As a spiritual teacher, one of the most common questions I’m asked about meditation is, “What should I be paying attention to?”
What I usually say is, “nothing in particular.
In meditation, you want to discover what awareness is, free from attachment to any object. In the enlightened mind, awareness itself becomes the object of awareness. To discover what this means, you need to let your attention expand beyond all objects in consciousness—beyond the body, beyond the mind, beyond the world, beyond this infinite universe. Even the universe can become an object in consciousness. The hardest thing to understand about enlightenment is that the object of our seeking is not an object. Most of us are locked into a dualistic experience of subject and object, self and other, self and world, even self and enlightenment. And too often, spiritual techniques for practicing awareness end up inadvertently reinforcing this fundamental duality.
My teacher once said to me, “I’m glad you’ve found a friend you’ll never see.” That’s what the enlightened mind is: a friend you’ll never be able to see. That friend emerges when you discover that the most authentic part of your own self is already completely free. It is not possible to be mindful or aware of this already free part of yourself in any ordinary way, but when you have the courage to let go, you will find that miraculously, it can and will respond with great passion and incredible precision, seemingly with no premeditation whatsoever. Out of the blue, the right response will appear. And only after such a faster-than-thought response do you become aware of the fact that a part of yourself that you’re not normally conscious of is paying attention all the time. That part of yourself is always awake—even when you don’t seem to be. The expression of that wakefulness is the shocking spontaneity of enlightened awareness.
Many of us say we want to be enlightened, but how many of us are ready to let our whole lives be guided by a friend that we will never be able to see? For most of us, it’s unbearable even to conceive of, because it points to a kind of surrender that is unimaginable. A surrender in which the ego no longer gets to run theshow. Finally, all the weighing and measuring is given up, because you have no doubt that what you are seeking for is something you will never be able to grasp with the mind. This is the dawning of humility: when you begin to discover a non-materialistic, not-knowing relationship to the immeasurable, ungraspable, inconceivable, all-consuming mystery that is your own deepest self. It is this that opens the door for that friend you will never see to begin to speak through you and ultimately to become who you are.
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. Click to learn more about his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.