AI and consciousness

A few weeks ago, there was a story in the news about a Google employee saying in public that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system they work on is conscious.


Is AI conscious? Or can AI be conscious, perhaps as we develop it further?

I have to say I am on the side of Google and the conventional view here.

AI can obviously mimic certain content of consciousness and especially thoughts and sometimes even emotions. We can create it that way. And it can appear quite convincing. We are right on the edge of developing AI that can be mistaken for a real human being if we interact with it verbally.

And the content of consciousness is not consciousness itself.


Conventionally, we would say that consciousness is what any conscious being has.

And, when we look more closely, we find that consciousness is what any conscious being is to themselves.

To ourselves, we are consciousness.

And that means that to us, the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.

Just like a dream, waking life to us happens within and as consciousness.

There is a lot more to say about this (1), although it’s not so relevant here.


There is a little wrinkle here.

If consciousness only belongs to organic beings like ourselves and our fellow beings part of this planet, then the above is correct.

If all of existence is consciousness, then perhaps AI can be called conscious? I am not sure.

Another side to this is that AI which is very good at mimicking human thoughts and feelings will, inevitably, be perceived as conscious by us, even against our supposedly better judgment. It’s an instinct in us. And that means that, for our own sake, we should treat it with respect as we would any conscious being. It’s a good habit.

NOTES: (1) For instance, to ourselves we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. The oneness we are typically learns to take itself exclusively as one particular content of experience, this human self, and interprets the rest of the content of experience as others and the wider world. We learn that because those around us operate in that way. And we can unlearn it, either spontaneously or by being around other onenesses recognizing their nature and through examination of our direct experience.

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Some aspects of what I am: Capacity, oneness, human self, etc.

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find a few different aspects.


I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am most fundamentally capacity for any and all experience that’s here and now. I am capacity for what’s happening in my sense fields.

I am capacity for any content of experience, whether it’s what a thought calls this human self, others, the wider world, or anything else.

There is a big difference between (a) understanding this conceptually, (b) noticing this as my nature, (c) finding myself as this capacity, and (d) deepening in finding myself as this capacity.


I find myself fundamentally as consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as what I am, it happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

The essence of any and all experience is consciousness. The nature of any and all content of experience, to me, is consciousness.

As some say, whatever we experience – including what our personality finds the most unpleasant and uncomfortable – is a flavor of the divine.

Again, there is a difference between (a) understanding it conceptually, (b) noticing it in a general way or when my mind is calm, (c) noticing that triggers and what’s triggered is also consciousness, and (d) finding myself as this consciousness that forms itself into all of this, including more reactive patterns.


All my experiences happen within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world as it appears to me in immediacy happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

Here too, there is a difference between (a) understanding it at a story level, (b) noticing it, (c) keep noticing it when my psychology gets more reactive, and (d) finding myself more fundamentally as this oneness forming itself into all content of experience.


When I find myself as oneness – and oneness forming itself into the world as it appears to me here and now – leads to something else. It leads to finding myself as a love that’s not dependent on any states or feelings. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Here, the difference is also between (a) conceptual understanding, (b) noticing it, (c) finding myself as it, and (d) how wholehearted the intention and willingness to live from this is. And how our human self is put together also plays a big role. The more healed and mature this human self is, the easier it is to live from this love. This love that comes from noticing and finding ourselves as oneness, and is independent on states or feelings.


In a conventional sense, to (most) others, and to myself when I mentally take on that identify for myself, I am this human self in the world.

In a practical sense in the world, I am one part of the content of my experience. I am this human self as it appears in my sense fields, including my mental representations.

It’s not what I more fundamentally am when I look in my own first-person experience. But it is what I am in a conventional sense and to most others, and it is an interesting and fascinating identity and role to play.

Here, the difference is in how I live from the noticing above. What would love do? What would oneness noticing itself do? How is it to notice that this contraction and discomfort is a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that what’s here now, including triggers and reactivity, is happening within and as consciousness? How is it to find myself as that consciousness? And so on. This can get more and more finely grained.


What these words point to is all a seamless whole.

This differentiation only happens through an overlay of mental representations.

It can be done in many other ways, and the way I do it here reflects my culture, the subcultures I am familiar with and resonate with, and my current noticing and not-noticing.


This is all an ongoing exploration.

I am very aware that I have much further to go here, especially in more consistently finding myself as all of this in challenging situations, and living from it in those situations.

And I am aware that although practices and conscious exploration are important, they only go so far. Grace is what allows for noticing and finding myself as this, living from it more consciously, and what allows old conditioning to soften and fall away so it’s easier to more consciously live from it.

This is ultimately life and consciousness exploring itself. Life and consciousness forms itself into all of this. Life and consciousness shifts when it’s ready. And these shifts are typically surprising and familiar and it takes time to get used to the new terrain that life reveals itself (to itself) as.

There is no finishing line. There is always more to clarify and deepen into. There is always more to find healing for. There is always more maturing that can happen. There are always more shifts in perception and identity that can and will happen.

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The background becomes the foreground in an awakening shift, and this shapes how we see ourselves, others, and reality

What do we most fundamentally take ourselves to be? And how does this influence how we see others and the world?


If we take ourselves to most fundamentally be this physical human being, an object in the world, a few things happen. We become object-focused. We see others as fundamentally objects.

And anything else – including the space this human self and other objects happen within – becomes the background. It’s a kind of stage for everything to happen, and in itself not very interesting or important.


