Awareness — also known as mindfulness or simply being in the moment — is a practice to “wake up” and utilize consciousness, the spiritual part within, by being attentive and observant in the present moment. Ancient spiritual teachings describe it as a means to have greater inner clarity and peace, and modern science has shown it can measurably improve well-being.1
It involves grounding one’s attention in the time and place one is – perceptive of the surroundings and aware of being there. It can be practiced any time, in everyday activities. It’s a matter of coming out of daydreams and mental chatter and directing attention to the reality of the present moment – to the natural perception of life around oneself through the five senses – to be “awake,” “here,” and “present” in the moment one is living. Awareness centers a person in reality and activates consciousness – allowing life to be seen and experienced more objectively.
In the Religion of the Sun, consciousness is understood to be the spark of divinity or light people carry within. 23 Awareness enlivens it, increasing the perception of reality and allowing its attributes to shine though more, such as peace, love, intelligence and intuition. 4 The increased perception is both external and internal. As well as being more aware of one’s surroundings, it enables someone to better perceive compulsive thoughts, feelings and impulses that might otherwise drive their behavior unnoticed, be detached from them, and consciously choose more beneficial and spiritually aligned ways of being and acting.5
Awareness is practiced in the Religion of the Sun, and features prominently in ancient sacred texts, because perceiving life and oneself objectively opens the door to self-knowledge, learning, inner change and spiritual development. It’s usually combined with the practice of self-observation, which extends perception of the moment to include awareness of one’s inner states for the purpose of inner study and change – in any case, what happens within and without are both part of the moment. 6
The headings below give more information on the practice of awareness as well as references to it in spiritual texts (click to expand and read). Further down is a list of posts with extracts from texts related to the Religion of the Sun providing insights on how to practice awareness.
Beyond these benefits, however, awareness can serve a higher purpose, which is spiritual awakening. In the Religion of the Sun, it’s held that life has been formed so that consciousness can learn, become aware of its own nature, and awaken spiritually.111213 For this to be attempted, however, a person first has to “wake up,” see and realize their present nature and condition, and recognize the need for inner change and spiritual enlightenment.14
This is not possible without being aware – seeing oneself and life objectively. It is consciousness, the essence of a person, that’s “awake” when awareness is practiced, and all real spiritual development happens in consciousness. Being aware activates consciousness, allowing a person to respond to life in a higher way through its innate qualities such as love and intelligence; it also enables a person to learn and change in life. Various ancient texts covey the need to “know yourself” which isn’t possible without someone being aware and seeing themselves as they are — which includes seeing the inner ego states that suppress and limit consciousness within.15
Awareness activates consciousness in the moment, but doesn’t fundamentally increase or change it. It can’t permanently remove negative egoistic states either, like fear, anger, lust, jealousy etc. which often take people out of awareness. It’s possible to break out of these states in the moment by being aware, but they can always return again. Removing them permanently requires another exercise, which eliminates these states and frees the light of consciousness trapped within them, increasing the overall level of consciousness. But seeing and refusing to indulge/feed egoistic states can reduce their hold, and is a necessary step toward eliminating them.16
Awareness can be seen as a first step towards a greater more profound spiritual awakening, as a person cannot hope to profoundly develop and transform consciousness without learning to use the consciousness they already possess. But with further inner work consciousness can be awakened permanently. A person’s awareness becomes stronger as consciousness is gradually increased and transformed through this process, which then allows for greater spiritual feelings and qualities to be experienced in the moment.17
To try it, a person simply directs their attention to how they naturally perceive the world around them: one can look and see the surrounding environment, notice ambient sounds they can hear, any aromas, the feeling of air on their skin and clothes on their body etc.
One simply experiences what it is to perceive life in that moment and place, and anchors their attention in the act of perception — feeling oneself being there. That simple sense of being “present” is consciousness – the spiritual light within that is the true self – being awake. That is awareness.
It’s likely that emotions, worries, or impulses may arise that strive to pull one’s attention away – these inner states are normally there, but often go unnoticed when a person isn’t aware. So while being aware of one’s surroundings, a practitioner also observes any inner states arising without becoming immersed or involved them: one views them with detachment, as a separate observer of them, keeping their attention anchored in the perception of the moment. One is watchful of the moment, perceiving what happens within and without.
