Introducing Awake Awareness
To practice any form of mindfulness, we shift our awareness and level of mind to see things differently. Deliberate mindfulness uses attention and our observing mind, whereas effortless mindfulness comes from a particular level of mind and awareness that is not as familiar. Among other names, this unique level of mind and awareness has been called source of mind, nature of mind, unity consciousness, natural awareness, true nature, optimal mind, and heart-mind. I will call this level of awareness and mind awake awareness. Awake awareness is the foundation of knowing, like the quantum field from which individual particles of thoughts or waves of feelings appear.
Awake awareness is formless and contentless, yet knowing. At first, awake awareness feels like the absence of thought and an opening into more space. Then, we notice an alertness, a clarity, and a feeling as if we are aware from the open space. It’s not the same experience as knowing from thought, and it does not feel like “I” am aware. It is more as if we’ve shifted into an awareness that is already awake by itself, without our help. This is why it is called awake awareness.
Here’s a deeper look at what awake awareness is and isn’t:
- Awake awareness is our primary level of knowing, which is prior to thinking, includes thinking, and is also beyond thinking.
- Awake awareness is not an altered, transcendent, or even a meditative state. It is not attention, and it’s not mindful awareness; neither is it mindlessness or zoning out.
- There are many types of consciousness (patterns of experience) such as emotional consciousness, hearing consciousness, and thinking consciousness. Awake awareness is what makes consciousness conscious. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations are dancing patterns made of awake awareness.
- Awake awareness is clear and open, resting as peace of mind, while trusting that information or insight will come when needed.
- Awake awareness is the same in all of us, yet our individuality arises from it. Rather than looking to our thoughts, memories, personality, or roles to identify ourselves, through effortless mindfulness we come to know awake awareness as the primary dimension of who we are. Once we experience awake awareness as the foundation of our identity, we experience our conditioned thoughts, emotions, and sensations as waves within the ocean of our life.
- Awake awareness cannot be harmed by any strong emotional state. In other words, awake awareness is the source from which all emotional states arise and are experienced. We don’t have to leave or change our feelings to find essential well-being.
- Awake awareness is nonconceptual, invisible, formless, boundless, and timeless, yet it is our optimal level of knowing and the foundation of our identity. It is experienced in those times when we peek beyond the veil of our conventional experience and notice the silence that is the fabric of our everyday reality.
- Awake awareness unfolds into openhearted awareness, and then the natural qualities of well-being, compassion, and intuitive intelligence are revealed.
Awake awareness is the most important discovery we can make on our path of effortless mindfulness. However, in this approach, awake awareness is not the end goal, and we do not seek to remain in a detached witness state or a state of pure awareness. Instead, awake awareness will unfold into awake awareness-energy embodied and into open-hearted awareness. Similarly, as we will explore later in this book, effortless mindfulness could be called “effortless mindfulness embodied” or “effortless heart mindfulness” as we learn to live an awakened life.
GLIMPSE: Background Awareness
- Take one slow, deep breath.
- Let out a sigh.
- Now, let your awareness open to discover the background awareness that is already effortlessly awake and aware without your help.
- Notice that you can effortlessly focus from this background awareness.
The practice of effortless mindfulness begins as a simple shift or letting go to discover a naturally awake awareness that is already present all around and within us. One of my students described the experience like this: “I’m not aware of an open mind and an open heart. I’m aware from an open mind and heart that is connected to everything.” When we tap into this feeling of viewing from our wordless awake awareness, it opens us to a relief from suffering, natural joy, and compassionate connection with people and the world around us.
We have been taught that our intelligence, identity, and safety are based on developing and being centered in thought-based knowing, or what I will call our small mind. When we shift from our small mind to awake awareness as the source of mind, we discover that we are already effortlessly mindful. Effortless mindfulness is the way of knowing, creating, and relating from awake awareness. Although effortless mindfulness begins by letting go of everything, we ultimately become embodied, energetic, loving, and fully human.
GLIMPSE: Eyes of Awareness
- With a soft gaze, simply see what is here in front of you.
- Notice the awareness that is looking through your eyes.
- Now close your eyes and notice the same awareness that was looking out is still here.
- Simply rest as this wordless awareness, which is now aware of itself.
- Without creating a thinker, be the awareness that welcomes and includes everything.
After you have read the mindful glimpses in this book, I suggest you record the ones you like best in your own voice, at a pace that seems right for you, and then listen to your own voice lead you home.
This is an excerpt from The Way of Effortless Mindfulness: A Revolutionary Guide for Living an Awakened Life by Loch Kelly.