The practice of awareness
One of the first Zen practices I learned from my teachers was the practice of awareness.
I am not talking about cognitive-based awareness such as “Yes I am aware of this or that meaning I know “. In this example, awareness is just an automatic recall process from our data-based knowledge. One may call it passive awareness.
In Zen, practicing awareness is bringing our consciousness to focus on something x or y in the current moment and in a mindful way w/o analytic and decisional goal.
No recall, just observation, likes a mirror reflecting things, objects, events and people as they are and not as we perceive them. Awareness is consciousness in action.
These objects or targets of our active awareness can be anything such as our body, its motions, our 5 senses, our thoughts, feelings or on what our immediate surrounding is made of.
Active awareness is the only tool allowing us to observe and experience our mental and emotional activities. Without this tool, we are the victims of our emotions instead of being the observer.
Everything is constantly changing during the day but we do not practice awareness as just described because we are too busy doing things non-stop automatically like an hamster in its wheel.
And yet, awareness is always present and always available but we don’t know to be aware of our awareness and to use it.
Who is listening these words right know? Who is reading these same words right now?
It is our awareness, genuine and complete. This awareness is defining who we are right now, in this very moment.
It’s always here and it can accommodate anything. We can talk, we can move, you can even listening as you are right now. All of this is happening by and within awareness.
Put in different words:
We don’t know what is consciousness, how to be conscious of our consciousness, and how to apply it.
Yet, it is critical to practice active awareness or being conscious because consciousness reveals our True self that is the one free from our mind-made self.
To be conscious is to be, it is who you are, who I am. Nothing more. Trying to describe it further or to explain it or to improve it is impossible.
Consciousness is the same for all living beings and, according to many, it will survive the death of our body or material self.
Since awareness is always there, the only thing we need to do is recognize and apply it.
But the biggest challenge with awareness is that it is so close, we don’t see it in the same way we cannot see our own eyes.
How to recognize and practice awareness:?
Meditation and more specifically mindfulness meditation plays a crucial role
as a tool to practice active awareness and put our consciousness in action.
In fact, mindfulness meditation is practicing pure awareness such as focusing on breathing, being aware of our body, ongoing thoughts/feelings and so on.
Learning to be mindfully aware of our thoughts and feelings is the only way to observe then to accept them as they are w/o resistance. Otherwise, we remain their victims.
Awareness or active consciousness is not some sort of ill-defined entity.
It defines the word “Living Being” in its purest form and can be applied anytime during the day.
It is also the only tool that we have to recognize then deal with the sources of our suffering.