The Invisible Ever-Present Ally
Consciousness is the key to developing and discovering who you are.
Here’s a riddle. What is you and is not you at the same time? The answer is awareness. But how do we discover and then develop this incredible ally about which Eckhart Tolle says, “If you practice this, all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness?”
What is extraordinary about awareness is that, in a sense, there is really nothing to do, no skill to learn. Or as the Zen master Susuki Roshi famously said: “Nowhere to go, nothing to do, just being.” Consciousness, or awareness, is actually a state that is accessible to us at any time. It is always present. As we access it, we sense its familiarity. The 13th century mystic and poet Jelaluddin Rumi opens his wonderful poem about love and consciousness, No Room for Form, with these lines:
“On the night that you cross the street
from your shop and your house
to the cemetery,
you’ll hear me hailing you from inside
the open grave and you will realize
how we have always been together.
I am the clear consciousness core
of your being, the same in
ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.”
The gift is ours all along. In our busy work and home life, the shop and the house, we seldom realize its presence, and yet we and our consciousness “have always been together.”
While the terms being aware, being the witness, noticing and being conscious are used interchangeably; the concept of “being the witness” is very helpful for understanding the mechanics of awareness. The part of us called “the witness” is that part that watches and observes everything that occurs in our lives. It is Rumi’s “clear consciousness core,” and it is “clear” because it is not distracted by judgment of unfolding events; by comparison or blame, or the need for change. It is at the core, the center; it is the truth of things. The great clue about consciousness that is offered in this verse is that it is “the same in ecstasy as in self-hating fatigue.” In other words, it is not defined by emotion; it is not a part of the ego; it is beyond emotion and our reactions to the world.
The most important realization about practicing and developing awareness is that we can experience our feelings and emotions (avoiding the temptation to escape through objectivity, or getting lost in the story) while simultaneously, objectively, witnessing them.