In a recent post titled Cat and Mouse, I discussed a cat and mouse game awareness was playing with itself. For a period of time, awareness, through this unit, would try to catch any moment during which awareness was notpresent. The conclusion, of course, was that awareness cannot NOT find when awareness is NOT there. Indeed, awareness is present all the time.
First, notice that you can become aware of your own awareness. Turn your attention onto itself and you will see that that awareness is always present. Now, sometimes you might be conscious of your own awareness. And other times, you might not be conscious of your awareness.
(Note that when I use “I” or “your”, for example, I am not referring to the fact that there is a ‘me’ or a ‘you’ that has or can take possession of awareness. Indeed, awareness, not your thoughts about who you are, is what you really are: your true self. Awareness is prior to any thoughts that arise.)
Engaging in this form of inquiry might hopefully lead to a stabilization as awareness.
Once that occurs; once there is conviction that you are not your thoughts and belief systems and that the ‘me’ is an illusion, there also arises the conviction that, although awareness seems prior to any thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions that might arise, you do not know what you are.
Your experience might be that whatever awareness is, it is always present. At this point, spiritual seeking typically ends. After all, what is there for you to look for? You are now in full awareness that you are awareness itself.
However, that doesn’t mean that identification still doesn’t happen or that energy patterns and belief systems still arise that cause suffering. Indeed, this post awakening business seems just even more full of traps than before awakening, from thinking that we're as enlightened as the Buddha, to thinking we should do something with or share this understanding, to getting complacent until an old "constellation of conditioned shit" is somehow triggered, leading to some form of (re)identification and, concomitantly, suffering. All this activity, whether re-identifying or grasping onto old stories or believing or attempting to grasp onto a new one demands extreme vigilance.
Unless there is full and complete stabilization as awareness, and even when there is full and complete stabilization as awareness (or what Adyashanti calls an abiding awakening), it is easy to forget to be mindful of those conditioned patterns that seem to reside at the genetic, epi-genetic, cellular, or energetic level, including unconscious cognitive structures that have yet to fully been exorcised. Because, without due diligence in identifying those conditioned patterns, one day, something might operate as a trigger (for example, an argument with a loved one; losing a job), and bam, identification occurs and, consequently, suffering arises.
So, what I describe now is a follow-up form of inquiry oriented around identifying thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions that contribute to reidentification with a ‘me’ or a belief system, and of suffering.
The process is to allow your attention to be open to noticing any form of resistance or constriction, whether in the form of a physical sensation, such as a tightness in the chest, or a recognizable feeling, such as anxiety, or a thought or belief that seems to stick.
This type of inquiry does not necessitate asking questions; but rather, it involves constant scanning and paying attention to what arises. In particular, it requires attention paying attention to what arises internally¾in the body and in the mind¾for any thought, feeling, sensation, or perception that might lead to identification. For example, you might feel a sense of constriction in your chest, which might feel like something you’ve previously labeled as anxiety. You might have a follow-up thought, such as “I’m anxious.” Or, you might sense a clenching in your gut or what you might have previously labeled as fear, which might be followed by a sense that “I am afraid.” Or you might notice a feeling that seems like sadness and the thought that “I am sad.” Or you might notice a thought about specific preferences about what should be or should not be happening in your life.
Notice that bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts often go hand and hand with each other and arise simultaneously. Sometimes, it is easy to identify the thought that correlates with a specific physiological or bodily constriction. Sometimes, it is not. Regardless, put your attention precisely where you notice the energetic constriction or feeling.
In other words, this form of inquiry involves becoming aware of those arisings that might cause us to go unconscious; that take us out of our natural state of conscious awareness. It also involves examining the belief structures that surround a physiological sensation or a feeling, or the physiological sensations and feelings that accompany a thought.
Do not attempt to analyze these sensations, perceptions, feelings, or thoughts. Remember, they are not you! Think of them as merely patterns of energy. Notice them. Feel into them. See what else arises along with them. As you do, you might notice that the energy pattern dissipates. The key is to not feed the energy pattern by thinking about it or analyzing it. Rather, just observe it.
At first, doing this form of inquiry might require taking time to practice, such as when you meditate. It might require dedication to the practice. And it might require the utmost in vigilance. However, over time, such inquiry might naturally happen.
The more you practice this, the more you clear out of all those conditioned energetic, emotional, and mental patterns that cause suffering and the more easily you abide as awareness itself.
Ultimately, you might find yourself at the razor’s edge of conscious, in which you are not only fully present as awareness itself, but also fully aware of the first “I thought” arising; the thought that creates separation; the thought that creates worlds; the thought that creates what we experience as reality. This topic—the razors edge of consciousness—will be explored in another post.