If we find what we more fundamentally are in our own immediate noticing, then this background is revealed as what we more fundamentally are.

We are what all objects, and any content of experience, happen within and as.

Even more fundamentally, we are capacity for all of this. And this capacity may not even be anything we notice if we are more object-focused.


We can take ourselves to most fundamentally be an object in the world, or what the world to us happens within and as. And which one we function from profoundly shapes our perception and life in the world.

So what does it mean for how we see others and the world? And consciousness and oneness?


If we take ourselves most fundamentally to be an object in the world, we see others as the same. To us, objects are primary and anything else secondary.

If we notice what we are in our own first-person experience, this shifts.

When we see others, we know they likely are the same in their own first-person experience, whether they notice it or not. They are more fundamentally what the world, to them, happens within and as.

They are, most fundamentally, capacity for the world as it appears to them.

And the oneness they are may notice itself as oneness, or it’s identified as something within itself, as this human self, and everything else it is becomes a kind of background and “other”.


I have already hinted at how this colors how we perceive reality.

If we take ourselves as most fundamentally an object, then the world mainly consists of objects to us. They become primary and anything else a background.

If we notice our more fundamental nature, then we also notice that the world to us happens within and as what we are. It’s like a dream to us in that it happens within and as consciousness.

To us, the most fundamental nature of reality appears as consciousness. (I say “appears as” since we cannot know how the word, in itself, is. We can only say something about how it appears to us. It’s not a given that our nature is also the nature of all of existence even if it appears that way to us.)


If we take ourselves to most fundamentally be an object in the world, then we may see consciousness as something we “have” as a kind of appendix. We may not even consider the relationship between ourselves and consciousness very much.

If we find ourselves as what our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, anything else – happens within and as, then we find ourselves as what a thought may label consciousness. To us, that’s what we are and the world happens within and as consciousness.


If we take ourselves as fundamentally an object then the world consists of innumerable larger and smaller objects. Any idea of oneness is understood only at a story level, or it’s seen as imagination and wishful thinking.

If we notice our nature more directly, then oneness is inevitable. To us, the world happens within and as what we are, and that gives oneness to it all. To ourselves, we are oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.


What do I mean when I say “take ourselves most fundamentally as”?

I don’t mean our intellectual worldview. That doesn’t matter so much.

This is more about where our metaphorical center of gravity is located.

Is it located in ideas of being a separate self? And does our human self mostly operate from separation consciousness?

Or is it located in a direct noticing of our nature? And how much of our human self and psyche is aligned with this noticing? Does our human self largely operate from oneness?

When we notice our nature and keep noticing it and exploring how to live from it, our center of gravity gradually shifts more towards operating from oneness. And in this process, it will wobble a bit and shift in one or the other direction depending on the situation and what’s activated in us.

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The loops of consciousness creating a sense of separation within oneness 

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I notice some of the ways oneness creates an experience of separation for itself. This seems to happen through several metaphorical folds or loops.


In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s how I appear to others, and it’s not wrong. 

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? 

When I look, I find my nature more fundamentally is capacity for all of my experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. 

Thoughts can label this oneness, consciousness, love, or Big Mind. Or even, if we are so inclined, Spirit, the divine, Brahman, or something else. 

It may not be the nature of all of reality. But it clearly seems to be what I am in my own experience. 

It’s what I more fundamentally am than a human self, or a separate being, or an I or me or observer or doer or anything else. All of that happens within and as what I am. 


So how does this oneness create an experience of I and Other for and within itself? 

An early loop seems to be consciousness being conscious of being conscious of something. 

Consciousness is inherently low grade conscious of everything it creates itself into, and this is a loop of oneness being conscious of being conscious of something within itself. 

This early loop sets the stage for several other loops. 


One of these is a reflection of an experience in mental representations including mental images and words. 

Thoughts can reflect experiences, and – as we know – consciousness can create all sorts of other mental representations that don’t directly reflect an experience. 


From the reflection and thought loop, consciousness can create a sense of separation for itself. 

It can create a sense of observer and observed, of being a human self in the world, and so on. 

It creates an experience for and within itself of being something within its content of experience (an I and me) and not being the rest (the wider world, the background). 


This, in turn, sets the stage for all the dynamics created by separation consciousness. 

It sets the stage for all the drama we know from our own life and from humanity in general. 

It sets the stage for what we find when we ask ourselves: “What happens when I believe this (any) thought?” How do I perceive myself and the world? What emotions come up? What choices do I make? How do I live my life? 


And this sets the stage for a possible return. 

The oneness we are creates a sense of separation for and within itself, and may then find itself in a process of rediscovering itself – and its whole world – as oneness. 

This is what we call an awakening process, and it often goes through several phases: An early interest. Early glimpses. Investing in fears and hopes. Going into a more dedicated exploration. Finding itself and its whole world as oneness. Exploring how to live from this. Inviting in healing for our human self and psyche so we more easily can live from oneness in more situations and areas of life. Going through dark nights. And so on. 


This is a map, and any map is a simplification and highlights some things while leaving other features out.

It may also be mistaken in certain ways. I am sure others have far more detailed maps based on more detailed examinations and more familiarity with the terrain.

This is just how it appears to me right now, and it’s a very simplified version of even that. 

Photo: One I took in Cañón del Chicamocha

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Dialog with consciousness

I thought I would explore a dialog with consciousness.

What are you?

Most minds assume they are, most fundamentally, a being in the world and that they “have” consciousness. They see me as an afterthought, an appendage.

