WHAT IS AWARENESS / ATTENTION
We do not live alone, but
chained to an animal from another kingdom: our body.
God is simple presence, a stay-at-home in himself.
Meditation.dk's exploration and
understanding of the concept of 'awareness' builds upon the
almost overly simple, banally familiar Western thoughts about
humans as instinct-based animals. By revisiting what we believe
we have already seen and understood with fresh eyes, we can
rediscover the unknown aspects that we overlooked in the known.
At least, that is my goal.
We habitually reside in the dark body world behind the skin, but
we don't really know it. Discovering and exploring this total
unknown as a young person, and continuing throughout my life,
transformed my existence. I realized how shockingly little I was
aware of and how little control I actually had over my own life.
Although this inner bodily life is almost unknown to most of us,
it is anything but foreign. The unknown remains unknown because
we think we know it. In constant self-remembrance, this truth
will be repeated as a mantra on Meditation.dk.
The Potato Sack
We block information when we receive information. Let me
give an example. I was a tour guide for 30 tourists in Northern
India. We were driving in a ramshackle bus by Western standards
at breakneck speed through cows, goats, endless crowds of
people, and vehicles that mostly resembled props from the movie,
Planet of the Apes. Bus travel in Northern India is like being
trapped in a fractal, where the same decayed roadside-bombed
village with the same dark-skinned people with dark hair and
dark eyes in a spiraling eternal chain dance keeps reappearing
hour after hour, no matter how much the driver accelerates to
escape this karmic cycle of dusty roads that will never end. The
goal is Nirvana, in the form of our hotel's clean and orderly
freedom from all things Indian. (Even this five-star order turns
out to be Maya, an illusion that reveals itself in the sound of
the first cockroach crushed underfoot on the bathroom floor.)
During such a trip, a tourist struggled up through the winding
bus with a question: About half an hour ago, we drove through a
town where a woman on the roadside was carrying a large sack.
What was in that sack? Without hesitation, I replied: There were
potatoes in the sack.
The guest was satisfied with the answer and returned to his
seat. Time and time again, during my 10 years as a tour guide in
the East, I experienced how the Western mind is conditioned to
receive 'explanations' that, in reality, explain nothing or are
insignificant, such as when a tour guide piles up irrelevant
details about how many bricks there are in a particular
building. When delving deeper, questions are asked that directly
relate to the familiar home life but are infinitely irrelevant
in an Indian's world. Especially in India, I received many
foolish questions that led to even more improvised foolish
Explanations Explain Nothing
I realized that it was actually India's
insane unpredictability that gave rise to this need for explanations. Through
'explanations', the content of which no one was interested in or at best had
forgotten half an hour later, India's anxiety-inducing incomprehensibility was
dispelled. This country's chaotic mathematical metabolism exposed to me the fact
that logical explanations can be just as effective as religion in keeping the
unfathomably incomprehensible incomprehensibility we find ourselves in at bay.
No one wants to waver in their faith in the cosmos by worrying about what Atlas
stands on, let alone what the Indian turtle, supporting the elephants, stands on
India is a great place for self-discovery. For the country's wonderfully
bustling life can be seen by the fortunate as a mirror reflecting the chaos that
exists within ourselves.
Now, after many years of staying in India, I will attempt to describe the troll
that holds up the turtle, without dismissing it by calling it a potato. The
astonishing thing is that this troll hides within ourselves, beneath our skin,
in our own bodies. It can only be found and exposed when, with eyes tightly
shut, one gropes blindly for the hidden within the obvious.
This exploration takes place as a dissection of our internal bodily life - a
life so close that we usually don't give it a second thought. Here, the
passionate meditator will encounter themselves as pure awareness in a bodily
ocean of nameless sensory waves.
Oh Friend! Understand
The body is like the ocean
Rich with hidden treasures.
Open its innermost chamber
and light its lamp
THE TWO FORMS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
On Meditation.dk, a distinction is made between two forms of
AWARENESS & CONSCIOUSNESS
This definitional distinction between consciousness and
awareness can, to some extent, be compared to the Indian mystic
Nisargadatta Maharaj's distinction between awareness and
Awareness is primordial; it is
the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change. Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality. There can be no consciousness without awareness, but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep. Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content; consciousness is always of something. Consciousness is partial and changeful, awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent.
