‘Our awareness is like the air around us: we rarely notice it. It functions in all our waking moments and may even continue in sleep. Usually we are caught up in the content of our awareness, preoccupied with what we think, feel, and experience. Becoming aware of awareness itself is Receptive Awareness, very close to the idea of a witnessing consciousness. Resting in receptive awareness is an antidote to our efforts of building and defending a self: the assumption that there is “someone who is aware” falls away. Self-consciousness falls away; the distinctions between self and other, inside and outside, perceiver and perceived disappear. There is no one who is aware; there is only awareness and experience happening within awareness. We learn to hold our lives, our ideas, and ourselves lightly and rest in a spacious and compassionate sphere of awareness that knows, but is not attached.’ [Link to: Receptive Awareness]
POSTCARD #132: Delhi: Today, June 1st, 2015 is Visakha Puja – a special day in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore. This day commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Buddha in the Theravada tradition. So you get all three on the same day. The events that take place on this day go all the way back to the time of the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, monks chanting verses, there is a talk by a senior monk, listeners seated on the floor, and it fills me with awe to consider that it’s the same now as it was all those years ago; this moment here and now is actually that moment there and then. Everything about who I am, the clothes I wear, my appearance, identity, gender; all of that disappears for an instant in the huge span of time that appears to lie in between. There’s only awareness, I experience it physically, somewhere in the centre of the chest, spreading out to the shoulders. In Pali it’s called the citta, the heart.
Thought and mental activity are all located in the brain area; flashing like electricity voltage sparks, but awareness is in the centre of my being. Experientially I’m conscious that awareness is prior to thought and mental activity, awareness comes before everything. It’s there all the time, even when I’m asleep. I may assume that awareness is ‘me’, ‘self’. This ‘self’ says it’s ‘my’ awareness, ‘I’ am aware. But when this ‘self’ that I believe to be me starts to look for the ‘me’ that possesses awareness, it finds that it’s the other way round: awareness has to first start looking for the ‘me’ (and the ‘me’ can’t be found).
The question then arises, ‘who am I?’ I might say, well, I have an identity given to me by my parents, and a birth certificate, driving license, passport, ID card, and all this documentation is saying this is ‘me’. I have a personality; I’m like this, I’m like that. But it’s awareness that sees all this, the feelings, emotions, moods and I find the question: ‘who am I?’ is itself focusing attention, opening the mind, thoughts flicker and disappear, sparks fly, awareness sees all this. The identity, the personality is witnessed by awareness. Awareness was there before it all; before feelings, moods – emotions are objects of perception that awareness perceives. Awareness is what I am, it’s what all sentient beings are, it’s not personal, it’s everything. No beginning, no end, awareness has always been there. Awareness is spirit. Spirit is awareness
Most of the time I live with my small self, worn like a costume in a fancy-dress party, and function with other small selves doing the same thing. Same with everybody here today, at Vesakh time seated in meditation and focused on the Buddha’s teaching. But the Buddha wouldn’t have wanted us to say anything like, “I am a ‘Buddhist’”… beliefs appear in awareness, awareness is there before beliefs, before thought, before all that. There’s an awareness of a constructed ‘self’ – necessary for getting around. There’s this awareness and an awareness of the awareness itself.