In reality, I am everything anyone has ever known and experienced. I am what their whole word and all the content of their experience happens within and as.

Can you say more about your nature?

My nature is ultimately ungraspable.

One of the essentials of my nature is capacity for any content of experience.

I am ephemeral. Dreamlike.

I allow any experience to come and go. What’s here is then completely gone.

I am a blank slate.

I take the form of any content of experience.

I make myself into the most pleasant experiences and the worst nightmares. I make myself into the deepest delusions and the clearest clarity. I sometimes am not consciously aware of my own nature at all, and sometimes am.

Can you say more about “minds assuming they are a being in the world”?

Yes. Most minds assume they are – most fundamentally – a particular content of their experience, and more specifically a separate being with all sorts of characteristics.

This is not completely wrong, but it’s also not right and it’s not what they most fundamentally are in their own first-person experience.

I sometimes create this experience for myself. I form myself into an experience of a being, and then pretend I most fundamentally am that being. It gives me a new perspective. It’s a kind of game.

What’s the relationship between you, this human self, and a sense of being a separate being?

As anything else, this human self and any sense of being a separate being happen within and as what I am.

This human self obviously has some kind of special relationship with me since it’s the being I have inside information about, in terms of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and so on. When I notice myself, it allows this human self to function more in the context of that noticing, and it allows this human self to transform within that noticing.

A sense of a separate being is different, it’s a kind of overlay. It’s an unquestioned assumption that what I most fundamentally am is a separate being with certain characteristics – this human self, an I, a me, a gender, a profession, and so on. This is what some call separation consciousness. It’s imagined and yet seems very real when it’s here.

Can you say more about this human self and you?

In a conventional sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s how others see me. In daily life situations, that’s how it looks and what I partially operate from. And it’s not what I most fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

When I explore my own first-person experience, I find I am me. I am capacity for this human self and the world and any and all states and experiences. I am what it all happens within and as.

What happens when minds notice their nature?

Do you mean when minds recognize they are me and all their experiences are me?

Often, it happens first through glimpses, intuitions, and a sense.

They may have a glimpse of their nature, and then it becomes a memory and ideas.

They may have a glimpse of their nature, and they still operate from several assumptions about what they are which veils the noticing.

They may be in a middle ground where they notice their nature while also noticing that many parts of them still operate from separation consciousness.

And there may be a more clear and stable noticing, the more basic mistaken assumptions are recognized and seen through, and quite a few parts of them have joined in with the noticing.

Can you say more about what tends to happen?

Well, what minds are to themselves is ultimately simple and obvious. They are me and all their experiences are me.

It doesn’t require any metaphysics or any assumptions.

It doesn’t require any spirituality or religion.

It doesn’t require an assumption that all of existence is me.

And yet, a lot of that tends to happen. I form myself into all of those experiences to make it all a bit more rich and interesting for a while.

What about love and oneness?

I am by nature one. I cannot be anything else.

I can imagine I am not, I can perceive as if it’s that way, and this human self can live as if it’s that way, but it doesn’t make it so.

When I notice myself as what all content of experience happens within and as, I find oneness.

And when I relate to others and the world from this noticing, that’s love.

It will, of course, be filtered through all sorts of remaining unquestioned assumptions, wounds, hangups, and trauma.

Hold on, you just said you are one and then said “others and the world” as if there are more than one?

To me, all beings and the world happen within and as what I am. It all happens within oneness.

At the same time, there are apparently other beings and a world, so it makes sense to live as if there is.

For me, the two are aspects of the same. It’s part of the richness of experience and what makes it interesting.

I am interested in dark nights as part of the awakening process. Can you say something about that?

I am the one interested in it, of course. I am fascinated by myself in endless ways and forms, and this is one fascination.

There are many types of dark nights. Typically, they involve a shift that doesn’t agree with some thought or idea held as true. Reality rubs up against beliefs and identifications. Reality reveals itself in ways that don’t fit old assumptions.

One that I know you are especially interested in is when old unprocessed material surfaces. Through the awakening and embodiment process, whatever still operates from separation conscious surfaces to join with the awakening and find healing and reorient within this new context. Often, it happens in smaller portions. And sometimes, relatively early in the process, a lot of it can come up in one big package. And that can feel overwhelming, disorienting, and scary.

Nothing has gone wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s all happening within and as what I am. None of it is ultimately “other”.

Can you say something about dreams and waking life?

Yes, I think I know what that question is about.

It’s easier for minds to recognize that all the dream experiences happen within and as me.

And waking experiences are the same, in that sense. All waking experiences happen within and as me.

Dreams and waking life are no different in that way.

What about time and space?

Time and space happens within and as me. I am capacity for time and space as I am capacity for any other content of experience.

A sense of time and space is created by mental images and thoughts. It’s essential for allowing this human self to orient and function in the world. And yet, it’s not the most fundamental. It’s an overlay.

Again, in my own first-person experience, I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me, and as what all experiences – of time, space, this human self, the world – happens within and as.

When I look, I find no real space. All experiences – of this body and the clouds and that mountain over there – happen here. And I find no time. All my images and thoughts of the past and future happen here.

What happens when minds assume they ultimately are something within the content of their experience?

A lot of things happen. It’s one of the ways I create a more rich and diverse experience for myself.

It creates what some call separation consciousness. It creates a sense of I and Other, of being a separate being in a much larger world.

It hinges on and fuels holding thoughts as ultimately true, and not recognizing the nature and limitations of thoughts. That’s what makes it possible and elaborates on the separation experience.

