First and foremost you have to turn your mind’s attention inwards and begin exploring one’s inner world of internal sensation and imagination. This can be done in many, many, many ways.
But I suggest we turn our attention inwards with the intent of personally discovering all that we are, both as the exploring subject, and also all the internal phenomena that “I” will perceive and what conclusions I can infer—if any—from that experience.
The first thing we notice when we turn our attention inwards is that there is an inner world of objects, feelings, images, emotions, perhaps inner lights, perhaps flowing energies and many other things found within, such as bliss and ecstasy after a long while of “looking.”
We also discover that inner exploration involves basically three senses: Inner looking, a visual exploration; inner feeling which consists of feeling the physical and Subtle Bodies from the inside; and inner hearing, listening for any constant inner sounds that may be present.
If you are a visually-dominant person there is one set of phenomena you will first experience, namely an inner emptiness either dark or lighted. If you are primarily tactilely oriented, feeling the physical and Subtle bodies will be your priority experiences, along with many emotional experiences.
In any event, eventually you should know both inner worlds.
Inner hearing played very little part in my process, even though I cannot remember a time I was not aware of inner tones. Therefore I will not talk about it.
With inner “seeing,” mostly people will “look” inside and find only darkness.
A few people will look inside and find bits and pieces of light within, especially around the third eye, and sometimes around the heart.
The meditator is now ready to launch an inner exploration looking for all that I am, the sense of self, the sense of existence, also looking for the subject of the search, the searcher or looker, for they are not the same. The looker, the subject is not the same as the sense of me or the sense of “I am.” I’ll say no more here.
But over time, with an intent to “see” within, one gradually develops an inner “vision” as the inner dense darkness gradually gives way to seeing an inner, transparent “emptiness” where the darkness becomes illumined from an inner light, the so-called “light of Consciousness.”
For me, when I first looked within, I found a dense darkness except for a point of light between my eyebrows and inside my skull by about an inch and a half, the so-called Third Eye.
Over the next six months I gradually moved that spot of light downwards, expanding it, “pushing” the light downwards into my heart, then into my gut, legs, and then into the ground below and the space above my head until the entire inner space that I witnessed was totally lighted and transparent. This is key, for when this happens, you experience one’s illumined inner space as being an internal cognate of the external world’s space that we habitually live in. Inner space and out space are “seen” to be the same.
This vast inner space is often referred to by Buddhists as “Emptiness” or the “Void.” The perception is of a vast inner space that contains all inner phenomena such as of thoughts, emotions, images and imaginations. This is also where dreams are screened by that who we are ultimately.
We can now add “feeling” to this inner lighted world of Consciousness by learning how to feel the physical body from the inside. We can feel the sensations where the body touches the explorer’s chair or meditation cushion, and then begin to try to feel one’s arms, legs, feet, and hands from the inside without looking at them. Then one tries to feel anything in the area of the heart, such as “energies,” love, tightness or a balloon-like pressure.
This “feeling” exploration leads to beginning experiences of one’s Subtle-Body, one’s “energetic” body of flowing energies, flowing streams of affect, experiencing great Love, and also great emotions ranging from joy, to love, to fear, to a sense of the divine within.
Now we are really able to begin self-exploration by looking inwards for the sense of I-Am. This new exploration takes place within that vast inner Emptiness or Void that contains all subjective phenomena.
You might say that at this point we are now consciously seeking one’s Self.
At this point you will be able to clearly find after a bit, the sense of “I-Am,” floating somewhere, usually somewhere near one’s inner feeling of one’s heart, at first as a little energetic “buzzing,” and gradually as a full recognition of the sense of I-Am, that I-exist and am alive. Then you can truly say, “I am and I exist as energy, light, and love.” Or, “I am alive.”
You see, we are gradually discovering aspects of our inner world that are aspects of our Consciousness, not our personhood as a unique individual, but the nature of our Consciousness which is the same for all people.
At this point, you can be fully aware of the external world and also fully aware of the inner world. That inner world will consist of a vast inner light space, Emptiness or Void, which contains all inner phenomena, such as emotions, images, Subtle Body energies, vast Love in the heart, imaginations, dreams, thoughts, etc.
Also at this point, you will be aware of two apparent selves: the I-Am sense which we have been attending to, or abiding in, and the looker, or witness who has been watching this entire process.
t this point you might ask, what should I concentrate on, the sense of I-Am, or on the looker, the witness, the subject?
Here is where we can make the most profound discovery of all: That which I Am really, is it the sense of I-Am, or is it that which witnesses the I Am as a phenomena?
Here is the solution: You are both! As a phenomena within the inner world, you are Consciousness with the I Am as the core. But also you are the witness who has become more and more aware of one’s expanding awareness of the inner subjective world of I Am. This witness watches Consciousness and is not of it. It is beyond and separate from Consciousness, untouched by it, as the Absolute, as Parabrahman, while the I Am sense with space and light is the existential reflection of the witness, which we could call “Atman.”
It is at this point that you are truly knowing yourself and have many, many awakenings just waiting to happen, including realization of the no-self of the witness, the absolute separation of the witness from Consciousness which is seen as unreal, and finally, an explosive recognition of the I-Am and the divine Consciousness, AKA Krishna or Christ Consciousness, as one in a traditional awakening experience of a vast and explosive light and energy arising from within. The arising is so vast it blows you away so to speak, and one feels in the presence of God with power, love and bliss never experienced before, and a sense of great gratitude and humility before the divine energy (Shaki), and a sense of grace descending from above, with the greatest happiness and joy one has ever felt.
At this point the two selves merge as one. Witness, Parabrahman, is joined the bliss and energy of the I Am sense, AKA as Turiya, the Fourth State (Waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and Turiya), and one is pervaded by—at last—a profound sense of knowing who and what you are. This is an unshakable Knowingness that pervades your entire being, and you feel immensely powerful, as for the first time, you know who and what you are, and what you are has very little to do with who and what you thought you were before you started self-exploration.
For further explication please read:
The Nisargadatta Gita by Pradeep Apte.
The introduction found in the Master Key to Self-Realization by Siddharameshwar.
Consciousness and the Absolute, edited by Jean Dunn.
Self-Realization and Other Awakenings by Ed Muzika.