What is Consciousness? According to Wikipedia (and directly quoted here)”
“Consciousness is the state or quality of sentience or awareness of internal or external existence. It has been defined variously in terms of qualia, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood or soul, the claim that “there is something that it is like” to ‘have’ or ‘be’ it, and the executive control system of the mind. Despite the difficulty in definition, many philosophers believe that there is a broadly shared underlying intuition about what consciousness is. According to Max Velmans and Susan Schneider, “Anything that we are aware of at a given moment forms part of our consciousness, making conscious experience at once the most familiar and most mysterious aspect of our lives.”
Western philosophers since the time of Descartes and Locke have struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and how it fits into a larger picture of the world. These issues remain central to both continental and analytic philosophy, in phenomenology and the philosophy of mind, respectively. Some basic questions include: whether consciousness is the same kind of thing as matter; whether it may ever be possible for computing machines like computers or robots to be conscious; how consciousness relates to language; how consciousness as Being relates to the world of experience; the role of the self in experience; whether individual thought is possible at all; and whether the concept is fundamentally coherent.
Recently, consciousness has also become a significant topic of interdisciplinary research in cognitive science, involving fields such as psychology, linguistics, anthropology, neuropsychology and neuroscience. The primary focus is on understanding what it means biologically and psychologically for information to be present in consciousness—that is, on determining the neural and psychological correlates of consciousness. The majority of experimental studies assess consciousness in humans by asking subjects for a verbal report of their experiences (e.g., “tell me if you notice anything when I do this”). Issues of interest include phenomena such as subliminal perception, blindsight, denial of impairment, and altered states of consciousness produced by alcohol and other drugs, or spiritual or meditative techniques.
What I find even more interesting is understanding the Collective Unconscious thoughts, words and actions that many of us can take in as “normal” and acceptable. And many go with this flow without giving much thought to it. As I become more and more mindfully-aware, I find myself thinking and meditating on this more regularly. Why are people drawn to difficult/unhappy thoughts, words and behaviours so easily? Like the news, fear-provoking movies (I hear the Joker movie opened to a record audience for October); dark concepts and dark themes are becoming more prevalent in our T.V. programming (I heard on the radio as I haven’t watched T.V. for years). Many peoples’ workdays have become longer, busier and less joy-filled; our spare time is limited and often filled with long to-do lists. And many people fill a weekend with running errands not possible to finish on weekdays, and then start the cycle all over again on Monday! Some call it the “rat race” – I believe this is the Collective Unconscious. We worry more, celebrate less; and the Collective Ego is loving every bit of this drama.
So what if we say no to drama? Stop thinking about it, watching it like a deer in the headlights, talking about all that we are unhappy about and start living the joyful life that is coexisting right along with all of the not-easy experiences within us and around us? I am a strong believer in sharing the not-easy experiences to understand the messages from them and learn from them, but let’s not forget the good too – and there’s always something good… we are breathing, many of us are living a life that many others can only dream of. If you are a person who can enjoy a sunrise/sunset, the smell of apple pie, the comfort of a good night’s sleep, fresh air, a beautiful song, laughing with a dear friend… you are someone who knows how to enjoy the important things. So let’s take a breath, assess the good and the not-so good, shake off the not-so-good after expressing it like dust off a shirt found in the attic (it will not help you to keep that dust!), and truly focus on the gift of life. Right here. Right now. Lots to be grateful for.
It came to mind today that one of the first articles I ever wrote after I graduated was about “Hurry Sickness” in our society. Things haven’t changed much. I can even see how I was outside of this “game” when I first moved to Toronto, then became very much part of the same sickness, and now I am happily recovering from that unconscious space. Wait a minute… it’s been longer… meditative reflection reminded me that I did start University at a very early age in Alberta, and before that I was a driven “show-and-tell” presenter in grade schooling days in Ontario!!! Lots of retraining has certainly been happening NOW!! Amazing that I had comfortably forgotten how young I was when I began such a pattern! We need space and time to recognize that we can each fall into these patterns. Only Consciously removing ourselves from this repetitive cycle (at least mentally) – can help us see with clarity how easy it is to follow the masses (while still feeling a step ahead!).
Mindful practices and Meditation have truly helped me be Present to what I care most about. Compassion, Integrity and Honest Communication. Ahh… and that’s my communication for today 🙂
Wishing you a Conscious week ahead!