An Experiential Research Approach
Well, perhaps we don't know for sure. As don Coyotl pointed out in our e-mail correspondence (see Mindful Awareness Magazine, April 1998): "Seek and you shall find (what you were looking for)." Yes, it's easy to imagine things. It's easy to pretend that the intellectual concepts of others are saying what we think they mean when, in truth, we really don't understand each other.
The words that practitioners use for and about awareness are metaphors of the experience. These metaphors are sort of like puns. One "catches on" to them. They go beyond intellectual explanations, because they allude to an experience. If it is an experience that two people have had in common, then either one of them can "try on" that metaphor and be able to say, "Yeah, this experience is really a lot like that metaphor for me, too!"
It is like "really feeling centered." It is like "being in the here and now." It is like "being in touch with the essence of life." "It is like "waking up," being "present." It is like "feeling your feelings." (Yes, you nagłalists out there, it is like "being a luminous egg.") But what can these metaphors mean to the "uninitiated," those who speak and know only the language of thinking?
The metaphors of awareness are like a language of their own which describes a realm of experiences. I think it was Carl Rogerswho called this "the language of being." (The Awareness Game training in the website that is a companion with this magazine, teaches a simple game for playing, on purpose, for peace, harmony, and personal authenticity in relations with other people by becoming fluent in the language of being.) However, the general truth about modern society is that most of what any of us say and write down for others to read in our day to day lives is in "the language of thinking." These two metaphors are clearly understandable to all practioners of awareness. The language of ordinary life, as most people know it throughout the surface of this planet every day, is the language of thinking. The language of awareness is the language of being. (If you don't understand this now, you will understand it like you know the rain is wet, if you take the Kindergarten course at the companion Teaching Tools for Mindfulness Training website here.)
After don Coyotl and I met by e-mail through the Net, two strangers who didn't know anything about each other, don Coyotl let me know right at the outset that he is a practitioner of mindful awareness. He doesn't call it that. I don't remember if he's ever used any particular word for it. Yet we were both able to catch on at the outset that we are both practitioners of awareness, and that awareness means the same thing to both of us in our experience of it.
We did this by metaphors. We did this by starting to speak the language of being with each other. (Oh, I did get off into the language of thinking a lot with him there, too. After these conversations that appeared in April, he confronted me on this like a jaguar. But, that's another story. The point is, we established from the beginning that we both are practitioners of awareness.)
So when I am reading one of the Gnostic Gospels, or a Gospel in the New Testament, or a teaching by a Buddhist master, or a Jewish existentialist, or a profound statement by a nuclear physicist after an epiphany of seeing existence as an energy flow (instead of things)--when I'm reading in Carlos Castaneda, or Thich Nhat Hanh . . . or Charles T. Tart, Jon Kabat-Zinn . . . what I am looking for is hints, and clues, and maybe a pun or two.
Is this person talking to me about awareness as I know the experience? I am looking for metaphors of experience. I am looking for little samples, dropped in here and there, perhaps as if "by accident," which seem to be speaking to me on a deeper level than intellectual understanding. I am looking for little obscure fragments, and phrases off in the corner that tell me, with a sense of surprised certainty--when they wake me up!--that this writer is speaking to me in the language of being.
Examples of the language of being in the work of well-known authors in the fields of spiritual teachings, psychotherapy, healing, and philosophical approaches, as well as other secular employments of awareness (such as Phil Jackson's Chicago Bulls) are written about, with verbatim quotations, in the Research Building on the virtual campus in the companion mindfulness training school.
Please remember this caveat if you go there, however!!! You ought to decide from your own experience, and not from mine, whether these metaphors fit for you. My experience, for *you* has no real value. It is your own experience here that is what counts.