Satsang 9: A Further Exploration of the Art of Self-Awareness

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“How wonderful, how marvelous, how perfect, how complete.

Everything in existence is just like this.”


Notes on the Satsang with Sahajananda

Watch the satsang here. Find notes from all of Sahaja’s satsangs here.

The following notes are offered to support your understanding of the satsang Sahajananda presented on June 15, 2020. This satsang is the ninth in a series of ten talks which together make up a program called Inner Non-Violent Revolution: A Free Online Course on Self-Awareness.

Note that this is not a transcript and should not be seen as an alternative to viewing the satsang itself (available here). If you don’t watch the satsang, you will likely miss the context for the ideas presented here and will therefore not grasp their subtleties. And, as importantly, you will miss Sahaja’s transmission. The word satsang comes from the Sanskrit words sat (“truth”) and sangha (“association”) and refers to “associating with truth,” or “being in the company of the wise.” By being in Sahaja’s company via watching the video of the satsang, you will be receiving the teachings directly from him and you may understand them on a deeper level.

“There is nothing critical, there is nothing urgent, except Self-Awareness.”


A Further Exploration of the Art of Self-Awareness

The Union between Surrender and Intense Alertness

  • When we give prominence to Self-Awareness in the process of making decisions or freeing ourselves from petty tyrants, this doesn’t in any way mean that we should deny (as some teachers of Neo-Advaita tend to do) the role of judgment and rational thinking, considering that they are just parts of the “nasty” ego. Again, the key is not to split, but to integrate—the path of “Yes and No together.”
  • It is not about denying the role of the intellect. It is just that all the decision-making process is done by whom? Not by the reactive personal me, but by the Center of our being, in which our personal skills, intelligence, memory, etc. become useful tools to express the Heart. Before making decisions: Who am I?
  • While there is a surrender of the ego, at the same time our volition and intellect (freed from personal reactivity and psychological conditioning) are working in the favor of the Heart.
  • It should never be seen as a radical separation, either in the Heart or in the ego; initially, just a bit of the presence of the Heart can bring inspiration, insights that are making us act in a different spirit, in partial surrender.
  • This is not just a dialectical interplay between surrender and intense personal attention. Rather, it is a fascinating union between them in which surrender is the guide.

Meditation Practice

Exploring the Union between Surrender and Intense Alertness

  1. Close your eyes, keep your back straight; relaxation.
  2. Center yourself in the Heart, in the middle of the chest, a little to the right, ignoring thoughts, sensations, emotions, allow the sense of “I” to go deeper and deeper.
  3. Feel a sense of surrender…
  4. While going deeper in the Heart, observe the clarity of the intellect and the power of volition, will, free from emotional reactivity.
  5. From this surrendered space, you can, for example, contemplate your life, look at your future with less fear…
  6. Gently open your eyes.