And it is the common matrix of every experience.
- I AM THAT
A tree is a
good illustration of these two operating systems:
Your deepest roots are in nature.
what you are, where you live,
or what kind of life you lead,
you remain irrevocably linked
with the rest of creation.
The consciousness crown of the
human tree is visible, but a large part of the tree's life is
lived in darkness underground.
In short, the difference looks like this:
● Consciousness knows - in luminous, remotely sensed cognitive
● Awareness senses - in sleeping, bodily close-sensed darkness.
I define consciousness as a term for the brain's most recently
evolved and, thus, genuinely awake operating systems. It is
likely that the development of consciousness accelerated when
humans began to use language.
I see awareness, in line with Nisargadatta, as 'primordial'.
From an evolutionary perspective, life developed awareness
before waking consciousness. In the bodily and dark-growing
sensory root system of awareness, our ancient biological world
mass lives. Awareness is used on Meditation.dk as a collective
term for all the archaic, rudimentarily sleeping, and
semi-waking forms of consciousness that preceded our current and
most recently evolved waking consciousness. Consciousness may be
50,000 years old. Awareness ruled in all the ages of life that
came before. Awareness is my collective reductionist term for
the various bio-operating systems associated with our older and
oldest biological life - yes, all the way back to the
single-celled life forms in the Precambrian primal ocean.
The attentive, sleeping
We sense attentively. We feel our sensations. We experience
in awareness. We become aware of ourselves and the world through
sensations. Fundamentally, humans are remarkable sensing animals
in their attentive awareness. A dog is just as aware as a human.
Awareness-based survival responses rule in the twilight
landscapes, almost unknown to consciousness, between sleep and
waking. In the gray zones between sleep and waking, countless
archaic operating systems of awareness live, recycling outdated
genetic bio-software, making us the living landfill we are, seen
in loving misanthropy at our core.
A sleepwalker is fully aware but not conscious. Human awareness
systems can be compared to computer algorithm-controlled high
technology that can effectively navigate a Tesla car in traffic
Primeval attentive close-sensing versus modern conscious
Close-sensing, such as touch, taste, and smell, is primarily
managed by the older control systems of awareness. The most
recently evolved waking consciousness is more 'hardwired' with
remote senses. In particular, the sense of sight is connected
with waking consciousness, where we can clearly perceive things
while awake. The sense of sight is, therefore, humanity's most
conscious sense. We are usually much more aware of what we see
and realize than what we feel. That's why we only become aware
of our feelings once we've realized them. Even the sense of
hearing is subject to the obvious dominance of sight. As a music
teacher, I've often heard the thought-provoking phrase: Have you
seen that concert?
To put it bluntly, the difference between consciousness and
awareness is the difference between perceiving remotely and
In the following, I will blindly grope for the invisible 'God'
of awareness that lies buried in the 'sensual' darkness of our
I am certain as I live that nothing is so close to me as God.
God is nearer to me than I am to my own self;
my life depends upon God's
being near me,
present in me.
An infant develops
best in unlimited attentive close-sensing contact with the mother. Sensing
awareness develops before consciousness in a person. An infant is
undifferentiatedly attentive. Consciousness only begins to develop along with
language at the age of two or three. The dog and child in the above illustration
are not truly consciously awake, but fully aware.
The attentive skin
A human being has so many skins inside,
covering the depths of the heart.
We know so many things,
but we don't know ourselves!
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides,
as thick and hard as an ox's or bear's,
cover the soul.
Go into your own ground
and learn to know yourself there.
Our existence as linguistic individuals in waking
consciousness has not lasted longer than a snap of the fingers one second before
midnight. 'The Word' was certainly not in the beginning. It came much later. We
have covered the vast majority of our evolutionary journey sleeping as mute
stones and dreaming plants.
The 'foretold' language
Despite the young age of words, they are often wiser than us who speak them.
For sometimes language hides the slumbering truths concealed in the simple that
we ourselves cannot tell, but can only 'foretell'.
Let's try to get under the skin of the following everyday and all too familiar
'Do you feel comfortable?'
Our fundamental existence is primarily tied to feeling. To be is, first and
foremost, a feeling: a sensed sensation that reigns from the borders of the skin
to the inner bodily spaces.
The possible answer to the first question is just as interesting in its
'Yes, thank you... I feel in a good mood!'
