Awareness and Energy
This first blog post is fairly long; but it covers the base of much of what I am going to be talking about in future (shorter!) posts. It would not have worked to cut it down further or to split it up. It is actually quite condensed, given the subject matter. I hope you enjoy it, and it brings some benefit.
We all want freedom. And the greatest freedom of all is inner freedom.
Inner freedom means freedom from the tensions, anxieties, and worries that limit your enjoyment of life, and limit your potential.
External solutions will never deliver lasting inner freedom. The reality is that any external fixes to your problems are at best partial; are always temporary; and may not even be attainable.
There are many external factors in your life over which you may have no control, and there is the ever-present reality of Change itself. Even if things work out the way you think that you want them to, it may not bring lasting happiness or inner peace. This is because the problem may be in your inner world, and not your outer.
A lot of what disturbs your peace of mind is self-generated - by your own mind. This is either in reaction to external circumstances; or simply the churning of your own thoughts, emotions, memories, and projections about the future.
Ultimately it is all about your inner state, even in relation to what happens in your outer world. As Shakespeare said: “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”.
You cannot control what happens externally to yourself, but you can change your internal reaction.
To paraphrase the Buddhist master Shantideva (685-763 AD): “If the whole world is covered in thorns, it is sufficient you have a good pair of shoes”. What was Shantideva saying? That the solution must lie with you, yourself.
It is Inner Peace that allows you to cope with external challenges, as well as to let go of your inner conflicts. Inner Peace gives rise to true freedom.
How can you achieve this elusive Inner Peace? There are libraries of self-help books and legions of therapists dedicated to this question. The proliferation of theories and answers can be bewildering, and even off-putting.
In fact there is a real and timeless answer to this question, and it is very simple. Simple, but not always easy: Awareness.
You need to apply Awareness to what is within you, in order to free yourself. With the application of Awareness, inner tensions can start to dissolve: uncovering your Clarity, Presence, and Inner Stillness.
Awareness allows you to face your mental and emotional tensions directly; accept them; and then let them go. You can start to heal and reintegrate your entire being.
Awareness is the means to achieve Freedom; and it is Freedom itself. Awareness is your real nature.
The tensions that block Awareness lie in your Mind. So the temptation is to try and work on your Mind to overcome them.
Unfortunately, struggling directly with these problems does not always yield the best results. In fact, it can actually increase inner tension rather than reduce it.
Since these issues lie in your mind, it is your mind (rather than your Awareness) that is the problem.
So trying to overcome Mind (which is causing the problem) with itself, just doesn’t work.
You can’t expect the entity that is the problem to fix itself, any more than you can expect a computer with a corrupted hard drive to simply uncorrupt itself. It needs some sort of external intervention.
You can manipulate your mind, in the sense of trying to retrain various thought patterns or habits. There are no shortage of books, courses, and theories about this. It can be useful in daily life, as it can bring a little more peace and balance.
But in terms of attaining a much deeper inner freedom; trying to self-adjust your mind can actually be counterproductive. This is because the deeper layers of your mind represent what you perceive to be your fundamental identity: they represent your very existence, as you perceive it.
You defend these structures fiercely, even if you don’t consciously realize it. Even self-development and spiritual practices can be used by Mind to avoid itself being undermined or transformed. Almost anything can be co-opted by the Ego.
It is much better to realize that trying to seriously self-transform using your mind is a losing game. Mind will never willingly undermine itself, to any serious extent; and the problem with trying to do this is that it will set up enormous inner conflict - you are effectively trying to destroy a part of yourself.
As Seng Tsan (529-606 AD) pointed out:
“If you work on the mind with the mind, how can you avoid an immense confusion?”
The Master of Mind
Mind cannot truly heal itself. But Awareness can heal Mind, and set it free.
Awareness and Mind are not the same.
Your mind is an aggregate of conceptual structures, with its basis in the dualistic - and illusory - concept of Self, or Ego, as being separate from everything else. It is like a bubble of limited awareness that has closed itself off from Awareness as a whole, and believes itself to be separate and self-existing.
