Whatever you believe, if you have an open mind, your spiritual journey boils down to awareness. You might call it increased awareness, but as you’ll see (both in this article and in your experience) the idea of accumulation is one of the central concepts that leads to awareness being misunderstood. In fact, the very idea of saying “spiritual journey” implies that there is a spiritual destination, and thinking this way also tends to fog up awareness.
By the way, this concept is murderously difficult to communicate in words.
And indeed as I move in Phase 2, I realize just how unfit my mind is to grapple with or communicate Truth.
But dammit I’m going to try anyway.
What is Awareness?
Lets strip this word of its metaphysical and new-age connotations. Simply put, awareness is the state of being aware. For the sake of this article, I define awareness as the non-judgmental state of observing absolutely everything in your experience. I believe that “achieving” this state (or practicing this concept) is the only way to really experience truth beyond the machinations of thought. This truth is the goal of any spiritual endeavor, perhaps the root of all goals.
This concept may seem simple, but start to grapple with the idea of “absolutely everything” for a little while and you’ll see that there are infinite layers of your experience to be aware of.
Let’s do a simple thought exercise, and for the sake of explanation I’m going to number the layers of my own experience as I become aware of them. The numbers will correspond roughly to “depths” of awareness, going from “lower” to “higher”
1. I’m typing this blog post. I’m listening to songs in Pandora. My feet are slightly cold.
2. I’m thinking about what I want to write. I want to make sure that what I’m writing makes sense. I have a particular intention for this piece. Ironically, one of my intentions is to, “just let the writing flow.” Yet I also desire this communication to be clever and well received.
3. I’m feeling afraid of diving deeper into my own intentions and awareness, because of deep rooted anxieties about my own self worth.
4. I’m trying as hard to be aware as I can of these layers but in doing so I realize that trying is not really being aware, at least not the awareness that I’m seeking. Too, I’m aware that seeking awareness makes that awareness an illusion because there is a goal.
5. I’m aware that in saying this I’m merely regurgitating Total Freedom: The Essential Krishnamurti.
6. I now recognize I’ve gone in my lifelong cycle of moving towards and away from enlightenment at the same time, remaining in a kind of stasis that breeds frustration through the spinning of the only wheel I’ve ever known. The impetus for moving towards enlightenment is the fear of not being enlightened. I.E. having no purpose or amounting to nothing.
7. And as I’m aware of that, I see the workings of my own experience clearly. I see that there is nothing that I can do to change this. That as long as I’m seeking awareness then I am locked into my own cycle of frustration and perceived progress. Not only that, but the whole point of experience is to be locked in this cycle.
8. And as I realize this, I realize that being aware of the futility and beauty that is this dominant defining characteristic of who I am, I realize that the process of awareness itself is the only thing that can really change my experience.
9. And yet as I move to this oasis, a mini-transcendent moment, in a desert of thoughts, desires, habits, and emotion, I realize that this too is a repeated cycle. That real transcendence, if it can ever “be achieved”, is a part of the whole of human experience, not an escape from it. That this whole exercise is itself another brick in the wall of our shared hallucination. That there can be no feeling of transcendence without its opposite to spring from, and that really, it’s all good exactly as it is.
10. This is perhaps as far as I can go with this exercise. Can you go farther? I’d love to see you try this.
Why does Awareness Beget Change?
Back from the rabbit hole, let me give you a simple metaphor. Have you ever cut yourself but didn’t know it? Did you feel pain? Usually I don’t feel the pain until I see the blood. Yet once I know, I can’t not know. The pain stays with me even if I’m not looking directly at the cut. Usually a strong desire results from this to take care of the cut by cleaning it, bandaging it, etc.
To rephrase the previous example in more useful terms, you could say that only when I became aware that the cut existed did I act, not before. But if you are frustrated in your life, then you often put the blame on the difficulty of enacting change – whether internally or externally. For instance who doesn’t want more money, but can’t seem to find a way to make more of it? You might blame equally the economy for being in a bad place or yourself for not being motivated enough to do the things you need to do. Often, you blame the fact that you just don’t know “how” to make it happen.
But to apply this logic to the example, you would say, “I can’t clean or heal my cut because there isn’t the opportunity”, “I”m just not motivated to not feel the pain”, or, “I’m cut, but I just don’t know what to do about it.” Don’t these sentiments sound absurd in this context? When you are cut, what to do is obvious. However, figuring out what to do is impossible if you don’t know about the injury in the first place.
Especially in western society we put a lot of focus on doing without being aware of what it its we’re doing or why. And yet we wonder why we don’t get anywhere. If you are truly aware, what to do is obvious.
If you become aware of this concept in your own life you’ll see that awareness and understanding come at the same time as the change that they imply. It is for this reason that I find them inseparable. Awareness is change, you just perceive them as two different things.
So if you are wondering what to do in your life, know that the change you may be contemplating is not real change, but a projection of something else – your fears, insecurities, conditioning – doesn’t matter. If you really needed more money then it would be obvious to you how to get it. That there is not a simple direct path implies that your level of awareness does not immediately enact the change of you having more money. More likely the desire to have more money is a signal to you that there is an opportunity for you to become more aware of why you believe you need more money in the first place.
This awareness is the key to everything you desire. And you can read that line with an accumulative mindset wherein you believe that being aware will bring you everything you desire. If you do this, you miss the point entirely. I’d like you to read with the mindset that awareness is the key to freeing you from your desires. Not because you get rid of them, for therein obviously lies a further desire to get rid of desire – but to understand them and perceive them without judgement of what they should be.
You are human for a reason. There was no failure in the plan. It is not wrong to desire to change. It is not wrong to reject everything I’ve said. Like I said, it’s all good. Conversely, it is not right to believe this. You don’t get a bigger cookie than the spiritually lost person. But it’s my intention to poke a hole in your tiny bubble of awareness so that you can see that there is so much more there.
The fact is real change is as unstoppable as the movement of water, and you’ll know when it appears in your life. There will be no mixed signals, searching for truth, or waiting for a sign. Change is within as without.
And it all begins with awareness.