One bright spring day, I sat in my backyard on a spring day, reclining in a lawn chair. My goal was to do something that seemed simple but was surprisingly hard: to be present and perceive the world around me.
As I sat there, I tried to avoid becoming lost in my thoughts and to focus on the world around me.
I was sitting in a backyard, but I realized I was not fully seeing that backyard. I looked around at the stones of the patio where I sat, at the trees with light green spring leaves and rough-textured bark, at the vines that curled up along thick wooden posts and across a pergola above the deck.
I was sitting in a chair, but I realized that I was not aware of the feeling of my body. I tried to notice the feeling of being in a body and sitting in a chair, of the rise and fall of my breath, the sensation of the gently moving air on my skin, and other minute physical sensations.
I paid attention to the sounds around me. There was a small pond with a trickling waterfall, a soft and continual gurgle of water flowing over rock. Birds made music overhead. Squirrels clambered up the trees with a chittering sound. The breeze made a soft noise and carried with it the city sounds from a distance, the low hum of cars on a highway or some construction machines working.
It required a continual effort to perceive all these things. At first it was a struggle, like trying to juggle many balls at the same time – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling…it didn’t seem I was getting it right.
But then a new sort of feeling began to emerge. Rather than trying to mentally focus on each of these different perceptions, I found myself just being “open” to them without trying to think about it. It suddenly felt very natural to simply be aware of the world around me, with this sensation of stillness and peace surrounding me.
My perception felt heightened. The world suddenly seemed so vivid and real, as if I was a small child seeing it for the first time. I was hit with a sudden amazement at the reality of being alive and in a physical world.
It was peaceful but also an energetic and alert feeling and a joyful one. I took a great delight in the lovely natural environment I was in. Trees, birds, vines, and water all had a magical quality.
At the same time as I had been trying to observe the environment around me, I had also been making an effort to observe within myself, and I noticed a continual intrusion of thoughts and images in my mind.
My thoughts were constantly commenting, judging, analyzing, and making associations with everything around me. The thoughts appeared so subtly – for example, upon looking at a tree, my mind could make a comment relating that perception to something else, then that thought would spawn another, and the thoughts would turn into mental images or daydreams, until I was completely enmeshed in the world in my mind, relatively oblivious to the world around me.
Again and again this process happened, and I had to break myself out of that mental noise and resume my efforts to simply perceive. In some cases I got better at noticing those thoughts just as they appeared, and instead of getting caught up in them, I could get rid of them and refocus on the practice of awareness and self-observation.
I also noticed an interplay between thoughts and emotions. I became aware of underlying feelings that tended to linger in the area around my chest and stomach, and as I got deeper into the practice I found I could break free of them, leaving me feeling much lighter.
The emotions tended to trigger thoughts and likewise the thoughts could trigger emotions – so for example, thinking of a situation that provoked anxiety created a corresponding emotional state, and that state could linger long after the thought had passed and could then continue to generate additional thoughts. I had read about this in Belsebuub’s course on self-knowledge, and I was amazed to see it happening right before my eyes, as if I was an observer within my own psyche rather than totally absorbed in those thoughts and feelings as I usually was.
I realized that I normally perceived my environment through a kind of subconscious filter. The physical world was typically just a vague background overlaid by a web of thoughts and daydreams. My experience being aware felt like being truly awake, and it was a completely different way of perceiving the world.
In the midst of this new experience, without realizing it, I stopped putting the same level of effort into being aware and instead became lost in thought about how amazing the experience was. Before I knew it, that feeling of heightened perception had left – I had been caught by a trick of the mind.
I carried on with my day, still making efforts to be aware and to observe my internal world. I still had to make a great effort, and I wasn’t able to recapture that intense sense of consciousness I had before.
Nonetheless, I had a renewed sense of focus and determination to apply these techniques consistently. I felt I’d been given a glimpse of a different way to experience life – a glimpse of what was psychologically possible. I had discovered a source of peace and happiness within myself, which required nothing aside from my effort to access it. It was tremendously exciting.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience. I can relate to a similar experience of being aware in the present moment, especially the way you have described perceiving a different way of being..
” I felt I’d been given a glimpse of a different way to experience life – a glimpse of what was psychologically possible. I had discovered a source of peace and happiness within myself, which required nothing aside from my effort to access it. It was tremendously exciting.”
Amazing how the simplest activities of the day can bring you so much peace and insight ? I remember having a few experiences like this where I finally had some measure of real awareness of my surroundings emerge and it was just incredible. So different to the “forced” thing that I thought was the real deal.
