Nobody falls asleep and nobody wakes up
There is something present which is experiencing the current situation. We do not know what that something is, yet we know for certain that it is present, that it is conscious.
We know that it is not the mind, the body or the world, because the mind, the body and the world are part of the current situation that is being experienced. The mind, the body and the world appear to this witnessing presence of consciousness.
If we try to find this consciousness, if we turn our attention towards it, we are unable to see it or find it, because it does not have any objective qualities.
If it had objective qualities, these qualities would themselves be part of the current situation that is being experienced. They would be experienced by this witnessing presence of consciousness. They would appear to it, along with all other objects.
At the same time, it is our direct experience that this witnessing presence of consciousness is undeniably present. It is our most intimate self. It is what we know ourself to be. It is what we call ‘I’.
The current situation is changing all the time. Even if the changes are minute, nevertheless from moment to moment we are presented with a different configuration of mind, body and/or world. However, this conscious witnessing presence, this ‘I’, never changes. It is always simply present, open, available, aware.
Due to the inadvertent and exclusive association of consciousness with the body and the mind, we tend to think that any change in the body and the mind implies a change in consciousness. However, if we look closely at our experience, we see clearly that we have never experienced any change in consciousness itself.
If we look back over our lives we see that this conscious presence has always been exactly as it is now. It has never changed, moved, appeared or disappeared.
* * *
The very first experience we ever had as a newborn baby was experienced by this witnessing presence of consciousness. Consciousness was present to witness this first experience, but did we ever experience the appearance of consciousness?
If the appearance of consciousness were an experience, there would have to have been another consciousness present to witness this appearance. And if the appearance of consciousness has never been experienced, what validity is there to the claim that consciousness appears, that it has a beginning, that it was born?
Likewise, have we ever experienced an end to consciousness? If we experienced the disappearance of consciousness, there would have to be another consciousness present to witness this disappearance.
This ‘new’ consciousness that witnessed the disappearance of the ‘old’ consciousness would have to be present during and after its disappearance in order to make the claim legitimately that it witnessed its disappearance. Therefore, we cannot claim that we ever have the experience of the disappearance of consciousness.
What validity is there, then, to our conviction that we, as consciousness, die? We experience a beginning and an end to all objects, but we never experience a beginning or an end to consciousness, to ourself.
We may think that consciousness disappears when we fall asleep and reappears on waking, but this is in fact not our experience. It is an uninvestigated belief. However, it is a belief that has taken hold so deeply and become so much a part of the accepted norm that we actually think that we experience the disappearance of consciousness when we fall asleep.
* * *
As we fall asleep, we first experience the withdrawal of sense perceptions or, more accurately, the faculties of perceiving and sensing. With the disappearance of perceiving, the world vanishes from our experience, and with the disappearance of sensing, the body vanishes from our experience, leaving only thinking and imagining. This is the dream state.
The thinking and imagining functions are in turn withdrawn and, as a result, the dream state gives way to deep sleep. In deep sleep, consciousness simply remains as it always is, open and aware, only there are no objects present within it.
Consciousness projects the appearance of the mind, body and world by taking the shape of thinking, sensing and perceiving. The process of falling asleep is not one of a separate entity transitioning through states. It is simply the withdrawal of this projection.
Due to the fact that we have so closely and exclusively identified consciousness with the body and the mind, we presume that the absence of the mind and body during the experience of deep sleep implies an absence of consciousness.
However, that is simply the mind’s interpretation of an experience during which it was not present. It is a presumption based on a presumption.
It is a presumption that consciousness is in reality exclusively identified with the body and the mind, and this in turn gives rise to another presumption, that consciousness disappears when the body and mind disappear on falling asleep and, by implication, when the body dies.
This is not our experience in the first case and there is no evidence to suggest that it will be our experience in the second. There is evidence that sentience disappears on death, but not that consciousness disappears.
* * *
After a period of deep sleep, the consciousness that was present there takes the shape of thinking and imagining and, as a result, the dream state reappears. And in turn, after a period of dreaming, consciousness takes the shape of sensing and perceiving and, as a result, the body and the world are recreated, that is, the waking state reappears.
If we look at deep sleep from the point of view of the waking state, it appears to have lasted a certain length of time, in the same way that the objects that appear in the dream and waking states appear to last for a certain length of time.
Time is the imagined duration between one appearance and another. There are no appearances during deep sleep, and therefore time is not present there. In fact, time is not even present in the dreaming and waking states, but at least the illusion of time is present in these states. In deep sleep not even the illusion of time is present.
Time, in the waking and dreaming states, is an illusion. In deep sleep, it is a presumption.
The language of the waking state is based on objects and time, and therefore, when we view dreamless sleep from the point of view of the waking state, we think that it must have lasted for a certain duration, because the mind cannot imagine timelessness.
The mind construes that the time it imagines to be real is an actual experience. It imagines that time is present in the absence of mind, in the absence of itself, and therefore imagines that deep sleep has duration. Deep sleep is therefore considered to be a state.
However, divested of duration, deep sleep is in fact the timeless presence of consciousness that is beyond, behind and within all states and, although it gives birth to the appearance of time, it is not itself in time. Our experience is that deep sleep is simply the timeless presence of consciousness that does not appear or disappear.
* * *
Does that which is present during deep sleep, or rather, that which is present asdeep sleep, disappear when the dreaming world appears? No! The dreaming world simply emerges within deep sleep, that is, within this timeless consciousness.
Does that which is present as deep sleep disappear when the world of the waking state appears? No! The waking world simply emerges within deep sleep, within this timeless consciousness.
The transition from deep sleep to dreaming to waking is seamless. In fact, it is not a transition at all. It is presumed to be a transition only from the point of view of the waking state, where a separate entity seems to transition from one state to another.
However, from the point of view of consciousness there is no transition; there is simply a flow of changing appearances, and sometimes no appearances at all, in its own ever-present reality.
That which is deep sleep, timeless presence, does not disappear in order for the dreaming and waking worlds to appear. It simply remains as it always is and, at the same time, takes the shape of the dreaming and waking worlds.
At no point in this process does a separate entity fall asleep or transition from one state to another. Nobody falls asleep and nobody wakes up.
When viewed from the perspective of the waking state, deep sleep is a state. When viewed from its own perspective, it is timeless presence.