by Jonathan Robinson: Many years ago I went to India to visit a disciple of Ramana Maharshi named Poonjaji.
As I nervously sat down on the floor in front of the Master, he carefully looked me over and then asked. “Who are you?” I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted out, “I’m Jonathan Robinson.” Well, Poonjaji and the 50 people in the audience began laughing as if that was the funniest answer they’d ever heard. In my thoughts I said to myself, “I guess that was the wrong answer.”
Once people were done laughing, Poonjaji looked me in the eyes and compassionately said, “Who are you really?” Once again, I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled, “I’m a seeker.” Poonjaji slowly shook his head from side to side, silently conveying that my latest answer wasn’t any better than the first. He asked me again and again who I was, and each time I answered, Poonjaji quietly shook his head—indicating I was not responding correctly.
Finally, I had run out of answers to his question. With nothing left to say, I sat quietly and looked into his eyes. As I looked into his deeply piercing eyes, I was suddenly “hit” with what could best be described as a wave of loving energy. My former identity as a separate personality disappeared, and it was replaced with a feeling of pure love and peace. It was overwhelming. I began sobbing. I had never felt so much love in my life.
As I sobbed in front of Poonjaji, he tapped me lightly on the head and said to me, “This love and peace is your awareness. It is who you really are; this is your true nature…and your job in life is to never forget that.”
I learned a great lesson from Poonjaji that day. The open, peaceful, and unconditionally loving presence of awareness is who we all really are. Our mission in life, should we decide to accept it, is to find our way back to that “home” within ourselves.
I have now met and interviewed over 50 spiritual leaders, ranging from the late Mother Teresa to the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Deepak Chopra. While they each suggested different philosophies and methods for spiritual growth, I noticed there was one thing they all agreed on. They all agreed on the importance of tapping into the experience of pure awareness that Poonjaji showed me that memorable day.
So what is this pure awareness? There could be many ways to describe it, but perhaps the easiest way is to say it is the “container” in which all our experiences happen. Without awareness, you would not know you’re reading this article. Without awareness—you would not know anyexperience. Pure awareness is what allows us to realize we are here, in a body, having experiences. Indeed, it is in the background of every experience we have.
If you could magically strip away the ego, quiet the mind and simply be with this moment, all that would be left is simple awareness. Some people might call this the soul, or spirit, or beingness. Whatever you call it, it always feels peaceful, open, loving, and connected to something greater than our everyday sense of self. Ultimately, it is who we all are beyond our personalities and strivings.
If this awareness is who we ultimately are and it is always there in the background, why is it almost always “hidden” from us? More importantly, what can we do about that?
Fortunately, I’ve seen that the “technology” of awakening to awareness is getting better year after year. Like our smartphones, awareness methods are continually being created and updated. Twenty years ago, only advanced meditators could generally be guided into a state of pure awareness. Nowadays, I’ve noticed that with the right method, almost all people—whether they are meditators or not– can experience it in less than five minutes. Many spiritual teachers I’ve met say we are now in the midst of a quiet revolution of people waking up to their true nature.
My personal mission is to make the experience of being pure awareness as easy as turning on your TV. I believe that’s possible, but like with one’s TV, different “channels” will appeal to different people. That’s why I suggest people interested in awakening to awareness try out a lot of methods and see what works best for them.
How can you learn and explore a range of methods? There are plenty of spiritual teachers on Youtube you can learn from, as well as popular podcasts such as Buddha at the Gas Pump where teachers are interviewed. There are also plenty of podcasts on mindfulness, or my own podcast called Awareness Explorers, in which new awakening methods are revealed in each episode.
The good news is once you find an approach or method that works quickly and easily for you, your life and spiritual evolution soon skyrocket to a whole new level. So…keep exploring!
Jonathan Robinson is the author of 12 books, a frequent guest on Oprah, and the co-host of the popular podcast Awareness Explorers. He is also the creator of the guided meditation series, “Shortcuts to Awakening” (for more info: AwarenessExplorers.com)