Sunday, April 13, 2014
The Awareness Watching Awareness practice and some misconceptions cleared.
I've felt the need to write a few words about the Awareness Watching Awareness practice. This can be found in Michael Langford's book "The Most Direct Means To Eternal Bliss".
It has been one of my favourite pointers/practices, along with self-inquiry, for a number of years, and I still often enjoy this whenever the desire arises.
However, there are not many around who actually "get" the point of this practice, or who understand what it is actually aimed at. This is also partly due to the author's own unusual way of explaining things in his book, and partly due to the highly confusing nature of the words "awareness", "consciousness", and "attention".
I've seen so many posts online regarding this practice, and so many times the 'baby is thrown out with the bath water'.
Criticisms seem to be:
- 'The practice is dualistic, not non-dual' ie., since it asks one in various places to 'focus on your awareness', or 'notice your awareness', or 'watch your awareness', or 'awareness aware of awareness', it seems to imply:
1. multiple awarenesses
2. a doer who is performing the task
3. an owner of some private form of awareness
4. a pointless practice which attempts to find what cannot be found or perceived or conceived in any way (ie. awareness).
Of course, all of these points are correct.
BUT, and here is where 95% of those raising these points fail, the practice is not attempting to define nondual concepts or align with the accepted nondual understanding of how things 'work', but is a TEACHING DEVICE or POINTER, aimed at directing the identified (dualistic) mind back onto itself or its conception of what it thinks of as 'itself'. If one was already established in nondual awareness or pure seeing, then they would not even be bothering to perform the exercise. Anyone actually trying the practice, instead of thinking about the practice, would surely come to this understanding.
Now, having understood this, what exactly is the practice aiming for?
In my experience, the practice aims for the exact same result as:
- self-inquiry (Who am I?)
- Ramana Maharshi's pointers on turning the mind back to its source and the extinguishing of the "I"
- Nisargadatta's abiding in "I-am-ness"
- Gurdjieff and Ouspensky's self-remembering
- "Look at yourself" practice as promoted by people like John Sherman
One starts exactly where one is, right now, which is most likely a conceptual feeling/thought/energy of one's "me" or "I am-ness" or personal presence. Then, on remaining there for some amount of time, days, weeks, years, one's identified "I" entity then collapses or is seen through (as the illusion it is), and one drops back into the simple empty awareness that one inherently is (or is-not). Eventually even this comes to nought. (Nisargadatta's "prior to consciousness" idea).
For years, I was trying to grasp at some form or object to be grasped at called "awareness", which is a) impossible to conceive/perceive, and b) utilizing the mind/'I'-entity that is causing all of the trouble. Eventually, it was realized that the practice is, in fact, to aim precisely at the 'I'-entity, which ML means as "awareness", and which when focused on, by itself, becomes totally impotent, and eventually collapses. (Albeit after repeated use).
This can be done both in sitting, and in activity (despite ML's exhortations that it cannot be done in activity and it may interfere with one's tasks- which is at odds with my own experience, and many others who have taken to self-inquiry 24x7, and of course most of the teachers listed above).
So, in summary, there is nothing esoteric or special about the AWA practice, or which differs from the other common practices above, however, when understood correctly, it can be an excellent way for some to further abide in the "I-am" and thus hasten its ending.