Awareness, in the way I define it with a capital A, is non-dual. There is no subject/object, no sense of self. Awareness is pure, primordial, Knowing (without a knower). You may ask, who is it that knows? But there is no answer. We might say that an organism without an identity knows.
In the same vein, there is thinking with a thinker, that is called consciousness, and there is a kind of thinking that is associated with Awareness, and this is called Knowing. Conscious thinking has a quality of intention and also a quality of clinging or grasping. The ego, I/me holds on to a thought, often with intention and sometimes without. This mental clinging can be conscious or sub-conscious, but it is always present in what I am calling consciousness.
The Knowing type of realization is without grasping, and even though it may seem to have a subject, it passes too quickly to even identify any temporary clinging that might have imposed itself. Thus questions like “who” thinks, “who” realizes, “who” clings are based on assumptions that there needs to be someone engaged in these processes.
This is difficult for us to imagine, but we can shift the assumption with a few simple exercises. The mother of a friend of mine has advanced Altzheimer’s disease. When my friends talks to his mom through his computer, she sees his face on the screen and becomes frustrated as she cannot feel his face on the screen. In her reality, he is there in the room, but she cannot get him out of the monitor where he seems to be trapped.
We are trapped in our own belief system of how things work. While our minds are convinced that we are in control of our lives, in fact, our thinking minds are hardly ever in control. Any beginning meditator will verify this simple truth—it is almost impossible to get the mind to cooperate with and follow “our” instructions.
Thus, we are compelled to ask, who am I, and we can return to the questions: who thinks, who realizes, who clings? The fact is that we are simply not who we think we are, but we insist on making false assumptions about who we are.
So, much of this comes down to the part of our minds that cling to thoughts in the hope that an identity will be formed that will yield some reality that will define who we are. But this identity keeps slipping away if we don’t continuously reinforce our own misperceptions about ourselves.
But if we are able to let go of the “who” question, we are left with the possibility of living in the immediacy and intimacy of each moment, dealing with whatever is happening in that moment. Thinking happens in an appropriate reflection of what is arising in that moment, without demanding, judging or criticizing the circumstances of that moment. There is a harmony in this kind of spontaneity, being with “what is” in the purest sense. This has to be directly experienced in order to appreciate it, for it is not something we can mentally transmit though description. Through practice, this harmonic balance will arise, for it is a natural result of simply allowing the mind to rest more and more, again and again.