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Metaphysics of Consciousness

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

I spent years trying to understand this thing called awakening or self realization (and still am). I heard, and read, that once it happens, a person finds effortless and unshakable peace.

If that doesn't sound tempting, what does ?

I traveled the world, explored different traditions, used different tools, and still, I could not ground myself in this mysterious way of being. I got a glimpse here and there, but nothing that really stuck (I'll never find this thing called awakening, and I'll explain why later).

I often asked myself, what is awakening ? Each tradition had its definition, but they all boiled down to the same thing, which is, the ego or personality dissolves, and one merges into his or her essence, natural state or true nature, and in turn, experiences unity or the Self. And it's not a subject/object experience, it's ... I, as consciousness, know myself. So the subject/object relationship collapses, and one perceives the world as him or her self. And because of this lack of separateness, a primordial sense of absolute peace and warmth permeate one's entire being.

A question that might arise now is: how does this happen ? This is where we delve into the mystery we call consciousness. Consciousness is you reading these words, without consciousness, there would be no experience or existence, there wouldn't be any knowing. The mind is just a processor, and consciousness perceives or knows what is being processed (senses). The consciousness we experience everyday is multi-layered, for example, you are now conscious of these words, you were conscious of a dream last night, or an intuition last week. Everything we know of, all objects, subtle (thoughts) and 'gross' (the world), happen within consciousness. Now to understand awakening, we need to better understand how consciousness operates. As conscious beings, we tend to attach ourselves to objects, we're actually addicted to objects. We (ego) usually entertain ourselves with our thoughts, emotions, relationships etc. In meditation, we try to loosen this attachment to objects, and rest in silence. In any contemplative practice, the end goal is to only be conscious of being. For example, we might start by focusing on the breath or a mantra, but eventually, we let go of these objects, and become conscious of consciousness itself. So after a decent amount of practice, consciousness moves from the background to the foreground, and a distinct emptiness or silence sets in. This is when we begin to better understand who we are. This emptiness comes in levels, and awakening is one of those levels. Awakening and its expressions come in different levels as well, but that's a different story for another time. Back to being in emptiness. In this emptiness, when all is silent & still, and not only still as in no thoughts and emotions, still as in the personality has been humbled over a long period of time, and the unconscious (or karma) cleansed, so extremely low levels of desire and fear. When these circumstances are met, consciousness swallows the mind into itself (or into the heart of being as they often say), removes any limits imposed, and boom ... Absolute presence kicks in, and consciousness expands beyond the body. This experience may be temporary, or to a certain extent, permanent. As consciousness expands, a sense of awareness becomes crystal clear, so I am aware of all these objects, but they aren't objects anymore, we are one and the same, vibrations or ripples within consciousness. Shiva (Consciousness) & Shakti (Energy) unite, and Yoga or union sets in. Now since the illusory nature of mind has been fully exposed, one's identity shifts, so I am no longer a personality or narrative with desires, fears, memories, projections etc. I was actually dreaming. I am consciousness, and only I (as consciousness) know myself. I'm not the body, but the body is happening to me. One's identity is totally redefined. Peace and openness are who I am, and not qualities I seek. I Am, I simply am, here and now, and not I am this or that. So no object or noun to attach to the I Am. This is an all encompassing state of pure being. The Yogi's, Buddhists, Sufi's, Daoists, Christian mystics have all described this exact same experience. It's not really any experience though as experience relates to mind, it's a shift in consciousness. (Jesus has a great 'I am' story. He met a jew at one point, and the jew questioning his identity asked him, who are you ? On what basis do you claim prophethood (awakening) ? Jesus' reply was 'Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am'. Meaning, consciousness is the womb of creation, I am this ever present consciousness, and humans and come and go) So, if it's meant to be, this state holds (Baqa'a in Sufi terms), if not (Fana'a), and the seeker drops back into a subtler and more refined state of consciousness, and continues to 'polish the heart'. It's also worth mentioning that an awakening or realization cannot be forced. Any form of realization is an act of grace, and it comes out of nowhere. These states or stations of realization are beyond the mind. It's actually the absence of mind that might trigger an awakening or realization. And I'm not insinuating that awakening is the end of the road, it's actually the beginning of a new one. A new road that has no end as evolution has no end.

Realization can also be considered the easier bit of the journey, integration is where most of the heavy lifting is done. The ego needs a good amount of time to digest its own illusory nature. Finally, there is no set formula to all this, we all walk our own unique path, but if one were to follow a traditional progressive one, it would most probably look something like the above. As for ' I'll never find this thing called awakening, and I'll explain why later '. An individual doesn't find awakening, awakening is actually the dissolution of the individual. It took 15 years of running into brick walls to finally understand this. Only consciousness or the Self knows itself, and there is no ego involved in this process. The Buddhist word Nirvana means to blow out or extinguish. So when one sinks into Nirvana, the flame of the ego is blown out, and our true nature reveals itself. ' The self, then, has got to learn to cease to be its “own centre and circumference” to make that final surrender which is the price of final peace. ' I can see how all this sounds metaphysical, but it's not. We label it as metaphysics because we don't understand it. Once the Self reveals itself, it becomes clear that this is why we've been put on this earth. Eastern traditions, abrahamic religions, and even modern psychology as taught by Carl Jung, they all agree. We're here to evolve and to discover our essence or true nature. This whole universe exists because it too wants to evolve. Matter or energy (e=mc2), is actually seeking the opportunity to become conscious, and that's because only through consciousness, can it finally discover its own truth, the truth of being. Being conscious is actually like winning the lottery on a cosmic scale. To wrap things up, I'll leave you with this bit of text that both Rumi & Ibn Arabi used countless times to articulate their teaching: 'I was a hidden treasure, I loved to be known, so I created creation in order to be known'.

Wassily Kandinsky, 1933.

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