There are times when we feel completely free and life is lived with ease and it is truly a joyful experience. These moments can occur at any given time and unfortunately are often very quick and fleeting. We may notice that they can be stimulated by a particular activity like going for a walk, being in nature, practicing a skill such as yoga or a musical instrument, as well as through our practice of meditation. When these joyful feelings of life occur, they are often recognized as something special and we might stop for a moment to dwell on the feeling, when this is done we may find our self silently wishing that there was a way that we could hang on to this joy and somehow capture the happiness that we are feeling so that we can use it whenever we wish to. Where this can often leads is toward a grasping of the thing that we believe is the cause of our happiness. If we are in a beautiful physical area such as an ocean beach, and experience joy and happiness, we may falsely recognize this joy and happiness as being brought about by our location, being on the beach, we may then have the desire to stay on the beach and perhaps dream of a way to even purchases a portion of the beach to build our dream home on so as to capture this feeling and cling on to it believing that this is true happiness. Furthermore we often look for ways to generate our happiness through material things such as cars, homes, shopping, collecting or by ingesting things like food or alcohol and also by doing mindless activities that take our thoughts away from this seemingly endless search such as thrill seeking and excessive viewing of television.
When we take the time to investigate our feelings, we can learn what they truly are and where they actually come from. What we discover can be very surprising because it is generally the opposite of what we think our feelings are and how they come about. When we experience something through our senses of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch this means we have come into contact with something in the world of phenomena, sense organ and sense object meet and we have a moment of consciousness. This connection creates a “feeling” and in fact it is considered a worldly feeling because it is triggered by our contact with worldly phenomena. Simply put, we are simulated by things such as Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and the things that we touch.
Other that these worldly feelings, there is another type of feeling that we often experience, these are of a spiritual nature, they are an “unworldly” feeling and are not related to the things in the outer world. We normally believe we are experiencing happiness and joyful feelings based on something that we see, hear, smell, taste or touch; often this is not the situation at all. Although some feeling can be triggered by outside worldly experiences, they are not brought about by them.
We have all experienced reading or hearing something that we find very motivating and up lifting such as a spiritual phrase and when we go back to it or hear it again after a duration of time it’s meaning and effect on us is not the same and it does not seem to be as penetrating to us as it previously was, although nothing on the outside has changed, it is what is on the inside, that has changed. How we perceive the information at the time. If the inner and outer conditions were the same each time we came into contact with the information our reaction would be the same but this is never the situation since the conditions are constantly changing as well as the way we perceive things constantly changes as well.
What this means is that we do not have a choice over our feelings. This is very hard for people to except because we want to be in control. But in reality we have no choice over our feeling, although we do have a choice and we do have control over what happens once the feeling is perceived. Once we recognize how this amazing process of feelings comes about, we can begin to understand and control our reactions to the feelings.
We can not to do anything with the feeling itself except to observe it. This observation is a practice called “choice-less awareness” and is called so because we are simply observing and not attempting to make any choices or changes with the feeling what so ever, only an observation. The choice comes later once the feeling is recognized and in many cases one will find that no choice is the choice, which is an outcome of the observation that is very liberating.
How this 2500 year old practice works is as follows. Once a feeling is recognized, it is perceived as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. It can either be a worldly or an unworldly feeling. So we know have six categories of feelings. If this seems too intellectual and to processed, don’t worry because the noticing of the feeling is the essential part of this practice. It is important to remember that this is not about changing our relationship with the feeling but about changing the direction that the feeling takes us. Most of our time is spent trying to recreate or move toward and find as many pleasant feelings as possible. If we can stop this mental and physical chasing after pleasant worldly feelings, we open up an area within us that is automatically and immediately filled with unworldly feelings. Much like trying to dig a hole in sand and having it fill its self in as we dig. What this means is that by the dropping away of our worldly feels through the practice of “choice-less awareness”, we begin to live life more in line with our true nature, which is living life as an unworldly being, one that allows life to live through them as opposed to one who struggles with life. This results in a selfless, non dualistic way of living, It Is a going beyond worldly enjoyments and living a life of freedom from fear, anger, desire resulting in the stopping of the constant striving to become something or someone or to not become something or someone. Some call this a desire less realm, although it is a very desirable realm to be in because it is our true nature and a place where we can experience joy and freedom beyond the confines of the very temporary worldly mundane pleasures.
Unworldly pleasures are all said to be of a spiritual nature, an inner joy of knowing that the joy is real and is originating from within, not created by outside stimuli or mental fabrications triggered by some outside stimuli.
Unworldly feelings are free of the things that are found within worldly pleasures, these being desire, irritation, and ignorance which when absent, provide the basic understandings of moving beyond worldly feelings and toward developing disenchantment for them, unworldly feelings are said to be feelings not related to the flesh but are a renunciation of the chasing after worldly enjoyments and a going within. Mindfulness and contemplation are the essential components to this practice and its understanding.
We can experience the pleasures of the unworldly temporarily through the practice of concentration meditation and in particular with absorption. This practice allows the hindrances and disturbances to be set aside temporarily allowing them to subside and in doing so, this gives us a lasting impression of the possibilities of freedom from the desires of worldly pleasures. When this happens, it provides a clear, uncluttered path toward spiritual advancement which naturally develops a mind of liberation, equanimity and renunciation. We have methods to turn the temporary worldly pleasures into a permanent and lasting reality and in doing so we get a taste of freedom and in that way we become not only a seeker of the truth but one that has experienced its freedom making us a true practitioner of something that we have experienced first hand, and that changes everything.