In the truest sense there is no past and no future; this is seen when there is a shift away from the perspective of an individual personal "me" to the true perspective of Consciousness itself. That Consciousness is strictly impersonal; there is no one present who "owns" it, no me, you, or other - it just is. From the perspective of truth, Consciousness itself, the "me" is seen as only an appearance in the mind (I enclose "me" inside quotation marks to denote that mind has encapsulated thoughts and turned them into a "me" that are then identified with - the "me" is only a collection of thoughts that an identity is built upon; there is no "me" when investigated. It's important for you to see this directly for yourself, which I will get into in another paragraph).Regarding past and future, you seem to be saying that there is a shift in point of view required, and when that shift has occurred, past and future become more of a game instead of being taken so seriously. I'm assuming when you say there is no "my", you mean we are no longer taking events in life personally, and therefore can have more ease making decisions. It's not that past and future disappear, but the way we relate to our memories and anticipations shifts. Is that close?
Mind is like the words on the screen and consciousness is the screen itself. Mind is like the clouds moving through the sky and consciousness is the sky itself. Without the screen or the sky neither words nor clouds could possibly exist. What appears on the screen or in the sky is always subject to change, but since the screen/sky is always present and non-changing it gives way, so to speak, for all appearances within it. Such is the nature of Consciousness/You. So, isn't it obvious that consciousness is here already? Has it ever been absent?
What does all this mean in practical terms? Life as seen from truth is no longer a burden. What is thought of as past and future is seen to be a play taking place via mind within Consciousness/You. Things relating to "past and future" are attended to in order to participate in this play, but identity and purpose are no longer driven by them because identity has shifted away from the "me" sense and onto Consciousness itself. When attention has made the shift onto truth/Consciousness the "me" begins to disappear more and more from the mind and attachment to it as one's identity begins to dissolve. What was previously in the background, Consciousness, is now in the foreground, and what was previously in the foreground, ego/mind, is now in the background or not there at all. So the awakened go about their lives much as before, but without the seriousness and heaviness that used to be there when identified with ego. Past and future no longer serve as the foundation for an identity, because it's seen quite clearly that all there ever is is now.
While you are meditating you can ask yourself, "Who is actually here meditating?" and then look. Pin down the "meditator" - where is it? Can you find it? Look and see for yourself; see if you can find the "meditator". Now, after you've done that (and let me know if you were successful) what notices what is seen or not seen? What is its nature?I understand a bit about the concept of ego, and that it is illusion, and that the "I" doesn't really exist. But I have no idea how to make the leap between understanding and experiencing. I do meditation, and while I've had some interesting experiences, I certainly have not experienced myself as something separate from ego (or to have experienced this physical/mental phenomenon I call me as not me, as pure consciousness). How does one move towards this experience/understanding, if it is not by the mind?
This is what happened to me. I practiced a sit down formal eyes-closed meditation technique for 27 years but I didn't seem to be getting anywhere with it, then I came across Tolle and his ideas about enlightenment and now. After reading Tolle and I sat for "my" meditation period I looked for "kiki" - I couldn't find him! All I found were ideas about kiki, but there was no kiki entity as such; and then it hit me like a hammer - there was consciousness that was seeing this. I realized that that consciousness had always been present, but it was being overlooked because all of my attention was on the content arising in the mind, and mind was within consciousness. Every experience I had in and out of meditation was just some form of changing content that I was experiencing within the unchanging witness of that content, consciousness. The shift happened all by itself - it was if the bubble of thought that made up "kiki" simply popped, and what was left standing was what was already here, consciousness. With that recognition there was just a relaxing back into Self, into true nature - nothing to do, nowhere to go, only to see.
This is the direct path of Self-Realization. This is self-enquiry, what Ramana Maharshi taught. He is generally acknowledged as the greatest and most respected sage of the 20th century. Self-enquiry goes directly to what You are rather than remaining fixated on what you are not. What is dis-covered via self-enquiry is what has already been present in its fullness always - consciousness. That consciousness has the quality of simply being aware of what's going on - I just call it knowingness at times, or the sense of Being, or the sense of Existence, or Amness.
This is a question whose answer will perplex the mind - nothing needs to be awakened. What you are is already fully awake, though it may not yet be seen. So instead of trying to awaken some thing, the awakeness is simply seen to be already present and awake/alert/aware right now. This is the function of self-enquiry. One uses the mind in order to turn attention away from the mind and onto Awareness/Consciousness/You.What else must be awakened in me to make that transition? I know this is the subject of volumes of work, but maybe you can throw a simpler hint my way, if you yourself have experienced this shift.
So if you want go ahead and meditate, but use that time to notice what is actually present and real, You as Consciousness itself. Look for the meditator by asking, "Who/what am I really?" and then see what is found to be true and real. By true and real I mean what is always present and never changes.