The co-emergence of Awareness & Experience
Awareness is as basic as experience. In fact to experience something, you need to be aware of it in the first place and at the same time to be aware, you need to be experiencing something. There is a kind of a circle or loop. It is what philosophers consider to be a problem of self-referentiality. But in reality it is only a problem when we understand awareness to be just a function of our waking consciousness – the same level of consciousness we use for thinking, grasping, analysing and communicating among other things.
A very important aspect of consciousness is that it is multileveled or multi-dimensional. In short, consciousness is more than your thinking, attention or self-awareness as some aspects of Science would have us believe. It is extended over many dimensional planes of reality, one of which is the same one your physical brain and body are in and the one your ‘I’ thinks is the only reality you are experiencing. But it is not.
The part of your consciousness that is referred to as your ‘wakeful consciousness’ is where you perceive this physical reality, think, conceptualise, store memories, have feelings and so on. But you have far greater intelligence and your consciousness has much more depth and dimensionality.
You only feel you are experiencing this reality because the other levels of your consciousness have been filtered off once your consciousness was embodied into so-called ‘third-dimensional reality’. Your wakeful consciousness is in fact only a very thin slice from your whole spectrum of consciousness.
You are just not aware of it, at least most of the time you are not. So coming back to the problem mentioned above, the chicken-or-egg situation with experience and awareness is solved if we look at it from a multileveled perspective of consciousness.
Sometimes you are experiencing something at a deeper level of consciousness, beyond your waking consciousness.
I am not taking about what popular Psychology calls the subconscious or unconscious (although these are terms that can be rightly used to put a label on all those processes we are no ‘consciously’ aware of). You could be experiencing something at your soul level or at a transpersonal level, for example at the level where we experience our collective myths or what Carl Jung called the ‘collective unconscious’.
Your ‘waking consciousness’ can sometimes get glimpses of what is going on at these levels – perhaps through dreams, near death experiences, ’shamanic’ visions or through deep meditation and insight. So you become aware of something you were already experiencing on another level. It is also true the other way round. At a soul level you become aware of and integrate experiences you are having through your physical body.
Freedom, Experience and Awareness
So to summarise the whole idea: you experience something because you are aware of it at some level of your consciousness (whether you waking consciousness or deeper levels) but at the same time you are aware of something because you are experiencing it at some level or another.
In other words, we can experience and be aware of something from separate levels of our consciousness and this is how both experience and awareness can both pre-exist each other without falling into the chicken-or-egg anomaly.
With this in mind, the idea of freedom can be refined to “Freedom is the ability to create your own reality by choosing what to experience by means of your awareness”.
Many spiritual teachers of the past and present talk about the essential goal of expanding your awareness. To expand the awareness means to be able to experience yourself more and the truth about and within yourself. To use a fancy word, to expand your awareness means to get loose of your ‘reality matrix’ and take a peep behind the lies and the shadows. Thus to expand your awareness naturally implies a greater sense of freedom since you would be able to meet yourself as a creator outside of the matrix rather than as an automaton within.
What all this means using simpler words is that by becoming more aware you become more free to choose what to experience and hence which reality to create.
That Incredible Lightness of Being
In our popular and collective imagination, freedom is a flight of fancy – it is being airborne and as light as a feather. Lightness is in fact forever tied with freedom and this is not just in our imagination, personal or collective, vivid or otherwise. They have a kindred spirit or rather they share the same essence.
In the English language, to be light has two meanings – to have little weight (or to be the opposite of heavy) or to actually be luminous and share the same property as light, the energy visible to our sense perception. I don’t think this is a semantic coincidence although etymologists can perhaps have a say on this. In any case, the notion of lightness is central to our experience of freedom or conversely, our freedom of experience.
When we are consumed by daily life with its trials and tribulations, we sink into an aura of heaviness. Our energies contract or get blocked from flowing through. So is the light of our consciousness. It partially obscures our vision on a life situation, on ourselves or on any problem. We feel we can’t ‘see through a given situation’ and in the most dire of circumstances, we feel engulfed in a heaviness and wrapped in a shroud of darkness.
