Are you Conscious?


Yes, that’s probably the appropriate starting point for this conversation, because the odds are, you aren’t.

But you have been.  And you will be again.  And at some point, you may decide being Conscious is downright appealing.

A few definitions here.  I use “Conscious”, with a capital C, to distinguish from “conscious”, with a lower case c, which is more like the state in which you are not physically sleeping, passed out from the over-enjoyment of various amusing substances, or undergoing surgery while you are reading this.  Which might be more suited for a Discovery Channel special.  Or maybe the National Enquirer.

By “Conscious”, with the capital C, I am referring instead to a state in which you are perceiving the world around you, and yourself in that world, through eyes undistorted by culture, outer identity, and other lenses of received knowledge and “wisdom”.  In such a state, there is nothing but a sense of wonder and seemingly irrational bliss, which in itself is a pretty good rule of thumb for determining whether you’re “there”.

You all know what I mean.  You’ve all been there.  Not some woo-woo, goofball, spacier-than-thou thing.  Just a moment of joy.  For no apparent reason at all.  Very cool.

Here’s another distinction:  Conscious is not the same as Mindful.  Mindful is good, too.  It means you’re paying attention to the main task at hand.  Do not, for example, try operating a chain saw without fixing your total attention, mindfully.

But being mindful, as the word implies, involves the Mind.  Wheels turning.  Sensory inputs engaged.  And the Mind, which is quite full of itself, is behind the tendency to “multi-task”, because once those wheels start turning, it’s such a buzz that, surely, more is better?  And the fact that you were able to arrive at work after simultaneously driving a car, texting your BFF, eating a breakfast burrito and maybe even painting your toenails, well, surely, that makes you queen (or king?) of the Mindfulness universe, right?

Actually what it makes you is momentarily… lucky.  Not cool.  Stop it.

Mindful means tending to the One Thing you are doing.  Not fragmenting your attention until there’s not enough attention left on any one thing to do that thing well.  And if you’re doing so many things that do not require deeper attention, your life is really superficial, my friend.

I used to know someone who always insisted that the devil is in the details.  By this, they meant that one should get down into the level of detail, which in the case of that person, meant, for example, days or weeks comparison shopping, both before and after a purchase.

Then again, this person also defined “5-ish” as meaning “any time within the clock hour between 5:00 and 5:59”, which made scheduling social events a little dicey.

Another interpretation of the devil is in the details is this:  that the real and perilous temptation lies in letting our attention get sucked out as we obsess about little things.  Things that Do Not Matter.  Consciousness always lifts one out of the specific and into the global, even though, paradoxically, it is often something specific that sparks the moment, like really seeing some bit of beauty in nature, or in some everyday interaction with another human being.  It’s only in those conscious moments that we are not only free of fear, but astoundingly clear as to how to live our lives and conduct our affairs.

Of course, then you crash down to earth again.  Welcome back.  We missed you.

Details are necessary, of course.  If your accountant is too fond of using the phrase “whatever”, you could have a problem, and maybe you need to tune into your own details.

But between the detail-microscope in the lab, and the infinite-universe-blowing-your-mind telescope looking out into the vastness of space, there are those little moments when we see it all, head in the stars, feet on the ground, nothing occupying our own space but compassion and understanding.

Consciousness is what happens when you fleetingly lift your boots out of the muck of what we think of as “normal” perception.  It’s that moment of sexual release, when there’s nothing but the … whoosh!

Nothing but the smile.

Have you been conscious lately?  Even though these moments are fleeting and often far between, you know another one will sneak up on you sometime when you least expect it.  Very cool indeed, huh?


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