Waking Awareness Versus Unconscious
Waking consciousness exists as a tiny part of the total being it manifests in. Maybe I am exaggerating, but in its tiny room it has a few buttons it presses and the voluntary muscles move. There are a few screens which, through some of the body senses give a view of a tiny range of the phenomena of the universe. The rest of our being, the remainder of the universe, we give the cover-all name of unconsciousness. It simply means – we are not aware of it. It is a bit like having a web camera stuck in a certain place, and that is all you can see through it – yet there is the whole wide web to explore.
The unconscious is not a thing or a process-it is a mass of functions, processes, actions and reactions of which we are not usually aware. We frequently make the mistake of believing that anything we are not aware of does not have consciousness – in fact does not exist. Because of that we assume that one could never be aware of the intimate details of, for instance, liver functions, or brain-cell activity. But we are used to the idea of a part of our body being anaesthetised, or going to sleep because of a circulation block. These areas, which were devoid of awareness, can become conscious again. Could not anything which was entered into with waking awareness be considered conscious?
In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practiced every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would leave my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late. After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless awareness. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.
After that day I could repeat the experience almost any time I sat down and used the relaxation technique. I felt at the time, and still believe it correct, that I had fallen asleep yet remained awake. Waking, critical awareness, had been taken through the magic doors of sleep into a universe it seldom ever sees – deep dreamless sleep. I realised that as we enter sleep all our sense are switched off and we are fundamentally bodiless awareness. See - Levels of Awareness
I realise that what I described must seem like a strange and even imaginary world to many people – except that it isn’t. But many people do not give three months of their life in everyday practice at the age of 16 to break through the barriers of our physical senses.
I do not think, in my experience of bodilessness, that I had ‘left’ my body. Rather, the connections with the sense organs had been switched oft-so that I had no body awareness.
The experience made me certain that waking consciousness could have a completely different experience of itself, other than the ‘normal’ one which is dominated by body sensations, emotions and thoughts. There were, I realised, other dimensions of mind to experience. Being of a practical nature I wondered what could be done from this new platform of experience. However, at that time, despite some months of experiment, I could achieve nothing more than bodiless consciousness. It is a condition most people can reach with a little regular practice.