Practicing Awareness

The Awareness Continuum

A formal definition of awareness:

“Awareness is observing afresh each moment of my experiencing, the way it is.”

The key words in this definition are observing and experiencing. The only time you can observe something is right now and the only place you can observe something is right here.  The past and future do not exist and thus the past and future are unobservable. The past is gone, and the future is not yet. And you cannot observe anything that is beyond the reach of your senses. The place where you are right now as you read these words is the only place that is observable to you.

         At any given moment, there are three domains of awareness or observation. It is in these domains where you experience your life.

The first domain is your external world, which consists of objects, persons, situations, and events in your immediate surroundings. Different situations have different qualities to them, and you are a part of every situation because of where you are. You are the common denominator. You are continually relating to the objects and persons in your environment and you are experiencing something in relationship to your world. You are relating to the chair you are sitting on, to the device by which you are reading these words, to the objects, to the air, and to the energy in your immediate surroundings.

The second domain is your inner world, which consists of body sensations and movements. You are feeling something in your body in this moment and you are moving in perceptible ways.

The third domain is the world of mind, which consists of words and images. You are now thinking thoughts and picturing images in your mind.

At any given moment, you live and experience your life within these three domains, and you have the ability to observe whatever is going on in your experience in this moment. There are many, many things going on in this moment that you are not aware of but as you activate your awareness you can begin to discover so much more about the reality of your life and of reality itself.

Practicing awareness is equivalent to meditation but the practice is more of a “meditation on the fly.” There are many forms of meditation but one aspect that is common to all is the process of observing. Meditation can happen anywhere or at any time by simply checking into your experience of the moment. It is not necessary to assume a meditation position of sitting crossed leg and closing the eyes for an extended period although it could certainly be helpful to do so to enhance your observing ability.

And it doesn’t matter what you observe. Consider that you are always experiencing something although you may not be aware of what you are experiencing. At this moment, you are seeing these words as you are reading them but are you aware that you are seeing these words? And are you aware of “hearing” yourself say these words on the private stage of your mind as you are reading them? Awareness is listening to the words you are spontaneously telling yourself almost like listening to a radio.

You are also feeling something but are you aware of what you are feeling? You are obviously breathing at this moment but are you aware of your breathing? There are many sounds and activities going on at this moment but are you aware of these sounds and activities? As you read these words, you may connect into the flow of these experiences at least for a moment. That is what meditation is all about, connecting in with the phenomenon and flow of your experiencing both in your internal world and in your external world.

At the heart, meditation is not about changing or controlling something within you. True meditation is not about directing your energy as it is in following your already directed energy. Your life has already brought you here. Your life has led you to this very moment. Your life is omnipresence itself. Meditation is being in observation. It is learning to observe the sensations and movements of the body as it moves through time and space, always in a certain direction. And it is learning to observe the activity of the mind, the thoughts, and pictures that spontaneously show up in the mind’s eye.

Awareness is not about doing something different than what you are already doing. It is not about changing something, believing something, or figuring out something. It is a recognition that you are always in continuous movement and presence but that you’ve blocked out large swaths of experience.

And so, as we talk about “the moment,” we are not talking about some other time but this moment. And talking about the moment isn’t the same as being in the moment. And so, the awareness continuum is designed to guide you into this present moment which already exists. So, there really is no effort in being aware.

The point of awareness is to be aware of what you are already doing as you are doing it, and what you are already experiencing as you are experiencing it. Awareness is an acknowledgment of the obvious.

For most of your everyday life, you might get a glimpse of awareness, but you don’t focus that observation very long. The practice of awareness is learning to stay with or focus on a persistent experience for longer and longer durations until completion or dissolution. In the exercise that follows you will get acquainted with the continuous presence of your awareness and the continuous presence of your experiencing.

So, let us begin with a very simple exercise called the awareness continuum. As awareness is observing afresh each moment of your experiencing as it is, the awareness continuum is acknowledging the ongoing flow of your experience from moment to moment. It is putting your awareness into words. To acknowledge something is to notice or recognize the existence of something by naming and describing it. What are you noticing around you, in your body, and in your thoughts? Begin to put this into words, wherever you happen to be. Right now. In just a moment, leave the reading of these words for about a minute or two and truly become aware of where you are and what you are doing. 

Begin a silent (or out loud) string of sentences that begin with the words, “Now I am aware…” and then complete that sentence with whatever you happen to be aware of at the moment and notice whether that is something in your external world, a sensation or movement in the body, or a thought. Awareness has a natural flow between these three domains. Notice that awareness is simply observing something as it is as it naturally comes into focus.

Do this now for about two minutes… right here and now. Begin to discover that there is no judgment in awareness. Notice how your awareness has a flow to it—toward a sensation or movement of the body, an object in your external world, or a thought. You are not directing your awareness. You are simply verbally acknowledging something the way it is and allowing it to be just as it is. Instead of trying to direct your awareness, seek to simply follow it from moment to moment. Begin a series of sentences that begin with…

“Now I am aware of…”

And then fill in the blank, making one sentence at a time for one to two minutes…

This is the basic exercise in practicing awareness. This is the exercise that you want to practice frequently and in short doses for the rest of your life! It requires nothing of you but to verbalize your present experiencing wherever you are and wherever you happen to be. Speak, “Now I am aware…” a series of times and fill in the blank for a minute or two. The value of deliberately speaking your awareness is that you are training your mind to be in alignment with the unfolding of this present moment. It is worth making it a part of your everyday life. It requires nothing of you but to simply practice it, whatever you are doing, and wherever you happen to be for just a minute or two. There is no need to judge, no need to ask something to be different.  Just truly be aware of the flow of what is.

You will very quickly begin to notice the flow of your doing and the flow of your experiencing and how your awareness is happening quite effortlessly. The only effort in being aware is reminding yourself to be aware and so it does not matter where you are or what you are doing. The time to practice awareness is when you remember to do so, and that will always occur in the moment without needing to remember anything. Eventually, you will leave the words behind and begin to live your life more and more in this eternal present moment because that’s where you are anyway. There is no other moment but this one. And this moment is wordless. This moment is where God is. There is an inner calling for you to know God. God is nowhere else but right here. Are you inside your mind or are you in touch with the beauty and preciousness of this moment?

“The point of awareness is to be aware of what you are already doing as you are doing it, and what you are already experiencing as you experience it. Awareness is an acknowledgment of the obvious.”