Background of Awareness
Awareness as the Natural State
Content of Consciousness
Awareness as the Perceptual Center
3-D Illusion Analogy
I have been interested in trying to live from awareness,
but have been unsuccessful. One thing I read in your
message about the "Background of Awareness" really
clicked with me and provided the smallest of glimmers....
I'm glad if this language has been helpful for you. I
believe that the words "Background of Awareness" often
ring true for us because there is a part of the conscious
mind which is beginning to see and recognize that it is
only one transitory aspect or fleeting dimension of what
we really are....
Based upon my experience, Awareness is our Natural State.
It is always present, and we are always, as you said,
"living from awareness." Our frustration arises, though,
when we don't realize or recognize that this is what is
already happening, quite naturally and spontaneously.
In this context, it may be helpful to make a distinction between
the "content of consciousness" and the "Background of Awareness."
(Please remember: this is just a semantic distinction for the
purposes of this dialogue -- nothing absolute.) For an initial
introduction to this distinction, you might also want to review
my discussion of "Natural Awareness" in the Reflections
section of the AIA website.
As I prefer to think of and describe it, consciousness
is the aspect of the mind that vacillates between activity
and stillness. Consciousness "contains" all the content
of the mind: thoughts, perceptions, insights, impressions,
emotions, reactions, doubts, fears, creative inspiration,
etc. For most of us, this consciousness is characterized
by virtually constant movement.
Awareness, on the other hand, is the "background" against
which all this movement and oscillation occurs. Within each
of us is a Perceptual Center we usually experience as "I"
or as some aspect of an identity which is looking either
"out" into the world, or "in" into the mind.
However, Awareness is simply That which is perceiving.
It is the experience of Seeing, Observing, and Witnessing
which is one of only a few constants in our experience.
We all experience this Awareness, or Seeing, quite naturally.
In fact, it is so natural, so obvious and so intimate, that
we usually just take it for granted -- and ignore it.
For example: as soon as most of us awaken each morning, our
interest and attention quickly jumps forward, out into the
content and activity of the mind, the emotions and the world
around us, and we overlook the obvious fact that Awareness
is the undisturbed spaciousness within which all mental/
emotional movement occurs -- both when we are awake and
when we are sleeping and dreaming.
If we ever do notice this Awareness [and we do notice it
every time we recognize we are aware (or conscious) that we
are Aware], we just assume that this Perceptual Center is
inextricably linked to the vacillating and transitory
dimensions of consciousness. We don't realize that Awareness
remains That which is the unchanged constant in our experience,
in spite of all the movement and activity of the mind.
This is why I claim that Awareness is not something that
has to be "obtained" or "achieved." It is our innate and
Natural State, and it is something that we simply, one day,
recognize for what it is. In my experience, Realization is
simply a matter of recognizing the Infinite completeness
and perfection of the Reality out of which this Natural
State of Awareness emerges.
Similarly, meditation is not (in my experience) an attempt
to stop the inevitable movement, activity and vacillation
of the mind. It is, instead, simply a Recognition of that
which is already constant, stable and unchanging at the
Center of all our experience.
This is why I like to use the example of the popular 3-D
optical illusions as something of a reverse illustration
of this distinction between the "content of consciousness"
and the "Background of Awareness."
Normally, when we first look at these optical illusions,
all we see is a background of complex lines and scribbles.
It is only when we are finally able to shift the focus of
attention/perception that we suddenly discover we are able
to see and recognize individual, three-dimensional images
imbedded within the background.
With our experience of consciousness and Awareness, this
dynamic is just reversed: we see and experience a
tremendously complex field of three-dimensional images
in front of our eyes when we look "out" into the world.
But, when we are finally able to shift the focus of our
attention/perception, suddenly we experience the delight
of discovering that there is an invisible Background
against which all these appearances manifest: the Natural
Background of our own, innate Awareness.
©1999, Metta Zetty
All Rights Reserved.