Awareness Watching Awareness – Better than Any Sight, Any Sound
I have had The Direct Means to Eternal Bliss by Michael Langford on my bedside table for the last month and a half. This book is the original source of the Awareness Watching Awareness method as it is written here which we have been linking to in posts and comments for the last year, and which we have been discussing on the forum here.
I like to have an actual book version of the things I’m most serious about so I ordered one off Amazon. I’ve dipped into it as nighttime reading, but didn’t fully jump into it, possibly due to an unconscious ego defence. A few days ago however I reached the chapter with the practice instructions. After reading them, I then just practised Awareness Watching Awareness exactly as it was written in the book, rather than trying to put my own spin on it. All I can say is: Damn. This is it.
I do not usually practise late at night because meditation tends to energize me which screws up my sleep. The exception is sitting breath jhana which is so opioidic that it puts me out like a light and gives a deep, dreamless sleep. I was also lying in bed which is a suboptimal way to meditate because you do not gain the more “agglomerated” awareness that comes from having an upright spine. I decided to practise AWA anyway however since I had just read the instructions and was curious. Description D seemed to pop out at me, so I tried that first:
- Description D: Shut your eyes. Turn your attention away from thought and watch the watcher.
This had a rapid unifying effect on my mind. I was reminded that this was the form of meditation I practised naturally at the start of my meditation path more than ten years ago, before reading highly technical meditation methods involving objects, paths and territories such as Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, which I now see as having corrupted my natural tendencies towards Awareness Watching Awareness. As a side note, the command to “watch the watcher” activates awareness of the eyes which causes this meditation to become very similar to Conscious Mental Rest, another good nondirective meditation.
I practised watching the watcher for a few minutes, and it certainly had its own benefits beyond general mindfulness or concentration. However, I also wished to try one of the descriptions that featured the word “awareness”, since the author seemed to have this as his primary theme in the book. So I next used Description E:
- Description E: Shut your eyes. Notice your awareness. Be aware of your awareness. If you notice you are thinking, turn your attention away from thought and towards awareness of awareness.
It was while practising this method that the following experience happened, which let me know that it was the real thing. This all happened very quickly, perhaps within one minute of switching to this method, and it went something like this:
First, there was an event that I cannot fully put into words as it was a direct experience, and this was the realization that I am the awareness. (I assume this was the “I-feeling” people have talked about.) This was followed very rapidly by two more insights: 1) I have always been there, and 2) “I” (the ego) was in some perpetual struggle to get away from that abiding awareness and towards some state it considered better. So, the ego is always trying to pull awareness away from itself, or something like that. It’s very hard to describe, but I hope you get the gist.
There is a permanent “home” of awareness always there for you, but the ego wants to get towards its goals which it assumes will satisfy it, and this means the ever-present “lighthouse” of awareness is no longer seen while the ego is off on its jaunts. You actually have to turn back towards the lighthouse to find your way back home. There is no way to reach that insight academically, though; it must be experienced via the practice.
So, if I am always there, always aware, I should stay in that place, get to know it, get to love it. So, once I had found it, I decided to stay right in that awareness. Reading the book the next day, I found that this was in fact given as an instruction in Description P:
- Description P: Shut your eyes. Awareness aware only of awareness. Remain there. Dwell there. Be there. Live there.
But I had stumbled upon it myself. So, I decided to stay in the awareness and make it my home. Within just a few seconds of doing this, the following happened:
- Everything became extremely quiet.
- A surge of energy rushed up my spine. The inside of my torso felt like it was opening right up and became light and breathy, like I could finally breathe properly for the first time in forever. My heart then began to feel so warm it was like it was bursting with love and joy. My visual field also filled with gold-yellow light, and I could see orbs lighting up at my crown. My face was smiling, like a shocked ecstatic smile, eyes wide, and I could feel joy and happiness trying to explode out of my face and my whole body.
- My sense of self became extremely thin. So, the thick “centre” I previously perceived as the core of my being as a separate self who suffers suddenly thinned out to the extent that there was no perceivable centre. This also had the effect of making my mind appear to have expanded infinitely in all directions.
- It felt like “I” was disappearing, dying, being replaced by – dare I say it? – love. I hate to become one of those people who reads a book then starts repeating phrases from it like a brainwashed zombie, but I cannot think of any better way to put it than Michael Langford does: infinite-eternal-awareness-love-bliss. That is what waits for you on the other side of Awareness Watching Awareness.
A few things surprised me about this experience. The first was the rapidity of its onset. I haven’t had anything hit me that fast and that hard before. I was only “in” the awareness for a few seconds before that peak experience blasted me.
The second thing was the intensity. The experience was so intense that I was only able to stay there for a few seconds as I felt like I was going to explode. It’s hard to believe that this had come from something as simple as a decision to stay in awareness itself. The energizing effects plus the general excitement about the experience then meant that I could not get to sleep until 4am.
