tisdag 25 januari 2011

Facing Reality

Ever noticed that even though you can’t see your own physical face directly, you nonetheless know quite accurately how your own face looks in any given situation? It is as if you were looking at yourself from the outside. Obviously, the hours we've all spent standing in front of a mirror has resulted in the fascinating ability to generate an internal visual representation of your own face from within your consciousness.

Try it! Make a face. A smile, a frown, a sad, confused or flirtatious face, or whatever you’d like. Notice how, as you do that face, you somehow just know how you look, even though you’re not standing in front of a mirror.

An interesting little spiritual practice is one where you try to let go of this internal representation. This is accomplished simply by, as you’re mindful of whatever is going on, start loosing up on all the muscular tensions in the face. All of them! One after the other, eyes, cheeks, mouth, forehead, until you feel no energy is spent powering any area of your face.

People will look different doing this. Some will look extremely tired, others will look blissful, others will look just blank. However, the way one looks is exactly what this practice is not about.

I’ve noticed that the sense of self is intimately tied to facial expressions. The internal visual representation of your face fuels the sense of existing as an individual entity, physically separated from everything else. By loosing up and letting go of the need to adequately present yourself to the outside world through facial expressions, the sense of self may start to become lighter, vaporous and transparent. It is like it slowly starts to merge with space, until left is only a sense of non-obstructive openness.

It should be noted of course, that this is a practice best performed in private, as it's very much against social convention to stop facial expressions. These expressions signal who we are; do we seem trustworthy, kind, willing to cooperate? Or do we seem tired, bitter, and hence not open for interaction? Without facial expressions, there is just no way to tell. Proper facial expressions are vital from the perspective of social etiquette. 

The only problem is that people don’t view facial expressions simply as social cues and signals used conveniently for communicative purposes. In addition, people believe that facial expressions and identity are one and the same! So, if you appear happy or sad, people will typically assume this is an accurate representation of who and what you actually are. A happy person. A sad person. Therefore, if you were to, in public, do the practice described above in which you stop sustaining all facial expressions, people would think you were either, at best, bizarrely tired, or, at worst, mentally disturbed! So best to do the practice in private.

That said, this is a simple and handy practice that I personally find very effective as it comes to both the small and the lofty. The small concerns the relief of tension and stress all throughout the body, as well as the mind. The lofty involves the prospect of an utter disentanglement of confusion; indeed, a blessed drenching in the rain of nondual reality.

"...rather, he made himself nothing..."
Philippians 2:7

Images: http://bit.ly/gOBlzT & http://bit.ly/dSLUQT
Text: Integral Monastery

2 kommentarer:

  1. Very interesting indeed. So much of who we (think we)are is subconsciously displayed on our faces in an attempt to represent a particular image out to the world, as you say. Let go of that.. and who are we then?
    How little it takes to shake up our fragile sense of self. Especially when it's built on the wrong grounds.

  2. Skall testa detta ikväll, i badet!