Home Away from Home and the Need for Civil Liberties

When asked “Where do you live?” many of us will provide a geographical answer, e.g., Chicago, or on Main Street, or some such place. However, when looked a bit more closely, one may justifiably say, “I live in experience.” Experience [as experiencing] may now be viewed as a home away home. Home is a habit of mind.



Therefore, whatever appears [as appearing/disappearing] to us at any given moment-situation is our ultimate home. Based on this, we would have to say that ecology is better viewed as taking care that experience is skillfully constituted. The skillful constitution of experience is brought about by various practices that aim toward peace of mind. Peace is an important component of experience. It renders us attentive to the mind’s essential sentience, one of two aspects of our binary nature. The evanescent arising and dissolving of phenomena, now seen to be accompanied by awareness, grants phenomena their sentience.

                                                   Our Binary Life Movement

This binary distinction is an important perspective. Awareness–not some sort of existing “thing” or “entity,” such as some have done with consciousness in making it a sort of foundation or ultimate reality–is not a separate thing from phenomena but the aspect of experience that we can distinguish from phenomena with a calm focus.  However, most of us pay little attention to awareness itself as it is all to often tied, or better yet “bound,” to the phenomena which are being lit by awareness turning them into the contents of experience. Peace of mind offers us the possibility of realizing that there is a distinction between awareness and the contents that are being illuminated by it, in it, through it–however one wishes to point to this aspect. Again, our mirror metaphor may serve to illustrate this. Awareness functions much like the mirror’s surface. How often do we look at the surface of a clean mirror? We are, much more often than not, focused on the image within the mirror and not the mirror. No problem there. Taking our metaphor to experience, awareness functions in a similar, unnoticed, and unappreciated fashion. This is due to our not realizing that there may even be a distinction between what appears as experience (dharmas, phenomena, etc.), i.e., its contents and not that which goes on being taken for granted, awareness. The two are distinct but not two separated “entities.” In point of fact, we are here discussing experience, in which all phenomena are movement, evanescent, and process; identity (things) are not our focus–although identities may appear in the stream. Awareness and the contents of experience are here considered to be alive as a moving and sentient current. However, in quietude, one realizes upon reflection that awareness defies characterization. One can only point in the hope that the pointing is not taken for the pointed to. Things do not play a role in this specific context. Awareness and the contents of experience may yield things but things are a conceptual reification of contents which may be considered a process of identification–often necessary but at times dangerous. I cannot stress this enough. In this context, things are our experience of things and not things in themselves in the context of our present discussion. Thinking may identify, i.e., grant identity to, but identification may shift the focus from process to identity. That discussion is for another time.

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Awareness functions as the eye of the storm, a truly dispassionate, non-conceptual spectator at peace and aloof despite the whirls** of the experienced.

Awareness, a function of which is to grant sentience to phenomena, may be realized to be distinct from phenomena and as such, it may become a door to liberation. Its distinct nature is untouched by the selfless arising of phenomena and as such it provides the possibility to allow for the synchronous arising and cessation of difficulty. This is not to be confused with effort as we normally regard it. As the surface of a mirror is indifferent to the passing phenomena it yields as reflections, awareness, a purified subjectivity, may be seen to have been a posture of indifference from a time without a perceivable beginning. Thus, in discovering the role that awareness has been playing all along, one may now regard awareness as our domicile the protection of which calls for civil liberties.

The civility required to protect and encourage the care of our liberation from difficulty may now function as the ground and justification of virtue. Civil liberties may now function to protect the peace of society, i.e., the sentient nature of all phenomena–inclusive of all the sentient others that arise in our experience–is our society.

*”Whirls,” interestingly employed by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as the conscious movements of experience, cittavrtti.

Awareness may come to be known as our only refuge from the torrential onslaught of affective narratives encouraged by attachments and aversions inspired by erroneous views regarding the movement of experience, i.e., the movement of living. 

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