Using Awareness

Using Awareness

I recommend an effortless meditation for that key experience of samadhi or pure consciousness. By taking you beyond the mind (which not all meditations do), you get tastes of your deeper nature and culture the ground for spiritual awakening.

Some people have different physiologies that find pure consciousness through other processes, such as the senses or body. Yoga, for example, places meditation along with asana (posture) and pranayama (breath) as arms of the 8 limbs. I know some effective teachers emphasize different limbs. Patanjali described it as the Royal Yoga to combine them.

Just be sure it brings that open spacious peace, not just some relaxing or spacing out. Relaxing is good, but is that “spiritual”?

I do not think meditation should be used as an escape nor that we should deny the body. That is the vehicle through which we will live enlightenment. Too much of the discourse around the body and our humanity comes out of a fundamentalist interpretation of renunciate practices – something unsuitable for most of us. Ignoring or denying the body will not help your life or your spiritual progress.

In my experience, body awareness can be quite useful but should be used appropriately. I don’t have a high level of expertise here but have a bit to offer.

Regular effortless asana can be great for keeping us flexible and helping energy flow and purification release. The object in this case is not to strain or go as far as you can but to go to the point of first resistance and stop there. With the attention on the posture, the resistance relaxes and things begin to flow more. Effortless ease, not competition nor a workout. (yoga and exercise serve different purposes)

In the process, we develop body awareness too. It’s useful to know what our body is doing. So many ignore most of it until they have a problem. We’re more likely to be in the body more (rather than our heads, dreams, etc) if we’re aware of it.

But a daily practice is enough. You don’t need to spend the day checking everything. That’s being in your mind, not body.

A few points are key for awareness techniques:
– where does it take you? Beyond the mind? Into the dreamy astral?
– does it bring balance and quality of life? Results are the point of practice.
– what we put our attention on grows stronger so our techniques will enhance that area

But more subtly, what is the balance of the three gunas or core qualities? A lot of teaching ignores this but the dominant guna has a profound effect on how we experience the world.

Sattva increases clarity, peace and joy
Rajas increases desire, drive, grasping, agitation, fire (also to roast tamas)
Tamas increases sluggishness, dullness, aversion & resistance

The different levels of our expression can have a different dominant guna. For example, our mind may be agitated while the body is dulled out. Over time, they tend to sync but other influences like environment, diet, and experiences will shift the dynamics.

For example, if our body is clear and pure and we give it our attention, that will be mutually enhancing. But if our body is dull and sluggish, our attention is affected that way – unless we use our attention with skill.

Skill in this case is:
– having easy attention with consciousness rather than mind (one observes, the other manages)
– being able to observe without being caught (witness)
– being able to bring light and/or love with the attention (automatically, not a mood)

What I am describing here is skill gained by clarity of consciousness. It is not something you can fake or manipulate but rather arises naturally with spiritual development. For example, when witnessing develops, then you gain the skill of detached observation. Letting go is much easier.

Mind, especially an identified mind, will naturally be influenced by what it’s being exposed to. As we settle back into pure attention, we stop being so influenced. And as the refinement process develops, we bring light to whatever we experience. Then simple awareness has a completely different effect.

Often, we’re not aware of this as it gradually increases. And then we start getting feedback from others.

Skill is developed through practices that connect us with pure consciousness and enliven it in experience.

Being broadly aware of these principles is useful. But don’t get into a constant analysis of what’s with what. It will unfold naturally with awareness and refinement.

This also relates to my comments about mindfulness. While it may help relax us, if we’ve not developed enough consciousness within, it is mind and its gunas being mindful, not true presence. But when presence comes on-line through other practices, then you’re working with unencumbered attention itself. That’s what brings potency to practices like this.

Keep in mind that siddhi (special abilities) are made possible by being able to focus attention while maintaining open awareness. (part of samyama) This arises naturally when consciousness is established enough not to be disturbed by focus. They can coexist.

A few other tips on the subject:

Our body stores unresolved experiences energetically. When we’re meditating or resting, occasionally a large block may come up for processing. It can bring an intense sensation or emotion or both. By having simple attention on the body, it will go to a sensation where the release is happening. Our attention (no manipulation needed) can help facilitate the release. After a wave of sensation or emotion, it will be complete. We may find a need to rest afterwards. Lie down if you can then. Another large burden is gone.

In this process, don’t try to figure out what is being released. If the mind gets involved, it will interfere. This is about letting go, not managing. Mostly, the release won’t be about one event anyway. The threads of karma can be very complex.  

After long practice, purification can arise in daily life too. By then we’re very used to processing whatever arises easily.

When an issue arises, we can also bring the attention to areas of pain or injury to help facilitate healing. This may be difficult at first as we’re used to resisting pain. But if we acknowledge pain, then the signal is heard and it will usually wind down a great deal.

The body knows how to heal. We don’t have to manipulate that. But our innocent attention can help. This becomes progressively more potent with spiritual practice as described above.