The 'I' tells of a 'me' who feels comfortable. The basic task of the 'I' is to
protect and tell about its hidden little brother within: the feeling 'me'. Me
has feelings. I tell about them - to ourselves and to others.
We all have a Mini-me. He is hidden inside behind the skin.
Me and I
Her er mini-mig sluppet ud
Feeling and sensing are fundamental to
our existence. What was the first thing that 'felt' in us?
Skin sensing and cell membranes
What is the oldest operating system in the human organism? Which sense first
emerged from the ancient cellular organisms' evolutionary tree? My guess is that
attentive skin sensing is, from an evolutionary biology standpoint, our oldest
sense. Skin sensing is the most fundamental aspect of humans' interaction with
the outside world. Cells in the primordial ocean did not see, hear, or smell
anything, even after they formed the first types of symbiotic life. These cells
did not see the light, but they noticed the heat from it in the form of
close-sensed information from their cell walls. They sensed the world, and
through responses to this sensing, they survived. The older a biological
survival system is, the more it will be anchored in unmediated bodily close
If a cell could understand and speak words, it would recognize the description
of skin's sense of touch and might say: that's precisely how it feels out by my
cell walls' protective ramparts! These single cells were small fortresses with
protective walls around them, protecting even older forms of life, such as
mitochondria. When these cells joined together in symbiotic alliances through an
outer ring of sensory defense, they developed the beginnings of the extended
hard skin that, through aeonic time in struggle, enabled them to survive as
This type of close sensing is most closely related to the Precambrian primal
cells' defense against annihilation: the fortified cell wall. Later, when cells
discovered how to join together in symbiotic alliances, they carried this
earliest genetic memory with them and, based on it, created a common 'cosmotic'
defense against chaos in the form of skin. In this sense, cells' osmotic
membranes are the recycled ramparts of attention from our original primordial
home. From their biological palisades, skin sensing systems have defended
pre-human and later human cell federations against attacks for billions of
Skin sensing is more closely tied to the eternal question of survival: death...
or life? Even very primitive animals possess a sense of touch. Poke a worm with
a sharp stick and observe it. Then poke a human and observe the reaction. Both
reactions are about simple survival. Above all, we have been attentive to
survive. Attention detects danger through the body's senses. If someone
unexpectedly pokes us, our first reaction will be as old as the worms of the
Cambrian period. The closer a threat comes to the body, the stronger the
survival response will be.
Our Skin Tells Us What We Feel
From worms to humans, the sense of touch is our body's largest and most
important sensory organ. Unlike other sensory organs, our skin covers our entire
body surface. Through the skin's millions of tiny nerve endings, we receive
information about our surroundings in the form of countless sensations, with the
most important being warmth, cold, pain, pleasure, and various impressions of
touch. Human skin senses the world in the same way as the world's first skin:
the cell membrane.
The Outer and Inner Skin
We not only feel the world around us, but we also feel ourselves. Our inner
emotions are intimately connected to our body's basic sensing of the world
around us. We can feel love, but we can also simply feel an itch on our skin.
Our attention is both introverted and extroverted. Our skin feels...and so do
we. The inner world's near-sensations are so closely related to the skin's outer
sensations that we even use words describing our skin's interaction with the
outer world to express our inner experiences. My skin can be irritated, and so
can I. The intimate connection between skin and emotions is also evident when we
blush due to strong feelings.
The Skin's Narrated Emotions
In the following examples, we will see how words borrowed from the outer
skin's sensory language transform into expressions for inner sensations through
the thoughtful interpretation of our consciousness. The verbalization of our
body's inner life reuses words from the skin's interaction with the outer world.
We can be emotionally affected by situations, feeling touched, weighed down,
squeezed, marked, or struck. Like our skin, we can feel irritated, pressured, or
hurt. We describe people who are particularly emotionally sensitive as
thin-skinned. We can be brutally honest or thick-skinned to the point where we
don't listen to others. An experience or person can get under our skin, or we
can wear our emotions on our sleeve. We can be soft or tough-skinned. We can
also feel exposed to pressure. We talk about an atmosphere being tense or
relaxed. The skin can also detect heaviness/lightness and warmth/cold, so we can
feel heavy or light-hearted, and we can have warm or cold emotions. We can burn
with love or anger, and we can be ice-cold towards someone we don't like. All
these introverted, skin-narrated words are so closely sensed that we easily
become touchy because we can't distance ourselves from them.
