At any moment, there is present within us a clear, thin quality of bare awareness. No matter how deeply possessed by physical pain, there is still a quality that simply knows the pain. No matter how consumed by ecstatic pleasure, there is still a quality that simply knows the pleasure.
This quality has both the thinness of single microscopic thread, and the vastness of a whole cloth. It is both detached, and at the same time fully interested and present for all things. It has a pleasant coolness, but is at the same time comforting and warm.
Aware of pain and pleasure, it neither hurts nor thrills. Aware of both hatred and hunger, it neither yearns nor despises. Aware of basic physics, it neither pushes nor pulls. Aware of body, aware of thought, it belongs neither to the body nor to the psyche. Aware of the coming and going of all things, it isn't born, nor does it die.
A glimpse of this quality is very much like awakening well rested on cold Sunday morning long before dawn, when the senses are keen and you find yourself with a crystalline perception of the creaking of cold timbers, the throb of the furnace, the sounds of early morning birds and the newspaper delivery man crunching through the snow in the front yard. Nothing has changed, all the challenges and pains and pleasures of the world remain, but at this moment there is nothing whatsoever to be accomplished, nothing to be done but to lie still, rest there, and be aware of it all.
The spiritual life in the final measure isn't about some kind of muscular, mystical transformation. It is not an alchemical process but a geographic one. We don't transmute lead into gold, we just open our eyes to stoop and pick up the nugget. Hunger and hatred, passion and pain, birth and death remain: those are simple realities of physics. But they manifest within the landscape of awareness. We don't become aware or achieve it; we travel to it, we awaken to it, because it was there all along.