I received an email the other day from a fellow non-duality student. I thought this exchange to be one important enough to share.
As you will read, the email is in response to comments I made during a recent Satsang; comments that themselves were prompted by a recent experience while undergoing a routine 10-year medical procedure. Before the procedure, there was the expectation of being ‘put under’. As the drug was administered into my arm, it was my intent to carefully observe my own consciousness as I lost consciousness. I expected the process to be a gradual one, similar to falling asleep. However, one moment, I was conscious; the next I was not. And when consciousness returned it was almost as quick as it was when it disappeared.
Based on these experiences, I made the comment during Satsang that conscious Awakeness or the witness is ‘unit’ dependent. The ‘unit’ refers to the body. Conversely, all perceptions, including those of the unit (the body) are dependent on consciousness. Thus, in what is known as a strange loop (a paradoxical self-referencing system), that which we call consciousness and that which we call reality are mutually interdependent. One does not exist without the other.
So, when a drug, for example, shuts down consciousness, it also shuts down reality. What is left? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Also known as the void, or in Buddhism, emptiness.
Anyway, here’s the exchange (slightly edited).
Hi Vince, I just watched this last Sunday’s Satsang. I loved what you said. A quick sharing, my awakening experience with Fred, June 2015, was to the Void, Nothingness, Vastness, Darkness, Infinite, good descriptors at best. You spoke of being present, then out like a light, then back again, noting the “gap”. Oh wow, there can be no consciousness without the unit and vice versa. Only what is right here, right now. It so simple, yet frequently resisted. Adyashanti points to this often but I really liked how you expressed it, I sensed your personal experience more clearly. It made me think about the manifested: objects appearing. A sound must be heard, a shape or a color has to be seen, a bodily sensation has to be felt. So, another way of describing what is NOW is to say that there is hearing, seeing, feeling, bodily sensations, and thinking. Experiencing. Awareness is the sensitive space where every experience appears. Thought seems to measure change in “time”: seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on. So, time is the measure of change but, in order to be perceived, change needs a changeless background: consciousness or awareness. Change is made of experiences that arise and pass away. For example, in order to perceive the beginning of a song, consciousness must be there before the beginning and after, and in order to perceive it, our consciousness must be there during the song and after the song has ended. So, consciousness is always here; it is constant, while experiences arise and pass away in this space. Is there any experience, perceiving experience – any seeing, any hearing, any feeling – that can be apart from consciousness? As you stated no experience can appear without consciousness, so experience is not separate from consciousness. This did bring up curiosity about death. Maybe it’s the “gap”? I will say my awakening experience gave me a deep sense about the above and all that’s manifested. Please keep on sharing, I always enjoy hearing what you have to share and you express it so well. I never know what’s going to come out of this unit so usually remain silent. I am very appreciative. “Satsang Barb”
Thank you, Barb, for your comments! They are much appreciated. It’s nice to hear that my words were ‘understood’, so to speak.
The thing that has been coming up for me lately is that that which is experienced through the senses of this ‘unit’ (which also includes the subjective perception of time) and that which experiences the unfolding world of experience (and which is timeless) are BOTH arisings. I remember a saying by Niels Bohr, I believe, that was right on the mark: the universe and the observer of the universe co-arise in a mutually creative fashion.
Even the timeless eternal ‘consciousness’ or ‘conscious awareness’ or ‘conscious awakeness’ does not exist independently of that which arises through the five bodily senses and our minds. The yin-yang symbol, I sense, is, in a way, incomplete. It represents both the absolute, the relative, the relative within the absolute, and the absolute within the relative. But it does not and perhaps cannot express the ultimate unknowable source from which both arise! The ‘dream’ as Fred Davis likes to talk about includes BOTH the witness (awakeness) and that which is witnessed. The two are inseparable.
Like you, this has also brought up thoughts about death. Both the materialist and idealist points of view seem to suggest that the nihilist perspective is correct. There is nothing at all—no consciousness, no thoughts of consciousness, no divinity, no light, etc., because to have any of those would still require a witness. Dead is dead. Period. This is a scary thing to consider when considered by the mind. Of course, it is not scary when considered from the perspective of awakeness, because from that perspective, all is just as it is. Dead or alive!
I think this is why the mystics and teachers of all disciplines all point to the here and now as the only reality that exists. There is no present, no future. There is just now. And we are it. Anything beyond now, is mere speculation.
Again, thank you for your thoughts!