5 – Being
How the Original Relationship to Life manifests in a person
‘Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns it calls me on and on across the universe.’ – John Lennon
Jez: What’s the dictionary definition of the word ‘being’?
Matthew: It says: ‘Existence, the state of existing’, but when used in relation to people it means ‘the nature and essence of a person’.
Jez: It’s an interesting distinction; a rock exists but we wouldn’t say that a rock has being.
Matthew: A rock has energy but it’s not alive; I think that’s the distinction.
Jez: So we could agree that a dog or a plant has being, because they’re alive. So then, what does ‘alive’ actually mean? What are the defining characteristics of life?
Matthew: There are functions that all living thing share, such as eating, drinking, excreting, respiring and reproducing…
Jez: So all living things have being – that state of aliveness – but the definition goes on to say that, when applied to people, the word means ‘the nature and essence of a person’. For me, those words point to how we come into this world, rather than what we become. They’re not referring to qualities of character, skills or talents that develop as we grow up; they’re talking about how life is expressed through us before all that happens. So these are not attributes that make us different from each other, they’re attributes which, when we’re born, we all share.
Matthew: So you could call them attributes of our original state of Being?
Jez: Yes, but to use this phrase wouldn’t be quite right, because Being, that essence of who we are, is not lost as we grow older; it’s just that our connection, our experiencing of it is forgotten.
That Being can be rediscovered and lived at any moment. So whenever I use the word Being with a capital ‘B’, those primal attributes are what I’m referring to.
Matthew: So what would you say are these attributes that we start our lives with?
Jez: If you look closer and observe how the Original Relationship to Life manifests in a child, you find the attributes that add up to what I mean by Being. The first one we’re going to discuss is Stillness. On one level you could define it as a lack of action, a sense of peace. What comes into your mind if I ask you to think about Stillness?
Matthew: A calm lake.
Jez: Yes, a calm lake doesn’t have being, but it definitely has the quality of Stillness. That’s why people often sit in nature, by a still lake or on a mountain when they meditate: to tune into that quality of Stillness, because it reflects back the Stillness in themselves. The same Stillness we have when we come into this world…
Matthew: It becomes a bit more elusive as you grow up.
Jez: Yes, often it has to be sought out. That’s what meditation’s for, but why is that? If it’s part of who we are, part of our Being, what is it about growing up into adulthood that makes that Stillness less accessible?
Matthew: Our busyness I suppose: We get occupied with living this life.
Jez: But what drives that busyness? What sort of busyness is it? Where does it come from?
Matthew: The mind: It’s mental busyness.
Jez: Yes, apart from lack of action, what constitutes that Stillness I’m talking about is a lack of thought. A baby has no thought about what they are, who they are or what they’re experiencing. A baby doesn’t think about what it does, it just grabs food, smiles, or crawls without thought going into those actions.
When out walking by the river yesterday I walked passed a toddler, a beautiful Spanish child with a dark complexion. It was obvious that she was still in the Original Relationship to Life. As I walked towards her she just stood still in the middle of the path staring at me. There were no thoughts, no self-consciousness or fear; she just watched as this giant adult approached. If you’re around children who are in this Stillness, there’s no need for words, no need to try to pull them into their virgin minds. Just look back at them and enjoy that Stillness, because it’s mirroring back what’s in all of us.
When I use the word Stillness this is what I’m talking about. I don’t just mean being a bit quiet, I mean the deep Stillness that exists before thought. It’s the core of who we are, on the Absolute Level. Stillness is one manifestation of Being.
Matthew: We may all start out with it, but as we grow up the function of thinking develops…
Jez: Yes, and what happens with most people is the Stillness, to a large extent, is lost. It’s even forgotten about, as if they never had it.
Matthew: But you’re saying this Stillness is not incompatible with having a mind and adult consciousness; we don’t have to lose it?
