Awareness and Release –The Two-Step Dance of Awakening

Arjuna said, “My Lord! The mind is turbulent … extremely difficult as the wind to control.” Lord Krishna replied, “Doubtless, O Mighty One! The mind is fickle and exceedingly difficult to restrain, but with practice and renunciation it can be done.” – The Bhagavad Gita

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” – Yogi Berra

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. –Buddha

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Ok, in the last post we discussed Awakening. Awakening is simply being natural and easy, here and now. And from this place of easiness and flow, life transforms without effort.

How do we get ‘here’? We don’t. We’re already natural and present. We cover it up by reaching. If you can be still for just a moment, you will find even in this stillness, you are lurching. Turn off the TV, be completely quiet, close your eyes, and just be aware. Be aware of thoughts. Let them come and go. You may find that it is difficult not to get swept away in the torrent of thought. That’s ok, bring attention back to awareness whenever you catch yourself in a thought-story. After some practice, you may find that your mind can be quiet enough that you can watch thoughts come, and go. But even in this stillness, there is a sense of lurching for the next moment. You may start thinking about what you have to do, or how you should change yourself, lose weight, be better, or what someone said to you.

The mind cannot just be. It is in the past or the future. When we can simply be still, and watch, we experience a natural ease—simply just the ease and joy of being.

All it takes is Awareness.

When we honestly chase down what we actually know, we aren’t left with much. We know we are awareness. We know all experience is in the present. We know we exist. That’s about all we can say. And it turns out, this is enough. There isn’t any more we need to know.

Rest in Awareness Now. The innate intelligence of Awareness will do the rest.

The problem of course is that we have forgotten how to rest in Awareness. We’ve put up a lot of hindrances to this incomprehensible, natural, eternal and infinite power. The human mind has a tremendous capacity to create concepts and beliefs. So there may some ‘doing’ required to let go of the effort the mind continually puts out to maintain these hindrances.

And how do we do that? How do we quiet a mind that is endlessly noisy? Practice and techniques and methods can help us with this. What we need is the space and silence of awareness, in the absence of mental noise, including the absence of the noise of striving and discipline. The mind immediately wants to know, “okay, how do I get that silence.”
There is no getting. It is more about letting go. This is the mystical beauty of it. Stop for a moment and consider. Consider the completely incomprehensible and fantastically mystical beauty that we call Awareness and experience. Consider. Awareness and experience are inexplicable and beyond comprehension, and available to all of us, all the time.

This is a relaxation into awareness that you don’t try to control. Krishnamurti calls it “choiceless awareness.” This is not the silence that one little corner of the mind imposes on the rest of the mind; it is not the silence that we force when we meditate; and it is not the presence that we try to be after we read Eckhart Tolle. This is a silence that is absent of effort and discipline and trying. It is silence that is natural, innate, effortless and choiceless.

As we rest in Awareness, we begin to realize that we are Awareness, not thought. We are that which can be aware of thought. We begin to realize that the seat of intelligence and creativity is Awareness, not thought. Some of our ideas and concepts about time and cause and effect may begin to unravel. We begin to see that the structure of beliefs is rather flimsy. We see that the desperation of desires is unhappiness. We begin to understand the natural function of emotions. The struggle of life begins to recede.

We might realize that we use the mind and thoughts to keep boundaries around ourselves and world. The mind gives us a reality that is solid, separate, and continuous in time and space, with a well-defined ‘me’. Awareness has no boundaries; it is insubstantial, intangible, and indistinct.

There are no words or concepts that can grasp Awareness. It is the experience of the one eternal, infinite present. This place beyond conceptualization is utterly simple and ordinary, and ungraspable by thought. Any effort to capture it in thought obscures it (seemingly). Abiding in Awareness is the utter relaxation of mind-effort.

We begin to realize that this state of quiet awareness is natural. When awareness is unbidden, it is choiceless, and peaceful. It is effortless. This is good, but we are still in the mind, and we can now look at the moment-to-moment angst, the ‘becoming’, the lurching for the next moment. Looking at it diminishes it. We can ask who it is that feels this peace and quiet of awareness. Who is the observer? This can be an interesting exploration. We may realize the “observer is the observed” and with this, the distance between the observer and the observed begins to close.
Awareness doesn’t need the observer. Awareness does fine, even better, all by itself. A ‘doer’ is superfluous. A tree doesn’t need a concept of itself to grow; the heart does not need an image of itself to beat; blood flows all by itself. Awareness is aware all by itself.

