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Introducing others to The Awareness Principle and its Basic Practices
What follows are some simple ways of introducing, explaining and applying ‘The Awareness Principle’ for people with no prior knowledge of yogic philosophy or ‘The New Yoga’. The principal aim of the carefully worded explanations, questions and suggestions below is to help others to come to an understanding and experience of pure awareness as empty space – and thus as fundamentally distinct from anything we are aware of in space – whether thoughts or things. This is the ‘Fundamental Distinction’ that allows us ‘The Fundamental Choice’ – the choice to identify with the pure awareness of something, rather than with any particular thing (or thought, or emotion) that we are aware of.
The Awareness Principle (TAP) is a new philosophical and therapeutic principle rooted specific schools Indian tantric and yogic philosophy. It forms part of something called ‘The New Yoga’ – a new understanding of ‘yoga’ as ‘The Practice of Awareness’. A central principle of The New Yoga is that awareness is not something inside us or contained in our heads and bodies. Instead it is the other way round. We live within or inside awareness as we live within space. Indeed awareness is the very space in which we all exist and in which we experience all things. Understanding and applying The Awareness Principle can be very helpful in freeing us from getting lost in, worked up by or bound up by anything we are experiencing, inwardly or outwardly, around us or within us. Would you like me to introduce you to it in some simple ways and show you how to apply it?
To begin with, if you can answer the questions I’m going to put to you with a ‘yes’ or follow any of the suggestions I am going to give you, raise your right hand. Do you understand?
Is there a difference between the empty space of this room and the things in it?
Is there a difference between your body and the empty space around it?
Be aware of an object in this room (…such as that chair/table over there).
Now be aware of the empty space around it.
Can you be aware of the object (chair, table) and of the empty space of this room at the same time?
The Awareness Principle is about what is called ‘pure awareness’. Pure awareness simply means awareness as such, rather than any particular thing we are aware of. The Awareness Principle teaches that awareness as such is like empty space, different in principle from everything we are aware of within it.
In fact, The Awareness Principle teaches that pure awareness is the space in which we experience or become aware of things - not just things around us like tables and chairs but also things going on within us like thoughts and feelings.
Just as the space around some thing or some body is not the same as that thing or body we experience in it, neither is awareness the same as any thought or emotion we experience in it.
Be still for a while and raise your hand when you are aware of a thought coming up in your mind.
Now be still again, but this time, when a thought comes up attend to the simple awareness of the thought being there, rather than the thought itself.
Did you feel the difference when you attended to the awareness of the thought rather than the thought itself?
Just as there is a difference between any thing we are aware of and the space in which we are aware of it, so there is also a difference between any thought or feelings we are aware of and the pure awareness of it.
Like the empty space around it, the awareness of a table is not itself a table.
Similarly – and these are words to learn by heart:
The awareness of a thought is not itself a thought.
The awareness of a sensation is not itself a sensation.
The awareness of an emotion is not itself an emotion.
The awareness of a feeling is not itself a feeling.
This recognition – that just as there is a fundamental difference or distinction between space and things in it, so there is also a fundamental distinction between awareness as such and anything we are aware of – is called ‘The Fundamental Distinction’. The Fundamental Distinction offers us what is called ‘The Fundamental Choice’.
The choice is between identifying with anything we are aware of – whether an object, thought, emotion or sensation or alternatively, identifying with the pure awareness of that thing, which is like the space in which we are aware of it – in fact it is that space.
How much space do you feel you take up in this room?
How far beyond the boundaries of your skin can you feel your awareness extending into space?
Be aware of a feeling or sensation in your body. Now attend to the pure awareness of it - which is the same as the empty space around your body and filling this room.
Feel your awareness as something filling the space of this room and not encapsulated within your skin or confined within your head.
The understanding that awareness is different from anything within it is healing and therapeutic. That is because it frees us from identifying with anything that is going on within or around us. In particular it frees us from identifying with our thoughts, emotions and impulses.
