What is Consciousness?
The day I returned home from walking 1000 kms across Northern Spain, having completed the Camino de Santiago, I experienced Transient Global Amnesia. I had spent 40 days and nights averaging 30 kms (on the days I walked), mostly on my own, carrying a back pack and an intention for clarity of purpose. Now at home, I was sitting in the media room talking to my partner. I suddenly became unconscious to what was happening in the present instant and to what had occurred during the previous 40 days. I was upright, I could communicate, I could emote, literally do everything that I would normally do, but I had no recollection of having walked the camino, and none of my mementos from the walk meant anything to me. I also had no recollection of anything that was going on in the present. I had no recollection of the conversation that occurred with my partner, which went on for a few hours. I have no recollection of being ushered reluctantly into bed, and only regained consciousness when I awoke at three in the morning, once again fully aware of where and who I was.
Consciousness is Having Awareness
Awareness is the ability that we have to fully experience our experience through our senses, thoughts, feelings and desires. Ironically, we all have varying degrees of living life unconsciously (not being aware), in just the same way that I did when I had TGA. How many times do you hear a conversation but not listen? In that moment you are not conscious. How many times do you have objects clearly in your vision, but you can’t see them? In that moment you are unconscious. How many times have you said things to hurt someone and you really knew better? In that moment, you are unconscious. How many times do you do things that you know are harmful to the health of your own body, but you ignore that knowledge? In that moment you are unconscious. In our human experience we get to engage life with our mind, our emotions, our senses and our values. Some of us, either through birth anomalies, illness or accidents are handicapped in our ability to engage consciousness fully. The majority of us have been handicapped through ignorance, generally the result of our childhood programming. It is only by becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, senses and desires, as well as our programming that we become truly conscious.
You Are That Which is Aware
To do this you have to begin to realise that in experiencing these elements of consciousness there is a part of you that is separate to them because something in you can observe them. You have thoughts but you are more than that, because there is something in you that can observe your thoughts. The same goes for your feelings, senses and desires. What is this part of you that can observe all of this? Is it possible that there is an aspect of who you are that you aren’t familiar with? There have been many names given to this aspect of human consciousness, and for the sake of this discussion I will call it That Which Is Aware. To become better acquainted with That Which Is Aware, I want you to go and find a piece of dried fruit in your kitchen. Just one piece. You are going to eat this piece of fruit, but I want you to think about how you normally eat the dried fruit. Take a moment to think about the last time you ate dried fruit. Let’s assume it is a raisin.
Take A Moment to Consider – The Raisin Experiment
So, before you pop it in your mouth, I want you to look at it. Take a really close look at the raisin. Look at the wrinkles, the spot where the stem attaches, the colour. I then want you to gently press it between your thumb and finger. Roll it between your thumb and finger. How does it feel? As you do this, what is happening inside your mouth? What thoughts are running through your mind. Now I want you to smell it. Can you identify the hint of wine in the fragrance? Can you recognise the variety of grape from the smell? By now I guess you are ready to pop it into your mouth. Go ahead, but don’t bite on it. Roll it around your tongue. Can you taste the hint of sugar on your sweet taste-buds? Are you having to resit the urge to chew the raisin? How difficult is it for you to do this? So now you can chew. But I mean, really chew it, keep chewing and don’t swallow. How strong is the urge to swallow? Taste the raisin, feel it in your mouth, smell it, and recognise the desire to want to swallow. All right, go ahead and swallow. How was that experience different to your normal experience of eating a raisin? And that was just one little raisin.
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You have just had an experience of enhanced awareness. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like if you were to bring enhanced awareness to your whole-of-life experience? “I feel more in charge of, and more responsible for, my decisions. I am more aware of how I feel and how that impacts others…I feel much clearer and more peaceful. I have more to give others now.” Rachel NZ.