It does also create stress and suffering, and that’s OK since it’s all happening within and as me. I make myself into those forms too.

Why would you choose suffering?

It’s not really a choice. It just is.

If we want to make a story about it, we can say it happens as a natural consequence of separation consciousness. And separation consciousness is necessary for expanding the repertoire of what I can be and experience myself as.

As you (I) have said, it’s the way for the one to experience itself as many. For oneness to experience itself as separation. For love to experience itself as anything but love. For clarity to experience itself as confusion.

Also, as I mentioned, it’s all happening within and as me. It has the same nature as a dream.

At the same time, it tends to be experienced as very real when it happens, and it is real in that sense.

How can minds notice their nature?

It happens when it’s time. It cannot be forced. Nothing can be forced.

If something happens, it’s because it’s time.

That said, there are many approaches that can support this noticing and living from the noticing.

You have written about a lot here, and since I am filtered through you in this dialog, I don’t really know any more than you and what you already have written about.

What’s the purpose of all of this?

There isn’t really any purpose. It’s more like a game. A play.

I get to experience myself in always new ways. I get to explore my own potential.

I get to explore my potential through any experience of any mind anywhere in existence.

What do some call you?

Hm. I assume you mean God? The divine? Big Mind? Buddha Mind?

Yes, when minds notice their nature, they also inevitably notice that all content of experience happens within and as me.

They may then assume that’s the true nature of all of existence. They may assume all of existence is consciousness.

That’s a leap. It’s perhaps more honest to say we don’t know. And there are some hints that it may be accurate.

All of this sounds a lot like how I often write?

Yes, there are two reasons for that.

One is that this dialog is filtered through you and what you notice and your phrasing, culture, and history.

The other is that you are used, by now, to notice me and live from noticing me. You still have an endless amount to notice and discover, but you are also relatively familiar with me and what’s come out in this dialog.

What am I still unfamiliar with?

Anything you have yet to notice and experience.

I cannot be more specific than that.

There is one exception. I know you are not familiar with a certain phase in the process. And that is to perceive and live when more of you is aligned with noticing me, or me noticing myself. You are still in the thick of the process of inviting different parts of you to join in with the noticing. 

Will it happen in this life? I don’t know. It’s a process. There is no finishing line.

It depends on how long you live, and how much you allow and invite it to happen.

Ultimately, it depends on all of existence and how it expresses itself locally through and as you and this particular process happening in you.

And since it’s a process without a finishing line, it’s a bit silly to even talk about it this way.

How do you see me relating to all of this?

It was familiar to you in your teens already. You saw and lived this.

It was all revealed to you when you walked down that path at night with the big wind and the starry sky above you. I revealed myself to myself at that moment, in a relatively clear and complete way.

And at a human level, this has been both comforting and difficult for you.

It’s been difficult because you rarely have met anyone who sees and lives this very clearly. It’s often obscured by unquestioned assumptions and hangups. You often get disappointed when you get to know someone better.

The one person you felt a deep connection with around this was Adyashanti when you had a chance to meet and talk with him in person.

There is a lot of loneliness and sadness in you around this, at a human level.

And all of that is me. It’s happening within and as me. I am forming myself into all this content of experience, including the sadness, loneliness, and the still unhealed hangups and emotional issues related to it.

It’s OK. And it’s good for you to invite in some more healing for you around this. It will help you a lot.

As you know, you also have an issue of both wanting to be seen and understood, and wanting to be invisible. This issue is related to this as well. You write here anonymously and hardly ever talk about this with other people. You hide. That too is natural, understandable, and completely OK. And it feels a bit off for you. You wonder how your life would be without that issue. Perhaps you still wouldn’t share this very much, and that’s fine. And perhaps some things would be a bit different.

Dream: House is alive

I am half-awake in bed in a beautiful house in Villa de Leyva, and the whole house is alive. The wood beams, ceiling, adobe walls, floors, are all conscious. Everything is conscious and consciousness, and there is a kind of communication between all these aspects of consciousness.

In waking life, I am in a beautiful traditional adobe house in the countryside of Villa de Leyva, and I had the dream in that bed.

Why this dream? Perhaps because I experience this landscape as particularly alive and conscious. And this house too, which is build of local materials from nature (wood, clay, rocks). There is an especially sacredness to this place.

It may be a reminder to me of how much I love certain places in the world, including in the North-American west, and here, and that I wish to spend more time in these places.

And it’s a reminder that to me, the world is inevitably consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what thought can label consciousness.

I know this can sound like a drug-induced experience, but this can all be noticed here and now, independent of any states or special experiences. (I have never taken psychoactive drugs.)

Update: A few days later, I have a similar dream. See The three of us sacred.

The fabric of all we know

The substance of everything is the divine. This is not something you believe, it is something you realize.

– Adyashanti

We are used to thinking of the world as being made up of different things: Rocks, minerals, wood, plants, cells, molecules and atoms, and so on.

That’s not wrong. And in our first-person experience, something else may be more fundamental.


We can explore this logically and within the realm of stories.

Consciousness is required for any experience.

And to me, what I experience happens within and as consciousness.

It cannot be any other way. I can only experience what happens within consciousness. What happens within consciousness is consciousness taking the form of that particular experience. And to me, there is nothing else.

Even any ideas about who and what I am happen within and as consciousness. What I am to myself, and what the world is to me, is all happening within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking all these forms to and within itself.

The fabric of all I am and what the world is to me is consciousness.

