When we typically speak of awareness, we speak of something founded upon, or related to, intellectual activity; something arrived at by thinking, contemplating, what-have-you. Intellectual awareness, the ability to draw conclusions, adequately assess one’s environment, etc., are all important and relevant to survival. The more intellectually adept we are, the more able are we to affect the kind of change that we wish to experience. However, when we speak of real awareness, the kind that transcends an everyday, ordinary experience of ‘reality,’ we are not speaking of intellectual activity.
This is one of the fundamental flaws in many ‘ways,’ ‘paths,’ or ‘systems’ that promise or allude to the possibility of ‘spiritual’ development. These terms are left in quotes due to the fact that they have become so overused as to have little meaning. What does it mean do be ‘spiritual,’ anyway? For the most part, this amounts to a new-agey way of denoting religious inclination sans dogma or doctrine. However, when most people inclined to use this word, use it to refer to themselves, what they are really referring to is what they perceive, or want to be an aspect of their identity; part of the ‘self’ that they wish to project to others. “I’m a spiritual person,” one may say. But, in point of fact, this statement often has little meaning beyond a statement of identity.
So, when I speak of awareness, of real awareness, what am I speaking of? Well, put simply, I am speaking of a direct experience of what is; of what is – beyond the self, beyond an egoic sense of identity, beyond any wishes or inclinations to project a sense of what one is to anyone willing to listen, beyond the ‘reality’ to which we have become accustomed; beyond what has so often been referred to as the world of illusion – ‘maya’ – to use a buddhist term – throughout thousands of years of ‘spiritual’ texts and teachings of masters, that it is intriguing, certainly in the West, that we, for the most part, have so little conception of what this might mean that it barely, if at all, factors into everyday consciousness.
What it comes down to, to break it down as simply as possible, is that real awareness is not tied to this version of reality, to our conception of ‘self’ or ‘selfhood,’ to an intellectual apprehension of what is. The intellect is of mind, what is is not. Plain and simple. One can not have a direct experience of what is through, or via, the mind. It is beyond mind. Beyond ‘maya.’
The mistake that many Eastern, and sometimes Western teachings, is that they advocate either knowing the mind, or focussing somehow on the mind, evolving or habitual thought patters, etc., as a means of traversing the parameters of mind, of illusion, in order to get at what is real, substantial, foundational, unquestionable. But it is unquestionable, because it does not lend itself to questions, nor does it succumb to a deductive process of reasoning. It is arrived at only purely. One does not ‘know’ what is by knowing the mind. This attempt must, as best, be circuitous, and more often than not, destined, of necessity to abject failure. Focussing on the mind is, in fact, the exact opposite process that is required to have a direct experience of what is.
In order to arrive at any kind of substantial experience of what is, we need to abandon our conception of intellectual reasoning as a viable process in this context. Awareness, the kind of awareness to which I am referring, is not a thinking state of being. This very statement is so contrary to a typical or traditional conception of what constitutes what is real, that it will be impossible to digest for many. For some, there will be an inkling of some kind of truth, of something potentially substantial, that it will inspire further effort. This is, of course, a necessary starting point.
What I am referring to, to wrap this up for the time being, by real awareness is more a ‘feeling’ state of being than it is a thinking state of being. It requires a simple process of ‘tuning in’ to what one is, in a feeling sense, rather than a looking outwards for a reflective confirmation of what one is; of developing a ‘feeling sense’ of self, rather than an intellectual-egoic sense of self. Turn inwards, relax, start to develop a feeling sense of what you are. Do not focus on the mind; allow thoughts to come as they come. Simply continue to focus inwards. Keep going back to that feeling sense of what you are. That is the process, in a nutshell, and we’ll pick up the rest next time.