So. We’ve become adept at resting in perception, and perception is … what exactly?
Perception is the awareness of a sensation.
A sensation by itself is like a video camera with no one behind it. It records, sure, but there’s no one watching the recording. We have thousands of sensations a minute. How many are we actually aware of? When a dog is barking at you, you can hear the dog barking and feel your heart pounding. But do you feel the breeze on your face, the smells of Spring and the crunch of gravel beneath your feet — all sensations which moments ago you were enjoying as you took a walk in the park? These sensations are all still available to you, but the perception of them has been replaced by new sensations associated with an imminent threat. Cognitions arise: how can I get away? Where is the owner? Is the dog rabid? But then you perceive the smile in the dog’s eyes and the ball at its feet, and a new cognition arises: this dog just wants to play…!
So what is the difference between a sensation and a perception? The element of awareness. You are aware of one sensation to the exclusion of another, and therefore you perceive it — while you don’t perceive the other sensation.
The essence of this practice is to rest in awareness itself, to become intimately familiar with the awareness half of perception, leaving behind, to a significant extent, the sensation half.
But how to do this? Do we just focus awareness upon awareness, contort our will and force down hard until the mirror sees the mirror, until we become the snake eating its own tail? That wouldn’t be very restful, would it?
The reality is, this is not a practice that can be described….
Ha ha. I know. That sounds like an enormous cop out.
But I can tell you this: if you have practiced enough the previous practice of engaging the senses and resting in perception, then I guarantee you will find your way on your own.
Because ultimately you alone are responsible for your advancement in your practice of meditation. No book can enlighten you, no guru can snap their fingers and make you realize anything important.
You alone, on your own, are the key to your own door. Find the key and open the door.
That is all.
Two important notes:
The first is that if you become uncomfortable engaging in this practice, then proceed with care. It is very possible you have not spent enough time engaging the senses and resting in perception. Return to that practice. Give yourself time. Be gentle. Be relaxed. You are not here to win a prize, to beat a competitor, to show to anyone your worth, not even to yourself. You are here to simply be here and now and that is all.
The second note: We are also aware of our cognitions, of course. So why not focus on cognitions? Because they are, in effect, little rabbit holes which we follow down and get lost in. The other half of a cognition — the half that is not awareness — is all the realm of our fears and desires. To be aware of a cognition is, in effect, to be unaware of anything other than the cognition. Awareness itself gets lost. Rest in perception, then, after awhile, rest in awareness itself.