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Meditation for the Real World

Awareness

  • What does it mean to be aware?
  • How do we become more aware?

    Many spiritual traditions and philosophies have defined different levels of consciousness, different ways of understanding consciousness. This can be confusing as they often contradict each other. Awareness is not an esoteric system of knowledge, a particular point of view. It is that which explores the universe and the self, understands it, and creates systems. At the same time, it simply is, here and now.

    Everyone has a unique path, a particular way of meditation that works for them, a unique way of being aware. Every person must discover the way rather than imposing a formula or assuming that there is one path that is right for everybody. One simple example is this: some people are visually oriented, some more kinesthetically, and some people have a strong auditory sense. If you are a primarily kinesthetic person trying to do visualization, you may feel very frustrated. Becoming more aware means in part becoming more aware of how you are aware; what your "style" of Awareness is. It means getting to know yourself.

    You can begin to become more aware of your Awareness in just a few moments of quiet, simple meditation. The word meditation scares many people. All we are talking about here is spending a few minutes (maybe two or three) becoming more aware of yourself. Try it. Sometimes even people who have been meditating for years have never spent their meditation time just noticing their own Awareness. It's surprising how much one can experience in a few minutes.

    One sits down, closes one's eyes, and pays attention to what one is experiencing, in the body, in the mind. If it is comfortable, the breath can provide a focus for your attention. As you become aware of the breath, you also become aware of your Awareness of the breath. As you hear sounds, or feel sensations in the body, you become aware that you are hearing, or feeling. You become aware of your Awareness of the sound or sensation. You suddenly become aware that you have been thinking about what you have to do tonight, and rather than judging yourself, you become aware that you have become aware of your thought. Your Awareness is aware that it is simultaneously hearing, sensing, thinking, and paying attention to the breath. In the space of a very few minutes you experience how very aware you already are, now.

    That stopping to notice your Awareness is such an important step in "becoming more aware." As you stop to notice that you are aware you develop your ability to stop. You develop your ability to stop certain old behavior patterns, old ways of being in the world. When you stop to notice your Awareness, you become aware that you have choice. The Awareness in you can choose its response to external circumstances. Let's say you develop this ability to stop and notice your Awareness. When you get out of the car you take a moment to stop, to stand there and become aware of your feet on the ground, the breeze blowing against your face, the sound of the traffic in the street.

    As you become aware of these things, you notice that you're aware. You stop. You step out of the wheel of conditioned behavior that says, I'm busy, what matters is that I get to my next task, I can't stop. In that moment, no matter how simple, you are experiencing Awareness, a liberation from your ordinary way of being. And then you go on with your day. And all the time that you're not aware of being aware - you're still aware! What else other than that Awareness in you thinks, moves your arms and legs, reacts, feels good, feels bad? Then you stop again.

    You're crossing a street and the light is red. You take a moment standing there. You become aware of being aware, you notice again your feet on the ground, the people around you, the cars going by. And when the light turns green, you are still in that state of Awareness. You are aware of stepping off the curb, the shift in the rhythm around you as people move across the street, the lifting up of the foot on the other side. This doesn't sound very exciting, but those moments of Awareness add depth, flavor, texture and richness to life.