Is the word 'consciousness' the most accurate way of pointing to our experiencing?

Is the word 'consciousness' the most accurate way of pointing to our experiencing?


Living in the moment without thoughts about the moment, I was reading your book and completely related to the observation that objects appear in our thoughts and senses. However, when you refer to consciousness, that too sounds like an object, which did not resonate with me. Thoughts, a tree, my own body, or even a concept are, at least to me, all objects (nouns).

It does appear (at least to me) that we are more the experience itself than what we think about that experience. Furthermore, it seems to me, the experience is not ‘ours’. It is that of consciousness (as I believe you say). Thus, if I understand your choice of words correctly, using the word ‘consciousness’ to refer to what/where ‘I’ is, is just replacing one noun with another, one object with another, subjecting themselves to our understanding, analysis, quantification and qualification, and that, of course, immediately takes us out of the immediate experiential moment into one of reflection, anticipation, etc.

Thus, it seems that a more accurate description of our experience would be something more along the lines of a process. That process appears to us howsoever it does in any given moment, but does not necessarily mean that our experience of it reflects what may ‘really’ be going on. I just wish I could find a verb to better reflect that process, rather than rely on a word (consciousness) which sounds like just one more object which I know is coming from my head.

Bob Polis


Dear Bob,

Thanks for your email. It may seem that, due to the limitations of language, the word ‘consciousness’ (being a noun) may suggest that it is an object. However, consciousness is not an object; it is that which is aware of all objects. That would make it a subject.

However, even that is not true, because a subject distinct from its object would also be some kind of an object. Therefore, consciousness, or ‘I’, is truly beyond the subject–object. The mind simply cannot go there, let alone adequately express it, because the mind is itself an object and has no access to that which is prior to itself.

So two alternatives are open to us. The first is to remain silent on the subject and just live one’s experiential understanding from moment to moment, expressing it in all one thinks, feels and does. The second is to use the rather clumsy, abstract symbols of language as sensitively and creatively as possible in an attempt to express that which can never be truly expressed in words and yet is, strangely, the only ‘thing’ that is ever being expressed.

What is unique about the word ‘consciousness’ (and any of its synonyms, such as peace, happiness and love) is that it points towards that which is not a noun or an object, towards that which truly is, in contrast to words such as ‘tree’, ‘body’ or ‘concept’, which all point towards objects which are never actually experienced as such.

In this way it could be said that the word ‘consciousness’ (and any of its synonyms) is the only true noun because it indicates that which is real rather than that which is imagined. Having said that, I am not advocating the use of the word ‘consciousness’. It is just one of many ways of trying to indicate the nature of reality which is beyond all words.

In that respect, to try to find a verb rather than a noun is very legitimate. We might say something like aware-ing, knowing (not conceptually), table-ing, chair-ing, laptop-ing, sky-ing, but even that is not really accurate. Sooner or later we fall silent!

With kind regards,


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