The healing power of awareness; the topography of insight meditation

 

Next Tuesday 29th June I will be beginning a new series of classes entitled “Insight, awareness and the awakening of our spiritual vision” , so I wanted to spend a little time in this week’s blog post reflecting upon some of the subjects that we will be tackling in these classes.

I want to begin this article by paraphrasing Roger Walsh in a conversation that he had with Ken Wilber. Basically he said that one of the amazing things about our minds is that, if we let it, our mind has this incredible power to self-heal, self-actualize (that is start to move naturally toward an enlightened state), and self-transcend (that is to move naturally toward the deeper/subtler level of consciousness immediately beyond its present state of growth) itself, without our having to do anything too much other than allow it.

What Roger is basically saying here is that, if you regularly cultivate states of relaxed and lucid awareness in your day to day routine, then the innate power of this relaxed and lucid awareness will have a powerful healing effect upon your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The problem for so many of us is that we perceive our relationship to our mind as a perpetual battle, where the main object that seems to be standing in the way of our inner growth is the mind itself!

One of the principle forms of meditation that we can use in order to start making friends with our mind, and begin to access and experience it’s amazing powers of self-healing is insight meditation. The main activity of the mind in insight meditation is simply to observe the different levels of our awareness without getting in the way. Because of this insight meditation is sometimes called “choice-less awareness” whatever comes up, we just watch, don’t interfere.

There are four basic levels of awareness that insight meditation helps us to cultivate awareness of; gross, subtle, very subtle and non-dual. We will be looking at these in depth in the classes, but what I want to do below is to outline them and then outline a simple meditation form that we can do on each of these four levels. This way even if you are not able to attend the classes (or listen to them as a recording), you can still get a basic practical flavour of what insight meditation involves.

A basic map or topography of insight meditation awareness:

Level 1: Gross awareness

This level is basically our awareness of our environment, senses and physical body.

Sample insight meditation exercise for this level:

Be aware of everything that you hear for a period of time. Note all the different layers of sound that your ear awareness is picking up. As I am sitting now I can hear some distant cars, the fan on the table next to me, the typing as my fingers work on the type-pad, I can hear the sound of my breathing in my inner ears. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the layers of sound flowing into your moment to moment awareness.

Level 2: Subtle awareness

This level basically observes the flow of thoughts, feeling and images that flow through our mind on a moment to moment basis. On this level there is a range of subtlety, from the everyday thoughts of our waking mind to the more subtle experiences of the dream state and of day dreaming. Basically this is the realm of inner form, or thought-form.

Sample insight meditation exercise for this level:   

Simply sit down and observe the flow of thoughts, feelings and images the flows through your awareness. Imagine that you are like a person sitting by the side of the river of your mind, observing the constant ebb and flow of mental images and feelings that passes by you.

Level 3: Very subtle awareness

This level observes the formless inner space of our very subtle consciousness that is causal to, and lies behind our mental consciousness and sensory consciousness. If you imagine your thoughts and feelings are like clouds, and your very subtle formless conscious is like the sky that contains those clouds.

Sample insight meditation exercise for this level:

Continuing to watch your mind, become aware of the spaces between your thoughts. Allow your awareness to sink deeper and deeper into these spaces, as if you were entering into a clear open sky-like space. Let the cloud-like forms of your thoughts and feelings gently dissolve away into the sky like space of pure, formless awareness.

Level 4: Non-dual awareness

This levels is where the sense of yourself as an observer of the formless space of your consciousness (as in level 3 above) dissolves away, and you are left with a unified (non-dual) experience of primal awareness, just one single experience in the mind with no conceptual ideas of duality at all.

The way to approach this level of practice is through the level 3 exercise. The more you practice this gradually you will feel yourself moving toward this non-dual state.

So, my basic point in this article is that if you allow your mind to consciously relax on a regular basis, then you are giving yourself a chance to activate its natural self healing awareness. If you want a particular in-depth method to develop your minds self-healing mechanism, then insight meditation offers one such tool.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first.

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