[One] mindfulness meditation technique is termed choiceless awareness or bare awareness. In this technique, we begin by paying attention to the sensation of the breath (this settles the mind and body), but then the instruction is to let our attention rest on whatever is most prominent in our field of awareness. This is the meditation technique I’m going to cover because it best fits the theme of the book—awakening by engaging the whole of our experience fully, however it presents itself. In the quotation that begins this chapter, Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti uses the word “freedom” to describe this awakening. As a meditation practice, choiceless awareness is similar to the Zen meditation technique known as shikantaza, which roughly translates as just sitting. I love the idea of just sitting, although for me, just lying down will do—which takes me to my number one rule regarding meditation: be flexible.

Toni Bernhard, How to Wake Up, Wisdom Publications 2013, p. 104

Gradually I am coming to realise that the phrase “choiceless awareness” is not just yet another technical term for one technique among the many kinds of Buddhist (and related!) meditation, but a vital descriptor of what actually happens when we sit in stillness. Choicelessness is the open and unreserved receiving of whatever arrives – be it bodily sensation, sound, thought, desire, emotion or whatever – as simply an arising within consciousness. It is the grounding of our own awareness in the ground of being itself. There is nothing else, nowhere to go, no thing to find.

[Doing zazen] leads you closer and closer to your true nature, the primordial mind that is one with reality. Zazen is to just be this mind, which we already are, without adding anything to it. It is to accept all that arises as appearances within the mind.

Daishin Morgan, Sitting Buddha, Throssel Hole Press 2014, loc. 330

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