Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recognizing Awareness: Guest Teaching by Bentinho Massaro

WELCOME TO THE TWENTIETH EDITION OF AWAKENING CLARITY'S GUEST TEACHING SERIES.  Our growing database of current Nondual teachers and teachings has already been discovered by thousands of readers from 89 countries, and more find us every day.  Five new countries have joined us just since the last post.  This website is a remarkable experiment; I hope it can help to bring a small sense of underlying community to the far flung Nondual world.

WE DON'T FAVOR any single "brand" of the teaching over any other.  Old path, new path, no path: whatever works.  I will repeat what I've said before: We provide the teachers, and you provide the discrimination.  If something resonates with you, great.  If it doesn't, tip your hat and move on down the line.  Differing views are all welcome and respected here.  We are far more interested in the teaching's commonalities than we are its differences.  After all, ultimately there is just one thing going on.  On that we can all agree.  That truth reminds me of another: on July 6 we'll have Stephan Bodian dropping in with something special for us. 

BENTINHO MASSARO has "come out of the gate" as fast as any teacher I've ever seen.  One minute I'd never heard of him, and in the next I was seeing him everywhere.  Obviously he's a handsome young man with a stop-your-heart smile, but that doesn't entirely explain his swift rise as a teacher.  This guy is on fire; you can feel it.  Bentinho's teaching is simple, but precise.  He is absolutely confident that what he's sharing works, and sees no reason at all why it shouldn't work for us right now.  That level of confidence is quite endearing.

BENTINHO HAS MORE than a passing knowledge of a number of spiritual disciplines and practices, but he's not pushing any of those those.  He tells us that his teaching arises from his own experience, and asks us to follow his lead.  He and I agree that everyone must find this freedom for themselves.  I've heard Bentinho stress that all of us--teacher and student, writer and reader, speaker and listener--are all here to support each other, and that everyone's role deserves equal attention and respect. I agree with that, too.  After all they are all just that--roles.  We don't want to take any of them, especially our own, too seriously.  Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

I REMEMBER my response the first time I watched Bentinho on a video--he really moved me in a sweet and gentle way. Energy flowed through the screen as this thoroughly disarming and charming young man encouraged us to recognize awareness right here, right now, just for a few seconds at a time, over and over. And then he would cut on that smile and you felt he was speaking from his whole heart with his whole heart.  Surely here was freedom itself encouraging us to also be free. 

BENTINHO IS SOMETHING of a world citizen.  He was raised in Holland, but has an Italian name.  He spent quite a bit of time studying in India, but now lives in the mountains of North Carolina.  He seems to be everywhere at once, and one of those places this autumn will be at the SAND Conference 2012, where a lot of others from our Guest Teachings Series will also be appearing.  Here's how he describes the genesis of that on his website, Free Awareness:  "From the very beginning and throughout all this seeking and the experiences that came with that seeking, a desire arose and developed to create something efficient for the rest of the world. Something that would actually make sense and be accessible to everyone, regardless of background or interest."

IN THE QUEST FOR ENLIGHTENMENT Bentinho tried meditation, yoga, reiki, NLP, EFT, Personal Development, Self-Hypnosis, Affirmations, Transformations, and he read "plenty of 'spiritual' books".  Nothing quite clicked.  There came a sense that "if nothing works, why try?"  This kind of frustration is often not only encountered on the path, it often is the path.  It is a message for us to be still.  Most of us have to really be worn down before we can open to truth.  When we get tired enough, when we get beat up enough, then at some point we may see we "can't do it".  Enter surrender.  The root of enlightenment is not found in success; it is found in failure.

FOR BENTINHO, along with that sense of rising frustration there also arose fresh spiritual discernment.  Perhaps he had been listening too much to what was being said outside, and not enough to what was being said inside.  He began to trust his own feelings and insights.  From that trust arose what he describes here, in another quote from Free Awareness: "This natural presence reveals the unity beyond all ideas and concepts and there is nothing that ever affects it. It's completely stable, ever-present and unchanging awareness. Yet it is not 'out of this world' or 'detached' in any way. In fact, it allows us to be completely engaged in life, for the first time really, without fear for our thoughts and emotions or those of others. There is a loving freedom present in and as every experience, without exception.  Experiences come and go, but they all come and go within that which is effortlessly aware of them. When this awareness becomes obvious to us, then not only is it discovered to be unaffected by whatever appears within awareness, but the unity of experiences and awareness is gradually (or suddenly) revealed."

