“To be or not to be”

Sometimes I have those moments: I can’t really be present, I don’t feel alert, my ‘head’ isn’t functioning well, and my mood doesn’t improve as a result. Sounds familiar, right?
What’s happening? Why am I not functioning properly even though I don’t feel sick or haven’t overindulged the night before? It’s all about my ‘awareness’, about perceiving ‘what is’ at that moment. I’m not perceiving well. My perspective isn’t ‘broad’. My mind seems clouded, scattered, dull. I feel ‘heavy’. Internal consideration is lurking…

These are the exceptions I notice myself. But when I truly reflect on my inner state, I realize that more often than not, I’m not really present. More often than I’d like, I’m not fully attentive to my surroundings and I’m in a sort of waking sleep. In a state of action and inaction that is rather mechanical. Because of this, I miss many things. For example, I don’t really see the person in front of me, but an image of that person that has formed in my head.
There’s a good term for this state of mind: I’m ‘closed off’!

Looking within

At times like these, it’s essential to start observing within myself. I need to go ‘inward’. Is there perhaps a feeling that’s emerging but being ignored by me? Shouldn’t I spend some time addressing it?
Ignoring a feeling consumes energy. And it takes up headroom in our daily work, or better said: heartroom. It limits conscious freedom. Because the feeling demands attention, and if it doesn’t receive it, it influences everything we do from the background. Therefore, an inner light of Consciousness needs to shine on it, so we can resolve the mental obstruction that confuses or dulls us, which is often caused by an unnoticed feeling, just like a shadow disappears when sunlight shines on it.

Once we have identified the confusing feeling, we should simply feel it without wanting to act on it or delve deeper into it. So without judging it, without acting upon it, without explaining it, without expecting anything from it, and without overthinking it.
Perhaps at some point, an association will come to mind. A hint is given to us. An image or memory that provides energy to the emerging feeling. It’s essential to pay attention to this arising association. What does it tell us? Is it something old? Or is it something recent that we didn’t want to pay attention to, something we ignored, or even didn’t notice at all?

We can, while feeling with full attention, let this emotion unfold in the observation of how it affects us. Understanding for the feeling arises. Aversion or resistance to this feeling changes into gratitude, because it had something to tell us. It conveyed something vital in the context of becoming internally free.
An essential part of this process is to let go and dedicate the causations, as soon as they become clear to us.


Having done this, we can return our attention outward. Observing everything around us, we again engage with the present environment, seeing and feeling everything happening around us. This shift can be accompanied by physical movements like stretching, yawning, stretching exercises, and so on.
We return to self-remembrance. We integrate the outward-focused attention with the inward one. Thus, both the outer and inner world simultaneously fall into our perception. We are then present with a clearer self-awareness, for as long as it lasts. In those moments, wherever we are, we are observing, feeling, and acting with self-awareness.

By then, much has changed within me: I perceive much better; I notice much more. My mind is free and gains the right focus. My subtle senses are working again. I feel light and also sense those around me. External consideration becomes easy.
There’s a good term for this state of mind: I am ‘open’!
Not only is my attention open, but my heart is also open; and when my heart is open, I feel more love for ‘what is’.

We go through life with a kind of flashing consciousness: on/off, open/closed, aware/unaware, conscious/unconscious, and the conscious on-moments can become more frequent and prolonged as we spend more time in self-remembrance.

So ask yourself: Am I open? Or am I closed?

“Open or closed”: that is the question we must continually ask ourselves.
“To be or not to be”… that’s the question, indeed! That’s how Shakespeare meant it.

Try immersing yourself among people where it’s busy. It doesn’t matter where. In a bustling supermarket, on a crowded platform, in a shopping street. A place where people are waiting is very suitable for this purpose.

Be in self-remembrance and thus fully aware of the situation and your own inner state within that situation. Look at the people around you. Not in an attention-grabbing way, but modestly. Look into everyone’s eyes. Then notice if the person behind those eyes is open or closed. You can actually see it clearly! Are the eyes clouded or dull or staring? Or are they clear, alert, and observant? Are they connected to their surroundings, or are they internally separated from it?

You’ll find that many people, unfortunately, are closed off. They are either lost in thought, acting on autopilot, and thus not truly perceiving: only what is directly in front of them in their action; or they are, in a sense, loudly present, as young people often are in public spaces.
Both indicate a state of waking sleep and identification with one thing or another. Alertness is rare!

Every once in a while, you’ll encounter awake eyes. What’s remarkable is that you instantly feel a kind of connection with that person; a recognition. It’s fleeting, of course, but it’s there. A mutual silent smile isn’t improbable and is actually expected: you encounter another awake ‘you’ (In lak’ech ala k’in).

© Michiel Koperdraat