Awareness is (not) Spacious, Bright and/or Boundless

During the last couple of months, I've become quite fascinated by the experience and concept of awareness. I've documented some of the outcomes of my explorations of awareness in my meditation blog. Here, for example, I play with the notion that attention is merely a contraction in awareness and not really an independent phenomenon. And in this reddit post, I experiment with the idea that, contrary to what some meditation teachers claim, awareness is "not me", "not mine", and "not-self".

This brings me to my current investigation of awareness. What keeps coming up for me is that, in spite of what many meditation teachers argue, awareness is not spacious, bright, luminous or any other adjective that one could think of to describe it. From the limited perspective of my body-mind, it is true that awareness sometimes appears spacious or bright. In Fifth Jhana, for example, awareness appears to me as quite spacious and boundless. But there are other times when awareness is experienced as quite narrow and contracted. In moments of reactivity, for example, awareness collapses around a particular negative experience. When this happens, the "spacious" and "boundless" nature of awareness is nowhere to be found. Of course, one can then try to drop the narrow focus and expand back out into a more spacious awareness. But, and this is key, the expansion does not negate that the prior state of awareness was experienced as narrow and contracted rather than spacious and expansive. 

To be clear, when I claim that awareness is not spacious or boundless I do not want to argue that awareness is the opposite of spacious or boundless. That is, my claim is not that awareness is narrow and bounded. Rather, my claim is that awareness is neither spacious nor contracted, neither finite nor infinite. It is not this (e.g. spacious). But it is also not that (e.g. narrow). Instead, awareness simply is. 

Whenever the proverbial lights are "on", awareness is there. That much seems to be right. But whether it is spacious or expansive, bounded or boundless, bright or dark, I ain't got a freaking clue. And I suspect that no one has a clue, since introspection and meditation can only shed light on the nature of our inner experience, but cannot conclusively establish the existence or contents of anything outside of inner experience. 

As a result, the only thing I can say for sure is that this inner experience that we call awareness certainly "is". Other than that, however, I cannot say what this "is" of awareness really is. If this is so, one has reason to be wary of claims that awareness is this or that. Such claims may lead us astray by reducing awareness to something that it not always is, and, therefore, to something that it ultimately is not. 


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