Joseph Goldstein – Insight Hour – Ep. 25 – The Gift of Awareness


There are a variety of motives that bring one to the meditative process, but for all of us the journey really begins with the simple steps of calming the mind and collecting our attention. We can never underestimate the value of seeing the mind in its unadulterated state of hurried distraction and unconscious reaction. Without this basic insight into how often we are lost in thought, there will be little motivation to wake up from it. We have to observe before we can begin to understand. This is what Joseph illuminates as “The Gift of Awareness.”

A crucial step comes in re-framing the moment we wake up into, in order to have delight in our return to the moment, rather than judging ourselves for being lost. We then start to truly appreciate the opportunity that arises in coming back to our center. This is the joy in learning to accept the gift that is present moment awareness.

In deepening our practice, we increase the spaciousness necessary for further exploration. We begin to directly experience what it’s like to be us. This is done by moving from an abstract sense of the body to a genuine mindfulness of the actual sensations that we are feeling in any given moment. The shift from the conceptual model to the energetic field is a profound step on the path to conscious development.

With this foundational approach, Joseph offers practical methods for maintaining a continuity of awareness that promotes joyful and sustainable dedication to the practice of mindfulness.


“How we relate to our own bodies can often reveal how we relate to the world”


Show Notes

00:50 – How do we experience the different kinds of knowing and understanding in our practice? Joseph starts at the beginning of the meditative process; calming the mind and giving it an object of meditation. Despite how simple it sounds, it is actually incredibly difficult to accomplish this task without much practice.

05:05 – The wandering mind is the often chaotic activity our minds go through all day long. All that the mind objects, our thoughts and emotions, well up to the surface of our consciousness, but our mind is not going any place. It is not truly wandering. Simply put, these objects are arising in the moment, but we are not aware they are present. The first step of Insight Meditation (Vipassana) is becoming aware of this “wandering” mind.

12:35 – As we practice recognizing the moments of waking up from being lost, by coming back to the breath, slowly the mind becomes more calm and collected. We then begin to experience moments of clarity and stillness. This provides us space to further our awareness of the experience.

16:25 – What is the attitude of our mind in these moments of stillness? What judgments are residing there? In the very moment of asking these questions, the mind lets go of the identification with one’s particular attitude. As we become somewhat less distracted we begin to feel the body in a much more direct way.

19:00 – How do our concepts delude us and obscure our awareness? Joseph conducts a little experiment to help us better understand this question. Bringing to light just how important the continuity of awareness is.

25:00 – Joseph addresses one of the most difficult hurdles of the practice. Physical pain and discomfort are barriers that we must deal with in meditating. We must focus our awareness to this without reaction, though. Learn to discern where that pain is coming from and why it is there within the stillness of meditation.

30:15 – When we bring wisdom to the domain of physical sensations, we begin to notice our relationship to them. We notice that our fear of physical discomfort is one of the most pervasive mental intrusions. So often, we are caught up in the attitude of the mind that we do not recognize that it is there. Struggling in the practice is the perfect signal for letting us know when there is something inside that we are not addressing.

37:40 – Sooner or later we all realize that this practice is not about always feeling pleasant. Our first reaction is often to associate a pleasant experience with good and an uncomfortable experience with bad. However, the real measure of the quality of a meditative practice is the mindfulness you experience. As we continue our practice, we start to see more clearly the habituated patterns and tenancies in our mind. This is the gift of awareness.

42:35 – Joseph shares an insightful story from his early days in the East. It is an interesting lesson on how our minds get caught in patterns of self-judgement and narcissism. We do not invite these thoughts, the thoughts just come to us. Through a growing mindfulness, we can discern the critical difference between getting lost in thought and being aware of the fact that we are thinking.

46:10 – We should not be disturbed by the thinking mind. If you practice to prevent thinking, then you are setting yourself up for a struggle. Thoughts will come and they will come uninvited. Instead, we practice our awareness, so that we become increasingly mindful that we are thinking. Then, it is no problem at all!

50:40 – As we begin to divest ourselves from our thoughts, we are able to directly investigate the nature of our thoughts. We focus so much of our attention to the content of our thoughts and emotions that we are unable to see the true source and nature of them. In the moment that we are aware of a thought, we see that they are nothing. So do not let them hold so much weight on us, and we can truly receive the gift that is our own awareness.


Amazon Recommendations

Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom – by Joseph Goldstein                                                   Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – by Sharon Salzberg
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