Self Inquiry into the Essence of Awareness
At some point you may be tempted to believe yourself to be some object or definable entity known as ‘awareness’. While it’s important to view your fundamental identity as natural awareness, free from clinging to thoughts, it is vitally important to understand and recognise the essence of that awareness as having no-boundaries and non-findable with conceptual thinking.
Not even the greatest neuroscientist has found awareness by looking in the brain, with access to the most sophisticated and sensitive technologies known to man.
It has no definable shape or boundaries, no definable place, no definable or findable anything except for the non-verbal experience of it, within it.
It is this formless and non-objective mystery that one must directly contact when inquiring into the essence of awareness.
“People are scared to empty their minds fearing that they will be engulfed by a void. What they don’t realize is that their own mind is the void.” ~ Zen Master Huang Po
First we will investigate, through questioning and inquiry, into the nature of our own awareness.
This type of self-inquiry is unfamiliar to many, which makes it even harder when we are investigating such a subtle noumenon or non-physical entity as awareness.
The key is to use not only the intellect to think about what awareness is, but to switch back and forth using clear awareness itself to peer deeply into the mind as well. The previous mindfulness training becomes indispensable at this point in order to have stable enough attention and focus without distraction, which enables the meditator to peer deeply and intensely into their own minds.
Meditation for Inquiring into the Essence of Awareness
1) Assume the correct meditation posture.
2) Compose yourself in a relaxed and natural way, without clinging to any thought; allow each thought to dissolve by itself.
3) Rest in this natural and mindfully aware state without getting distracted.
4) Once you are calmly abiding, begin inquiry by thoroughly investigating and looking directly into your own awareness.
5) Question the nature of your awareness: What is the shape of my awareness? Does it have any boundaries?
Does my awareness have a certain colour or a certain sound to it? Where does awareness arise from and where does it go?
6) After thoroughly investigating intellectually and looking directly, isn’t it true that awareness is unfindable as an object?
Isn’t it true that awareness cannot be captured by a thought or concept?
7) Instead, isn’t it a totally unidentifiable, aware, unconfined and lucid wakefulness that knows itself by itself?
8) In a calm and even state of meditation, look directly to see whether it is an experience empty of any ‘thing’ experienced —
That is the essence of your mind! None of the meditation instructions on this page do you any good whatsoever unless you actually practice them. Just like medicine is of no use unless you actually take it, meditations are of no use unless you train in them. It is highly recommended that you give at least a week’s worth of training, doing 2 sessions a day of 30 minutes each, if you would like to to taste the true experience and power that meditation has to offer. All the great mystics have reported their experiences using terms like eternity, emptiness, oneness, complete openness, and complete freedom.
Next is a meditation using the metaphor of space as an example of what the great mystics and contemplatives have found in their own journeys of self-inquiry, to give the meditator a direct experience of the mystics’ discoveries.
Meditation for Experiencing the Essence of Awareness
1) Assume the correct meditation posture.
2) Compose yourself in a relaxed and easy way, stay open and alert without distractions.
3) Follow your breath and blend your awareness with the breath itself;
as your out-breath leaves your body and dissolves into the space in front of you,
imagine your awareness is likewise dissolving into the space in front of you as well.
4) Imagine your awareness becomes like a vast and spacious blue sky.
5) Remain with the sense that your awareness has no boundaries and is infinite like the sky;
6) Just like different clouds cannot harm the sky and never stain the sky in any way,
remain impervious to any thoughts, not allowing them to touch your sky-like nature of mind.
7) Dwell and sustain clear moments of awareness between the gaps in thoughts as much as possible.
# This meditation training can be done with great effect by sitting outdoors gazing into a clear blue sky.
The key is to not cling to any thoughts, remain without fears or hopes, content in the present moment,
and allow your awareness to be as open, as expansive and as spacious as possible.
“Saints and mystics throughout history have adorned their realisations with different names and given them different faces and interpretations, but what they are all fundamentally experiencing is the essential nature of the mind.”
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
The ‘I AM’ Meditation
“You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are.
Watch the sense ‘I am’, and find your real Self.
Go deep into the sense of ‘I am’ and you will find your true Self.
How do you find a thing you have mislaid or forgotten?
You keep it in your mind until you recall it.
The sense of being, of ‘I am’ is the first to emerge.
Ask yourself whence it comes or just watch it quietly.
When the mind stays in the ‘I am’, without moving, you enter a state,
which cannot be verbalised, but which can be experienced.
Hold on to the sense ‘I am’ tenaciously and do not swerve from it even for a moment.
This will bring an end to the mind;
in the stillness of the mind you will see yourself as ‘I am’ — unbound.
The sense of ‘I am’ is always with you, only you have attached all kinds of things to it –
body, feelings, thoughts, ideas, possessions and so on.
All these self-identifications are misleading,
because of these you take yourself to be what you are not.
All you need to do is to try and try again to stabilise within the naked ‘I am’ experience.”
~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj