I hope NonDuality highlights will forgive me for reposting this superb article by Colin Drake. Fantastically well put. So simple any ‘one’ could get it!

The Razor’s Edge by Colin Drake

It has long been held that following the spiritual life to its goal, complete awakening, is very difficult, like walking along a razor’s edge. This article addresses this and attempts to show that, whilst experiencing the first awakening is very simple and easy, to live this awakening requires great vigilance like walking a tight rope.

Let the wise merge the speech in the mind, and the mind into intelligence (philosophical reason); let him merge intelligence in the great self (pure awareness), and that great self into peace.

Katha Upanishad – 1.3.13

This signifies recognizing that thoughts (mind) and sensations (speech in this case) appear in (and are seen by) awareness i.e. are merged in that. This is to be discovered by ‘direct seeing’ which is informed by intelligence. Then by the same process one can discover that awareness, being always totally still and utterly silent, is always completely at peace. This is all fairly straightforward and easy to ‘see’ as the appendix, from Beyond the Separate Self (and A Light Unto Your Self) attempts to show.

Arise, awake, enlighten yourself by resorting to the great (teachers), for that path is sharp as a razor’s, difficult to tread and hard to go by, say the wise.

Katha Upanishad – 1.3.14

This next verse says that the path of ‘direct seeing’ is sharp as a razor’s edge and thus we should abandon this and resort to the great teachers. However, this advice itself is very difficult to follow for the modern sceptical Western mind which does not trust anything that lies outside its own experience or ‘direct seeing’. Also the teachings of the great are often difficult to follow being somewhat cryptic and needing interpretation. resulting in different opinions leading to schisms and the formation of sects. From this also comes tribalism based on ‘our teacher is the best’ or ‘our interpretation is the correct one’ and the whole sorry saga of division and competition is perpetuated!

So based on this I think, on balance, we are better off following Buddha’s final teaching which was that one is to become ‘a light unto yourself’. This can be achieved by the ‘direct seeing’ of our essential nature by self-inquiry or ‘investigation of our moment to moment experience’ – see the appendix.

This results in an ‘awakened moment’ when one sees that deeper than thoughts (mind) and body (mind) one is pure awareness and the ramifications of this seeing can be amazing. However, due to our habitual identification with the body/mind one soon ‘drops off’ again requiring a further awakening by self-inquiry or investigation of experience. So to become ‘totally awake’ requires absolute vigilance and commitment, akin to walking a razor’s edge.

However, this is not a problem, for as the periods of ‘wakefulness’ (which are totally carefree) increase so will the commitment to identifying with the level of pure awareness. This will lead to more reflection and investigation, resulting in further awakenings which will continue the process. To call it a process may seem a misnomer for when one is ‘awake’ there’s no process going on, but the continual naps keep the whole thing running.

This does require us to be more interested in being awake than in our own ‘personal story’, and to prefer peace to mental suffering. It is amazing how many people identify with these and seem to actually enjoy them in a masochistic fashion. Assuming that this is not the case one can use mental suffering to be a wake up call that one has ‘nodded’ off again and return one to ‘awareness of awareness’. So although staying awake is like walking a razor’s edge it is very easy to see when one has slipped off this and to hop back on again!

There is another danger for those that feel that they have ‘awakened’ and that is spiritual pride based on the thought that “now I’ve really got it” and thus cannot fall off the edge. It is easy to see that this thought “now I’ve really got it” is dualistic involving a ‘me’ that’s got something (else). This is the difference between thinking ‘now I’ve really got awareness’ and directly seeing that one is awareness itself. Any thought that objectifies the ‘I’ is to be avoided, for awareness is not an object but the constant conscious subjective presence. Once again vigilance is the key .

Thirdly for those of us who attempt, in our own feeble way, to point to awakening there is another greater danger, which is believing that we are (separate individuals) pointing . This belief can easily be strengthened by the appreciation that we receive by those who experience awakened moments based on this pointing. As ‘awakening’ is the most profound seeing that can occur, often with momentous implications, the gratitude expressed is often of the most lavish proportions. So we need to ‘walk the walk’ by continually realizing that we are ephemeral manifestations of That (consciousness), through which pointing is taking place, and that no separate ‘pointer’ exists!

In conclusion, ‘awakening’ is straightforward and available to all but is quickly countered by nodding off again. So we need to constantly reawaken by becoming aware of, and identified with, awareness itself. In this respect it is like walking a razor’s edge, but it is not painful and hopping back on again is simplicity itself, by the relevant shifting of attention from thoughts/sensations to the awareness that sees these.