From this basic Ego-structure; a complex, conceptual web of thought and emotion develops. This becomes the ‘me’ that your mind will tightly attach to, and will defend at all costs. Your conceptual mind will defend its existence. It is the base of your self-identity and the base of your Ego’s existence.
Awareness, on the other hand, is Consciousness itself. Pure Awareness is beyond any mental concepts or constructs. It is beyond subject and object, it is beyond time and space, and it is beyond existence and non-existence. It is beyond Mind itself, yet it is also the source of Mind.
Pure Awareness is inherently beyond all the mental, emotional, and psychic tensions which block freedom of Mind. To be in a state of Pure Awareness is to be totally free of all the constraints and problems of your mind.
How can you enter into Pure Awareness, if this is the solution?
It is possible turn your Awareness on itself - directly on your own thoughts, emotions, and sense-perceptions - to discover that you are simply Awareness looking at itself.
In that instant, you are no longer separate from Pure Awareness or Pure Consciousness, and all dualism falls away.
This is the basis of the most direct, non-dual methods of spiritual development, such as Dzogchen, and the higher teachings of ancient Taoism.
Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen (1920-1996) points this out: “While resting free of anything to imagine, like space, do not be distracted for even one instant.”
The goal is to realize your true nature: Pure Awareness; and also to master your mind with Awareness; rather than being a slave of Mind, with all its tensions, confusions, and projections.
This is quite a radical reversal of the paradigm of conceptual Mind being the boss. Instead, Mind becomes a tool of Awareness, nothing more. Ironically, your mind functions at a much higher level when this is so. Mind makes a bad master but an excellent servant: it needs to be put in its place. You should govern your mind with Awareness, not the other way around.
Directly entering into Pure Awareness is the ideal, but if it was easy, we would all be doing it with regularity. We would also have a lot less problems, and a lot less unhappiness. The habits and accumulated tensions of Mind are very strong, and that makes transcending Mind a very hard thing to do most of the time. Its grip is very strong.
Nevertheless, it is important to at least understand the proper place of Mind in relation to Awareness: it gives you a context for your practice and a goal to work towards.
Awareness Through Energy
If it is hard to simply be in a state of Pure Awareness, what can you do?
You can work with your Energy: you can use your Energy as a pathway to enter into Awareness. At the same time, you can use Awareness as a means to enter into your Energy, and remove the blocks to yet greater Awareness.
The advantage of working with Awareness through Energy is that you can start in a very modest and concrete way. It is extremely accessible. All you need to do is to start with basic awareness of your physical body and its most obvious Qi sensations.
Over time, your awareness will enter progressively deeper levels of your Energy: Emotional, Mental, and Psychic. At each level you will be able to let tension and blockage dissolve away.
Much of what you perceive as Mind is Energy: it is the energy of your mind. Mind is a projection of Awareness that is made up of two aspects: Energy and Information.
A good analogy is music: you hear music because information is carried by the air. The air is a medium for the information. Without the air, the music would have no medium in which to exist, and would not be able to travel to your ear.
Information itself is completely intangible, as is the essence of Mind. But the medium for it is not intangible: it can be seen, or felt, or perceived in some way. The medium for Mind is Energy, and you can perceive and work directly with your Energy.
What you experience as your mind is a series of patterns of information encoded in several overlapping energy fields: what Taoists call the Energy Bodies. The patterns in these Energy Bodies form your emotions, thoughts, and psychic impressions; depending on which Energy Body they exist in.
Doing Energy Work with Awareness means that you are dealing with far more than just the Life-Energy of the physical body (Qi). You are also dealing with the Energy of your Mind. In fact, there is a continuum between the Physical Body, Qi Body, Emotional Body, Mental Body, and Psychic Body. They are like nested dimensions of Energy, extending both outwards and inwards.
These are not separate from one another, and share the same source: Consciousness.
This gives you enormous possibilities to start with something as simple as as a few Qigong (Energy Work) exercises, done with awareness, and go very deep within yourself to achieve profound freedom.
