Friday, April 11, 2014

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘CONSTANTLY AWARE’?

‘But how can I be constantly aware?’ a student said to me the other day. ‘Surely that’s impossible---not to mention very tiring!’

He’s right, you know. Yet so many books on mindfulness and meditation generally talk about the need to be constantly aware. For example, Krishnamurti wrote, 'True meditation is constant awareness, constant pliability, and clear discernment.' But how is that possible? Well, it’s not. It’s just a manner of speaking, so to speak. We must look beyond the words, as Krishnamurti would also say. ‘The word is not the thing,’ he often said. Good advice, that.

The fifth international president of the Theosophical Society, of which I am a member, was a very spiritual and enlightened man---N Sri Ram [pictured left]. He wrote much that I have found to be both inspiring and very practical. In one of his writings Sri Ram addressed the very matter I’m talking about now, namely, this idea of 'constant awareness.' He wrote:

At the same time it is not possible to be turning the attention to what passes in our minds all the hours of the waking day. We would find it too fatiguing, the attention would wander, just as when we try to meditate on a particular theme. To be constantly aware is a manner of speaking. When you try to meditate or contemplate something, you will find that the mind wanders off within a minute or two, and exactly the same thing happens when you try to pay attention to your thinking. This difficulty was put to Krishnamurti, and in one of his talks he replied, ‘play with it,’ that is, take it easy. He also lays stress on non-effort, that means it has to be done easily and pleasantly. …

Sri Ram goes on to refer to so-called constant awareness as simply the immediate perception of something taking place. ‘We have to become so sensitive that as soon as something takes place, whether outside or inside ourselves, we immediately perceive it, like a well-trained musician who becomes conscious of a false note as soon as it is struck. … This requires a certain sensitivity, without which one will not be aware.’

I have often written about the need for non-effort. ‘Resist not’ is the great wisdom of the ages. When we resist (something), there is an immediate loss of immediate perception. Straightaway we embark upon translation, interpretation, analysis, judgment, and condemnation. Meditation, wrote Sri Ram, requires a mind 'completely denuded of all previous ideas and knowledge.' Whenever there is translation, interpretation, analysis, judgment or condemnation, the 'past'---in the form of beliefs, conditioning, ideas, values, and so forth---is at work, and we are then no longer in the now. So, let any thoughts or feelings that arise fade out in their natural manner. Don't dwell upon or otherwise cling to them in any way.

The essence of mindfulness is the immediate perception of what is, from one moment to the next. The content of that which is perceived may be outside or inside ourselves. It will always be an uneven mixture of both. So be it. Such is the flow of life. Stay with it. Be with it … and live. Mindfully.



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