So we go in, what then?
In meditation, by whatever technique, we disassociate from the senses and the outer world, and enter the inner world - a state known as pratyahara. But pratyahara is really only the frontier of a new inner world that has remained largely unexplored. What happens when we get there? What do we do? What’s the point?
The quick answer is: the power of awareness (like Gandhi’s active passivism) in the face of the dominion of the mind (the Empire) is sufficient to undo the power of the mind’s hold. It did mean well, for the protection of interests, but that mind is limited and has extended beyond its rightful jurisdiction, which the awareness eventually comes to see. What this means in meditation practice is that the mind in the inner world is not based on the rules of the rational mind in the outer world. So the way of relating to the mind in meditation has to be quite different from the way of relating to the mind in daily life. This is an essential point.
The groundwork for successful meditation practice is: To be able to observe the mind and all its contents, while letting it be exactly as it is; and not trust on face value anything as being true or real that surfaces in the mind. We have no idea what is in there; it is beyond our perception and we cannot anticipate it. Let it be and let it unfold.
Maybe it needs to be emphasized again that this refers to the relationship with the mind in the inner world in meditation. The-mind-as-we-know-it is still good for crossing the road and everything else in daily life; that does not change and will continue to develop as it has along the same lines.
So what is awareness actually? Many people know it, but still it is often difficult to know how to put awareness into practice. It’s really a skill that can be practiced and developed.
First, its natural qualities are stillness, silence and peace.
Second, it is constant, consistent, ever present, and if it is lost it is regained without any loss of composure, meaning that there is no point in any agitation over loss of awareness as it will only deepen the loss and make it harder to regain. It is part of the mind being itself.
Third, it is absolutely impartial, has no preferences, no like or dislike; it absorbs everything. It does not react. If there is reaction, de facto awareness is lost. And again if it is lost it should be regained without any loss of composure. But it’s not easy. It’s the testing point in practice, because there are many things we judge and many opinions we have, and we don’t even recognize that it is happening. But the effect of reacting is similar to resisting an imperial power, which brings its own reaction, which is usually out of proportion, so we react again, and so on. All harmony is lost.
In meditation the mind is not to be trusted, ultimately, in what it brings to the attention of the awareness. All is viewed equally. When that part we call the awareness, the drashta, can stand next to anything in the mind - the totally new, the irrational, the loved and the hated, the exciting and the mundane - exactly equally in every case, and not be moved or affected (like Gandhi’s loyal followers), then the imperialistic tendency is revealed and and its hold released. It packs its bags and walks out.
Fourth, there is a kind of quiet affection from the observer for the all-too-human nature that is being observed – it is the same nature after all. You could say this is the awareness, combining with the natural force of the spirit within. It is love, pure love, and this love is the reality though we may not know it yet, while by the same token everything that is a construct of the mind is not. If there is a belief, faith, that the spiritual force is the truer and greater, and also that it resides within every one of us, then in meditation nothing that comes out of the mind need disturb us unreasonably or be taken that literally. In the end it is all subject to time and space anyway and one day it will soon pass.
These are the conditions of awareness that guarantee success in meditation. By adopting this approach, a different view of one’s own mind develops. The nature itself does not change, this is understood, but the relationship with the mind changes based on observation, acceptance and friendship, leading to insight and wisdom. Then also, almost as if by magic, the individual take on life in the outer world spontaneously undergoes a kind of revival - joy found in simpler things, needing less to attain more. This is the real power and purpose of meditation.