I offered a very quick pointer to someone the other day suggesting that as the awareness that is present as part of this human experience has no conditions it’s not a personal thing. She then asked if consciousness is everywhere. I didn’t have the time to provide a full response and only managed the briefest of replies; that this question is hard to understand as long as we’re looking from the point of view of a separate self or self-view as it’s called. It isn’t a hugely difficult question to field as long as we’re flexible enough to take a very open approach to it, so I thought I’d jot down a few lines to illustrate one way to tackle it. Please note this is not an attempt to express an absolute truth nor is it an attempt to manoeuvre you round to a particular viewpoint, it’s for reflection only.
One starting point to approach this is to consider the act of dreaming. Most of us are capable of remembering at least one or two dreams. In a dream we might find ourselves surrounded by an everyday environment, say a living room or office. We appear to be ourselves, in our bodies, surrounded by things. Upon waking we realise that this was an illusion, our bodies never left the bed in which we now lie. So the ‘dream body’ is a projection of sorts, isn’t it? But then so is every other thing in the ‘dream room’. None of the things are real and they’re all projected from the same source, aren’t they? So what makes you any more the ‘dream body’ in the room than the ‘dream chair’ on which you were sitting or the ‘dream window’ or any other object? If they’re all projected from the same source you’re all of them, or maybe you’re not really any of them.
What happens is we identify with the ‘dream body’ and it’s this process of identification that lies at the heart of the question. We may not be aware of this as a conscious choice but obviously we do, we say, ‘I had a dream’ and we recount the events as the dreamer having a set of experiences. It would be more accurate to say, ‘I was a dream’, wouldn’t it? You were born of the dream, that’s why you didn’t question it. Just as we’re born of this world and so don’t question it, at least apart from a few of whom you apparently are one.
Okay, so back to the ‘real’ world. For illustration only and to see this clearly we might consider that all that our senses take in is what we might call raw sense data, simple sensory input. What happens next is a process which we might label as perception by which this raw sensory data is interpreted by mind to create the objects and the world we see. Notice we’re not denying anything here we’re just noticing a process: data comes in, a world view is created. So we are each the creators of our world. Clever, isn’t it?
As the creator of our world it has been said therefore that the mind isn’t in the body but the body is in the mind. The body is in the mind because all of it is in the mind. From our perspective, our personal perspective this is a real, solid world – that is the way it appears to be. Realising that as nothing more than a point of view rather than truth might take a little work, not to say a little time but is a useful route to inquire along.
So to understand our original question clearly we have to first see that the world of separate things is a product of the process of perception, including all the people and other animate forms. The second thing we need to do is tie that to our realisation that awareness is not a personal thing and that the only thing that makes it personal is our act of identification, just like we were identified with the ‘dream body’.
What we see when we bring these two insights together is that the question, ‘Is everything conscious?’ is being asked from a place of identification with a form which is part of what we believe to be a world of separate forms – that’s our starting point, yes? But the problem lies in the fact that with this as our starting point the question can’t be answered with clarity.
Conversely when we realise that ‘separate forms’ is a projection and that awareness is not personal, not yours, not mine, we realise that awareness (or we might call it by other names: pure being, presence, Buddha mind etc.) is the real and everything else is an appearance – hence the question has no logical basis. So were you to ask this question of some guides, they might simply say, ‘Yes’ knowing what I’ve previously stated to be the case but that’s a bit of a short cut. It’s like giving the answer without showing the working out. What the simple answer hopefully does is encourage us to fill in the working out for ourselves; to inquire and look closely at this until it is seen clearly by the inquirer. So I guess that’s why so many helpful guides opt for fewer words rather than more, and on that note…