This also serves as a reminder that what you put your attention on grows stronger (& heals). If you find yourself dwelling on problems, what’s wrong, and so forth – see that as something to heal rather than something deserving your attention. Look to see where resistance is being felt when dramas arise. Allow the sensation to arise and heal as described above. This will release the tension or agitation. At first, this may seem awkward or unclear but it gets easier with practice. Just don’t try to control the process. See it and allow it. Then we can favour gratitude for what is good and culture that.

Of course, this does not mean ignoring problems. Problems should be acted upon. But stewing over them is not healthy. Research your problem so you understand it, let that sit in open awareness for a short period and then let it go so it can digest. Soon a solution should appear if it’s time. If it’s not time, work with what is here.

Our bodies are made to move. As we age, our metabolism gradually slows and we tend to get less active. In our current culture, we can easily spend our day behind a desk, in a car, at a computer, or on the couch. All sitting.

To stay healthy, we want to include some form of daily activity. Plus we want to get up from sitting at least once an hour, briefly. Even if we intensely exercise daily, research has shown that we still develop problems if we sit the rest of the day.

There is an art and skill to living. We can stumble along or get some skills to live a higher quality of life and enjoy a smoother process.
Have fun!

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  1. celeste

    This brings up the movements in Meditation. I find that when I go deep in meditation, I will feel a sensation, a sudden pain and I will jerk. This brings me out of the depth of meditation and then the process will repeat itself. I would like to just stay in the deep place. Do you think this will settle down?

    1. Hi Celeste
      Yes, this is called kriyas or release of stress. The pain may be the knot becoming conscious or of it’s release. (don’t worry about figuring it out) You may also have an emotional response at times. Strong sensations and movement indicate something larger. Key is to just allow the process and it will complete quickly. Then that burden is cleared. Things can then flow a little more.

      Such releases tend to come in batches, so you may have a period of it. But as Maharishi used to say, something good is happening.

      While it may be annoying, it’s a good thing and shows the practice is being very effective.

      Further, you don’t want to try to stay with the deep peace or bliss or anything else. Just allow whatever comes up to arise. This alternation of inner and outer will bring them together. It also teaches us not to resist experiences, something key for both healing and awakening.

  2. Scott

    Hi Davidya,
    I want to bring up the subject of bramhacharya in relation to the bodily side of spiritual processes. I don’t hear much mention of it in modern spiritual circles ( it seems to be viewed as a static, irrelevant practice) but I sometimes feel spiritual practitioners would do well to understand the meaning and transformations that such a practice engenders.

    It may not be a suitable practice for everyone ( perhaps not from the very beginning of their spiritual practice) but I think the huge physical and spiritual benefits of incorporating non- leakage as a part of a genuine spiritual practice are greatly underappreciated.

    This is just speculation , but I think some of the difficult processes and obstacles that people run into along the path would smoothen out by incorporating this precept into meditation practice.

    Again, this sort of practice is not for everyone , but I thought it might be interesting to hear you ‘talk’ a bit about this subject..

    1. Hi Scott
      I assume you interpret brahmacharya to mean celibacy. In fact, the word means ‘one who’s teacher is Brahman’. But your take is common in recent centuries while monks practice has been over-emphasized.

      Myself, I recommend moderation in all things.

      The trick with any kind of abstinence is that it be natural and unforced. If we culture resistance, the energy will find a way to express in a shadow form. This has been amply demonstrated in most religions of the world.

      I would also note the teachings on dharma. Celibacy is for cloistered monks. Trying to behave like a monk while living in the world inclines people to fail at both.

      Go by your own experience rather than what someone, including me, tells you on the subject. I don’t know if thats what you’re describing here or what you’ve been told.

      “leakage” is also irrelevant – that can happen in sleep. It’s what the energy is doing thats important in this context.

      In my own experience, I’ve seen way too much of this driven by beliefs, self-denial, and expectations of personal perfection. The desire for control is a marker for ego. Letting go is what leads to awakening. 🙂

  3. Scott

    Thanks Davidya,

    Yes, I was using the word brahmacharya in its popular meaning. ( interesting about the etymology !) Yet the practice of sexual continence doesn’t necessarily imply celibacy , per se: the emphasis is on not losing the sexual fluids, so someone who adopts this sort of practice can still have sexual intercourse.

    I know what you mean by persons driven by self-denial, strong beliefs, ambition, etc. never truly tasting the fruits of spiritual practice. It’s a real shame actually. I think in many cases it’s due to partial understanding of spiritual cultivation.

    What we often see in many religions seems to be the result of the notion that celibacy in and of itself is a virtue. Although without truly letting go, through an accompanying meditation practice its just an exercise in self- will, or self- torture, and not a genuine spiritual practice.

    Non- leakage, i think ,is a Daoist term. It refers to the sexual fluids aswell as to the prana, at higher levels of practice.

    Thanks again

    1. Ah, Scott – that’s actually a different thing. Usually brahmacharya is thought to mean celibacy and is thus related to renunciation.

      Control over orgasm is different and from different traditions. It’s about control over energy, often related to developing abilities and such. The intention is different.

