Consciousness - What is it? Can you become more conscious?
Consciousness seems to have a lot of different meanings, depending on how it is used and who uses it. In a nutshell, it seems as if consciousness is becoming more and more difficult to prove, but is something we experience. To simplify it, many refer to consciousness as the notion of being aware. Thus awareness has become the easiest way to describe what it feels like to be conscious. The mystery of consciousness comes from its unexplainable origin. Nonetheless, we experience consciousness day-to-day, so the question is: what do we do about it, and how can this help us. This article goes talks about what consciousness is, what becoming more conscious could entail, how this helps us at an individual level, how that could help humanity and how to become more conscious.
Consciousness, as a simple definition, is seen to be the awareness of internal and external existence. To this day, scientists have struggled to locate the exact whereabouts of consciousness.
Why is consciousness a puzzle?
When trying to locate the source of consciousness scientists have always referred to its origination within the mind or an aspect of the brain. However, none of these theories has been conclusive. Furthermore, if it was within the brain, how are we aware of our thoughts? How are we aware of our rationalisations?
Let us dig a little deeper into what it means to be conscious (externally)…
To be aware externally, one can notice the senses (taste, touch, sound, sight, smell) and all of which stimulate them. This could be:
Conversation with others
Which sense is the body being led by i.e. hunger, conversation, physical touch
Environmental conditions (weather, housing, location etc.)
What does it mean to be conscious internally?
To be aware of our internal environments, you can be aware of:
Self-image and our ideal image (how we could be, and how we are)
Our survival needs (safety, security, love, food)
These are 4 labels that are used to loosely describe the processes we experience internally; you may refer to these same functions with different names but ultimately they are experienced similarly.
What happens to this consciousness (awareness) day-to-day?
Nothing happens to this awareness day-to-day, your sense of awareness never diminishes. However, we can have tunnel vision on specific points of focus. This could be either externally, internally or a combination of both. If we trained our focus, we could remain with our awareness and not get pulled into every emotion, passing thought and just be.
What does becoming more conscious entail?
When you start delving into consciousness one of the more common things to appear is the idea of becoming more conscious.
How does one do that exactly?
In a sense this is paradoxical as you are already conscious, thus at some level, you are aware of everything internally or externally. However, over time we lose sight of that awareness especially when we get more engrossed in our day-to-day activities, our goals and ambitions and other desires. Thus we can expand our awareness by clearing some of the junk.
If we picture an email inbox, it is often filled with emails about things we have signed up for, registered interest in, and important correspondence. We also have a certain amount of phishing emails that appear in our junk. Taking this analogy, although we can have a full vision of our inbox with more and more emails coming in every day it may be difficult to know what is exactly in your inbox. The solution is to continuously clear your inbox of junk, unsubscribing from certain emails and staying on top of it.
Now if we compare that to consciousness, we have so many desires that we have wanted at points in our lives – whether we want them or not doesn't matter anymore. As we have the thoughts, emotions and subconscious behaviours that come with it. Becoming more conscious requires you to clear and clean up your inbox, your internal inbox. This means going through old emotions, desires and even survival needs, to see how relevant they are and whether they serve us anymore. By undergoing that self-cleansing process, you are becoming more aware of the unwanted conditioning that has been programming you and thus you can begin to take corrective action. Once you have undergone a form of self-cleansing you can be more aware of your different units (ego, rational mind, emotions & survival needs) and thus make more conscious decisions.
How does being more conscious help us at an individual level?
By becoming aware of our inner processes, we can understand what we are and what we are not. For example, if you are aware of anger within you and you have a thought to hit the other person; on autopilot, you may engage in being violent. However, when you are aware of that internal dialogue going on between your emotions and ego, you can know that you are neither the anger (emotion) nor the thought to be violent (ego). You are the witness to both of these processes. Thus by being the witness, you can use your rational mind to interject and avoid being violent.
So being more conscious allows you to have more self-control?
