Imagine you are standing in the ocean. Your feet and legs are immersed in the water, which is moving to its natural rhythm. You stand there feeling the wetness against your skin and the motion. You are searching for something. Surely there must be something more to this experience, you think. You yearn to understand, to see more than you can see at that moment.
Then you notice someone who is also standing in the ocean, and you approach them. They look no different from you but, for some reason, you suspect they may know more about this. So you stand closer to them, and you try to ask a question, but you’re not sure what it is you want to know about. The person looks at you and tells you that the ocean tastes salty, that it is entirely made of salt water. You hear this and you think you understand it. Eventually you realize that you are also made of salt water. This must be the thing for which you were searching.
But the fact is that you don’t know anything about salt water really, because you have never tasted it. So you begin to ask questions about what salt water tastes like, and you begin to daydream about what it must taste like. The person standing next to you tells you about the taste of salt water, making up all kinds of poetic ways of describing the taste so that you might understand. However, until you actually drink from the ocean, until you actually swallow a mouthful of salt water, you will never really know the taste of the ocean. There is nothing stopping you from tasting the ocean, not the person, or the ocean itself or your own body or mind.
One day you are able to scoop up a bit of salt water in your hand and take a taste. It is completely new to you and yet nothing special. Now you know your own taste in a new way and you know the taste of everything around you. Now you know what the other person knows. You know that the taste has been there all along, within you and without. You know that the person described it accurately, but you simply couldn’t imagine it. Knowing in this way, everything has changed and yet you are still simply standing in the ocean.
Awakening is also like this.