Photo by mslori411
Photo by mslori411


“Awareness implies that you are not only conscious of things (objects), but you are also conscious of being conscious. If you can sense an alert inner stillness in the background while things happen in the foreground – that’s it! This dimension is there in everyone, but most people are completely unaware of it”. Eckhart Tolle – A New Earth


I wasn’t planning doing a second part to ‘Developing Awareness’ today, exactly following the first part. I was planning to let some other few articles in between.

However, I was flipping through pencil-written bookmarks and side notes I left on Tolle’s  book*, when I came across the verse quoted above.   It struck me a second time as being an important practical tip worth noting and sharing.

I would also love to hear your thoughts on this.


The alert stillness in the background:

This phrase says it all. For me it completely defines what I feel during mindfulness meditation.

It can be called stillness because your awareness feels still, centered, grounded and solidly whole but at the same time it is alert. Sounds like a contradiction but it isn’t.

The alertness comes from the freshness of being grounded in the present and the aliveness of giving soft attention to your surroundings and experience. You are there present with your being not floating in some hazy daydreaming or in anxious thoughts about things you have yet to sort out.

This alert stillness can be described to be in the background because it doesn’t come out in the forefront of your consciousness and awareness in any obvious way like thoughts or perception. It is subtle and sedimentary. It is felt when the constant stream of thought subsides and there is less intensity in the forefront (that is why some point at the ‘gap between thoughts’ as the access point to your inner awareness). The foreground noise is cleared and so the background signal emerges clearly.

When I first succeeded in having a proper mindfulness meditation experience it was nothing like I had previously expected. Before that day I had imagined that in a purely meditative state, the mind will be purely absorbed in nothingness as if no thought existed. When I then experienced a state of mindfulness meditation, I could exactly describe it as “an alert stillness in the background while things happen in the foreground.”

Thoughts were still happening in the foreground (although less in number and intensity) but they did not distract me or annoy me because my awareness was grounded in the alert stillness in the background.

Does this ring any bell to you whether in meditation or otherwise? Did you have any experiences of the alert stillness in the background?


Space Consciousness:

Tolle uses the concept of ‘space consciousness’ to describe this undercurrent of awareness.  Space consciousness can be distinguished in contrast to ‘object consciousness’.

Object consciousness is when your reality is fully anchored to the world of objects and believe that there is nothing more to it. It is unfortunately the reality of most people who take life at face value. For them the only concrete reality is that that of things, objects, thoughts and petty human conventions. There is nothing more than that.

“Space consciousness means that in addition to being conscious of things – which always comes down to sense perceptions, thoughts and emotions – there is an undercurrent of awareness.” A New Earth


This Dimension is there in everyone:

This awareness Tolle is pointing at is easily missed because of its subtlety yet it is there in every human being. It is there in you right now. It is always present there in the background but we are never taught to single it out. We take it for granted that outer reality and thoughts about that outer reality is everything there is.

If you do not have a concept of something, you can’t see it even if it stands right in front of you and slaps you in the face. We can only recognize patterns that we have a previous concept of. It’s the same thing with the awareness of our inner stillness – our space consciousness.

Since we are not guided into being aware of it, we never identify it even if I’m sure that everyone experiences it at some point in time.

The bottom line is this: If you have at least a foundation of it as a concept and recognize that it exists, the mind can more easily identify it when it arises.

The second step is watching out for it. I suggest using the observation on awareness I laid out in part 1.

Once you recognize it as part of your experience you know where to look for it next time because you would have opened up the space for that possibility. You would start having a ‘feel’ of your inner space – your space consciousness.

*(Even though I read the book some time ago I still keep it as a reference for some notes and concepts. The book was given as a gift by my special friend Valerie who I thank from my heart. )

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Gilbert Ross

    This is a heart touching comment! I am always very pleased to hear that my writing has resonated positively with my readers! 🙂

  2. Swarna Kumar Dhara

    My Dear Gilbert Ross,

    Your Developing awareness part-2, I find no apt word to appreciate and thank you – it is EXCELLENT.

