In awareness there is no becoming, there is no end to be gained. There is silent observation without choice and condemnation, from which there comes understanding.
— J. Krishnamurti
In the past couple of years, an important practice invitation has been to “just notice.” Just noticing furthers the ability to be aware; it is the crux of a practice of awareness. The content of what is noticed isn’t important. The ability to retain attention on awareness regardless of the content is training to identify with and live from Center, a being-ness independent of and unaffected by the undulations of a human existence.
As we practice “just noticing,” this question may arise: Does just noticing end the patterns of suffering that we’re caught in repeatedly? Unequivocally, yes. Suffering, in Wei Wu Wei’s famous statement, is “a case of mistaken identity.” As long as we’re identified with the illusion of a self that is separate from Life, suffering is inevitable. This is why all paths to the realization of “That Thou Art” are in aid of practicing a movement from the self of small mind to the Self of Whole Mind.
But ONLY if that’s what’s being practiced!
All you need is already within you, only you must approach yourself with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors.
— Nisargadutta Maharaj
To be on a path to recognize ourselves as Conscious Compassionate Awareness is impossible as long as there is an entrenched habit to identify with being deeply flawed. While indulging a habit of attention on self-hating messages, the “spirit” of spiritual practice remains elusive in the one and only place it is to be finally apprehended—in one’s self. This is why we say “Spiritual practice begins when the beatings stop.”
If we give in to self-hate, not only do we reinforce ego’s message of negation, we also feed the belief that ending suffering is related to triumphing over the content or circumstance that is the current focus of the suffering process. If we can stop suffering over the job, how our partner speaks to us, the procrastination habit around paying bills, then…. Ego triumphs if it can get the attention on solving the content rather than looking at the source of the suffering: the deeply conditioned identification with a flawed “me” that is suffering. Not indulging self-hatred allows us to look unflinchingly and impersonally at the ego, refute the false identification and reinforce what lies beyond all content. This is the practice of ending suffering through investigating and realizing what we’re not (that which suffers), and by becoming aware of what we are (that which notices).
Not believing self-hate is the behavior change that ends any process of suffering.
We don’t lack self-discipline. We lack presence.
— from Making a Change for Good
Awareness is an egoless lens. It allows receptivity to information without the distortion of “taking it personally.”
We fall for self-hating messages because there is a modicum of truth in the accusation leveled by the voices. What leads to suffering is that we identify with the “something wrong with me” part of the message and fail to hear the “useful” information in the rest of the message. But in a practice of “just noticing,” since the lens of awareness (not taking it personally) is available, we can face the “truth” obscured by self-hate and act on it.
A common message that practitioners might fall for: “You’ve been a practitioner for so long and still fall for self-hating messages. What’s wrong with you?” If one doesn’t identify with the “you,” the message is 100% valid. It gives us information about the process we’re in. I am listening to a self-hating message, and it is true that if I continue to believe it nothing will change. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me. It means listening to self-hating messages doesn’t lead to ending suffering. Wherever one wakes up in the cycle, the message from Life on how to practice NOW is encoded in the ego conversation. We just need to practice seeing it without self-hate.
A point of caution: We don’t want to let ego interpret “the truth” in the self-hating conversation. Always consult the Mentor before any conclusions are reached.
What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate appears to have survived, since before the beginning of beginningless time, by its uncanny ability to adapt to practice tools and language. The “just noticing” practice can be taken over by ego since ego is completely content for us to watch its shenanigans forever. When we find ourselves in a familiar pattern of suffering, it is easy to predict the message most likely to trip us up. It is a version of “Again? Is it ever going to be different?” The coded truth in the question is “No, it isn’t going to be different! It won’t be different as long as attention is on conditioned mind.”
The practice option in the face of finding ourselves back in a karmic rut is humility. Perhaps we don’t “know” what the ending suffering choice is yet; perhaps we “know” but the voices still talk us out of it. But to squarely face the truth that one is not free yet, and there is nothing wrong with that or with “me” will keep us in the practice game. We can just be curious about how suffering keeps happening. When “just notice” is available, Awareness is back at the helm, and the truth, hidden in plain sight, is that we’ve just taken another giant step towards freedom from suffering.