C H A P T E R 3
What About the Real World?
Real World:Looking from the Belly Looking from the Heart adds richness to experience and opens up whole new dimensions to daily life, and yet often there is resistance to truly resting in the Heart. It can seem impractical or too vulnerable to consistently view the world in such an expanded, open, uncensored way. So we often return to our old habit of looking through the mind and its false sense of being in control. The mind gives us a sense that we know what is going to happen. Even thinking we know what should happen feels reassuring, even though that is irrelevant to what actually does happen. Moving in the world while looking from the mind has tremendous drawbacks, however. Most of what you think about never does actually happen, and the tendency to focus on the mind’s contents can prevent you from fully noticing what is actually happening.
Real World:When life is demanding, it is still not necessary to contract into the mind, with its many blind spots and severely limited perspective. There is another possibility, which is to look, listen, and sense the world from your belly. Just as you can allow awareness to flow from the Heart center in your chest, you can allow awareness to sink down even further and flow from a spot a few finger widths below the belly button called the hara. Exercise: Try this exercise first with your eyes closed and then open. Notice what you are aware of in this moment: the sounds, a thought, the objects around you. Notice if you are looking, listening, or sensing from the head, and notice what that is like. Now gently drop your sensing down into your belly. This isn’t a matter of sensing the belly or feeling what is in the belly, but experiencing your surroundings from the belly. It can be helpful, at first, to rest your hand just below your belly button to orient you to looking, listening, and sensing from this place. Allow what you are seeing, listening, and sensing to be seen, listened, and sensed by your belly instead of your head. What is it like to sense, listen, and look from your belly? Pick an object and sense it with your belly instead of with your head. How is that?
The belly is a reservoir of strength and capability. It has a solidity and firmness that can stand up to whatever life dishes out.
Real World:When you look from the belly, the view doesn’t contract and problems don’t become magnified like they do when you look from the head. Instead, the view remains open and expanded. There is also a sense of something solid and real that is experiencing all of it. The real you is here and able to do whatever needs to be done. Awareness is shaped by the belly into a solid and substantial presence that is not easily overwhelmed or even unduly influenced by circumstances. Looking from the belly is a much more effective way to move in the world than thinking. It is a place where action and consistency come naturally.
Exercise: Take some time to play with this new way of sensing and looking. What do the objects around you look or feel like when you look from the belly? How do you experience other people with your belly? What are sounds or music like when you listen from the belly? What about your thoughts? They may still be arising, but what if you listen to and watch them from down in the belly? Do they seem important, or are they just passing words and pictures in a large open space? Do thoughts or circumstances have a lot of impact, or are they sensed from something that is solid and real that isn’t affected much by ideas and events? See how the world looks and feels from here. It is another world. Explore this new world. Discover what your day-to-day experiences are like when they are sensed from the belly.
Real World:The belly grounds awareness in the real world without magnifying or distorting the content of your awareness. Sensing from the belly is a direct and simple meeting of whatever happens, which includes a strong and capable sense of yourself. After all, you are part of what is here right now. Why leave out a sense of your own presence? Your existence can be included in every experience, and when you look from the belly, your existence can seem to have the presence and substance of an entire mountain of Being. From this solid base of your Being, thoughts impinge less on your awareness. There is no need to change or quiet your thoughts. Just find out what they are like when seen from the belly.
Exercise: Notice your thoughts as they arise moment to moment. Now notice where you are noticing them from. If you are listening, watching, and sensing them from your head, what is that like? How big do they look, sound, or feel? How important do they seem? Now without changing your thoughts in any way, allow your awareness to flow to them from your belly. What is that like? How big do they look, sound, or feel up in the head from way down in the lower abdomen? How important do they seem now? Do they still have the ability to unduly influence or sway you from your position in the here and now?
Real World:Thoughts are useful when you recognize them as just thoughts. Looking from the belly can give you a sense of being a substantial presence that is not unduly influenced by passing thoughts. You can also rest here in the belly. You can rest as a mountain of awareness and feel the stillness of that immense presence.
Exercise: Allow your awareness to flow from the belly. It doesn’t really matter what you are aware of, only where you are aware from. Now simply settle in. Allow yourself to rest here in the solidness of the belly’s perspective. From here, there is nothing you need to do and nothing you can’t do. You are real. You exist.
Putting It All Together
Real World:Looking from the Heart and looking from the belly can add so much to your awareness and to the sense of satisfaction and capacity you feel in life. Looking from the head can also be a useful capability of your awareness. Although thoughts are not in and of themselves profound realities, there is no reason to deny their existence or usefulness. It is only when you are habitually stuck in looking from the head that thoughts can limit your perspective and range of awareness in an ongoing way, but it’s not necessary to limit yourself from ever looking from the mind.
