The field of awareness includes perception, which is everything I know about the objective world.
"That's what I am,” said Mucho, “right. Everybody is."
Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
Throughout these insights, I've taken care to maintain a working distinction between external objects and subjective experiences.
External objects are things that both you and other people can directly experience – objects, animals, other people, and so forth – while internal experiences are things that only you can experience – such as bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts.
The body itself sort of straddles the line. For example, your hand is an external object that anybody can see or touch, but that only you can feel from within.
As we've gone more deeply into who you are as the unchanging, ever-present awareness of all these things, this distinction has become somewhat unimportant. During most of this inquiry, external objects and subjective experiences have, all together, formed the everything else that awareness is not.
In the previous insight, however, I re-established this distinction, specifically referencing subjective experience.
I've done this to help give you a way of understanding awareness not so much as a separate, tiny, sun-like entity that is separate from subjective experience, but rather as the field of awareness that contains subjective experience.
But there is one important further step we need to take in order to unify this understanding.
To do this, consider everything in the universe that you would normally think of as an external object. This includes your body to the extent that it's observable by others, as well as everything else that could ever be observed either by you or another person.
Now, realize that everything you know about any of these things has entered your awareness by way of your five senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – that is, via one perception or another.
For example, you don't directly experience a flower. Rather, you experience your perception of that flower. This may be a visual perception of its color and shape, a tactile perception of its texture, an olfactory perception of its scent, or some other type of perception involving one of the five senses.
Perceptions – like bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts – are personal experiences that occur within awareness.
As such, your perception of a flower – as, say, orange – can't be directly shared with another person or compared with a similar perception that they are having.
So, we can tritely observe that although you and I may agree that a flower is orange, there's no way to verify that my perception of orange is the same as yours.
Thus, once again – and this time, with a certain finality – the distinction between external objects and subjective experiences has been erased.
I can only know what's normally called the external world as a set of perceptions. And these perceptions occur within the field of my awareness in much the same way as do my subjective experiences, such as bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings.
There's just one thing more I'd like to add here. It's a relatively unimportant distinction, but I think it may become useful.
Up until now, we've been using the word awareness to tease out a new and perhaps more useful way to answer the question Who am I?
Until arriving at the previous insight, we'd identified awareness as local and specific – a dot, a point, a sun-like particle, and so forth. We did this so that you could always separate out yourself from any experience you may have been having and, perhaps, confusing for who you are.
But now, I'm positing a view of awareness not as an infinitely small point around which all experience occurs, but as an infinitely large field within which all experience occurs.
So, even though this is essentially the same awareness that we've been talking about all along, I would like to begin using the word consciousness specifically to refer to awareness as such a field.
If this all seems workable to you, move on to Insight 24.