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From Focal to Field Awareness

 

The Awareness Principle and the Practice of Awareness are about how the power of awareness can transform our consciousness and free our everyday lives from all that is a source of dis-ease for us.

If people get lost in watching TV or playing computer games, in work or domestic chores, in thinking or talking, in worrying about life or in feeling particular emotions, pains - or even pleasures - then they may be ‘conscious’ but they are not aware.

Whenever our consciousness becomes overly focussed or fixated on any one thing we are conscious of, dominated by it or identified with it, we lose awareness.

For unlike ordinary ‘consciousness’, awareness is not focussed on any one thing we experience. Awareness is more like the space surrounding us and surrounding all things we are aware of. For space is not the same as any ‘thing’ within it.

Living with and within awareness is like truly living with and within space – which both encompasses but is also absolutely distinct from each and every thing within it.

To transform our ordinary consciousness into awareness therefore, means first of all becoming more aware of space itself - both the outer space around us and surrounding things, and also the inner space surrounding our thoughts, feelings, impulses and sensations.

Enhancing our bodily awareness of the space around us is the first step to helping us to experience space itself – outer and inner - as an expansive spacious field of awareness – a field free of domination by anything we may be conscious of or experience within it.

‘Achieving freedom through awareness’ therefore means transforming our ordinary consciousness or ‘focal awareness’ into a new type of spacious ‘field awareness’ – for this is the true and literal meaning of ‘expanding’ our consciousness.

If we are able to sense and identify with the spacious awareness field around and within us, then we can do two things. We can both freely acknowledge and affirm everything we experience or are conscious of within that field – whether pleasant or unpleasant. And yet at the same time we can stop our ‘consciousness’ getting sucked into, stuck on, focussed or fixated on any one thing.

The capacity to constantly come back to the spacious awareness field frees us from all the things our consciousness normally gets so fixated on that we can no longer distinguish or free ourselves from them. True freedom is freedom from identification with anything we experience – anything we are ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ OF. This freedom comes from sensing and identifying with that spacious awareness field within which we experience all things, outwardly and inwardly.

Awareness is not the same as what is often called ‘mindfulness’ - for it includes awareness of all we experience as mind or mental activity.

An old spiritual tradition has it that awareness itself is ‘God’ – understood as an infinitely spacious field of consciousness. This tradition also understood awareness as the source of all beings and as the eternal core or essence of our being – as our higher self. Just as through enhanced awareness of space we can experience it as a boundlessly expansive awareness field, so can we also experience our own spiritual core or essence as a powerful centre of awareness within that field.

Most forms of therapy or counselling are limited by the fact that they do not distinguish ‘consciousness’ or ‘focal awareness’ from field awareness. They themselves focus the client’s consciousness on its contents – on things they are conscious or unconscious of – rather than transforming that focal consciousness into a clear and spacious awareness field - and centering the client’s awareness in that field.

Both the Awareness Principle and the Practice of Awareness are founded on a fundamental distinction between consciousness and awareness, between any thing we are consciously experiencing on the one hand, and the pure awareness of experiencing it on the other. Identifying this pure awareness with space is the most effective way of experiencing it.

This fundamental distinction offers us in turn a fundamental choice – either to identify ourselves with things we are conscious of, or to identify instead with the very awareness of them – an awareness that will automatically free our consciousness from domination by any of its contents, anything we experience.

An important help in making this choice is to remind yourself of a simple truth: that just as awareness of an object is not itself an object, so is awareness of a thought, emotion or physical sensation not itself a thought, emotion or sensation. Awareness of any thoughts you have is something innately thought-free - just as awareness of any impulses, emotions and sensations you feel is something innately free of those impulses, emotions or sensations. Awareness is Freedom.

 

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