This is difficult and hard for even the learned to understand. One must examine the three states of existence in order for the truth of this matter to be revealed. There is the waking state, the dream state, and the deep sleep state.
The waking state is dependent on the body and its senses. The dream state is dependent on the mind; and deep sleep state is dependent on consciousness. The three states are experienced by the “Eternal I.”
Before awakening the “I” is associated with the waking state as “I am the body.” The dream state as “I am the mind,” and the deep sleep state as “I sense I exist.” The identification with body/mind (waking and dreaming) phenomenon creates the identity of the “me.” My body, my family, my life, ego, my thoughts etc. The identification with deep sleep creates “that spiritual awareness or Witness” which many teachers talk about.
The “I” is normally fragmented and broken up through the modes of these three states; creating the innumerable diversities of life.
Most live in the mind/body (waking, dream) states: thoughts and sense phenomenon. A seeker may discover the deep sleep state (awareness in spite of mind body) and have a revelation as awareness. This is a certain profound level of awakening. An exclusive me may feel as if it dropped away, but awareness is still exclusive and the three states remain compartmentalized. Those that stop here teach the end of seeking. There is a higher awakening:
Once this higher awakening takes place and the awareness dissolves into the Final Cause of all three states which yield all known experience; exclusiveness is completely gone and all three states are experienced simultaneously.
For the fully awakened; a jab in the ribs is experienced in the waking state which is associated and guarded by the body. The body itself has its own mechanisms to keep it in homeostasis. So it may automatically flinch without the help of either the mind (dream state) or awareness (deep sleep).
Each state has its own function that is perfectly automatic and simultaneous. This spontaneity gets disrupted by the exclusive me. The “Eternal I” that is fully awakened remains in all three states simultaneously once the exclusive identity is absorbed (including the witness). So for an outsider observing from the mind/body (dream/waking) state, they only see the function of a body responding. Nevertheless the “I” pervades all three states equally and plays no exclusive part in any of the three states and their various activities. Yet, they go on uninterrupted according to their various functions until the “I” incarnates in one exclusively; giving birth to an exclusive me and problems ensue due to the imbalance of the three states.
In short, there is a fourth state that is and pervades all three states simultaneously while allowing for their equal organic function.