The heart of meditation is being aware. The great Jesuit spiritual writer, Tony de Mello, sees this as the foundational principle of meditation. In fact, he has written a superior book on this topic with that very name, Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. (Image Books: 1992). In all his writings, he talks about the practice of meditation as being an act of "waking up" or "becoming aware."
|Reflection of sun in Compass Monument at Howth Harbour, June 2013|
Another way of stating the substance of my opening paragraph here is to state that when we meditate we get to the heart of things as far as being human goes, namely that we arrive at pure consciousness. Professor Lavine in From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest (New York, Bantam Books, 1984) states that "existentialism says that I am nothing else but my own conscious existence." Unfortunately, as de Mello points out, very few people go about in a conscious state of awareness - in fact, we do a lot of things rather unconsciously. Have you ever arrived at work, having driven there to find that you have quite forgotten what you had encountered on the way there? Whatever about existentialism, meditation is certainly about really being fully conscious of one's being, not just at the specific moment of meditation but hopefully at other moments throughout the day also.
Michael A Singer states in the book I have been discussing in the last two posts - The Untethered Soul - "Consciousness is the highest word you will ever use. There is nothing higher or deeper... Consciousness is pure awareness." (p. 28) Now the meditator's job is to arrive at that centre of awareness through his or her practice of awareness. This centre of awareness, Singer calls, in a lovely metaphor, "the seat of the self." There is considerable reflexivity going on here. Not alone are you aware, but you are also aware that you are aware.
The wonderful thing about Singer's book is that, in true spirit of meditation it cuts sheer through all denominational allegiances or none:
But now you are aware that you are aware. That is the seat of the Buddhist Self, the Hindu Atman and the Judaeo-Christian soul. The great mystery begins once you take that seat deep within. (p. 29)