Since the Enlightenment, the dominant worldview in the West is that the physical world is the real world, and that space, time, matter and energy are the fundamental components of reality.  We conveniently overlook the apparent dilemma of consciousness.  Yet consciousness is the one quality or attribute of the universe that we cannot doubt; everything else is mediated by our senses.  As Descartes said (in a more meaningful translation) "I'm conscious, therefore I exist" (or, translated even more precisely, "Consciousness, therefore Being").  Since we're conscious, consciousness clearly exists for us.

So why isn't consciousness included in our view of reality?  Perhaps we're blinded by complexity, or by science's apparent omnipotence.  But science hasn't produced an explanation for how non-material consciousness can arise from matter, and it seems unlikely to.  Our fundamental understanding of reality seems profoundly deficient.

As Einstein commented, referring to scientific and philosophical speculation on the real nature of the mind: 'Propositions arrived at purely by logical means are completely empty as regards reality.'

We need a different approach.  In both East and West, the contemplative traditions have for centuries practiced directing awareness inward to illuminate itself.  By following the appropriate practices, deep personal exploration of consciousness reveals that it is something like the opposite of the physical world.  It is unmediated.  All qualities that we can name are not consciousness.

Consciousness is a capacity, a 'space', in which all things arise.  It is ever-present, and everywhere, without boundaries.  With this understanding, we see that consciousness is the same for everybody, and for all creatures.  Though there are degrees of awareness, consciousness has no qualities whatever.  We can't measure it.  We can't affect it as a whole (though drugs can affect our individual experience of consciousness).

Consciousness is the source of being, the source of our existence.  It is us (or we are 'it') and yet it is far beyond the body-mind that we normally consider to be 'us'.  But it's not until we begin to experience it for ourselves that we're able to fully appreciate it.

All this has profound implications, as we'll see shortly.