Preview of Nondual Sight-Consciousness (Luminosity)

The Magnificent Luminous Tree

I’ll begin posting in the Dharma Underground in medias res, as the dramatists say. Flashbacks are always workable enough, after all.


Friday morning as I was driving to work through post-rain mist, I started experiencing this prominent–dramatic–oscillation between my sense of my body, body fields, and closely surrounding space, on the one hand, and the rest of the world out there, on the other. It felt much like Body & Mind, only on a grander scale and altogether automatic, for I was not meditating or even intending to be especially mindful. The flipping back and forth went on for a full five minutes! 

At last, I pulled the car through the corporate gate and started driving through campus along a country road at only 20 miles per hour. I was looking out my windshield to the right at this field beyond a country fence, and in the field was an impressively huge tree. 

I slowed further to a crawl and was looking at the tree, thinking about the tree. Suddenly, I realized that these thoughts and sights had for some moments not been issuing from anywhere in those bodily areas from my side of looking. In fact, it was as if there had been nothing on my side whatsoever while the thoughts and sensations were in play. The vision of the tree and thoughts about the tree were emanating from the tree!

After this experience, which lasted several minutes, the oscillation of views did not resume, and I went about my day. 

Although I was puzzled when the awareness of the tree seemed not to flow from me but to be one with the tree and the field, it also was so seemingly natural that I didn’t make much of it, but I did wonder if this went on before and I had somehow just failed to notice it.

Flashback to August 2014

A couple of nights before I had my first (and only) cessation and fruition, in August, I experienced something similar in High Equanimity. I had just reread the MCTB chapter on Equanimity and seized on the advice there to ask myself what I still was not seeing clearly. I thought what I had not been seeing clearly was myself

So I set about looking for myself, although I knew from experience that the Tibetan analytical meditation by which to do so would be exhausting. I closed my eyes and started systematically looking for myself in accordance with a standard Tibetan Buddhist formula for doing so. 

After a few minutes, not getting anywhere and predictably frustrated, I decided to focus out again on something pleasing. Having given up on finding myself, I opened my eyes and gazed on the rich teal-colored walls of my bedroom, and—BAM—there was my sense of self instantly! This was a key insight that allowed me to start noticing how I continually redefine myself in dependence on whatever I happen to be identifying with as pleasing or displeasing. That event seemed quite miraculous, whereas the tree thing, though really more amazing once pondered, felt so completely natural as to be familiar. 

I wonder if I can look for it again yet not be the one looking for it.

Postscript a Year Later

A month after this preview, I woke up one morning with “luminosity” that remained stable from that moment on. I was later to learn, in July 2015, that in Mahamudra this shift is called nondual awareness. As experienced while looking (vision), it is often called luminosity, but nondual awareness encompasses hearing and feeling sensation, too. 

It is a very important opening that can fool you into thinking you have fully awakened awareness, or MCTB fourth path. It corresponds in Dzogchen to rigpa, or the infant awareness. But the mother awareness is still missing, so this is not MCTB fourth path. Also, rigpa doesn’t reach its full measure until the culmination of the third vision on the Path of Togal, which comes later than MCTB fourth path / awake awareness. Full measure of rigpa is true realization of emptiness.

In hindsight, I believe I had both Infant Awareness (rigpa) and Mother Awareness (kunzhi) going in parallel at that time. Each was an unbalanced version of “nondual,” but they were not yet nondual with each other. Here is a fuller explanation of the three levels of nonduality:,

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