IT IS A PLEASURE to host this fortnight's post from Bentinho Massaro.  I've only lightly edited a transcript of his introduction for a conference call.  I want to thank not only Bentinho, but also Michael Jeffries and Stan Hartmann for helping me build this post.  There is a beautiful flow here as Bentinho talks to us.  Let's listen in.

AND NOW . . .



Bentinho Massaro

HELLO EVERYBODY; for today’s subject I’d like to speak about the importance of really being committed to the practice of actually recognizing awareness.  I know sometimes I might say slightly conflicting instructions or suggestions.  Like - ‘everything is perfect’ or ‘you’re already dead and so just relax’ and sometimes I might infuse a little bit more sense of urgency there. I think it’s good to go from one to the other, every now and then, because intellectual knowledge or intellectual enlightenment is to notice/know how things apparently work, how perfection is already the case. 

KNOWING INTELLECTUALLY that awareness is always already present - everybody can confirm this for themselves. There is not an experience where awareness is not there, even in deep sleep. Our conscious attention is not always there. While our sense of presence is not always consciously felt, something knows even our states of non-conceptuality, our states of non-cognizance you could say. Even that is cognized by something much subtler, much deeper. We can recognize this, and then it can become an intellectual statement.  In fact that’s what is inevitable for most people - it’s sort of like a state, you could say, to recognize awareness and then get pleasantly caught up in that intellectual understanding. Then we often go proselytizing it to other people. Or we get into conflict, and at some point it doesn’t feel right anymore. We feel like ‘this is it, awareness is already here, there’s nothing I can do to increase it or decrease it’. So when it’s only intellectually understood, and the juiciness, the tasting of life experience, of feeling, is not there, not deepened, it becomes this stuck state that sooner or later gets into conflict with something. 

IF YOU FIND YOURSELF having an urge to be overflowing with whatever you want to call it; bliss, love, freedom -  just really feel it, so to speak.  Awareness is beyond sensations, and that includes whatever you might feel. But it’s a good thing to take this recognition to a deep place, to an actual recognition, where we don’t get caught up in a state where we just parrot the language or just think about it. ‘I’m awareness’ - that’s just a statement; it’s about the actual recognition, we have to keep that fresh, we have to keep that spark alive. It’s not a state; it’s just a spark of recognition. I usually use a metaphor - it’s like starting a fire; you could say the fire of self-realization/self-freedom. For every fire you need a lot of sparks. So what we’re doing when we recognize awareness, is creating that spark. We’re creating a little crack in the density of our thinking, in the density of our believing. We take little moments where we create these little cracks, these little openings, through which you could say the light shines through. The light of being shines through. We confirm for ourselves, in such experiences, that awareness is always already present, and that all we really need to do is to relax into that, and to allow the recognition to flourish.

SO WHAT'S IMPORTANT is that we’re always fully committed to this. There is a difference between effort and commitment. Effort is where we really force ourselves to recognize awareness. Often it becomes just recognition of some idea, a projection, because we are forcing.  Natural recognition happens when we relax our ideas, our projections, and our efforts to try to recognize something. When we totally relax that, what remains is recognition. I invite everyone who is on this call to do this - as I speak, as you’re hearing this voice, just notice that there is something that is effortlessly aware right now. You can’t grasp it, it’s not a thing you can get, it’s just there, almost like a scent that a flower emanates. You can’t see it anywhere, you can’t grasp it, but it is there. Its presence is noticeable - awareness is a bit like that. 

THERE IS THIS METAPHOR; you can’t see the seer, because the seer would be seeing the seer seeing itself. So it’s a bit like that, eyes cannot see themselves, awareness cannot see itself. It’s a bit like that, but don’t get hung up on the philosophical comparison. If we relax we notice a natural presence there. We notice that every experience is in fact a confirmation of awareness. So when we’re not caught up in a story about something we perceive, be it a thought, emotion, sensation, or an apparent object, when we’re not caught up in the story, when there is a relaxation, no need to define anything, just a natural peacefulness/rest, what’s noticed automatically, is that natural peace, rest, presence, which doesn’t need any explanation. Of course, the mind comes in and tries to explain it, or turn it into a state or achievement or whatever…and that’s fine. But we need perpetual commitment, natural commitment, not a forcing or efforting. 

