If my early morning mediation session is especially relaxed, my awareness of mind sometimes takes a shift, so that there is a more leisurely awareness of each phenomenon of mind as it arises. This is in sharp contract to the waterfall cacophany of thoughts and feelings that normally tumble one upon another at breakneck speed in my awareness.
An air vibration behind me enters awareness, and I can physically feel the oscillation of tiny membranes in my head.
This is hearing.
My feeling regarding this sensation is utterly neutral. It is neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but it does interest me, and my mind begins to form a rudimentary constellation around the sense object.
This is feeling. This is interest.
Instantly, and inextricably linked to the hearing and feeling, myriad associations move toward the new constellation. Memories join the bare object of hearing, and this leads to the recognition and name of this sound as "plane taking off from airport."
This is perception.
Perception continues, the constellation builds. From the sound I know the direction the plane is heading, and memory of maps tells me the likely destination is Detroit, or New York, or Boston. Mental images of these cities arise, and now there is a new sense object for the mind to constellate around. New feelings: Detroit--unpleasant. Boston--pleasant.
The perception doesn't fade until well after the initial sound object, the noise of the plane, has faded.
A skin sensation arises, along the back side of my body.
This is touching.
This time, an immediate feeling of pleasantness joins the constellation.
This is feeling: pleasant.
Perception arrives in the form of memory and language and naming.
This is perception; this is warmth.
In response to pleasant feeing, an energy of attraction arises. I want more warmth.
This is desire.
A new skin sensation arises, this one along the front of my body. This, too, is touch, but this time the constellation is a little different.
This is feeling. This is unpleasantness.
Perception tells me that this is "cold." An almost magnetic energy of repulsion, aversion now joins in.
This is aversion.
A subtle energetic shift takes place. I am aware of an intention to capture warmth, to escape cold.
This is intention.
Another energy is present, though, one that intends to study rather than react.
This is restraint.
I am now aware of two constellations around touch sensations: one dominated by pleasantness and warmth, the other by cold and aversion. Close examination, though, indicates that they do not occupy the same space; they aren't experienced at the same time, but oscillate back and forth so rapidly that there is the illusion of simutaneousness.
In truth, there is only one "this is" at a time.
The present constellations seem to grow tired of their existence all by themselves, and quietly die and fade away. Others various constellations replace them: Itching. Story-telling. Planning. Muscle aching. A fantasy. Smelling bacon.
None of them need to be avoided; none need to be captured.
Gradually during the course of the meditation, I become absorbed in the sheer knowing, the "this is" of every phenomenon that arises. For this time, anyway, I have no investment in things being different, and am nothing more than a student of what's arising.
This is delight. This is peace.
Occasionally, this fascination with the bare "this is" of experience follows me off the meditation cushion and informs the entire day. This is more common on leisurely weekend days, especially when bad weather enforces an indoor indolence, but even a work day may sometimes be treated with a steady fascination with things just as they are, whatever they are.
More and more these days, the fabric of a spiritual life seems to be just this simple.