Distinguishing Infinite Awareness from the Finite Mind

As a longtime meditator, I often found some difficulty, especially in the early days, in quieting my mind. It seemed so unnatural and difficult to attain a state where there were no thoughts buzzing around inside my head. What I have discovered over the years is that the more practiced I became at meditation – getting quiet – the easier it became. Not that it ever gets to the point where there’s no noise whatsoever but I can get to the place where the noise is more quickly recognized and released.

I liken it to going to a gymnasium and adding weights to the barbell. The more you “work out” the more weight you can lift. In meditation, the more exercise I get releasing the thoughts as they come up, the easier it is to let them go and the more efficient I get at it. 

Eventually, I achieve the state where I experience the quiet state as the natural one, and the activity of my mind as the artificial one – the opposite of what I originally thought. Revolutionary futurist and meditation teacher Peter Russell refers to this as “tension,” similar to muscular tension, where holding onto a thought requires some attention – a form of mental effort that can be released, even if only for a few seconds to begin with and longer as one becomes more experienced.

This natural quiet state is a taste of that space we associate with unity consciousness or oneness. As opposed to the finite mind this is a state of infinite awareness, pure being, without any object or form for our thinking to attach to. 

Here’s an example comparing this infinite awareness that is our natural state with the finite mind/ego state that seeks things to think about: 

Imagine, making a fist and keeping it clenched for a long time. Many tense people walk around this way all the time. When you get in the habit of clenching your fist it may seem like an effort to relax the fingers and open your hand. Eventually, you will realize that the open position, the relaxed hand, is the natural state of the hand and that making the fist is what takes effort.

In this comparison, the fist is the finite mind, generating “interesting” things to think about, busying itself with thoughts and objective experiences. Entertaining these thoughts creates the tension that Russell talks about. Whereas the open relaxed hand represents the infinite awareness that is our more natural state, what sages call our nondual essential being. In this state there is no tension, no attention on anything. 

As in many experiences of personal growth, we find that letting go is not only easier but more effective than striving or pushing or efforting to reach some conceptual plateau. As nondualist sage Rupert Spira writes, “Effortless being is our natural state.”

This effortless, natural state of infinite awareness does not rely on a subject or an object for its experience. That’s part of its distinction from the dualist state where experience includes objects such as thoughts, feelings, situations, relationships or projects of some kind. 

Infinite awareness is without objects; it is pure awareness being aware of itself. It is what I and others call “consciousness.” Some may call it the nondual state. This infinite consciousness may wander or take the form of finite mind on occasion and “pretend” it is a separate self having some objective experience. But this finite mind is a veiled experience of the infinite awareness or consciousness that gave it birth. 

As Spira writes, “There is nothing wrong with a projection of a separate entity. It [duality] is essential for many aspects of life.  It is only the exclusive identification with it that is problematic.”