COMMITMENT IS DEEPER than effort, because if there’s effort then we are not really committed. If we are truly committed then we rest naturally beyond our efforts. If we are really deeply committed, like ‘awareness truly is here, I am free’. If our commitment is to relax into that, to allow that recognition to flourish continuously, then already there is much less need to do anything, because everything is already much more translucent and ephemeral.  We notice that everything comes and goes. There’s less stickiness and identification with all the appearances. Merely because we’re deeply committed, it’s a depth, it’s a being, you know in your heart that you are committed to this and really want to be free. Even though I’m already free, my commitment is to recognize that. Not as a doing, but as an allowing, so ‘I allow it to happen - I allow the recognition to flourish and deepen’.

ALL I NEED TO DO is to rest peacefully, and allow all my tendencies to come and go as they please. Allow the sideshow to appear beautifully, as it wants to, or horrendously, but there’s a beauty even in that experience, because we are deeply settled in our being and commitment. So we actually start to recognize awareness, from this peaceful place, naturally. Things come and go, but there’s awareness so it’s very simple. The more we relax and don’t try to figure things out with complex stories, the more we relax into the simplicity of being, then the more natural and deeper this recognition takes itself. It’s like getting into an elevator, it goes all by itself. Like free falling, you don’t have to do anything. You simply relax and recognition takes flight. Not in a metaphysical sense per se, but in a simple, humble, intimate way. 

WHEN WE RELAX DEEPLY, then already by the depth of our commitment, things have much less control over us, all the appearances that arise. When we are just caught up in story we don’t recognize that. When we’re deeply committed and connected, we don’t have to do anything, we just notice this. You might notice it now, as I’m speaking - you might relax and notice a natural relaxation and presence, a natural okay-ness. It’s an okay-ness/equanimity. We allow this equanimity to become our primary experience, meaning that the occupancy of mind stuff/appearances starts to dissolve and loosen up. And the heart, you could say, the depth of our commitment takes over occupancy and everything is much more smooth, relaxed, in tune, natural, and effortless.

IT'S THIS SIMPLE - the introduction that I’ve given to you right now, just by listening to my voice in this moment to intuit this depth of commitment and being, and to allow everything to come and go as it pleases. That includes your own mind and emotions. Not to place any importance on any individual appearance, but to relax in the equanimity of everything. To have this depth of commitment, that alone is enough. It’s not effort; it’s just the depth of commitment.  ‘In my heart, I know intimately, this is where I want to be. I want this recognition to flourish.’ And so it happens, not because I want it, but because I’m committed to it. Nothing more is necessary. True commitment is itself, resting as awareness. 

SO WHAT IS HEARING this conversation, hearing my voice, seeing thoughts arise or maybe the absence of thoughts? What’s noticing that your body is more relaxed, or more agitated? But that itself is relaxed, that which notices everything, is itself relaxed. This is how we actually recognize, by being deeply committed. We actually recognize awareness by allowing it to be recognized, not by doing it. It’s not - go out there and do this step and then the next step. This message can be structured in such a way that keeps the confirmation going. All it really points to is deep rest and commitment.  It allows everything to come and go. We no longer identify with one single appearance, or two, three or a dozen appearances. We no longer identify with anything for a moment, through the depth of commitment and natural desire to be whole and free, to be at ease where we are, as we are.

THEN THE IDENTIFICATION of every single point of reference just crumbles naturally. The points of reference still arise. Everything that was there before is still there, in a sense, but it’s not demanding our focus or identification, because we’re deeply connected and committed. We’re not fooled by society or other people, so to speak. We’re not even fooled by ourselves; we’re just deeply connected, undisturbed and undistracted. In the depth of commitment we realize that even distraction is an appearance, which is perfectly fine and pervaded by non-distractedness. We intuit a freedom - very natural, intimate and simple, very close to home and heart. It doesn’t need anything. It’s just humble and free right here - whatever appears. 

