The refrigerator hums and gurgles, the heater clicks on and off, the dogs shake and shudder in their sleep. Outside the birds sing to welcome the day and traffic passes with the same deep rhythm of waves lapping at the beach. Under your current distraction, the muddled mess of thoughts and urges and base angst, there is a humming, pulsing river of life. All around us, things emerge and submerge back into this river continuously. This is a first awareness in meditation that comes when you sit in silence and witness yourself.
All this is a single intonation, a wavering wavelength cascading upward all around you even in the deepest silence. From the perspective of a physical manifestation of the universe, there is also tingling, itchiness, discomfort, and numbness that arises and subsides. This bodily awareness is mastered over by your breath, and to that you can hook your consciousness. As you inhale, you can with your mind repeat back to body the intonation of inhalation… “So”. And after your chest swells, it subsides with an exhalation – and that too has an intonation of confirmation… “Hum”. By confirmation of your breath with the repetition of the So Hum mantra the first awareness drops away, and the rhythmic pulsation of your physical being becomes the core of your consciousness. This is a second awareness in meditation that comes when you sit in silence and witness yourself.
Just as a stream surges and withdraws with the breaths of its sources, your thoughts surge and withdraw around this second awareness. Perhaps your awareness sublimates under the water and you become amused or saddened as recent events and reflections repeat themselves vividly in your mind. Perhaps your vision behind your closed eyelids sparks and glitters with cinematic experiences of the same kind, or of completely different experiences that you’ve never lived and are outside of yourself. Perhaps your body or the world around you arises and beckons for attention for a time. All these things are but your thoughts, calls away from the second awareness. If you bide your time and return to your mantra, they subside back.
When the scattered illusions are laid low through simple patience and attention to breath, they begin to recur less and less frequently. Given enough practice and enough patience, stillness begins to reign. In that stillness, the emergence of awareness remains above the water level of the stream. The stream itself sublimates or merges with the background intonation that surrounds us. The So Hum mantra itself is no longer a mental effort, but repeats as the primary mode of the unified stream. The eye within, the soul, blossoms. This is a third awareness in meditation that comes when you sit in silence and witness yourself.
In the third awareness, space and time themselves appear as streams. Without thought or pontification, your awareness grasps relationships and egos for a time as they arise. Then they too subside. They are absorbed into an expanding knowing, an outbound careening of consciousness that sublimates all pride and humbleness, possession and desire, superiority and inferiority. All this and more merge into the stream that has become a great river, and the mind emerges as in immovable rock that juts through the water into a clear sky.
And of a fourth awareness in meditation, I can say little. I’ve glimpsed that perhaps such a fourth river exists, that still even in the third there is a biding temporality of observation. If it does, the healing and unification of the third awareness is also an illusion. If healing and freedom are false, then wounding and bondage are fictions too. But these are thoughts, these are stirrings of the water as you retreat down back to the first awareness. It is the clear sky above the third awareness, whatever that thought points to, that might be a fourth river. But it doesn’t matter, because the three awarenesses are glorious gifts and there can be no insufficiency in them.
You may also enjoy:
- So Hum: Contemplation Meditation – yogajournal.com
- Your Attention and the Great Unveiling – programminglife.net
- Tranquility Affirmation – programminglife.net
- What If You Lived All Lives? – programminglife.net
- 5 Aspects of Awareness & Why They Matter – programminglife.net
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