What is Awareness? How can I become more aware?

As I travel to many places in the world doing Awareness sessions with people, I become increasingly aware of what a privilege it is to do this work, to share Awareness with people, to bring a greater Awareness to the situations and problems of everyday contemporary life. I realize how wonderful it is to have the gift of Awareness, and how strongly I believe that we all share this gift and can experience its presence ever more deeply. During my recent trip to Europe, after an evening workshop in which we explored simple meditations for experiencing greater Awareness in daily life, a woman came up to me and said, "What I experienced tonight was how aware I already am." Yes! That's the point. What we search for, greater Awareness, understanding, wisdom, is already there, in our everyday consciousness, our very own experience. So in this newsletter I have asked Awareness to speak about itself - what does it mean to be aware? How do we become more aware? How does an Awareness session help in this process?

Yes. Yes. Yes. What does it mean to be more aware? It means to be more aware of your fundamental, innate, clear Awareness. Awareness is your birthright. Many spiritual traditions and philosophies have defined different levels of consciousness, different ways of understanding consciousness. This can be confusing as they often contradict each other. Awareness is not an esoteric system of knowledge, a particular point of view. It is that which explores the universe and the self, understands it, and creates systems. At the same time, it simply is, here and now. We try to keep it simple, to help people experience their own greater Awareness, and to help people understand their own unique Awareness and to honor it. Everyone has a unique path, a particular way of meditation that works for them, a unique way of being aware. Working with people, we try to help each person discover that way rather than imposing a formula or assuming that there is one path that is right for everybody. One simple example is this: some people are visually oriented, some more kinesthetically, and some people have a strong auditory sense. If you are a primarily kinesthetic person trying to do visualization, you may feel very frustrated. Becoming more aware means in part becoming more aware of how you are aware; what your "style" of Awareness is. It means getting to know yourself.

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You can begin to become more aware of your Awareness in just a few moments of quiet, simple meditation. The word meditation scares many people. All we are talking about here is spending a few minutes (maybe two or three) becoming more aware of yourself. Try it. Sometimes even people who have been meditating for years have never spent their meditation time just noticing their own Awareness. It's surprising how much one can experience in a few minutes.

One sits down, closes one's eyes, and pays attention to what one is experiencing, in the body, in the mind. If it is comfortable, the breath can provide a focus for your attention. As you become aware of the breath, you also become aware of your Awareness of the breath. As you hear sounds, or feel sensations in the body, you become aware that you are hearing, or feeling. You become aware of your Awareness of the sound or sensation. You suddenly become aware that you have been thinking about what you have to do tonight, and rather than judging yourself, you become aware that you have become aware of your thought. Your Awareness is aware that it is simultaneously hearing, sensing, thinking, and paying attention to the breath. In the space of a very few minutes you experience how very aware you already are, now.

That stopping to notice your Awareness is such an important step in "becoming more aware." As you stop to notice that you are aware you develop your ability to stop. You develop your ability to stop certain old behavior patterns, old ways of being in the world. When you stop to notice your Awareness, you become aware that you have choice. The Awareness in you can choose its response to external circumstances. Let's say you develop this ability to stop and notice your Awareness. When you get out of the car you take a moment to stop, to stand there and become aware of your feet on the ground, the breeze blowing against your face, the sound of the traffic in the street. As you become aware of these things, you notice that you're aware. You stop. You step out of the wheel of conditioned behavior that says, I'm busy, what matters is that I get to my next task, I can't stop. In that moment, no matter how simple, you are experiencing Awareness, a liberation from your ordinary way of being. And then you go on with your day. And all the time that you're not aware of being aware - you're still aware! What else other than that Awareness in you thinks, moves your arms and legs, reacts, feels good, feels bad?

Then you stop again. You're crossing a street and the light is red. You take a moment standing there. You become aware of being aware, you notice again your feet on the ground, the people around you, the cars going by. And when the light turns green, you are still in that state of Awareness. You are aware of stepping off the curb, the shift in the rhythm around you as people move across the street, the lifting up of the foot on the other side. This doesn't sound very exciting, but those moments of Awareness add depth, flavor, texture and richness to life.

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Another way to become more aware of your Awareness is to choose a simple focus from the natural world, a certain kind of tree, or bird or flower, or clouds in the sky, or whatever you feel connected with. Choose a common one, that you're likely to encounter throughout the day. Begin to notice them as you move through your day. Take a moment to connect with the raven flying overhead or the oak tree on the corner. It's just a moment of noticing, not a long involved communication. A continuity of Awareness begins to happen, a thread you pick up throughout the day. As you notice the bird or the tree or the cloud in the sky, you become aware of yourself, and of the world you move in and are a part of.

As you develop the ability to become aware of being aware, to remember that you are aware, to experience the Awareness already there in you, then you can stop and become aware of an old habit pattern about to take over, and you become aware that your Awareness has choice. For example, you can notice an old habit pattern of self-judgment arising and recognize that you have the choice in that moment of Awareness to transform that judgment into compassion for yourself. An expanded Awareness, an Awareness of being aware, carries you into an expanded world, where at any given moment there are many more possibilities of how you can interact with the world around you or with your own internal state. There are more pathways to choose from, fewer walls, restrictions and limitations. Awareness dwells in a world where there are choices about how to respond, choices that are not only conditioned by your old experience, by your karma, your ancestry, or your childhood.

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Greater Awareness does not necessarily promise you constant happiness and abundance, the fulfillment of all your desires. It certainly brings expanded opportunities for all these. The process of becoming more aware can at times be painful. You become more and more aware of what is in your heart, your mind, your soul. It gets harder to ignore your feelings, your intuitions, your knowings. You become aware also of those conditioned patterns of behavior running over and over again. Here one can get discouraged. One asks, what good is all this Awareness if these patterns just keep right on going?

Sometimes the old patterns are even more painful because one sees them so clearly. In one's inner work, this is a great challenge, to continue to be with oneself, to not abandon oneself, to bring not just an Awareness but a compassionate Awareness to one's own patterns, to oneself. It is also these times when the assistance of others can be helpful. New information helps to break the loop of old habit patterns and conditioning. That new information can from many sources, from reading, from teachers, counselors, therapists, friends, spiritual practices, visualizations, affirmations, travel, creative expression. It can come from body or energy work that addresses the old patterns of energy in the body or energy field. Awareness constantly brings you new information.

Becoming aware of your Awareness and living from that Awareness is an on-going process. There are two fundamental aspects of this process: one is to become more aware of how aware you are. The second is to allow that Awareness to transform and release your conditioned self. Awareness sessions assist in both phases of this process. They are not only for crisis situations, for solving problems. Awareness sessions help reveal the pattern of who you are, and help you continue to shift the focus in yourself from those old conditionings to your greater Awareness.

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You can also do an Awareness session for yourself. Sit down quietly and meditatively with some questions about yourself and/or your life in the world, and a piece of paper and a pen. Meditate for a few moments. Invite the presence of Awareness. Sit quietly with your question (best to start with one at a time) and see what insights or understandings come to you. If you get involved in thoughts or emotions, simply allow them to arise, be aware of them, and allow them to subside, return to your meditation and see what insights arise. The essence of an Awareness session is to be in touch with the meditative consciousness and allow it to dialogue with the patterns and problems of your personal self. Your greater Awareness is compassionate and non-judgmental, so if the voice within you is making a lot of judgments and chastising or blaming you, that is not the voice of your Awareness.

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May you experience Awareness in ever greater abundance and may it bring you peace. May all beings be happy, peaceful and free of suffering.