The third thing that surprised me was the amount of insight that exploded out of that experience. It taught me things in the blink of an eye, things that could never be reached intellectually. It felt more like a “download” than something I had “learned”.
The goals of this practice are, in my words:
- To permanently end suffering.
- To realize my true nature as what Langford calls infinite-eternal-awareness-love-bliss. I’ve had glimpses of it enough times to know it exists.
- To resolve the paradox between duality and nonduality, i.e. being a separate self who can operate in the world (duality) while also experiencing total connection, unity, and absence of suffering (nonduality).
These days I only tend to judge meditation practices by whether they appear to get me closer to those goals. However, I also realize that none of my meditation reports would be complete without describing some “fireworks”, so here is some worldly stuff that happened over the next few days which were nice bonuses.
Two days after the experience it was our company’s summer conference which was hosted at a beautiful cricket pavilion in the English countryside. We truly have some of the nicest scenery here in England, and the green hills in the distance were like the ones Princess Diana used to walk upon before her candle burned out far too soon. In the conference room some dickhead was droning on and on about the company’s new software platform in a failing presentation whose video’s sound was mixed so low not a soul could hear it, and I turned my attention out of the window to the view of the countryside beyond the pavilion. Watching the watcher, I was pulled so hard into the present moment that I could barely even think. The trees in the distance stood with such a stillness that it looked like a dream. The boredom ended immediately.
After the presentations there was a quiz for entertainment purposes with a music round, a general knowledge round, and so forth. In between rounds there were bonus prizes if you could shout out the answer to an additional question the compère asked over the mic. These prizes were cheap inflatable plastic beach toys, such as a lifeguard float and a Nemo knock-off. “These prizes are so shit, they’re not even worth going up for,” I muttered to my team, to some agreement. For the next prize, the compère then pulled out an inflatable parrot. “Ooh, I like that parrot!” I said, my non sequitur not going unnoticed by my team. “It looks just like the bird on the Parrot Bay logo.” (Parrot Bay is a cheap brand of alcoholic liqueurs and “freeze pouches” that turn into slushy ice cocktails filled with sugar and E-numbers. I used to drink them when I was an alcoholic.) “If we win that, I’ll put it on my computer and we’ll rename our area of the office Parrot Bay!” This seemed like the best idea in the world to me in that moment.
The compère continued: “Now, the winner of our last prize has already been decided by our Managing Director, and it goes to the team with the most creative name,” she said. “And the winner is – and I shall say this name very slowly! – Big… Fact… Hunt!“
I had named our team “Big Fact Hunt” in order to trick the compère into saying “big fat cunt” in front of the entire company, which I think would have been very funny. Evidently however she had figured it out and had mentioned it to the Managing Director, who luckily had a sense of humour. After collecting the prize I sat back down and my colleague said, “Hey Edd, you got your parrot! It must be divine intervention!” Why did he have to say that? Given how small the gap was between my seeing the parrot, deciding I wanted it, making a visualization about having it, and then being given it the next moment, I could kind of see his point. The whole thing rather blew my mind.
I was fairly solidly locked into nonduality for the rest of the day, showing that the meditation has powerful lasting effects even from short bursts of practice. This manifested in my behaviours mainly as something like hypersociability, with my taking a great deal of interest in other people as they now appeared to be something akin to “me pushed out”. This 180-degree turnaround from my previous decades of introversion suggests to me that meditation can powerfully affect personality.
The next morning I woke up an hour before I was supposed to wake up for work. Rather than going back to sleep, I instead opened up the book and decided to try Description O:
- Description O: Shut your eyes. Turn your attention away from the known and know the knower.
I repeated the instruction back to myself a few times in my head and began practising it. The gold-yellow light appeared and, without losing consciousness for even a moment, I passed straight through the dream barrier into a lucid dream. I don’t regularly lucid-dream any more because I lost the knack for controlling dreams as well as I once could and they tend to descend into chaos before I can build anything substantial. For some reason however this meditation had given me back close to total control of the dream, and I stayed there for what seemed like, perceptually, a solid two hours – two hours filled with sex, golden rooms full of treasure, and magic mirrors that could take me anywhere I wished just by walking through them. I awoke sure that I had slept through my alarm and was now late for work. However, when I checked the time, I was totally shocked to discover that only twelve minutes had passed “out there”. So that was two hours’ worth of experience, more real than real, and with any adventure I wanted, bought for the price of just twelve minutes in the real world. That’s Inception-level nonsense.
What I have surmised from these experiences is that Awareness Watching Awareness puts one back in touch with the Source – infinite-eternal-awareness-love-bliss – to the extent that one’s true creative power as Awareness itself begins to show itself vividly in all things. 10/10, would recommend.