David Bingham - Non-Dual Pointing - Part 2
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: We’re going to talk about ‘non-dual pointing’. So, David, I want to ask you first a question before you go into that.
Renate: In the interview you had before with my husband Iain, you mentioned twice that at this present time the human race has the possibility to awaken, and I thought it was a very interesting statement, and I would like to know how you came to this conclusion. What is pointing in this direction? Tell us what your thoughts are about that.
David: OK. The world as we experience it can be perceived on many different levels, so it can be perceived as being an absolute reality or it can be perceived in a way where it’s known to be a phenomenon or a manifestation. What points to the development of consciousness is the sequence of unfolding throughout life. It appears to me that, from there having been the opportunity for a very few people to be able to realise self-awareness, the same opportunity is coming into focus for many more people now. The way consciousness is revealing itself is with greater and greater simplicity, as in reality there is only presence-awareness-existence. The way consciousness plays the game, though, is to disguise itself, so nearly everything appearing in the manifestation is to conceal the fact that there is only presence-awareness-existence. So, the concept of time, the thinking process, the body - they’re all devices that consciousness uses to hide itself and…
Renate: So, excuse me...
Renate: I just wanted to ask, why is it doing that?
David: Because it can. Because the nature of consciousness or awareness is that it is infinite, it’s a field of infinite possibilities.
It can be seen in terms of cycles. There can be cycles where there can be ups and there can be downs; and there can be concealment, complete ignorance, and there can also be complete knowing. And it can move from one to the other and it loves doing that. So that’s why it does it, just because it can, really.
And it’s a fascinating stage at the moment because self-realisation is something that is becoming universally available. It’s a time when the invitation is there for many, many people because the fabric of life, the apparent security that people have adopted in relative terms - so things like their work, their relationships, their family, the fabric of society, financial structures, social structures - are all being shaken. So it’s offering an invitation.
People are saying, “Well hang on! I thought I was safe here, and I’m not”. So that’s giving rise to a question. But actually it’s consciousness that’s giving rise to the question because that’s the invitation to see what is real and what’s present. It plays the game of pretending that it really is this person called Renate [gesturing to Renate] for a period of time, and then it reveals itself as itself.
If you take it from the point of view of a young child: for the first couple of years of life, there is just this field of awareness in which everything is being registered, but there isn’t a sense of individual self there. So there is an appearance of a body-mind, of a one- or two-year-old child, and everything’s experienced in a state of total wonder. But consciousness plays the game of hide and seek. It begins to pretend it really is this person from around the age of two and, through reinforcement, of being called by your name and the family structure being reinforced, you come to totally believe that; that’s who you are.
Renate: Yes. That’s the sad thing.
Renate: I’m observing that with my granddaughter at the moment, actually: how she slowly moves out of the space of complete awareness and gets identified with this little...
David: With the form.
Renate: ... “I am Lorraine”.
David: And then, through life, through the early years and through the teen years, there’s a building of the sense of self in terms of what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, what you like, what you don’t like, and the preoccupation with the whole story of a little ‘me’.
You could say that, in recent history, the cycle hasn’t been completed. From the state of knowing, up until the age of two, through the concealment, in the early years, the concealment has continued because people have remained bound by the forms, so the identification has continued until death. The new opportunity is for the cycle to be completed. From the initial level of knowing, through the sequence of identification with the body and personality, there’s now an opportunity for consciousness to reveal itself to itself on a grand scale.
Renate: But does that mean, David, that this whole game that we are playing, that consciousness is playing with itself, is coming to an end? On the surface, if we look at the world, that seems to be happening, that we’re somehow sliding down somewhere into extinction.
Renate: And what you see on another level - the same is happening?
David: Yes. In terms of the story, or in terms of what’s happening in the world, it appears as though everything’s become very shaky, but it’s all part of the cosmic drama. It’s intentional because it’s revealing itself to itself. Previously, consciousness was concealing the fact that presence-awareness-existence is something that isn’t personally owned.
In this moment, if we take what there is, there is present awareness. There’s a knowing of everything that is arising in this moment, so present awareness knows this body sitting on this seat, it knows the sound of the gentle buzzing of that light; and it’s all being registered directly in present awareness. But the way consciousness disguises itself is to pretend that there is a person here experiencing that. If we look at the nature of awareness, it’s something that is just here. And it knows everything, it knows everything on a sensory level; it knows the sense of there being an individual here...