Sacred-Presence vs. Mindfulness-Presence

  • Real Presence is a sacred Presence. The different practices of Self-Awareness, Re-collection (acknowledging the unification of the energies of the soul), and Self-observation (personal Self-Awareness, mindfulness) that have been shared during this course may seem to involve a great amount of attention, presence, which is hard to maintain for long periods of time. This is why it seems to be impossible to be aware in such ways all the time.
  • Being Self-Aware now may be understood by some as an act of just witnessing all that is….
  • But understanding awareness just as representing the function of witnessing can still bring limitations or confusion. For some, Self-observation (psychological mindfulness) and witnessing as forms of non-reactivity seem just ways of separating themselves from what is witnessed: circumstances, thoughts, body, sensations, etc. In its lower forms, when the ego is still involved, such witnessing can lead to dissociation, alienation from things, from our soul. In higher forms, when in addition to non-reactivity to emotions, etc. the surrender of the ego happens, the act of witnessing is a withdrawal in nirvana, Pure Spirit, while somehow denying samsara, the world of phenomena and energy. It may bring what people would call Spiritual Bypassing.
  • But real Presence is not about a dry witnessing. On the contrary, it is embracing the phenomenal world, samsara, and because of this it is very potent, alive, full of spanda, grace.
  • This is how we can mark the difference between real Presence, which is always sacred, and the secular, separating presence understood or felt just as a witnessing-withdrawal (dissociation) attitude.
  • A brief clarification is needed. The fact that some understand the concept of witnessing in such restricted ways doesn’t mean that the real Witness Consciousness is something limited, or less than real Presence. It is a practical, experiential misunderstanding that can create such confusion, when witnessing means just witnessing-withdrawal (which may still maintain the ego) not the real witnessing-unification.
  • In order to understand the proper attitude in daily Self-Awareness, we should come to intimately feel the union between Shiva and Shakti, Pure Consciousness and the all-embracing flow of Pure Energy, in our entire being. Therefore, Self-Awareness involves consciousness and spanda or grace, or what we may call in Christianity the Holy Spirit—the pure energy of beauty, playfulness, freedom. This is a very important aspect that needs to be fully understood. Me, Here, Now. What a miracle!
  • It is awareness and wonderment (vulnerability, flow) together—Pure Consciousness and Grace (Pure Energy). As Cosmic Shakti, grace is impersonal but has many forms—it is what is happening when we are overwhelmed by unconditional Love or Bliss, in so many ways and nuances. Mystical experiences are never boring because of Shakti.
  • In Christianity and Judaism, we see the Holy Spirit as the divine force, quality, and influence of God on us. Therefore, it is often considered an external power of grace without which we cannot know God. Sometimes this dualistic view arises in Tantra as well, when it is said: you cannot do anything spiritually without Shaktipat, the Grace of Shiva, or of the master. But since our Heart is divine, real Self-Awareness is an act of openness to the Holy Spirit, grace, Shakti—which is inseparable from Shiva, the Supreme Universal Self that we are. Grace comes from inside (actually, from an indivisible Oneness).
  • In a similar way, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition speaks about the union between emptiness and bliss that is revealed in the depths of meditation.

A Beautiful Story from the Tibetan Tradition

Gampopa, the main disciple of Milarepa, confessed that he could easily maintain states of mental void for hours. Milarepa answered that this meant nothing to him, because mental void without bliss is like grinding sand. Mental void can still happen from the level of just the personality, ego. But the union of void and bliss in our story points to a transpersonal experience. And this art of union refers, of course, to Self-Awareness. Such intimate union can be translated in yogic terms as sat-chit-ananda or as a marriage between Shiva and Shakti, Pure Consciousness and Pure Sacred Energy. Real Self-Awareness is about discovering this sacred marriage in our Heart.

  • By constantly practicing Self-Awareness meditation (Hridaya Meditation), we learn that in this domain of the Center there is a synthesis between Pure Consciousness and Pure Energy. It is a sense of flow, of grace, of Self-Awareness, which means that a sacred, impersonal, universal energy, spanda, is not separate from the Witness… Actually, these two terms become inseparable. (Or, better said, are experienced as inseparable.) It is like we are living constantly in the presence of a deep mystery.
  • This is more easily revealed in solitude and silence. At a certain point, we feel that it is not the mind or personality that makes this effort to be attentive, mindful, but it happens and is supported by an unlimited energy, universal Shakti. This is what we may call Grace, kundalini shakti, or the Holy Spirit.
  • The real Present Moment is a sacred moment in which, apart from the witness quality, there is a sweet taste of sacredness, of Oneness.
  • The pressure of our modern anti-religious culture makes some teachers try to describe spiritual realities in strict scientific, secular ways. But we should always remember that it is not about grinding sand. Self-Awareness is graceful; it is, as Rudolph Oto described, “mysterium tremendum et fascinans”—a mystery in front of which we tremble and are fascinated. This is real Presence—the very essence of sacredness.
  • So, it is important to realize that Self-Awareness is not an empty, alienating state of confusing, meaningless void, but contains in it wisdom, freedom, bliss, spanda, the freshness of grace.
  • Sahaja, naturalness (which literally means samsara and nirvana together), is an awareness-integration of transcendence and immanence, emptiness and fullness inseparable.
  • And, we can be even more precise by using the triune perspective of Kashmir Shaivism. It is somewhat similar to the Christian Trinity. It says that what we are is three-in-one: Shiva, Shakti, and nara (individuality). This frame precisely describes the proper experience of Self-Awareness.

