Whenever we are touching upon the basic qualities of awareness, we are touching upon the basic nature of our being. We can notice that awareness is just aware. At any time of the day we can touch into this deep ground of our mind. We can decide to be only aware.
By the way, if you like you can still enjoy the free and self-paced online course Relaxing into Meditation.
Calm and stability
I find the teachings by Adyashanti on awareness to be especially clear. The above paraphrase from a recent talk of his might seem to be somewhat obscure, but let me explain here why I like it. The posts Challenge and Reactivity circled around the choice and freedom that we can find in our daily life. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh teaches the analogy that, during a ferocious storm, it’s better to seek refuge by the trunk of a tree than in its branches. In the same way we can find far more peace and stability in our ability to simply be aware than in engaging in our constantly changing thoughts, tendencies, and reactions.
If we are observing our mind during everyday life, we can see constant busyness. We are using our ability to think, to plan, to make spontaneous choices, and to act in friendly and coordinated ways throughout the day. In other words we are using our special human abilities to function in life.
Another way we can use our mind is to let it rest. Maybe we think we are doing exactly that many times, when we are daydreaming, Internet surfing, watching TV, when we sleep and take a break in any other way. By self-observing our own mind and also by physically measuring brain activity, we can discover that there are many different ways, depths, and nuances of activity our mind can rest in.
Space and Peace
If we visit our favorite coffee shop, we experience an atmosphere we like. Maybe it allows for well-being and relaxation. Entering the lounge room in a sauna, we are stepping into a space that is meant to help us feel calm and to relax. In the same way our own bedroom, our sofa, and our favorite beach might inspire joy, relaxation, and peace. Where is our favorite place to find calm and peace?
What would it be like if we could know for sure that we can feel like that in many different places? The benefit of meditative exercises is that we can train this ability. In this way we learn the skills that allow us to experience relaxation, peace, and openness in the supportive environment of formal exercises. This makes it easier to apply these skills in busy daily life.
Finding Space in Awareness
If we are consciously aware, then there is space. Let’s discover that together by just noticing. For example, you are sitting now in a certain place reading these lines. There are many other impressions than just this text. There are sounds in your direct environment, movements in your mind like thoughts or even worries. Also your body has different sensations, is touching different surfaces, maybe a chair, a table, an electronic device. Maybe there are sensations of tiredness, some pain, hunger or a full stomach, thirst, nervousness or well being, joy, and many more. We can be aware of all of these impressions and sensations. In this way there are many different elements in our awareness, and we can choose one to focus on.
We can also be aware of the whole “orchestra of impressions” present at the same time. In other words, we can be aware of the wholeness of the “one symphony” of all of these sensations. If we experience all these as “one sound,” we have changed our approach, have taken a different mode of listening to our experience.
Notice how it feels to listen to this wholeness. How would you describe it? Perhaps “full,” “energetic,” even “intense” might be experiences you have. Or something else, whatever it is, it’s your experience. Also you might notice the spaciousness of the experience. And did you notice how the mind can naturally quiet down in this kind of listening?
So in being aware of the wholeness of an experience it also can seem completely spacious, totally spacious. All of these different impressions are happening in the same space, the space of our awareness.
In this slightly indirect way we can access the space in which everything exists, the space of (our) awareness. This might seem strange at the beginning and needs some training and experience.
Oneness of Awareness
Noticing this spaciousness is where many Buddhist methods begin. This ground, this space, this awareness existed before all our problems began. Is it possible to simply be, to simply be aware? Is it possible to be aware without judgment and opinion, without any description, story, and reaction? Awareness itself doesn’t comment, it simply is.
Every day we can allow ourselves some seconds or moments to simply be, to simply be aware. If we do so, we can find a greater space than we might usually inhabit and feel less caught up in our mental and emotional states. These are happening, but they are happening in the space of our experience, the space of our awareness. They can be there and we can be aware of them, without having to react towards them. We can experience the space which contains our different states and this space is larger than they are, greater than our thoughts and reactions.
This doesn’t mean we are escaping our thoughts, emotions, and our states. If we get this idea, we can notice that the thoughts, emotions, and states are still there too. What it does mean is that we are seeing that they are merely aspects within our experience. Even facing a huge challenge ahead, we can still see the sun rising in the morning and the rabbit that is running alongside the road. In the same way the birds sing outside and the flowers move in the wind, though we just broke a glass in the kitchen.
This is a path, it takes time, but finding space, we can integrate more and more of it into our daily life. First we need to find it, again and again.
I wish that you might have a nice summer week!
Once again I’d like to mention that I’ve prepared a present for you to celebrate the middle of this year-long blog:
a free, simple, and self-paced three-week course called Relaxing into Meditation.