Renate: So, let’s do that now. So I feel myself sitting here now. I perceive myself as somebody sitting here looking at you. So what is the non-dual pointing? How would you tell me that I’m not really sitting here [laughing]?
David: OK [laughing]. With non-dual pointing, it actually clarifies the distinction between what is permanent and what is temporary; so what never changes is the awareness that knows that. Awareness is registering the sitting there directly, so it knows that the body is sitting there. Now the mind may come in as a secondary device, where it would say, “I’m sitting here and this isn’t a very comfortable seat”; or it may make some other kind of judgement. But the knowing of the ‘sitting here’ is something that is just known in awareness, and it’s known directly and the individual isn’t required to know that.
Renate: So because we learn that we are an ‘I’, so we say “I am sitting here and I am feeling hot and I am feeling cold” - but those are actually, as you say, feelings which arise within awareness?
Renate: It’s direct knowledge, as you call it.
David: Yes. Everything about the manifestation is reinforcing the manifestation. So if you turn on the TV or read the newspaper, or speak to most people, it’s always reinforcing the sense of there being a separate individual.
Renate: I am receiving from my senses something?
David: Yes. But it’s just noticed very clearly that what is primary is the awareness in which it is known.
For instance, the common thing would be to say “I think” but, actually, if it’s looked at carefully, it’s noticed that there is an awareness of thinking, so the thinking isn’t who you are; there’s something that is aware of thinking. In the same way people can say, “Well, I can taste that water”: the taste of water is registered in awareness; there isn’t actually an individual involved in doing that.
Also, if you take the various states of consciousness - the waking state, the dreaming state and the deep sleep state - awareness is actually continuous through those states. Continuous isn’t actually the right word because there is no continuity because there’s just this. But in the waking state, there is awareness of the waking state environment, so there’s awareness of the waking state body, the waking state thinking process, the waking state emotions and preoccupations, the waking state world. In the dream state, there is awareness of the dream environment, of the dream individual, of the dream emotions and of dream thoughts. In the deep sleep state, awareness is simply awareness itself. It returns to the level of non-manifestation, to the level of just knowing itself - which is home, which is why human beings crave sleep. They need some relief from the turbulence which is experienced in the waking and dream states.
Renate: I actually had, a couple of times, the experience that I was awake and my body...
David: Awake to deep sleep?
David: It’s validation of the fact that it’s awareness that knows deep sleep. The changing states - the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states - are superimposed upon present awareness. In reality there is no time. If we take the dream state as an example, there may be a dream that covers a fifty-year period but we wake up and realise that it didn’t actually happen. It only seemed real while there was identification with the dream state of consciousness.
The waking state is also only an extremely convincing play that consciousness is producing. It’s convincing and mesmerising because consciousness is providing everything. It’s providing the knowing of it, the characters, the thought structures, the emotions and all the scenery. When consciousness is choosing to not know itself, there’s no possibility of knowing but, when it decides to reveal itself, there’s also no possibility of it not knowing itself. That’s what’s available now because consciousness is revealing itself to itself on a very large scale within the story of the waking state of consciousness.
Non-dual pointing makes the distinction between that which is permanent and that which constantly changes. Whether you’re seeking a new car, a new job, a new partner, or whether it’s spiritual seeking, the process appears to be happening in time. The process of spiritual development, for example, experiencing more peace, experiencing more stillness, is something that can happen within the phenomena of the focal point of awareness called Renate [gesturing to Renate] or David [gesturing to self] or anyone else.
But spiritual development does not take one closer to self-realisation because self-realisation is already the case. It’s the simple awareness or consciousness that is the knower of everything. The distinction between experience and awareness is that experience is something that arises within awareness, but it is awareness that knows the experience.
Renate: Right, OK.
David: So if you take a subtle spiritual experience, for instance, stillness of the mind: now awareness, present awareness, knows that experience and it knows it fully. The way it disguises itself is it pretends that there’s this thing called stillness, there’s this thing called presence and, by practice, by putting attention on it, it can grow, and the growth of that experience will result in self-realisation.