One of the advantages of doing a form of meditation or self-development that involves working with Energy, as opposed to meditation that does not incorporate a developed system of Energy Work; is that as you encounter emotional, mental, or psychic tensions; you have a means of releasing these energies and not becoming stuck or frozen internally by them. You also avoid many of the destabilizing effects of being ‘shaken up’ by deep meditation.
Energy Work provides a kind of energetic safety valve for your inner journey.
Often, people start Qigong simply for their health, but then start to realize how much more it can offer, and develop an interest in deepening their practice and understanding. They find that it can become a truly holistic practice, in that it encompasses all aspects of their being; from the physical to the spiritual, and everything in between.
Qigong involves using movement, posture, breathing, intent, and awareness; in specific ways to free blockages in your Energy, to dissolve away internal tensions, and to rebalance your Energy and Mind.
As long as Awareness is present, Qigong not only achieves real personal and spiritual development, but also real healing and revitalization of your body. This is because many of the tensions that block your Qi and cause physical and energetic issues, originate in your higher Energy Bodies; such as your Emotional, Mental, and Psychic Bodies.
When you apply Awareness, you can release these tensions, with a cascading effect of release and healing down through the lower Bodies - all the way to the physical level.
Each release deepens your awareness in some way, and leads to the potential for yet more releases of tension and blockage. Your capacity grows. This sets up a ‘virtuous circle’ in your practice.
This process is, in a way, subversive; because if applied correctly it does an end-run around your Ego’s defenses.
It subverts the Mind’s resistance, partly because you feel better and gain tangible benefits as you progress. Your mind judges this to be a good thing, and allows you continue: as long as you don’t threaten its hegemony too directly.
Therefore your practice must be done without any forcing. There must be no struggle, or self-conflict. You are trying to make peace with yourself. This realization can be a huge relief, as it allows you to stop fighting with yourself.
When you let go of your internal conflict, and relax into self-acceptance, self-compassion, and Awareness, a deep tension inside you starts to unwind. It is like unclenching a fist.
Although this is only the start of the process, the single biggest obstacle to you making serious progress can now dissolve away. This opens the way to much deeper Awareness.
You stop trying to control your own mind and start applying relaxed Awareness:
“Leave alone whatever arises in the mind.
Do not seek to change or alter anything.
It is all perfect as it stands.”
Namkhai Norbu (1938-2018)
The practice of Awareness through Energy Work is not only a gradual process.
Although you will progress in a nominally linear way through the levels of your Energy, and your ability to work with your Energy will develop steadily; leaps of experience, insight, and ability will also occur spontaneously.
This is a deliberate and beneficial side-effect of these Energy Work practices. Taoists call this a ‘happy accident’. While it is spontaneous, it is not at all accidental: these methods of working with Awareness and Energy are designed to set up the conditions for sudden transformation to occur.
Working with Awareness and Energy is a highly creative process; that only becomes more so as you progress. With time your insight, spontaneity, and intuition grow. This opens the way to yet more creative evolution.
Your inner wisdom starts to speak to you more clearly: and you start to listen to it. You develop more confidence in your own ‘inner guru’, and in your ability to achieve profound and lasting personal transformation.
Ultimately, you become your own best teacher, and your own best guide towards Freedom.
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to share it to your social media (see buttons below).
You can also post a comment below with any specific topics that you would like to see future blog articles cover.
To receive notification of future blog posts, and upcoming events, please use the newsletter signup form at the bottom of the page.
All text and design Copyright ©2019 Andrew Popovic. No reproduction without permission or attribution.
If the whole world is covered in thorns, it is sufficient you have a good pair of shoes.
If you work on the mind with the mind, how can you avoid an immense confusion?
Seng Tsan (529-606 AD)
While resting free of anything to imagine, like space, do not be distracted for even one instant.
Tulku Urgyen (1920-1996)
Leave alone whatever arises in the mind. Do not seek to change or alter anything. It is all perfect as it stands.
Namkhai norbu (1938-2018)