“Old spring, new water.”
Now that you are familiar with the three realms, take a look at them from a different perspective. See them as being built upon each other like strata of earth or stories of a building. The essential realm, which we’re calling Presence, is the foundation. It is the source or the container of the others, and there is no other realm behind or below it – this is the ultimate place where there are no distinctions such as separations between realms. The objective realm overlays the essential; it is the ordering of sensations into separate things. Finally, the subjective realm is on top – it contains all the meanings of the things in the objective realm and the interactions between them. Now - how would these realms appear if you approached them from Presence instead of Storyland?
Moving forward from Presence, you cross the first border and find yourself in the objective realm, which we called Orientation in the first backward step. But now that you’re entering it from the clean-slate of Presence it’s subtly different. Like the world at dawn, when the sun is shining on a new day, everything appears perfectly new and fresh; each thing is clearly seen just for itself. Here you find the New Water in our short Zen poem. Since everything you perceive here is new, sharp, clear and free of previous interpretation, we’ll call this realm Discovery. Here, just as in Orientation, you’re aware of labels and measurements, proximity and distance. The difference is that you’re opening out instead of withdrawing, so there is none of the overhang of Storyland fogging your awareness.
In Discovery, what do you see? What do you hear? Sensations are buzzing in all the senses, and you find them coalescing into a group of objects and events around you. You become aware of the ground beneath your feet, the song of the bird outside the window, blood pumping through your veins.
This realm has the now-familiar sense of “place” you found in Orientation, and crossing the border into Discovery from Presence you feel the opposite sensation from when you stepped back over it into Presence: instead of the overlay feeling washed-off, it’s now a sensation of putting-on, of acquiring. Here it’s vital to remain aware that the objective realm is always created by you – you applied the labels and measurements to that overlay, which is simply a projection of your own mind.
Now that the things around you are clearly in focus you become aware of relationships between them, and especially their relationships with you. These relationships acquire values – that bird’s song is sweet, your heart is beating too fast, the temperature is a little too cold.
You have crossed the border into the subjective realm, perhaps without even realizing it. But again, just the way the objective realm had a cleaner aspect when entering it from Presence, the subjective realm you now find is vital and fresh. Here the values you attach to things and conclusions you reach are based on your situation as it is right now, so a sharp picture comes into focus. When seeing this snapshot of your world you experience a clear resolve, and if action is needed you find yourself taking it whole-heartedly.
This is a different experience of the subjective realm, so instead of calling it Storyland we’ll call it Resolution.
Let’s explore these new ways of viewing the realms by revisiting the common objects we described in the first two steps; how does our perception of them develop as we first encounter them in Presence then move forward through Discovery into Resolution?
Discovery: “I hear a bell ringing.”
Resolution: “That bell has a beautiful, sweet tone.”
Discovery: “I’m beginning to perspire.”
Resolution: “It sure is hot in here!”
Discovery: “There is a train of thought going through my head, giving me an almost physical feeling of elation.”
Resolution: “This budget idea is very good. I’ll write it down clearly so I can present it at the meeting tomorrow.”
Discovery: “I’m feeling angry, and my stomach and chest are clenched.”
Resolution: “I’m overwhelmed with anger, and this isn’t helping me get through this traffic, so I’ll take a moment to breathe and relax.”
In each of these cases you’re explicitly moving through the three phases that all your perceptions go through naturally: sensation, differentiation and valuation. The process is usually so fast that you may not even be aware of it happening: without seeing the perception and differentiation phases, you’re only aware of how you value the event, so you immediately begin incorporating it into your stories without questioning it. But now you can begin to free yourself from this automatic process by clearly seeing your perceptions move through each phase and being fully involved in the final choices of value and meaning.
For the next exercise, spend a few minutes observing objects in your surroundings, clearly experiencing the three phases of perception. Begin by taking the first two steps back into Presence, then rest there and simply observe how your perceptions form. Watch for when they cross the boundaries into differentiation and valuation.
Now spend some time watching how your thoughts arise. They may seem to spring fully formed into your awareness, and since they are complete they can be very convincing. But where do those thoughts come from? Follow their trail back to the source. See how they well up from the undercurrents of your mind and gradually crystalize into recognizable thoughts. At what point is it just a vague semi-conscious movement? When does it begin acquiring shape and feeling? When does it finally form words in your mind? The more aware you are of this process the less you’ll be unconsciously driven by it.
The process of explicitly beginning in Presence then moving forward through to Resolution can have a profound effect on your life, and this can be seen in the actions you take. The fundamental difference between actions taken from Storyland and those taken from Resolution is the source – Storyland-based actions clearly emanate from a localized spot within us and are typically driven by some fear or desire, while actions taken from Resolution seem to coalesce directly from the elements in our current situation and work to benefit everyone. Because of this, these actions fit the situation perfectly and feel almost effortless; it’s as if the situation itself took the action, and you were simply an observer. This phenomenon is often reported by people who are devoted to spiritual disciplines, and it’s also familiar to those in the performing arts. They experience it while improvising or playing a part they know so well that they mentally step out of the way and the part or instrument seems to play itself.
Characteristics of actions taken from Resolution:
- Spontaneous. Our actions arise from the situation as it is right now, not our ruminations about life in general.
- Clean. There is no emotional hangover because we don’t make emotional investments in the outcomes of our actions.
- Effective. Actions taken from Resolution are the most appropriate because they spring from our up–to–date knowledge of the situation.