Distinction Between Awareness and the Content of Awareness


You can do this next mini-exercise with your eyes open or closed, and you can practice it anywhere it is safe to engage in reflective thinking. Take a breath or two, notice who is noticing that sensation, and then note your experience. Whatever your mind settles on–an external object, an internal sensation, a thought, a feeling, a memory, or so on-get clear on it. Then restate the experience in three forms: first, “I am aware of [state the content],” and then, after a pause, add “I am not [state the content],” and then after another pause, add “I contain awareness of [state the content].” For example, “I am aware of the television. I am not the television. I contain awareness of the television” Or “I am remembering a memory of being five. I am not a memory. My awareness contains a memory of being five.” Five or ten minutes is plenty of time for this exercise, and after the first engagement with it, you should practice it regularly for several days. Then, for ongoing practice, you can simplify the task. Just notice the experience and then state “I’m not that; my awareness contains that.” Don’t get drawn into an argument— instead see if you can touch a deeper awareness that your attachment to any content is distinct from awareness itself.

Catching Self-Awareness on the Fly


Begin to regularly ask yourself the following question as you go your daily life: “And who is noticing that?” You can set reminders on your phone or computer to do this. Or you could set a rule for times to ask it, such as whenever you touch your phone, or keys, or wallet. When the cues appear, take a moment to notice your experience and touch awareness for a split second as you ask, “And who is noticing that?” Be careful not to let the question lead to an extended mental treatise about who you are-that is your judgmental mind trying to tell a self-story. Shut that process down if it kicks in by using your defusion skills, such as by listening to the mental treatise in the voice of Donald Duck, or imagining that you are a pompous professor holding forth.

The goal is to touch the “I/here/nowness” or your transcendent self, even if just for a millisecond. Over time you will find that asking yourself this question becomes second nature and your connection to your authentic self keeps strengthening.