We all have a grand narrative, the story of our lives. This story tends to be composed of our thoughts, a palate of colorful emotions, and a rich array of bodily sensations. We take it for granted that this narrative is “me.” There is a way in which this narrative is me, but is it all of me? Various wisdom schools invite us to contemplate our felt experience and notice what else is already here. Following is a brief meditation that guides you to make contact with unchanging awareness.
What is here?
1) Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and allow yourself to know there is nothing to think about, solve, or do for the next few minutes. You can not do this exercise “wrong.”
2) Allow yourself to feel your feet on the floor, your legs and back supported by your chair. Adjust your posture as needed to get comfortable. Follow the inhalation and exhalation of your breath without attempting to adjust your breathing. Just notice the in and out of your breath. The rise and fall of your chest. (Pause)
3) As you feel yourself settle, notice the sounds in your environment. Perhaps you hear traffic in the distance, the ticking of a clock, the chirp of birds, the whirl of a lawn mower. Let all the sounds be as they are and notice “I’m aware of sounds.” (Pause)
4) Now bring your attention to the sensation of touch. Notice the feel of the ground underneath your feet. Notice your hands. Perhaps your palms are folded and making contact with each other. Perhaps your palms are making contact with your legs, your chair. Notice the sensation of touch in your hands. Let these sensations be as they are and notice “I’m aware of touch.” (Pause)
5) Now bring your attention to inner sensations in your torso. Rest your attention on your shoulders, then your heart, and then your belly. What do you notice? Perhaps you feel a tightness or stiffness. Perhaps you notice a tingling or warmth. Perhaps you notice a pressure or heaviness. Perhaps you notice an inner sense of openness or spaciousness. Let these sensations be as they are, no right or wrong, and notice “I’m aware of sensation.” (Pause)
6) Now bring your attention to your emotional landscape. Are you feeling content? fearful? agitated? calm? angry? sad? peaceful? Again, no right or wrong, simply noticing emotions are present. Let these emotions be as they and notice “I’m aware of emotion.” (Pause)
7) Finally, bring your attention to your mind. Rather than getting caught up in your thinking mind, can you simply notice thoughts as you would observe passing clouds in a sky? The thoughts may be about the past, the future, pleasant or unpleasant. Without trying to change the thoughts, without trying to control the thoughts, simply notice that thoughts are present. Allow yourself to notice “I’m aware of thoughts.” (Pause)
8) Please notice, as you’ve been engaged in this exercise, experience comes and goes. Sensations, emotions, thoughts, all arise and fall away, endlessly changing. The content of your awareness continuously changes, but awareness itself remains unchanging. Allow yourself to rest in and as this silent awareness. Rest in your true nature. Rest here as long as you would like. (Pause)
9) When you are ready, wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly open your eyes, and savor this sense of awareness and presence before getting up and continuing your day.
This is a deceptively simple but powerful meditation that brings us into contact with our awareness. Our awareness is always present, always registering experience, but it is something we tend to overlook. Our awareness is open, vast, and empty of definition. It is not an object and it is experienced by the mind as no-thing or nothingness.
As we learn to attune to awareness, it tends to have qualities of openness, vastness, emptiness, and freedom. As our experience of awareness deepens, we tend to experience awareness as alive, loving, and pregnant with creativity. We begin to realize awareness is the source, the field, the wide open expanse and ground, out of which all experience arises. Awareness is intimate with everything. Awareness knows everything as itself and loves everything as an intimate expression of itself. This is what you are.
Action: Throughout the day pause and notice experiences that you are aware of, such as sounds, emotions, or inner felt sensations. Then notice that it is awareness that is registering these experiences. Awareness is more fundamental than what you are aware of. Awareness itself never changes. The more you practice, the easier it will be to rest in and as unchanging awareness.