Does awareness mean a state of freedom or merely a process of observation?
- This is really quite a complex problem. Can we understand the whole significance of what it is to be aware? Do not let us jump to any conclusions. What do we mean by ordinary awareness? I see you; and in watching you, looking at you, I form opinions. You have hurt me, you have deceived me, you have been cruel to me, or you have said nice things and flattered me; and consciously or unconsciously all this remains in my mind. When I watch this process, when I observe it, that is just the beginning of awareness, is it not? I can also be aware of my motives, of my habits of thought. The mind can be aware of its limitations, of its own conditioning; and there is the inquiry as to whether the mind can ever be free from its own conditioning. Surely this is all part of awareness. To say that the mind can or cannot be free from its conditioning, is still part of its conditioning; but to observe that conditioning without saying either, is a furthering of awareness – awareness of the whole process of thinking.
So through awareness I begin to see myself as I actually am, the totality of myself. Being watchful from moment to moment of all its thoughts, its feelings, its reactions, unconscious as well as conscious, the mind is constantly discovering the significance of its own activities – which is self-knowledge. Whereas, if my understanding is merely accumulative, then that accumulation becomes a conditioning which prevents further understanding. So, can the mind observe itself without accumulation?
All this is still only part of awareness, is it not? A tree is not merely the leaf, or the flower, or the fruit; it is also the branch, the trunk – it is everything that goes to make up the whole tree. Likewise, awareness is of the total process of the mind, not just of one particular segment of that process. But the mind cannot understand the total process of itself if it condemns or justifies any part, or identifies itself with the pleasurable and rejects the painful. So long as the mind is merely accumulating experience, knowledge – which is what it is doing all the time – , it is incapable of going further. That is why, to discover something new, there must be a dying to every experience; and for this there must be awareness from moment to moment.
All relationship is a mirror in which the mind can discover its own operations. Relationship is between oneself and other human beings, between oneself and things or property, between oneself and ideas, and between oneself and nature; and in that mirror of relationship one can see oneself as one actually is – but only if one is capable of looking without judging, without evaluating, condemning, justifying. When one has a fixed point from which one observes, there is no understanding in one's observation.
So, being fully conscious of one's whole process of thinking, and being able to go beyond that process, is awareness. You may say it is very difficult to be so constantly aware. Of course it is very difficult – it is almost impossible. You cannot keep a mechanism working at full speed all the time, it would break up; it must slow down, have rest. Similarly, we cannot maintain total awareness all the time. How can we? To be aware from moment to moment is enough. If one is totally aware for a minute or two, and then relaxes, and in that relaxation spontaneously observes the operations of one's own mind, one will discover much more in that spontaneity than in the effort to watch continuously. You can observe yourself effortlessly, easily, when you are walking, talking, reading – at every moment. Only then will you find out that the mind is capable of freeing itself from all the things it has known and experienced; and it is in freedom alone that it can discover what is true.