Words such as presence, awareness and consciousness get used in many different ways, sometimes even by the same author in the same book. So it helps not to get stuck on words, and to remember that words divide up what is actually seamless and whole. They are maps that can help to reveal reality, but they are not reality itself. I sometimes point out that in deep sleep, even the first bare SENSE of being present and aware disappears (the irrefutable knowingness of being here now, the impersonal I AM that is here before thought and conditioning add on “I am this or that”). Pointing out that disappearance isn’t meant to invalidate presence or awareness, but rather, to remind us not to try to grasp “presence” or “awareness” or “wholeness” as ideas…not to try (with thought) to make them into SOMETHING instead of recognizing them (with awareness) as the no-thing-ness, the emptiness, the aliveness, the fluidity, the groundlessness that they truly are.
Waking up isn’t about grasping things at the
level of thoughts and ideas. It is a direct discovery, a direct insight, a
living felt reality—relaxing or dissolving or opening into presence, into
spacious awareness. But the thinking mind will often grab onto this pointer
about what disappears in deep sleep in a merely intellectual way and then turn
it into a kind of nihilistic ideology, a way of invalidating anything that is
said about awareness or presence as if these are irrelevant, and then we
completely miss what is being revealed. We get lost in a new conceptual dream
instead, sometimes arguing with others who (we think) have a less advanced
understanding of nonduality.
So can we be aware of what thought does with these various nondual pointers, and can we notice, from moment to moment, whether we are actually awake to the living reality Here / Now or whether we are lost in a thought-created conceptual dream? The living reality is what the map is actually pointing to and inviting us to discover—this ever-present, ever-changing Here / Now that is inconceivable and ungraspable but paradoxically completely secure and unavoidable.