Today’s article is divided into two sections. One deals with “nOrMaL” perception, and the other points at the nature of consciousness. Both are equally important, and know that the understanding of one will automatically lead to the realization of the other.
Take ample time between each part to let your experience sink in.
PART 1: The stuff experience is made of
Is there anything else to any thought, feeling, and sensation other than your own awareness of it?
Here’s a pink elephant.
Is there anything else to the pink elephant other than your own seeing of it?
You may have impressions, opinions, comments, and judgements on the pink elephant, but even then those are perceived, too. You too, are aware of your impressions, opinions, comments, and judgements of the pink elephant are nothing more than what they are: thoughts. Just as an encyclopedia of strawberry ice-cream is not an actual cup of the ice-cream; the thought of/about a pink elephant is NOT a pink elephant, too.
More importantly, is there anything else to a thought other than the awareness of it?
We live our lives in a constant barrage of information on how things should be, what should be done, amidst a constant stream of chatter in our minds constantly coloring our experience with impressions, opinions, comments, and judgements. In fact, it’s almost impossible to look in the mirror for a long time without any kind of comment (both kind and harsh) running through our minds. Heck, it’s almost impossible experience anything as it it properly since we are too busy drowning in our thoughts.
The saying :”DON’T JUDGE” is itself a literal red pill. If you are reading this, then on some subconscious level you have taken it. Welcome to the escape from the matrix.
Let’s go back to the example of the pink elephant. Here are some questions for your own contemplation:
Can you see the pink elephant as nothing more than an image?
Can you see your thoughts on the pink elephant as just thoughts, and nothing more?
Can you acknowledge that you are aware of your thoughts as well as the seeing of the image?
Can you acknowledge the only constant to any thought, feeling, and sensation is nothing more than your own awareness of it?
Can it be that all there is to experience is nothing but awareness/consciousness?
PART 2: The nature of consciousness
The nature of consciousness is something we don’t fully understand. The only fact about consciousness that we can absolutely say with certainty is that we are aware/conscious. Let us begin here, and start exploring its nature, best done through questioning and answering from your own experience. Here the mind is not needed, all that is needed is to be aware.
Can a thought be aware of the pressure on your bum when you sit down?
Can a sensation be aware of your thoughts on dinner tonight?
Can your bum be aware of the mood swings that you have?
Of course not. Here’s a gentle reminder to put the mind aside, you will not need it for the next bit.
Are you a thought?
Are you an emotion?
Are you a sensation?
Are you your body?
Of course not. Here’s a gentle reminder to put the mind aside, only experience is needed here.
What then, is aware of your experience (thoughts, emotions, sensation, body)?
“I AM” you exclaim. It’s the only logical answer, albeit an intuitive one. Of course you are the one who is aware of your experience precisely because you are the subject witnessing these ‘objects’ (objects being thoughts, emotions, sensations) that are present in your experience. Now you have established that you are the subject that perceives your experience (its perfectly normal, so don’t worry). What then, is the nature of you, the subject that perceives experience?
“Who am I?”-Sri Ramana Maharshi
You who is not a thought, emotion, sensation or a body?
You cannot possibly be any object that appears in your experience, because you are the subject that witnesses it all.
What then are you?
You may draw a blank. Stay with the question, for it holds the answer to everything you seek.
Now the mind may cough up a statement such as: “I don’t have time for this”, or any other excuse wanting to get out of this contemplation. Or it may even chirp in with some kind of idea of what you are. Could it be the answer?
Of course not. You are the witnessing subject, all thoughts are merely objects that appear in your experience. None of them are the answer. Dismiss them, for they are nonsense.
What are you?
Now you might be drawing a blank. Not a thought, emotion, sensation or a body, so what you are left with is literally nothing. It’s literally nothing since it cannot possibly be any-THING.
But YOU cannot possibly be nothing, because you are aware of your own existence.
Could it be that you are this nothingness? Could it possibly be that you are pure consciousness without any discernable objective qualities? Could it be that what you are has no dimensions, or any thing to it?
After all, you could never be any of the objects that appear in your experience. You could never possibly be a thought, emotion, sensation or a body. What you confirmed for yourself was that you are no-thing, but yet here you are.
If not a self-aware nothingness, then what are you? All the evidence points here, and you are perfectly aware of it. Ask yourself the questions over and over, and prove it for yourself.
What then is consciousness?
Words don’t quite describe it (or should I say, you), but here are a bunch of words serve as pointers to its reality. They are ultimately a twice-removed definition at best, an attempt through artistic analogy by humans throughout the ages, but the truth that they point to is the truth that we are.
It is the light that illuminates all experience, yet itself has no observable qualities. It has a description akin to space itself, and yet it is beyond that, for it is impossible to measure that which has no objective qualities. It is the very essence of who you are, but yet all those who seek it quite literally find no-thing (pun intended). It is inherently free of all a thought, emotion, sensation, and bodies, which can be experienced when you go to sleep/die. It is true peace and fulfilment, because it is inherently free of desire and ego. It cannot possibly have been born nor could it die, because it is ever present as the here and now. It is infinity and eternity itself, but when viewed through the perception of the mind is appears as the here and now. It is self-aware, for it is perfectly aware of its own existence even when all ‘objects’ cease to exist (how else would you possibly be aware of alarm clocks or dreams during sleep?). It is life itself, because without it you would not be, and existence would not be. It is the Tao, because it is omnipresent and eternal, it nurtures ALL things and yet does not lord it over them. It is (a benevolent) God because it is omniscient and AWARE of all things, and is eternally present as the universal consciousness that illuminates all life. It escapes all definition, for it can be only be described via language through the use of negation and pointers, and makes for a good, borderline verbose essays that talk about it.
“What you are looking for is where you are looking from.”-St. Francis of Assisi
Remain with that recognition, and all that’s left is to let the illusions of the mind wash themselves away. If you ever get lost again, ask yourself: “Am I aware?”, then “What is it that knows my experience?”. Recognize it once, remember to guide the mind back towards its source.
Feel free to doubt everything, but all that you can say with 100% certainty is that I AM, and sometimes that’s enough.