When practicing awareness, it’s not uncommon for someone to eventually become lost in thought or get so engrossed in something they have to do that awareness is lost. When someone notices that happen, and remembers to be aware again, they can pull their attention out of any daydreams or inner chatter, and direct their attention back to the present. That means being aware of what one is doing, with attention focused on any task being performed (not thinking about something else).
With persistent practice and perseverance, a person can increase the time they spend being aware in their daily life, making it a natural part of how they live. It’s also possible break out of any inner turmoil though awareness and experience clarity and a level of peace within, even if only in a temporary way.
Keeping It Natural
Practicing awareness is simple and natural, but the mind can over-complicate it.18 It isn’t an analytical endeavor. Overly analyzing the moment and thinking about awareness is not the same as actually being aware. Being aware involves breaking from any inner commentary about what one is doing and simply focusing attention on the moment itself — perceiving without mentally commenting on what is perceived. Awareness is in the direct perception of life.
When being aware, there is no need to mentally strain or force anything to perceive the moment either; that is counterproductive. The senses function naturally all the time as a matter of course without needing to try, and are not awareness itself – they already collect information anyway, so it’s just a matter of directing one’s inner attention to the perception of the moment through them. Awareness is simply being awake to what is perceived and experiencing the act of perception.
The mind is still used in awareness, but it’s intentionally directed and focused by consciousness. The mind links consciousness to the body and its five senses – it would be impossible to experience life without it.19 When the mind is clear, focused and anchored in the present moment with awareness, then it can work like a clear lens between a person and reality. When it’s scattered, restless or agitated, the perception of reality can be clouded.
Being aware doesn’t mean one shouldn’t think – it would be impossible to live without thinking.20 Awareness focuses one’s attention on the moment so the mind isn’t scattered, which allows it to be used more effectively. The mind can work better when the attention is focused on the moment and task at hand, which means not thinking about one thing while doing another. When there’s a need to think and plan, or perform a task requiring analytical thought, it can be done in an ordered and focused way in its own time, without one’s attention and actions being scattered or divided between different things. When a task doesn’t require analytical thought, it’s better to focus on the task without daydreaming or thinking about something else.
Awareness in Daily Life
Awareness can be practiced anywhere in everyday activities. However, it can help to schedule walks to focus exclusively on practicing it, both as a reminder to do it, and to learn and refine how to do it. This can be done anywhere it’s safe to walk, but many find it inspiring and motivating to do it in a natural scenic setting, like a park, garden, forest or beach etc., where the impressions of nature can have an uplifting effect. This is something the ancient Pythagoreans were documented to have done.
Awareness can be incorporated into everyday activities like eating, driving, or washing. Often the biggest difficulty is remembering to do it and then maintaining it. The mind can wander into thoughts about the future or past, needlessly worry, or dwell on desires, and become captivated in such thoughts and their accompanying feelings. Also, one can easily become so engrossed in an activity that they forget about being aware.
The more a person tries to practice awareness in their daily life, the more they are likely to remember to do it, and it’s through consistent practice that someone learns to get it right and overcomes obstacles. Ancient spiritual texts emphasize making awareness a natural way of life if one is seeking self-realization. It’s easier to remember to be aware when spiritual enlightenment is the main goal in life, because then one has a higher motivating reason and purpose to do it, which is enlightenment.
The Taoist tradition contains numerous references to awareness. For example, The Hua Hu Ching, an ancient Chinese text said to contain the teachings of the legendary sage Lao Tzu, counsels to fix one’s attention on “the plain truth of the moment” without being “possessed by ideas of the past [or] preoccupied with images of the future.”21 Another chapter compares the ego to a “monkey” fascinated by desires, ideas, conflicts and sensory excitement; it advises to “let this monkey go” and “just remain in the center, watching.”
The text also describes how the “integral wisdom” found in “pure awareness” exceeds “worldly wisdom” as a means to grasp the truth. The latter is said to give a “conceptual understanding” of experiences that “necessarily inhibits your direct understanding of truth” because it “follows after the events themselves.” The integral wisdom found in “pure awareness” is different:
…integral wisdom, involves a direct participation in every moment: the observer and the observed are dissolved in the light of pure awareness, and no mental concepts or attitudes are present to dim that light.
