The fastest way to discover consciousness is to turn away from the objects of consciousness. Think of your consciousness as a flashlight that you focus on the world “out there.” Now imagine focusing it back upon itself. By focusing consciousness back upon itself, you can have an experience of consciousness, not merely an experience of its external objects. By separating consciousness from its objects and turning it inward upon itself, we can observe consciousness for what it actually is. Then, consciousness ceases to be a concept and becomes a reality, which makes it possible to have a meaningful discussion about it.
If you become aware of yourself being conscious, ask this question: who is it that is being aware of me being conscious? This will show you how easy it is to objectify the experience and mistake the concept for the reality. We do not want to get hung up in thinking about consciousness; we want to experience it for what it is. Most of us spent a great deal of our lives without ever having experienced consciousness but rather spent our time being enthralled by the world of objects, including our interior world, which for the purposes of this discussion is every bit as much “out there” as any other object.
If you live your life as a set of concepts, or if your experience of the world constitutes the entire body of your experience, then it is highly probable that you have never experienced consciousness directly but only through its effects. It would be as though you thought you were your car and never experienced yourself as a person inside your car. This explains why most people experience “life” as something that happens to them, something over which they have no control. By getting in touch with consciousness itself, we can begin to direct our lives in ways we could not have done before. This is the ultimate practicality of pursuing this knowledge.
Once you have this direct experience, one thing becomes very clear: consciousness does not comprise the totality of you. Something underlies it, something out of which consciousness arises. That “something” is being. To use the word “being” with a capital B has the effect of objectifying it. Rather than conceptualizing it as something really huge and therefore inaccessible, use it in the first person. Say, “my being.” This is much closer to the truth and will lead you to the experience. Let’s just say that this is something you have to own. You cannot defer this experience in any way, or you will miss it and sling yourself back out into the mind’s idea about what it is to be real.
Two experiences come to you very rapidly once you leave the world of sensory stimuli. The first thing that happens is you start to see a lot of light inside your body. It is as though someone turned on a light switch in there. Once this happens, the world will start to look different to you. Everything appears to be alive, even rocks and everyday objects. Nothing looks the same. Your energy level goes up, way up, and things that once seemed important begin to lose their shine. Worldly concerns and ambitions begin to seem ludicrous, which immediately puts you out of sync with just about everybody. This is why spiritual teachers throughout the ages have gone to great lengths to qualify their students before starting their training. Jesus said that it would be unwise to begin a project of this nature without the intention and the ability to finish it. And there is the Buddhist saying that unless you are as eager to achieve enlightenment as someone whose hair is on fire is to jump into a pond, do not make the attempt. But, the fact that you have read this far puts the odds highly in your favor.
The second thing that happens is that you begin to see the source of the light that is shining inside you. This source is your being, the “God Self.” It is YOU. Unless you own this, it will forever remain a concept, and you will struggle with the experience. The only problem with this approach is that the ego, the other you, will try to usurp this realization for its own purposes, namely making you more important than everyone else. If this happens, you can take some comfort in knowing that this happens to every person on the path to one degree or another. The point is to get past the illusion and not get hung up on yourself. The Apostle Paul said, “I die daily,” and it was this problem that he was talking about.
If in your attempts to become conscious you find your mind wandering all over the place, go back to the Concentration Exercises and practice controlling your thoughts. Then return to your meditations and use your developed power of focus to hold your awareness steady. Go deep within. Leave the world behind. It will be there when you get back, that’s for sure.