Jez: Absolutely. Stillness is an attribute of Being. Being is what we are before thought in the same way that radio waves exist before they manifest as music coming through a radio. You can listen to the music, and forget that they are there, but without the sound waves, there’d be no music. Just because you’re not conscious of something doesn’t mean it’s not there. In the Openings I experienced as a child, there was Stillness, but also awareness of it; I was watching it happening. Which brings us to the second attribute of Being: Choice-less Awareness.
There are two categories of awareness. When I said: ’Just because you’re not conscious of something doesn’t mean it’s not there’, I was referring to Personality Awareness, in which Personality chooses what awareness falls on – it selects what you become conscious of. If there’s something you find confronting, something you don’t want to acknowledge, Personality will turn this awareness off; you’ll look the other way.
Matthew: That makes me think of how I choose to look away when something violent or gory comes on television…
Jez: Yes, our minds often do this. You might find yourself turning away from the TV before you even realise what you’re doing. We’re not always consciously aware of what we’re turning away from. But I’m not just talking about physically turning away, I mean metaphorically too.
Matthew: You mean repression?
Jez: Exactly. We can choose not to become aware of things by closing off our minds to them. In babies the mind is undeveloped, so at that stage awareness is not running through thought. In Being, a baby sees whatever is in front of it and becomes aware of it. If a dog comes up and sniffs the baby, that’s what the baby becomes aware of: a sniffing wet nose and warm panting breath. It has no ability to choose what its awareness falls upon. This is what I mean by Choice-less Awareness: Life breathes you and lives you, while awareness watches it all happening.
Like all attributes of Being, Choice-less Awareness is available in adults too. It arises independently of Personality; it comes from consciousness. Unlike Personality Awareness it has no agenda, no prejudice; it sees with absolute clarity.
Matthew: OK, but getting back to the subject of Being in babyhood, babies aren’t just passively lying, watching the world go by all the time. They do interact in the world; they could reach out and touch the dog…
Jez: Yes, there are passive aspects to Being (Stillness and Choice-less Awareness) and then there’s a more active part. This brings us to the third attribute of Being: feeling.
Feeling is the medium through which we relate and interact in the world; it’s how we participate in it. As we grow up, we learn that we can close down feeling. Personality Awareness doesn’t just apply to what we see – if it says: ‘I don’t want to feel that,’ then we can pull in, cut off from our experience by withdrawing from our feelings. In Being this isn’t an option: There’s no repression, only full-feeling engagement with life. Through feeling we interact with the world, and in response we have feelings, which are felt fully. Feeling is another one of those big subjects that we’ll cover in a later talk.
The final attribute of Being is one particular feeling. It plays such an important part of our feeling experience in Being that it warrants a mention of its own. As babies we explore physical sensations through the body’s senses, we also experience psychological feelings in relation to what we encounter in the world. In this story I’m telling, the original feeling is Joy; it’s our primal feeling that arises as a response to the Original Relationship to Life. When Love engages with Love in other forms it provokes this primal feeling in our hearts.
Matthew: Like when we connect with friends?
Jez: That sense of connectedness, of intimacy, is a part of that Joy but it’s not just with people. For example, babies don’t only feel Joy when Mummy comes into the room; it could arise with anything: playing with a toy, eating mashed up banana, snuggling in a blanket.
I’m not talking about the buzzing, euphoric happiness that adults feel when they’ve passed an exam or won the lottery; it’s not linked to gaining anything. This Joy is generally quieter and more steady, although there can be an excited version of it – think of a baby ecstatically transfixed by the sound of a rattle or a simple game of peek-a-boo. Joy arises simply from the enjoyment of living what you are; it’s a natural outcome of Being, interacting with life in all its different forms.
Matthew: I remember having that feeling as a child, lying in bed with my thumb in my mouth and rubbing brushed cotton sheets between my fingers.
