As we continue on our journey of self discovery through the practice of meditation and yoga, we can awaken an ability of dual awareness. This ability or level of awareness requires a large amount of focus and equal amount of energy, both of which are very achievable through practice and perseverance. Dual awareness and the philosophy of non-duality are not separate or contradictory; they are in fact different topics. While one is breaking down the subtle aspects and capabilities of the human instrument or tool, the other is an understanding of the reality we live in and how the inner world and outer world is not separate but indeed, interconnected.
Put simply, you could understand duel awareness as complete absorption in the present moment and all that is present in the moment.
In the book Sri Vijnana Bhairava Tantra – the ascent – Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati gives a commentary of dual awareness and what she calls the witnessing attitude.
Dual awareness: the ability to be aware of the outer world and inner world simultaneously, due to the fact that nothing is separate and everything is present in the moment, this is possible. A very simple way to practice dual awareness is to focus on the breath, and while the awareness is on the breath, we become aware of the sounds that surround us.
As we begin learning and practicing yoga, whether it be asana practice, pranayama or meditation, we have the opportunity to observe and witness ourselves through the practice. As we hold downward dog, we observe how the breath is reacting to the body’s position or the temperament of the mind. The pose itself takes place in the outer world, the breath’s reaction or the mind’s reaction takes place in the inner world . In the practice of pranayama, we are given the same opportunity to practice techniques such as alternate nasal breathing and observe the reaction of the body as we consciously breathe and practice timed breath retention. Similarly, the breathing technique takes place externally, and the thought waves and bodily reactions arises from the inner world.
Through the practice of meditation, the opportunity presents itself as we focus on the principle of the practice but observe the fluctuations of the mind and the movements of the breath while staying focused on the mantra or yantra of the practice. The mantra is the outward expression while the thought waves, the breath reactions, the bodily reactions are arising from the inner world
If we were to only focus on one or the other – inner or outer – this could result in association with the reactions of the inner world or outer world.
External dominant awareness could result in over confidence or egotistical belief or opinion of oneself – my down dog is perfect, I can get my heels to the ground with ease – whilst being unaware that they are holding their breath or breathing like a man possessed to do so.
An internal dominant awareness may result in an association with one’s thoughts – not being able to get my heels to the ground, my breath is erratic, the mind says “you can’t do it, you’re not good enough, you’ll never be able to find peace and ease in this pose” and giving up.
A balanced awareness of both inner and outer offers the understanding that with practice, patience and perseverance, peace and ease will come. It does not mean these thoughts will not arise. Through a balanced dual awareness, you do not associate with those thoughts; rather, you witness them as the fluctuations that they are, and stay focus on the processes of the moment, allowing them to come and go as you surrender to the moment.
We have been taught, programmed and socially engineered to believe that achievements, goals and accomplishments must be worked for through hard and busy work, and that life is a battle or a war of blood, sweat and tears. The fact of the matter is, that is one perception – and quite an extreme one at that. If we look at the many past masters of any spiritual discipline, they place a lot of importance on surrendering, letting go and softening to the present moment.
In this presence of now, what is it that we can receive? Insight? Connection? Union? Manifestation? Or simply, peace and stillness?
Dual awareness comes about without effort or force. It is a subtle aspect of ourselves that is already active, but not used or not yet focused on. Like all spiritual practices, there is a starting point for everyone – a point in which the practitioner is comfortable and can focus with ease. It is in this softness of surrender that we experience union with ourselves. Through practice, the space in which we are connected with ourselves grows, deepens and expands. This is the path of yoga, the path of the Tao.