Choiceless Awareness

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Choiceless Awareness or Mindfulness -- What is it?

To suspend judgment is difficult. To do so voluntarily, as a witness to one’s own thoughts, is the ‘methodless method’ called ‘mindfulness’ or ‘choiceless awareness’ that is used to achieve a meditative state. Choiceless Awareness is the closest there is to the stereotypical and uninformed impression that meditation is relaxation and letting go and doing nothing. Popularized by Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher and educator, it is the state of being fully aware of the moment without awareness being focussed on any physical or mental image/object/meditation object. It is the state of pure contemplation.

How to do it?

You choose one of the many postures for meditation and literally live in the moment. You allow your senses to soak in the world, to wash over you, without filtering it with thought. You are open to becoming aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feelings, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them. You will need to train your mind to resist the habit of making claims and being possessive about your opinion. You attempt a non-reactive state of mind. You notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to a meditation object (such as the breath) whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again.

Permit a palpably transforming silence and stillness to pervade one's being. In this choiceless awareness, there is nowhere to go, to stay or to come from. Embrace the three fields of time, past, present and future.

Realise the Emptiness of claims on things, experience or on relative or Ultimate Truth.

In this receptivity, regard any liberating insight into the Ultimate Truth as expressions of Truth rather than fruits of “self” effort.

Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Remind yourself that you exist here and now.

Nobody can live in the past or the future, even though your existence in this world is the sum total of many aspects of reality and experience such as physical makeup, your cultural, social and educational background, thought, emotion, future ambitions etc. The attempt should be to accept life as it exists in the present moment - no matter how banal or stressful, it is all that you have.

Step 2: Be aware of the activities going on in and around you in the moment.

From obvious and hidden bodily processes to the numerous physical, chemical and biological changes that are occurring simultaneously in the world outside your skin, observe everything.

It will become clear that the universe or creation is an ongoing phenomenon that unfolds itself continuously. Everyone is surrounded by this cosmic choreography and it affects everyone including you all the time.

This moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be. The moment -- the one you're experiencing right now-- is the culmination of all the moments you have experienced in the past. This moment is as it is because the entire universe is as it is. A relevant thought from: The seven spiritual laws of success. By Deepak Chopra

Step 3: Start doing everything with awareness.

This may be distracting to do, as it is recommended to be remembered while doing the most mundane, routine things, such as drinking water or walking, such as what you experience when you swallow or how your hands move while you walk. You would maintain this discipline whatever the level of activity, even if you were sitting still or lying in bed. This practice will result in your living life mechanically. The heightened awareness of everything, creates the realization of two distinct aspects of your identity will emerge : one - doing and another – being, the observer or witness within the self. The awareness of this presence leads to leading a life that merges the outcomes of actions and thoughts with that of the reflections of the observer. This observer is considered the immortal part of your existence and a via media to realize the supreme consciousness.

What not to do

You do not manipulate, interpret, judge or remember. As a result your mind becomes open to anything. When you think, you focus attention on just one area of sensory input, or you create a thought from memory stored within the brain.

What results to expect

Observation becomes very keen, as thoughts are not filtered and sensorial immediacy takes control. All sensory input takes the same priority as it is not allotted hierarchy. Thus, the external and internal world takes on the same importance and is perceived by the mind as one object. You no longer see the world as a multitude of parts and disconnected events. Instead, the observer, you, and the observed are perceived as the same, sans the artificial wall of thought, blocking the limits of consciousness. You become one with the universe, a cosmic being, untouched by thought, thus, beyond time or infinite. You achieve perfect concentration without isolation.

You will also experience a persistent, often subtle, sense of dissatisfaction (dukkha). This is because unpleasant sensations and even happier memories tug at the heart. However, as the ebb and flow of experience and fluctuating moods, become familiar, it will gradually become clear that neither the lows nor the highs are permanent. In being so, they do not belong to you. The traffic of thoughts and emotions begins to take on a silence, revealing a calm spaciousness of mind, where no purely personal characteristics can be found. The realization at this stage is that there no 'me' and no 'mine'. It is described as the characteristic of 'no-self', or impersonality (anatta).

Whether your experiences are joyful or barely endurable, the contemplation by way of the technique of Choiceless Awareness, will lead to a calm and balanced perspective on your life.

Other forms

  • Hindu: One Pointed Vision
  • Zen-based: Thich Nhat Hanh's (the France-based Vietnamese Zen master) mindfulness meditation
  • Vipassana, promoted by Henepola Gunaratana (Bhante G.), S.N. Goenka and many others
  • Mindfulness of Breathing