It should now be clear that attention in the context of Meditation.dk is
primarily tied to the sensing skin. In the realm of awareness, humans are first
and foremost skin-sensing, emotional beings. However, it seems that our waking
consciousness does not fully acknowledge this, but instead allows the skin to
The Ancient, Incomprehensibly Fast, and
Would I have a God whom I could understand, I would no longer hold him for
We are made of reincarnated bio-software. The most
ancient coding in this recycling is our 'urge' for survival. It is the reason we
are still here. All previously functional Darwinian biological experiences, from
the primordial soup onward, are preserved as fundamental building blocks in our
current biological architecture.
We are neck-deep in our body's sensed attention.
And we are not aware of it... It's simply mind-blowing!
The Indian mystic Kabir says he laughs when he hears that the fish in the sea
are thirsty for water. The sensing body's overwhelming and vital presence is to
consciousness like the air we breathe. We take it for granted until the moment
it becomes inaccessible. Attention is incomprehensibly simple. It is the dark
matter in our galactic microcosm.
Attention Beyond Words
An enormous part of our mature experience
cannot be expressed in words.
Alfred North Whitehead
In unknowing knowing shall we know God."
In a way, Wittgenstein was right when he said:
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Tractatus
There is nothing beyond language. At least that's how it appears to the
linguistic consciousness itself. The paradox is that even though the simply
sensed existence of attention is overwhelmingly fundamental, our intellectual
minds float around like disembodied consciousness balloons filled with word gas.
Our Talking Heads are not aware of the extent to which they have grown out of
the body's cellular sensory realm.
The Unfathomably Fast Attention
Picture this: spotting a tiger from a distance or hearing
its roar. In such a situation, there's time to react, flee, and
maybe even devise a thought-based strategy to maximize your
chances of survival. Now imagine feeling the tiger's bite up
close. Once the sensation reaches our body, it's the last call
When I discovered a snake under my bed in India, my body
instantly tensed up in fear. This happened a split second before
my conscious mind realized it was only a rope I had seen.
What does this reaction tell us?
Our attention responds before our conscious mind knows what's
going on. The unconscious aspect of our attention is directly
proportional to its reaction time. One reason for attention's
fundamental incomprehensibility is the speed at which it
processes sensory data—far faster than the conscious mind, which
must analyze and understand a situation before it can act.
Pure attention triggers reflex mechanisms that instinctively
evaluate potential threats to survival. We're attentive the
moment before we're conscious. For millions of years, this split
second has determined the difference between life and death. Our
animalistic attention operates at lightning speed, enabling us
to react reflexively and intuitively much faster than our
conscious mind can.
If I accidentally sit on a hot stovetop, I can be thankful that
my attentive operating system has time to react before my
conscious mind analyzes the situation. Analysis is essential,
but there's a time and place for everything. In exchange for its
slower pace, our analytical consciousness offers a more
extensive repertoire of flexible and intelligent survival
scenarios. As our consciousness expanded, this trade-off made us
The Unfathomable and Ancient Proximity of
The more we can impute to Him
(God) not-likeness, the nearer do we get to understanding Him. -
A crucial characteristic of the attention control
system is the fundamental closeness that existed from the cell nucleus to the
cell wall. Sensations of touch still carry this survival experience from their
meeting with the ocean in their basic programming. As a result, the
symbiotically sensing cell walls of human skin are, in all their superficiality,
closest to our "soul core."
In the past, I was young. In my youth, I am old, but deep down, I still feel
young. We are like trees. What is chronologically farthest from us is closest to
our core. The older a control system is, the closer it is to our existence as a
cellular living primordial ocean. Precisely because of this age-related
proximity, 'primitive' sensations and emotions are unconscious. The older the
layers of attention activated, the closer they are, and the less awake we are.
Anger, fear, hunger, sexual desire, lust for power, love - all these sensations
bubble up from the dark sea of attention, causing even the best of us to commit
God is close to us, but we are far from Him.
God is within, but we are outside. God is at home; we are strangers. - Meister
The majority of our lived life takes place in the
abstract near-sensing of attention, outside of consciousness's 'television.' The
non-dual and non-spatial closeness of the sense of touch makes it challenging
for consciousness, due to its far-sightedness, to read the body's signs.
