My parents were the first to introduce me to the idea of ‘consciousness’ but it’s taken a long time to begin to understand it.
I attended my first in-person personal development workshop this weekend (thank you Mindvalley) and the facilitator asked the question,
“What does it mean to be conscious?”
It surprised me that I wasn’t completely sure how to answer.
I began meditating this year- quieting my mind, watching and observing my thoughts and feelings. I’ve read so many books: Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul , Pema Chodron’s Making Friends with Your Mind, Shefali’s Tsabary ‘s The Conscious Parent and am working my way through A Course in Miracles. I’ve become familiar with the idea of an Ego (fear), and recognize that on most days, the Ego steers the ship.
Google defines consciousness as:
From what I have learned, the best way to define consciousness is the journey of waking up.
Opening my eyes to notice my thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, while having the capacity to discern and choose them, instead of letting them happen to me automatically.
I think back to when Trinity was four, and convinced a dear friend that it was perfectly acceptable for her to ride in the front seat passenger side of his car, as long as she had her booster seat. “Trinity!” I exclaimed, when I found out, “You know you aren’t supposed to sit up front, it can be dangerous!”.
She looked at me with a mix of guilt and glee, throwing her head back dramatically and pronouncing, “I know Mommy, I JUST COULDN’T HELP MYSELF!”. Lol. She’s always communicated with flair.
When it comes to consciousness, it’s my understanding that we can learn to help ourselves.
One of the many books I’ve read recently describes the conscious and unconscious mind like an Elephant and a Rider.
The conscious mind (the rider) thinks that THEY are the one in charge- carefully directing and maneuvering the elephant according to their agenda. They are always on the lookout- assessing the world around them- picking and choosing the path to take.
But the elephant (the subconscious mind) is the actual force that’s moving them both. The subconscious mind holds all the power, all the strength. The rider would be standing still if not for the elephant below him.
So here’s where things get sticky…
Our subconscious minds are full of misinformation. Most subconscious programming occurs in childhood- especially under the age of seven.
So while it can be fine and good for my conscious mind to want to be rich (rich, rich!!!), if my elephant of a brain remembers nothing but poverty , I find myself struggling with my budget and savings.
I spent 13 years as a pack-a-day smoker. After several years, my conscious self said, “I’d like to quit smoking!”, but my elephant believed smoking was my way of relieving stress. I finally reached the point of quitting (a year and a half ago now) when I worked to reshape my internal mind (retraining my elephant, so to speak).
Personal development teaches so much about how to examine and amend your subconscious programming, and for me it’s an ongoing journey. Meditation* is the conduit for how I am slowing down my thinking, learning how to breathe, and watching myself slip in between the spaces between thought, feeling and reaction.
And I strongly recommend it.
I use the Headspace app, or sometimes just a 7-minute timer on my phone. My goal is to meditate daily, and 20-minutes is about the longest I’ve ever achieved without a facilitator.
I would love to know what other books or best practices others use to deepen their consciousness practices.
*And one other thing to note: I had to first address my trauma before I could quietly sit in silence with myself. Perhaps I should have started with my EMDR experience- but can share more about that another day.
Anyhoo, for all those on the journey of self-examination and healing, keep up the good work. For a super interesting lesson on this topic, check out the following episode from one of my favorite podcasts: How to Redesign the Subconscious Mind from Limitation to Freedom with Peter Crone.
Thanks for reading along.