The Nature of Consciousness
What is Consciousness?
Scientists and philosophers have puzzled over this question for ages without agreement. For many, discussing the c-word in academics is taboo - as the gaping hole in our vast library of human knowledge, it’s best left unmentioned. However, quantum physicists, neuroscientists, and cosmologists are slowly breaking these taboos now, using modern discoveries to bring new light to these ancient questions.
I reject the materialist notion that the mental state spontaneously arose out of physical processes simply through natural selection. I don’t reject natural selection - it’s an excellent description of how forms change over time. But the process does not explain the development of the subjective experience. It may even articulate how subjectivity developed neurologically, but that still doesn’t explain why. What is the purpose of awareness?
Luckily, consciousness can be studied closely because it lives right in our heads. A personal examination of your own consciousness can lead to many fascinating insights. What happens when you turn your consciousness on itself - observe your own ability to observe? Can you perceive perception?
If the question is as mind-boggling as two mirrors facing each other, then you know what I’m talking about.
1. You Are Not Your Body.
By observing your physical sensations, you can experience this statement for yourself. When you observe sensations in your body, you can study those sensations - an itch on the upper lip, an ache in your knee. Since you’re observing that sensation, the sensation is obviously not you.
Most of us make the mistake of thinking that we are our bodies and we become its slave. This result is totally backwards! Your body is your tool, it’s an avatar you manifested so that you can exist and experience four-dimensional reality. You wouldn’t play a video game and forget your true nature, and yet, we daily fall under the delusion that we are our bodies. Instead, we are conscious beings using bodies.
if you can refer to your leg, or your arm, then you are not your leg, or your arm. You are something that isn’t described by arm or leg or even the whole body. After all, when you sleep (ie: when you’re not conscious), you are quite absent while your body remains present. So what’s the ‘you’ in question here if not the body?
2. You Are Not Your Emotions
Just as you can observe your physical sensations and realize that they do not define or encompass you, so too can you examine your emotional sensations and reach the same conclusion. This statement is harder for people to grasp than the first because we all like to identify by our feelings. Just as bodily sensations are physical reactions to outside stimulus, your emotions are physical reactions to your thoughts.
For example, when an upsetting situation occurs, there are two ways to articulate the emotion. Most of us would say, “I’m frustrated,” and then act and feel accordingly. But what if you said, “I’m feeling frustrated,” or even, “There’s frustration happening.” By revising your statement this way, you’ve separated yourself from the feeling. You’re no longer defined by it.
When you can observe your emotions, you can see that you are not frustrated, but that you feel frustration. You are the thing experiencing the feeling, not the feeling itself. This realization creates just enough wiggle room for you to decide what to do without the emotion simply dictating your behavior.
So if you’re not your body, and you’re not your feelings, then you must be your mind, right? Wrong.
3. You Are Not Your Thoughts.
Our association with our mental patterns is so ingrained that it’s difficult to imagine that those voices in your head don’t define you. But again, you can experience this statement for yourself by simply observing your thoughts. Watch how they come and go, how they’re an endlessly flowing stream that winds and eddies from topic to topic.
When you observe your thoughts, you again can see them as separate from your true being. After all, you are the thing observing the thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.
The mind, just like the body, is a tool for us to utilize for existence in four-dimensional reality. The fact that most people can’t stop thinking illustrates how enslaved we are to the delusion that our minds are in charge. Luckily, we can regain control of our minds simply through relentless observation.
The more you observe your own mental patterns, the more you’ll see how poorly your mind has been serving you. Without direction, without your strict guidance, the mind wanders off into unpredictable terrain. Your feelings then react to your roaming thoughts, provoking uncontrolled emotions that terrorize you. To distract yourself from the pain, you indulge in sensory pleasures that allow you to pretend that you’re your body, further entrenching all three levels of the delusion.
So, if you’re not your body, if you’re not your emotions, and if you’re not your mind, then what are you?
You are the observer, you are the awareness of these passing phenomena - the phenomena of sensations, of feelings, of thoughts.
Upon experiencing this realization for myself, I had to turn the lens of my awareness back on itself to see, what exactly is it? Back to my original question: what is consciousness?
My answer is simple, yet severe: our individual awareness is rooted in THE Awareness, with a capital A. I’ve purposely avoided using the word God here because that’s a loaded term, overused and abused beyond recognition. So instead, I’ll say that your essence can be boiled down to your quality as an observer, and your awareness itself is rooted in a greater Awareness that cannot be reached, the evidence for which is in your own head. All you have to do is close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and observe it.