Page 2 of 2
Every form of genuine awareness is liberating. Each moment we release
entanglement and identification is selfless and free. But remember too
that every practice of awareness can create a shadow when we mistakenly
cling to it. A misuse of space can easily lead us to become spaced-out
and unfocused. A misuse of absorption can lead to denial, the ignoring
of other experiences, and a misuse of ordinary awareness can create a
false sense of "self" as a witness. These shadows are subtle veils of
meditative clinging. See them for what they are and let them go. And
learn to work with all the lenses of awareness to serve your wise
The more you experience the power of wise attention, the more your
trust in the ground of awareness itself will grow. You will learn to
relax and let go. In any moment of being caught, awareness will step
in, a presence without judging or resisting. Close-in or vast, near or
far, awareness illuminates the ungraspable nature of the universe. It
returns the heart and mind to its birthright, naturally luminous and
To amplify and deepen an understanding of how to practice with
awareness as space, the following instructions can be helpful. One of
the most accessible ways to open to spacious awareness is through the
ear door, listening to the sounds of the universe around us. Because
the river of sound comes and goes so naturally, and is so obviously out
of our control, listening brings the mind to a naturally balanced state
of openness and attention. I learned this particular practice of sound
as a gateway to space from my colleague Joseph Goldstein more than 25
years ago and have used it ever since. Awareness of sound in space can
be an excellent way to begin practice because it initiates the sitting
period with the flavor of wakeful ease and spacious letting go. Or it
can be used after a period of focused attention.
Whenever you begin, sit comfortably and at ease. Let your body be at
rest and your breathing be natural. Close your eyes. Take several full
breaths and let each release gently. Allow yourself to be still.
Now shift awareness away from the breath. Begin to listen to the play
of sounds around you. Notice those that are loud and soft, far and
near. Just listen. Notice how all sounds arise and vanish, leaving no
trace. Listen for a time in a relaxed, open way.
As you listen, let yourself sense or imagine that your mind is not
limited to your head. Sense that your mind is expanding to be like the
sky-open, clear, vast like space. There is no inside or outside. Let
the awareness of your mind extend in every direction like the sky.
Now the sounds you hear will arise and pass away in the open space of
your own mind. Relax in this openness and just listen. Let the sounds
that come and go, whether far or near, be like clouds in the vast sky
of your own awareness. The play of sounds moves through the sky,
appearing and disappearing without resistance.
As you rest in this open awareness, notice how thoughts and images also
arise and vanish like sounds. Let the thoughts and images come and go
without struggle or resistance. Pleasant and unpleasant thoughts,
pictures, words and feelings move unrestricted in the space of mind.
Problems, possibilities, joys and sorrows come and go like clouds in
the clear sky of mind.
After a time, let this spacious awareness notice the body. Become aware
of how the sensations of breath and body float and change in the same
open sky of awareness. The breath breathes itself, it moves like a
breeze. The body is not solid. It is felt as areas of hardness and
softness, pressure and tingling, warm and cool sensation, all floating
in the space of the mind's awareness.
Let the breath move like a breeze. Rest in this openness. Let
sensations float and change. Allow all thoughts and images, feelings
and sounds to come and go like clouds in the clear open space of
Finally, pay attention to the awareness itself. Notice how the open
space of awareness is naturally clear, transparent, timeless and
without conflict—allowing all things, but not limited by them.
The Buddha said, "O Nobly Born, remember the pure open sky of your own true nature. Return to it. Trust it. It is home."
May the blessings of these practices awaken your own inner wisdom and
inspire your compassion. And through the blessing of your heart may the
world find peace.
This meditation is one of a variety of practices offered in Jack
Kornfield's The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace (Bantam
Jack Kornfield, who spent many years studying Buddhism in Burma, Thailand and India, is co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Click here for more articles on Mindfulness Meditation
Click here for more articles on How to Meditate