The main tool we use for Self-enquiry, at least in the early stages, is attention.
In this context the word ‘attention’ means the deliberate, volitional choice of what is evident.
When attention succeeds, we become or remain aware of the object of attention.
The reason I’m analyzing this common word in microscopic detail is that we use two faculties to perform this activity, and people don’t always notice the difference.
The first faculty is the mind’s ability to generate images, thoughts, sounds, etc. In other words, we create a mental object.
The second faculty notices a mental object or some other perceivable thing that already exists.
The reason why the second faculty is possible is that our degree of apparent consciousness fluctuates. Normally we are lost in thought, and although potentially perceivable phenomena are in existence, either they aren’t being seen or we don’t know that we are seeing them.
The first faculty has to do with the creation of mental objects.
The second faculty has to do with voluntary control over the degree of consciousness.
Objects and consciousness are different.
Up till now I’ve been talking about consciousness in its role as the knower. But now I’m going say something about its role as something it knows.
How does this article apply to Self-enquiry?
Both faculties can be used to observe the I-thought.
But only the second faculty can be used to observe consciousness.
Consciousness is something we notice. The I-thought is something we generate and notice.
If you are straining and clenching your brain, you are using the first faculty. If you are using the second faculty, you feel like Ramana looks in the picture.