Some thoughts on Awareness Watching Awareness.
For some reason, many people continue writing me for more information about Langford’s technique which he calls awareness watching awareness. I have stated the reasons I don’t like this method FOR MOST practitioners. If your questions regarding my opinion are not answered below or in the practice section on the itisnotreal.com website, please write to Michael Langford for clarification. I never practiced this technique.
First, his book is nothing more than a meditation manual and a promise. The promise is if you practice this method by giving it a good chance, and he says six months is not a good chance, you will have some success.
But he never states what that success or goal is, outside of the title of the book, eternal bliss. No guideposts are listed nor experiential map. He does not state what his own experiences were, or where the practice led him. There are no email transcripts where he directs students from step to step. So to practice his method, one has to depend totally on faith on Michael to obtain some unknown goal.
At least with Ramana’s method, which Michael said he never could figure out how to practice, we have a known quantity, namely Ramana himself and the lineage he started including Robert Adams. The same for Nisargadatta.
Next, the technique itself is vague and confusing. He says you must become aware of awareness.
What does this mean? It sounds like either there are two awarenesses, or you have to split one awareness into two.
Other times he uses the phrase “aware of consciousness,” and describes “awareness” as the background of everyday consciousness.
By now, if I were a beginner, I’d be very confused, because that background could be the sense of “me” that many meditators experience as a dark-heaviness in and behind the body, it could be the void, which is the essence of consciousness and which contains everything. But it could also mean the totality of consciousness perceived or apprehended as a whole. Being aware of that totality, or being aware of the Void is the same as the Zen meditation called Shikantaza, which requires much patience.
Again, he gives few examples in real life as to what he means. This is a major, major weakness. He might in some other writings or a blog, but I have not searched more for detail from him. The book by itself is incomplete.
Also, this is hardly a beginner’s technique, in that he invented it after failing to perform self-inquiry in terms of locating an I Am sense for 27 years! That is, he had performed all sorts of self-inquiry methods including asking who am I, and also trying to find the tactile sense of I Am, and failed. One can be assured though that after 27 years of practice, he was quite sophisticated.
Now, I would agree his method has great promise, if by being aware of awareness, he meant becoming aware of consciousness as a whole AFTER one has become one with the sense of I AM and has attained unity consciousness, or after one has gone beyond I Am, and is observing the totality of that which is as an observer. However, this is near the conclusion of the path rather rather than the beginning.
The problem is the consciousness/body knot usually felt in the heart or belly (Hara), which is the seat of the ego and I Am. Unless that knot is specifically seen through, no permanent liberation can be obtained. It appears Michael was not aware of this knot or he would have immediately called it “I Am.” It is extremely forceful and attention getting, unless you have practiced too much meditation on the background, and become very familiar with the Void. Void meditation will make everything else seem inconsequential, such as the I Am, even when it is not. Voidness meditation skips the step of isolating and following the I Am.
Comparatively, self-inquiry as outlined here, is finding the I-sense and attending to it, watching it, allowing merger with it, falling back into it, and discovering what you thought to be the I-sense actually changes over time, and the practice is to stay with that that feels like you as the subject. Cling to the I no matter how it changes.
For many the I Am appears to be the knot. For others later in their practice, the Void. For others, the witness, and also the witness of the witnessing duality. Stay with the one that feels most like you even as it changes. Then when you become clear, you can always be aware of the looker, and then rest in the looker, become the looker.
Now Michael may mean by AWA, to have the looker, look at the looker. However, he does not state ever that you are to look for the subject. He creates a dichotomy of awareness watching awareness, but never states there is a looker, or subject, witnessing the totality of consciousness as an object.
Therefore, I find his method confusing for any but advanced meditators who can look for the looker, or more easily, as in Shikantaza, sit in quietness, sitting in silence within ones present experience, doing nothing.
But his method misses the broad road of attending to the I Am. Once the I Am sense is found, a path directly to total liberation is clearly (I should say, more clearly) laid out and is much easier to follow.
Much else of Michael's book is powerful. Read slowly, stop, ponder and then meditate on the words. Also he describes how the ego (which he also says does not exist), will constantly try to stop you from proper reading and practice. He says the more you practice the better.
This is so true. I even have people who practice 2 hours a day ask me if that isn't too much, that there might be some danger in 2 hours of daily practice.
The more you can practice the better, formal sitting and informally stopping throughout the day to get in touch with that I Am sense. Just the sheer amount of practice engenders spiritual power, Joriki, which allows the mind to settle closer to the root consciousness.