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Conscious Awareness

Conscious Awareness

For quite a while now, as a form of inquiry, I have been examining the origin and nature of my own awareness. In non-dual circles, to wake up to your true nature means to become consciously awake to the fact that you are not who you think you are, but rather, that you are the spacious, boundless, timeless awareness that has always existed. Many different names have been given to this infinite no thing from which all things arise: emptiness, nothingness, the absolute, the deathless, divinity, pure consciousness, God, etc. However, the label itself is irrelevant.

In both Buddhism and non-duality, there is often talk of the absolute and the relative, or form and emptiness. However, to wake up to one’s true nature is to also recognize clearly that the absolute and the relative are the same thing. In Buddhism, there is a common phrase: form is emptiness and emptiness is form. However, although the absolute and the relative, phenomena and the divine, and form and emptiness are conceptualized differently from perspective of the human mind, the paradox, which cannot be fully understood by the human mind, is that they are one and the same.

The point I wanted to discuss, however, is that it is possible to become consciously awake to the paradox: that what we perceive as reality and what we areis the same thing.

As I explore this further, more and more I see conscious awareness as the mechanism by which the absolute or the divine comes to know and recognize phenomena as itself. In doing so, one becomes conscious that everything that is perceived is not independent of awareness itself. Without awareness, there is nothing to perceive. Conversely, without apparent objects, there is no awareness that perceives.

Or so I thought.

Because I have now come to recognize that conscious awareness is also the mechanism by which human consciousness is able to experience and then recognize the void, the absolute, or emptiness itself. But only partially. That is, because to fully experience the divinity that one is, even conscious awareness must disappear completely.

Conscious awareness is the metaphorical razor’s edge between the absolute and the relative. However, it is not as sharp as I had once thought. It is somewhat diffuse and can extend into both the relative and into the absolute, although not in the same way.

For example, the more conscious awareness extends into the relative, the more intuitive is our perception that there is just one thing going on. Fred Davis calls this Oneness. As conscious awareness becomes more and more clear, which occurs as we identify less and less with the conditioned patterns that we had previously thought of as our ‘me,’ we find ourselves moving through life, so to speak, more and more effortlessly. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that life moves through these units more and more effortlessly.

This is the basis for the embodiment of awakening as a human being; one who understands intuitively—I like the word grok—that there is no separation between who you are and what appears to be going on around you; that there is no separation between that which you think of as your self and all other perceived beings and objects. When this occurs, there is a natural compassion for the entire universe and all its inhabitants.

Another way of describing this that the more conscious awareness permeates the relative, the more the absolute comes to inhabit the relative. It is from this perspective that one walks the earth fully human and fully divine.

Conversely, when a person fully identifies with the relative, in non-dual circles, that person is said to be unconscious. Awareness is still there; but it is unaware of itself and instead identifies with a specific set of memories, belief systems, ideas, and roles: that is, of being a specific person. Thus, the more one is caught up in and identifies with the relative world, the less conscious awareness happens to be. A person might appear to be conscious and there might appear to be awareness. But, for most individuals, they are not actually conscious that they are that awareness itself.

On the other hand, conscious awareness also allows for the mind to glimpse that which has been called emptiness or the void. Here, the process is different because for the void to be recognized, all activity of the mind, including conscious awareness, must cease. This is a paradox as well: With conscious awareness, glimpses of the void can occur. These are the basis of mystical experiences that have been reported throughout history. However, at some point, as the mind structures continue to dissipate, so too must conscious awareness. The paradox here is that conscious awareness must become completely unconscious in order to completely and fully itself.

Another way of saying this is that conscious awareness can extend, in part, into the absolute. However, the more awareness ‘falls’ into the divine and abides as itself (which really is what happens when the entire egoic function dissolves), the more conscious awareness also disappears.

This entire discussion, however, led me to consider the Christian trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not being a Christian scholar, my interpretation of the Trinity might not align with prevailing theology. However, I see the Father as representing the absolute. The Father represents divinity itself; it is what we refer to as void or emptiness. The Son represents humanity or the relative, phenomenal world. Finally, the Holy Spirit represents conscious awareness, and which, as I opened this essay, is the mechanism that allow for the experience and unification of the absolute as the relative, the absolute within the relative, the relative within the absolute, and then finally, the falling away of both the absolute and the relative.

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