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The struggle in forgetting what we are: Recognising the Interpretive Nature of Consciousness

Updated: Apr 7

Life can feel like a struggle. As we look for relief in ‘a world out there’, we feel small, alone, and afraid. Anxious, lost, and exhausted, these experiences point us toward recognising a profound disconnection disconnection from our essential nature.

This can be exacerbated within spiritual seeking. We’ve experienced multiple awakenings where the nature of experience and the self is revealed to us as an absolute truth and obviousness, only for this to feel like it is either suddenly, or gradually, clouding over again. Only left with distant memories and conceptual truths, we are once more apparently in the dark. The truth is there is never any obstruction or clouding, though the interpretive nature of consciousness and the seeking for a particular state can make it appear that this is the case.

This forgetting and remembering, as uncomfortable and frustrating as it is, is simply (and profoundly) a result of the interpretive nature of consciousness (the self-confirming mode) coming again, apparently, to the forefront of experience. It is this that largely creates the illusory appearance of a spiritual path or journey of awakening.

When we are ‘spinning out’ in this mode there can be a lot of activity carried out through the concepts and patterning of the interpretive consciousness, leading to us attempting to find relief and knowledge in spiritual practices, paths, and self-improvement – just so we can get back to ‘here’ – the clear seeing and experiencing as the knowing of the self - the beauty, clarity, and equanimity of the natural state.

Its all we ever wanted.

We got it.

Now we’ve lost it again.

It hurts. It can feel like torture. Not to mention incredibly isolating as we become less and less able to explain the unexplainable to those around us. And yet the closer we can get to the direct experience of this the clearer we see again that this game of peek-a-boo and the associated interpretations that consciousness creates about certain states being ‘right’ and others being ‘wrong’ can really support us in this dance of forgetting and remembering, as well as deeply and simply (albeit not necessarily easily), illuminating the subtle ways in which reality moves into this self-confirming, interpretive mode of experiencing through the thinking, fantasising experience of mind.
The good news is that whilst what may be in our experience is this apparently relentless interpretive, self-confirming mode, we can know (or if there haven’t been previous awakening experiences, we can have faith), that the self-revealing mode is simultaneously right here.

And so, the remembering is really all about remembering to look, here, directly. If there is in any way a most useful spiritual practice or path it is that which supports the developing skill of recognising the interpretive nature of consciousness. What it feels like, how it looks, and how it renders itself as an appearance that is so radically different to what is actually the case.

“Experience plainly and nakedly reveals what it actually is. If one looks and sees unbiasedly, but there’s the rub, one doesn’t look and see unbiasedly, one looks and sees in the context of this imaginative, interpretive faculty of consciousness, which supplies a very heavy-handed overlay of interpretation” 

Peter Brown

In our experiencing of the moment directly there seems to be this mysterious bringing forth of truth. The Self -confirming mode in which reality engages with itself is inextricably linked with, and permeated by, its mode of revealing.

We just need to: earnestly want to know what is true; Relax; Soften our focus and look HERE and NOW.
1.       Notice the fundamental, basic appearance of experience itself: Pay attention to the simple fact that you are currently experiencing, and that you are never not experiencing. What is actually happening in your sensory field? Don’t answer with thought, just notice – feel and sense.  If there are thoughts labeling what is happening, notice the texture, movement, and quality of the sensation.

2.       Question your Interpretations: Be an empirical enthusiast. What is actually true? Do what my thoughts are saying about my experience have anything to do with my actual experience. Keep measuring against actual experience (see point 1). Is this an assumption or a direct experience of what is actually so.  This supports us to distinguish raw sensory data from the stories that the mind constructs about it.

3.       Engage in Focused Enquiry: Look closely at everyday experience and question conventional interpretations. Go deep. What is considered ‘conventional’ and ‘unconventional’ also changes depending on what information and assumptions you have developed on your path of seeking. Begin from ‘not knowing’. Stay with this.

4.       Conduct Experiments: Engage in experiments to highlight how perception is influenced by mental conditioning. For example, starting at a blank wall to notice visual phenomena or listening to sounds with the intent to hear them as pure sound without labelling or judging them. Work with ‘neutral’ experiencing to begin with. Make it play. Then when there are interpretive experiences accompanied by distress, there is already a more automatic mode of investigating and recognising the interpretive mode ‘transferred’ from a zone of comfort and ease.

5.       Embrace Temporary Disorientation and Confusion: As you question and test your usual interpretations of reality, you might feel disoriented or unsettled. This is a natural part of the process where your usual conceptual frameworks (built world in mind) are being challenged. It’s important to remain open and curious during these times.

6.       Meditation on the Nature of Consciousness: Meditate with the intent of coming to know, through seeing without trying to change, the workings of your experience of mind. Notice how thoughts arise and fall, and see if you can perceive the space in which they occur. This helps in recognizing that thoughts and interpretations are not the core of consciousness but activities within it. It can be helpful to explore in this way together with a mentor, guide, or therapist who is able to explore with you compassionately your human experience of thought and emotion whilst pointing you towards direct experience.

7.       Regular Reflection: Try to carry this awareness into everyday activities. Approach routine interactions and tasks with the awareness that much of what seems solid and undeniable about your experience is actually interpretive.

By practicing these steps you can develop a more refined awareness of how your interpretations shape your reality, leading to a deeper understanding of the transcendent reality that is continuously present. This process is about seeing through the layers of conditioning to the actual immediacy of experience, where true spiritual liberation lies.


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