So, what exactly is consciousness?
What does it mean to be a living, breathing person? How is it that we can experience the world? Well, to put it quite honestly, no one knows for sure. These questions remain to be the greatest questions of modern science today. Every theorist has struggled to comprehend the nature of consciousness and how it is that we have a “field of awareness” and where it even came from.
Questions such as, “How does the mind give rise to a single cohesive reality and a sense of an individual ‘self’?” have been studied as far back as Plato, Locke, and Descartes and they continue to baffle scientists today.
The way we see the world through our own eyes is something that is unique to each and everyone of us as individuals. It is a true mystery.
However, after thousands of years of contemplation by numerous fields of study, there are two things that we know for sure. We know that:
1. We each have a “field of awareness”, and that;
2. We each have our “own” experiences within that field of awareness.
Scientists have also long wondered whether or not the human race shares one higher field of awareness. This would mean that we communicate in ways that we do not necessarily perceive through our actual thoughts. It’s a very fascinating field of study and one that is just recently beginning to get the attention it deserves.
In 2014, the University of Washington Bothell became the very first University ever to offer a Minors Degree in Consciousness Studies thanks to Professor Kathleen Noble who pioneered the movement. I do believe the younger generation will make great strides in trying to figure out these “unanswerable” questions.
While scientists still haven’t figured everything out yet, we do know that we can currently use our own thoughts and experiences as “tools” in order to help us grow and navigate through life more easily, but only if we learn to master self-consciousness.
Let’s first begin by describing what it actually means to be conscious…
To be conscious is:
To know that we exist and that we have form. We all know that we exist and that we have form when we look in the mirror. We even make alterations to this form in order to make ourselves more appealing to others. The more appealing we appear to the vast majority, the greater are our chances of ease and survival.
It is being aware of our body’s position and movement (how we feel and move about physically) as well as being aware of it’s inner senses (how we feel emotionally). We can even sense direction.
It is being aware of our outer environment and all that surrounds us through our various senses. We are aware of our belongings, our homes, our towns, our communites, the earth, and that there is a grand and unknown universe beyond what we can see.
It is being aware of our family, friends, pets, and all others who occupy this earth along with us. We are aware of what we can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
To be self-conscious, on the other hand, is to:
Be aware of your role in the creation of your personal experiences and how those experiences help shape the world around you.
It is being aware that you have thoughts, feelings, experiences, and potential.
It’s knowing how your thoughts influence your feelings, how your feelings influence your actions and how your actions influence your experiences.
It is knowing how YOU impact the lives of others around you.
Your level of awareness (or self-consciousness) is related to the degree in which YOU understand yourself. The more you understand yourself (your thoughts and emotions), the more aware you will become of this thing we call reality and the easier it will be to navigate through it.
“People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships – not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem.” – Deepak Chopra, Indian American author, public speaker, alternative medicine advocate, and a prominent figure in the New Age movement.
How do you create a brighter future, become happier and more self-aware? Here is a very basic outline of how the process of creating your future works.
I. Reflect on your thoughts and how they are impacting your feelings.
II. Reflect on how those feelings are influincing your actions.
III. Reflect on how those actions are creating your current circumstances (what you are experiencing).
IV. Reflect on how your current circumstances are going to impact your future.
If you are not happy with your current experiences and circumstances, you can go back to part I at any time and begin again until you are pleased with your new circumstances. It will always come down to changing your thoughts.
Once you get really good at this, you will experience what is known as profound awareness. You will become the navigator of your own life. Keep in mind that it takes years to master, so please don’t be hard on yourself. Even the greatest masters “think by default” much of the time. That’s how our brains are wired to work. Your goal is to simply give your thought processes a “Positive Route” to travel. You can refer to my article, “Growing Your Own Positive Mind.”
Although our minds can easily work on their own just as a computer runs programs using their own “default” settings, we “DO” have the ability to “Insert” our very own data (thoughts) any time we choose or find it necessary.
Doing this allows us to not just skate by, letting our past control our future, but it helps us flourish and go beyond what is average and typical.
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” – Buddha, Sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded
When someone chooses to insert a more positive thought, they will find other things to be grateful for and other positive emotions will flow more easily causing you to take positive actions which result in positive experiences.
Although this article may sound a bit hard to grasp, the process is actually quite simple. Focus your thoughts on finding solutions rather than dissecting the problems. Find the bright side in any negative situation. Focus your thoughts on what you “do” want and be grateful for what you “do” have.
Below is an example of the thought processes of two separate individuals going through the same exact situation. One will give it a positive spin, the other a negative spin. They will each paint a different picture and the outcome will be a different future.
The Situation: An average American teen who has big dreams with no funds saved for college.