Daily Practices of Awareness 1:
In any situation where you find yourself worked up by and bound up with any particular thought or emotion – identified with it – remind yourself that:
· The awareness of the thought is not the thought!
· The awareness of the emotion is not the emotion!
· Feel that awareness pervading your body like clear empty space - and extending into the entire space around your body.
One way of helping us identify with pure awareness is by changing the mental words with which we think our everyday experiences. Instead of thinking or saying to ourselves: ‘I feel really angry/upset’ we can simply say: “there is an awareness of an angry/upset feeling within me”.
The trick is to drop the word ‘I’ and instead say ‘there is an awareness of…’
Think of a typical situation in which you tend to get really worked up by or bound up with your thoughts and emotions – identified with them.
Recollect or imagine you are in such a situation right now.
Instead of identifying with the thoughts or emotions it brings up identify simply with the awareness of the situation, and with the awareness of those thoughts and emotions.
Daily Practices of Awareness 2:
When you are out in the street and are just aware of any ordinary thing such as a particular shop, car, bus, cyclist, person, tree, dog etc. say to yourself ‘there is an awareness of this shop’, ‘there is an awareness of this car’, ‘there is an awareness of this tree’ etc.
When you enjoy a piece of cake or a sunset, say ‘there is an awareness of pleasure’ or ‘there is an awareness of delight’ or ‘there is an awareness of sweetness’.
When you hurt yourself or see something you don’t like, say to yourself ‘there is an awareness of pain’ or ‘there is an awareness of annoyance’ or ‘there is an awareness of feeling upset’.
By removing the word ‘I’ from your awareness of things, and replacing it with ‘there is’ you can remind yourself of The Fundamental Distinction and practice The Fundamental Choice – identifying with the pure awareness of something and not with the thing, thought or feeling itself.
Daily Practice of Awareness 3:
Whether you are walking outdoors or sitting indoors, be aware of the space all around your body and all around all the things you are aware of.
· If you are outdoors regularly glance up at the sky and remind yourself of the vastness of space.
· If you are on the street attend as much to its empty space as to the houses, cars and people in it.
· If you are indoors, keep returning your attention to the empty space filling the room and surrounding the things in it.
Through these simple daily Practices of Awareness it will become second nature to you to be as much aware of empty space as of things in it. As a result you will learn to feel space as a field of awareness, and be able to distinguish that awareness from anything you are aware of within it. You’ll be able to identify with pure awareness, which is the space in which exist we experience all things.
To the extent to which you are able to feel and identify with the space of pure awareness around your body, you can begin to give more and more intense awareness to whatever it is you experience as going on within that space and within your body – sensations, moods and emotions for example - yet without identifying with them.
If you feel a mood or emotion inside yourself allow yourself to be aware of where and how you feel that emotion in your body - rather than thinking or talking about it, and without having to either express or repress it.
Seek to feel your bodily sense of any particular mood or emotion more intensely rather than less, and to stay with it as long as it is there in awareness – affirming and even amplifying it, whilst at the same time using the mantram ‘There is an awareness of ….’ to avoid identifying with it.
By giving a particular mood or emotion more time and a more intense awareness, it will in time reveal itself to you as an awareness in its own right - something that brings new things to light in the larger space of awareness that surrounds it.
Be prepared for new and unexpected insights – a new and unexpected awareness - to ‘come to mind’ as you stay with the mood or emotion - not by thinking ‘about’ it but by simply staying with your direct bodily awareness of it.
Daily Practice of Awareness 4:
Do not ignore or dismiss anything you are aware of within or around you, no matter how disturbing or discomforting, but instead focus on and even deliberately intensify your bodily awareness of it – the way you sense it outwardly with your body or the way you feel it inside your body. At the same time stay in touch with and remain identified with the larger space of pure awareness around it and around your body.
This daily practice will ensure that identification with pure awareness does not dissociate or detach you from yourself, other people or the world, but instead intensifies and enriches your sensual, feeling awareness of all that you experience within and around you.
If you want to know more about The Awareness Principle and how to apply it check out: www.theawarenessprinciple.blogspot.com
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