I am going to consider the fundamental structural property of awareness, through lens of kissing. Most of us like a little kissing, now and then. Maybe you can’t remember your first kiss, but I’m going to be talking about a particular kind of kissing which when I was young was called French kissing. I don’t know if it still is, although the French are known to be rather more daring and disgusting than the English.
So I’m not talking about social “hello and how are you” kissing. Even if you can’t remember your very first French kiss, which some of you might well, you might be able to remember the first one that you had with the person that you are currently interested in doing it with, or the last one if there sadly isn’t a current one. Perhaps before this first kiss happened there was a bit of a build up; you wanted it to happen. Let’s just assume that you were really in love with this person and that this person was really in love with you even if they were pretending not to be and even if you were pretending not to be. So there was probably quite a strong momentum for this first kiss to happen. Then not only would there have been an energetic momentum for it to happen but the mind would have been going there, the mind would have been talking to you about kissing this person.
No matter how much the mind might have been making up stories about how you were going to make it happen and what it was going to be like, it actually wasn’t like that at all. First of all hopefully it just happened and it wasn’t really engineered, but of course it may have been. Even if it was engineered the chances are pretty high that all your thinking, all your anticipation, all your expectation about what it would be like were totally absent and irrelevant during the actual kiss. Even though possibly afterwards you might have said, “wow, that was great”, to yourself or them.
Let’s just assume that it was really great, that the kissing was really fantastic which kissing the right person tends to be. Chances are pretty high that certain things would have happened in the mind afterwards at least. First of all “good kiss” that’s the the kiss label, the deed label. Second comes another label, the person label: “good kisser”. Labelling not the deed but the doer, or one of them. Now imagine this very same kind of kissing happened with somebody a thousand times over a year. Maybe it’s already happened. It doesn’t stay the same. Finally it gets to the very last kiss and you say “crap kiss: crap kisser”. This has happened right? The “great kiss, great kisser “ has become “crap kiss, crap kisser”.
You can of course substitute this for any kind of experience. Making love, listening to the Sex Pistols, eating an ice cream. How it is that a “great kiss, great kisser” becomes a “crap kisser, crap kiss”. Or how does a great life become a crap life? Even if only temporarily. In finding that out we are discovering the nature of kissing as representative of all activity: not kissing as a particular kind of activity but as an expression of activity itself. The nature of activity becomes evident and also what has to become evident is the nature of those elements that constitute activity, in particular the object.
When you go “Oh, great kiss, must kiss him or her again because is a great kisser”, you’ve made two objects. You’ve made the kiss an object and you’ve made the kisser an object. Whereas because of all of the anticipation, the desire, the love, the excitement, when you were actually kissing there was no object, there was no kiss, there were no kissers. There was just kissing and there was no labelling. Hopefully. You could say the same about eating an ice cream. It very often happens on the first mouthful there is just tasting and especially if somebody is asking you for some of it, the last one also. The ones in the middle you often don’t really notice. If you’re not careful that’s a metaphor for your whole life. By careful i mean paying attention to what is actually happening.
Finally, ten years, ten months, ten weeks after the first amazing kiss it leaves you cold. You know that transformation, don’t you? You’ve fallen out of love, haven’t you? You have a kiss with the same person that is technically exactly the same but doesn’t have the same effect. The person is the same. The kiss is the same. The experience is not. the delight is gone.
The delight of the first kiss was not in the kiss. It was not in the kisser. It was in the attentiveness. It was in the wanting. The wanting focusses your attention totally on the kiss. It’s not the kiss that holds the delight, but your attentiveness. What makes it so delightfully juicy to kiss, or take a lick of chocolate ice cream, is that you are totally and utterly fascinated. Through that total and utter fascination with what is actually happening you are totally present. Your attention is totally there; so you feel everything without needing to label. You drown in the feeling without having to identify and the delight is an expression of your attentiveness. The delight is an expression of the quality of your attention.
This is one of the great secrets of life. You can be delighted by anything provided you are interested enough, passionate enough to be fully present. When you discover that delight resides in the quality of your attention or the quality of your awareness, you are half way to freedom. Delight is so appealing it can act as an invitation for you to stop objectifying life, to stop looking for objects to satisfy and delight you as soon as you realise that delight is inherent in awareness itself. Attentiveness focusses the power of awareness, and you feel that power as delight, as love even. This kiss, the kissed and the kisser are not the point, you realise that that’s not the point. The point is what is happening within that.
There is an apparent paradox here because there is a sense that when you are focussing on something you are gathering it in, condensing it. When attention deepens and subtilises it is narrowing and opening at one and the same time. The narrowing is from the original field into the object, the opening is into that narrowed field of the object expanding as the field. As you come closer it narrows, as you go deeper it opens. You are actually opening the aperture of awareness. If it opens enough and objects are no longer imposing themselves, then in that openness of awareness, delight is all that is left and you can feel this delight whenever you are fully present. Ananda is the word that the yogis use. You could say the inherent vibration of awareness is delight
When you relax through the specific content of consciousness, when you are no longer having to process, recognise, label, understand, identify everything, the background delight becomes apparent; even when perceptions are occurring, even when thinking is happening. Delight is another word for emptiness. Delight is the tone, the quality, the scent of emptiness, of awareness itself. It is not enough to understand all this about objects and actions, form and emptiness, from your mind. It doesn’t matter how well you can understand. It doesn’t matter how much you agree. That’s not enough. You have to know from experience what objectlessness is. And you all know what it’s like: it’s there when you have that first kiss. You all know exactly what it’s like. This is emptiness. It is not a void. It’s a fullness, a fullness of delight.