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Week 11 - Naked Awareness

Let’s begin with a mindful centering practice. Wherever you just came from or whatever you were just doing before this moment, let’s fully settle into this space now.

First, notice your body posture at this moment and begin to make adjustments to sit in an upright position that will allow you to pay attention fully in the next few moments.

You can let go of anything you may be holding onto - worries, stress, concerns. Bring your feet flat on the floor, back straight but not stiff, shoulders relaxed, facial muscles relaxed, and hands resting comfortably on your thighs or in your lap. Let your eyes gently close.

(pause)

Often it happens that our body is here but our mind is wandering somewhere else. The intention of mindful centering is to bring our mind back to the body and to the present moment.

To do that, let’s take a few deep breaths as an invitation for the mind and body to come together. Experience a deep breath through your nose, and let the breath come out through your mouth. Make the exhalation slow and long. Let’s do this two or three more times. Watch the body relax as you exhale slow and long.

(pause)

Now let your breath move at its own relaxed pace and just pay attention to the flow of the breath in and out. Notice the sensations of breathing for a few moments.

(short pause)

As you do this you may notice that your mind starts to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it’s not a problem, but is instead quite natural. Just notice what took your attention away without any judgement. Then simply let it go and redirect your attention back to the breathing.

(short pause)

Now in this exercise we will explore our ability to be nakedly aware in our experience of the present moment without elaboration, interpretation, and construction.  The point here isn’t to shut off your mind, or shut off what you feel, or stop anything in your experience from occurring. It’s just about assuming a very specific attitude or orientation towards whatever arises in your experience, whether that be the song of a bird, the clanking of a truck, a twinge in your stomach, a stray memory, or a sudden emotion.  Whatever it is, you have the intention to just be aware of it, rather than indulge yourself in inquiry, elaboration, reaction.

Just naked, simple awareness.  You are aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, but you don’t add to them, or extend them, or inquire into them.  The key to the practice is to rest in simple awareness of whatever happens in your body and mind, but not go beyond that simple awareness.

Our awareness is the backdrop against which all of our experience unfolds. Every thought happens within our awareness. Every feeling happens within our awareness. So, all we are doing is turning our attention to this background of our mind, our awareness as such. We bring attention to this naked sense of being aware.

And so the challenge of this exercise is to not get lost in judging yourself for having a thought you consider bad, or get sucked into a stray memory, or become reactive to some external stimulus. The challenge is to not to comment on what’s happening, or inquire into its source, but just to rest in your awareness…  You have to let go of the compulsive desire to comment on everything. To comment on your mind, or memory, or some unresolved issue you have. Instead just bring awareness to to it and rest in that awareness. Be aware of your awareness and how it is in turn aware of feelings, sensations, memories, stimulus, thoughts that emerge, persist, and depart.

Let's begin with the breath. Right now, practice being aware of the breath and no more. Let yourself feel the breath and leave it at that. Just be aware of your breath, and your awareness of that awareness of the breath. No elaboration, not commentary, no drama.

And if a thought does emerge, don’t be alarmed or reactive - just be aware of it, and otherwise let it go.

(pause)

We can also practice being aware of our feelings and no more. Whatever feeling you are experiencing, it could be the feeling of the seat underneath you, the feeling of your feet on the floor, practice being aware of the feeling, but letting go of any other tendency, whether it be to evaluate, judge, or inquire.

(pause)

So, we’re beginning to see what it’s like to be simply aware without the elaborate ways our emotions, thoughts, reactions, and narratives typically dress up that naked awareness.  We can do this this practice of naked awareness with all of our senses, such as sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.  Listen to a sound, or contemplative a visual form, and just focus on the awareness of the sound, or colors, without commentary, analysis, or judgement. Just be aware and nothing more.  Try it out with sound.

(pause)

Now we will explore going one step further to turn your awareness not to some sensation, thought, or emotion, but rather to awareness itself. Can you be aware of simply our own awareness?  Can you be aware of just awareness, and nothing else?  Be aware of your capacity for experience, your foundational awareness, and leave it that. Bring all your awareness to your own awareness. If a thought comes up, its fine, just let it be and keep your awareness on your awareness.

(pause)

And if at any time during this meditation if you get a little too lost in the thought, you can come back to the breath. The breath is like the anchor. It’s always with you. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to imagine it, it’s just there… you can just let awareness touch upon the breath again.

(pause)

At times, you may feel the conditioned pull to comment or evaluate something you’re experiencing because we have a long lifetime of conditioning to evaluate and judge our experiences. Let such impulses rise, but keep your awareness on your awareness, and they will gradually subside of their own accord.

(pause)

So, what in your experience right now is it like to be just aware and nothing more? What does it feel like? What is awareness feel like in your body? And around your body?

(pause)

When you notice yourself being lost for a moment in a judgment or a commentary, what is it like to suddenly find your awareness again in your awareness? With no judgement or commentary on having been lost for a moment, you simply return to awareness.  Mere awareness. Notice the quality of peace, quiet, and calm when you’re simply aware.

(pause)

Remember the aim of this exercise is not to perfect it, or find some perfect awareness, but instead to let yourself experience and feel what it’s like to connect with that background sense of awareness.

(pause)

And in a moment, we will end the meditation but before we do that, the invitation is right now to briefly open your eyes and when you do, just only be aware of what you see without comment or reflection in your mind.  No need to look around, but just rest in your simple awareness, even though now a rich visual field floods into your awareness.  Let the visual field come in and allow yourself to rest into that calm, quiet place of being simply aware.

(pause)

You may either keep your eyes open or close them again briefly as we bring closure to our meditation.  

This meditation can be done in small ways while we are engaged in our daily lives. And so throughout the day and week, find moments to turn to awareness. It could be while driving, it could be while walking down the sidewalk to class, or it could be listening to someone and turning towards your own simple awareness without any inner narrative or judgement.

Now slowly bringing movement to our body. And as you do that,  as you start to move around, just keep the question with you, “what is it to merely aware as I get up and move around?” You can carry this question with you throughout the day, wherever you go, whatever you’re doing. Just don’t try to do it perfectly, just be patient with yourself as you curiously explore naked, simple awareness.

Week 11 - Naked Awareness
Collection The Art and Science of Human Flourishing - Fall 2017
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)