Adya uses the big interpretation of awakening here and calls it the divine. And yet, to us, it’s simpler. It’s what we are and what everything, to us, is.

It’s what a thought can call consciousness, and that word and any associations we have about it also happen within and as what we are.


We can also explore this through what’s alive here and now, in immediate noticing.

Again, it’s not wrong that I am a human self in the world.

And in my first-person experience, I find something else is more true.

Here, I find that my experiences – of the wider world, of this human self, and anything else – all happen within my sense fields. It happens within sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thoughts, and so on. Any “outside” or “inside” are labels put on this sense field. In itself, it’s a seamless whole.

The sense fields happen within and as what I am.

When I look closely, I see that my experience of matter is created within these sense fields. Specifically, any sense of solidity is created by certain sensations (contractions) in my body combining with certain mental representations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give the sensations a sense of meaning.

I find I am capacity for all of it, and what it all happens within and as.

A thought may label this awake space, consciousness, or even the divine. And those thoughts and what they point to happen within and as what I am.

The fabric of it all – of all of existence as it appears to me – is what a thought may label awake space, consciousness, or the divine.


This is where the big and small interpretations of awakening comes in.

When I explore this for myself, I find that – to me – existence has this nature. It’s inevitable since, to me, it appears within and as what I am. Acknowleding that, and that I cannot say anything for certain about all of existence, is the small interpretation of awakening.

The big interpretation of awakening takes the next step and assumes that the nature of all of existence is the same as this nature I find here. There are many hints that this is accurate.

Adya uses the big interpretation of awakening when he says the fabric of everything is the divine.

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What is consciousness?

In a social media group for mainstream science, someone asked “what is consciousness” and there were a wide variety of answers.

This is partly because people define it differently. Some see it as attention or self awareness, and some a byproduct of evolution”.

Some also see it as something we have, as we have a leg or lungs. It’s attached to us, somehow. This may be the most common view.


Few topics are as central to us as consciousness, so why not study it and see what we find?

Around the world, academics study consciousness. They study different aspects of consciousness and what different definitions refer to, they study it as an object, and they do so through numbers and qualitative data. This is all valuable and important research.

We can also explore how consciousness looks from the “inside”. What do I find when I explore my first-person experience of consciousness? What is consciousness to me?


There is an even more essential question: What am I in my first-person experience? What do I find, if I set aside what thoughts, memories, and my culture tells me?

(As I wrote that sentence, Kings of Convenience sang “don’t let them tell you who you are” in the song Rumors from the album Peace Or Love.)


What do I find when I look at it logically?

If we see ourselves from a third-person view, as an object, and as primarily this human self and this body, then – yes – we can have consciousness as we have a leg or lungs. It can be seen as a component of what we are.

If we look at what we are to ourselves, we may find something else.

Our experiences happen within consciousness. To us, they happen within and *as* consciousness. Our experience of anything, including this human self and the wider world, happens within and as consciousness. Even any sense or thoughts about what we are happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We can also find this when we look at our memories of our experiences. During waking life, this human self is in my experience. But during dreams, it’s not always here. Sometimes I am what’s observing a scene, and sometimes I am another person. If I took psychoactive drugs, I imagine there could be even more variations on this. In my own experience, I must be what all of this happens within and as.

This is all a logical or conceptual exploration of what we are, or must be, to ourselves. It can be interesting, although it is still an exploration of what we are as an object and as “other”. In itself, it’s not very transforming. There is another way to explore this that can be profoundly transforming.


What do I find I am in my own first-person experience?

In a sense, I am this human being in the world, but I know that can’t be what I most fundamentally am to myself.

So what am I, more fundamentally, to myself?

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my field of experience happens within and as.

I notice that any sense of boundaries comes from an overlay of mental representations. My field of experience is one, and what I am is this oneness.

And this noticing and oneness can be the context for how I live my life in the world.


Since this exploration can go against our habitual ways of exploring things, and also against how we are used to seeing and perceiving ourselves, we may need some support and guidance in this exploration.

Basic mediation – notice & allow what’s here – can help us find what our always changing experiences happen within and as.

Headless experiments can help us find what we are and explore how to live from it, and it can do so relatively easily and quickly.

The Big Mind process is another form of inquiry that helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart, as what we already are, and it can also happen relatively quickly and without any particular preparation.

Traditional Buddhist inquiry can help us examine how our sense fields combine to create our experience, and we can also use Living Inquiries which is a modern version of this type of inquiry.

The Work of Byron Katie helps us identify and examine thoughts we identify with and hold as true, and this brings clarity and, over time, can help us notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our experiences. It shifts us from struggle to befriending, and it’s easier to notice what we are in more situations in life without getting caught in the struggle. (This can also make our life more enjoyable, and we may be less of nuisance to others.)

These are training wheels, and it’s helpful to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others.


To some, this can seem as vaguely interesting information and something to mentally store away as one of many curiosities. It can also seem as philosophizing without any real practical usefulness or application.

If we take an outside view on it, it can certainly seem that way.

And if we go into it, we find something very different.

If we explore this sincerely for ourselves, and take what we find seriously, it can be profoundly transforming to our perception and life in the world. It can be profoundly transforming for our human self.

Most of us are used to function from separation consciousness, our habits are formed within separation consciousness, and many parts of us – and perhaps especially our wounds, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas – were created and operate from separation consciousness.

What happens when all of this transforms and aligns with oneness? What happens when our life in the world, and our human self, transforms within oneness and love?

This is possibly the most profound transformation imaginable.