Consciousness continually tries to keep the body at a distance to conceptualize
and understand attention, but even all the world's combined poetic writings have
only put into words a fraction of the body's inner sensory space. It's as if
consciousness isn't fully aware that we are already living without it, and
before we put words to our existence, we could tell ourselves and others that we
were happy, angry, fearful, loving, etc.
However, there are even deeper
layers of unconscious attention than 'emotions'. There are
primordial layers of abstract sensing that govern everything
from the rhythm of our heartbeat to the snake dance of our
intestines. These sensations occur in a kind of oblivion, which
can be compared to when I play finger games on my guitar in a
'forgotten' form but can no longer remember what my fingers are
An electrically tingling sphincter muscle
In addition to the well-known arsenal of verbalized
emotions, there is a massive presence of sensations in the inner
body that have never been named. Only a small part of the realm
of attention has been colonized by consciousness with words. For
example, in our common vocabulary, there is no adequate term for
an electrically tingling and tense sphincter muscle.
Nonetheless, this is something many people experience daily.
Around the tailbone, there is a range of intense but almost
unconscious sensations, which stem from the time when we had a
tail. One could continue a journey through the inner wild west
of the body.
For evolutionarily speaking, we have (sur)vived for millions of
years with attention's wordless, recognition-less, and therefore
'I'-less operating system. We still live up to our necks in the
wordlessness of worms.
Here, in the incomprehensible life of my sphincter muscle, I
find the way into Meister Eckhart's God. He resides timelessly
and without distance as living sensory waves from the primordial
ocean within my own body:
God is simple presence, a stay-at-home in himself
Deep within 'me', the universe's background radiation is still
present in the form of the cells' gentle primordial bubbling. To
make this blissful bubbling conscious is to live in God's
You can verify these claims through introspection. Any serious
meditator who spends half an hour a day sitting down and
scanning their inner body will discover an almost infinite sea
of different sensations, which, like the universe's dark matter,
are almost wordlessly unknown
I am certain
as I live
that nothing is so close to me as God.
God is nearer to me than I am to my own self;
my life depends upon God's being near me,
present in me. So is he also in a stone,
a log of wood, only they do not know it.
If the wood knew of God and realized his nearness
like the highest of the angels does,
then the log would be as blessed
as the chief of all angels.
At Meditation.dk, the Holy Grail
can be found when meditatively cultivated super-awareness
bypasses the linguistic ego's inflated bubble and reaches deep
into the living mystery of life as it unfolds on the primordial,
It is possible to reach the preconscious sensations of
attention. In Meditation, especially boosted by entheogens, the
courageously introverted explorer can experience the bodily
mystery of the primordial ocean in yet unnamed depths.
Experiencing this insight in super-awareness requires no words.
To convey this insight through this limited digital medium, new
arrangements of words are necessary.
In Meditation, God's nearly invisible and imperceptible cellular
background is brought to the foreground, while our individual
ego-life's foreground instead becomes a flower on the wallpaper.
Here, in the muddy waters of the primordial soup, I see not
language but the very genesis of language's octagon in the
Darwinian MMA of life.
GOD IS SKIN
When such introspection turned the evolutionary family tree
upside down, the following revelation unfolded: As sensing
systems, we are both expansive interfaces and enclosed storage
spaces for a colony of cells working together. The skin's
tactile surface is the line of control. It has clothed the inner
collective world with a protective, yet osmotic boundary that
defines it in relation to an outer world.
The operational reality of attention unfolds as an eternal
negotiated process, created at a crossroads where humans, seen
as an inner universe, navigate for survival in an outer
The undiscovered by consciousness, but infinitely massive
micro-life is 'GOD'. No image in the outer world resembles this
dark cellular life of God more than the sight of the universe's
stellar smile on a starry night.
We are a cellular alliance connected via the sensory tunnel
bridge from a cellular microcosm to a galactic macrocosm. Just
as inner and outer sensing share language, the inner cellular
world and the outer star world share the same mathematical
algorithms. Everything consists of recycling the same sacred
mathematical truths that repeat themselves from the infinitely
large to the infinitely small.
As above, so below, as within,
as the universe, so the soul.
Go into your
and learn to know yourself there.