When I look out into the distance there is a whole spectrum of awarenesses that I am experiencing. There is the sky, the mountains, and the trees that I see and perceive. It often seems we are only aware of what we’re perceiving but there are other forms of awarenesses as well. These, interestingly, tend to be hidden from us, usually being performed without our knowledge, but they are there nonetheless. In many ways these ‘hidden perceptions’ are the more prevalent and extensive forms of awarenesses that we experience.
What all this reveals is that what we are perceiving is not everything. In fact, what we’re perceiving is actually less than what we originally think. It’s only natural to think that what we perceive is all there is, as thats where the ‘action of life’ is performed. But that is an illusion. Things don’t appear what they seem. There’s a whole world being experienced by us that we are oblivious to.
Awareness, like many things, has qualities that resemble a spectrum:
– On one extreme is whats ‘perceived‘. When we perceive it we know of it. This is what we see, hear, think, etc. Some people may speak of this as what we are ‘conscious’ of. Typically, the ‘perceived’ has with it the perception of ‘I’ or the ‘me’. It’s what I see, hear, think, etc. When awareness moves toward the other end to the spectrum the ‘I’ tends to be lost.
– These are the variations inbetween both spectrum.
– On the other extreme is the ‘unperceivable‘. This is that which we are totally unaware of. On this extreme are things we will never perceive at all in our life. Here there is no sense of an ‘I’.
It seems that what we perceive, or what makes up perception, is a result of ‘attention‘. This is the ability of the mind to focus on something, leaving other things in the ‘shadows’, so to speak. A good example is the eye. Wherever we look we see whats at the focal point. But we really do not see everything around the focal point. We do not see its details, but we’re partially aware of it. This is ‘peripheral perception‘. This peripheral perception is what gives the gradations of awareness. To me, it seems that peripheral perception has three main forms:
– Resting perception. This is peripheral perception when nothing is happening. If you look at something the images in your peripheral perception is just ‘there’, nothing stands out. Your are aware of them, at least partially, but your attention is not focused on it. In that sense, the perception is ‘resting’, that is, not doing anything.
– Startled perception. If you see something out of the corner of your eye, you were ‘startled’ from the resting perception. This startling caused your attention to focus on it. Many awarenesses that we have are only given our attention if we are startled into it. Until we are startled into it they will remain ‘hidden’ from our awareness.
– Directed perception. This is when you deliberately look for an awareness. This is done when we’re thinking, reflecting, trying to solve a problem, etc.
The different levels of peripheral perception create different levels of awareness which is the spectrum I’ve described above. Since the most ‘perceived’ is the one on the end of the spectrum it means that the bulk of awareness is ‘hidden’.
A lot of the ‘hidden’ awareness, though, is not as hidden as it may seem. In reality, we have a ‘sense’ of this ‘hidden’ awareness. This perception of the ‘hidden’ awareness can be called the passive awareness. That is to say, we do not perceive it. When it is perceived we can call it active awareness. This passive awareness is there but not perceived directly. It’s perception is a big part of life. In fact, if we did not have this passive awareness we would have a hard time living. Most passive awareness is stuff that is taken for granted. Examples of passive awareness are:
– Balance. We seldom notice our balancing act, just in walking, at least until we are startled into it by tripping or something.
– Spatial relations. As we move about we need to have a good sense of spatial relations. If we didn’t we’d bump into walls and walk as if blind. This is a form of awareness many people never even think about but it is needed, that is, if you want to move about.
– Things based on experience. Many things in life are based on experience. In fact, a lot of living is nothing but stuff based on experience. This include things like learning how to walk, to brush your teeth, reading people, etc. These are things we tend to take for granted.
– Awareness of a persons life overall. This overall awareness helps give us a sense of who we are, our strengths, our weaknesses, etc.
– Bodily perceptions. Normally, we are not aware of our bodies activities. As I said before, we usually have to be ‘startled’ into it before we realize stuff about our body. This is why we often take for granted our health and well being.
– The deep inner aspects of self (the unconscious). This is the deep recesses of our soul and psyche. More often than not we are totally unaware of what goes on here. Like everything else, we have to be ‘startled’ to notice it oftentimes.
Much of this passive awareness goes by unperceived, perhaps all ones life, unless a person is somehow ‘startled’ into it. But yet it is there. This overall sense of our total awareness, active and passive, often creates a sense of oneself which I call Beingness. This sense is often never perceived. Its a sense that seems to ‘linger’, much like a mist or a fog. But the nature of beingness reveals a lot about the nature of perceiving passive awareness. Beingness, like much of passive awareness, can be felt a number of different ways:
– Never fully felt. That is to say, its there but never acknowledged by the person.
– People are startled into noticing it.
– A person opens themselves to its presence. This often happens in reflection, contemplation, growing, and even in events that happen in life.
Its not uncommon that, with passive awareness, we are influenced by it but totally unaware of it. Often, other people can see its effects before we can. How many times have I seen other people notice sickness in people, for example, before they, themselves, even knew they were sick? This is a good example of how limited active awareness really is.
Awareness has two varieties:
– Internal awareness. This is the awareness of things within ourselves. Here we can say that there are awareness of our physical body and awareness of our psyche and self.
– External awarness. This is the awareness of our environment.
The awareness of both, active and passive, create a sense which I call Consciouseness. By being conscious we are aware of our self as people in the world. It seems that consciouseness is what brings all these aspects of awarness, in all their myriad forms, into a coherent whole. It brings everything into a shape: ones life, ones self, ones world. And so, just looking out into the distance, as I described at first, is only an aspect of the whole experience of awareness. For, to truly describe looking out into the distance truly and in its entirety, entails a total perception of ‘all’, of everything. Not only what we see, hear, feel, but who we are, our lifes perception, and so on. Only then, are we truly aware.