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Excerpt from "The Open Path"

Recognizing Nondual Awareness

by Elias Amidon

Open Awareness

Awareness is primordial; it is the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change…It is the common matrix of every experience.[i]

—Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (c.1960)

One of the most joyful moments in the life of the spiritual seeker is when seeking finally ends: when we recognize that the long sought-for goal of the spiritual quest is already present within us as our natural awareness. We recognize that what we seek, we are — this transparent, pure awareness at the center of our being is a clear window into oneness. With this recognition comes the realization that nothing more needs to be done. Nothing needs to change. We don’t have to improve ourselves. Each one of us is already worthy of illumined awareness because it is our innate nature. This realization opens in us an indescribable sense of relief and freedom from self-judgment. We understand in these moments of realization that we are completely one with all of reality and have always been so, and that this natural state is utterly safe, free, kind, and radiant with a supernal beauty. We don’t have to do anything to make this be true. It does it all by itself.

The central purpose of the Open Path is simply to become familiar with opening into this fundamental realization of what is already true — learning how to relax into and stabilize this recognition of our innate nature, what I often call “open awareness” or simply “awareness.”

What Is Open Awareness?

This question is at the heart of our work together. We will use many words and exercises to focus on this question, so that, again and again, we can look directly into what it asks. But the answer that comes will not have anything to do with words. Each of us must leave behind words and thoughts to allow space for the answer to arise. It will appear intuitively to us, from the inside out. In fact, it will not even “appear” like an image or thought appears in our awareness, because here we are asking awareness to be aware of itself.

This is asking the impossible: awareness can no more be aware of itself than our eye can see itself. Why? First of all, awareness is not a thing or an object of any kind. It has no shape or color. It is completely transparent and invisible. What is more, it cannot be felt or sensed in any way that would reveal awareness to us as something knowable out there. And yet we know we are aware, we know awareness is. Awareness is the foundation of everything we have ever experienced or will experience. Every object, every thought, every emotion, every sensation, every memory is known because it appears in awareness. Otherwise it could not be known. Awareness is the root of our entire sense of existence, and yet where is it? What is it? How can it be apprehended? We know it is, but whenever we try to look directly into awareness we see...nothing!

This is a clue. Awareness is not a thing. We might say it is nothing, but is it simply nothing? It is awareness! Whatever it is, it never takes substantial form. It is, as Buddhists might say, empty of substantiality. It is open. It has no edges. It is spaciousness itself. It is boundless, yet somehow utterly present. What is more, it is lucid: completely clear and at the same time light-bearing, i.e., “the light of awareness.”

Throughout this book we will return repeatedly to this question of what open awareness is — and we will invite ourselves to investigate the question originally, for ourselves, not in the abstract but directly and experientially. In fact, you are encouraged to do that right now. Notice, as you read this, that you are aware of the words being used, the thoughts they evoke, the shape of the letters, the white of the paper or screen on which they are written, a few things seen peripherally in the room where you read this, the sense of your body sitting where it is. These are all perceptions appearing in “your” awareness. They can be seen, felt, or sensed.

But what can you say about the awareness that is aware of them? Look as deeply and as steadily as you can. Become familiar with that looking, as if you were turning 180 degrees around from looking out of your eyes and now are looking inwardly at what is looking. What do you “see?” Explore this on your own, as often as you can. Here’s a hint: if you look for something, you will be disappointed. Instead, simply allow yourself to relax from all “looking” and simply “see” without trying to uncover some discovery. Relax. While awareness cannot be aware of awareness, it can be it. It is it, naturally.

Some say it is helpful at this point to shift your sense of looking for something with your eyes or your intellect and allow your heart to open to the question “What is awareness?” By “heart” I mean the whole presence of awareness in which intellect, sensations, and emotions appear. This is what Sufis call al ‘ayn al qalb — “the eye of the heart.” It is the whole of awareness as it is experienced through your body. Open to the presence of awareness with your whole heart.

[1] Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Translated by Maurice Frydman, Durham, NC: The Acorn Press, 2005, p. 241. (Ms.) Indu Rastogi. Business Manager The Acorn Press, Durham, NC 27715-3279.

Elias Amidon is the Pir of the International Sufi Way, a nonsectarian spiritual school, and he has studied and practiced Sufism in America, Europe, India, North Africa, and the Middle East. He resides in Boulder, Colorado, where he is codirector of the Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit.

Price: USA $ 16.95

Format: 6 X 9 Paperback

ISBN: 9781591811794

Excerpted from the book The Open Path ©2012 by Elias Amidon. Published with permission of Sentient Publications http://www.sentientpublications.com

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