Newsletter of the Dogzen Group

February 2007

Nine Introductions to Awareness

Awareness has no observable qualities. Perhaps something deeper reports to us, but awareness is the base of all experience.

In other words, awareness has no observable qualities because there is nowhere else to look from.

Still, there are experiences that arise from this base that, to the mind, are "about" awareness itself, and these seem to communicate something of its nature to us. We find some primitive experiences that at least indirectly inform us of its nature. We hope to do this in a way that won’t violate our sensibilities about giving something that is wholly ineffable some identifiable characteristics. I'm calling these "introductions to awareness”.

I made a short list of introductions for you to examine. They will be familiar to those of you who have read the Dogzen newsletters or read Cultivating Naked Awareness. Check to see if you get introduced to awareness (or more introduced to awareness) by using these as guides. You can use each introduction as a practice to strengthen your awareness of awareness, using especially those that you feel weak or uncertain about. If one intro seems wholly beyond your knowledge, you can try meditating on it formally. You know, sit on your cushion and focus on it, being open to the experience that the introduction suggests. Or, you can just skip it for now.

The space-like nature of awareness

Experience awareness as a field or expanse. The space of awareness is everywhere and has no boundaries. It has no up or down, no measure, and even when filled with experience, the space itself is uncluttered. It does not change.

Tibetan monks stare into a flawless blue sky to remind them of the space-like nature of awareness.

Inner light - the luminous nature of awareness

Experience awareness as inner light. It is the lamp that illuminates the darkness. It lights the five senses and the mind. It illuminates the imagination and dreams.

You can practice experiencing inner light by mentally seeing your dreams or other mental pictures, paying special attention to the light that illuminates inner experiences. Some people report different qualities of light, but the basic one is utterly clear and simple.

Pure awareness aware only of itself

Detach awareness from what it is aware of and be aware of awareness itself. Awareness aware only of itself is pure, having no forms, no feelings, no perceptions, no mental objects, nothing within the field of consciousness. When pure awareness is aware of itself, there is just the empty nature of the capacity to be aware directly knowing itself.

This is a key Dogzen practice, done in dyad or in a solitary meditation.

Being present

Sit in one place with no current projects or purposes until you are conscious of just being present. This is the sense of being fully here as awareness. You aren’t caught in a mental thread or daydream. You are not pursuing your ambitions.

You can experience this in two ways, either the selfless form of being present (just awareness being aware), or the self form of being present (I am!).

Pure awareness turned toward experience - naked awareness

Experience life (in inner processes or in any of the five sense fields) from a base of pure awareness. This is a non-reacting state, where events and meanings, arising within the field or space of awareness, are simply observed or known by awareness. Nothing is added to the immediate experience. No evaluations, labels, names, stories, or anything like that. It is pure awareness of the unfolding “now”.

The base

Being grounded in the base, you are aware of the field of experience from the utter simplicity of pure awareness. Know the true nature of awareness at the root of all experience.

The base is best experienced in the flow of daily life as your true heart, your deepest root into the truth.

Empty at the beginning

Experience the emptiness that exists prior to a new thought or experience. It can be any experience, coming from the senses or from mental activity. Note how awareness is empty until there is an experience. Phenomena always spring from emptiness. Notice, also, how pure awareness can sometimes be obscured by the phenomena that appear.

Ingression of novelty

Stay on the edge of now and experience each fresh moment as the ingression of novelty, as THIS become the new THIS. Experience each moment as completely new.

You have to be very quiet, slow, and simple to get this to any depth. When you are right on top of it, it is awesome.

Direct knowing

From a state in which there are no mental or feeling overlays being laid on experience, and in which you are not engaged in any purposes, notice the intrinsic knowing that is taking place. This is non-conceptual knowing. It is knowing without bringing in mental associations or purposes. It is pure, direct knowing (with no description) of what you are experiencing right now.

That is the first set of introductions to awareness. Of course, there are others as well, but the ones listed here are a good start. Accomplishment of these leads to a profound shift in perception that changes your relationship to all of reality. As they become familiar, you find that your life improves as if by magic. Everything moves towards balance. In future newsletters, we'll pick out one or two of the introductions and go into each one more deeply.

Until next time, boundless joy and every blessing to you,