The work to be present is in the direction of consciousness— that is, a special kind of perception independent of the activity of the intellectual mind, a perception of oneself: who one is, where one is and then what one knows and does not know. In the moment of consciousness there is the immediate impression of a direct perception. This is quite different from what we usually call “consciousness,” which operates more like a reflection faithfully accompanying what I experience and representing it in my mind.
When this consciousness reflects the fact that I think or feel something, this is a second action that, like a shadow, follows the first. Without this shadow I am unconscious of and ignore the original thought or feeling. If, for example, I am angry and beside myself, I only see it as long as I am aware of the reflection which, like a witness, tells me in a whisper that I am angry. The whisper follows so closely upon the preceding feeling that I believe they are one and the same. But it is not really like that.
Can we become conscious? It is all a question of energies and their relation, with each energy always controlled by a finer one that is more active, more animating, like a magnet. The energy used in our functions—our thoughts, our emotions, our sensations— is passive, inert. Spent in movements toward the outside, this energy suffices in quality for our life as higher animals, but is not fine enough for an inner act of perception, of consciousness.
Nevertheless, we do have some power of attention, at least on the surface, some capacity to point the attention in a desired direction and hold it there. Although it is fragile, this seed or bud of attention is consciousness emerging from deep within us. For it to grow, we need to learn to concentrate, to develop this capacity indispensable for preparing the ground. This is the first thing that we do ourselves, not dependent on anyone else. ~ J de S