This week’s practice invites you to consider something that may be second nature to you, or it may be a new idea that seems way out there. One of the ways I move through the world is with the assumption that everything I encounter is conscious—not in the way I am conscious as a human but in the way that is unique and appropriate for whatever it is that I encounter along the way. I guess that’s another way of saying I believe we live in a conscious universe and that it’s impossible for anything that exists to be outside that consciousness.
I also believe that I am in ongoing and inherent reciprocal relationship with all the life around me, and I wonder if you would be willing to bring that hypothesis into this as-if experiment, as well. My belief is that I affect everything I encounter and that everything I encounter affects me, that it’s impossible not to be in relationship with the consciousness of my world.
At the very least, at the most basic level of biology, everything I encounter is comprised of the same kinds of molecules as those that comprise my body. We share an ecology that arises from the same carbon-based life and, even in that most basic way, we are part of each other.
I am also a believer in collective consciousness so, for me, we share not only our common biology but also our consciousness. (You will know from this that I do not believe that the brain generates consciousness…)
There are two reasons I want to offer this as-if experiment. First is to offer you an opportunity to explore what may be a deeper sense of connection and relationship with the world around you than you may have already. Or, if you already feel connected, perhaps this experiment will offer a deepening or enriching of your experience. The second reason I want to offer this experiment is because our world needs us to awaken to a more vivid sense of our place within the earth community so that we can, hopefully, recognize our responsibility as citizens of a vast and varied collective of earth-kin, most of whom are other-than-human beings.
Here’s the experiment, offered as a guided meditation:
- Begin by settling in, following your next out-breath down to the bottom of the breath.
- At the bottom of the breath, notice the gap that naturally exists between each out-breath and the next in-breath. This gap might be expansive. It might be brief. Whatever its quality, it is always there.
- Take a moment to notice that within the gap between breaths there is an ever-present stillness, that this gap is an entryway into this stillness.
- Take a few moments to sense into the stillness and notice the quality of your experience as you touch into this deep quiet.
- Now, become aware of your core, that place in you where you find a steadiness that can never be disturbed and also a place in you where you can sense into the radiating quality of your own unique energy signature, of your unique core presence.
- Notice that your radiating presence not only fills and brings its qualities into your entire body-mind, but that it also radiates out into the environment around you, touching everything in that environment with the quality of your presence.
- Next, notice that everything in the environment around you has its own radiating presence, its own unique energy signature. You may not directly sense or experience this. For now, notice what it’s like to hold the possibility that everything around you has its own radiating presence and that this individual and collective presence touches you.
- Now, take a moment to feel into the fact that you are in constant reciprocal relationships with the world around you—with your human community and with the other-than-human communities with which you interact as you move through your everyday activities. (Be sure to make room for any mixed feelings that may arise, as you may have a range of responses to this practice as you do it.)
- Next, imagine that you move into your daily activities, at home, at work if it’s not at home, outdoors, shopping—whatever may come to mind now. As you do this, include an awareness that in every moment you move through a world of presence, connection, and reciprocal relationship and that the tone and quality of the presence you offer to the world around you matters. What quality do you offer right now?
- Notice, what would change in your attitudes or behaviors if you remembered that everything you encounter is sentient in its own way, has consciousness of your presence and is affected by the interactions you have with your world.
- Notice now what you experience when you take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate, in whatever ways make sense to you, the life in the world around you and, also, your own radiating presence, a gift you offer to yourself and the world in every moment.
- When you’re ready to conclude this experience, take a moment to become aware of the surface supporting you, of any sounds around you, wiggle your fingers and toes, and come all the way back.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything with or about them. Also, be sure to welcome any mixed feelings, as your worldview might be very different from what I describe in this experiment. The beauty of our world is that is thrives on diversity, so you may have a decidedly different take on this perspective than I do and it’s important to honor and embrace that difference.