Something that stays constant for me is awareness. Whatever is happening inside of me in some response or reaction to pleasure or pain, I am aware of it in a full sense. It hasn’t always been this way. For most of my life, awareness was filtered through thinking and confusion. I often didn’t know what or how I felt. Both open ended, how are you feeling, or closed ended, are you okay, questions led to a confused scramble of thoughts. Often the answer was either inconclusive or incorrect, in either case usually a lie.
I believed in some deep place that feelings were known in my mind, so I cultivated a distance from, and knowing through, my body. I became skillful at overriding whatever my body was saying, to speak what I thought was expected or desired.
Coming into awakening late in life, when I was 56, at the same time I was reentering a relationship that had gone through numerous interruptions, I was challenged to “always tell the truth.” It was startling to feel how deeply my lying ran.
Words, I’ve always said, are my friends, both spoken and written, and there’s a way in which ease with words can help to distance one from the truth.
Awareness is pre-verbal. It arises in the intricate system of sensitivity to the world. It can be gross—the tight shoe or overly warm coat—or subtle—the finest sensation of aliveness in the skin, the organs, and the level of Being, our awakened awareness of enlivenment, with many degrees in between.
My recent journey has been to refine how I express that awareness. There was a period of a few years after my awakening when I simply experienced poems rather than writing them. The things that have for years triggered poetry for me, light, landscape, love, were too precious to capture. I’ve equated the urge for me towards writing to the moments before a sneeze. There’s a feeling of something both entering and wanting to exit me simultaneously. Pre-verbal or at least non-verbal awareness is like this: a heightened feeling of enlivened sensitivity.
Over the last five years, I’ve rediscovered the power of words, of joining awareness to expression in the search for authenticity. Martin Heidegger wrote in Poetry, Language, Thought, “What is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said.” So when we try to put our awareness into words, it’s an approximation, or an experiment. Like wearing gloves and trying to feel the difference between a cactus and a pine cone. We have to take off the glove, take off the layers of protection between us and the world in its raw roughness, or silken sublimity. When we express our awareness, we join it to the experience of others. We can continue the process of refinement. “I’m aware of this, which feels like so. How is it for you?”
This is the gift of our humanity, to feel, to speak, to know, to share, and in sharing to become closer to what unites us: consciousness manifesting as everything, ourselves and all that is experienced as “other.” To be one in the truth of Being.