Prior to full awakening, we may have numerous spiritual experiences and glimpses that whet our appetite for the dawning of Truth—brief moments of blissful merging, short-lived intimations of a dimension of reality beyond the realm of form, an insight into the emptiness or transparency of the body. But for most people, the first true awakening involves the realization that I am pure awareness, unconditional presence, the context or space in which every experience arises. In other words, I’m not the body-mind, as I once had thought, but I am that which is forever free from and aware of the body-mind and all arising.
Needless to say, this is a powerful, life-changing insight that may be accompanied by strong energetic experiences like kundalini moving up the spine, sudden laughter or tears, even fear of our own dissolution. The insight itself, the shift in the locus of identity from the head, mind, and self-image to awake awareness, is the most important point. The energy experiences are just passing states–what remains is a sense of peace, openness, and freedom from form.
With this awakening dawns the realization that this awake awareness is not the possession of a separate self, but rather the true Self in which the personality and mind arise. Therefore, it’s not located here or limited in any way in time or space. Awareness, our essential nature, is nonlocatable, ever-present, and all-pervasive. Anything more localized and circumscribed is merely a creation of the mind trying to do a good imitation of awareness by being “mindful” or playing the observer.
Once we recognize and begin to abide as awareness, we still may experience a subtle duality between awareness and the objects of awareness, as if by taking ourselves to be the eternal witness, we can remain separate and unsullied by form. The next step is to drop even this subtle illusion of separation and realize that the objects of awareness are in no way separate from awareness itself. Subject and object, seer and seen, form and emptiness are essentially not separate. That which is looking out through these eyes recognizes itself in all arising. There is only consciousness, only awakened awareness, expressing itself in a myriad forms. This is the awakening of unconditional love, the deep recognition that everything and everyone is an expression of the one essence, the one heart that we are.