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Awareness

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Awareness

Awareness and the Nonconceptual

Pure awareness is an aware ground, an aware medium that doesn’t know what it is aware of and doesn’t discern one thing from another. By nonconceptual I do not simply mean not mental, not constructed. I mean the barest minimum of sensitivity, the ground that is simply the capacity to be aware, to perceive. Therefore, by nonconceptual we mean non-cognitive. There is perception, but there is no knowing, no cognition of any kind.

Awareness Brings the Possibility of Seeing Truth

Awareness does not need to be motivated. It is what is there. We are always aware of something. As long as there is motivation for anything, awareness is restricted away from one thing and toward another. When there is no motivation, awareness will just be there, free. With awareness, there is a possibility of understanding, of seeing the truth. Because awareness and understanding are possible, freedom and happiness are possible. The correct perspective from which you can do this work is always to be aware of whether you are interested in the truth of what is happening right now, or whether you are trying to achieve something. Are you doing the work to acquire something, to arrive at a certain goal, or are you doing it because you love the truth?

Awareness is Necessary

Awareness is necessary not just for collecting observations for the process of understanding but really for all aspects of the work of inner development. It is also, of course, necessary for everyday practical living. Awareness is a characteristic of life itself, of all living matter.

Direct Mystical Knowing

Nonconceptual awareness, pure awareness, shows that “nonconceptual” does not simply mean not mental. What people conventionally refer to as nonconceptual is the range of experience beyond the thinking mind—something either felt or experienced immediately. Pure awareness reveals a more radical kind of nonconceptuality, one that is not any direct experience or feeling state but direct experience that doesn’t have any kind of knowing in it. Both cognitive knowing and direct mystical knowing disappear in the radical nonconceptuality of this dimension.

Discovery of Total Nonbeing

At the time that these nondual dimensions first came into focus, this discerning intelligence allowed us to investigate the stuff of pure awareness, which is not exactly “stuff,” because nothing is actually there. As we explored the nature of pure awareness, what was revealed was the absolute vastness—the absolute nature and source of awareness—which is much more mysterious than the emptiness of awareness. In other words, when you thoroughly inspect pure awareness, what you discover is total nonbeing. It’s not only that awareness is empty—which is the first striking thing about both of these dimensions—but also that it has a sense of nonbeing, a kind of radical nothingness, which basically reveals all manifestation as ephemeral and transparent.

Loss of Pure Perceptual Awareness

As human beings, we have the capacity to perceive without knowing and that is never lost. This capacity is the ground of cognitive knowing, because our knowing awareness developed as a facet of our original consciousness, our primordial awareness. But as the cognitive capacity develops its reifying capacity, we lose touch with the pure, perceptual awareness—the sensitivity itself without the cognitive knowing. We don’t know it exists because the perception and the knowing seem to happen at the same time, and we can't separate them. We perceive something and right away our cognitive capacity registers that we either know or we don’t know what it is.

The Capacity for Pure Noncognitive Experiencing

The dimension of pure awareness is a vastness, an empty, spacious ground where everything is a manifestation of this transparent clarity. Because it is nonconceptual, there are no memories or associations. Our experience is not patterned by our usual, constructed sense of self, so reality sears with newness and freshness. It seems as if everything is always new, as if everything is experienced for the first time, as if every perception is occurring immediately now. Experiencing this dimension when it first arose, we understood that awareness is a more refined way of recognizing presence. Awareness is the experience of presence without concepts, which allows the capacity for pure perception, for pure noncognitive experiencing.

The Ego Responds to Anxiety by Cutting off Awareness

As awareness expands, the person becomes aware first of the necessity to find ways of dealing with his superego. This is the first important task. Without this ability, the individual will find it extremely difficult to expand his awareness and deal with his unconscious. The reason is that the status quo of the personality is maintained by the superego. In particular, the status quo is continued by keeping the unconscious unconscious, by enforcing the defensive mechanisms of the ego. The agent that enforces these defensive functions is the superego. We need to understand the process of repression in order to understand this mechanism more fully: awareness of unconscious material causes anxiety to the ego. The ego responds to anxiety with repression; it cuts off awareness from the arising unconscious material. In this way it avoids experiencing the anxiety and thus avoids the disintegrating effect of the anxiety on the ego structure.

The Freeing and Expansion of Awareness

Awareness occupies a very special place among essential aspects. In a sense, inner development as a whole -- the work on both personality and Essence -- can be seen as the freeing and the expansion of awareness. The reason behind this is that the most basic function of the personality is the reduction of awareness. In fact, the deepest aspect of the personality is a restriction of awareness. The ego identity, which normally is called the self, exists on the deepest level as a contraction of awareness, a restriction of consciousness. To say it more accurately, the ego identity (the “I”) as a structure is on the deepest level a hole of awareness, or a deficiency of awareness, because of the loss of intrinsic and basic awakeness. This is the deepest and most defended hole in the personality.

Thought is Not Separate From Awareness

We usually think, “There is me, aware of a thought.” If we inquire a little deeper, we recognize that this statement is based on ordinary knowledge, the belief that there is an observer separate from the thought. If we continue this self-reflection, especially when we go beyond our belief in the observer, we recognize that the thought itself has awareness. We are aware of the thought because the thought itself is luminosity with a certain flavor and information. The thought itself is not separate from awareness, and awareness is knowledge; thus the thought itself is knowledge. It is not that the thought carries knowledge, as in ordinary knowledge; the thought is knowledge. It is consciousness with a certain form, and we call that form information. The knowingness pervades the thought itself as if the thought were some kind of fluid moving around and taking a shape. The shape it is taking is a concept or word that we recognize from ordinary knowledge. But the whole thing—the consciousness arising as thought fluid, which is formed into concept shapes—is knowledge, for it is consciousness with content.

What Awareness Means

Being aware means immediacy. It means that the tentacles of my soul are wrapping themselves around the feeling, penetrating it and all its parts, feeling it from inside and outside—because my awareness extends everywhere. If I am not fully aware of the situation, how am I going to find out the truth about it? And if I am not interested in paying attention to what is happening now, what does it mean when I say that I love being myself?
When you love somebody, you want to find out everything about them, don’t you? When you love something, what do you want to do with it? You want to know it. Love always translates into awareness, into knowing. If you love somebody, you want to see them, you want to know them, you want to be as completely familiar with them as possible. If you are really interested in being yourself, that interest begins with the awareness of where you are at this very moment. Being who you are can only arise from the love of being where you are.

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