One interesting thing though is I remember feeling that in those moments and thinking “aha! I finally got this. It’s going to be all great from here on” sort of thing, but then facing the “battle” of not losing that clarity / perception and maintaining it or coming back to it going forward was a whole different thing…
Thanks for pointing out how the difference in having a moment of temporary awareness and actually taking that awareness back into the “battle” of life and maintaining it.
I too had very similar thoughts after moments of awareness like these. Only to be given a big shock when stepping back into society and being absorbed into the daydream.
I must say thou, having experienced this has given me a type of “standard” to strive towards more permanately, I find for myself it helps to reflect on these moments as it inspires within the will to push forward.
Really nice description of becoming aware Justin. It’s such a powerful lesson that all the time, all around us, there is a magic and LIFE that we can tap into, with just a shift in perception. I say just, but as you describe, it takes persistence and training. Imagine if they taught children this in school?
Maybe you have to attend a Waldorf school to be taught something like this? While I certainly didn’t, I am very appreciative of my parents taking the family on regular trips to national parks where I could build an appreciation for nature. Through nature I experienced ‘spontaneous’ awareness (which I think many people can relate to), and was able to drawn upon those experiences when learning to bring more awareness into life after learning of Belsebuub’s work.
Thanks Justin, the clarity in your experience certainly get across in your writing. I had read Lucia and Roy’s comments before the article so I actively tried do those same things you were describing, perceiving the world around and within me, while reading your article. This had a very nice effect on my inner state too! Thanks.
It is such a profound thing to be aware properly. And like you say it’s amazing to be able to access that within. Feeling like this again does make me realise I don’t ‘turn on’ these quality moments enough recently. Much of the time there’s the sleep, a lot of the time there’s also the struggle which is good thing, but after reading your article it makes me want to have more moments of properly being in the clear. The weather is nice and fresh outside today, the sun out, a perfect time to go for an awareness walk to experience consciousness.
That sounds very beautiful, Justin. From reading this, I can almost imagine having sat in the backyard as you described, and having had the experience myself.
I wish normal levels of effort were enough to reach those states of clarity. It’s really something so profound to reach a pure state of awareness and keen self-observation.
I agree with you Mike. I wish we could get to these states with a normal way of being. Unfortunately it seems that for most people this does not happen. I think this is a big reason why we need to hold on to Belsebuub’s techniques as much as possible. It seems like his initiatives give a way to get into this thread of the inner work.
The same thing happened to me Lucia. While I was reading Justin’s experience I started to tune more into my own environment, listen to the sounds, feeling my body, and the air going in and out of me. As simple as this sounds, it can be very profound and exciting when you get it right. Things really be come alive. When time allows it, I like to take 10, 15 minutes out of my day to sit somewhere comfortably, in the house or a park and bring myself back to the moment as Justin described. I find this very strengthening and by setting aside time to explore awareness and self-observation, it helps me to do it more diligently for the rest of the day.
Thank you for sharing this Justin. Your way of writing really drags one in, I really felt like starting to perceive my surroundings shortly after starting to read your article. There indeed is magic in awareness! 🙂
Thanks Lucia and Roy for your comments. It definitely is amazing how a simple effort to perceive or to ask for spiritual help can change our inner state. It is such a contrast to being lost in thoughts and daydreams, absorbed in worries etc. Writing about it and discussing it really renews my sense of how valuable it is to be conscious – makes me want to see what it takes to live more of my life through that state of clarity, in everything I’m doing.
I have the same sense as you Justin. In my case reading your article (and other people’s articles) reminds me what is truly important in a moment. Just reading this article I made a practice out of it – one of reading and being aware. Although I did not get any amazing feelings, sustaining this type of effort leads to more productivity and contentment with the way I live my life.
What a beautiful description of fighting for reaching to be truly alive and conscious! It is a struggle to get to, and this is the state that I find myself also in, everyday, every moment, yet each moment can be fought for like you describe, and little by little these conscious moments come more often, and the knowledge of what I am is uncovered and change can take place.
Thank you Justin for sharing this experience – very helpful to read about your efforts and how you were getting to it 🙂
Thanks Geraldine! I found it good to reflect back on this event and remember how amazing it was to discover this different way of being. I was so glad to discover the possibility for experiencing peace and happiness without relying on anything external to myself.
Yes I agree, it was very nice to read how such a precious moment of experiencing life and consciousness unfolded for you within so much detail and observation. Reading it in this way really highlights how practical and personal the ability to experience such beautiful feelings can be. Its also interesting and familiar to hear how such states kind of flow in and out based on the efforts one makes. Thanks for sharing Justin.