Getting Started with Awareness Watching Awareness

This is part of my Start Here series of posts aimed at teaching beginners the basics of the meditative journey.

If, like most meditators, you have learned to meditate by watching an object (the breath, a mantra, etc.), then switching over to Awareness Watching Awareness probably seems very unintuitive. The method of watching an object does not really map onto AWA, because there is no object to watch in AWA.

We should therefore start by renaming AWA to “Noticing I am aware”. This is the starting method which informs the practice later down the line. So, take a moment now to completely rename the practice as “Noticing I am aware” in your mind. This will remove the tendency to try to “watch” something.

This practice, “Noticing I am aware”, can be done anytime, anywhere, eyes open or closed. I actually recommend starting off by practising outside while walking. This is to avoid slipping into old habits acquired during eyes-closed sitting meditation. Remember, this practice is nothing like what you are used to, so try to cut all ties to your old ways.

A twenty-minute walk is ideal to begin with. The terrain doesn’t really matter, either; this is not a concentration meditation, so distractions aren’t much of a problem.

While out walking, simply notice that you are aware. Have a little conversation with yourself, if it helps. Point out that the only reason you can see, hear and feel things, is because you are aware of being here. You might get a tiny little glimpse of your own consciousness noticing itself at this point, which will likely last a millisecond at most, then fade away. (Or maybe it was not even noticeable at all, in which case, try again!) Now, walk on a little further.

Now, gently notice again that you are aware. Just notice that you’re here, experiencing this moment. Again, this little glimpse of awareness noticing awareness will probably last less than a second. That’s all completely fine. This is not a concentration meditation, and you are not in competition with anybody. There are also no goals, besides just stopping every now and again and noticing you are aware.

That’s all it is. For the next two weeks, just stop and notice you are aware, either during a set practice time, or just whenever you remember. Do it while washing-up or cleaning the house, if you want. There is no need to do hard, austere practice. Just spend a little time every day getting to know what it’s like to notice you are aware. Feel free to create a meditation log describing your practice.


Tips

  • Don’t try to grab hold of the “awareness feeling” when it flashes up. It’s not an object you can mentally grab hold of. This isn’t a concentration meditation. Just noticing you are aware will gradually build the introspective habit we are looking to cultivate. It is extremely powerful in and of itself, even if it does not seem so at first.
  • Don’t repeat the words “notice I am aware” (or anything similar) over and over in your mind, as this will simply turn it into a mantra. This isn’t a mantra meditation. Mantras create relaxation but not insight. The rule is, each time you ask yourself to notice that you are aware, you have to take the time to actually notice that you are aware. There is no shortcut through simply repeating words over and over. The work has to be done each time.
  • Don’t try to attain an altered state of consciousness through this practice. Ordinary awareness is, itself, already the most dazzling phenomenon in existence, and the habit of noticing you are aware will reveal this to be the case, in time.
  • This method can be adapted into a sitting practice, and the rules are the same. I advise that you only sit seriously with it once you know what you are looking for. The walking meditation in this post is the best method for getting started, in my experience.
Need help with your meditation? Book a Skype coaching session →

You may also like...

28 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Very happy to see this post. AWA has been practiced by me exclusively for almost three years. I find myself dropping many hobbies and habits I once thought important. Things like golf, fishing and watching sports no longer have an attachment. I prefer to practice. It is the path I have chosen, and as usual, you are quite right. There is no need to seek altered states, as a time will come when the Awareness feeling will overpower you and fill you.

    • Illuminatus says:

      The last time I wrote about AWA I was still hungry for altered states and that came through strongly in the post; that hunger soon derailed my practice.

      A year of shikantaza tempered me in that regard and helped inform what it is I’m actually trying to achieve (which is all about working with ordinary, everyday consciousness).

      I dipped back into AWA today and started with the exact method in the above post, which came from a “beginner’s mind” (always a good place to return to). I feel like I’ve achieved more in the last few hours of intermittent AWA than I did in the entire last year of shikantaza. Of course, that’s a biased way to look at it; the entire last year was all leading up to that event, and things can only go the way they’re supposed to.

      I’ll be AWA for my next slice of practice (however long that lasts). Life’s good. 😎

  2. andrew says:

    Great post, really great post. much love to you brother.

