What is being conscious? What does it mean when we are not conscious? Why are we not conscious? And how can we remain 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 others say or do 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 and seeks to benefit itself) 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.
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 critical harsh or cruel, 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 filed 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 in order to be able to then make choices that create greater benefits for all involved.
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 remaining conscious in order to help you move towards spiritual partnership and inner peace, see my book The Tao of Spiritual Partnership in paperback format. (The Kindle version is available here)
To download the first chapter, click here
To see the Table of Contents click here
This ground-breaking book addresses:
• relationship patterns that hold you back from a truly fulfilled life
• the strong connection between sexuality and spiritual partnership
• communication leading to true connection & lasting transformation of your relationship
It is precisely at the problematic crossroads so often encountered in relationships that we are offered the opportunity to create a new foundation based on mutual complementarity rather than need; a free relationship between two people who want to be together, rather than two people who need to be together. Needing another, we are told, is the measure of love, but for a fully conscious individual nothing could be further from the truth. And therein lies part of the secret and healing power of spiritual partnerships.
Praise for The Tao of Spiritual Partnership
“All humans seek the illusive touch of another's Soul, which opens us to the sense of belonging to something bigger than the self. Dr. Kortsch has given us the true "tao" of relationship in this brilliant exploration of emotional tapestry. We will be grateful for this illumination of spiritual partnership for generations to come."
Chris Griscom: Spiritual Leader, Author (among others) of Time is an Illusion and Ecstasy is a New Frequency
REWIRING THE SOUL
For more about understanding the path towards life meaning and the inner quest, also have a look at my earlier book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self (paperback or Kindle).
To download the first chapter, click here
To see the Table of Contents click here
From the Description on Amazon: Ask anyone, whatever their circumstances, if their life is vibrant, fulfilling, harmonious and happy. An honest reply is likely to be 'no', because to answer a truthful 'yes' is no mean feat. Only to grow psychologically and emotionally is not enough. And only to grow spiritually is not enough either. All three dimensions need to be developed in order to realize your full potential. If you are willing to assume total responsibility for the self and to start what is an on-going journey, you will quickly begin to glimpse the first fruits of the ultimate goal: inner well-being, freedom, peace, harmony and joy. This book sets out the pathway to self-mastery and self-discovery and walking that pathway will be the most exciting adventure of your life.
Reviews From the Back Cover:
A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom & joy but illuminates the way to true human potential. Dr. Kortsch is a spiritual master for our time. Paul Rademacher, Executive Director, The Monroe Institute; author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe
"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, Director, Center for Sacred Theatre, Ashland, Oregon; author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre
My new book: The Power of Your Heart: Loving the Self, is due out later this year. Here is a brief excerpt from the Introduction:
It is your right to live a life of love. It is your right to understand that loving yourself first is not a selfish way of behavior, but one that allows you to live that life of love. However, it's highly probable that you never got the instruction manual explaining exactly how to accomplish this. Possibly your family - and it may have been a loving family - considered loving the self an act of selfishness. Or perhaps the members of your family simply didn't practice loving the self, and of course, what you didn't see - what was not shown to you - while you were growing up, meant that you just didn't learn how to apply it to yourself. The closer you are able to move towards loving yourself, the closer you will be to living a life of love - quite independently of whether you are in a love relationship or not. A life of love can be lived with or without a partnership, because a life of love implies that you know that it all begins with you by loving the self. The more clearly you understand how to love yourself, the more clearly you will see that it is very hard - if not impossible - to love others in ways that are unrelated to fulfilling any of your needs. Loving yourself first is - for so many of us - one of the hardest things we will ever learn how to do. But know this: the benefits affect you in every particle of your being - body, mind, and soul - and are greater than you will ever be able to imagine.
Note: If you are wondering why this blog is now only appearing on alternate days (excluding Sat/Sun), it is because I also post on my other blog on the others days. That other blog is Rewiring the Soul so named for my other book. Click here to visit the blog and/or to sign up for the feed.