I know by now you are well familiar with the idea that the present moment is all there ever is, has been or will be, but I wanted to use memories as an example of how one can touch that which is always present. Think back to your earliest memory. Visualize it as if you are reliving it. For me this was when I was two years old. My mom was going into the hospital to give birth to my brother. I was in the car with my uncle Bill and I had a can of peanuts between my legs. As we were pulling away I spilled the peanuts between my legs. As I was trying to pull them out from under me I realized that they had slid so far up under me that I couldn’t reach them. So I lifted my butt up and as I did the peanuts went sliding back under the seat and into the floor board (the back of the seat had a gap where it met the bottom seat). I also remember my uncle being a bit flustered by this.
When I think back on this memory, I look at what has not changed since then. The one who witnessed it all happen is the same one who is witnessing these words being typed on a screen. It is the same “I” that has witnessed all of my life situations and will continue to witness all of my life situations. It has not changed through out my entire life. My physical body has changed, my thoughts and ideas have changed, my likes and dislikes have changed; but that “I” that has witnessed it all has not changed. That is the ever present awareness of what goes on in daily life. Everything we experience happens in the space of that awareness, which is untouched by the mental interpretations of those experiences. The mind labels, judges and learns from these experiences, but the awareness behind it all has no stake in the outcome. It is simply here.
When you look back on any of your past experiences you are “seeing” them Now from that same awareness. Focusing your attention on that awareness is how you can “see” that which you really are, underneath the thoughts and mental labels. Asking yourself, “Who am I?” or “Who is this “I” that is witnessing all of these things happen (past or present)?” is a very effective way of turning your awareness back on itself, or becoming aware of awareness.
This awareness, which is the only thing about us that is real, is not ours alone. In fact, that awareness is what we all have in common. We are all that same ever present awareness beyond thought. That is what makes us all one.
Once you have become aware of your own awareness you can then look at others with that awareness and see them as that same awareness. They may look and act differently, have different life experiences, but deep down they are nothing more than that same pure awareness. You can, in effect, look through the eyes of another and see that there is a background of awareness behind everything they say, do and see.
It’s from this space of recognizing all as awareness where true compassion arises. Ultimately there is no difference between me and you. We are all just conscious awareness. This is what all of the spiritual teachings are pointing toward. They all provide pointers to going beyond thought so that we can view the world as this awareness, and, in so doing, Be that which we already are. Interacting with life situations from that space is how we can achieve a state of peace. A peace that most of us have only briefly glimpsed in our lives.
There are many practices that assist in disassociating with thoughts so that we can rest in that spacious awareness, but one of the most simple (other than self inquiry) is one that is mentioned in The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Ask yourself, “I wonder what I am going to think next?” Then focus your attention and wait for a thought to occur as if you were a cat intensely watching a mouse hole. When a thought occurs, let it go and ask the question again. Then go back to waiting for the next thought. While in that state of waiting, without thought, you are completely present as that awareness.
There are many other portals to connecting with awareness and I recommend you try them all. Don’t just try them once. Engage in them on a regular basis throughout your day. It will become easier and easier to go deeper into self awareness. Just be still.