We have spoken many times about the importance of aligning the observer with our fundamental consciousness. If the observer has not been integrated, he will drain the energy of consciousness from our pure nature and create a separation between our higher and lower selves. It is common that even once an adept has successfully accessed pure consciousness, he regresses back to the ordinary ego identity as soon as the observer is activated. There are degrees to which an excessive identification with the observer can weaken our consciousness. But in the worst case scenario, one stops recognizing and embodying pure consciousness entirely when engaged in more complex activities. This can result in one’s initial access to consciousness being completely lost.
We have explored in the past the art of perception, and the different modes of the observer which can be activated depending on the nature of our engagement with the world. Here, the key terms have been ‘transparent observer’ (the observer activated from an embodied conscious me) and the ‘focused transparent observer’, which is activated when we need to concentrate on specific details of the outer reality or employ more complex mental faculties.
We now wish to extend this terminology to include some additional modes of the observer, in order to reflect the fact that when we are engaged in intense mental work, we activate a more intense and multifaceted form of external attention which is distinct from the ordinary focused observer. So here, we can speak about the relaxed observer, the focused observer, the extra-focused observer, the double-relaxed observer, and the double-focused observer. These are described below. In all of these situations, if our pure subjectivity has been embodied, the observer is transparent. If conscious me is in samadhi, the observer is pure.
- The relaxed observer arises when there is no need to concentrate on external details, such as when walking in a park and looking at the surrounding nature.
- The focused observer arises when we need to pay more attention to the outer reality, such as when having a conversation with another person.
- The extra-focused observer arises when we need to be particularly alert in our external environment, such as when crossing a busy street.
- The double-focused observer occurs when we are simultaneously engaging in two types of focused attention: visual and mental. Our attention has evolved in two directions: towards the visual world and in the mental world.Why do we single out visual attention here? Even though our other sensory gateways also use external attention, it is our faculty of sight that actually concentrates the observer. This is because the parts of the brain that are responsible for the senses of hearing, smell, taste, and touch are more primal and subconscious. These senses are by nature more receptive and passive. On the other hand, although there is also an element of passive receptivity in visual perception, in order to see the world our brain has to create visual perception through the active participation of the observer.
When the double-focused observer is active, we usually alternate very quickly back and forth between visual and mental attention. However, occasionally they are fully active at the same time, such as when we are intensely involved in computer work or while driving a car in an unfamiliar setting and looking for a specific turn at the same time.
- The double-relaxed observer is one in which our mental and visual attentions are engaged at the same time, but in a relaxed manner. Watching television or reading a book for pleasure are examples in which the double-relaxed observer is active.
Of course, there is no such a thing as visual perception without it being processed in the mind. However, this kind of processing normally requires only very basic mental functions, and it mostly happens automatically. The type of mental attention that is actively used by the observer is connected to an intentional effort to engage the more abstract functions of the mind – for instance, when we need to comprehend our visual perceptions conceptually or symbolically. When we are looking at these words, we are just perceiving a series of black marks on a white background; we cannot understand their purpose and meaning unless our mental attention, together with some level of intelligence, is also activated.
In itself, reading does not always involve the double-focused observer. If we read for pleasure, our attention can be relaxed and we may have a case of double-relaxed attention, where the visual and mental attentions are in use but also effectively resting. The different types of observer being engaged often switch between each other depending on what the situation requires. As an example, we may activate focused external attention in a conversation, but then shift to relaxed external attention when less involvement is needed. Or when watching a movie, we can have double-relaxed attention, but if we also need to read the subtitles, we then need to activate double-focused attention. The mind cannot sustain double-focused attention, such as in intense computer work, for long periods because it requires too much energy. So it will give itself breaks by alternating between double-focused and double-relaxed observers, or even back to ordinary focused attention (either visual or mental).
A key question for every student who is required to do a lot of computer or mental work is how he can prevent spiritual disturbance or regression resulting from losing the proper relationship with consciousness. A common mistake is to try to embody pure consciousness when engaging the double-focused or extra-focused observer. This is unnatural and will create strain, as well as prevent one from being efficient in what one is trying to do. When it is stabilized, pure consciousness does remain present in the background when we are engaging the double-focused attention. However, it is not being actively and consciously embodied. Pure consciousness can be actively embodied in the case of the relaxed, focused, and double-relaxed observer being active, but not in the case of the extra-focused or double-focused observers.
Our consciousness is a living organism and it naturally alternates between different modes of our pure nature. When one is doing intense computer work, the correct abiding place for the main weight of our consciousness is pure conscious me. Pure conscious me is the abiding and resting place for conscious me, which is the identity of the observer. If conscious me is not rooted in pure conscious me, its presence alone will result in an energetic strain and over-crystallization of the observer. Resting in pure conscious me is also the most efficient means to dissolve the mental energies that often accumulate through the overuse or intense use of the mind.
It is important that all students practice consciously abiding in pure conscious me when engaged in focused mental work. Then, from time to time, when attention is relaxed, one shifts back into embodying pure consciousness. It is also advisable to close one’s eyes occasionally and surrender vertically through both pure me of consciousness and pure conscious me. Once one is properly resting in pure conscious me vertically, one can then add the element of resting as conscious me in pure conscious me. As our vertical surrender deepens, this practice culminates in the vertical samadhi of conscious me. When one is integrated, the vertical samadhi of conscious me is not in conflict with the efficient function of the observer. This is the pure observer.
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