Mark Zegarelli
Mark Zegarelli

Insight 24:    
Consciousness has no space and no edge.

Where we're going, we don't need roads.

            Doc Brown, Back to the Future


In the previous insight, I asked you to consider consciousness to be the awareness that you are, understood as a field in which all of your subjective experiences and perceptions of the world arise.


Now, let's spend a little time focusing on the nature of this field.


One thing to notice is that the word field normally implies space. For example, a gravitational field is a space in which the force of gravity is present; a football field is the space where football is played. But if you examine the field of consciousness, it doesn't appear to consist of space in any measurable sense.


To check this in your own experience, focus now on the stream of thoughts that may be currently passing through your consciousness. Now, notice any two random thoughts – for example, Paris is in France and Meryl Streep has won several Oscars.


You can probably sense these two thoughts as separate, a word that normally means separated, with some space between them. But now, perform a little experiment: See if you measure, or even identify, the "space" between these two thoughts.


In my own experience, I find that when I perform this experiment, the field of consciousness stands revealed as something other than a spatial field. Although it superficially appears to me as a field that contains my perceptions and subjective experiences, when I inquire about the nature of this containment, I find that the key component of space is actually missing.


The insight that consciousness is a field that contains things in something other than space is odd enough. But if you now focus on that field and permit yourself to travel around inside it – in whatever way that traveling appears to happen – you may notice another peculiar aspect of consciousness.


It has no edge of any kind.


To verify this observation, first do a little exploring of your subjective experience. When I do this, I notice first that I can perceive individual feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations as distinct. Yet, at the same time, they all arise within the same consciousness, apparently without discrete compartments or barriers between them.


And when I extend this exploration to include perceptions, the same thing happens.


For example, I experience a memory about second grade roughly behind my eyes. I experience the feeling of missing someone I love as a little twinge in my chest. I experience an itch on my left elbow as localized in that spot. And I experience the perception of a tree out my window as out there in the yard.


But when I look for edges between or among these experiences, I can't find any.


Furthermore, as I look out the window towards the sky, and then imagine piercing beyond the sky into space, consciousness accommodates: I move from my perception of the sky seamlessly to an imagined vantage point looking down from "above" the solar system, then beyond to the edge of the galaxy, then beyond all galaxies, and beyond that, as far as I choose to go.


Putting all of these observations together, I find that consciousness is at once a realm of one space, infinite space, and no space at all.


And yet, somehow, because consciousness is the awareness that I am, I am somehow all of that.


And I'm forced to wonder how I've been missing this recognition for so many years when, as the mystics say, it has always been available.