Awareness is Primary; Mind is an Appearance
With the energy system connected to the earth, the sense of “I am here” or “am-ness” is naturally felt without strain.
This sense of grounded, natural, uncontrived awareness is the basis, path and result. If we follow it through, it will re-arrange absolutely every aspect of our existence.
At the same time, the fundamental taste of it will be unchanging no matter how many outer transformations our life goes through. From the innocent moments of awakeness many of us enjoyed as children, to our first moment of real mindfulness as an adult, to the depth that comes from years of significant cultivation – the simplicity of being aware has a continuity throughout all stages and states. Because of this, we can call it the basic state.
The basic state – what we fundamentally are – is not an object. This means that it cannot be described cognitively or linguistically in a complete way. It cannot actually be named, because the basis of language is designating objects. See if this is true! There is no word that completely describes our basic nature. It totally resists any and all attempts at objectification.
This makes the conditioned mind a particularly poor tool for approaching it, because the basis of the conditioned mind is relating through subject/object. Its business is literally to know, categorize, understand, parse, and manipulate internal phenomenon and external objects.
This is fantastic if we are doing a hard crossword puzzle, and a total drag if we are doing meditation techniques. In some fundamental sense, the thinking mind has almost nothing to do with true meditation. It’s not capable of directing the process of transformation or even really understanding it.
If you look closely at most foundational meditation techniques (awareness of breath, body, sound, etc.), you will see that their primary job in the beginning stages of practice is re-directing attention from thinking into sensation/feeling. Put simply, they are rudimentary, time-tested ways of getting the thinking mind out of the way.
This is necessary for most of us because of the strong, unconscious belief we have that who we are is synonymous with “the thinker” – the content of our mind and emotions.
If awareness is not recognized, we are left with a bunch of content that we take ourselves to be. This creates a big problem, because as we are investing our entire sense of self in this content, it, meanwhile, is constantly shifting, changing and re-arranging itself. This creates an almost constant state of low-grade dis-ease or stress in most people. The Buddha called it dukkha.
This is the primary delusion that is uprooted by the recognition and cultivation of presence-awareness. What is seen over time is that every ounce of internal and external content in our lives appears in awareness.
Awareness is primary. The basis. The root. Mind (and everything else for that matter) is an appearance. This is why awareness can observe mind states so clearly, but why mind cannot grasp the nature of awareness at all no matter how hard it tries. The lower cannot understand the higher.
Where this all leads to is an emphasis on being simple and natural. Our meditation session (and our life) becomes a living invitation to let the awareness-that-we-are become foreground in our experience.
Meditation pointers (like the grounding sequence) are simply helping the body-mind create a “seat” where the awareness can rest. A way of priming the system. We do not use attention to “do the meditation.” We use attention (when needed) to get the mind out of the way enough so that “meditation can occur.” We’re basically allowing what is fundamentally an involuntary process to “happen” with as little interference as possible.