Essence as Light

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Awareness #1      
	Background of Awareness
	Awareness as the Natural State
	Content of Consciousness
	Awareness as the Perceptual Center
	3-D Illusion Analogy

Reader: 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.... Reply: 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
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