This is one of the major boosts of being more conscious. You can be more aware of negative aspects of ourselves rather than just the more positive aspects of ourselves. This can be quite frightening at first as you may have never been consciously aware of the more negative aspects of yourself. Therefore, initially being more conscious can be looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing a reflection you did not quite imagine. As one begins to dissect these newly revealed thoughts, and emotions you begin to realise that some of these patterns come from our animal nature. As humans, we are in fact animals and therefore, it is normal for us to experience animal-like instincts. We are gifted with an awareness that allows being aware of the animal sides of ourselves and thus we can choose how we express ourselves. A luxury that animals may not necessarily share.
By being more conscious or aware, we can understand our intentions behind every action and whether we are doing it for reasons that are true to our hearts. This means we can properly plan what we would like to do in life and consciously choose how we’d like to express our whole selves. The alternative would be giving in to traits like lust, greed, laziness, fear and desire and having no conscious decision on how we choose to express them.
How can being more conscious help humanity?
When you become more aware of your internal processes and how they interact with the external environment, you can make more conscious decisions. This does not mean they are always right, however, what they do mean is that you are consulting more aspects of yourself before making a choice. This is one of the major stepping stones to serving humanity, you are enabling yourself to make a decision based on your whole self rather than serving an aspect of yourself. Therefore, you can make a decision that you can live with rather than a decision that you are likely to regret only moments or days later.
How making more conscious decisions can benefit humanity?
Being more conscious whilst making a decision will spread across your life. Therefore, you are making more well-rounded decisions based on your purpose, health, career, partner, friends and how you choose to spend your spare time. Essentially to be aware whilst making decisions on major aspects of your life, you can begin choosing a life that is more aligned with more of you. This means whichever direction life decides to take you, you can bring your whole self into play and thus be more authentic. Whatever you choose to do will ideally be based on your values and ways to express the whole of you and not just the parts that allow you to fit in. An individual like this becomes a role model for those around them, not because people need to try and become them but because they can inspire people to be who they truly are and not follow the norm just to fit in. By bringing their whole self to the table and the major parts of their life, they are stronger, more resilient, less doubtful, more committed and more loving. These qualities shine brightly and inspire others to do the same. Ultimately, being more conscious allows individuals to shine on their paths and thus people can do what they are meant to do.
What can we do to become more conscious?
There are many ways one can become more conscious. Many great philosophers, mystics and spiritual leaders have paved the pathway for those who would like to become more conscious. Swami Vivekananda, a 20th-century monk, broke these methods into four pillars. They are known as:
Contemplative Meditation (Raja Yoga)
Acting with a well powered moral compass (Karma Yoga)
Loving pathway (Bhakti Yoga)
Pathway of knowledge (Jnana Yoga)
All four of the pathways above can help an individual become more conscious. They can be done alone with one another or be done in tandem with each other. More likely, as you begin to use one of the pathways, you will probably end up using the others as they are correlated.
The first method mentioned is contemplative mediation, this can be done in a variety of ways. Breathwork is a common anchor in meditation, where people focus on their breath for a continuous period. This helps us become more conscious, as we become aware of certain thought patterns that continuously rise within. As we sense the continuous rise of various thought patterns that do not serve us, we can apply correction to these thought patterns and replace them with something more useful. Meditation can also be done with chanting, this is when you take an affirmation or a mantra and continuously say it. This allows one to have a verbal phrase to focus on and this results in the phrase being registered in our brains and entering our subconscious. This form of meditation helps us become more aware of our subconscious behaviours and allows the chant or mantra to reprogram our subconscious.
The other methods are equally as useful in becoming more conscious and will be explored in more detail in future articles.
Consciousness has gained a reputation as being this mysterious phenomenon, mainly due to the uncertainties around its origin. Although the discovery of its origin may not happen in our lifetime, we can still have uses for consciousness for ourselves and the wider good. Awareness is the term that many have used to describe consciousness, and thus consciousness is known as the awareness of external and internal existence. As we have found out, there can be extremely powerful uses for becoming more conscious. We can become more aware of our internal processes i.e. rational mind, ego, emotions, survival needs and how they interact with the external environment. We can also use consciousness to make decisions that incorporate our whole selves, and thus make decisions that we are more committed to. All in all, becoming more conscious can have serious benefits to society as a whole, and there are practical ways to achieve that.
Have you ever thought about your conscious experience?
Have you ever tried becoming more conscious?
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