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Friday, May 18, 2012

Remaining Conscious

What is being conscious? What does it mean when we are not conscious? Why are we not conscious? And how can we remain conscious?

Being Conscious

Over the millennia being conscious has been defined in many ways by many seekers, masters, enlightened beings, philosophers and spiritual or mystical organizations.

·         It has been defined as: subjectivity, awareness, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood

·         John Locke (1690) defined it as the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind

·         Stuart Sutherland (1989) wrote in the MacMillan Dictionary of Psychology about being conscious: The having of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings; awareness. The term is impossible to define except in terms that are unintelligible without a grasp of what consciousness means. Many fall into the trap of equating consciousness with self-consciousness—to be conscious it is only necessary to be aware of the external world. Consciousness is a fascinating but elusive phenomenon: it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it has evolved

·         Some seek to define it in purely Newtonian and mechanistic terms, i.e. that it all comes down to something physical

·         The mystical psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke distinguished between three types of consciousness: Simple Consciousness, awareness of the body, possessed by many animals; Self Consciousness, awareness of being aware, possessed only by humans; and Cosmic Consciousness, awareness of the life and order of the universe, possessed only by humans who are enlightened

·         Ken Wilber described consciousness as a spectrum with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound types of awareness at higher levels (Source)

So to simplify and for the purposes of this article, we could say that being conscious implies being aware of the self at all times, or at the very least, intending and attempting to be aware of the self, in such a way that no matter what occurs, this awareness is never lost in the waves of events in a lifetime. On another scale, being conscious also implies an acute awareness of a self that goes beyond the physical body with which we are clothed - an awareness of an eternal self that does not cease to exist when the body does.

Not Being Conscious

So evidently it follows that when you are not conscious you are not aware of yourself. You might notice – be conscious of - getting sick, although something like a back ache or a stiff neck might not make itself noticeable for a while either, simply because you would have less awareness about your physical self as well. You might not notice something like a gut feeling, an intuition, or even if you did, your awareness of it might be so reduced, that you simply would not pay attention to it.

On another level, you would not notice your SELF in daily interaction with others. You would notice the things they said or did to you, but you would not have sufficient consciousness to be aware of your own inner reactions to that, in order to then be able to choose other, perhaps less toxic reactions because that kind of choice is only possible when you are fully conscious.

You would not notice your egoic self (we might describe that as the part of you that sees everything first and foremost from its own point of view) intruding in everyday activities when, for example, you might be insisting on being right, whether or not you were, and even if you were, despite the fact that going to those lengths to show that you were right, might break a particular relationship asunder, or at least, damage it, as in the kind of damage vested upon relationships with our partners and children in such situations, your egoic self would make you insist on showing you were right…

You simply might not hear something kind your partner, parent or child just said, because closely attached (in verbal distance) to the kind words, were other words your mind has latched upon that you now interpret as being critical, harsh or cruel, and even if they were, the fact is, that due to a lack of full awareness or consciousness, you have merely heard and reacted to the more negative words.

Not being conscious has ramifications that spread themselves like grasping, strangling tentacles into every sector of our lives, literally cutting off the oxygen that allows us to live a healthy existence filled with inner freedom and well-being. Being partially conscious is helpful but not nearly enough.

Why Are We Not Conscious?

This has a number of quite logical answers:

·         We may not be aware of another kind of existence other than our ‘sleeping’ one

·         We may be aware, but have not yet taken any kind of decision to become more conscious

·         We may be aware, but do not desire to take any kind of decision to become more conscious

·         We may have taken the decision, but do not follow through on it with practice and discipline and a continual reminding of ourselves

·         We may have taken the decision, and are even following through on it, but only to a degree, and hence, despite our best intentions  – simply because we are still too weak in that arena – continually forget to practice remaining conscious

How Can We Remain Conscious?

Remaining conscious involves intent, choice and practice.

Intent means that your intention is to remain conscious. If you intend to lose weight, you will be paying attention to a number of things such as the kind of food you have in your house, the amount of food you have on your plate, and all the food choices you make throughout your day every day.

Intending to remain conscious works in a similar fashion. You pay attention to things such as your body and how it reacts, your emotions and how they are reacting, your inner energy and the level it is at.

Choice means that you choose to remain conscious. If you choose to lose weight, you will choose to purchase certain foods and not others, you will choose to eat certain foods in public places and not others, and you will choose to say no to bad food choices when someone offers them to you.

Choosing to remain conscious works in a similar fashion. You choose to do certain things that will promote remaining conscious. You may do some mindfulness exercises, such as a 15-minute mindfulness walk every day* that will promote the growth of new neural pathways that will literally help you remain conscious.

Practice means that you practice remaining conscious. If you practice losing weight, you will attune your body to a new way of eating, because you are using this new way over and over until it becomes a habit.

Practicing to remain conscious works in a similar fashion. You practice certain activities and new thought patterns because you know full well that what is not practiced does not become a habit, and if it does not become a habit, nothing will change.

Remaining conscious is truly a full-time activity, although it does not actually take much time. It takes a habit of mindfulness, expressed in your daily intent, your daily choices, and what you practice on a daily basis. Also see Consciousness is a Full-time Job

*15-Minute Mindfulness Walk: choose a time, during daylight hours when you can walk unimpeded, on your own, for 15 minutes. Start by focusing on the beauty around you, whether this is beauty you see, smell, hear, taste or touch. When you do this, also allow yourself to feel gratitude for whatever it is you are perceiving with one or more of your senses. This brings you into the present moment, allowing your mind to be still. Then do it again, by noticing something else, and again, feel the gratitude. Try to continue doing this for the entire 15 minutes. If at one point you realize your thoughts have wandered off to your worries or past pain, or just everyday problems, don’t get annoyed with yourself. Simply pull yourself back to noticing beauty again until your 15 minutes are up.

For more about becoming and remaining conscious and taking charge of your thoughts and emotions and about the self-transformational process - both in your outer life in the world, and in your inner life with your connection to your inner, divine self, have a look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self (paperback or e-book).

To download the first chapter, click here

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