So, what can be said to be real right now is you are alive, present, and listening to these words. What is real now is your existence. You are conscious of existing, of being alive. Your true nature is consciousness itself. It is the one thing always present, whether you are asleep or awake, and whether you are aware of it or not.
What you are in your essence is the lucid, unchanging consciousness … giving birth to everything in the world of the senses, including all your thoughts, stories, memories, and to your body, mind, and this unique personality called “you.” To understand this is to grasp the literal meaning of the words attributed to St. Francis: “What we are looking for is what is looking.” You become aware of yourself, your true nature, as consciousness, awareness, or presence itself.
Now, most people are not aware of this. They tend to live as if in a dream—a dream which sometimes turns into a nightmare. They take their ego and their thoughts—the personal “self” and its many stories—to be real, are caught in habitual patterns of conflict, self-doubt, and worry, and have only occasional glimpses of the timeless beauty and mystery of existence.
The goal of spiritual or transformational work is to wake up from the dream. It is to break free of the internal dialogue. It is to see through the mind-created illusion of “me, myself, and my story,” the imaginary world you have created between your ears, making you feel separate and apart from others.
These stories, memories, and experiences have shaped your personality but they are still only your stories. They may have been real once, but are definitely not real now. They are an imaginary world existing inside your head, in the form of fleeting thoughts, beliefs, pictures, and ideas of “self,” with corresponding feelings and emotions in your body. And they are always changing, always coming and going, yet you, as the awareness that sees them, experiences them, are always here.
Every time you see the truth of this, your head clears, your body relaxes, your heart opens, and you experience a release from inner conflict, stress, and suffering. You become, in a word, present.
Awakening itself is realizing you are not your stories, not your thoughts, but you are the consciousness in which stories and thoughts—in which all existence—arises. You are not an object, a human being in space and time who has only intermittent glimpses of consciousness, the source of creation. You are not a wave, occasionally remembering your connection to the ocean. Rather, you are consciousness itself, viewing all of creation through the eyes of this human being called “you.” You are the ocean itself, manifesting in this individual human wave form.
As this realization occurs, you find yourself connected to an inexhaustible source of wisdom, love, and inner joy. Instead of living out of some myth or story about who you are and what life means, you live in awareness in the present. Meaning and identity no longer depend on beliefs, stories, or circumstances, but flow directly out of the beauty and dynamism of the life force itself. They arise from the sense of oneness, of the intimacy you feel with life—from the fullness and fragrance of being itself. You live in a state of openness, of welcoming everything that comes into your awareness.
With this awakening to the truth of being, the incessant chatter of the mind no longer dominates your consciousness. Your inner state becomes one of clarity and ease—at times, radiantly so. You become aware of a deep, vast silence, a universal spaciousness without center and without borders. You feel yourself to be one with that silence.
From within this inner silence you use thinking—including the “I” thought—for the extraordinary creative tool it is, but there is no attachment to thinking itself, nor to the concepts “I,” “me,” and “mine.”
Whenever you use these personal pronouns you are clear you are speaking as impersonal consciousness, expressing through your personal form. You use them in a functional way, free of personal ownership, pride, or emotional reactivity. Because of this openness and freedom from ego, from attachment to the personal perspective, living becomes much more effortless. Regardless of what is occurring, each day has a quality of magic and adventure to it.
Contrast this with your experience when you have not yet awakened to truth. Whenever you say “I” or “me,” there is a very definite identification with the personal, with the ego self—with some kind of story, judgment, expectation, assumption, or agenda. You often feel divided, as in: “A part of me feels this way, and yet another part of me feels that way.”
There may be glimpses, but there is no abiding awareness of being one with the totality of consciousness. Instead, separation, isolation, and a feeling of aloneness, even meaninglessness, is the prevailing experience. It is this personal identification with your story, with who you “think” you are, which triggers self-doubt, stress, worry, and fear. It perpetuates the experience of conflict and suffering.
Awakening, as will become clear, means freedom from conflict and suffering. This is the promise of the inner quest. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, or where in this world you live—inner freedom can be yours, simply because it is your true nature.
The feeling-tone associated with being established in pure consciousness is one of relaxed ease, harmony, and presence, of openness and welcoming, of gratitude and appreciation. It is one of feeling the energy of aliveness in your body. Thoughts may or may not be present, but you are not identified with them. There is no “you” in the way. There is just the flow of beingness, what in Zen is called the “suchness” of life, and you are one with the suchness. Everything then happens out of oneness.
Truly, to know your self as consciousness, and then to embody the knowing, is the greatest blessing.
See if you can feel it, your true nature, right now. Just be very present, very aware of all that is … Then let the awareness which you are permeate your body … Notice how your breath flows in and flows out in the awareness you are … Then notice how sensations arise and fall in your body … How thoughts, images, and stories come and go in your mind … Be aware of yourself as the awareness, the consciousness, which is aware of all this.