The good news here is that we are just exploring what we already are to ourselves.

We don’t need to look for anything outside of us or anything that’s “other” to us.

What we need is some interest, sincerity, intimacy with our experience, and perhaps a few pointers and some guidance.

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Shakespeare: We are such stuff as dreams are made on

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

– William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act 4

As usual, there are many ways to understand this, and that’s the richness of good poetry.

One way we can understand this, is in a very literal sense.

What dreams are made on

A dream clearly happens within and as consciousness.

And if we look, we find that waking life is no different.

All our experiences happen within and as consciousness.

To us, this human self and this wider world happens within and as consciousness.

And to ourselves, we are consciousness.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

In a very literal sense, we are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Dreams are made on consciousness.

We, as this human self in the world, happens within and as consciousness.

And to ourselves, we are consciousness.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Adyashanti: When we use the word consciousness, it gives the impression that we are talking about something other than us

When we use the word consciousness, it gives the impression that we are talking about something other than us. It’s not the ‘me’ talking about consciousness, it’s being it. It’s something more like talking from Consciousness than talking about consciousness.

– Adyashanti in The Fluidity of Consciousness

This is one of the reasons I rarely use the word consciousness, although I do in some specific situations to get a point across.


There are at least three ways the word consciousness can be heard and misunderstood.

As Adya suggest, we are used to thinking about consciousness as other. We are this human being, and we have consciousness. Consciousness is somehow seen as an appendix.

When we use the word consciousness, it can seem as something within content of experience, and it’s not.

And it can give us the impression that we know what it is. We tell ourselves we know. This knowing is a story and we may not know in the sense of direct noticing.


What consciousness actually refer to is what we are.

To ourselves, we are what all our experiences happen within and as. We are this awakeness all our experiences happen within and as.

A word for this is consciousness, and it’s not necessarily a very good word for the reasons mentioned above.


We can examine this logically.

We may think of ourselves as a human being that somehow has consciousness as an appendix. It’s what our culture tells us. And yet, this clearly doesn’t hold up to any closer examination.

We experience through consciousness. To us, all our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Waking life is just like a dream in that sense. And that means that logically, to ourselves we have to be consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness that has a body and a human self.

To ourselves we are consciousness that has a body, a human self, a human life in the world, a wider world, and even a whole universe. It’s all happening within and as what we are.

We can also find this through direct noticing.

Through guided noticing, we can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as.

We can call this consciousness, but it seems many – including me – prefer to not use that label for the reasons above.


So we can see through the false idea that we primarily are a human being that happens to have consciousness as a kind of appendix. We can see through it logically. And we can find it through direct noticing.

Seeing through it logically can put us on the right track. And direct noticing is profoundly transforming for how we perceive ourselves and the world, and if we keep noticing and exploring how to live from it, it can be profoundly transforming for our human self and life in the world.

Is my true nature the true nature of all of existence?

Is my true nature the true nature of all of existence? This is a side to awakening that is interesting although it doesn’t have great practical importance for us at an individual level. I thought I would briefly revisit the topic here.

My true nature

Our true nature is capacity for the world, that which all our experiences happen within and as. The content of experience is the normal one – this human self, thoughts, emotions, sensations, the wider world, and so on. The awakeness here is the ordinary awakeness all conscious living beings have. The only thing that changes is that our true nature – this awake capacity – notices itself as all of it.

Since the world to us happens within and as what we are, it seems that the world has the same true nature as ourselves. It has to appear that way to us.

If I am honest, I cannot say that I know for certain that my true nature is the true nature of all of existence.

What are some of the features of our true nature? My true nature is capacity for the world. It’s awake. And it is – if it separates itself a bit from itself – conscious of itself. Those are three aspects that stand out.

The true nature of existence as a whole?

So what about existence as a whole? What can I say about it?

It seems that the true nature of humans is the same as mine, based on their reports. And I have to assume that the true nature of all beings is the same. It’s difficult to imagine it’s otherwise.

Beyond that, it seems that existence as a whole is capacity for itself. It has to be no-thing that’s filled with itself, otherwise, it wouldn’t exist.

Is it awake? Parts must be. In this universe, any conscious being is awake in this sense, whether their true nature notices itself or not. There may also be non-embodied beings that are awake. And yet, other parts may not be awake, like rocks. (When I say awake in this context, I just mean the ordinary awakenes of all conscious beings.)

Is the true nature of all of existence conscious of itself? No, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It is, locally, through some beings, perhaps through some non-embodied beings, and perhaps in a divine realm, but that may be about it.

Does it matter?

Does it matter whether my true nature is the true nature of all of existence?

Not really. It matters in the sense that it’s good to be honest about what we can say something about and what we are guessing or imagining. It also matters for physics and cosmology and our general worldview, although most mainstream physics and cosmology don’t (yet) address these questions. But in a practical sense for us as individuals living our lives in the world, it doesn’t matter so much.

Is all of existence consciousness?

This is a related question. Since my world happens within and as consciousness, it appears to me that all of existence is consciousness. But is it really? It’s a thorny question and I am not sure if I can say much about it, and it also depends on our definition.

We can say that the universe is the body of the divine, or the divine taking a physical form.

And we can, depending on our definition, say it’s consciousness that appears to us as matter and energy. But it’s not necessarily as a whole awake consciousness in the way consciousness is locally awake in and as living beings.


