Meditation teachers talk about a silence within us in between thoughts, and tell us to think of our minds like the screen in a movie theater. Our thoughts and emotions appear on the screen, but in between thoughts, the screen is our true nature, pure unconditioned awareness. Another analogy is that our awareness is the sky, and thoughts are just clouds appearing in it. I’ve gotten a taste of this, when my mind gets quiet during meditation (sitting or moving), or spontaneously in nature, and it is very relaxing. This awareness is completely nonjudgemental so it feels unconditionally loving. Yoga teacher Lilias Folan called it the “witness within that observes everything and judges nothing”. I feel I am making progress in self-transformation when I can cultivate this feeling. So I was happy to come across two books recently that talk about it.
The first is Silent Awareness: The Revelation That Changes Everything by meditation teacher Cynthia Overweg. This book is full of essays to give us a feel for what this awareness feels like which I found inspirational. There are also some good exercises to experience it which serve well for meditation.
The second is Awareness Adventures: Discovering Your True Nature by Brian Tom O’Connor. He starts by telling us his own story which is interesting because it involves a nontraditional approach to meditation. Brian was severely depressed and undergoing therapy. He tried various conventional meditation techniques but they did not work well for him. He came up with his own “awareness games”, which were imaginative ways to examine his own consciousness and look for his true nature within. He discovered that the more he associated with the silent awareness beyond thought, the happier he became. It turns out his “games” fit into a branch of yoga philosophy that seeks to inquire within to find out who we really are beyond our day-to-day mind chatter. Famous teachers in this line include J. Krishnamurti and Sri Ramana Maharshi, who was known for teaching us to relentlessly inquire “who am I?”, but we have to realize that the answer cannot be ascertained intellectually. I had previously found this type of approach to be kind of dry and didn’t get far with it as a meditation technique. But Brian’s awareness games make it fun.
I recommend both of these books. We need a break from our overactive and overstimulated everyday minds.