THIS IS ALWAYS, already the case. We can relax or not, these are the options as a human being. Either set your own course, be this or be that etc., or relax into the natural flow of being that’s always already the case. It’s always available. If you relax with this commitment with true earnest desire, then sooner or later you will become tired from all of these appearances. They will grow tiresome, because you will see, especially when you are at ease, that they just come and go. There’s no happiness or anything, there’s no benefit in them. The freedom and benefit and love you can’t keep or catch. So you relax and it becomes naturally pervasive. So just be committed, with yourself intimately. Forget about this entire world every now and then, forget about other people, just be committed to yourself. Be completely okay in your aloneness. 

JUST GO ON A DATE with yourself, no matter where you are, just take this day. If you’re dating someone you just met and there’s a romantic connection happening there, what happens when you’re in the restaurant?  You’re still completely interested in the other person. That’s the space where the world doesn’t exist. There’s just the conversation and the momentum happening there, and you’re intimately connected with the other person. We can do this with ourselves. Take yourself on a date, and I don’t mean necessarily to go out somewhere, but you can if that’s what feels right. You can also just do whatever you’re doing, be wherever you are and just notice your own presence. Familiarize yourself with your own presence. Get used to recognizing yourself in this depth, commitment and love, and naturally this will pervade other experiences too, in time. Just be intimately connected to yourself, don’t flinch or move away when nasty stuff arises. Love yourself also there. 

IF YOU GO ON A DATE with somebody else, and they are feeling pain/misery, you’re not going to walk away, or slap them in the face, or try and change them. You're going to be there for that person because there’s still an earnest interest, openness and curiosity, to connect with and be with that person. You want to love and be compassionate. So you allow the other person to feel their pain and you’re there for them and do whatever you can do. Be there for yourself in the same sense, don’t flinch or walk away. Don’t say – ‘it’s wrong, it comes from my past, or is about the future, or that person said that and that’s why I’m feeling this way’. No, forget about the world totally and be in your own commitment, be in your own space; familiarize yourself with this, get accustomed to it. In your own presence, whatever may arise, you adopt a loving gaze; it’s a loving smile, where the mouth just gently smiles. Like a mother holding her newborn, there’s just a peace there. Looking her newborn in the eyes, there’s just a total appreciation for what’s lying in her hands. So whatever arises in yourself, feel love for it, and a freedom will pervade your experience more and more.

YOU RECOGNIZE that you don’t have to flinch or walk away. You can nakedly be with whatever arises without needing to describe, define, or judge it. It’s just an appearance within this loving presence that you are. So you let it be, and allow it to feel however it feels. You don’t ask questions, you endure until the endurance becomes a true love connection, a reflection of true self love. In the beginning you might have to take a deep breath and leave all your ideas about it alone for a minute. Just leave the thoughts about the world, or where it comes from, just leave it be, and just be with the feeling intimately. 

IF THERE'S NOTHING apparently arising, no disturbing state, or no pleasant state, but just this, that’s also fine. Just be, get acquainted with the fact that you exist, and the fact that that is noticed. The sense of being here, the sense of ‘I am’- that too is noticed. Not by anything in particular, it’s noticed by nothing, no-thing. But there’s a cognizance/awareness there. So even the most primal sense of ‘I am” arises within it. We can just relax; everything is a perfect expression. Every appearance is a perfect opportunity to relax our ideas and to be acquainted with ourselves, to be committed to not flinching and not be distracted by everything, to not believe in everything. Just to be with ourselves for a moment, with ourselves in this loving peace and silence. It doesn’t have to be silent, but it includes silence as well; that’s just another appearance.

IT'S ALL EQUAL, whether you’re fighting in Afghanistan or sitting on your couch with a meditation CD, it really doesn’t matter. If you take these moments and have this depth of commitment, which I’m sure you have, because you have the desire to know yourself as freedom more and more. You have this commitment; you just need to be reminded that it’s not found in the world, it’s not found in compliance with society and ideas. It’s found by being totally radical and loving within yourself. It’s found by being totally there with yourself, in this presence, intimately. Whatever is noticed in that rest is cognizance, a subtle sense of alertness/knowingness. Suddenly the aloneness has a beauty to it, because it’s not loneliness anymore. Just a presence that’s here and not found in any particular thing. But everything is found there, by that presence, in that presence. That is naturally realized when we relax with deep commitment.

