It’s as though you were inhabited by or nailed to thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations. As though you were in each thought (etc.) or held captive by each thought (etc.). So absorbed in each thought (etc.) were you that you knew of nothing else.
Then perhaps you were looking out the window one day and, quite miraculously, you discovered the witness consciousness, i.e., discovered that you were the witness. Thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations you saw come into being and go out of being, but you were not any thought, feel, perception, and sensation. This was a revelation: to experience not being any thought, feeling, perception, or sensation at the same time that you know that the witness consciousness is more real than the ordinary waking state.
The witness consciousness did not just appear; it is always here. Only, it had been veiled by the identification with thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations. Nay, it had been overlooked by dint, above all, of taking oneself to be a Doer around which ‘you’ had organized ‘your’ thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations.
The witness consciousness, however, is very close to the ordinary waking state. It feels like being a hair’s breath away from thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations and therefore from ordinary experience.
Now suppose you were to sink back further so that thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations were to start receding or, rather, were to begin to feel farther away. See how thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and sensations are now in the background. See further how they may not even appear. Here, now, there may be no thoughts, feelings, perceptions, or sensations.
What is this state? Call it “the waking deep sleep state” or, what I take to be the same thing, Nisargadatta’s “pre-verbal I Am.” Often without thoughts, feelings, perceptions, or sensations, this state is like sleep in that it is blank, dark, or light-filled, yet it is also very much awake. There is still a Knower that knows himself to be (in the ordinary sense, I mean) awake. And it is very peaceful.
Logically speaking, this seems to me to be the state just before waking up. Why? Because the darkness of no thought, feeling, perception, or sensation is manifest, yet the Knower is still localized in space and time. To be sure, that localization is more subtle, yet localization it still is.
It is said that abiding in the “pre-verbal I am” or in what I’m calling “the waking deep sleep state” may lead to recognizing that one is non-localizable and therefore unlimited. Zen master Dogen: “Body and mind dropped off!”