First a significant teaching and quote:

Awareness is the natural, innate, knowing quality of mind that is with us all the time. We cannot function without awareness; we would have no experience of anything without awareness. However, we do not always recognize it. In fact, most of the time we don’t. Meditation teaches us to recognize the awareness that we already have.

There are three types of awareness: normal awareness, which we experience before we learn to meditate; meditative awareness, which comes with the recognition of awareness itself; and pure awareness, which occurs when our awareness deepens and we directly experience the nature of awareness.

The most pervasive quality of normal awareness is that awareness itself goes unrecognized. We remain so preoccupied and identified with every idea and image in our mind that we don’t recognize awareness itself. Awareness is always present. We cannot function without it, but we can function without recognizing it.

Meditation requires some degree of being aware of awareness itself. We become cognizant of the quality of the mind, not just the phenomena perceived by the mind…

As meditative awareness deepens, we may begin to experience what we call pure awareness. This isn’t some extraordinary state of consciousness. In fact, one of its main characteristics is that it’s completely ordinary. It’s simply the natural extension of the first glimpse of awareness that comes when we start to meditate. However, the meditation process itself connects us not only with the presence of awareness, but the very nature of awareness.

— Mingyur Rinpoche

The essence of the quote is that awareness of awareness is the key. In other words, beyond the contents of the mind, we’re capable of being aware of the quality and resource of awareness. This capacity is there, but it has to be cultivated, sharpened and honed.

We’re self-reflective creatures. We wonder and ask questions about the world, the universe, ourselves. It’s not always clear how far we introspect, however. Before we can be aware that we’re aware, we have to become insightful about our own inner makeup. Insightful in ways that lead to growth and healing. This leads to psychological wholeness, without which the spiritual path cannot be sustained.

Healing the mind takes place in two ways: In the first, we bring attention to the content of our thoughts and learn to redirect them more skillfully through practices of wise reflection. Through mindfulness, we can come to know and reduce the patterns of unhelpful worry and obsession, we can clarify our confusion and release destructive views and opinions. We can use conscious thought to reflect more deeply on what we value…

However, even though we work to reeducate the mind, we can never be completely successful. The mind seems to have a will of its own no matter how much we wish to direct it. So, for a deeper healing of the conflicts of the mind, we need to let go of our identification with them. To heal, we must learn to step back from all the stories of the mind, for the conflicts and opinions of our thoughts never end.

— Jack Kornfield

BLUE HIGH/golden glow, 2005 by Dawn Arrowsmith
BLUE HIGH/golden glow, 2005 by Dawn Arrowsmith

Disidentifying from the content of our own mind! Sounds like a tall order, yet it’s completely possible and achievable. Awareness is a natural quality we have. We don’t exactly partake of it in its fullness, but it’s there for us and it’s pervasive. Meditation is a primary way in which distance can be created between our personal content and awareness. Meditation is time spent with awareness, appreciating and recognizing awareness without any additives.

Once distance between content and awareness is well-established, once we understand the difference and recognize the two as they are, awareness is available to us even in downtimes, as mentioned in The Attributes of Growth to which this serves as a continuation.

Six attributes were identified in the previous post: practice, awareness, the seeker, courage, clarity, and love.

When we start off on the path, after whatever causes us to seek, we practice what we have found. Whatever instruction, teaching or methods have come into our life, they are implemented as they are, for a good long while. In fact, practice and awareness are never-ending. Neither are the other attributes.

In observing the pitfalls of spiritual living, one that stands out is the all-too-easy relapse to the dull mind, the one that is not in the mode of practice, of implementing the fruits of practice.

This happens for two related reasons: Practice is minimized in importance initially; the will is never developed for long term, steady practice. And as a result when life makes extra demands on us, because practice has been weak there isn’t the wherewithal to sustain insight, awareness and self-reflection. There’s formal practice which is a must, and there’s informal practice which is life itself.

Anything can be turned into practice but not if the groundwork isn’t there. With the groundwork in place, we can sustain gapless awareness.

Remember, life and the spiritual path that’s available through it is a marathon event, not a sprint.


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