This is where we experience lack of freedom on a soul level. It is when the light of our higher consciousness cannot fully merge into our waking consciousness and thus we feel cut off from the creative life force that surrounds us and lies within us. In other words we get separated from our real Self, from our inner freedom to be creators of our own destiny.
If this sounds familiar to you, it is because it is a familiar experience. We are all victims of our own disconnections with the Self. It is a bit like a shaky internet connection if I may use the analogy.
Sometimes we are connected and information is flowing through from the higher levels of our consciousness to our mind, brain and body. We are intuitive, responsive, fully engaging with life, without being swept away by its currents. We are in touch with life and we experience an incredible lightness of being which comes from the freedom of being aware which experiences to choose as we co-create our own destiny. It is an incredible refreshing and empowering experience.
Yet we often get connection problems. We disconnect, partially or completely, from the web of life. Our energies shrink and start spiralling inwards instead of outwards. They fall into a closed loop driven by the interplay of our swinging emotions and the trappings of our own mind.
Think about how consuming it is when you over-think or worry excessively on a problem. Your awareness becomes locked on a narrow circle of your life and this creates heaviness, pressure and depletes your inner resources. You become ‘dense’ as all of your energies are only confined to that narrow circle of life. Your vision contracts because you are only allowing light to be shed on that narrow inner circle. This is not the same thing as focusing your mind on something. It is not ‘spotlighting’ on the circle of life but rather turning off the light and communications from the larger whole – the full spectrum of your consciousness.
The Grand Soap Opera of Life
I often see this connection issue to result in a sort of a grand soap opera of life. You know those soap operas that have been running for over three decades. If you scrape them down to their shell they are just a long series of people falling in and out of love with each other. The same thing happens to us with life – we constantly fall in and out of love with it. One day we feel we have a promise of marriage and everything is blooming and expanding, another day we are going through a rough break-up and everything seems rolling down the gutter. It’s ironic and tragic-comical.
When we are in love with life, we remember our connection to it. We get moments of remembrance of our freedom as creators of our own destiny. We are empowered, flourishing with ideas and spouting positive energy through every part of our being. This is always accompanied by a sense of lightness of being in both senses of the word.
We are both alight and light. The lightness is also largely a cohort of space. You know when you have an object that has a lot of space cavities inside like a sponge or a cork. It is light because it has space. Even a hollow structure that has space inside is lighter than one that is solid.
This is the same thing with us. When we are deeply connected to life and our Self, we are creating space and this creates a lightness of being. Our energies are less ‘dense’ and are rarefied and subtler. People around us feel lighter too than when we are surrounded by a dense and heavy energy.
They can recognise their own space and freedom from that lightness. And in turn this creates more harmony in our relationships and between us and the outer world at large. In actual fact, there is more harmony because we would be harmonising subtle energies of people and things to match our own frequencies. It’s a kind of ‘entrainment’ between two or more systems when things eventually balance out by matching and syncing to one particular energy frequency.
Transparency and Projection
This incredible lightness of being is also when we feel our space of consciousness is transparent enough to allow ‘light’ to pass through – we become ‘enlightened’. We free ourselves from the denser and heavier energies and thought forms that obscure the light of our higher consciousness from shining through. We break free from the ‘veil’ which disallows us from seeing the world and our true nature with clarity.
This metaphor of the ‘lightness and darkness’ of consciousness is in fact, very deeply engrained in our different forms of expression and knowledge – from art, science, philosophy, mythology and religion – because it is a projected reality of our inner microcosm onto the outer macrocosm and vice versa. Another way of saying it is that we are projecting our inner freedom (or the perceived lack of it) onto our outer Universe and conversely reflecting the freedom and limitations of our external physical world into our inner world. This doesn’t mean that it is correct or exact. It is just the way humans have always related to their inner and outer world.