This post is a composite of about 3 different posts that I started earlier but they all came out very mechanical, out of context and lacking any story line or structure. After about 2 weeks of mental hell, which felt more like a prolonged evisceration than a pleasantly creative process, it all snapped together :D. So instead of writing just facts and data I decided to redo the whole thing, compile it in one article, freestyle it and mix it with my personal view. The best way to read trough this is “in-one-breath”. Since this is the way I wrote it, it should be the best way to read it. And hopefully you won’t get butterflies in the stomach like I did 😉 (at least not now)
What is consciousness?
I first began my journey down the rabbit hole because of the word consciousness and the phrase: “expand your consciousness”. The people that spoke about consciousness were different – In the sense that there was something about them that I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t chew them and spit or swallow them like the rest of the people. I had to keep chewing :). At first it was just the general curiosity to unveil the mystery: what is this thing they are speaking about and how do I get more of it? 🙂
There are 2 different ideas behind this word consciousness: one is when doctors say: “she is unconscious” or “he lost consciousness” (which it is a valid term in the context they use it). But this is just a limited use of the word consciousness and it really means human consciousness or wakeful state (not passed out). It’s possible for us to go unconscious. In fact most of us, human beings, go unconscious every night. Only about 25% of your sleep is actually spent dreaming (REM sleep). The rest is deep dreamless sleep and other dreamless states. During that period “nothing happens”. You are most likely “not there”. You are just chilling and you don’t even know it :). So in the sense that doctors use the word consciousness, we may conclude that you lose consciousness at night and regain it when you wake up.
There is, however, a different use of the word consciousness and that is when we speak about expanding your consciousness. What consciousness really means is the grid onto which everything is hooked onto (or hanging on) – including your body, mind and spirit. It’s almost like the movie The Matrix but you can’t get out, because all there is, is this – there is no such thing as “outside of consciousness” or “on the other side”. Consciousness is like god but much cooler and bigger because it includes the idea of god and devil. Have you heard people say: “Where was god when my son; brother; mother died? I prayed every day and he took her/him from me”? Or they also say: “God must be unhappy because there are so many wars and people killing each other…” This to me is a really unhealthy way of viewing the world since it’s a time delayed tragedy – it’s doomed to fail from the beginning. Consciousness takes care of that since it embraces good and evil and doesn’t promise any of it. It’s only promise is that nothing will last forever :). It doesn’t have an end, beginning, birth or death because ends, beginnings, births and deaths can only occur in the presence of time and consciousness is prior to time. It’s the “space” within which time takes place. It’s the blank canvas onto which time paints. It’s the ocean in which everything swims. It’s the “thing” that burns the sun, spins the earth, grows your nails and beats your heart. It is also the very thing that is sitting on the back of your eyes right now and enables you to comprehend this text. And it is also the same thing that is enabling me to write it. If you had a stick man on a piece of paper and you told him that he was on a piece of paper he wouldn’t understand you at first because he wouldn’t know what a piece of paper is. In order for you to explain to a stick man, what a piece of paper is, you’d have to draw a piece of paper on the piece of paper. This analogy, to me, is the ultimate meaning of the term consciousness. It’s also called: The Ground of All Being
Having said that, the idea of expanding consciousness is, in a way incorrect (since consciousness is already fully expanded). Just like the piece of paper, you can’t expand it any more. There is nothing you can do with it. What people really mean when they use this phrase is: “align with consciousness”. Meaning that the more you increase your awareness of it, the more you get the bigger (biggest) picture… the more the stick man gets the fact that he is a part of a piece of paper :). So from the perspective of a human being it feels like something in us is expanding (our personal understanding of reality) but in fact we are aligning with that which is already big and fully expanded. If we had to be exact, the phrase would have to be: “expand your limited human consciousness until it merges with the Big, ever-present Consciousness and there is no distinction between the two.” But as long as you understand the distinction, I’ll keep using “expanding consciousness” since it’s more popular 😉
Solving the puzzle
Do you remember high school when every teacher was saying: “My subject is THE MOST important one. I don’t care about your other subject! This is the truth to life!” And they all came up with valid statements that you couldn’t deny.
- Chemistry: everything is molecules and atoms. Everything is made of it.
- Biology: Everything is cells, organisms and nature. Without it you wouldn’t exist.
- Psychology: If you are not mentally healthy you’ll be very unhappy.
- History: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
- Arts: Without beauty, music and art the world would bore you to death.
- Math: If you don’t know how to calculate you’ll be poor and dumb.
- Computers: Everything is run on computers nowadays. It’s the future.
- Sex: Sex makes the world go around! (kidding… though I wish there was such a class :))
Everyone was pulling the rope in their direction and you just happened to be in the middle. Sucked for you, didn’t it? The problem with traditional education is that most of the teachers are reductionists. Which means that they don’t care how is their subject connected to the whole; to the world; and what is its significance if any. Imagine for a moment that the truth to life was a puzzle of the Mona Lisa. If a particular subject or class was a piece of the puzzle they’d try to explain the whole puzzle with their piece of the puzzle. When you realize the truth, that it’s just a piece of the puzzle, they then try to prove you it’s the most important piece of the puzzle :).
This fractionation doesn’t only apply to school classes. Since to a certain extend education determines culture, it penetrates our entire world. Finances; Religion; Health; Psychology… We have at least a dozen of masks that we put on for our real friends, lovers, computer geek friends, business acquaintances, family etc. etc. It’s like you have a handful of pieces of the puzzle but you never put them together. You never come out as one; as a whole person.
Finding the pieces of the puzzle is easy. Information if everywhere! But putting the pieces together is the hard part. In developmental language this is know as vertical and horizontal development. To understand it better, imagine that our task was to get to the top of a mountain. Horizontal development would equal walking around the mountain in circles while vertical development would equal climbing the mountain. Horizontal development would mean finding more pieces of the puzzle (putting more stuff into your head) Vertical development would mean putting the pieces into place (changing your perspective; stripping your limited cultural identity)
Don’t you dare laugh at my sketch 🙂
Horizontal development is basically any kind of partial education: science, law, medicine, business etc. etc. It provides you with a skill, technique, experience and knowledge. Vertical development, however unfolds as you change your idea of who you are and begin to integrate the horizontal knowledge. It usually starts with psychotherapy which elevates you to a higher altitude and continues with spirituality which picks up from where psychotherapy left. Both are important. You’ll need different equipment for different altitudes of the mountain. The high altitude equipment won’t be any good for the low and vice versa.
Paths of liberation are attempting to wake you up from the illusion of “separate self.”
Psychotherapy is attempting to make a “healthy” separate self.
The paths of liberation are attempting to wake you up from the dream.
Psychotherapy is attempting to keep the dream from becoming a nightmare.
Only after I got this, I began to understand why I was unable to chew and swallow the people with the whole Mona Lisa (or at least more complete one) 🙂 It’s much easier to solve a puzzle when you look at the picture on the box. That’s why a person with a more complete puzzle can answer questions that a person with a fragmented puzzle cannot. If you have the picture you can tell with certainty that the eye of the Mona Lisa goes somewhere in the center and definitely not in the corners. Many times people with partial puzzles would try to fix a problem by modifying the piece, when in reality, the real problem is that it doesn’t belong there on the first place.
And since it’s good to know what the destination is, the following is a video of Ken Wilber describing what the whole Mona Lisa would mean to me.
The most important thing you’ll ever learn
to be continued…