In last week's blog I wrote about the primary key to experiencing embodied wholeness: feeling, or being with, what arises. Now I'd like to share the other main component which, in a word, is discernment. While feeling what arises engages loving compassion, discernment calls forth the sword of awareness to cut through remaining illusions that are reinforcing the sense of separation and thereby perpetuating suffering. I often refer to this skill as separating fact from fiction.
Whenever we use discernment to reduce the moment down to what is actually alive (i.e., real), we are left with the facts: pure being, pure life. The fiction is the story, the mental commentary about what is. I'll share a dramatic example from my own experience to illustrate the process of separating fact from fiction, and the liberation it often leads to.
I had a debilitating health condition for many years. It was so familiar that it seemed like "me" rather than something I was experiencing. In other words, there was identification with the illness. One day, during an episode of the illness, I decided to inquire into what was occurring to see what was true. I dropped all preconceptions and met the symptoms with pure attention. I noticed there were thoughts around the possible future outcomes of the episode such as "Oh no, I will miss work again. I won't be able to make the rent". Etc, etc. With discernment it was seen these were just thoughts and not actually real. The future wasn't here yet, and who knows what would actually happen. By seeing through the fiction, the thoughts fell away (which tends to happen when we no longer believe them).
Once the fearful thoughts were disarmed, what remained was my body lying in bed, sensations throughout the body, sounds in the environment, and the spacious presence holding and surrounding it all. There was no longer any such thing as an illness, with a past and future, just the sensations of the moment. Very alive. Very real.
I then inquired into the uncomfortable sensations that were present with open curiosity, wondering what they were trying to communicate. Considering the Divine is omnipresent and omniscient, I went with the assumption that these sensations must be a manifestation of that intelligence. I received an intuition about the purpose of the sensations, and immediately responded with appropriate action. The symptoms dissipated soon after.
Without dragging along the whole illness with its remembered past and projected future, I was able to respond in the moment to the movements of life (in the form of sensations). The discomfort then fulfilled its purpose and my experience was returned to a balanced state of well-being. It's hard to express how potent this experience was except to say that moment was the end of a decades-old illness. It was over the moment I saw through the fictional story and met with the facts of the moment. The story was that there was an illness with a past and future. In reality, there were only sensations arising and subsiding in a given moment. The past and future were all in my mind, and were creating a burden I didn't need to carry.
For the next few weeks, every time a symptom would arise, instead of assuming it was related to anything from the past (i.e., the illness), I would meet it directly and just be with it, feel into it. It would often dissolve in my attention. When it didn't, I would bring warm curiosity to it and open to receive any messages or guidance - sometimes it came, sometimes not. Either way, I would be with what arose without adding any story to it.
A few months later I realized that I no longer had the illness, nor any of the symptoms I had associated with it. It was as if it had never existed. And in fact it never had except in my mind. It had always been a fictional story overlaid on the reality of a given moment, a kind of misinterpretation of what was occurring. Almost ten years later, it's a vague memory that only comes up when I'm recounting this breakthrough experience.
My purpose here isn't to say all illness is unreal or that this will bring the same results to everyone. The point is to encourage you to use discernment to separate out the fact from the fiction, particularly with anything that you struggle with. Once you do that, you will always be freer, if only of the mental overlay that often adds a layer of psychological suffering that is totally unnecessary. Through discernment you find that pain and discomfort still happen, but suffering is optional.