Spiritual traditions tend to speak about awareness and its content (experience) as two distinct domains. And while there is often an acknowledgement that these are really just two sides of the same indescribable non-dual coin, most traditions tend to emphasize this distinction, pointing again and again to the ever-present knowing/cognizing that underlies every momentary experience.
However, as powerful as this awareness-based emphasis can be, what I and others I’ve worked with invariably bump up against is that the recognition of awareness seems to come and go; sometimes it feels as if it is being recognized but sometimes not. And then whenever it seemed as if it has slipped away, there is this understandable effort to re-capture or re-recognize awareness.
But some years ago, it began to dawn on me; the experiences I was labeling as “awareness being absent” were actually 100% present. What is thought of as the non-recognition of awareness is simply another experience that is being recognized! Whatever we might call it—experience, reality, existence—something is always present even if that which is present is constantly slipping away, constantly morphing, constantly refreshing itself. This presence, let’s call it experiencing itself, never goes away. Sometimes it appears as awareness recognizing its ever-present nature; sometimes it shows up as awareness seemingly slipping away. But the experiencing is relentless.
And so in large part because of this, I find myself in my teaching emphasizing the experience side of the non-dual coin. I point to the fact that experiencing itself never turns off and that this ever-present, unstoppable flow of experiencing is actually the revelation of awareness. Two sides of a single coin, awareness and experience.
I find my favorite word to point to this singularity is This. Just This. This momentary flash that dissolves no sooner than it appears. This that is ever-present yet in constant flux. This that can never disappear and yet is constantly disappearing. This that cannot be characterized and yet appears as all characterizations. There are no words for This, no finite descriptions or pointers that could ever hope to capture Its infinite, unresolvable, indescribable nature. This, just This, This constancy that appears as all discontinuity and change…
Part of the challenge in talking about this is that when we hear words such as awareness or the ground of being, we imagine these are pointing to some dimension of reality that is distinct from other dimensions. In other words, if we have a term for something (awareness, ground of being), that MUST mean there is something that is distinct from the reality that word or phrase is pointing to. Otherwise, why even have the words in the first place!
It’s like the word God; the very existence of the word suggests there is something other than whatever entity or being or presence of divinity that word is referring to. But really, there is no God because there is ONLY God! From this vantage, all words are effectively synonyms for the same “thing.” Sorrow, joy, recognition, non-recognition, self, no-self, clarity, confusion… all the display of This.