When we discern the inner field that is the soul or individual consciousness, we experience it as presence, independent from and more fundamental than all the content of consciousness and all characteristics of subjective experience. When we recognize pure consciousness, then, what we become aware of is the process of consciousness, its existence, its truth.
The presence—the “hereness,” the “beingness” of consciousness—is not something extra to consciousness; neither is consciousness an extra property of this presence. This is one of the primary discoveries in the inner journey: Presence is always consciousness, and pure consciousness is always presence.
This is similar to how photons are always light, and light is always photons. It is not that photons have the extra property we call light, or light possesses an extra property we call photons. Light and photons are two names of the same thing, emphasizing two different ways of viewing the same reality.
When we apprehend consciousness in itself, independently of the function of consciousness of objects, we experience presence. The term field of consciousness is an attempt to describe the presence of the soul. Furthermore, as we recognize that consciousness is fundamentally presence, the knowledge of our depth begins to open up.
Recognizing presence teaches us a great deal about consciousness, soul, and essence of soul. In this recognition, we can know ourselves in our fundamental mode of existence. We begin to see, perhaps for the first time, that what we are is more fundamental than all the content of our experience. We are more fundamental than our sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, images, symbols, ideas, concepts, and so on.
We awaken to our essential nature, which is more fundamental and more basic than our body, heart, and mind. We experience the fabric that is necessary for the existence of all that we have taken to be ourselves. We begin to recognize our real self, our soul.
More precisely, by recognizing presence, we become aware of the fundamental ground of our soul; we discover the inner fabric that holds all of our experience; we are enlightened to what we are beyond time and space.
-excerpt from The Inner Journey Home, Chapter 3 by A. H. Almaas