Issue 40 – December 2008
Meditation and Voice Dialogue
J’aime ona Pangaia
The goal of Voice Dialogue practice is the emergence of the Aware Ego Process . What is that? It’s operating with free will, the ability to make choices in the moment with compassion and an energetic connection to our body. Essentially that means separating from our identification with a, or any part of ourself and having an ego experience (“I”) that has the capacity to make choices with Awareness. By Awareness, I mean non-judgmental, unconditional, un-attached witnessing awareness. Choice-less awareness. Unvarnished beholding. Dispassionate Compassion. How many of us experience that?
This type of awareness may occur for moments, randomly in a person’s life, or we may never experience it consciously. But, we have a greater potential to experience this awareness when we’ve engaged in an activity to practice it, to cultivate it. One of the oldest, simplest form of awareness practice is breath meditation. This involves setting our intention that the natural rise and fall of our breath be the sole object of our attention for a set period of time. This is a humbling discipline, because as soon as one begins meditation, other experiences rush in to compete for our attention. Thoughts, sensations and emotions layer in and our attention on our breath is lost. We quickly become possessed by these competing perceptions; we become attached, identified with whatever wins our attention in the moment.
We become consumed by that feeling of anger, or sadness, we become obsessed with that sudden, relentless itch behind our ear, we are mesmerized by our plans for tomorrow’s meeting, we start rehearsing what we’re going to say to someone. Our intention to focus on our breath is forgotten and our attention has been hijacked by whatever perception has won the moment.
Practicing meditation helps us to develop the strength to separate from selves. When I sit down for a half hour of meditation, I have to separate from selves a thousand times. Or more. Over and over, I bring my attention to just watching my breath, without comment, without emotion, without distraction or avoidance, without desire or resentment, just watching. With every returning to my breath, I groom my capacity to just watch. I discover Awareness, which is omnipresent although not often consciously experienced due to the almost ceaseless possessions of the ego. Again and again, I intend to watch my breath and over time and practice, I become more attuned to the experience of empty awareness, and what clouds it over.
Awareness doesn’t do anything, and so we cannot ‘aware our way through life’. We must engage with life, make choices and live with the consequences. Voice Dialogue, a psycho-spiritual discipline shares the stance taken by Buddhism that we can train ourselves to recognize ego states (sub-personalities, inner selves, ‘parts’, individualized archetypal patterns) as states, not what-I-am, once we are aware. We call this the ‘aware ego process’. From there, we can begin to live life with choice, compassion, engagement and non-attachment. Through awareness, we recognize the existence of these selves while remembering and experiencing them as means of being; they are not our essential being. Our essential being is paradoxically full of every creative possibility, indelibly unique, and empty of anything in permanence.
Our closest common experience of awareness is with an inner part I’ll call the Inner Critic. While witnessing Awareness is non-judgmental and has no agenda, the Inner Critic also perceives everything, but with negative judgment. When bringing our Awareness to the Inner Critic, we can perceive that it has an agenda – to change our behavior in order to protect vulnerability. Awareness of the basic nature of the Inner Critic can transform our relationship with the Inner Critic. We can pay attention to what it’s trying to orient us to ~ our vulnerability, and when we start becoming relating to our vulnerability with Awareness, the Inner Critic calms down. Now we are no longer victim to the Inner Critic, nor trying to change or repress it. We accept it.
Meditation is a practice, it is an exercise, a discipline to potentiate a direct experience of Awareness. Any given time we settle down to meditate, we may or may not have much direct experience of Awareness. Or we may. We practice meditation, not so much so that we have awareness experience while meditating, but that our practice of meditation provides us with more Awareness experience in everyday life, on and off the proverbial meditation cushion. In fact the more we try to have an Awareness experience, the less we’ll have one, since we’re fixedly in a self that has an agenda.
The same goes for Voice Dialogue facilitation (a kind of engaged, two person practice of meditating). We may, or may not, have a big ‘aha!’ during the facilitation experience, in fact, it often comes afterwards, and more quietly. Because of Voice Dialogue facilitation, we simply see more clearly and immediately when we are in the throes of an inner self, and we can recognize it as such: ah, a self! There’s a choice now, and we’re more aware of it. We perceive that choice with less, or no judgments. We may still have to wrestle ourselves from the habit of our old patterns, but this is very similar to wrestling our attention away from passing thoughts, feelings, and sensations while meditating.
In everyday life, the practice of meditation conditions us to a return to the fleeting, yet expansive moment. Here I am now, and I have options. In meditation, our option is to return to our breath. That’s our intention, our practice. In everyday life, our intention is to return to the present, to complexity, to paradox, to include more of how we can be, given the actual conditions of the moment.
Without the Aware Ego Process, we live by habitual patterns, we live through projections on the world, we live identified with some ways of being and by disowning others, we live by ‘right’ and ‘wrong’: judgment, we live through memories and fantasies, without relating much to what actually is, right now. Meditation and Voice Dialogue are like twin practices, complementing each other. Either one by itself is helpful; together, our direct experience of Awareness, and the Aware Ego Process is more probable.