What is Consciousness?
If you’ve ever asked yourself What is consciousness? then let me begin by explaining what consciousness is not. You see, the spiritual path is nothing but a great process of elimination.
Consciousness is not your ego, or in other words, your personality and concept of “self”. It’s not the college you went to, the fact that you’re a democrat, or your long list of hobbies. It’s not your beliefs, your family, your age, or your physical appearance. It’s not where you were born, your race, culture, or gender. All of these things are of the world. Some of them are made up, passed on, or learned.
Consciousness is not something you can seek out, and it’s also not something you can come to on an intellectual level. It’s not the sort of thing an empiricist, or an atheist can wrap their mind around, as consciousness needs to be experienced.
Now that we know what it’s not, what’s leftover?
Think About Consciousness in Relationship to the Experience of Dreaming
When you dream, you experience flying, swimming in the ocean, or climbing mountains you’ve never seen before. You can be 5-years-old just as easily as you can be thirty-five. The experience of dreaming is one that is independent of your body. You don’t take your body with you, as you don’t need it. All you need is your awareness, or in other words, your consciousness.
Your consciousness is the invisible part of you that experiences your life in every moment. It is the awareness immersed in the dream. It is the creator of the dream, as well as the dream itself. The awareness that experiences your life is also experiencing the life of every other living being and creature on earth.
The energy, or awareness, that peers from behind your eyes (though it’s not really in your body per se) peers out from everyone else’s as well. Radical, huh?
The Universe is Made Up of Physical and Nonphysical
Two experiences are transpiring in every moment: your ego (the personality part of you that’s attached to a name and a personal history-that part of you that gets mad when someone cuts you off in traffic and that likes to describe itself as separate from every other sentient being on earth) is having an experience, as well as consciousness - the invisible awareness that is energy.
That invisible awareness is observing all of reality, enjoying the experience of life, be it painful, joyful, or somewhere in between. Consciousness is omnipresent and neutral. It doesn’t judge what is happening; it only desires experience. Why? Imagine an existence without physical matter, just energy. There are no people, animals, mountains, or buildings. That energy, or awareness that exists in a disembodied state would eventually begin to desire another experience.
Spirit wants to experience itself as itself. Nonphysical emerges into physical. To do so, it takes on an ego, or a personality. There is you and the belief of who you are, which is nothing more than a thought (if you woke up with amnesia, you wouldn’t be you anymore), and then there is the nonphysical part of you that’s enjoying your life experience.
You are not a body; you are consciousness expressing itself as a body.
How Do You Experience Consciousness?
You can experience consciousness in different ways, just as there are different states of consciousness. You can experience consciousness from ordinary awareness, or from God-realized awareness, where you’re in alignment with your spirit. You can experience consciousness in a meditative state, a hypnotic state, or while tripping. Either way, your brain waves are altered. If your brain were to be monitored while in a deep meditation, you’d discover that your brain waves fluctuate depending on your level of consciousness, or in other words, your level of awareness.
What is Expanded Awareness?
You are not perceiving reality in its entirety; you are perceiving only the smallest fraction. Think about how dogs can sense a tornado before it hits, or how bats can see in the dark, while you can’t. Your experience of physical reality is limited to your senses, and it is created as a result of your awareness. The more you expand your awareness, the more your perception would shift.
For example, you probably can’t read minds. Because of this, when interacting with friends, your awareness is limited to reading their body language and listening to their words to try to make meaning of how they feel, and in particular, how they feel about you. Let’s pretend your good friend acts stand-offish. You might be tempted to think that it’s you; maybe she’s upset because you didn’t come for Sunday dinner, or maybe she feels the two of you are growing apart.
However, imagine if you could read her mind. As it turns out, she’s not made at you; she got into a fight with her mother that morning. Awareness is another word for information, or if you really want to get new-agey, light. As human beings, we have limited awareness. It’s only when we tap into the nonphysical part of ourselves (our intuition, connection to spirit, and empathic and psychic abilities) that we begin to become aware of more.
Suddenly, you get a vision of a job you’re going to manifest in six months. You get an intuitive feeling that you should go to a particular restaurant for dinner, where you just so happen to connect with someone who can help you. You are able to feel a person’s emotions or energy without them communicating it to you verbally. This is expanded awareness. Your level of perception is up to you.
Why Does Consciousness Matter?
You had a hard day at work. When you got home, you discovered that your husband left the kitchen a mess, and your daughter requires a tray of brownies for her school’s bake sale tomorrow. You’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed. You can perceive life through your ego, which means that you’re going to complain that your husband is a slob, and you’re going to have conversations in your mind with your jerk of a boss. Your night is not going to feel easy and peaceful. You’re going to recoil from your husband when he tries to wrap his arm around you, and your daughter’s going to sense your frustration.
Now, if you know how to shift your awareness, meaning you can shift your emotional state, or doing something that alters your brainwaves such as Wim Hof’s breathing technique, then you’ll experience a great wave of calm wash over you. A voice will whisper to you, “Your husband is doing the best he can. You’re so lucky to have such a sweet daughter. All is well.” You’ll inhale and exhale. Your body will loosen. That kink in your shoulder will disappear. Instead of grabbing a bag of cookies and unconsciously eating, you’ll realize that you’re dehydrated, and you’ll chug a bottle of water. You’ll give your husband a kiss on the cheek, and you’ll tell him that you’re going to take a power nap.
In moments of stress or exhaustion, your level of consciousness is key. If you’re unconscious, meaning, identified with your personality self, you’re more inclined to self-sabotage, lash out, or make poor decisions. When you learn how to shift your consciousness through practice, you’re able to perceive life through a new set of eyes.
In this way, your level of consciousness is what creates your entire life. Remember, you’re creating the dream and experiencing the dream. Nothing is outside of you. You are pure consciousness. It’s just easy to forget.
Hi, I’m Jessie! I’ve been on the spiritual path for 15 years, and this blog is where I share hacks, lessons I’ve learned & mindful dating advice. I believe you can be spiritual and a badass. I believe you can live boldly, pursue your passions, & love fully. If you’d like to work with me, send me a message.