Resolution – William
Early on, “mastery of the mundane” seemed a reasonable aim to me as a man number four. My understanding was that higher states could be accessed through the careful and attentive handling of my everyday activities. In other words, the impeccable handling of the lower could open the door to the higher.
My first encounters with people involved in the Fourth Way seemed to support this idea. It was explained to me that the use of controlled attention while performing daily tasks was a fundamental of their practice. I was given some general exercises designed to give me some experience and ultimately to allow me to acquire the understanding necessary to apply this principle to my own unique set of circumstances. Some of these exercises were quite new to me while others were very similar to some methods I had experimented with previously. Naturally, in the beginning, I leaned toward the latter.
The principle difference, I found was that now I was to apply these methods to dynamic life situations whereas before, I was using them in controlled, tailored conditions. This difference excited me a great deal. Before meeting the Fourth Way I had made many fruitless and disappointing attempts at formal types of meditation which had led me nowhere. Then at a certain point I found a method that was used while walking, which brought me my first real results. Later, I learned an exercise for doing the dishes where one listens carefully to the sounds of the water sloshing and the dishes clinking in the sink. This particular attempt produced such a change in my state that I became terrified and abandoned the exercise.
So it was that when I met the Fourth Way and found that the practices were remarkably similar to the ones that had produced results for me, I was quite eager to pursue this path. “Mastery of the mundane”, a sensible but somewhat vague aim, now had practical methods I could apply.
One of the first areas I brought this practice to was driving my car. At the time, I was driving a great deal so this seemed a good activity to work with. I started with “the listening exercise”. Because of my profession, I had become conditioned to differentiating what sounds were produced by what functions of an automobile and this seemed to help with the exercise. I would try to be aware of all the sounds simultaneously; the purr of the engine, the hum of the tires on the pavement, the wind rushing over the car, the sound of other cars passing me, the various rattles in the interior. The effort to create this “symphony” out of all the ambient noises had some effects. Spontaneously, I became aware of the vibrations on my feet through the floor boards and on my hands through the steering wheel. I became aware of my body in the seat. In short, I became aware of myself in the automobile.
Soon I began to try this during other activities. In the shower, I found that there were several distinct sounds that I could try to be aware of at the same time; the sound of the water coming out of the shower head was quite different than the sound it made striking the surface of the stall, and different again from the sound it made going down the drain. Again, I would often become aware of myself in the shower.
It did not take long for me to realize that upon meeting the Fourth Way, I had encountered a practical and reliable approach to producing and sustaining a level of self-awareness that had hitherto been quite elusive to me. What had previously been sporadic and haphazard had now become quite precise and calculated, almost a science. That is not to say that I could suddenly remember myself at will for as long as I wanted to, but both the frequency and the duration noticeably increased.
As the years have passed and my understanding has deepened, I have gradually accumulated an “inventory” of my repetitive, mundane activities and have endeavored to bring some type of effort to each every-day moment. At least, that is the plan. Every day is still a great challenge, but with a plan there is a better chance of remembering myself than there was before.