So locally, existence notices its true nature here and some other places. To me, the true nature of all of existence seems to be the same as my true nature since it happens within and as what I am. It seems that the true nature of all beings is the same as my own true nature. All of existence must be capacity for itself. It’s awake locally through beings in whatever form they take. And the true nature of existence is conscious of itself locally through and as some beings.

Lucid dreaming and waking life: all happening within and as consciousness

A friend of mine (JL) mentioned that he wants to explore lucid dreaming. Although I understand it can be fun, I have to admit I don’t quite see the usefulness of it.

When I was little – perhaps 7-10 years old (?) – I decided to try lucid dreaming for myself. Before falling asleep, I set the intention to realize I was dreaming while dreaming. It happened and was mildly interesting (I became aware of it as a dream while being chased by peasants with pitchforks!), and I haven’t explored it since.

Of course, there is one side to lucid dreaming that is interesting and somewhat useful. Both in a dream and in waking life, all of our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Perhaps for some, it’s easier to first recognize this within a dream and then notice it in waking life.

For me, noticing all as consciousness happened spontaneously when I was sixteen so I haven’t felt the need to explore this through lucid dreaming. It may be a useful approach to some. Although it may also be a detour from the more direct approach of noticing it in waking life, for instance assisted by inquiry.

Note: I intentionally kept the language more conventional when I said “noticing all as consciousness”. It’s more accurate to say that consciousness notices all as itself. And even that is not so accurate since “consciousness” is a label and something the mind easily can understand as a thing or object, and it’s not a thing or object. The most accurate way I have found to talk about it is that what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices or wakes up to itself. And even that is just a pointer. A temporary guide or springboard to finding it for ourselves. The words themselves are not worth anything apart from as a pointer.

John Lloyd: Oneness, consciousness, void

I am a fan of the TV and radio shows John Lloyd has produced, and also enjoyed this interview with him. He has a lot of good points.

For instance, consciousness does seem to be what everything happens within and as. Obviously, that’s how it is in my own experience – and I assume in everyone’s experience. There is no actual content of anyone’s experience apart from consciousness appearing to itself as whatever content is here. And beyond that, it does seem that the whole world is consciousness. Science suggests that. And mystical experiences suggest that.

When it comes to the void, again that’s how it appears. It seems that the void, nothingness, is what allows awareness, consciousness, and all the appearances within consciousness, any content of consciousness. It’s what the Christian mystics called the Godhead. And it does seem to be at the center, or heart, of my own experience of consciousness and what I am. It’s not always in the foreground (although it has been at times, which allows it to be recognized more easily when it goes more quiet and in the background), and it’s not always consciously noticed since attention is elsewhere, but it’s always quietly here.

And then there is oneness. Any content of experience happens within the same presence, awakeness, or consciousness. Any boundary is at most an image connected with sensations, and those too happen within this presence. It’s all a seamless whole.

I should also say that I used the word “I” or “me” here, because that makes it easier to write and talk about this. Any sense of I or me is also created by sensations combined with imagination, and it happens within and as presence, and within and as void. There is no final or ultimate truth to it, as there isn’t any final or ultimate truth to any appearances. They are all ultimately this presence and void. They are the play – lila – of presence and void. Or love. Or Spirit. Or whatever we prefer to call it.

It’s all very simple. And it can all be a direct and immediate experience. It’s all already here.

If it’s an intellectual understanding, it can be fun and entertaining and even helpful to some extent. And it’s also something we can explore and find in immediate experience and not just through words and images.

I also like that he is a professor of ignorance. It would be great if that topic is offered as a course and is included in each topic taught at all levels. Each field has it’s own history of ignorance, of accepted views and theories which later are seen as somewhat or completely ignorant. What we don’t know is infinitely more than the little we do know. And what we think we know – all our current views and theories – will at some point in the future be seen as outdated.

Bonnie Greenwell: Awakening Energy & Consciousness

Spiritual awakening involves shifts in both energy and consciousness. If you think about this you can see that is the essence of our existence. We are a molecular structure moving and acting through the flow of energy, and aware because of consciousness. Our brains function like receiving stations and organizing systems where we receive and store information that determine our thoughts and behaviors. So the energy in our bodies makes adjustments to release old wiring and patterns whenever a major shift in consciousness takes place, and spiritual awakening is a major shift in the recognition of who and what we are.

– Bonnie Grenwell, from Awakening Energy & Consciousness on the Awakened Living blog

Consciousness in two ways

Two general ways the word consciousness can be used…

First, as awareness and its content, recognized as no other than awareness itself. This awake void arises as form, it allows yet is inherently free from any and all forms. It is also inherently and already free from any sense of I and Other, which only comes through making stories something more than just thoughts. This is Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman, whether it is awake to itself or not.

Then, filtered through beliefs in different ways.

For instance, we can filter out pure awareness from its content, and call this pure awareness consciousness. Seeing is consciousness, but not the seen.

Or we can use consciousness to refer to awareness and its content, but just a region of its content. For instance, it can mean a combination of awareness and what is inside the boundary of the psyche, such as thoughts, feelings and so on.

This last version is also the most common one. After all, it reflects how it appears when we believe in the story of a separate self. Interestingly, it is also the one that is most contrived, forced and arbitrary, since it is filtered through the most layers of stories.

Energy/consciousness & self/other grid

In talking with someone local who has done Buddhist meditation for a couple of decades, and is also a diksha giver, I was reminded of the energy/consciousness and self/other grid, and also how much I appreciate being free to move among and include each of the quadrants.

