Awareness and Objects of Awareness


Hello, everyone, and beautiful day to you!!!!

Here’s something for you from the ongoing Five Skandhas online class. This is my portion of an exchange I had with someone the other day. It’s a bit technical, but highly interesting, I think, if you’re into this sort of thing. Be well, have a good day, and enjoy!

In peace,

“Oh, there is some fun stuff in here….!

In response, first I think it’s helpful to make a distinction between awareness and objects of awareness. The things you listed (breath, heartbeat, digestive noises…) are objects of awareness–they are things within the field of awareness that we are aware of. In addition to the objects, there is awareness itself–the faculty by which we are aware of the objects of awareness.

Mostly when people are going along through life (I project) they are aware of the objects of awareness, but they are not aware that they are aware of them. For example, someone might be aware of the cars going by, the other people in the street, the podcast coming in through their earbuds, and such, but they are not aware of themselves being aware of these things. This is what we call the state of ‘unconsciousness’. When someone is unconscious they are identified, you might say, with the objects of awareness, without consciousness of themselves and, sometimes, even of their existence. The same applies to inward objects of awareness (like an emotional experience, or the experience of physical pain). We can get lost in those, too, and forget that we are aware of them.

One way of talking about the accomplishment that practice offers is to become aware that we are aware of objects, and to learn to live in that place of greater awareness. That’s what we call ‘consciousness’ or ‘being conscious’.

I love what you said about awareness, and even awareness of awareness, being from within the body. Yes!!!!! There is no other way it could be. The teaching of the Five Skandhas tells us why. Our experience, says the teaching, is comprised of five different elements (body, sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness), and all five of these, exactly as you said, are located within the body. When you think of it, how could it be otherwise? We are animals with bodies, our bodies are the contraptions through which we experience everything we experience, and so all that we experience will be through the body.

Interestingly, when we become lost in thought (when we lose awareness and forget that we’re thinking), it can seem like our perceptions are happening outside the body. Right? It can seem like I’m on the vacation I had last year, or having an argument with someone in some other place, and so on. It’s when we come to awareness that we come back into the body and experience what is actually here–though through the medium of the body (which includes thought and awareness).

At the same time, however, the body can be an object of awareness. When we are aware, one of the things we can be aware of is the body. Awareness inhabits the body, and is dependent upon the body, but is not the body. That makes it possible for awareness to be sort of outside the body, observing the body, as well. We are always in the body, but we are not the body; all of our experience happens through the body, and yet we can be aware of the body from the outside. Fascinating!”