Awareness is gentle, choiceless and unbidden. It can’t be forced. It can’t be cultivated. It’s here when we know it’s here and it’s here when we don’t. The techniques we use don’t cultivate Awareness, they just remove blockage and effort.

As you practice Awareness, you will experience some emotional turmoil. My experience comes from decades of depression and anxiety, and when I started with the technique of being present, and meditating, this very quickly brought about emotional turmoil, and then anxiety, and then the detachment and apathy of depression. And so I’ve found that Release techniques work well in conjunction with expanding awareness, to help flush away the past.
Use the Release techniques to clear emotional baggage that is likely to come up. Anxiety, worries, anger—all of these can be cleared. Releasing is a method of the heart, and it jettisons the store of suppressed hurts and emotions. In a real way, it releases the past. Releasing methods are probably the most immediately useful ones. They work right away to make living much easier and harmonious.

Much of what I write is not necessary. Being aware, in the present, seeing through thoughts and beliefs, is it. Awareness is already innate and natural to us. The techniques of expanding Awareness are really techniques of removing hindrances to awareness; the techniques of Release are really techniques to release the pain of the past.

Awareness and Releasing work together as the two-step dance of awakening. As you release you become more aware. As you become more aware you release. It is an integrative and inter-dependent practice of Awareness and Release.

11 thoughts on “Awareness and Release –The Two-Step Dance of Awakening

  1. shawkraale

    I think your articles make a lot os sense. The awareness watching awareness method as taught by Ramana Maharshi is the best. He said we need to attend to the self or our sense of being to the exclusion of everything else. I know what you mean by awareness because it is something you just experience when you shut your eyes and this awarness is there until your thoughts begin to surface and take you away from this awareness. I feel it is easy to be with this awareness when you attend to the darkness behind your eyelids when it is closed. Would you recommend this as a way to be aware of your awareness ? You may want to see this article on Effortless Meditation.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi shawkraale,
      Yes, Ramana Maharshi and Nisgardatta teach to focus on Who am I? If any other thoughts occur, ask to whom the thought occurs, and you’re back to Who am I. It’s sitting on the sense of I AM.

      Focusing on the back of the eyelids, or focusing on anything is a concentration exercise. It’s valuable but it’s not abiding awareness. I would recommend a number of ways to be the effortless, choiceless, abiding awareness. A concentration exercise like focusing on the dark eyelids or on breath (Anapana) or sensations in the body (Vipassana), or just noticing everything that happens, as a witness, as a watcher, without judging, changing or question. Being present is another way which works for some. Being aware of awareness is yet another way. There are more techniques in the ebook Awareness and Release.

      k

  2. Rick

    Kaushik,

    I am at a pivotal moment in awareness. I listen to my breath or thoughts then I am aware of my breath or thoughts then the I disappears. I go into a state of emptiness. This can last for 1 to 6 hours. Am I in awareness? or sleep?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Rick,

      Only you can know where you are.

      I don’t worry about achieving special states or how long I am in them. My basic practice is this to look inside, with honesty and courage. Sometimes I use awareness as you do–I call this “observing thought” but it’s really observing everything that’s going inside. I use the release method–it’s very natural now, to release hard emotions and beliefs. I have seen through the false self, that is, what I thought I was does not exist, and I keep alert to that and looking at that. At times I become aware of breath and body. I read Jed Mckenna and Tolle and other non-dual teachers.

      If you’re particularly interested in awareness, I think greatfreedom.org does a pretty thorough job.

      But remember, freedom is not about changing. It’s broadening of perspective. Nothing changes immediately.

      It all comes down to looking.

