The Difference Between Awareness and “Knowing”

Good day, friends!

Here’s a comment I made within the conversation happening in the Daily Dharma Facebook group, which is now up and running. I’ll put information about how to participate in the Daily Dharma program at the bottom of this post. See what you think!

In one of the Daily Dharma posts I made this assertion:

“The truth is that we never really know anything, ever. We’re just operating within what we perceive and what we believe to be true.”

Someone in the group said she had trouble wrapping her mind around that statement. She asked a couple questions which are implied in my response:

“Yes, 100%. Here’s the way I would say it. We are aware. In fact, I think we could say that fundamentally, essentially, we are awareness. We cannot help being awareness (though we can shut down our capacity to be aware through distraction, fantasy, regret, and other conditioned things). If we are present we will naturally be aware of what is happening in our bodies, emotions, and in our mind–and, as you say, we need to be. It’s in being present with ourselves and aware of the processes happening in body, emotion, and mind that we put ourselves in a position to take real care of ourselves and have a good and happy life on this earth. Awareness is not the same as “knowing”, however. Awareness is always open, always moving with Life as it moves. “Knowing” is static and fixed. To “know” is to get stuck in a conceptual relationship with experience–to experience ideas about things, in other words, rather than the things themselves–and so lose touch with what is actually going on in the moment. So we need to be aware of everything we can be aware of, but not grasp onto what we are aware of and turn it into “knowing”.

There is nothing tentative about this at all, as you say. The commitment you’re indicating, to me, is a commitment to being in our authentic experience rather than being in our heads about our experience. Said another way, there is a difference between being Life Unfolding and being a “someone” outside of Life Unfolding who is putting experience in little boxes. If we’re in the place of Life Unfolding then there is nobody there to intend anything, want anything, or try to be anything–and so there is no need to conceptualize anything. If we are outside of Life Unfolding then there is somebody there, and what that person wants is to be separate from Life and to control Life to get what it wants. In that case there is every reason to “know”, because that, we imagine, is the way in which we gain that control. And of course this never works and never produces anything but frustration and unhappiness–because that self is illusory and there is no such thing as control. Let me know if any of this is unclear, and thanks again for the post!”

To participate in the Daily Dharma Facebook Group (where I’m posting short things every day to support awareness practice, and where we’re having conversation about practice), go to If you prefer to receive the posts via email just let me know and I’ll put you on the email list.

Blessing to you, everyone!

In peace,