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Understanding Ourselves, DhammaWeb MeditationUnderstanding Ourselves
E. Raymond Rock , Wednesday, 31 October 2007

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Wednesday, 31 October 2007
Understanding Ourselves

Article By: E. Raymond Rock

How do we go about understanding ourselves? This is a very important question because if we don't understand ourselves, how are we going to change? Do we wait for divine intervention to create our pure hearts, or do we do something proactive? If we are not sure, then why not try both ways and see which works best. We could spend some time praying for our worry and our frustrations to change, or we could spend some time working on ourselves in a proactive way. Then we could see what works best. Or maybe we could pray and work on ourselves at the same time!

If we decide to work on ourselves proactively, the first thing we have to do is understand what it is we are working on. This is where contemplative prayer or meditation plays such an important role; it helps us to observe ourselves objectively.

You can understand yourself at many levels. You can observe how you relate to other people, to yourself; do you like to be alone or with others; are you confident or unsure of yourself; are you ambitious or laid back. There are many ways to examine your particular idiosyncrasies.

These idiosyncrasies, however, are merely your particular reaction to the world based on your individual tendencies and experiences, and since you are different from everyone else regarding you background and your genes, you need something more fundamental than background and genes to understand yourself essentially.

All human beings are born alive into the world, this you know. You aren't hatched from an egg, born from moisture, or appear mystically; you go through the experience of birth. As soon as you are born, you feel things and react; perhaps you cry or move your arms and legs. Then you begin to hear, see, taste, smell, and eventually you remember the images that your senses discover and put two and two together, and begin to think. So we all have six senses; seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and mind, which includes memory and thought.

These six senses are the bases of all of your understanding of yourself. It all begins here, so if you can get a handle on this part of yourself, you can understand all aspects of yourself. It all begins with a sight, a smell, a taste, a feeling, a sound, or a thought. This is not rocket science.

What happens when we see something? The first thing that happens, and this happens faster than you can catch it, is that you become conscious of what you are seeing! It's possible to see things and not be conscious of them, for example, when you are on a cell phone while driving and have no idea what's going on around you. When someone jumps out in front of you car, however, the consciousness shifts from the phone call to the pedestrian, and you lose consciousness of what the caller is saying. Only one consciousness can arise at one time, but they are so fast that it appears that you can become conscious of two things at once. If you observe carefully, however, you will see that this is not possible.

The next thing that happens is that you are attracted to whatever you see, are neutral toward it, or repulsed by it. For example, if you open your mailbox and there is a rattlesnake inside, before you even recognize that is a rattlesnake, something instinctively pulls your hand out of the box!

The third thing that happens is recognition, or labeling. We remember what we are seeing based on memory, or if it is something that we have never seen before, we examine it and then file it away in our memory. So it goes like this; out of the corner of your eye, you see something in your mailbox. Then, before you even recognize that it is a snake, your hand is out of the box! Then, a billionth of a second later, you perceive from memory that it is a rattlesnake.

The three steps above have made us conscious of something that has stimulated one or more of our sense organs. So what do we do now? What we do is begin thinking about the object of our consciousness, or the rattlesnake, "How did it get in there? Who is out to get me?" We either grasp at the object, are neutral toward it, or are repulsed by it.

This is where our emotions are born. If we are attracted to something, then strong attachment, sexual love, desire, jealousy, etc., all come up. If we are repulsed by something, then anger, hatred, animosity, etc., come up.

All of this leads to strong attachment and strong aversion. Once we find something we like, something we find pleasure in, we tend to attach ourselves to it. Why not, we want constant pleasure, so we attempt to hold on to whatever it is that makes us happy. Conversely, if something makes us unhappy, we push it away and try to get rid of it. We either make love or make war!

Strong attachment is based on dependency, while strong aversion is based on fear. If you look at your life, you can see what you depend upon, and usually you will say that you love these things. However, when we are dependent on anything, there is an underlying fear that we could lose it, and therefore since fear is the basis of anger, the love we think that we feel toward the things we are attached to is not love at all, but rather attachment.

We can see from all of this that life is merely a series of attractions and aversions as we constantly figure out how to get what we want or get rid of what we hate. This pretty much sums up our life. And since everything is in a constant state of flux, anything that we obtain is sure to slip out of our fingers in time, and anything that we get rid of will just return to haunt us in a different form. So the question is, if we weren't preoccupied with all of this attachment and aversion, what would we be doing? Now we are delving into humanity's next level of consciousness.

Attachment and aversion involves nothing but heartaches. Look back on your life and see whether this is true or not. When we neither hate nor love, a peace prevails and our consciousness shifts. This shift in consciousness is an amazing thing, because it no longer requires sense stimulation. This means that the consciousness, when it leaves our body at the end of its natural life, will not seek a physical body again, because it doesn't need the stimulation that a physical body provides. Then, you will live with (as a Christian might say) the angels, and not have to worry again about maintaining physical existence.

This article, as many of my articles, are much easier to understand when the reader is a meditator. For some mysterious reason, a calm mind resulting from meditation, or contemplative prayer, can easily read complicated metaphysical articles, or the bible, and understand them at very deep levels.

Meditation also increases one's awareness so that attachments and aversions become clear, and once our attachments and aversions can be seen objectively, they are more easily handled without the emotional upheavals that we normally associate with life.

So . . . now you understand yourself. (Right?)

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E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com
Original Article URL: Understanding Ourselves

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers.