Knowing Awareness Itself

Awareness of thought, not trapped by thought.
Awareness of the physical, but not bound by the physical.
Awareness of emotions, and prior to emotions.
Awareness of silence, but not attached to silence.
Awareness of clear open space, but not identified with clear open space.
Awareness of Awareness itself?

Through the process of non-identification we learn what we are not. This is, in my opinion, the path to enlightenment. The process of non-identification is the practice of repeatedly becoming aware of experiences/activities, realizing that they are impermanent, that they are not you, and then ending your identification with them. During this process the question naturally arises, ‘At some point, can awareness become directly aware of itself?’ This is a very interesting question. I feel, as usual, the answer must be both yes and no. It all depends on your point of view.  My first inclination is to say no. This business of Awareness becoming aware of itself directly, independently of the objects of awareness, is a messy idea. It implies two things, the objects of awareness (e.g., thoughts, emotions, etc.) and Awareness itself. It is a dualistic concept. Besides that, what exactly do we mean by Awareness? What is it? Seems like an awkward use of the word. Can one know Awareness itself? The clear open space/silence in which the objects of consciousness arise – is that what some people are calling Awareness? If that is the case then, in my opinion, this is actually but a subtle object of awareness; it’s an experience, and when elevated to the status of a 'non-experience'   well, it’s bound to get in the way. No, awareness cannot become aware of itself; at least not independently of the objects of awareness.  My second inclination is to say yes – of course awareness can become aware of itself. What? Sure it can, but never as something separate from the objects of awareness. It all depends on your definition of awareness. Ultimately, and subjectively speaking, we could say that awareness is whatever is being experienced. Whatever is arising in this moment is awareness. However, as long as one perceives a dualistic world, composed of self and other, then you (awareness itself) will continue to search for yourself as that which is other than yourself (awareness itself). Or put in a somewhat less convoluted way, when the process of non-identification works itself to completion, the subtle experiences that were masquerading as this thing called Awareness (or what some people call Self) collapse into and as the objects of awareness leaving only this.

Or put even simpler, one might say: There is awareness of this and that is all.


Listen to this!

Listening to people, being fully present and open – it really is an art.  For me the challenge is usually finding a balance between emotional and intellectual understanding; a balance between caring about the person and caring about what the person is saying.  For example, yesterday I was listening to someone complain and complain, I mean she was really going on about anything and everything – from the lack of good quality ice cream available in stores these days to how long her kitchen renovation was taking. She appeared to me to be a deeply unhappy person. I could feel her pain, it was palpable, but the source of her pain was very unlikely a lack of good quality ice cream. So what is one to do? Was giving this individual my undivided attention helpful? (I know it was helping me – a good exercise in listening patience and body presence never hurt anyone, but was it helping her?) In response I found myself saying things like, ‘oh yes, oh I know – it’s terrible, although I suppose it could be worse.”

I could empathize with her emotional pain, which was very real, but found myself disregarding most of her words as unimportant ramblings. Was it beneficial to listen to her go on or was I simply reinforcing her habitual complaining tendencies? We do have a choice – to listen or not? Perhaps my attempt to formulate a general principle here is the real source of my dilemma. Real life is moment by moment, listen if you will, be honest, be sincerely engaged, pretend, lie, walk away – it’s up to you, decide and act! Listening to people – I suppose it will always be a work of art in progress. Anyway, thanks for listening to me go on about this . . .


Sticky Thought Webs

Do any of our words, written words, spoken words, do they ever get past the mind's defenses? Is it futile, attempting to use words to help free yourself from a prison constructed out of words? Flinging more words at a sticky word entity – what could happen but the creation of a higher, thicker, stronger web of words. Sticky, malleable web-like thought structures. Thoughts stuck to thoughts, creating you, a sticky thought entity. Hmmm ... are you caught in the mind's sticky thought web?  Or are you the sticky thought web itself?