A simple idea has come to mind while sitting and I’m finding it more and more useful both on and off the cushion. I want to explore it some, and see if anyone else finds it useful or knows of a buddhist equivalent for it. That idea is “Non-interference”.
Here is how this idea arose.
First, I had gained an insight while listening to Joseph Goldstein’s zencast entitled “What is the Mind?” In this dharma talk, he parses the delicate concepts underlying the Mind, such as Consciousness and Perception. In discussing consciousness, he says that consciousness is that which “knows” it’s object. I started pondering this, along with the sutras which mention eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, thought-consciousness and so forth.
It occurred to me that when we bring our awareness to a particular phenomena, what we are doing is bringing the awareness to a particular consciousness that is already there – it’s already tracking that object by it’s very nature (that’s what consciousness does). This is a very subtle shift. Instead of bringing awareness to the breath as a thing, I experimented with bringing attention to the consciousness of breathing that was already there.
Is there really any difference between these two instructions?? Is attention or awareness different than consciousness? I think that there is a difference. Attention seems to have a property that is related to choice – we direct our attention to something – while consciousness suggests a facet of the mind that is simply and directly knowing that which it knows. This may take more philosophical exploration to work out, but it’s not really the point here. The point is that this was an experiment – and it yielded some results.
Bringing attention to the consciousness of breathing may seem on one hand like adding an unnecessary concept into the chain of meditation. Maybe so. But it also brought a very real sense of both “effortlessness” and “non-interference” to the meditation. By making consciousness the direct element to which I brought attention, there was a feeling that that consciousness was not something that could even be interfered with. And attention and consciousness merge so completely and fluidly, that there was no sense of effort or feeling of a “this” and “that”.. where one might get the sense that “one” is watching the “breath” and they are separate. Awareness of Consciousness of Breath broke the subject object duality by subtly changing the exercise.
I may be nuts, but this shift seems useful to my practice right now. Comments welcome – especially if someone is familiar with these concepts from established practices.