      I hope this helps.

      k

  3. Atul

    Nice article Kaushik. I have been practising the Awareness Watching Awareness method or the Direct Path to Liberation for around 3 months now (basically simply sitting and watching my awareness/ consciousness – link is here: http://www.albigen.com/uarelove/awa_instructions.aspx), and I had a question. I notice that when I am observing my awareness, I am aware of a “hum of silence”, i.e., a sort of “sound” that silence makes, like a high-pitched sound, but its not sound in the sense of hearing someone talk, or hearing a bell ring, etc. I find this hum of silence distracting, since I don’t know if I should be focussing on this, or simply focussing on the feeling of “I Am”. I find myself conflicted and end up toggling between noticing the hum and just focussing on my consciousness. Probably all this is the ego struggling with a method to liberation. Wanted your thoughts. Is the hum of silence indeed proof that I am sitting in open awareness? Should I be focussing on it? Thanks in advance!

    1. Atul

      As a follow on post, I also find myself drifting off during the practice into completely random images, thoughts, phrases, etc., which make no sense at all. And when this happens, I am in a “no-man’s land”, i.e., I am not awareness but these random thoughts are making me sort of drowsy.. and then I catch myself and am back to focussing on awareness/ back to being aware. In a 45 min session, I probably am being aware only for say 15-20 mins. Do I need more sleep, am I sleep deprived? Or is it just another set of experiences to observe and let go? Will appreciate your inputs. Thanks.

    2. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Atul,

      The “focusing on the feeling of I Am” technique is exactly the same as “awareness watching awareness.” Just looking at what it feels like to be me–this makes much more sense to me because this is not abstract. Whenever we use terms like awareness, presence, consciousness, thoughts…all of these words are abstract and conceptual.

      I read the link you sent some years ago. I liked Michael Langford’s technique and explanations. My thoughts on it now are that it’s much easier to understand and focus on the sense of I am than on “awareness of awareness.” And in my experience it’s not necessary to sit down and purposefully meditate, and it’s not necessary to instill the kind of diligence implied in the instructions.

      I wonder if the “sound” you hear is tinnitus. I have considerable tinnitus–even when everything is completely quiet I hear constant hum or buzz. It’s just a condition of the nerves in the ear, and I think it gets worse with age.

      When my attention is drawn towards the hum, well, that just happens to be the case. When you hear the hum, you can just allow it. That’s what’s happening right now. Shrug, smile and see if you can bring attention back to the sense of I AM.

      k

      1. Atul

        Thanks Kaushik, that really helps. It probably could be tinnitus, but I find that, as you say, if I allow it and rest in the hum, I am more aware of my thoughts and my awareness of “the space of everything” or “background of everything”. Thanks for the inputs!

  4. Frederick

    Thoughts always come but you can choose not to pay attention to them. Put no value in them, they are just entertaining the ego, Do not place any value on thoughts they are just there and when ignored they tend to become invisible. Awareness happens from the neck down. If you are reading books and listening to tapes your in your mind. Awareness is closer than your breath. It is the space in which everything exist. If you have a thought you are aware of the thought. Awareness is before I am, it is before ‘awareness’ the thought. Meditation allows one to quiet the mind. Awareness is available anywhere not just in meditation. One doesn’t even have to believe in awareness it is always present.

  5. Palani

    Hello Kaushik,
    Thanks for the message.

    I have been hearing lot of “words” like Awareness, Being, Presence, Now, Consciousness, Stillness, I-thought, Sense of Iam and many more. And it only lead to much more thinking activity in mind. I read Ramana Maharishi teaching:

    “When other thoughts (I guess from Maharishi point of view, thoughts mean mind thoughts, feelings or emotions or any sesnse perceptions) arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: ‘To whom do they arise?’ It does not matter how many thoughts arise. As each thought arises, one should inquire with diligence and earnestly, “To whom has this thought arisen?”. The answer that would emerge would be “To me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I?”, the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source.”

    Beginners in self-enquiry were advised by Sri Ramana to put their attention on the inner feeling or subjective feeling of ‘I’ and more you are in this feeling and are continuously aware of this feeling of I, it also vanishes.

