Heaven and Earth are impartial;
They see the ten thousand things as
The wise are impartial;
They see the people as straw dogs.
Tao Te Ching
This is the crux of it, when we think of ourselves as awareness, we still place emphasis on ourselves. This is a critical point because as the above quote states ANY sense of self is a straw dog. We have to see this, and we have to see it clearly.
We are either conscious or unconscious.
If we are conscious we are either present or we’re not. If we are present we are aware, and if we’re not present we aren’t.
So when you meditate an effort is made to be present. This is the only purpose of meditation, it’s not to go to some mysterious place or to develop some part of you that isn’t always right there. The reason we cultivate presence in meditation is so we can be present, any where, at any time, this is how we begin to start living the Tao. Simply by being present.
So true meditation is not imagining, it’s not counting breath, it’s not chanting, it’s doing absolutely nothing, ultimately the mind should be blank, or empty. We can use techniques to help us in this goal, but they shouldn’t be confused with the objective. Of course when we first start, all kinds of thoughts arise, which is fine, we simply continue doing nothing, just let the thoughts come and go as they will. So we aren’t creating a different state of consciousness, we aren’t gaining awareness, we’re simply developing presence.
I can’t emphasize enough Awareness is nothing, in fact lets forget the word even exists. When you are conscious you are either present or you’re not. If you’re not, you’re thinking of something other than what is immediately happening, or you’re having thoughts about what is happening, such as this is bad or this is good. Either way you’re not present in the moment. Even having a judgment takes you out of the moment.
So when we’re conscious, we strive to be present, when we’re present we’re in the Tao. See awareness has nothing to do with it. When we’re in the Tao what we experience is complete, we experience the moment fully. The focus has to shift from a self experiencing a moment to just the experience of the moment. The concept of awareness keeps us in our mind, I am aware of this, instead of just being present. Even the thought “I am aware” takes you away from the moment. The Tao is to rest naturally in consciousness without any self awareness at all, some find it helpful to think of it as no mind.
So now lets take a look at consciousness. When I go bed at night, I wash my face, brush my teeth, put on my pj’s, and remove my glasses, I don’t set my consciousness aside. Once I get into bed, I don’t switch off my consciousness, I wouldn’t even know where to look for a switch. I do switch off the light, and I close my eyes, still conscious. Now what? should I try to shut off my consciousness, does thinking about it make it happen? Any insomniac would give you a resounding no. Relaxing seems to help, being present helps, but neither of those things actually makes us unconscious. Reading a book works for a lot of people, as soon as they switch their focus from trying to go to sleep, they fall asleep. Or when you’re trying to stay awake and it just seems impossible to control. So really we have no more control over consciousness than we do the blood pumping through our veins.
And this is living in the Tao. I am not a body, I am not consciousness, in fact I do not find a self anywhere, there is only Tao.
Something mysteriously formed,
Born before heaven and Earth.
In the silence and the void,
Standing alone and unchanging,
Ever present and in motion.
Perhaps it is the mother of ten
I do not know its name
Call it Tao.
For lack of a better word, I call it great.
Tao Te Ching
There is no distinction between the ten thousand things and self. Consciousness is as empty as Form, Form as empty as Consciousness and where they come from can be called Tao, I call it great.