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Recognizing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

THIS moment (here-now) IS extraordinary, whether it is a moment of pain or pleasure, ecstasy or mundanity...whether we are looking at the Swiss Alps or a trash can...whether we are doing the laundry or vacationing in Hawaii—when we are awake to it, THIS moment (here-now) is indeed always extraordinary. Nothing is ever really ordinary.

The beauty, the unconditional love, the extraordinary-ness, the vibrancy, the brightness is in the awaring presence. Whatever is perceived is the dance or expression of that awaring presence—the boundlessness that we are beyond name and form.

Question: Are you saying that from the perspective that the fact that we exist at all is extraordinary (along with all the galaxies, etc.)? Or do you FEEL in every moment of your life that everything is extraordinary?

Response: I'm not saying that I feel any particular way all the time. Feelings are ever-changing. I'm saying that every moment IS extraordinary, and that the more we are awake to it, the more obvious that is. And I don't mean just "the fact that we exist at all," but every appearance that is showing up, from a cup of tea, to the crumpled Kleenex on the table, to the trash can in the alley, to the feeling of boredom, or the pain in our tooth—it's ALL extraordinary. Meaning it is never what we think it is—and the more closely we explore it, the more it opens to a vast infinity and dissolves into ungraspable no-thing-ness. Every experience (every sound, every sensation, every breath) is a doorway to the spacious freedom and boundlessness of open presence.

Q: It must be an interesting way to perceive things. I must say that I am still on the non-awake side that views a Kleenex as something I have to throw away and that boredom is...boring.

Response: You might experiment. Try really looking at the Kleenex. Not in some result-oriented way, not with the idea of having some big experience or some big breakthrough, but just simply look at it, the way you might enjoy looking at your beloved's face, or a favorite painting, or a place you love in nature. Just really look at the Kleenex, the way a baby might, as something you've never seen before (because, in fact, you never have seen THIS Kleenex at THIS moment ever before). Notice the shapes, the hills and valleys, the way the light hits it, the shadows, the textures, the colors, the lightness of it. Really SEE it, instead of THINKING, "It's only a stupid Kleenex...nothing special...I’ve seen millions of them…it’s just trash, something to throw away."

And the same with boredom the next time it arises. What happens if you get curious about it? What IS this thing you're calling boredom if you really give it your whole-hearted, non-judgmental, open, loving attention? What does it actually feel like? Where is it in the body? How do the sensations move if you go deeply into them with awareness? What thoughts and storylines seem to evoke and sustain this so-called “boredom”? Feel all the textures of it.

Or the next time you're washing the dishes, doing the laundry, peeling potatoes, or any other "mundane" task, what's it like if you really give it your whole-hearted, open attention? Enjoy the sense of touch, the movements of the body, the colors and shapes, the sounds. Does it still seem mundane, unpleasant, something to get done with as quickly as possible?

When I was an art student many years ago, I remember discovering that most people draw what we THINK is there instead of what we actually SEE. That's why it took so long for painters to discover how to create the illusion of depth. They were drawing what they THOUGHT a table should be (a perfect square or rectangle) instead of what they actually SAW when looking across a room at a table. When they finally began drawing what they saw, it looked like it had depth.

Visual art teaches you to see. Music teaches you to listen. You can behold the Kleenex or the crumpled cigarette package in the gutter in the same way you might behold a great work of art, which actually everything is. It is all the dance of consciousness. You can listen to the ordinary sounds of traffic in the same way you might listen to a symphony. Suddenly these ordinary sounds are interesting and not boring at all. The essence of seeing or listening or any sense is awareness or presence. That awaring presence (or present-ness) is the heart of everything, the core, the totality, the vastness, the boundless and seamless wholeness from which nothing stands apart. Tune into this spacious presence, feel it, explore it, enjoy it.

This isn’t about philosophy or thinking or accumulated knowledge or belief. It’s about sensing, feeling, knowing directly, BEING. It’s about awareness, presence, silence, stillness, not knowing, openness, listening, seeing. The more this ever-present, all-inclusive, groundless ground, this open awaring presence, is felt into and recognized, the more available it seems to become. Of course, it is actually always here, but when I say it seems to become more available, I mean the more easily it is recognized and felt—and the less bamboozled we are by thoughts spinning the story of “me,” or thoughts insisting, “It’s just an old Kleenex,” or “This is so boring.”

The more we see these thought-stories for what they are, and the more the attention moves from an obsessive focus on the conceptual realm to the aliveness of the sensory realm, the more a kind of faith develops. This faith is not a belief in some idea, but rather a deep trust in what is most real, most precious, most intimate. Whenever we wake up to this present-ness, we know without any doubt that we are Home. Sometimes, this home seems lost, far away. But it is actually always right here, right now, where we are, in this placeless immediacy that we can never really leave. This timeless presence is what we truly are. We seemingly overlook it by seeking it, by telling ourselves the story that “this isn’t it.” But it’s right here, in the dish soap and the sounds of traffic, in the aisles of the supermarket and the fast-moving freeway, in the most seemingly ordinary events. It’s the presence being and beholding it all.

-- copyright Joan Tollifson 2018 --

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