Renate: It’s interesting when you say that the intention of consciousness is to do that, because, first of all, it gives me the feeling that there is time and, secondly, I somehow cannot combine intention and consciousness.
Renate: It’s like there is a thinking process and I want to get somewhere with that. Somehow that intention doesn’t fit for me in my concept of awareness.
Renate: Can you explain that and how it works?
David: OK. Well, ‘non-conceptual awareness’ is one way of describing it, ‘being’ is another, ‘presence’ is another. Consciousness is the basis on which everything is experienced. The paradox is that consciousness is simultaneously static, totally stationary and stable - but also infinitely dynamic; and those qualities are simultaneous. It appears as though there’s an intention, but there has to be the arising of the manifestation for the dynamic aspect to reveal itself, because really all there is, is presence-awareness-existence.
Renate: Yes. So it’s the dynamic...
David: It’s the dynamic...
Renate: ...behind it, which gives it the appearance? Or the dynamic movement gives the appearance that there is an intention behind it?
David: Yes. Because there is only presence-awareness-existence which isn’t manifest, which doesn’t do anything; it just knows everything including itself. The way manifestation occurs is to demonstrate the opposite nature to presence-awareness. The present aspect of awareness uses time to make it seem that something’s happening. Awareness, which is non-conceptual, creates conceptual awareness (the mind or thinking process) to disguise itself. So there can be complete preoccupation with the thinking process and the whole story of the individual and everything begins to get whipped up.
If you take the way it works, a human being wakes up in the morning and for the first moment there’s just stillness; then there’s a re-engagement of the mind, the mind kicks in and starts saying, “What have I got to do today? How old am I? What are my problems? How am I going to stop all these things going wrong?” There is complete identification with the story; you pull your boots on and off you go again.
But all of this is the game that consciousness is playing: the game of disguising itself, pretending that it really is a person. Hiding the fact that it is the still space that doesn’t move anywhere or go anywhere and, even in the most turbulent state of mind, there is a full knowing.
So present awareness can fully know the deepest spiritual experience; it can fully experience expansion beyond the boundaries of the body, bliss consciousness. It can know all those subtle experiences, but it also knows what it is to experience total turbulence or total exhaustion. It’s awareness that fully knows the experience.
Renate: Yes, and at the same time, most of the human race - I think probably ninety-nine percent - live in complete ignorance. And you still think that a shift can happen and people start waking up?
David: Yes. Well, the idea of a shift is something within the story of life, that something wonderful can happen. This shift can happen to special people under special circumstances who have undergone many years of special practices and it’s all very special! But the nature of it is self-realisation; it is realisation because it’s realisation of what is already the case. In reality there is no awakening. There is realisation because, as you say, there can be total ignorance when consciousness is completely hiding itself from itself, but then it reveals itself to itself.
Renate: I heard once the theory that, if enough people wake up, that could shift the vibration on this planet and give the opportunity for more people to wake up. Do you believe that this is happening?
David: I do think that’s happening in the story of life...
Renate: Of course.
David: ...and with self-realisation everything begins to happen from a platform of total stability. It’s seen very clearly that the awareness that you are has never moved. It is that which has known everything. The stable, totally stationary awareness can know the drama, can know the enfoldment; and it loves those stories. Present awareness itself can’t develop - it can’t move from where it is because it’s that which knows everything. What it loves is the idea of dynamic activity, of progress and evolution. So within the phenomena of relative life, these things are appearing. You could say that, in life on earth at the moment, there is development of consciousness. The opportunity is arising to see that we are presence-awareness-existence which is totally stable and isn’t taking part in the drama.
When this is seen, it puts everything into context. It’s like being at the cinema where you’re watching a film, you’re totally identified with it and the actions taking place. It seems completely real - and then somebody comes along and kicks the back of your seat or starts eating popcorn, and you remember that it’s just a film. That’s what consciousness does. It reveals itself as being the basis on which this whole thing is experienced. Enjoyment then moves on to a completely different level because the drama is seen only as a drama.
