The key to experiencing oneness with fundamental consciousness is making the mind subtle through practice. I'll describe exactly how to do that at the end of this post, but for now, let's learn more about what happens in the process.
When the mind is subtle, it is able to recognize the difference between mind and consciousness. Until then, the two are often confused (as they commonly are in neuroscience and psychology) and a case of mistaken identity happens.
The difference between mind and consciousness has to be not just an intellectual understanding, but a direct perception. For that perception to be clear, reflection, meditation, and other practices are helpful. Each person will be unique in their practice. It's popular now to suggest that no practice or preparation is needed to know oneself, and to some extent that's true, but my view is that practice is helpful to keep the mind clear. It is possible to glimpse reality without practice, but who wants only glimpses? Without the mind being subtle, it is easy to misunderstand new experiences, get sidetracked, or stagnate.
As the mind becomes subtler, it progresses through stages of understanding. The following can be used as points for reflection and contemplation, including journaling.
1. What we call the body is actually an aspect of our personal mind.
What we call 'me' and 'you' are personal, individual minds. The outer layer of the personal mind is what we call the body. The inner layer includes more subtle aspects, such as thoughts, feelings, desires, and the sense of localized identity. Therefore what we call the body is itself an aspect of the personal mind. It is an image within the personal mind.
This stage of understanding is important to get beyond the first veil of dualism, which is the false idea that the physical body is somehow separate and different from mind.
2. What we call my mind and your mind (which includes our bodies) are parts of the one total mind that contains all experiences of all sentient beings.
I don't have access to all your experiences, just as you don't have access to all my experiences. Similarly, we don't have access to the experiences of a grasshopper or an elephant. This means that there is some sort of boundary around our personal minds that keeps them separate.
My sense of identity is localized to my thoughts, my feelings, and my body. But remember that the sense of identity is fickle. In a dream, my identity shifts from this mind to the dream mind. When I sleep, identity disappears altogether. So even the sense of my-ness in the form of my mind and my experiences is itself an aspect of the mind. The boundary that separates me, you, the elephant, and the sofa in the living room is mental in nature. It is an appearance like everything else.
This stage of understanding is important to get beyond the second veil of dualism, which is the false idea that my mind is somehow fundamentally different from your mind, other minds, and the apparent things in those minds. Beyond the sense of personal identity, we are one organism, one mind filtering through individual lenses, just as the dream-mind appears as different characters, objects, and scenes…
The full text of this article is available in the upcoming book “Is This A Dream?” Please subscribe below for updates on the book’s release and free content. Thank you.
Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Follow him @DrAnoopKumar.