In practice, when I am really Self-Aware (which, as I said, is always a Sacred Presence):

  1. At one level, there is transcendental awareness, an infinite bottomless depth, Stillness (the level of Shiva).
  2. On a different level, there is an intrinsic awareness of grace, love, gratitude, compassion—in a word, an awareness of spanda—because my heart is fully alive, vibrating (this is the level of Shakti—Cosmic Energy, the Holy Spirit).
  3. On a third level, there is an unconditional embrace of everything that comes into my perception, Now: my senses, mind, soul’s experience (this is the level of individuality, nara, in Shaivism).

These three are inseparable (of course, conceptually they may be separated, but in reality they are one Sacred Presence).

{This is why I don’t really resonate with statements like, “In the state of Self-Awareness, in the Present Moment, there is no time.” I would still ask, “What do you mean by this?” In Shiva, the transcendental presence, indeed there is no time. But even while witnessing emotions, sensations, and thoughts, there is memory, volition, and intelligence. And, at this level (nara), which is not denied, but integrated in the non-dual perspective, there is chronological time (not just psychological time, which is imagined).}

  • Therefore, from a practical point of view, whenever we open to the Present Moment, we realize that this involves an openness of the Heart. So, open your heart, and don’t do it just from the place of the personality—you having to exert a personal effort to be mindful—but from the real Center, the surrendered soul, in which infinite energies are playing.
  • Consequently, in the state of Centeredness, of Sacred Pure Presence, there is not just an intense alertness, mindfulness, which needs to be summed up with a state of effortlessness, as in a recipe when we prepare food. There is simply a natural union between them, the synthesis of intense alertness and effortless surrender.
  • Self-observation, common mindfulness, is done by the personality and refers to a personal domain.
  • Real Self-Awareness is done by a Pure Subject, an impersonal reality and refers to an impersonal domain.
  • It means surrender of the personality, humbleness—from humus, meaning earth.

When we are thinking of ourselves less, we drop our identification with our thoughts, memories, and tendencies and focus more on God, more on Self-Awareness. This conscious interiority is unrelative in the sense that it simply refers to ourselves in its essential dimension. Therefore, conscious interiority frees us from the need to compare ourselves with others from the complex of superiority and inferiority, because in interiority, Centeredness we are not haunted by delusions of grandeur or of insignificance, pettiness.

“Humbleness is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less…”

A Simple Practice of Awareness

Whenever you walk on the street or in a park, keep this humble conscious interiority and observe that whenever you see people, there arises a need to react, to judge and to compare yourself with them. Keep yourself free from this need to compare with others. You compare yourself with others only when you are identified with an image of yourself. When you objectify yourself, you tend to also objectify others, which means seeing others just as objects: the shape of the body, how they look, etc. and not as humble intimacy.

Degrees of Self-Awareness

We can acknowledge 4 levels of conscious interiority, different degrees of Self-Awareness:

  1. Common mindfulness (self-observation) that is done by the mind, personality, nara, and refers to the domain of personality (the awareness of the body, thoughts, emotions, breath, the act of walking, etc.). It is the first step, which starts with non-reactivity to what is observed, when we really start to get out from the rat race of unconsciousness.Otherwise, if we don’t practice non-reactivity, and we just observe things, it is like looking in a tricky mirror that apparently is okay because it reflects things correctly, but is deceitful because it lacks depth, that deeper dimension of ourselves, and thus is holding us in a suffocating space of forms, concepts, duties, and social norms.
  2. Presence as an act of Pure Awareness that is done by the pure “I”-feeling (so, it is still individual), and refers to itself (I am aware of myself, while ignoring emotions, sensations, thoughts). The second and third levels of Presence are mostly contemplative—they are generally experienced in meditation, with the eyes closed…)
  3. Presence that is an act of transcendental Self-Awareness, (that is done by an infinite, eternal Subject), but which ignores shakti. Nirvikalpa. It is like a conscious emptiness aware of itself.
  4. Sacred Presence that is an act of transcendental Self-Awareness which also includes the universal energies, Shakti, grace—a sense of Oneness that doesn’t exclude the world, the mind.