Previously, identification made it seem as though “Yes, I’m really here - I’m on earth! What’s going to happen? The whole financial structures are collapsing - we’re running out of this, there’s tensions between all these people, there isn’t enough food, everyone’s suffering and there’s no solution. We’re heading for a big black hole!” Consciousness creates this illusion because it’s in contrast to its true nature of simple presence-awareness-existence. In terms of the story of human life, you could say that we’re on a down cycle at the moment. Consciousness loves completely knowing itself, and also completely ignoring its true nature. The way it’s playing out at the moment is that it’s ignoring its true nature and there’s complete identification. On the human level, the mind is predominating. It seems as though the mind is required to resolve all of these things, but actually that’s also the game of hide-and-seek that consciousness is playing.
There is no solution for man to find because it’s consciousness that’s revealing itself. Man isn’t actually doing anything. The whole script is being written, the characters are playing their parts and there isn’t anything that can be done outside the production.
Renate: You know, when I started my spiritual path about twenty years ago, I had this vision that what’s going on in our universe, or on our planet, is nothing but a computer game of somebody outside, in a more developed reality...
David: Yes, well, if you...
Renate: ...level of reality. We don’t have free-will - just one push of a button and we are moving. There are those few who get enlightened and [laughing] there’s suffering and all that, and...
David: That’s a great description...
Renate: Somebody’s playing with us [laughing].
David: Well, if you use the example of the film The Matrix - which was based on the idea that the earth is a computer-generated reality and the whole programming was to reinforce the integrity of the Matrix - the world we appear to live in is a consciousness-generated reality. Consciousness is behind the whole thing, but consciousness is actually benign. It appears as though there are terrible things happening but it’s experiencing itself by contrast.
If you look at it from the point of view of a small child, there’s no context to the experience because, up until the age of two, everything is simply arising in a unified field of awareness without the subject-object concept. They’re like little drunken old men falling around in ecstasy, or they’re crying for a moment and then that instantly stops. But the whole thing is experienced without a centre.
Renate: That’s very interesting… that’s right, yes.
David: So there’s absolutely no centre. But the reason we undergo all the suffering is because there has to be the opportunity to see everything in context. When there’s the sense of another, there can be the sense of separation. So the idea that someone else is suffering can give rise to compassion; it can give rise to a deeper experience.
It can also give depth to the knowing of awareness. When there is simple awareness, there is no context; but with suffering and separation, there is the opportunity for consciousness to know itself more deeply.
If you look at the way manifestation appears, it’s often the polar opposite to the nature of present awareness. Present awareness is permanent, still, unmoveable; you can’t move to it, you can’t move away from it, and it always knows itself. What appears as the opposite is separation, pain, ignorance, not knowing itself; the idea that there’s something that needs to be discovered when really we’re already home. When it’s pointed out, it’s seen clearly that the appearance of things is actually in total contrast to the true nature of things. And the reason it does that is to give the knowing of itself a context, because without that there’s just a knowing, but that knowing is without a comparison.
Renate: I agree.
[Silence prompts laughter.]
Renate: I was just thinking about what you said in our little chat last night. You talked about the ‘personal God’ and the ‘impersonal God’. Do you want to explain that for our viewers…?
David: OK, I’ll have a go.
Renate: ...what these two sides are?
David: OK. Some people believe in God. They say, “Oh, there is God, I believe in God, there are all these miracles to show that”. But the impersonal aspect of God is the awareness in which everything arises, so you could say that the impersonal God is consciousness. Modern scientists say, “There is energy and you can’t destroy energy”, but the substratum of everything is consciousness. Because it is awareness that knows everything, awareness or consciousness is conscious of energy. You can’t do an experiment in the laboratory to find consciousness because it’s that which is looking, that which is seeing what is taking place.
Renate: Right, yes.
David: The impersonal aspect of God is that which allows everything to be. In the manifestation, there is the phenomenon of evolution. There is a paradox because everything is simultaneously static and dynamic. There is the phenomenon of time superimposed on timeless being. In terms of the development of life forms, one could say that life on earth has developed over a sixteen-billion-year period. Life first appeared in the seas and then on land, in animal forms through to the more developed human forms. A process of development appears to have taken place.
In human terms there is the possibility of spiritual development. From a state of complete confusion, a loss of inner stability, there can be development to a level of stability and a knowing of one’s true nature. That knowing is not dependent on the mind. What predominates in this age, in the way that it’s appearing, is the idea that it’s the mind that knows everything, that decides everything. But every creative person knows that what they do well and what they do effortlessly comes from a space beyond the mind.