      1. michael

        Leakage in Neidan means that Chi and Jing is lost out of our system. Usually that term is not used with sexual fluids (at least not at first), and control over orgasm is not of great importance in Neidan. So in the “laying the foundations” stage of Neidan that leakage will be stopped. Most people have some form of leakage and that drains some of this 2 vital “substances” out of the system, which is of course unhealthy. 🙂

        1. I’m familiar with how some traditions talk about this and how some “leakage” occurs, such as with unskilled empath merges or some kinds of excess.

          However, the universe is full of life-force so it’s also easily replenished if we moderate extremes.

          Some systems seem to over-emphasize the issue. Sometimes this seems more about power and control as more chi can also bring more abilities.

          To my experience, the point of spiritual practice should be transcendence and healing. Of course, we may be called to develop other kinds of skills but thats not my area of expertise.

  4. Jim

    Yes, there is such a desire for inner peace, when the mind is still somewhat disordered and the heart in a bit of turmoil. For those on a spiritual path of synchronization inside and out, no worries. With continued attention and integration, the whole thing settles down, giving us access to as much inner silence and peace as we could ever want, independent of whatever activity we are engaged in. No need in chasing it before then.

    You make a great point about not obsessing, and taking it as it comes. We live so much more in a mental world than we used to, figuring out ways to manifest our power through tech, and now due to the Internet, having any scripture or spiritual teacher at our fingertips. This can lead to a tendency to believe that enlightenment can be solved like any other problem the mind has. Good to just go for a walk or play with the cat or rearrange the furniture when such an impulse comes up.:-)

  5. K

    Yes – I have realized recently that there is a skill to living. Somehow, for me at least, like all skills it takes time to master. Some people appear to me a bit more skilled sooner but then that is the case with all fields of knowledge/practice. When you say that there is an art and skill to living, is this related to what they say in the Gita about Kshetra (field) and Kshetrajna (knower of the field)? Or is that something totally different? Thanks

    1. Hi K
      Agreed, and yes, it’s related. But also more. There is skill to every aspect of life. Knowing who we are makes the process easier as we’re not as caught in it.

      Everyone has learned some of the lessons already, so they don’t need to again (except perhaps be reminded). And everyone is given circumstances to learn new ones, or learn them more deeply. 🙂

      The Gita is packed with life skills/lessons, right off the top on dharma. Theres a richness and subtlety there I continue to be surprised by. For example, there is good reason why some objects have names and are mentioned along with the warriors in the opening.

  6. K

    I believe that there is something contradictory going on. On one hand, we say that there is a skill to life. My personal experience is that one acquires this skill or gets more skilled typically by dealing with difficult circumstances and somehow integrating them. On the other hand, there is no doer and we are not the doer according to some people – for e.g. Roger Castillo on a recent batgap and many others including probably Shri Ramana. If there is no doer, who is acquiring the skill? And how is skill being acquired if there is no real doing? I don’t fully understand all aspects of this and will likely get into knots if try to follow these two strains of thought to some conclusion.

  7. Hi K
    Difficult circumstances can certainly help us learn but we learn more quietly in routine life as well. And life experiences can also bring out skills we have but were unaware of.

    Doing continues to appear. The distinction is in our perspective of it. And that is based on our stage of development. The contradictions you notice are not falsehoods but rather changes in experience and understanding that take place when who we recognize ourselves to be changes.

    People who are not yet awake will normally see themselves as the doer, for example. Ego is still in charge although some may try to manipulate their experience otherwise.

    After Self Realization, we become the detached observer of life and thus we witness actions taking place. We no longer experience ourselves as the doer.

    I would consider it a mistake to say there is no doer as doing continues. The distinction is that we’re no longer it.

    If refinement is being cultured, then who is doing the doing becomes apparent. The laws of nature acting through this form are obvious. Then the skills are being gained by the laws in this form.

    After the Unity shift, the silent observer and lively consciousness underlying the world merge (are recognized as one) which changes the dynamic yet again. Then all doing arises from and within you, in the larger sense.

    And there is further after that.

    Complicating the above is the dominant guna of the physiology. With rajas more prominent, the field of action and doing is seen as illusory. With sattva more, it’s seen as a play.

    It’s useful to be aware of these distinctions but don’t try to live a truth that is not yours like some do. Denying our experience only takes us into mind games.

  8. Jesper

    Hi David

    Great article, I think.

    Can you speak a bit about the consequences of choosing af path that you for some reason feel great love towards, and a path that you don’t? Is there a huge advantage in choosing the path you feel love towards, or doesn’t it matter that much if you simply stick to a given path and practice sincerely?

    1. Hi Jesper

      Well, I suppose it depends on what is loving it. Does ego love the path because it’s easy and satisfying? Or does something deeper move the attraction, a love driven by devotion?

      My take is that it matters what you practice, not just that you practice. But of course, this is the perspective from here. Not everyone has the same inclinations.

      Follow the heart is good advice, as long this is taking you beyond your me-sense.

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