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Continua of Practice: From Unconscious to Conscious

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Teacher: Rodney Smith
Date: 2016-08-30
Venue: Seattle Insight Meditation Center



In the beginning it seems as if awareness is like a light switch that can be turned on and off. We are aware and then we are not. What is actually happening when the switch seems off, is that awareness is being smothered within our thinking. It is being compressed into and confined by believing the thoughts we are having. It is not dead, the aliveness within awareness has been confined by the images of the thoughts and is contained through the rigidity of our attachment to concepts. Our work is to free that awareness so that it can move without confinement. When awareness is confined, we are unconscious as human beings since we believe only what our thoughts are saying. When awareness is free of confinement, our thoughts are no longer controlling our behavior and we are open to new experiences. Every time we are willing to see anew, to look into areas of denial, to be accountable to our minds, and to go where we have been afraid to venture, we are freeing that trapped awareness. We are no longer held within our previous beliefs and ideas and are no longer held within the known.

Awareness is very willing to exit the prison we impose, but it needs our assistance. First we must feel the limitations of what we are doing by knowing that awareness freed is a vastly different life than awareness confined. We feel an expansive aliveness both bodily and mentally when the genie escapes the bottle. Next we have to reexamine the assumptions that limited awareness in the first place. As we begin to challenge more and more of our opinions we see the irrationality of many of our beliefs and fears. We interpret much of life through the fear of what we are afraid this experience might mean (whatever it might be). All of these knots, desires, and hesitations have nothing to do with awareness but have everything to do with our past. When we view the past with awareness rather than simply believing in the past, it all begins to fall apart and awareness begins to slip the bonds of containment.

To free awareness from being bound by thought, we have to see the limitations that thinking imposes. We have to go inside thought and compare what it says life is to what we see when we are not looking through concepts. Thought follows conditioned pathways, and we think the way we have thought in the past because it is easier to follow our conditioned ways than to see something in a new way. Finally we have to understand that when we think we are stepping back and considering the situation. Although useful at one point, this begins to limit us at another phase on our journey by robbing us of spontaneity and true sense of belonging.

In the end we have to take thought on and spiritually understand the power we give it, look at thought with awareness rather than following the mandates of thought mindlessly. Our yearning to become conscious in the face of ignorance demands that we question thought at every turn. Becoming conscious simply means waking up out of the imagination induced by thought.



Moving from unconscious actions of body, speech, and mind to more conscious actions requires freeing up the conditioned ways you view yourself and the world. Conditioning is unconscious and tied to the fear of living outside the expectations you have of yourself and others have of you. Sense the fear behind your routines and habits, and stop and ask yourself, *“What would I do now if I were not afraid?”* Practice moving in the opposite direction of your routines. Take different routes to work, mix up your day, stretch yourself in your responses to others, and act differently than you might be feeling. See what difference it makes to live outside your habits.



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