  3. Asen says:

    Hi, I’m interested as to the relationship between Neville Goddard and AWA. Why would AWA be a replacement? Aren’t they intended for different purposes?

    • James says:

      While all roads lead to the same end, you are correct, they serve different purposes.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hi Asen,

      While I won’t speak for Vorth, here is my view:

      – AWA is a path to enlightenment which works regardless of your starting circumstances. Its goal is the complete dissolution of the ego.

      – Neville Goddard is a magick / intention-manifestation system. Its goal is to transport you from one set of life circumstances to another, e.g. “I work in a supermarket but I want to be a successful songwriter”. His method involves imagining your intended circumstances repeatedly until it crowds out your other thoughts and therefore begins to manifest in reality. His method will work whether you are enlightened or not. However, if you are not enlightened, you will most likely end up in the same old ego traps once your new situation manifests. In other words, getting what you want might make you happy at first but then you are still stuck being “you”, filled with attachment to your new situation and insecurity about losing it.

      The way forward, then, would be to do AWA every day as a main practice until its power is understood experientially and until “awareness” (a.k.a. nonduality) is your default mode. Then use Neville Goddard to manifest some situations if you still feel inclined (the paradox of enlightenment is that you end up wanting less and less). Then continue to use AWA to navigate the ego traps sprung open by the new experiences.

      By the way, I have read the first half of The Power of Awareness and consider Neville Goddard to be an enlightened master. He is writing from a different paradigm than other “Law of Attraction” writers.

      • Asen says:

        Hi Illuminatus,

        I appreciate the detailed response! Neville even said that realising our desires is of secondary importance and that “our chief aim is towards increasing awareness – an awareness of things of greater significance”.

        Best wishes

        • Vorth says:

          If you do AWA you literally stop caring about desires.
          Neville and Murphy are all about manifesting your dream life, I do credit them for changing a lot of my negative thoughts process but in the end I have practiced several of Goddard techniques and while they do work it is not 100 % and is too much effort.

          AWA becomes extremely low effort as you get better at it (in fact you seek to do it more often, since it feels good) and it gives you more results.
          You do not even need to change anything in your life.
          I had forgotten what it meant to meditate and I am glad I am back to doing it.

          • James says:

            I don’t know about Murphy, but it sounds like you are forcing Neville, which is the exact opposite of what you’re suppose to do.

            The same way you imagine it is too much effort you could have just as easily imagined that it was effortless.

            • Vorth says:

              This was truly good advice, I am now much more on focused on being effortless and letting it go and not just during meditation but during everything I do. I used to be laser sight focused on meditation too but now I am trying to let go more. I think there is good to pure shikantaza aka doing nothing in particular and just being. Maybe I did AWA incorrectly and concentrated too hard on noticing awareness. Not thinking about anything is easier to do but has less benefits.

              I had brain fatigue or something but things felt FANTASTIC for 2 weeks of pure AWA but then the next week I had this weird fatigue, not exactly dark night of soul but some kind of fatigue.

              I think the super high awareness you get from AWA is hard to maintain for long or maybe I was too focused on it.

              Anyways this is a journey and I have more things to test out.

  4. James says:

    If you think of the journey to the ultimate like a puzzle…

    You know there’s a picture somewhere but you can’t really find it… whether through trial and error or guidance you end up building the boarder first, now you see the outline and proclaim:

    “Aha! all you need it the border! That is the way!”

    then you find nothing is working, but you keep at it and then you’ve filled in most the middle and get an idea of a bigger picture, realizing the border was just sort of the start…

    “Aha! It’s through filling the middle that one finds the truth!” Then some people start filling the middle without ever having touched the border and they end up more confused but eventually get there.

    You get to the point where there is only one last piece to put in, you put it in and complete the puzzle. Congrads, you did it!

    You go along your merry way and someone asks you “How did you do it!?!!?” you reply that you put in the final piece.

    The person runs off, trying to find the final piece of the puzzle to put in, but they never built the border or filled in the middle… out of frustration, they call bullshit and quit.

    That’s a neat metaphor, but its’ probably not even true.

  5. Illuminatus says:

    Here’s an update, for anyone interested.