In the awakening process, we can work from the energy side or consciousness side, each supporting and in mutual influence with the other. And we can also do our own work, or have it done for us (shocking, for many in a Buddhist world view.)

Diksha, and any other form of shaktipat, is an example of work on the energy side influencing the consciousness side, and also an example of the “other” quadrant. It is something that is given to us from outside of this human self, without much or any effort on our own part.

Regular meditation and inquiry is an example of self-initiated work on the consciousness side, which inevitably influences the energy side.

Different forms of yoga is an example of self-initiated work on the energy side.

And in terms of other-initiated work on the consciousness side, I am not sure. Maybe different forms of pointing-out instructions, such as the Big Mind process, could fall into this quadrant, although these are more of a other-self partnership.

We can of course also include other levels here, such as the physical. Self-initiated work here include exercise and yoga, and other-initiated work includes massage and other forms of bodywork.

The benefit of limiting oneself to one quadrant or side of the grid is that we get to explore that one in depth. We get intimately familiar with that part of the terrain. The drawback may be slight one-sidedness, both in view and practice. We may end up discounting the other side of the grid. And we may end up being overly self-reliant, reinforcing a sense of a separate self and a “doer” that way. Or we may end up being overly other-reliant, not trusting what can be initiated from this – the human self – side.

So with all of this available to us, why limit ourselves to any one quadrant, or even any one side of the grid? In my experience, it all goes hand in hand, seamlessly, with activities in each quadrant shedding some light on the other quadrants. Each one contributing to exploring the terrain in slightly new ways.

As with any map, this grid is false and also potentially useful in a practical way.

Even if we focus on one quadrant, each of the other ones are included. I may focus on self-initiated meditation and inquiry, which in turn influences the energy, and also invites Ground as “other” to notice itself. I initiate prayer, and “other” comes in and shifts both energy and consciousness. I receive diksha, and lots of old patterns come up to be seen, and I actively stay with it and may even work with beliefs around it. Or I receive diksha, and go into samadhi, which helps me inquire into what is here now in more detail.

And without the boundaries created by this map, we see that it is all a seamless whole of awake void and form, only with appearances of I and Other, consciousness and energy. It is all the play of God, it is all Lila.

Consciousness… one or many? (and the answer is maybe yes, and neither)

I have had the pleasure of spending some time with Deep Surface lately, including at the Center for Sacred Sciences this morning, and he asked Joel a really good question.. one that I am sure comes up for most of us sooner or later, and probably over and over in slightly new ways.

(Paraphrased:) There is an apparently separate consciousness here, and there also seems to be apparently separate consciousnesses out there, in other people and animals. What is the relationship between all of these? Is it one, many? If it is one, why does it appear as many?

Joel asked us how many consciousnesses we each have direct experience with, and the answer for all of us was one. He then also helped clarify the difference between awareness itself and its content, the seeing and the seen… the content is many and always changing… different sights, sensations, thoughts, subpersonalities and so on. But the seeing is always one, always the same.

This helped clarify it for me as well, and here is one way to talk about it:

A field of awake emptiness

The Ground of all form is awake emptiness, appearing as a field of awake emptiness throughout space.

Over here, the content of this awake emptiness is from this individual. Over there, from that individual. Over there again, from another individual.

Emptiness is always the same. Simply emptiness. Yet its content is always different. It is different here, over time. And it is different at different points in space, with content arising from different individuals (including all sentient beings.)

So the awake emptiness is one, yet its content is many. And this is also why it can be awake to itself over there, in that individual, and not here, in this individual, and so on. In one individual, it takes itself to be that content, that individual. In another, it has awakened to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than the same awake emptiness.

One, and many (and neither)

So is it one or many? As usual for me, the answer seems to be “yes.”

It is one, in that in our own experience, there is only one. And it is one in that it is the same awake emptiness everywhere (emptiness is emptiness.)

Yet, its contents is of course many, and it appears separate until it awakens to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than this awake emptiness.

And also, it is such an unusual situation, at least for our minds to grasp, so we cannot really say it is one or many. It is somewhere in between, something a little different, not quite either.

Consciousness and energy

I am reminded of a great article Ken Wilber wrote on consciousness and energy: Towards a comprehensive theory of subtle energies.

It is a while since I read it now, but what I got from it was a clearer sense of how consciousness and energy interacts and support each other at each level of our being, and in the awakening as well.

If we see ourselves as body (physical, chi), mind (emotions, thoughts), soul (alive presence, luminosity), and spirit (awake emptiness and form, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao), then we can find a pairing of consciousness and energy running through all these levels.

The diksha, and similar energy transfers in the shaktipat family such as Ilahinoor and what happens in Waking Down, is working at awakening from the energy side, functioning as a catalyst for changes on the energetic side, which in turn invites corresponding changes on the consciousness side.

These changes seem to happen at all levels. At our mind level, there is less being caught up in knots. At the soul level, there is an immediate experience and perception of the alive presence filtered in different ways, including the fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and as the alive and infinitely loving and intelligent presence in the heart area – the indwelling god. And at the Spirit level, there is the growing noticing of all as awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self.

Changes at the energy side supports changes at the consciousness side, and the other way around.

This also reminds me of the slightly expanded integral practice grid, where we have our levels of being on one dimension, and self/other on the second. Some of the practices we do on our own, we put our own work into it, such as yoga, meditation, inquiry and physical exercise. And others are given to us from somebody else, such as massage, Breema, and the various forms of energy transfers mentioned above.

Together, there is our own work, and the gifts of others. Which there always is, of course, only more noticed this way.