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Life is like a wave that starts from the top, the crest of the wave before it starts breaking. You would think that you would see everything from the top of the wave but interestingly enough, you don’t. You see what you are conditioned to see, your learned perception and you take notice of eg. the position of other surfers, which way the wind is blowing, estimating how the wave will go etc.
This is called in Process Oriented Psychology the ‘consensus reality’ level. It means living on the normal, mainstream level. We are conditioned by our society, family and upbringing to accept what we call ‘normal life.’ Going to work, hanging out with friends, meeting a partner, having a family, paying the bills etc. It’s all the normal things we do in life as well as imagining how our lives will be and how to achieve our goals. We learn certain skills and techniques to manage and succeed in everyday life and when things ‘go wrong’ and we have a crisis, whether that is health issues, job loss or relationship break-ups or depression or anxiety etc, we may see a therapist or counsellor to learn new ways of understanding, coping and changing to deal with new situation. If we have a different perception of how we would like to be in society which is different from the norm, we often feel like ‘an outsider’ and that we don’t really belong.
“Enlightenment for a wave in the ocean is the moment the wave realizes that it is water.”
Learning skills and techniques is similar to calm abiding meditation where you practice watching your breath. Your mind becomes very focused and rather than your thoughts taking you over, you are more in charge of your mind. You feel relaxed and clear and the result is calm awareness. But it is still technique.
Then the wave begins to break and you have to concentrate with an awareness of everything around you. eg. Your balance, the wave itself and you enter a more dreaming altered state. You tend to feel more dreamlike and flowing with everything around you. If you think, you will be unbalanced and won’t be able to ride the wave and you get ‘dumped.’
The Dreaming Level in Process Therapy
In Process Therapy, we call this the dreamland or dreaming level. In this realm lie deeper feelings, our dream images and dream figures and is always in the background atmosphere, giving us clues to the unknown.
“We do not only dream at night but we are dreaming all the time, throughout the day as well. The source of these experiences is what we call the dreaming process. This is like a wellspring that continually generates dream-like experiences whether we are asleep or awake. Spontaneous movements and gestures, body symptoms, and flickering experiences are some of the ways that the dreaming process manifests in everyday life. If we follow and unfold these occurrences, they actually mirror our nighttime dream images. When I tune into this source of dreaming in all of its manifestations I tap into a fountain of creativity and expression.” Dr. Amy Mindell.
This is somewhat similar to Vipassana awareness meditation. You sit and become open and aware of everything happening around you. You notice your body, your thoughts, memories, fantasies, plans. You hear noise, the birds singing, the clock ticking and instead of following it as in Process Psychology, you just watch it and allow everything to flow without grasping onto anything. If you surf with this kind of open awareness, totally flowing from moment to moment, you will become ‘one’ with the wave and the water.
“Life is a lot like surfing… When you get caught in the impact zone, you’ve got to just get back up. Because you never know what may be over the next wave.” B. Hamilton
We then follow the wave to its very depths, where you experience no duality, no movement of mind. There are no thoughts, just open awareness. It is the ‘spiritual awakening,” pure awareness, free from distraction. At the depths of the ocean, it is timeless, deep and silent.
In Process Psychology, this is called the essence state where there are no thoughts, opinions, criticisms, interpretation or references to past experiences. You directly experience reality just as it is.
“You” disappear and there is no sense of separation between yourself and others and the rest of the world. It can last for a split second or for longer. In the West, we name it a ‘peak or transcendent experience.’ Usually this is only temporary and we return to our normal state of mind, but in meditation, this interconnected state can be prolonged.
So, if we only stay on the surface, just the mainstream level, trying to ‘fix things’ the result is only temporary. It will recycle and return. If we go deep to the core, the sentient essence, it will essentially shift and change who you are. As we travel back up through the layers, like emerging back up to the surface of the ocean, you will learn how to integrate the essence, the core of who you really are, into your very being. You will feel much more in touch with yourself and trust yourself more deeply.
By learning to surf from the top of the wave to the depth of the ocean and then return to the shore, you will become more aware and experience all levels of reality. You can then embody the experiences and know yourself more, which in turn makes your life more meaningful and enjoyable.
“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” P. Edwards.