Dogen puts it. More on that later.

I'm going to be at a trade show overseas for the next few days so my entries my be somewhat abbreviated, but I'll do my best to keep the journal functioning.

love to all,


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