Real World:Fortunately, your awareness is incredibly flexible and can move in and out of any perspective. There is no need to limit yourself to one perspective or another. Exercise: Pick something in your environment and then continue to sense it first with your head, then with your Heart, and then with your belly. How are these three different? The contrast between the three modes of looking, listening, and sensing will allow you to notice the differences in the awareness itself as it moves up into the head, down into the Heart, and further down into the belly. For this exercise, keep your awareness on just one object, sound, or thought. Then any difference will be directly related to where you are looking from and not due to experiencing something different in your environment. You can repeat this exercise with several different experiences to become familiar with each mode and gain a sense of when each might be appropriate or useful.
Real World:The mind is especially appropriate when focusing and performing certain tasks, like balancing a checkbook, giving someone directions, teasing apart a philosophical idea, or memorizing a phone number. The belly is especially appropriate when action, consistency, strength, or discrimination is needed. Examples are times when you need to persist to get something done, when you need to say
no to someone, when it is important to either act or leave an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, and when an experience is especially intense or overwhelming, including overwhelmingly pleasurable. The Heart’s perspective is always appropriate, especially when the opportunity exists to simply rest and be. It is always enough to just be. This spacious awareness that you are is all you ever really need. In it, is everything that really matters in life: love, peace, wisdom, clarity, joy, strength, value, and wonder. The true Heart is much, much bigger than the space in your chest and actually includes your head, your belly, and everything else.
Looking from the Heart, Belly, and Mind
Real World:This true Heart is your real home. The perspectives of the head, the chest, and the belly are all components of this spacious Heart of Being. One way to experience this is to use all three modes of perception simultaneously.
Exercise: Try this exercise first with your eyes closed and then open. Notice what you are aware of in this moment: the sounds, a thought, the objects around you. Notice if you are looking, listening, or sensing from the head, and notice what that is like. Now gently allow your sensing to flow from the Heart and from your head at the same time. What is that like? Do they complement each other? Now include the belly. Don’t worry if you are doing it right. Just allow awareness to flow from all three places to whatever degree it is doing that. What is that like? How is it to have so many channels of information and awareness simultaneously? What is it like to sense, listen, and look from all three? Pick an object and sense it from all three places. How is that?
Real World:What you really are is pure awareness—empty space that has this miraculous ability to sense the world. While this space is shaped by life and the human containers it passes through, its fundamental nature as space is not changed. By allowing it to flow through your true Heart (including your head, chest, and belly), you give it the most room to expand and function. Life is a rich and ever-changing challenge, so why not meet it with everything you are? From here on, when it is suggested that you allow awareness to flow from your Heart, that is also an invitation to allow it to flow from all of your Being—from the head, the belly, and the Heart. Your true Heart encompasses all of these and more.
Looking from Space Itself
Real World:The aware space of your Being is limitless and infinite. As you move more fully into looking from the Heart, you are also moving into a fuller experience of this infinite Presence of your Being. It is possible to drop even farther into your Being and look or sense from there. Awareness is a quality of the space itself and no contained in your head, chest, or belly. What actually senses is this infinite space that is all around the physical body.
Exercise: Try this exercise first with your eyes closed and then open. Notice what you are aware of in this moment: the sounds, a thought, or the objects around you. Notice if you are looking, listening, or sensing from the head, and notice what that is like. Now gently allow your sensing to flow from the Heart, the belly, and the head all at once. What is that like? Now allow your perspective to drop more deeply into the infinite space of your Being. You can look from everywhere and nowhere in particular. Don’t worry if you are doing it right. Real World:Just allow awareness to flow from the depths of Being itself to whatever degree it is flowing. What is that like? What is it like to have so much of your sensing open and flowing? Allow what you are seeing and sensing to be seen and sensed by the empty space of Being. What is it like to sense, listen, and look from vast spaciousness? Pick an object and sense it with the limitless space of Being. How is that?
Your awareness doesn’t always need to orient to your body. It can
move directly from the infinite Presence of your Being. When
awareness moves in this way, it is unshaped by any imprinting or
conditioning. You can profoundly rest as this Space while
awareness moves freely in whatever way it is happening to flow.
Exercise: Allow your awareness to flow from the limitless space in the depth of your Being. It doesn’t really matter what you are aware of, just where you are aware from. Now just settle in. Allow yourself to rest here in the vastness of Being’s perspective. From here, there is only space.