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#4181 - Friday, March 4, 2011 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights

The Practical Application of Awakening

by Colin Drake

'By observing mental states you also become aware of the seven factors of enlightenment [awakening]. These are: awareness of awareness, investigation of the Way, vigour, joy, serenity, concentration and equanimity.' (The Buddha, Maha Sattipatthana Sutta 14-16)

The first two are paramount and the last five are outcomes of these. This is what my book Beyond the Separate Self is all about, becoming 'aware of awareness' through direct investigation and then continuing with further 'investigation of the Way' (the Tao, the nature of reality). Once one is 'aware of awareness' then one can undertake further investigations not needing to relying on any 'teachings', although these may be useful for confirming what one has discovered. These investigations lead to awakening, but many people question the usefulness of this in helping us to live in the world.

My neighbour is the sole carer of three young children. Consequently he finds life very hard and, having had two children of my own, I can fully sympathize with his plight. However this is not very helpful. For us to sit together and agree how difficult such a situation is will not improve things. It will only strengthen his opinion of the problems of raising three infants and increase his desperation. The negative mind state can only be strengthened by other's sympathy, for this fuels one's justification for feeling this way.

What is required is a paradigm shift which will change his moment to moment experience for the better. The easiest way to do this is for him to enquire into the nature of life which entails investigating experience itself:

1. Consider the following statement: 'Life, for each of us, is just a series of moment-to-moment experiences'. These experiences start when we are born and continue until we die, rushing headlong after each other, so that they seem to merge into a whole that we call 'my life'. However, if we stop to look we can readily see that, for each of us, every moment is just an experience.

2. Any moment of experience has only three elements: thoughts (including all mental images), sensations (everything sensed by the body and its sense organs) and awareness of these thoughts and sensations. Emotions and feelings are a combination of thought and sensation.

3. Thoughts and sensations are ephemeral, that is they come and go, and are objects, i.e. 'things' that are perceived.

4. Awareness is the constant subject, the 'perceiver' of thoughts and sensations and that which is always present. Even during sleep there is awareness of dreams and of the quality of that sleep; and there is also awareness of sensations; if a sensation becomes strong enough, such as a sound or uncomfortable sensation, one will wake up.

5. All thoughts and sensations appear in awareness, exist in awareness, and subside back into awareness. Before any particular thought or sensation there is effortless awareness of 'what is': the sum of all thoughts and sensations occurring at any given instant. During the thought or sensation in question there is effortless awareness of it within 'what is'. Then when it has gone there is still effortless awareness of 'what is'.

6. So the body/mind is experienced as a flow of ephemeral objects appearing in this awareness, the ever present subject. For each of us any external object or thing is experienced as a combination of thought and sensation, i.e. you may see it, touch it, know what it is called, and so on. The point is that for us to be aware of anything, real or imaginary, requires thought about and/or sensation of that thing and it is awareness of these thoughts and sensations that constitutes our experience.

7. Therefore this awareness is the constant substratum in which all things appear to arise, exist and subside. In addition, all living things rely on awareness of their environment to exist and their behaviour is directly affected by this. At the level of living cells and above this is self-evident, but it has been shown that even electrons change their behaviour when (aware of) being observed! Thus this awareness exists at a deeper level than body/mind (and matter/energy ) and we are this awareness!

8. This does not mean that at a surface level we are not the mind and body, for they arise in, are perceived by and subside back into awareness, which is the deepest and most fundamental level of our being. However, if we choose to identify with this deepest level - awareness - (the perceiver) rather than the surface level, mind/body (the perceived), then thoughts and sensations are seen for what they truly are, just ephemeral objects which come and go, leaving awareness itself totally unaffected.

When one identifies with awareness each moment is encountered freshly and directly, uncoloured by past experiences. Most of our mental suffering and frustration is caused by our mind judging our experience as unsatisfactory, or by projecting into the future and worrying about the imaginary problems that this might hold. Whereas from the viewpoint of awareness itself each moment is enough (in itself) as awareness does not judge but just witnesses 'what is'. With this outlook one is much more capable of handling what the world may throw at us, as each moment is taken as it comes without relating it to the past, future or any imaginary self-image based on identifying with thoughts and sensations (mind/body). This does not imply that life will be without problems just that we will become more able to solve these as they arise.

With regard to solving these problems we have at our disposal the most amazing instrument, the human mind, our own inbuilt onboard computer. This is a wonderful problem solving device, but to function properly it needs to be supplied with accurate data. All computer errors are due to incorrect data or program bugs. The main program bug in the mind occurs when we identify ourselves as the mind. In this case it colours all of the data it receives with its own opinions, judgements, self-interests and so on, which naturally leads to erroneous conclusions. As we learn to identify with the deeper level of pure awareness, this bug is fixed, and we learn to see things 'as they are', rather than through the filter of the mind. Now data is fed in uncontaminated, and problem-solving activity continues more accurately and spontaneously.

So when one is 'awake' each moment is encountered freshly and responded to (rather than reacted to) appropriately, which enhances our problem-solving ability, thus making life easier and more enjoyable.

~ ~ ~

Much of this article is taken from Beyond the Separate Self - The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering

This book is available to sample, or buy as a downloaded file at

Beyond the 'Separate Self'
The End of Anxiety and Mental Suffering

A Simple Guide to Awakening

Based on the Meditations, Contemplations, and Experiences
of Forty Years of Spiritual Search and Practice
by Colin Drake

Your book is excellent in its brilliance and clear simplicity. I must have read hundreds of books on the subject by now and this is truly a great treasure. I also want to say that I feel drawn to recommend this beautiful work to many friends on the "seeker circuit" and I sincerely hope that many of them will buy it and love it as I do. Deep gratitude and good wishes from Sweden. - Peter Signell

Enjoyed Colin Drake's new book. Clear, unpretentious and honest. -Tim Rowe

I bought Colin Drake's book off the internet . He has to be congratulated on the most clear and succinct book on the subject that I have read. He has managed to distil the essence. A must read for beginners and for seasoned travellers. -Garry Booth

Colin has a passionate love affair with Truth. This has culminated in him writing, simply and clearly, what has been revealed to him. Hiswritings are an invitation to those with a similar interest, to explore and discover for themselves. Enjoy. -Isaac Shapiro

This book is available to sample, or buy as a downloaded file at

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