Below follows a simple method to investigate the nature of reality starting with one’s day-to-day experience. Each step should be considered until one experiences, or ‘sees’, its validity before moving on to the following step. If you reach a step where you do not find this possible, continue on regardless in the same way, and hopefully the flow of the investigation will make this step clear. By all means examine each step critically but with an open mind, for if you only look for ‘holes’ that’s all you will find!

1. Consider the following statement: ‘Life, for each of us, is just a series of moment-to-moment experiences’. These experiences start when we are born and continue until we die, rushing headlong after each other, so that they seem to merge into a whole that we call ‘my life’. However, if we stop to look we can readily see that, for each of us, every moment is just an experience.

2. Any moment of experience has only three elements: thoughts (including all mental images), sensations (everything sensed by the body and its sense organs) and awareness of these thoughts and sensations. Emotions and feelings are a combination of thought and sensation.

3. Thoughts and sensations are ephemeral, that is they come and go, and are objects, i.e. ‘things’ that are perceived.

4. Awareness is the constant subject, the ‘perceiver’ of thoughts and sensations and that which is always present. Even during sleep there is awareness of dreams and of the quality of that sleep; and there is also awareness of sensations; if a sensation becomes strong enough, such as a sound or uncomfortable sensation, one will wake up.

5. All thoughts and sensations appear in awareness, exist in awareness, and subside back into awareness. Before any particular thought or sensation there is effortless awareness of ‘what is’: the sum of all thoughts and sensations occurring at any given instant. During the thought or sensation in question there is effortless awareness of it within ‘what is’. Then when it has gone there is still effortless awareness of ‘what is’.

6. So the body/mind is experienced as a flow of ephemeral objects appearing in this awareness, the ever present subject. For each of us any external object or thing is experienced as a combination of thought and sensation, i.e. you may see it, touch it, know what it is called, and so on. The point is that for us to be aware of anything, real or imaginary, requires thought about and/or sensation of that thing and it is awareness of these thoughts and sensations that constitutes our experience.

7. Therefore this awareness is the constant substratum in which all things appear to arise, exist and subside. In addition, all living things rely on awareness of their environment to exist and their behaviour is directly affected by this. At the level of living cells and above this is self-evident, but it has been shown that even electrons change their behaviour when (aware of) being observed! Thus this awareness exists at a deeper level than body/mind (and matter/energy[1]) and we are this awareness!

8. This does not mean that at a surface level we are not the mind and body, for they arise in, are perceived by and subside back into awareness, which is the deepest and most fundamental level of our being. However, if we choose to identify with this deepest level – awareness – (the perceiver) rather than the surface level, mind/body (the perceived), then thoughts and sensations are seen for what they truly are, just ephemeral objects which come and go, leaving awareness itself totally unaffected.

9. Next investigate this awareness itself to see whether its properties can be determined.

Firstly what is apparent is that this awareness is effortlessly present and effortlessly aware. It requires no effort by the mind/body and thoughts and sensations cannot make it vanish however hard they try.

10. Next, this awareness is choicelessly present and choicelessly aware. Once again it requires no choice of the mind/body and they cannot block it however they try. For example, if you have a toothache there is effortless awareness of it and the mind/body cannot choose for this not to be the case. You may think that this is bad news but it is not so: can you imagine if you had to make a choice whether you would like to be aware of every sensation that the body experiences? In fact be grateful that there is no effort or choice involved for awareness just to be – such ease and simplicity – which is not surprising for you are this awareness!

11. It can be seen then, that for each of us this awareness is omnipresent; we never experiences a time or place when it is not present. Once again be grateful that the mind/body is never required to search for this awareness; it is just always there, which of course is not surprising for at the deepest level we are this awareness.

12. Next, notice that this awareness is absolutely still for it is aware of the slightest movement of body or mind. For example, we all know that to be completely aware of what is going on around us in a busy environment we have to be completely still, just witnessing the activity.

13. In the same vein this awareness is totally silent as it is aware of the slightest sound and the smallest thought. Therefore awareness is always completely at peace as to be absolutely still and totally silent is to be completely at peace.


[1] The theory of relativity, and string theory, show that matter and energy are synonymous.


Colin Drake’s books are published by Jerry Katz’s Nonduality Publications:

For Colin Drake’s e-books, please visit


Contact Us