Dualism is the concept that matter and consciousness are separate. As hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water, so matter and consciousness combine to form existence–or life. At some point when the body dies, the conscious portion is split away while the body decomposes to a different form of matter.
Non-dualism is the notion that consciousness and matter are essentially the same stuff. As water from lakes and streams combine to form the great seas, all matter and consciousness derive from a singular source and empty once again into it. This energetic matter (God?) is formless, eternal, unitary and the ultimate reality of all material things. What we call existence is consciousness that is aware of itself. There is only consciousness manifesting itself in infinite states and varieties of matter.
One could argue that our perceptions of consciousness and matter is trivial since our understanding of it is independent of reality. What is true exists whether or not we acknowledge or understand it correctly. At another level our understanding makes all the difference. In quantum physics, the decision to measure light as a wave or particle has been shown to influence what is measured. Thus our understanding may well bias our experiences as well. In the end, it must be acknowledged that all human understanding is based upon a limited set of tools of measurement. Our eyes and ears only perceive a limited part of the spectrum and our scientific instruments, though powerful, have limitations as well.
Even so, nature does provide clues to draw upon. In my view, all things–material and conscious alike–can be reduced to energetic material states. We perceive some of them physically, some of them with instrumentation and others remain hidden. In nature we understand that vapor, water and ice are all manifestations of hydrogen and oxygen. These elements, in turn, are little more than arrangements of atoms and other sub-atomic particles. And these, in turn, will eventually be divided until we arrive once more at the unitary state. So it is with all “so called” states of matter–including human beings.
As “human being matter,” we can only perceive a limited part of all things—such as light and sound. To human perceptions, the plants and animals appear, grow and die—but our perceptions are limited to our physical senses. We, like the vapor, water and ice, exist in a variety of states—all physical and with it our awareness. Were our sensory organs more precise, we should see the energetic matter of human beings repeatedly come into recognizable human states, materialize and disappear once again into another energetic form.
Regardless, we exist as a part of the great sentience.