    Though I came across this state several times, my consciousness could not recognize it as you said that “it won’t, even if it slaps on the face”, now you woke me up.

    This may be the hundredth blow on the rock to break, but this blow is worth deserving the grace of the ever shining purity.

    Swarna Kumar Dhara.

  3. the actual most comprehensive info I’ve found on this topic on the actual net. end up being back again soon to follow-up.

  4. Gilbert Ross

    Hi Miche,

    Thanks for your great comment! Mindfulness meditation is such a powerful thing for our quest to self-mastery and liberation that I always wonder why is mankind so blind of its richness and importance. I would expect that by now it ought to be a universally accepted fact and practiced since childhood in all schools in all countries. Alas this is not so but my heart is always lightened to hear of comments like yours from people who are so awake to the idea.

    you are always welcome here. Looking forward to see you again 🙂

  5. HI Gilbert, I’m fairly new here and very glad I discovered your wonderful blog! I’ve had a mindfulness meditation practice that I’ve done off and on (at times diligently, at others, not so much) since I was in my early twenties.

    I like this line:
    You are there present with your being not floating in some hazy daydreaming or in anxious thoughts about things you have yet to sort out.

    That sums up a lot. Our thoughts (along with our imaginations) take us away to so many places, that we’re literally not here, we’re somewhere else, totally.

    Through mindfulness practice I’m much better at arresting that process, even when I’m not meditating. But when I am, my experience is very similar to what both you and Tolle have written above. I’m there, in the stillness, a watcher to those things going on in and around me, but not carried away by them. And every once in a while, I momentarily dip below them, and merge with stillness. It’s wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing this, and I look forward to poking around more here and discovering your other content.

    Miche 🙂
    .-= Miche | Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Accepting Suffering and A Call for Compassion =-.

  6. Gilbert Ross

    Hi Char,

    That’s an interesting perspective!! In fact Carl Jung used to regard mandalas as diagrams of the integrated psyche and access points to our subconscious and higher self. Thanks for bringing this up!

  7. Gilbert Ross

    Thank you Eric. I am glad that the concepts in the article were of interest and insight to you…that is the objective of my work 🙂

    You got it perfectly right – space consciousness is the area from which intuition arises. but not only that – our creativity, our true and higher selves and our relation with the one. Keep in touch and thanks for dropping by.

  8. like the eye of the storm~

    your concept also reminds me of mandala creations and other such rituals, tools to help us Identify another way of being, and then knowing a Path to Return to it.

    must remember to come back tho, to share the treasures…

  9. Eric | Eden Journal

    Nice article. I just found your site from the guest post on Positively Present. I like the idea of space consciousness and the undercurrent of awareness. These terms are new to me, but it seems to me the space consiousness is the area from which intuition would arise. From the stillness that is there, but rarely recognized.
    .-= Eric | Eden Journal´s last blog ..The Open Mind Test – Part 3: Our Purpose in Life =-.

  10. Gilbert Ross

    Thanks Dani : ) I was a bit dreading it because I did not plan it at all and it just came spontaneous. So it’s good to hear that people liked it.

  11. Well said Kaushik!! It’s right here, right now and in everybody. You just need to experience it.

    there is no need to reduce it to a concept, I completely agree. However, eventhough a lot of people develop their inner awareness by experiencing it first hand, many others seem to miss it completely because their mind is set in a way that completely filters it out. They don’t have a conceptual space for it.

    In Tolle’s words, they have only object consciusness and not space consciousness. I might be wrong but I think that in this case, it would be very helpful to acquaint them to the idea by pointing at it or describing it.
    It’s not enough and it is superficial but it is necessary to guide the person to it.
    .-= Gilbert Ross | Soul Hiker´s last blog ..Developing Awareness – Part 2 =-.

  12. Kaushik

    It’s difficult to describe awareness because we would have to reduce it to an idea or concept. The good news is we don’t have to reduce it; it’s right here, right now, we just have to be still and experience it.

    Thanks for the pointer!
    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Getting into the flow of Awakening =-.

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