What is consciousness and how does a lack of consciousness affect humanity?
Consciousness is defined simply as a state of wakefulness; an awareness of one's surroundings. So what does it mean to be a conscious person? And is being awake physically and being conscious the same?
Consciousness is easily defined yet not easily experienced. In a society controlled by mini robots and false news, it’s easy to understand how even in waking life we can become dulled out, unconscious zombies. We often hear the phrase “subconscious versus conscious mind,” and we assume that anything hidden in the depths of our subconscious is bad or not worth bringing forward into the light of the conscious mind; this is often where fragmented aspects of ourselves live, festering and creating the negative aspects of ourselves that reflect out into the world while simultaneously magnifying those same negative aspects in others; if only as a sign we should be working on that negative aspect within ourselves. One way to experience authentic, life changing consciousness is to dive deeply into the hidden aspects of self, no matter how dark or scary it can get, and bring them to the surface to be dealt with.
We often relate our status to the things we have or the people we know, but true consciousness involves diving into the depths of ourselves to discover that which is hidden.
On a larger scale, we can dive into the collective consciousness of humanity as a whole and see that it is either one of two things. More often, it is both things at once.
The first, is a constant feeling of being stuck in the past (what you might experience as depression.) We as people get so hung up on the things that bother us that we forget that the moment we are in is a gift - that’s why they call it the present.
The second, is fear of things that haven’t happened yet (what you might experience as anxiety.) As Eckhart Tolle said ““Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” (1)
Realizing this universal truth allows us to tune into the present moment that we are in without fear, anxiety or dread because we fully understand that the past is in the past and therefore no longer exists and the future is uncertain and therefore not worth thinking about. The only thing that is finite is the totality of this very moment. Wherever you are. Reading this article.
So what feeds the sorrow of the human soul, you may ask? The answer, unlike consciousness, is easy to experience; as we all experience suffering to one degree or another.
Through the work of Eckhart Tolle, I have realized that when we begin to overly identify with negativity of any kind, our ego becomes attached to the idea of separateness, believing at its core that it is alone; disconnected from the sentient world we live on and the people around us who occupy it. Again, to quote Tolle, “Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane.” (2)
To me, this means that we lose touch with our truth when we overly identify with our desires, our thoughts or material things in the world around us. Too often, we become our draining mental health issue, job, thoughts, home life etc when those are the things we pay close attention to and feed our energy to. Our collective insanity, leading to the general lack of consciousness we are talking about now, started with the ego desire to break down, label, monetize and monopolize on our basic right to exist. For example, politics, health care and education have all been played on to the point where it is nearly impossible for the average person to die without debt of some sort. We put value on things and determine our worth based on those things. We view people who have more or less than us as better or worse off. When in reality, our value is equal because we are all patterns cut from the same cloth.
Consciously observing our thoughts as we think of them as opposed to giving our power away by becoming our thoughts, allows us to realign with our authenticity because it gives us an opportunity to view our thoughts from a place of nonattachment, nonjudgement and complete acceptance. When we realize that our thoughts do not necessarily have to dictate our emotional state, we become liberated from the unconscious suffering of existence, even if it is just for a moment. Think of intrusive thoughts as demons possessing your body. That demon (thought) is not you, but it is inside of you and is reflecting out into the world through you - affecting not only you but everyone around you as well. Tolle’s exact view is this “The mind is using you. You are unconsciously identified with it, so you don’t even know that you are its slave. It’s almost as if you were possessed without knowing it, and so you take the possessing entity to be yourself. The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity - the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of that intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter - beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace - arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken.” (3)
So I ask again, what is consciousness? I answer this question confidently when I say that true consciousness is that which exists beyond our preprogrammed thought forms. It is awakening from a deep sleep with the new found ability to release the victim role we are born into and forced to play throughout our lives, allowing us to become who we want to be - who we are meant to be. When we start breaking down and labeling ourselves we limit our opportunity to experience both the good and bad things in life and therefore limit our opportunity for expansion. The Power of Now starts with a simple acknowledgement by Tolle where he poses the question to himself in a state of depression so deep he contemplated ending his own life. He asked “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” (4) Let that sink in for a minute.
In conclusion, consciousness allows us to connect more easily with ourselves, others (plants, animals and minerals alike) and the universe at large. It is allowing the moment we are in to be enough with no attachment to the past or fear of the future. It is releasing our old, destructive thought patterns and behaviors to make way for an authentic existence. A lack of consciousness leaves us disconnected, hopeless and fearful which can be embodied in physical reality in different ways, varying from person to person. Eckhart Tolle said “Death is the stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to "die before you die" - and find that there is no death.”(5) Simply put, we gain consciousness when we start exposing the aspects of ourselves that were unconscious, asleep, deactivated or hidden within us. We are faced with the opportunity to transcend or “kill off,” for lack of better terms, the parts of ourselves that keep us from reaching our full potential. Humans doubt the magnitude of their natural abilities but the truth is this: we are capable of much more than we realize when we consider what awakening beyond wakefulness means in all of its glory.
The Power of Now - Eckhart Tolle