Renate: That’s right, yes.
David: And the most creative people in the world - whether they’re politicians, actors, writers or philosophers - their knowing is coming directly from non-conceptual awareness, and the mind isn’t intervening at all. From there, a level of development can take place where knowing and trusting can become more profound.
David: So there can be a simultaneous knowing of the total stability of presence-awareness-existence that never moves into manifestation, and the ever-changing appearance of everything that’s happening. That can develop and become deeper. It’s actually a phenomenal development because, in reality, there is no time, there is no development. But as consciousness is the field of all possibilities, there are different phenomenal levels which can be experienced. There can be a rising of the vibrational level, so that relative consciousness can move to higher levels of functioning. This is a carbon-based level of creation and there can be levels that are higher and lower. But all are phenomena arising in consciousness. Consciousness isn’t actually moving; consciousness is the means by which all of it can be known.
Renate: So bringing those two together, the personal God with the impersonal God, is like God walking on planet earth living the life of a human being, experiencing himself, living through this body. Is this how you would see it? A man of the world but not of the world?
David: Well, what I would say is...
Renate: Or rather, a man in the world but not of the world, yes.
David: A man in the world but not of the world. But I wouldn’t say that that is the highest level of divinity within the relative aspect of consciousness. If you take what is known of human experience, it appears to be limited; it’s ever-expanding but limited. What can be experienced through the senses is limited. Generally we only experience one thing at a time. But if you look at the possibilities available on the level of divinity, on the level of the personal God, everything can be known simultaneously. Consciousness could know every thought simultaneously, every emotion simultaneously, every smell simultaneously. It could decide everything instantly...
Renate: Yes, yes.
David: ...but there’s no comprehension of those possibilities on the ordinary human level. To even discuss those possibilities is a limitation, because there are no limits within consciousness. So we can’t begin to conceive of what possibilities there are.
Renate: Yes, our minds are not developed enough.
David: They’re just little devices we’ve used to think a few thoughts and do a few jobs.
On one level, the game that consciousness is playing is very complicated, but it’s based on complete simplicity. With self-realisation comes the knowing that everything that’s appearing is already perfect. So there isn’t any way this moment can be improved upon. The paradox, though, is that it can constantly improve and refine. Presence-awareness-existence knows that everything is arising within itself but, taking human qualities like compassion, or love, or knowing, there can be a deepening. But it isn’t that when all of those things are fully known, all those things are perfected, there will be self-realisation. Self-realisation can know itself within complete ignorance, so self-realisation is possible for someone who’s had no education and it can also be possible for a king. There are no preconditions to self-realisation. Self-realisation isn’t just for those who’ve undergone years of spiritual practice - it’s possible for someone who’s been drinking and smoking all the time.
Renate: So the non-dual pointing is then talking to somebody who doesn’t know anything about spiritual matters and pointing these things out to him… what reality really is?
David: It’s pointing back to...
Renate: And activating their inner knowledge, self-remembering or...?
David: Yes, it’s allowing... Just a very simple thing we could do: in this moment, what is Renate aware of?
Renate: Well, I’m aware of the humming noise [gesturing to left]. I’m aware of you sitting in the chair. I’m aware of the television screen with one eye, I’m aware of the clock, aware of the light, the plant...
Renate: ...I’m aware I’m actually thirsty [laughing as she picks up a glass of water].
David: [laughing] Thirst is a physiological need. The body-mind currently known as Renate requires water, so that’s a physiological need.
Renate: So I’m aware now of water because of the sensation of water in my mouth going down?
David: Yes, there is awareness of the water going down the throat.
Now, the common way of experiencing it is, “I am thirsty. I can taste the water and I can feel it going down my throat”. In reality there is awareness of the hand picking up the glass, there is awareness of the water being tipped into the mouth and there’s awareness of the water going down the throat. But it only appears to be a personal experience. The taste of the water is being registered directly in awareness, so the subject-object experience is only phenomenal. Consciousness has pretended there’s a subject called Renate who tastes the water, but what is ever-present is the field of awareness that knows the taste of the water. It fully knows the sound of the humming. It fully knows the lights, the background noises, the feeling of the weight of the body. Awareness is what you are. All those things have been directly registered in awareness and awareness doesn’t require the mind to know them.
