Kelly, L. (2015). Shift into Freedom – The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True Publishing.
Available in paperback and eBook
Paperback. 277 pages. References and Index.
Reviewed by Janay Anderson
Shift into Freedom by Loch Kelly is a great primer on mindfulness. Surprisingly, he doesn’t rely on the cache of overused words like meditation, mindfulness, or awakening to legitimize his approach. While the western world often uses words like awareness and attention interchangeably, he defines attention as using the mind to focus, while awareness is a heart-centered way to experience life. He first works with how we speak about being aware; usually someone is aware of something where awareness acts as the interceding action between the subject and the object. However, he makes a nuanced correction to this by saying “awake awareness is not the medium between you and an object; it is the foundation of who you are and how you know” (49). He tries to usher us into experiencing life from awareness and Being rather than effortful attention and Ego.
What are the intended results of reading a book on openhearted living? He writes, “the goal is not to transcend being human” (23). Awareness can be woven into everyday life and can be glimpsed every day. He presents the five levels of mind that we can move through as we concurrently move through levels of awareness: everyday mind, subtle mind, awake-aware mind, simultaneous mind, and heart mind. While these five levels of mind are overwhelming to consider together, he integrates the levels of mind with the glimpses he includes at the end of each chapter to show a clear correlation between the exercises and what level of mind we are entering. The overall goal is to enter into heart mind and engage with the world from that level of awareness.
The material is sometimes unclear because the meaning can only be gleaned from experience: “intellectually understanding awakening is like having a strand of Christmas lights; directly experiencing awakening is like plugging them in” (22). This underscores the problem of a book on awakening, that the act of reading engages the thinking mind, which makes it hard to access an awakened understanding. He even writes that the first step to awake-awareness is unhooking awareness from thought. Nevertheless, maybe the obscure way he writes about how awareness moves is the way to write about a topic that can’t be understood with language alone. This book should be digested word-for-word and used alongside a daily practice of awareness. It is a practical tool for experiencing life from a more wholehearted place.