Is the Aware State a New Concept?

K2Love left this comment a day or two ago at the bottom of my article How to Stop Thoughts:

I can’t thank you enough for writing and posting this clear and detailed article! I started to meditate several months ago and I had been looking for some tangible suggestions — not philosophies or quotes or abstract concepts, but actual pointers to help me in the effort to stop my thoughts. I especially like the details on recognizing the aware state (a completely new concept) and the suggestion to learn to recognize when thoughts are starting so that I can intervene and stop them before getting carried away by them. This pointer alone is already a huge help! I am so glad to have found this website and I look forward to reading your blog and other articles.

The thing that jumped out at me was, “I especially like the details on recognizing the aware state (a completely new concept)…”

I told her that the “aware state” may sound like something new but I bet she has heard of it under other names like presence, the Now, I AM, no-mind, consciousness, etc. These terms all mean the same thing. From now on I’ll refer to it as ‘consciousness’.

These words are the name of an experience. The only way to know what they mean is to have the experience. Then you can say to yourself, “Oh, so that’s what those words mean. Now I know. They mean this state I’m in now.” (Consciousness isn’t really a state but it seems like one when you first notice it.)

What I tried to do in that article, How to Stop Thoughts, is help people notice the experience of consciousness.

I think there are at least two reasons why this might seem new. First, in order to notice consciousness, you also have to notice that you’re usually unconscious. You notice the two things at the same time by comparing them. Very few spiritual books and teachers point out explicitly that people are usually unconscious. This fact is implicit in the term “wake up” — when you wake up, you wake up from unconsciousness — but almost no one helps people notice that they are really, truly unconscious most of the time.

Second, when people hear about this state, the state of Now/presence/no-mind/I AM/consciousness, they imagine a state. They create a state of mind and think this state is “Now.” They create a state of mind and think this state is “presence.” In reality consciousness is beyond the mind. It’s not the product of imagination. It’s not the product of thoughts.

This is a tremendously important point so let me say it a second time in different words. The mind is an amazingly talented machine. It is capable of imagining that it’s in the Now, that it’s present, and that it’s conscious. It can imagine that it’s quiet. It can even imagine a blank and tell itself that it’s not imagining anything. In reality, the mind cannot be conscious. It cannot be present. It cannot be now. You can be conscious but your mind can’t.

There are some popular spiritual teachers who tell people to be present and in the Now. I suspect that 99% of their followers are attempting to follow these instructions by imagining states of presence and Now. These imaginary states are mental creations. They aren’t the real thing. The real thing is the conscious state that I tried to point out in the article, How to Stop Thoughts.

I’m not saying the teachers are wrong. I’m saying that many students misunderstand the words because they don’t know the experience that the words describe.

When you’re conscious, you’re present. When you’re conscious, you’re in the Now. Presence and consciousness and Now are the same thing. They are different words for the same thing.

Consciousness is real. It’s not something you can create with the imagination. It’s not something you can create with the mind. You can’t even perceive it with the mind. You have to perceive it directly by being conscious.

It’s not difficult to notice consciousness. It’s not some far-off mystical state that is accessible only to advanced meditators.

Try asking yourself, “Am I conscious now?” and see if you don’t instantly wake up a little bit. You can’t just say the words; you have to really wonder and inspect yourself to see if you’re conscious. Compare that more-awake state, even if it’s momentary, to your usual state. That will give you the idea.

For more information see:

How to Stop Thoughts

How to Stay Conscious 2

5 thoughts to “Is the Aware State a New Concept?”

  1. Consciousness, the fact of awareness, is so amazing that it is hard to just go about daily life after we notice it. Forgetting about it becomes necessary, so that I can go on existing.

  2. Personal life, what remains of its tiresome memories, hopes and fears, is an empty warehouse where a fair amount of commerce once took place. Even rats don’t want to live there anymore because there is so little left to eat.

    Across the street in a vacant lot where years ago someone threw an apple core, a tree has come up, ready now to bloom. In its upper limbs a sparrow builds her nest.

    The fact of existence is one thing. Being aware of it another. Trying to claim ownership, to bend existence to my own imagined will is a very distant third. When existence, awareness and surrender come together, there is a blossoming of joy like morning birdsong.

  3. It does sometimes seem that if one stops pretending to be unconscious that one will shatter all the patterns that have become daily functioning and leave oneself umcapable of navigating the dimensional world.
    But being fully conscious does not have to look like alztheimers or skitzophrenia or nirvikalpa samadhi. Fortunately, it can be totally normal and natural.

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