Renate: There’s just one thing, David, in my own experience… I can be in this state of awareness and in the moment, and I feel kind of a painful sensation in my body. It’s almost like the whole body just sucks this whole expansion [moving hands apart and bringing them quickly together] into the system, and that is where it wants attention. It completely collapses into the physical body and wants to sort out the pain, or...
Renate: ...or whatever’s going on.
David: Well, it’s ever-present awareness that knows that. So whether there is pain arising or there is no pain, awareness knows the pain and it knows not having pain also. Pain is offering an invitation because it’s saying that the current way of processing the experience is giving rise to suffering. So, for instance, if the concept is held that life is painful, there are a lot of people suffering and the world’s terrible, the emotion or feeling that accompanies those thoughts is pain. The pain is saying, “Wake up and see what’s real”. And what’s real is presence-awareness-existence. There is the phenomenon of pain, the phenomenon of suffering in the same way as if you’re dreaming something terrible happens in the dream...
Renate: But if somebody really experiences something very painful, either physically they are sick or emotionally, what do you say to them… “You are not dead” - I mean that would be very cruel! - “get out of bed!” [laughing]
Renate: You are dead! This person cannot do that in this moment.
David: No, and...
Renate: But is there a little help?
Renate: A person is shaken by fear because they just got the diagnosis they have cancer or whatever.
David: OK. Well, the way life is experienced generally is that there are terrible things like pain, death, calamity, loss - all those things. And in relative terms they are terrible. If someone says, “You have a terminal illness and you’re going to die tomorrow”, that can appear terrible. When there is full identification with the body there is pain.
But pain is an invitation to see that the physical body isn’t truly what you are. So the things that people have a real aversion to - like death, change, loss - shake the sense of identification with the form of life as it appears. It’s shaken to the point where consciousness detaches itself from the drama. That is self-realisation.
So actually they’re not bad things - they are only perceived to be bad things when the infinite consciousness that you are is disguising itself. “I, Renate, am in pain” - but that idea is just an idea that is part of the disguise. Consciousness is pretending that Renate is in pain, whereas awareness is aware of pain. When the true ‘I’ is seen to ever remain in its natural state of presence-awareness-existence, it’s seen that awareness hasn’t in reality moved into the form of Renate.
Renate: Right [laughing].
David: But while the disguise is going on, while the identification is taking place, you could say, on one level, there’s nothing you can do about that.
Renate: You just have to wait till God touches you or you’re hit by grace.
David: Well, you could say that, but what is happening is the opportunity for that shift to take place is becoming much more attainable. It isn’t something that just happens to a few people.
It goes back to a very simple checking in. So if you check in, in this moment, the body’s there, there is awareness, there’s awareness of the light [gesturing to right],there’s awareness of the sound, there’s awareness of these bodies [gesturing to self and Renate] sitting on this seat.
Renate: And that is what Eckhart Tolle’s message is: yes, bringing us all the time into the present moment.
David: The only thing I would differ with Eckhart on is that Eckhart is implying that presence is something that can be attained through practice, but what Eckhart is talking about is developing the experience of presence. The experience of presence is stillness, the mind being quiet, imperturbability. Presence-awareness is the awareness that knows that, as it knows pain and as it knows calamity. It is awareness that fully knows all those things. So there’s no progressive development towards presence-awareness-existence because it is that within which everything arises and is known.
Renate: I think I really got that.
David: But the experience of presence which Eckhart is talking about is very valuable. The ability to ‘dis-identify’ with pain is a very useful tool; it’s something that makes the human experience much more pleasant.
David: But any sense of progress isn’t moving you towards self-realisation because one is already the ever-present awareness in which everything is arising. It uses the disguise of things like the experience of presence to make it seem as though, “Oh yes, there was that experience of presence! If only I can make that permanent and lasting, then I’m going to be self-realised”. But self-realisation is the knowing of the experience of presence, or the knowing of the sensation of pain, or the knowing of a thought crossing the mind or a cloud crossing the sky. All are known fully in the presence-awareness-existence that you already are.
Renate: Yes, I think, David, that’s a good moment to stop our interview - we’ve run out of time. And thank you for coming.
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