Starting with Awareness: Is there such a thing as a thoughtless state? – Question & Answer

Q: Is there such a thing as a “thoughtless state” or is this term just a pointer to Awareness?

In the light of Awareness, thought is “seen” as a distant phenomenon, however it remains as continuous as sound coming to my ears or all bodily sensations. All I do is to withdraw attention from going to it. Other than this, how can a true thoughtless-state ever be experienced?

Absence of thought would be so timeless and spaceless that mentioning it as a possible experience seems completely absurd. Even trying to put this hypothesis into words sounds absurd. The only form of a “thoughtless-state” I’ve experienced is the lack of mental chatter (the so called monkey-mind), that disappears instantly in the light of Awareness, but distant clouds of formless thought remain through all processes of self-enquiry.

I can assume that if I ever experienced moments of no-thought I would have nothing to report, not even the continuity of such experience.

So how can some people say “I’ve been in Samadhi for several hours” or even days?

Rupert: All states come and go and, as such, appear in time. Time is imagined with thought. Therefore, states are dependent upon thought and, as such, there is and can be no such thing as a ‘thoughtless state’.

However, we cannot legitimately deny the continuity of experience. In fact, experience is not continuous in time; it is ever-present Now. However, let us make a concession to thought and call it ‘continuity’ for our present purposes. The continuity of experience is not a presumption; it is an experience. All thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions are intermittent. Where, then, does the undeniable continuity of experience come from?

It can only come from Awareness. Thought tells us that Awareness comes and goes, but Awareness itself has no experience of its own coming and going; in its own experience of itself – and it is the only one that is aware of itself – it is eternal.

If we claim the experience of being in samadhi for several hours, that samadhi must have been a subtle, expanded state of mind. As such, there is little to choose between it and the taste of tea. However, that in which the samadhi and the taste of tea appear, with which they are known and, ultimately, out of which they are made, is not in time or space.

If we believe in the real and independent existence of objects and states, Awareness will seem, from that point of view, to be non-existent or, at best, intermittent.

However, if we start with Awareness – which is a good place to start as it is our primary experience – and never move from that point of view to the point of view of an imaginary separate self, we have to admit that all Awareness ever knows or comes in contact with is itself.

We can therefore refine the question, “Is there such a thing as a ‘thoughtless state’ ” and replace it with, “Are there any real objects or states?” If we explore experience deeply enough, the answer we will inevitably arrive at is, “No, there is only Awareness, and it is Awareness alone that is aware that there is only itself.”

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Waking Up is Hard to Do: The Dark Side of Enlightenment By: Will Donnelly


What does it mean to wake up, to be a fully realized human being? For those of us who might consider ourselves everyday people with a spiritual inclination, enlightenment can sound so alluring, so desirable.

As we lean in the direction of our awakening by listening to our higher yearnings, and as we consciously and slowly awaken by paying attention to all that is happening around us in our world, it must be said that this shared human longing to be free is, to me, like carrying a burden. Now that simple racist comment at the office bugs us, those slights toward the masculine woman or effeminate man make us feel more and more uncomfortable, etc., as we begin to wonder how those who are impacted by this type of non-physical abuse might feel.

We awaken to the understanding that those who say hurtful things would certainly say them against us if we fit into one of their despised categories. We might feel utterly powerless to stop people from being mean-spirited, so we wonder why we even care in the first place. We may be so used to shrinking back from fear of conflict that now we feel powerless.

Disturbingly, we also realize that we may share these powerfully negative feelings somewhere deep within our own psyche. As we awaken, we begin to understand through personal experience that we are all in this together, we are more similar than different, and all of us are creatures of dark and light. It is here, in this murky awakened place, where our richest, most powerful and transformative work lies.

Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychiatrist, believed our main task in life was to discover and fulfill our deep innate potential through a journey of transformation he called individuation. It was a journey that allowed the individual to meet the self and the Divine at the same time. Roughly, it amounts to accepting your dark and light energies.

Jung explains: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

In making darkness conscious, we face our worst possible fears about ourselves and about humanity and we do not shrink back. We do not encourage these fears nor do we give our power away to them. Simply, we face them. It’s Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars movie when he entered the forest and battled a dangerous enemy, only to realize he was fighting himself. And make no mistake, it is a battle to the death. One of them will be victor.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross reminds us of this when she says that beautiful people don’t just happen. Beautiful people have known loss, known suffering, but have found their way out of the depths. Beautiful people have a sensitivity, an understanding for life that fills them with compassion.

Compassion is the ability to have concern for the misfortunes of others. Compassion involves empathy, the ability to have psychological identification with (or vicarious experiencing of) the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. Empathy, we soon realize, is often an uncomfortable experience.

As we seek to awaken so that we may manifest our own beauty while in this world, we must ask ourselves: Can I sit with these things that make me uncomfortable without trying to fix them, erase them, or make them all better?

When we are willing to sit with our own discomfort, rather than trying to change it, something happens within us. An al chemical shift occurs, and our suffering becomes imbued with meaning. Even if we lose that battle to cancer or ALS or even depression, we have won the war if our hearts have broken open to compassion. We have fought the good fight. We have chosen a more enlightened path, ironically, by allowing the darkness to become our teacher.


Will Donnelly is a nationally recognized, certified yoga teacher and writer. He has been a pioneer in the field of yoga, developing Practical Yoga, and co-creating a yoga–reality series for fitTV (Discovery Communications). As a writer and teacher, Will encourages all students to trust their impulses and find their true voice. Will currently lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, where he leads weekly yoga and writing classes at Kalani. He also leads several popular Practical Yoga adventure and healing retreats throughout the year, with information to be found at WillsPracticalYoga.com

4 Reasons Spirituality Is Good for You

Whether they’re finding it on the mat or while gazing up at the stars…
Americans are becoming more spiritual, a new study suggests. The Pew Research Center survey of 35,000 U.S. adults finds that about 60 percent of adults say they regularly feel a deep sense of “spiritual peace and well-being.” That’s up 7 percentage points since 2007. Plus, almost half of all Americans say they experience a deep sense of “wonder about the universe” at least once a week, also up 7 points over the same period.

Increased peace and well-being are obviously good things—and two reasons why many of us practice yoga—but spirituality has also been linked to better mental and physical health. Learn how being a “spiritual” person can benefit (and even prolong) your life.
4 Science-Backed Benefits of Spirituality

1. Spirituality may help patients battle cancer.

A recent analysis of studies on the role of spirituality/religion as it relates to cancer patients’ mental, social, and physical well-being (published in CANCER, a journal of the American Cancer Society) found that patients reporting greater religiousness and spirituality also reported better physical health, greater ability to perform their usual daily tasks, and fewer physical symptoms of cancer and treatment. “These relationships were particularly strong in patients who experienced greater emotional aspects of religion and spirituality, including a sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as a connection to a source larger than oneself,” lead author Heather Jim, PhD, of the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, said in a press release.

2. Spirituality may ward off depression.

A 2012 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that participants who reported that religion or spirituality was highly important to them reduced their risk of experiencing major depression during a 10-year period by 75 percent. Participants who were at high risk for depression (because they had a depressed parent) saw the greatest benefit from religion or spirituality; in this group, those who reported a high importance of religion or spirituality reduced thier risk of experiencing major depression during the same time period by about 90 percent.

3. Spirituality may help prolong your life.

Want to live longer? Being more spiritual may be as beneficial as eating broccoli. A 2011 study published in the journal Explore compared the impact of spirituality and religiosity with other health interventions on mortality and found that persons with higher spirituality and religiosity had an 18 percent lower rate of mortality. That’s similar to the effect of consuming fruits and vegetables on cardiovascular events and stronger than statin therapy.

4. Spirituality is good for your kids.

Spiritual kids = happier kids, according to research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The assessment of 320 children aged 8–12 from both public and private schools found that children’s spirituality, but not their religious practices (e.g., attending church, praying, and meditating), was strongly linked to their happiness. Researchers found that the “personal” domain of spirituality, defined as meaning and value in one’s own life, and the “communal” domain of spirituality, defined as quality and depth of inter-personal relationships, were particularly good predictors of kids’ happiness.

Source: Yoga Journal

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