Jez: Just interacting with life in the form of that texture of the cotton, or the warmth and shape of your thumb fitting perfectly in roof of your mouth… It’s beautiful isn’t it? When we’re open to life we’re so easily and simply fulfilled. Have you heard the Zen phrase: ‘Chop wood, carry water’? A modern equivalent might be, ‘Pay gas bill, buy groceries.’
Matthew: Not quite so elegant is it?
Jez: No, we’ll stick with the original. ‘Chop wood, carry water’ basically means that, just by doing what you have to do to survive, to keep warm and drink, you engage with this life and that’s rewarding and joyful in itself. It’s another way of expressing the Original Relationship to Life.
Matthew: So you’re talking about a kind of contentment.
Jez: Yes, but it’s more than that, it’s an expression of Love. Joy is the best word I have for it but I’m using it in a very broad sense because, as I said, this Joy can be expressed in different forms. As a baby you might feel excited about the stimulation of a new toy, or bold in an exploration of an unfamiliar place. Or you could feel peaceful and calm lying in a pram as the sky above you reflects back the infinity that you are. These are all aspects of that same Joy which arises as Being interacts in the world.
Matthew: But not all babies appear joyful. What about when they’re screaming and crying?
Jez: That’s true, other experiences of life are available, such as stress. As babies we’re dependent on adults to look after us. If we’re denied our basic needs of food, water and shelter, or if we feel threatened in any way, we experience a different type of feeling – distress. Distress is our survival instinct’s alarm bell, an outward directed forceful energy that rises up to gain control of any threat in the only way it can. By having us draw attention to ourselves, nature provides a way for our needs to be recognised by those around us who can act on our behalf.
Stress can also arise when babies suffer birth traumas and, in those cases, the expression of the stress in their systems can be more ongoing. In those cases the attributes of Being can be interrupted very early on.
Matthew: It’s upsetting to see a baby feeling distress.
Jez: Mostly that’s just the adult’s projection of his or her own distress which comes from their emotional life. As I said, in babies distress is usually just a feeling being expressed with the purpose of gaining the attention they need. When the attention is gained…
Matthew: They stop yelling and bawling.
Jez: Right, unless there’s some other basic problem causing it, the distress usually passes. If it doesn’t, it simply means that there’s more stress needing to be expressed.
Matthew: It’s amazing how a baby can go from all out distress to a blissful peacefulness in a split second.
Jez: There’s an important principle here: When the distress passes quickly it’s because the feeling is felt fully. This is because, in Being, we’re present to whatever is happening.
Matthew: I think I know what you mean but can you explain a bit more?
Jez: Remember we talked about how, as adults, we lose Choice-less Awareness? We have the ability to choose what we become aware of. We also have the ability to edit what we’re feeling, we can suppress and reject feelings, but babies, at least as long as they’re in that original state of Being, don’t have that option. They simply are whatever life makes them in any given moment. So there’s no withdrawal from a feeling, only full expression of, and immersion in it. In this way the feeling, the distress, usually just passes through their system. The stress and tightness that it creates in their bodies is let go of and they return to the more neutral, primal feeling of Joy. Even babies with a difficult start in life caused by birth traumas are able to find rest in their original state of Being in between displays of distress.
Matthew: How does all this relate to Oneness?
Jez: In Being we interact with the play of Duality in the World while remaining located in Oneness. If you imagine the baby represented as a circle, anything can happen on the circumference, but the centre remains absolutely still. The newborn baby develops in all sorts of sophisticated ways as it gets accustomed to being in the world, while remaining energetically located in Oneness.
Now that I’ve described the Original Relationship to Life and the attributes of Being I want to introduce you to a new phrase: the Natural State. It’s an umbrella term combining the Original Relationship to Life with Being. It’s a less long-winded way to point to both of them at the same time, because they’re so intertwined that you can’t have one without the other. The qualities of Being – Stillness, full-Feeling engagement with life, Choice-less Awareness and Joy – all arise out of the Original Relationship to Life, like flowers sprouting from a fertile soil.