    The first two days of AWA went very smoothly and reminded me of “the way things should be”. I had the “extremely clear vision” phenomenon happening, which I haven’t had with that level of clarity for some time.

    Yesterday was trickier. Reminding myself to notice I’m aware had a kind of “latency” effect. This was overcome with some increased effort.

    Today was the same, except far worse. I was walking to work today and just couldn’t seem to notice I was aware in the same way as the previous three days. At this point I changed the command from “Notice I’m aware” to “Notice YOU’RE aware”, like I was giving a direct order to myself. Slowly but surely, this order started to get through. It was like trying to wake a sleepy child. The dream is all the thoughts we think about ourselves and others and the world. Awareness is waking up.

    Noticing awareness was like trying to peer through a thick fog. However, with repeated effort (like, REALLY making myself look at the world and become aware that I am aware of it), the fog started to part. Then the ultra-clear vision thing started happening again. Mood and clarity of awareness continued to elevate the rest of the day after that.

    So, this was like a mini–Dark Night. I’ve seen this phenomenon before, where a technique (could be anything!) works solidly for 2-3 days then tapers off and suddenly I can’t remember “how” it worked or how to make it work again. The difference this time though was that increasing effort in AWA did bust through that barrier, and in a relatively short amount of time (compared to, say, MCTB’s methods which can entail weeks or months stuck in a dukkha ñana).

    So, the ego was diminished the first couple of days but then came back with a vengeance. It will NOT go down without a fight. However, AWA is the only sword you need. The trick was to completely ignore the CONTENT of the thoughts during the “foggy phase”, and to pour all attention instead into re-establishing noticing I am aware (a.k.a. AWA).

    This was something I was able to see really clearly this time around. The dukkha ñanas each have a set of thoughts they can throw at you, and will do so to wear you down and get you off the Path. This is like being attacked by the Ten Armies of Mara. The thoughts can be really compelling! Going back into awareness itself, however, by noticing you are aware, is like siphoning off all that vitriol back into the ocean. The speed at which AWA can cut through this crap is amazing. It’s like waking up from a nightmare, several times a day.

    • Illuminatus says:

      UPDATE: After a few weeks of getting reacquainted with AWA via the method in the post (both sitting and walking), I switched today to “Watching the watcher”. So, just sit or lie with eyes closed and watch the watcher. It’s the nicest thing in the world. I don’t know what happened to get me off-track with it before, but I am vigilant and determined to be free in a way I’ve never been before.

      • Pug says:

        Hi Illuminatus,

        Thank you for the update.

        I am currently practicing CMR – much like you described in the forum, using the ‘resting’ of the eyes as the anchor.

        I was wondering if you believe that CMR would eventually turn into ‘Watching the watcher’? – I believe you mentioned the similarity earlier, and Arpan even said CMR turns into AWA whenever he does it.

        I think however AWA (in the form of ‘Watching the watcher’) requires the effort to look directly back at yourself while CMR has your look to move around vaguely in front of you without effort.

        I am curious of your thoughts about it now.

        From what I have read , CMR as part of the ‘transcending’ family of meditations, has the long term goal of developing ‘Pure Consciousness’ or the ‘Witness'(ordinary awareness?) in daily life along with the feeling of rest that allows for the
        releasing supressed emotions and thoughts.

        Gavin Hoole, the developer of CMR and a TM practitioner for several decades, never talked about TM or CMR turning into something akin to watching the watcher.

        Thank you

  6. Pretheesh says:

    Hi,
    There is a blog/site named enlightenednonteachings written by a person called Alexius. Here is a sample link https://enlightenednonteachings.com/2016/06/05/what-is-the-empty-breath-about/ , don’t know if this would be of any relevance to you or something relatable. I use to read it in the past sometimes. The person writing in this site has a completely different approach and he calls it as the fastest way to enlightenment. May be interesting.

  7. Pretheesh says:

    Mixing physical and psychological sphere is a bit like people bulking up their muscles foolishly thinking that way they can hide their weaknesses they think they have in front of ‘others’, only to torture the body by constant defensiveness out of fear of ‘weakness might get exposed’ even with bulky muscles, lol 🙂 ( some foolish thinking strategy I adopted in the past until I got fked up )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *