The Space in Which All Things Happen
To know yourself as awareness is to be like the vast expanse of the sky, being at rest instead of getting caught up in all the weather that’s going on.
How to get the most out of these Wisdom Quotes:
Put aside everything you think you already know.
Open your mind and heart to receive something new.
Take your time going through each point.
Return to any points that particularly touch you.
In the coming days, listen carefully to the wisdom within you.
1. Noticing Where Everything Is Experienced
"We were having a conversation about non-duality and I remember, at the time, hearing a dog barking. It was a distant sound of a dog and, immediately, a thought came up: that's the sound of a dog barking and the dog is in the distance, on the other side of the valley. I said to him, it's so obvious to me that that dog is on the other side of the valley. It's so obvious that the sound is at a distance from myself and it's made out of something other than myself - it's a dog barking, it's not me.
He said, "Place your hands on the carpet." So, I shut my eyes and placed my hands on the carpet and then he just said, "Where does that sensation take place?"
It was so obvious, in that moment, that the sensation took place inside me, that it was not at a distance from me, that it wasn't made out of something other than myself. All that was present was the experience of sensing, and sensing takes place in me - not in me, a body and a mind - but in this open, empty, aware presence. It was just so obvious that this sensation was taking place inside me, so to speak, and not only inside me, but made out of myself.
That was the end of the conversation but it was like a key. Suddenly, I reasoned with myself: if this is true about what I thought was this carpet - this dead, inert material called the carpet - it must be true about everything.
So then, wherever I went, I'd go out on the streets and I'd be looking at cars and people and houses and I realised, all I know of these so called cars and people houses is the experience of seeing and hearing. Where does seeing take place? Does it take place 10 metres away from myself or two metres or 20 metres?
When I look at the moon, all I know of the moon is the experience of seeing. Does it take place at a million miles from myself or is it intimate, close, made only out of myself? It just became so obvious that, wherever I looked, wherever I turned at, all I knew was the experience of experiencing.
All there is, all we know, is the knowing of our experience and that is what I am, that is what I, awareness, is, this pure knowingness, which is the substance of all experience."
~Rupert Spira, from the video: Enlightenment Stories
This account of Rupert Spira's insight shines a light on how we experience everything in life. It switches the focus from the object seen to the one doing the seeing.
When you go out today, or look outside your window, notice that everything you see is only ever experienced inside you. It may seem obvious, but there is something profound to see here.
Our entire world is experienced within us. There is nothing that you can experience outside of you.
2. Noticing the Coming and Going of Everything
"Settle down into this moment. Don’t push against the bus or truck passing, the horn… Just let be what is. The sensations that you experience in your body, notice them when they arise. Then, when you hear a sound, notice that, but keep letting go, each one. As it arises, notice it and then be aware of the next thing...
Thoughts arise, memories, judgments, plans - see them just like the horns, the traffic, sensations in your body - they come, they exist and then they move on. No call to react, just note. Note sound, note feelings, sensations, thoughts.
Just as if you were sitting on a bank of a river and leaves were floating down on top of the river. You don’t follow the leaf with your eyes. You just keep centered and let the leaf come into your vision, come through and go on.
What is noticing all of this, you could call the noticer or the witness. It’s a little like a torch or a flashlight - it shines now on this, now on that. At one moment it’s shining on a thought, another moment on a sensation, another moment on an emotion, another moment on a memory. The images just keep coming, all the phenomena just keep arising, existing and moving on. But the torch, or the flashlight, never shines upon itself.
Just let the phenomena come and go in their own natural progression, resting more and more deeply in just the awareness that notices all of these things. Thoughts of who you are, thoughts of anything at all that arise, just for this moment, see them as phenomena arising, existing and moving on.
The horns that sounded a few minutes ago, where are they? They’re gone. The thoughts you had a few minutes ago, long gone. What you were attending to just a moment ago, now replaced by something else. What is common to all of them is the awareness that is noting.
Just rest in awareness, awareness of all forms, feelings, thoughts, sensations. Each thing you experience is another leaf floating down the stream. Notice how certain thoughts and feelings and sensations attract your awareness and your awareness starts to follow the leaf down the stream. And then you hear me say, just let go, come back to the awareness."
~Ram Dass, from the video: Rest As Awareness ~ Guided Meditation by Ram Dass
In this meditation, Ram Dass brings us into a restful state of awareness, where we find ourselves in the background of all pheneoma, all the things that are constantly coming and going in our experience.
See if you can practice this today. During any moment in your day, when you remember, zoom out to become the spacious awareness in which your experience is happening. Allow all thoughts and feelings to appear and disappear, without interfering or being carried away by them.
3. Experiencing the Vast Ocean of Shared Awareness
"Now let’s take it one step further together. That awareness from which you are experiencing, feeling, thinking, sensing, and my awareness that is feeling, thinking, sensing - let’s consider it just awareness. Not 'your' awareness or 'my' awareness. Let’s experience, at this moment, that thing floating by, the experience of shared awareness.
In order to do this, allow the awareness to expand now, so the sounds and sensations and thoughts are all within the awareness, in the same way the clouds are within the sky or waves are a part of the ocean. Feel the traffic as though it is inside of you, not out there. Just let the awareness expand so that my voice is speaking from within awareness.
See that the awareness doesn’t come or go. It doesn’t increase or decrease. It just is. And all the phenomena of the universe arise, exist and then merge back into the awareness, all happening within the ocean of awareness.
Awareness is very equanimous [meaning: calm and composed]. Agitated things arise within it and, like the sky, it’s very spaciously present. Sad things arise, happy things arise, hopes, fears, likes, dislikes, tensions, agitations, all within the ocean of awareness.
Keep expanding the awareness, everything you can think about, anywhere - planets, stars, people in distant places - at this moment, don’t keep the awareness localized within yourself. Just experience awareness as the ocean in which the phenomena arise, exist and change.
In this vast awareness, notice the person who you think you are as another phenomenon within the awareness. Notice her or notice him. Bring the images and the thoughts that define who you seem to be, but bring them up as phenomena in your mind and let the awareness remain this vast, embracing, equanimous ocean. And see this person in their totality. See this individual as part of a continual, unfolding process of phenomena arising, existing and changing.
Always keep coming back to the vast ocean of awareness. Awareness embraces everything. It has no definition, it is neither coming nor going. It always is. It is neither light nor dark. It has within it good and evil, it has within it hope and hopelessness, it has within it the beginning, the middle, the end. Awareness itself is timeless. All phenomena are within awareness - not your awareness or my awareness - just awareness."
~Ram Dass, from the video: Rest As Awareness ~ Guided Meditation by Ram Dass
Following on from the previous coaching quote, allow yourself to experience an even more expanded awareness that goes beyond the boundaries of your personal self.
As you let Ram Dass' words guide you out of yourself and into the source of your experience - which is also the source of my experience - notice how you can keep zooming out even more...
All the thoughts and images about how you believe yourself to be, how you believe others to be, and how you believe the world to be, are all held in this equanimous ocean of awareness.
When I read long quotes like this one, I like to re-read them and notice which words and phrases particularly stand out for me (these may differ at different times on different days). Mentally highlight them to remember or write them down and consider them throughout the day.
Also, if you want to, explore the meaning of the word equanimous, as a description of this calm and composed realm we're exploring together.
4. Feeling at Home in the Space of Awareness
"Pure Consciousness can also be called the meditative state. This state is not a doing or technique. It is your natural state of mind, free of your personal thinking. Realizing this allows you to relax into yourself as you are. Your natural meditative state of mind is relaxed, open and alert.
When you rest in this space, you may still have thought content passing through your mind but these thoughts are not paid attention to or listened to. It may feel like you are the sky and your thoughts are birds flying through. Your inner sky is untouched by these birds.
You see life directly, unfiltered by the distortions of your personal beliefs. You see life as it is, rather than as it isn't. It is a space within and beyond the personal, yet it is something that you already have and are. It is your true self. Some call it the impersonal self.
The more you touch this infinite, wide-open space, the more you realize the fact of its ever-present nature. It becomes more and more real to you. It becomes more and more familiar. It is a space where you can experience directly your true nature. It is the space where you feel most at home.
When you rest in pure Consciousness you are able to simply be. This resting is not a doing but a being. It's the most natural position you can be in. It's coming home."
~Dr. Dicken Bettinger & Natasha Swerdloff, Coming Home
Be like the sky today and notice the "birds" of thought running through you. Remember that you don't have to pay attention to them, but you also don't need to try and push them away. Just allow them to fly around freely in your expansive sky of awareness.
If you haven't already, begin appreciating this state of awareness as being your natural state. Even though it may seem unfamiliar and strange at first, if you keep coming back to this relaxed and open state of mind, you will soon discover the joy and ease of your true nature, of simply being.
