Why Don’t we Recognize Awake Awareness?

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Why Don’t we Recognize Awake Awareness?

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

When I went to India and Nepal in the 1980s I met a Tibetan teacher named Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche who freely gave out instructions for immediately recognizing awake awareness. The reason he was convinced that it was possible for us to awaken was because he had awake awareness shown to him when he was eight years old. Then after doing three 3 year retreats, he reported that awake awareness was the same, so he generously shared this with me and others. Recognizing awake awareness does not require great intellectual understanding. But simply learning how to shift out of the optical delusion of our current constellation of consciousness. It becomes as easy as shifting back and forth between seeing the cup and the two faces in the image above.

Here’s an in-depth description of this from my book, Shift Into Freedom:

“If awake awareness is something we’ve all experienced, and if it’s so close and accessible, why isn’t it more familiar to us? How could we have we missed it? Why haven’t we been able to access it intentionally? If awake awareness has so many benefits, why isn’t it primary on our psychological maps? The Shangpa Kagyü Tibetan Buddhist tradition gives us a poetic response to the question of why we don’t recognize awake awareness. We don’t recognize awake awareness because it is:

So close you can’t see it,

So subtle your mind can’t understand it,

So simple you can’t believe it,

So good you can’t accept it,

We’re so smart and our lives are so complex that it’s hard to believe that simply discovering awake awareness could be the solution to our suffering. It’s also hard to believe that the most important discovery is already here within us; we don’t have to go on an odyssey to find it, earn it, or develop it.

We’re so used to knowing ourselves through our troubles, our dramas, and our obsessions that awake awareness, which is our true nature and our basic goodness, is hard to accept as our true identity.

Many of us have unwittingly glimpsed awake awareness throughout our lives. In fact, we often seek its enjoyable qualities without realizing that awake awareness is their source. From our current level of mind we cannot experience our ground of Being, deep wisdom or open-hearted awareness. Although we may not have known it, whenever we experienced love and wisdom, it has always been because we shifted levels of mind.

Many of us have unknowingly dropped into awake awareness while walking in nature, being creative, making love, or playing sports; some of us have experienced it through crisis that became opportunity. Although activities like nature walks are pleasurable in themselves, they also relax the dominance of ego-identification, allowing awake awareness to emerge from the background.

When we go hiking and get to the top of a hill, our seeking to reach a goal stops. We relax fully, and our identity as the seeker drops away, revealing the awake awareness that was naturally there all along. At times like these, natural qualities of awake awareness show up — among them clarity, boundless freedom, peace of mind, joy, connection, and a sense of wellbeing. Because we don’t know that the source of our joy and freedom is already within us, we might say later, “I feel miserable these days. I’ll just have to wait until I can go back to the top of that hill again next year.”

There’s an old wisdom saying: “Silence is not the absence of sound but the absence of self.” In other words, we don’t need to go to a physically quiet place. We can experience both the deep stillness and the dancing aliveness that arise simultaneously. Silence and stillness are here now within you as you are reading this blog.

Awake awareness and its natural qualities are not connected to any specific place, person, or activity — nor is awake awareness dependent on any internal thoughts or external conditions. If we try to re-create our experience by going back up that hill, our expectant state may keep us from letting go of the seeking mind long enough to allow awake awareness to be revealed again.

Many of us have tried to find awake awareness. We’ve tried to earn it through good deeds, achieve it through meditation, or pray that it will be granted. Some believe that it’s available only to the highly evolved. Others believe it only appears through luck or a kind of grace that is either given to us or absent from our lives. When the obscuration of ego-identification dissolves, it can seem as if grace or awake awareness had been absent and then newly arrives from somewhere else.

What if awake awareness is not earned by good deeds or given only to a fortunate few? What if awake awareness is not missing and does not come and go? What if awake awareness is always already here, inherent within each of us? We can learn to become grace prone by becoming familiar with opening to the grace that’s always here within and around us.”

GLIMPSE PRACTICE:  Awareness of Awareness

1. Look out at an object in the room. Notice being aware of that object.
2. Now notice being aware of seeing.
3. Now close your eyes and feel that the same awareness that was used to look outward can now be aware of awareness. Allow awareness to be interested and aware of itself: awareness resting back to become the subject and the object. Feel awareness as intimate, soft, spacious, and pervasive.
4. Let go of interest in thoughts, sentences, ideas, or points of view. Allow your awareness to be interested completely in awareness.
5. Let the awareness rest as the awareness that already knows itself and is aware of arising experiences.
6. Notice what it is like to be aware from awareness rather than from thinking or ego-identity.

You can find many more “glimpse” practices in my guided meditation program, which will help you come to an immediate (and repeated) recognition of awake awareness. You can find them HERE