Consciousness Featured Insights — 17 March 2019

Purushottama emphasizes that in order for the transformation of consciousness to take place, we have to look directly at the mind. It is not enough to know about meditation; we have to meditate.

Consciousness

Consciousness has been at the center of my life for almost 50 years, as it has been for so many of us. But I am a practical sort of guy and so am not very interested in the conceptual ‘consciousness’. On the contrary, the consciousness that I am interested in is the ‘being consciousness’. There are many neo-Advaita teachers around who tell us that we are always consciousness. And since we are always awareness, consciousness, there is nothing to be done.

Osho is much more compassionate. He too tells us that we are already buddhas, but he also reminds us that the difference between us and him is that he is aware of his buddhahood. He is experiencing his buddhahood, and we are unawake to its splendor.

In his compassion, he introduced 112 meditation techniques. He created active meditations to prepare the ground for meditation to take root, and he distilled all meditation techniques down to the key element of witnessing.

For me personally, I have found that the best way to become aware – to awaken the witness – is to begin by being aware of my unconsciousness, my unawareness, my dreaming mind.

Most every morning I wake up around 3:30 am, meaning at around that time I become aware that I am no longer sleeping. Immediately I begin to look at the activity of the mind, the tail end of the dreaming cycle. I find that it is this seeing the unconscious that enables becoming more conscious – or we could say, less unconscious.

As I continue lying in bed, looking directly at the tail of the dream, this awakeningness becomes more pronounced. I find this to be the best time to get up and sit in meditation.

This sitting in meditation is more of the same, but now I am sitting erect and perhaps more attuned to the watching.

At first while I am watching I catch thought streams, some thought about this or that. And as we have all experienced, this is the point where we can get pulled into the fray. It is here that the pros and cons, the grasping and rejecting happen. Some thoughts – for example, politics, human cruelty, social injustice, relationships – have much more charge to them and are very difficult to watch, but that is my identification staring back at me. In meditation I am not trying to solve the world’s problems, rather I am learning how to come out of mind, my whole mind, not just the bits I don’t like or don’t agree with. In fact, I am grateful for these thoughts because they are easier to see, more obvious to observe. And as I watch without grasping the thought and without rejecting the thought but just looking directly at the movement of thought, the thinking itself becomes less defined, almost opaque.

At this point it is the energy of the mind that is being seen rather than individual thoughts. At the same time, I am now aware of the watching itself rather than that which is being seen. When I am watching thinking subsides, and when I am thinking watching subsides. With my awareness of the watchingness, the previous objects of consciousness begin to slip out of view.

There are times when the mind is particularly charged, and I find it difficult to watch. This is when I use watching the breath to strengthen my watchingness. By watching the movement of breath I mean feeling the rising and falling of the belly as the breath moves in and out. Then at some point I am centered and am again capable of returning to watching the mind without being pulled under.

But of course this too is not a permanent situation. At some point some thought appears, and either I am dragged off until I remember, or I am awake enough to catch it at the beginning, and again without grasping or rejecting there is the remembrance of watching, and the watched subsides.

I find that the unconscious stream is in an inverse relationship to how conscious I am in that moment. The more conscious, the less of the stream. The less conscious, the more present the stream. So it is by seeing my unconscious that I become more conscious.

My understanding of Ramana Maharshi’s method of inquiry is: a thought appears, one inquires to whom does the thought appear, and the answer is, to me. Then one inquires more deeply “Who am I?” I see that as another way of saying what I described above.

Osho’s method is even simpler: It is watching, witnessing; watching without judgment, without jumping onto the back of the thought, and without pushing away in rejection. Just watching, and as we watch without reaction the other steps that I described above happen naturally. As thought becomes less, I automatically become aware of my self, provided that I haven’t fallen asleep.

So this has been my experience. By my understanding and seeing my un-consciousness, un-consciousness is transformed into consciousness, from unconsciousness to consciousness. This is how I come out of mind. This is not enlightenment; it is an awakening before enlightenment. It is nothing special, and we are all capable of coming out of mind. Seeing the identification with what we are not allows us to what we are.

Along the way, a couple of points have become clear, and perhaps they could be helpful for someone else.

Number one, and this is of course obvious but nevertheless important to state: in order for the transformation of consciousness to take place, we have to look directly at the mind. It is not enough to know about meditation; we have to meditate. We have to get to know intimately how we perpetuate unawareness. We have to meditate. Did I already say that? We have to meditate.

A second point that one day became clear is that we are not to do anything with the mind, or any content of consciousness. Transformation happens, but not by anything we do. Our job is to become conscious, and again we do that by watching our unconscious. It is through watching the unconscious that the energy becomes conscious. I used to feel that it was the content that was important in the watching. Somewhere along the way a shift happened so that it is the watcher that is of importance, not what is being watched. We watch our unconsciousness simply to become conscious.

And thirdly, it is by watching without reacting that we begin to become aware of being conscious, of awareness itself, not as an object but as a living existential experiencing.

Finally, these awakenings, this watchfulness that arises in meditation, have to be taken into daily life. With this watchingness, there are more moments of action and fewer of reaction, but when reaction appears, it is watched without judgment just like the watching of thought. And it is here in this daily life that the watchingness is crystalized into Being conscious. And that truly is a splendor.

First published in Viha Connection Magazine, March/April 2019

PurushottamaPurushottama is a regular contributor

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