The thing about consciousness is that it is at the centre of all experience. And so, if we choose to focus solely upon the background awareness of all experience, then although we have an experience of our being, we actually have less consciousness about our mind and emotions because we are looking past them.
So paradoxically, waking up without healthy integration of the ego is a move into unconsciousness. But by defining the mind as the source of all problems, this increase in unconsciousness can too easily be dismissed as irrelevant to the bigger picture of enlightenment, by those who oversimplify full integrative awakening.
And how could we not take back what we experience into the world of separation? After all, we live in a society of separation. We would not even be able to go to the bathroom without some idea, conscious or unconscious, that we are separate. And what would be the direct effect on all our relationships? So separation and a sense of self is a natural layer of our being. Of course not the deepest but certainly important. The deepest layer is pure basic awareness or consciousness, but experience of that deepest layer does not just negate or erase everything above it.
In non’duality movement and dogmas, ego is a bad word. It is the scourge of humanity… but think about this, without a separate sense of self, what would we really have as a species? We would be no different from most animals that seem to have a limited or missing capacity of self-reflection. We are conscious precisely because we have a deep experience of separation, and that separation does not just dissolve so that we end up where we started. Something is different when we have consciously walked the path to liberation. We do not just have the same consciousness as a newborn baby that has not developed an ego to distract from basic awareness. We integrate the layers of our being rather than erase them. This way we end up with the whole world consciously inside of us, and we become every-thing and no-thing. This is a process of integration, not annihilation.
The important realization that many non-dual movements seem not to grasp is that ego is not self, ego is just a part of the self. So the idea that the self dissolves when ego dissolves is in fact just a process of disowning or negating the ego. What we are actually doing is going on autopilot, we are relinquishing our conscious involvement with self, while at the same time claiming no-self. This is why many supposedly awakend individuals seem to so obviously have self, but one that they are personally blind to because they have made a narrow enough definition of self that can relatively easily be denied. But self remains, how could it not when the individual body and nervous system still remains?
This is not to dismiss the importance of becoming aware of the ground-state of being. Awareness of awareness is fundamental to the process of making the unconscious conscious. Awareness is the backdrop of all experience, and only by becoming conscious of this backdrop are we able to clearly see the props and characters in front of it. The backdrop of awareness provides an anchor by which all things seen and unseen can be assessed. This is why awareness of awareness is so fundamental to consciousness. In itself it seems empty, but in relation to All That Is, it provides the contrast so that all can potentially be seen.
So, after any experience of enlightment, we need to place consciousness back into he centre of our life, back into its rightful role and return to the world of things, but this time in full recognition that things have no ultimate reality, that their nature is ephemeral, although they have some reality. In this way, meaning is invited back as a guest, but not as full-time tenant.