The Hua Hu Ching goes on to explain that “your integral nature will appear” naturally (i.e. the nature of consciousness) if you keep the mind clear and whole with awareness and “cease all restless activity” within. It imparts that if you “correct your mind, the rest of your life will rail into place” and counsels this “relies on not doing”:
Stop thinking and clinging to complications; keep your mind detached and whole. Eliminate mental muddiness and obscurity; keep your mind crystal clear. Avoid daydreaming and allow your pure original insight to emerge.
The text also specifically highlights the benefits of making “integral awareness” a natural part of everyday life. It teaches that “avoiding the world” by “constantly sitting in silent meditation” is not the way to “true mastery.” Rather, “true meditation” is found by incorporating “integral awareness” into one’s everyday life, conduct and interaction with others. This allows a person to be “fluid and adaptable, present in all places and at all times” and “practice virtue” in their daily responsibilities and interactions with others. It’s by establishing integral awareness in daily life and practicing virtue — through acting with honor, love, faithfulness, care, cooperation, and responsibility towards one’s friends, family, peers and work — that someone can attain “true clarity, true simplicity, and true mastery.”
The Hindu Tradition
In the Hindu tradition, some of the most well-known teachings on awareness are found in the Bhagavad Gita, a section of the epic poem the Mahabharata where Krishna advises the warrior prince Arjuna. Krishna outlines that “pleasure and pain… come and… go” and “are transient.” The one who, through the detachment found in awareness, can rise above them – in “whom these cannot move, whose soul is one, beyond pleasure and pain” and is “not bound by things without” and “can endure the storms of desire and wrath” – can attain “inner joy… inner gladness, and… inner light.”22
Krishna counsels that one can “find rest” in inner “quietness” by “keeping the senses in harmony, free from attraction and aversion” i.e. maintaining a centered state of awareness – not impelled by or absorbed in pleasures or negative states. “In this quietness falls down the burden of… sorrows, for when the heart has found quietness, wisdom has also found peace,” he explains.
The text also emphasizes the need to perform one’s duty responsibly in life and simply act as is appropriate in the moment, without becoming attached to or worried about the outcome or reward resulting from the act, whether it be victory or loss. Krishna describes surrendering attachment to the “fruit of one’s actions” as an act of love from which “follows peace,” which is possible when one acts clearly through awareness, without being anxious about the outcome or impelled by desire and aversion.
There are references to awareness in western spiritual traditions too. For example, Jesus in the Christian Gospels instructs people to “watch and pray,”23 likening the unaware state to “sleeping” in “darkness,” and awareness as the “light” within.24 Similar concepts are found in Gnostic Christian texts not included in the Bible, some of which contain Jesus’ more esoteric teachings, like The Book of Thomas the Contender, where he also advises to “watch and pray.”25
These principles are echoed is the modern text The Flight of the Feathered Serpent, a book published by a journalist in the 1950s that contains teachings he received from a wise and mysterious man who befriended and counseled him during the tumultuous period of World War Two, as well as the journalist’s personal recollections of his interactions with this man. Though he never gives his name, this enigmatic figure recounts events from the times of Jesus in first-person, in a manner conveying that he was one of Jesus’ original disciples.
His words emphasize the need to have “alert intelligence,” strive for inner “vigilance” and “live in the Eternal Now,” which he says requires a person to be “attentive solely on the step of the instance, without being preoccupied either with triumph or defeat, or uneasy about his earthly end.” He teaches that to awaken, one must start by learning to “use the five senses” of the physical body, yet “not confuse them with you.” He explains it is the heart and mind which are “the senses of the true vigilance” (awareness) and one should consciously use the mind “to perceive what the five sense capture.” His makes specific reference to sayings of Jesus, and explains their meaning further:
“Watch and Pray” was the heritage left by Christ for the courageous. Watch is to do everything awakened; pray is a feeling of ardent yearning to be one with the Being.
However, he who prays and watches, even though they do it in an imperfect way, will receive generous help and he will learn to receive generously as well… This help is in the Here and it is Now.