Meditation Practice

Acknowledging each stage from personal presence to sacred Presence.

  1. Close your eyes, keep your back straight; relaxation.
  2. Bring the awareness in the Heart, in the middle of the chest a little to the right, ignoring thoughts, sensations, emotions, allow the sense of “I” to go deeper and deeper.
  3. Mindfulness: Observe the breath.
  4. “I”-feeling: I am aware of myself, while ignoring emotions, sensations, thoughts.
  5. Transcendental Self-Awareness: An infinite, eternal Subject which ignores shakti.
  6. Sacred Presence: Transcendental Self-Awareness which includes the universal energies, Shakti.
  7. Gently open your eyes.

The Transition from the Pure “I”-Feeling (Individual Subjectivity) to Universal Subjectivity (Shiva)

The transition from the pure “I”-feeling (individual subjectivity) to Universal Subjectivity (Shiva) may happen in an explosive way, but can also appear as a continuum, when we are aware of the whole spectrum of such a transition… Ramana Maharshi speaks about bringing the “I”-feeling back to its source and this is a fascinating, continuous process.

There are no separate existential categories: “me” as a drop vs. “me” as an ocean. There is no moment in meditation in which we can say, “Up to now, it was my individuality, that pure Me, and from now on there is just the ocean of Pure Consciousness, Shiva.”

We cannot make such a distinction for two reasons:

  1. There, we are no longer at the level the rational mind and, therefore, such comparisons are not present.
  2. There is no such conceptual threshold in the genuine surrender that Self-Inquiry brings.

But, since we accept that the mind cannot function there, why would we want to find a clear distinction now?

In this journey of Self-Awareness, more and more layers are gradually taken away. We may see how it feels when the sense of time and space gradually become thinner…

Meditation Practice

  1. Close your eyes, keep your back straight; relaxation.
  2. Bring the awareness in the Heart, in the middle of the chest a little to the right, ignoring thoughts, sensations, emotions, allow the sense of “I” to go deeper and deeper.
  3. There is a sense of surrender. A sense of grace… Divine energies are gradually dissolving veils and the relative reference points of the personality.
  4. Feel yourself being taken by Universal Shakti, the divine flow of grace, a continuous transition from the drop to the ocean, from a limited bubble to Infinity.
  5. Gently open your eyes.

This sense of grace, Shakti, this transition from the pure “I”-feeling (individual subjectivity) to Universal Subjectivity is something to be explored more and more.

  • Sacred Self-Awareness is an act of humble intimacy with ourselves. Because of this, it brings an unconditional faith in ourselves, in this pure “I,” so obvious, so clear…similar to the faith that the sun has risen: not only because we see it, but because by it we see everything else.
  • We don’t look for Self-Awareness just because we want to become more confident in our personal skills, etc. In Self-Awareness, the attention is on this flow of subjectivity, on this pure “I,” and because of this, we are not looking for reassurance, but for revelation…
  • When we look at ourselves with such an unconditional view, it is a unique breakthrough the likes of which we haven’t had in our lives.
  • Our heart aches because of astounding authenticity, may it be love or pain, it is the same aching tremor of the Heart. We are overwhelmed by the beauty of the sky or of the morning star, as Buddha was, but we really don’t know if this is what seems to be an external beauty, or if the sky is in our Heart.
    “How wonderful, how marvelous, how perfect, how complete. Everything in existence is just like this.” –Buddha
  • It is a falling in Love with ourselves, where we don’t know if there are any limits to this Sacred Presence. We ask again and again: “Who am I?” and any breeze feels like an answer, because there is nothing alien.

It is easier to arrive at this in solitude and meditation, when you allow yourself to really be with yourself…

Awareness— The Waking up Force of the Warrior

When a warrior king presents a gift,
It could be a naked flame, which consumes the jungle of ego,
Or an ice-cold mountain range, which cools the heat of aggression.
On the other hand, it could be a parachute.
One wonders whether it will open or not.
There is a further choice—Thunderbolt:
Whether you are capable of holding it with your bare hand is up to you.
So, my heartfelt child, take these gifts and use them in the way that past warriors have done.

All Satsang Notes