What does it mean to be Alert? When the notion of Alertness is mentioned at a conversation, people often tend to confuse it with being awake. Alertness is, however, not identical with being awake, since being awake is only one dimension of Alertness. It is the outermost dimension of Alertness, its surface only. In total, three dimensions of Alertness may be identified.
The Dimensions of Alertness
The surface, that is, the outermost dimension of Alertness is when the focus of attention is open the widest. Being Alert then means that now, in this very moment, with our eyes closed (or open) you pay attention to the processes of your inner world (bodily sensations, the stream of your thoughts, the shifting of your emotions), and the external world surrounding you (noises, scents etc. from the direct world around you). In such an instant you only focus your attention on what takes place in that very moment.
From the aspect of another, deeper dimension of Alertness it is a quality of your consciousness when you cease to evaluate, qualify and control the experience affecting you at that particular moment (disregard the functions of the mind) and, at the same time, you give up all your desires to control events. You have no expectations in connection with the given moment, you accept what is taking place, without making judgments, what is wrong and what is right for you.
The deepest dimension of Alertness is a state of Consciousness, the most important characteristic feature of which is the presence of the observing Consciousness, the capability of Sight. In this state of the Consciousness we, as an external spectator, view what is happening inside and around us, and we do not allow these events to take us with them, to affect us deeper. There is a virtual space between you as the contemplating Consciousness and the experiences affecting you. This space enables you to avoid identification with your experience and to look at that experience as an external spectator. Alertness is, at the same time, Presence, which means that your are not only aware of your current actions, but you are also aware of yourself. It is only possible to talk about real Alertness when all three dimensions are present at the same time.
The Notion of the Illusionary Self
In your present, individual state of consciousness you identify with the thoughts and emotions that appear in your mind, so you believe that you are a separate, illusionary person, an Ego. Living as an Ego in this world, you attempt to stabilize your illusionary sense of self. You believe that the more (knowledge, material wealth) you add to your Ego, the stronger and more permanent it will be.
Passing time will, however, prove you wrong, since the illusionary self is just a shape and as such is subordinate to the eternal law of the world of shapes and forms. The law is that of the law of change which stipulates that in that world, the world of shapes and forms, it is not possible to stabilize anything, as everything is in the process of constant changes. Your thoughts and emotions keep changing, and so does their centre, the Ego, with them.
Your sufferings are cause by the fact that you attempt to stabilize something that cannot be stabilized by nature. But you fail to recognize that, since you fully identified with the Ego, and forgot that you are in fact pure Consciousness, free of identifications.
An Unchanging Factor
There is, however, one factor that remains unchanged in your life through the years, and that is the sense that ”I am.” As a result of the identification with your mind and its functions, the emphasis shifts from ”I am” to ”I am this and that” (I am a man, I am American, I am a doctor, I am a father etc.).
The concept of ”I am this and that” is in constant change, as they are all bound to the objects of the forms and shapes. The only thing not subject to change, what is beyond ”I am”, is the formless Consciousness.
You must wake up from the deep stupor of identification, you need to become alert, because that is the only way for you to abandon your identification with the thoughts, the works of the mind, and that is how you are able to shake off your illusionary existence.
If you are alert, only the here and now exist for you, and you may discover the quiet Presence behind the illusionary and constantly changing small Ego, the ”I am” which in turn you may recognize as your real and unchanging Self.
This state of consciousness is characterized by deep silence and tranquility. When you submerge into this quietness, the duality between you and the world ceases to exist, and in that Presence you are amalgamated into one unity with the universe. That is how the emphasis is shifted from ”I am this and that”, that is, from the forms and shapes to ”I am”, that is, to the existence free of forms and shapes. Alertness thus becomes a form of existence for you.
If you identify with your thoughts and continue to live as an Ego, dreaming that you are already awake, then you will be content with the outermost dimension of Alertness. In this way, you will feel no urge to become fully awake, to be introduced into the deeper dimensions of Alertness. Consequently, you will find the fact that I see you sleeping utterly absurd, since you think that you are awake.
In that case, only a completely radical event that shakes your life all the way down to the foundations may alarm you from the dream of your identifications.
The Signs of Awakening
In these days it seems that identification with the forms and shapes becomes more and more superficial at an increasing number of people. In these people something from the deeper dimensions of Alertness appears to emerge.
If you are still reading this it means that these dimensions make themselves felt in your life too, so Consciousness is slowly awakening from the dream of isolation.
With the appearance of the deeper dimensions of Alertness, a gap is generated in you between the world of forms and shapes and the world without these, that is between ”I am this and that” and ”I am.” One of the signs that you are on the way towards awakening is when you begin to feel your current, limited existence, bound to your Ego is of very poor quality, and you begin to suspect that there are deeper, more profound mysteries behind your life.
Another sign of your awakening is the permanent restlessness, rooted in an unconscious desire. This desire comes from an ancient, long forgotten centre of your soul, from the deeper dimensions of Alertness.
The Ego lends a form to that unconscious desire by directing it towards an external objective in the world of forms and shapes. The objective is to become as perfect as possible within the limits of your external circumstances. You wish to include the stabilized, allegedly permanent Ego in that perfection as well. Naturally, you intend to achieve that goal some time in the future.
The mind, with which you currently identify, is full of currents and streams: thoughts and emotions come and go all the time. This is your present state of existence. The first signs of the deeper dimensions of Alertness loosen the glue of your identification with the mind, so you will be able to gain more and more experience of the free spaces of the Consciousness, and you recognize that you are not an isolated, small self, but the Consciousness itself.
Recognizing yourself as Consciousness is independent of all the activities of the mind. This recognition will only come if you have had some experience of the deeper dimensions of Alertness.