What I Learned Teaching Practical AwarenessMay 13, 2021
by Lynda Lopez
Five brave souls joined Molly, Sean and me on an eight-week journey into themselves this Spring. We call this journey The Practical Awareness course. It is The Awareness School’s flagship program that teaches the basic concepts of The Fourth Way work, the fundamentals of meditation, and provides the building blocks for self-transformation. I like to call it Awareness School 101. But, it is anything but basic. After four years in this practice, the concepts in this course continue to deepen my own work and self-awareness.
People join this course for all sorts of reasons. Some want to get serious about meditation, some seek relief from challenges in their lives, and some crave spiritual community. What is true for everyone is that deep down each person knows that there is more to life than what they are currently experiencing and they deeply desire a way to feel more presence, peace and wholeness.
Having now taken two sets of students through this course, I observe that the single most important lesson is this: in order to address your suffering, you must be willing to fully witness it without rejecting or changing it. This is not always easy. It counters everything we are taught in schools, families, self-help books, and therapy. It counters our very instincts as human beings who are hard-wired to reduce or eliminate threats. And yet, the truth remains that the only thing that can free us from the cycle of suffering is to witness what is actually going on, surrender to it, and allow for compassion and self-acceptance to come in.
The students who experience the most transformation are the ones who take this practice to heart. They resist the urge to defend, justify, explain, or change their suffering, and instead become curious about it. This is is the ultimate act of faith- to suspend your instincts and hard-wired habits and allow for something else - perhaps mysterious - to come in.
The act of witnessing allows people to see things that they never saw before. A larger picture of what is really going on starts to take shape. Long-standing defense mechanisms start to lose their hold. The stories they have long held onto like lifeboats start to lose their power. There is a choice for something new and different that was not there before. This is transformation that is fundamental, deep, and long-lasting.
Each person comes with their own process. None is wrong or better than the other. Our role as teachers is not to tell people what they should know but rather guide them to witness their own process. We have a saying: believe nothing and verify everything, which is to say: don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself through your own experimentation and practice.
What do I get out of teaching Practical Awareness? They say that if you want to really learn something, teach it to others. To be fully present to what is going on for another person requires a heightened level of presence within me. To adequately teach the concepts, they must be more than words for me. I have to understand them in my bones. Acting as a reflector of presence for others requires that I am even more present to what is going on in my body, emotions, and thoughts at all times. This is hard work, which is how I know my presence-awareness is growing.
It is an act of bravery to sign up for a spiritual journey, especially one as honest and deep as this. I continue to be in awe of the human desire and capacity for growth. I am honored to witness and hold space for the transformation in others that can occur in just eight short weeks. The payoff is real and unending, and once you get a glimpse you will never be the same.
We welcome another round of brave seekers this coming September to Practical Awareness. If this is you, sign up for the waiting list and we will let you know when registration is open. I look forward to seeing you in class.
Lynda Lopez has been a member of The Awareness School since 2017 and a teacher for The Practical Awareness course since 2020. She also provides coaching and strategy for purpose-driven leaders and businesses at Lynda Lopez & Co.
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