In this place of rest and openness, you will discover a natural clarity that exists, an intuitive wisdom that is available to you at all times.
5. Resting as Awareness
"Resting in awareness is a state of being, not a state of doing. And so, you also surrender or relinquish the doer, that thing inside of you that’s made up in your mind and is always trying to get something right, understand it, do it correctly.
In order to just rest as awareness, there’s relinquishing the neurotic need to understand, and it’s also letting go of the neurotic need to do. There’s a time for understanding, certainly, and there’s a time for doing, certainly, but it terms of what I’m speaking of, those are the first two things that need to be relinquished: doing and the need, the desire to understand. And then there can be a resting.
For most people, it becomes difficult to rest for more than a few moments because their mind keeps trying to entice them, like a seductor or a seductress. "Just think about this one thing, solve this one thought and then it’ll be so much easier to rest as awareness." Isn’t that what thought is often doing? It says, "Well, you did a nice job of resting for 5 seconds, that was nice but, it could be so much better if you could just understand this or understand that..."
In one sense it’s obvious, but it’s also very subtle. The movement of mind that’s always tried to understand, tried to do, do, do, do, do. But, you don’t "do" awareness. That’s why the first word I use is rest. Rest as awareness. Because, you see, resting as awareness immediately gets your involvement out of the egoic mind state.
As I often tell people, if you did this one simple thing with any consistency, that would be amazing. Just not being lured into the mind trying to figure everything out, spiritually speaking. Because the hardest thing to do is to stay with one simple thing with any kind of consistency. It’s easy to stay with something very complex. But to give anybody something extraordinarily simple...
There’s the teaching and the method: rest as awareness. It’s a little more difficult to have any consistency with that. Why? Because there’s nothing for the egoic mind to do and it gets a little nervous when there’s not much for it to do. Does it not? It gets a little unsettled. But, nonetheless, that’s the core teaching and, if you want to call it a technique, that’s the core technique. That’s it."
~Adyashanti, from the video: Adyashanti - Rest as Awareness
Notice the unsettled mind and the constant, seductive pull to think about things all the time. There's always something to figure out, to critisize, to improve... We're always being pulled away from resting as awareness.
The mind wants to understand, this is its nature, and it's a wonderful gift to be able to think and figure things out. But if we constantly live in a state of evaluation, we miss knowing the wisdom, love and peace that flow out from the stillness of the precious state of being.
As you notice this pull of the mind, always remember that there is no need to judge, condemn or compare. Simply noticing is enough.
6. Remembering That You Are Life
"You continuously overlook the most obvious fact: your innermost sense of "I Am" has nothing to do with what happens in your life, nothing to do with content.
That sense of "I Am" is one with the Now. It always remains the same. In childhood and old age, in health or sickness, in success or failure, the "I Am" - the space of Now - remains unchanged at its deepest level.
It usually gets confused with content, and so you experience "I Am" or the Now only faintly and indirectly, through the content of your life. In other words: your sense of Being becomes obscured by circumstances, your stream of thinking, and the many things of this world. The Now becomes obscured by time.
And so you forget your rootedness in Being, your divine reality, and lose yourself in the world. Confusion, anger, depression, violence and conflict arise when humans forget who they are.
Yet how easy it is to remember the truth and thus return home: I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am Life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am the Now. I Am."
~Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
It was from Eckhart Tolle that I learned to differentiate between life and my life circumstances. Life is what we are - the unchanging, conscious, aware, spacious presence. Our life circumstances, however, are always changing - this is the content of our lives, all the things that are happening. It's helpful to know the difference.
Life is what we are. It's too wonderful and miraculous to put into words. Don't even try to understand it. Our intellectual mind will never grasp the enormity of it. It's a divine mystery.
But we can experience it! We can experience the pure essence of life and the joy of simply being. As we rest in awareness, the space in which all things happen, we merge into the oneness of life and discover our true home.
7. Summary and Song
In this five minute video I give a brief summary of the quotes, followed by a short song, sung to the tune of Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. I encourage you to memorize at least the chorus, to remind you to keep coming back to your true nature of spacious awareness.
I am the ocean of awareness, reaching as far as eyes can see
I am the open sky above, untouched by all I'm thinking of
Sensations come and go, just like the birds in the sky
They are not who I really am
And I no longer feel confused about the things which used to bother me
The stress is gone and I am free
I am the space in which all things happen
I am the space in which all things happen