We are, in fact, consciousness embodying human form in endless waves of existence.
Perhaps a good analogy of this would be seen with waves on the surface of water. The waves appear to have unique identity but in reality they are merely surface forms of the same body of water that underlies them, momentarily appearing as unique and separate, but disappearing back into their source in a matter of moments.
Consciousness is the reality that underlies all experience - our temporary appearance as unique and separate individuals is a wave form that is the expression of consciousness in a localized form. We as embodied consciousness are like an alternating current that ebbs and flows within an imagined continuum appearing to be endless but is in fact timeless.
Mystics throughout time have acknowledged that the transcendence of these waves of consciousness reveals a reality beyond explanation or description. A non-dual reality that folds everything that appears as real into nothingness that simultaneously contains all that is. Many of these mystics have claimed this as a kind of divine awakening and have gone on to develop "methods" and "practices" in order to attempt to formalize a "path" to this divine awakening. But there is no personal path. This awakening is not a gain of consciousness but rather a dropping away of the veil to the consciousness that is always already the case. Consciousness is always fully engaged in reality - there is no expansion and contraction. There is only seeing it in its primal and timeless state.
Wholeness is fully engaged consciousness - there is no gradual means to wholeness. Words like "gradual" and "return" are poetic representations of the apparent sequence of liberation from duality - awakening can appear as a progressive path - but it is an immediate condition once the seeking mind ceases to seek and "gives up."
"One possible way of envisioning the human passage is the following. We think of ourselves as originally emerging from the unknown, from darkness, nothingness or non-existence into the light of consciousness. But as consciousness develops we discover the increasing ability to see in the dark, see into the nothingness or mystery within ourselves and eventually realize that this darkness and nothingness is the divine from which we emerged and with which we are one. Thus we discover that our original darkness IS true light. Midway in this passage, divine light (darkness or unknowing) and the light of consciousness are in balance, with neither outshining the other. But as we move beyond this mid-point, divine light begins to outshine the light of consciousness until, in the end, the light of consciousness goes out and only divine light remains. From this vantage point we look back on the passage and see that although consciousness was the veil that dimmed the light, this dimming was necessary in order to make the human dimension possible. But if consciousness makes human existence possible, it is also not separate from the divine, nor does it completely hide it; on the contrary, consciousness or self is man's faculty or medium for experiencing the divine -- so long as it remains, that is [this is key]. Our passage through consciousness is the gradual return to the divine; we leave the divine unknowingly and in darkness, but we return knowingly and in light."
- Bernadette Roberts, "What is Self?"