“Life is not a puzzle to be solved, it is a mystery to be experienced.”
Once upon a time, 39 years ago, when “CAR”, a play I wrote with McCrea Imbrie, was presented at the Director’s Unit of the Actor’s Studio, I heard the founder, Lee Strasberg, speak of the most important quality needed by a director, the only quality that Strasberg insisted cannot be taught. This is the ability to see what is actually happening on stage, not what the director thinks/hopes/persuades himself is happening because he so loves the work he did, but what objective spectators actually see and hear.
How often it happened, in my experience at the Actor’s Studio and other theatre groups to which I belonged, that a director or a writer could in no way hear and accept the feedback from thirty or more colleagues trying to be of help, because he was so in love with what he thought he had directed or written.
And how often, in our relationships with others, we cannot step back and be a witness to our own unskillful and toxic thoughts, words, actions, as well as our own loving kindness, compassion, joy and peace.
One of the greatest benefits of meditation practices and concentration practices is the slow but sure, effortless growth of Pure Consciousness, Pure Presence, the ability to be a spectator of one’s own spectacle. Just as there is a peace and joy when we are part of the audience, watching a fascinating movie or play, so there is a state of deep gratitude that arises spontaneously over time when we practice watching our body/mind/world.
Every morning at wakeup, and before bed, and as often as I remember during the day, I open my consciousness to the Ultimate Mystery, which I know from lived experience lies within me, sometimes buried under an avalanche of ancient, toxic thoughts and feelings. Thinking that the Ultimate Mystery is the ground in which my life is rooted, the source from which my Being arises in every moment, grows into a consciousness of the Absolute Oneness of All things, wherein exists a limitless love for myself and all beings.
How does this highfalutin vision help a writer, an artist of any kind in the daily practice of our art? Indeed, how does thinking this way help anyone who wants to love skillfully and creatively the beings one lives with or lives without on one’s journey?
By practicing various forms of meditative, choiceless, panoramic awareness, I come to feel my oneness with the Ultimate Mystery. I come to experience the fact that I am not my mind, not my thoughts, not my emotions, not my body, not the world. Mind, body, breath, emotions, physical sensations, memories, mental constructions, thoughts and world are ever changing, that is the Law of Impermanence. Heraclitis hit the nail on the head in ancient Greece: No one can step into the same river twice.
If I am not my mind, my body, the sky, the earth, rivers, houses, chairs, couches, the world, what is permanent in my experience? Only one thing I know from experience, one thing that is always available, one thing there is that never changes: this pure, choiceless, panoramic awareness, mine, yours, that of all created beings, an unfailing source of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, joy and peace. That is my Pure Awareness, Pure Presence, when I am a totally free, untrammeled spectator of my own spectacle, watching, hearing, touching, sniffing the comedy drama of my life.
Becoming the spectator of my own spectacle, whatever I create from that place of peace will be a new and exciting river, never the same, with calms and eddies and dangerous bursts of power, vivid flowers and trees on peaceful banks where we can nestle, and creatures never before known, all to entertain and enlighten and strengthen our joy of living.