Overcoming impediments to maintaining awareness in the present. How the body and the mind can help.
The mind has its hands in the past and its feet in the future. Using limbs of the past and the future, the mind is in continual movement. There are no rules of the road for the mind, and thoughts criss-cross one another all the time. They may harmoniously blend in with one other, or they may conflict. In the mind, amidst all the disorder, there is a clamor for an order. In existence, there is a hidden order, but as long as there is emotional disorder in the mind, we cannot be in tune with the present. We can either be in the mind or the present. Awareness cannot coexist in both at the same time.
Awareness and the present
Awareness, and not the senses, is the portal for entry into the present. The mind provides a false representation of the present, just like a ceiling with a paint scheme and lights to resemble the sky and daylight. In the mind, there is a constant desire for change, creating movement, either away or towards something of the other. When there is no contentment, there is movement of the mind towards that which appears to bring happiness. For the mind, the present is the biggest prize. Everyone is after an experience of the present moment, and if the mind can bring the present under its umbrella, then no one can escape the influence of the mind in their lives. Luckily, the present moment is not approachable through the senses. Only awareness can touch the present.
Awareness and the mind
With awareness in the present, the entire being minus the mind follows. The mind will remain busy with dusting off the past and polishing versions of the future, hoping for us to return. Maintaining awareness in the present is like subjecting the mind to x-ray analysis. Some thoughts barely stick, and to the eyes of awareness, they may look like an insignificant passing cloud. Other thoughts are enshrined in ‘stone,’ especially those that are associated with particular habit patterns and long-standing conditioning. They may appear like a thick wall. As long as awareness remains off the mind and not trapped in the mind, this observation can continue. The more the mind is observed, the further it travels from the point from which awareness of it happens. At a distance, all the coarse features of the mind disappear and its self-contained structure may become apparent.
Awareness and freedom
Awareness implies freedom, it cannot be bought, stored, or sold, and it is freely available to all. Through the eyes, the mind sees the world. The eyes are free to see anything in front of them. What is seen cannot be directly transferred to the eyes of another. They would have to see it for themselves to get the same picture. Similarly, whatever is perceived through awareness, may be described to a certain extent, but that experience cannot be passed on. Just as everyone sees with their own eyes and not borrowed ones, each will have to develop the inner faculty of awareness to touch the place of inner freedom.
The mind and the present
The mind borrows the eyes that are part of the body to see. In turn, we adopt the mind’s image of the world. As a result, the world is never experienced first hand. It becomes an interpretation influenced by the mind. Hence the present also becomes an interpretation of the mind. The eyes may see different sights, the ears can hear various sounds, the skin experiences touch, the nose can smell, and the tongue can taste a variety of flavors in this very moment. These sensory experiences do not constitute an experience of the present. All those experiences are routed through the mind, although they may be near instantaneous experiences, they filter through prior information stored in the mind which offers comparison and contrast. It is only through such comparison and contrast, are we able to say experience is of sight, sound, hearing, taste, and touch.
The present is indivisible. The senses divide information according to the capacity of each sense organ to receive information. It is near impossible to get a composite experience that blends in equally all five senses into an experience that does not reveal any separate traces of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Such an experience cannot even be imagined. It is beyond the scope of the mind. It is closer to the energy that underlies the mind and the senses. Awareness is part of that energy.
Role of witnessing the mind
The mind is a container full of information. Just as water in a cup left outside in the hot sun will eventually evaporate, by being a witness to every thought that comes by, the container of the mind becomes empty. Energy visible as thoughts in the mind, scatter into the invisible infinite. With nothing within the repository of the mind, it is of little use. For fish to live in a pond, it needs to be full of water. Similarly, when the container of the mind is empty and free of thoughts, there is no bait which can turn the free energy of awareness into a conditioned form.
We are indirectly subservient to, and worship specific thoughts by trying to become those thoughts. Much effort goes into manifesting those thoughts. That is the genesis of many of the struggles in life. Those who succeed in manifesting their dreams into external reality experience happiness, and others who are not so successful are unhappy. But such happiness or unhappiness is not permanent as the foundations of both are changing thoughts.
When the efforts towards becoming the contents of thoughts cease, it is then possible to be a witness to them. Witnessing is a crucial step towards growing in awareness. Awareness cannot change the past or directly influence the future. But by being in awareness of the present, we become impervious to the projections of the contents of the mind as the future. Consequently, there are no triggers for negative emotions, such as fear, anxiety, and stress. These negative emotions are extensions of the contents of thoughts. As witnessing the contents of thoughts continues, they start to dry out, and eventually, there may be nothing left to witness except emptiness. However, getting to this level of awareness may be a challenge. It takes a lot of effort to remain a constant witness, especially when being part of the world.
The utility of breath awareness for entering the present
If witnessing of thoughts becomes challenging and strenuous, the body which is firmly rooted in the present offers an alternative. Internally, there is constant change in the body. Every cell is active. Not much of these internal cellular processes are available to conscious perception. The breathing process is an exception. The body can be maintained perfectly still, but the movement of the breath cannot be stopped. Becoming aware of the breath takes attention away from the mind. Watching the breath is like putting on training wheels and learning to balance awareness between the body and the mind. Eventually, awareness can be free of the need for support from the body and the mind. Using the breath achieves the same objective of witnessing thoughts without any interaction with them. Since both the body and the mind are part of our being, awareness can grow through being a witness to one or both.
The body can be the door when the mind is empty
Unlike the mind, we cannot separate from the body, which is our link to the rest of existence. When the mind disappears, we become closer to the body. When awareness is in the present, this closeness to the body does not come from a false center, which is the ego. When the mind empties, the ego also disappears. Awareness is everywhere, and it has no center, it is the center. The body eventually becomes incidental and no longer primary and essential to maintaining awareness. Since the body is an intimate part of the rest of existence and it can become a door to the rest.
As awareness expands without the chains of the mind to contain it, the witness within takes flight into that expansion. Without the mind and ego, there is no center from which that witnessing happens, and ultimately, the witness also disappears, leaving behind pure awareness. This awareness becomes the present.