Synopsis: The inquirer is frustrated because he's trying to experience oneself as an unlimited entity through a limited body-mind. He (a mind's desire) wants to get rid of the feeling of being inside a body. Teacher says this is impossible because both the body and mind are in the apparent order of reality (maya). A correction of thinking is suggested…
I find myself thinking that I’m looking out through my eyes. I can think I’m awareness (atma), and that this body called Ravana is arising in me (awareness), but I feel like I’m the body whose eyes are looking at the world.
This is how everyone feels. This is why one should not trust one's feeling in reference to the immediately obvious.
Just as the sky appears to be blue but in reality is colorless. So we appear to be looking out through these eyes but that is not the reality.
Then who or what IS looking out through these eyes?
The eyes themselves are not looking in a conscious sense because they are inert matter.
The mind/intellect/ahamkara (sense of individuality) complex or subtle body (sukshma-sharira) are not looking because they are only objects in awareness — what's more, they too are subtle inert matter.
The causal body (karana-sharira) is not looking because it doesn’t look; it is inert subtle matter as well that takes the form of formlessness, nothingness, blankness or limitless-bliss which is also nothing more than an object in awareness. (The causal-body is what's fully experienced during deep sleep, or entered during savikalpa/nirvikalpa samadhi).
So who is the one looking? It can only be awareness. And this awareness is your actual identity. All else is known to you.
The fundamental trick that maya plays is to effect the very identification with or feeling that one is the body by which you are presently challenged.
The body is what is called a limiting adjunct (upadhi). An example of an upadhi is a green glass in which there is water.
If I were to ask you to tell me what color the liquid was based only on direct perception — you would say it was green even though in reality the water is clear.
When for some unknown reason awareness identifies with this body, it takes on the limited perspective of that body. You might say, this is one of the laws governed by maya/Isvara.
It’s a bit easier to know I’m awareness when my eyes are closed, because there's no distraction of sights.
But with eyes open, the sense of “I am looking at the world out there” is overpowering (ie: extroverting the mind onto objects and giving them distinct reality).
It’s as if, in order to know that the body is arising in myself (as Awareness), I would have to be able to see the whole body from the back or the front, as I see other people's bodies.
“Back” or “front” are two different names to discern a change of appearance of an object that turns in space.
Whatever is seen, heard, tasted, felt, smelt — is nothing but the material world (of atoms/participles) shifting and changing form — just as the clouds billow and thin out and shape shift in the sky.
The sky is the background, compared to Awareness (the Knower). The shape-shifting cloud are compared to the material world, a phenomena of constant change.
We can report the clouds in the foreground are changing, only because of the presence of the background sky.
Another analogy to help expand perspective…
Think of the body as a particular lens that awareness (brahman) limits itself to while under the spell of maya.
The mind-body-sense complex is a whole package. Meaning all three components work in conjunction with one another to create the illusion of a separate individual navigating within the context of a dualistic world.
So even though the mind might realize its identity as Consciousness/Awareness (synonymous words in Vedanta) — its perspective remains limited to and its scope remains limited by that of the body.
Meaning the person, Ravana, will never not feel like it’s in a body, as long as physical heart is beating. This also applies whether one has ascertained the absolute truth or not.
The feeling of being in a body only completely goes aware after physical death.
Failure to accept this may cause one to desperately “experience” oneself as an unlimited entity (while in a limited body). Maybe that's one reason why substances like LSD, Mushrooms, DMT are associated even with advanced practitioners. Looking for the “oneness” experience, and hoping it stays.
So accept the feeling of (apparent) limitation while alive.
One can’t experience unlimited awareness and the limited body at the same time.
While alive, you can only know that you are unlimited awareness (which is why knowledge trumps experience in terms of enlightenment or realization).
And why can I see this body all the time? Why am I with a particular body year in and year out?
The body identified as Ravana's body remains your perspective all the time because it is the body with which awareness (brahman) has identified.
Ravana is nothing more than a particular bundle of vasanas (past impressions that form likes for some things and dislikes for others) that have accumulated in this body-mind vehicle.
And for those vasanas to come out in form of desires, emotional demeanor, intellectual capacity — a field (called Earth) is provided for Ravana.
Moreover, the body along with all the objects in the apparent reality (vyavaharika) are Isvara’s creation (ishvara-srishti).
This aspect of creation has a certain staying power. It provides the field upon which the game of life is played.
The individual’s experience of that field and the game played upon it is determined by the person's interpretations.
For example, some interpret president of a country to be a celebratory occasion. Others, a sad moment in history.
Thus our interpretations will change our experience toward WHAT is always happening.
Furthermore, the interpretations are based on vasanas (likes and dislikes).
Meaning vasanas (also called samskaras) are ultimately what accounts for people’s vastly differing attitudes toward situations, circumstances, objects, and encounters.
So returning to your original question; why you see this body all the time and why you are with it year in and year out?
It's because the body is like a car. It’s the vehicle that gets you around (for sake of fulfilling the fancies per the vasanas), until it wears out and is gotten rid of.
Surely, if I really knew I was awareness, I would see this body from the outside, alongside other bodies, or not see it at all — since as awareness, I would be free of this particular body?
Imagination is powerful. But if unguided by reason, it's nature is to imagine “how it should be” according to one's vasanas. The spiritual world is highly suspectable to this error.
Your postulation is not how it works. Though some do experience epiphanies in which such perspectives are experienced. However they're short lasting as anything else.
But this isn’t going to be your normal daily experience.
Being free of the body doesn’t mean that you don’t experience it. It simply means that you know that you are not ultimately confined to or defined by this body.
Another puzzle piece that will help you see the bigger picture of yourself is that the mind is inert.
What this means is that the person (Ravana) is not truly speaking a sentient being in itself.
You (as awareness) illumine Ravana's highly imaginative mind and thereby enliven it and enable it to think.
It’s like you are the electricity that enables the toaster to toast or the heater to heat.
You need the mind to know things, but you are forever free of the mind.
As long as you are experiencing thought or body sensation — you will be doing so from the perspective of Ravana, but as in the case of deep sleep, you are always free of the mind-body-sense complex.
Remember, the individual (with whom awareness is identifying), cannot transcend the individual. Because the individual and Awareness are two orders of the one non-dual reality.
To help you discern the these two orders of reality which your mind is currently mixing up, return to the analogy of the clouds and sky, mentioned earlier. Contemplate that in reference to your experience.