The Pythagoreans were another western spiritual tradition of antiquity whose practitioners followed the teachings of the ancient Greek sage Pythagoras. An ancient historian described the Pythagoreans as striving to maintain a constant state of temperance and serenity, without being driven by “gain, desire, anger or ambition.” Their daily program was said to begin with silent, solitary morning walks in quiet locations like groves and temples in order to center themselves, focus and attain “inner serenity” before moving on to their daily tasks.26
List of Texts with References to Awareness
Listed here are texts related to the Religion of the Sun with references to awareness (note this is a work in progress and will be expanded as further research is conducted):
- The Bhagavad Gita, chapter 2, verses 14-15, 31-33, 38, 62-65, chapter 5, verses 20-24, chapter 12, verses 8-12, translated by Juan Mascaró
- The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCIV (Translation by K.M. Ganguli)
- The Egyptian Book of the Dead, p. 39 in this PDF translation
- The Precepts of Ptah-Hotep, c. 2200 BCE
- The Papyrus of Ani, p. 25 in this PDF translation
- Hua Hu Ching, chapters 10, 21, 26, 45, 52, translated by Brian Walker
- Gospel of Luke 11:34-36 (King James Version)
- Gospel of Mark 13:33-37 (King James Version)
- Iamblichus: The Life of Pythagoras or On The Pythagorean Life, The Daily Program. Taken from The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, compiled and translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, p. 81 – 82
- Iamblichus: The Life of Pythagoras or On The Pythagorean Life, Temperance and Self-Control. Taken from The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, compiled and translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie, p. 105
- The Flight of the Feathered Serpent, Book One, Chapter 15, p. 109-111
- The Awakening of Perception by Belsebuub
- Gazing into the Eternal by Belsebuub
- How to be Aware by Belsebuub
- Searching Within by Belsebuub
- Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook, Ph.D. Brief Summary of Mindfulness Research, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center: http://marc.ucla.edu/workfiles/pdfs/MARC-mindfulness-research-summary.pdf.
- Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun: Celebrating the Solstices & Equinoxes (Mystical Life Publications, Revised and updated second edition July 2017) p. 17.
- Belsebuub, Searching Within, Taking the Way of Self-Discovery for the Journey to Source, (Mystical Life Publications, Fifth Edition, 2017) p. 9.
- Ibid, p. 37, 45-59.
- Ibid, p. 37, 45-59.
- Ibid, p. 46-48.
- Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, and Sara W. Lazara, “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density”, Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30; 191(1): 36–43: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/.
- Christina Congleton, Britta K. Hölzel, and Sara W. Lazar, Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain, Harvard Business Review January 08, 2015 (accessed August 2017): https://hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain.
- Flaxman and Flook, Brief Summary of Mindfulness Research.
- Jeena Cho, 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Mindfulness And Meditation, Forbes July 14, 2016 (accessed August 2017): https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeenacho/2016/07/14/10-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-mindfulness-and-meditation/#2b285bd363ce.
- Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard, The Path of the Spiritual Sun, p. 17, 51, 209
- Note: In the Religion of the Sun, enlightenment is held to be attained by undertaking a process of inner transformation that leads to reunification with divinity, a process understood to be represented symbolically by the annual path of the sun. This is explained further in the FAQ.
- Belsebuub, Searching Within, p. 9, 246-248
- Ibid, p. 240-241.
- Ibid, p. 10, 41-42, 46, 86-88.
- Ibid, p. 42, 86-88.
- Ibid, p. 42-43.
- Ibid, p. 47.
- Ibid, p. 31-32, 34-35.
- Ibid, p. 50, 63.
- Brian Walker (translator), Hua Hu Ching: The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, (HarperOne 1995).
- Juan Mascaro (translator), The Bhagavad Gita, (The Penguin Group: first published 1962, reprinted 2003).
- Mark 13: 33-37 (ASV).
- Luke: 11:34-36 (KJV).
- The Book of Thomas the Contender, translated by John D. Turner from The Nag Hammadi Library published by The Gnostic Society Library: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/bookt.htm.
- lamblichus: The Life of Pythagoras or On The Pythagorean Life, The Daily Program. From The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, compiled and translated by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie (Phanes Press 1987) p. 81 – 82.