DEEP COMMITMENT equals relaxation. Because we’re deeply committed, we’re not interested in our ideas or descriptions about what arises. We’re just deeply committed. If we’re deeply committed we’re stable, and if we’re stable we notice awareness/aliveness, a vibrancy of being. We can’t define it, or even refer to it. Everything is noticed; even the sense of presence is noticed. It’s just naturally coming and going, we can just be firmly committed to ourselves. Let the world come and go within our mind field, within our experience. Let everything happen, and be fearlessly committed to this most intimate presence of being. It’s very, very’s never really gone. It just goes unnoticed and if we relax its self-recognition flourishes, awareness gets used to itself. That’s all it is. So drop your complicated ideas about what awareness is, how to achieve it, what steps to take, how many lives it will take; you are that already.

THE ONLY DIFFERENCE in this world is recognition and non-recognition. Even that is perceived by the seer as already seen. Through natural relaxation and recognition to the deepest, most stable, relaxed, effortlessness, through that natural commitment, the recognition is allowed to flourish.  The realization is allowed to flourish all by itself. We love ourselves nakedly without judgment. We are just truly committed to this naked, natural, shining presence. We relax as we are, we stay as we are.
Let everything happen…even effort appears effortlessly, if you relax and be stable beyond the effort. Allow the effort to be, and don’t identify it as a sign that you’re not doing it right. 

NOTHING IS EVER an indication of unawareness. Everything is always a confirmation of awareness. It can’t be any other way. Even your most non-recognizable and confused states are not confirmation of non-recognition. They are evidence of awareness, because you could not know the experience otherwise. It doesn’t mean that the feelings drop; it means that the feelings are allowed. They are already allowed, or you would not experience them. You realize that there is a freedom there, and more and more you sink into this. All descriptions tell you’re here right now, and if you’re deeply committed to that, it will show itself, it will teach itself.

YOU DON'T NEED ME or any other teacher, we’re only here to support each other, and support is very beneficial. To be in a room full of people that reflect this, is like being in a room full or mirrors pointing at you. But that’s all there is, whether the mirror is there or seemingly not there. If you can start to notice that every experience is a mirror pointing to you, it’s a confirmation of awareness. Including the person that you hate the most, or think is most ignorant, or a part of yourself that’s most ignorant. Even that is experience. What does it confirm? It doesn’t tell a story about you with a description, what it points to, where it goes, what it means to do something.   If we relax, that story drops for a little while and the experience is just the experience. We know this is a confirmation of our presence. It’s evidence that we’re here to notice it. It teaches itself, the recognition flourishes by itself only when we are deeply committed, again and again...peacefully, with no effort.
CONTINUAL COMMITMENT, that’s all you can do. Be continuously committed to just being, as you are. Let everything happen, don’t reject anything. Sometimes it’s fine to ignore things. You don’t have to maintain a certain emotion, ‘it has to be there, I have to let it be’, no, just let it go, slide past you…whatever. As long as your natural focus, your natural attention is noticing that something is always recognizing something.

EVERY EXPERIENCE is naturally appearing, in the ungraspable presence of awareness. You don’t even have to call it awareness, it’s just the experience, just what’s noticed there. Commitment beyond your own intellectual understanding is very important. If you want to truly benefit, if you want this human experience to be nourished within this relaxation, every cell of your mind to be nourished, every ability of your mind to be nourished. This all happens naturally, more and more. It’s already perfect, we only need to relax. Get into just being yourselves, very natural, not denying or avoiding anything. Just being completely natural and not distracted by ideas, good or bad. What’s noticed is that depth of being. It is something that takes perfect care of itself. I don’t need to name it or point at it, it’s completely self-recognizable. 

© 2012 Bentinho Massaro


Bentinho's website:

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Collection of YouTube videos:

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Housekeeping Notes:
Let me welcome Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Macedonia and Dominican Republic as country numbers 85, 86, 87, 88 and 89 to join our ever-expanding community. Readers in those areas now join others around the world who are Awakening Clarity.