    This is what I tried practicising and after reading some good articles across your blogs I have questions or clarifications to make on my practice:

    1. When you had mentioned in many of the messages, “All it takes is Awareness”,
    a) is it something like taking attention from thoughts to be with sense of feeling I?
    b) When I practice during the day, whenever there are stream of thoughts or inner nocie happens, and when suddently I’m aware that there is inner voice commentatry, I close my eyes and ask to whom these thoughts has happened? “To me” Who is this me? Where does this thoughts arise? Who is this Iam? Obviously the story of thoughts is stopped and for sometime it is nothing, it becomes blank and there is just some kind of feeling present. And in few minutes thoughts again start if what iam doing is right, is this the sense of Iam or I thought or is this stillness… and again the cycle starts.

    2. Sometimes when I sit for formal meditation, I dont concentrate or focus on anything particulay, but just be present .. like one moment I notice the sound of the fan, other moment I hear the birds, the sound of traffic horn, then suddenly a sensation in body, and sometimes the breath. I just sit with closed eyes and hear. Sometimes I get lost in inner commentary and I bring back my attention to the present whatever I hear, sometimes, I get waiting to see the next momenet or trying to hear something voluntarily again I let it happen and notice it. It is something like letting go off all the techniques, methods, labelling, just sitting at the same time taking effort in not drifting my mind to thoughts or identifying with them. But while practicing I guess most of the times I end up concnetrating or notice the sense of me breathing in and out, the body sensations like the hardness in the body, the feeling of heaviness is chest.

    So my question here is, is that a practice of awareness? Or should I focus my attention consciusly from noticing all these and bring back to the one who is noticing? I find it difficult to bring attention to the “subject” me.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Palani,

      I became clear on Ramana’s inquiry when I read John Sherman.

      You say that spiritual words like awareness and I-thought and so on actually lead to more thinking about them, and you are completely right. This was my experience. When I read Ramana’s inquiry or Nisargadatta’s hold-on-to-sense-of-I-AM, or any such thing, it was very difficult for me to understand what was being said and difficult to actually do it.

      Because the tendency is to abstract the words. We think about it and that is different from looking at you.

      John Sherman is very good and very clear. He says to look at you, the feeling of you, just the ordinary sense of you. I encourage you to check out his simple technique.

      I’ll try to answer your questions:

      1. When you had mentioned in many of the messages, “All it takes is Awareness”,
      a) is it something like taking attention from thoughts to be with sense of feeling I?

      It’s putting attention on you. You, the person. Just you, the ordinary sense of you. It’s nothing mystical or abstract. Just the you that you know everyday.

      b) When I practice during the day, whenever there are stream of thoughts or inner nocie happens, and when suddently I’m aware that there is inner voice commentatry, I close my eyes and ask to whom these thoughts has happened? “To me” Who is this me? Where does this thoughts arise? Who is this Iam?
      Obviously the story of thoughts is stopped and for sometime it is nothing, it becomes blank and there is just some kind of feeling present. And in few minutes thoughts again start if what iam doing is right, is this the sense of Iam or I thought or is this stillness… and again the cycle starts.

      Just the ordinary you.

      2. Sometimes when I sit for formal meditation, I dont concentrate or focus on anything particulay, but just be present .. like one moment I notice the sound of the fan, other moment I hear the birds, the sound of traffic horn, then suddenly a sensation in body, and sometimes the breath. I just sit with closed eyes and hear. Sometimes I get lost in inner commentary and I bring back my attention to the present whatever I hear, sometimes, I get waiting to see the next momenet or trying to hear something voluntarily again I let it happen and notice it. It is something like letting go off all the techniques, methods, labelling, just sitting at the same time taking effort in not drifting my mind to thoughts or identifying with them. But while practicing I guess most of the times I end up concnetrating or notice the sense of me breathing in and out, the body sensations like the hardness in the body, the feeling of heaviness is chest.

      So my question here is, is that a practice of awareness?

      You’re doing a meditation. That’s fine; meditation has good benefits. It trains attention. It calms the mind and body. It can be re-energizing.

      It isn’t the same as looking-at-you though.

      Or should I focus my attention consciusly from noticing all these and bring back to the one who is noticing? I find it difficult to bring attention to the “subject” me.

      It’s not the subject me. It’s just you. You, the person. You, the ordinary, everyday you. Look at you.

      k

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