Positive Thoughts: I want to attend college and I know that I may not have the money right now, but I know there is a way. What kind of training do I need? Do I need a formal education in order to do the job I want to do? I wonder how I can make this happen. What kind of help is out there? Can I find a mentor who can teach me in the field that I want to work in? If I can’t actually attend this year, there will always be next year. What kind of job can I get to help pay for this? Who can I talk to that may have some advice or connections? Even one class at a time would be great. This is my responsibility and I know things will work out for the best no matter what happens. My life is going to work out just fine. Feelings: Hope, belief, determination, motivation, acceptance in what will come. The Experience that will come to be: Countless opportunities, an education, confidence, success, happiness and a peace of mind.
Negative Thoughts: I want to attend college but there’s no way I can ever afford it. There is no way that I can pay for this now or in the future. I’m not meant to go to college. No one ever wants to help me. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough anyway. Only wealthy people can afford college or training. It’s easier to just give up. Maybe I’ll just settle for making a little bit of money, people who are well-off are kinda snobby anyway. Life is always so hard for me. I never do get what I want. This is not my responsibility. Who knows what’s going to happen. I don’t care what happens. Feelings: Dispair, sadness, grief, disgust, uncertainty, anger, fear of the unknown. The Experience that will come to be: No education, no training, an unhappy job, insecurity, unfulfilled dreams, disappointment and no peace of mind.
Keep track of where your thoughts are focused as often as possible. The person who wakes up each morning and instantly thinks about the things that they are lacking will have a day where they will find more lack. The person who wakes up and says thank you will find many more things to be thankful for.
The things you allow your consciousness to focus on today not only have an impact on how your day will turn out, but it also determines how your tomorrow will begin, and then the next day, and then the next…
You can simply end the cycle at any time by changing one single thought to a positive one and sticking to it until it becomes easier and easier.
A Little Bit About Our Subconscious:
The majority of our minds are programmed to work on their own. Numerous cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that revealed only about 5% of our minds are in our field of awareness. This 5% controls our cognitive activities such as our thoughts, emotions, decisions, actions, and behavior. This is the area we can work on mastering. The remaining 95% or so is referred to as our subconscious. This is where every one of our past experiences and lessons have been stored.
Your subconscious works 24 hours a day, seven days a week – combing through all of your past experiences, outcomes, beliefs, hopes and dreams. As mentioned above, your mind can be compared to a computer. 95% of it is working in the background and stored in the memory chip and the 5% we think with is YOU, the controller.
When the safety of your environment is threatened or when you need to solve a problem, your subconscious mind will look through your past experiences and provide you a gut feeling or instinct that will cause you to react instantaneously.
When you are not in harms way and simply want to choose the direction of your life, YOU can choose what you want to think about and focus on.
Many times your subconscious will “pull out” negative emotions like fear when you think of certain things, but YOU can determine whether those emotions are simply responding to an “old or common” fear (such as not being good enough or smart enough) or one that is really going to threaten your life today. YOU can tell fear that everything will be just fine, but thank you anyway.
Many fears are simply intended to keep us safe and within our comfort zones.
Deeper than our Subconscious:
On December 1, 2013, researchers Brian G. Dias and Kerry J. Ressler from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia published a study that revealed, “The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.”
In the study, they trained mice to fear cherry blossoms, which generally speaking, smell pretty nice. They did this by giving them negative sensations every time the aroma of cherry blossoms were present. The outcome was that the next generation also experienced slightly negative reactions when the smell of cherry blossoms was present even though they never smelled the aroma in their own lifetime.
This research was thought to prove that not only do we hold our own fears due to trauma, stress, and anxiety in our own lifetime, but some fears can be passed down through our DNA for up to 6 generations. This means that if your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. experienced economic hardship, struggle, or trauma, your potential for success, wealth, or happiness in relationships can very well be slightly influenced by the markers in your DNA. It is simply a way that our bodies adapted in order to survive.
But don’t let that discourage you by any means whatsoever. It is also not an excuse to allow fear to dominate you. It is meant to reassure you because simply “being aware” of this can help you become easier on yourself and just as we can be encoded with negative traits, we can create new positive ones by simply changing our thoughts and mindsets today. We can do this for our future children and grandchildren.
Remember, our past (subconscious) and our ancestors pasts are ONLY intended to protect us if we are NOT “Thinking on Purpose” and simply going through life by default. Now that we know this, we can dismiss most fears that are simply holding us back.
In another study, according to Dr. Bruce Lipton, our current thoughts and beliefs that we have about ourselves and our environments can actually control and alter our DNA today.
This means that regardless of anything in your past, or your ancestors pasts, your DNA and who you CHOOSE to believe you are is what determines your health, wealth, and ultimate happiness.
YOU control your own destiny. The 5% of consciousness that you do have control over is more than enough to determine your whole future and paint the most beautiful picture that you can imagine.
It is all up to you and what you choose to focus your thoughts on.
How are you going to paint your future?
About the Author: Michelle C. Ustaszeski-Hutchinson is the Founder of The Teen Mentor, LLC, a Personal Development Expert, and the Author and Content Director of The Total Mind Development™ Program for Teens & Young Adults. Her mission is to educate the younger generation about the important stuff that they don’t learn in school and help facilitate the sharing of wisdom from one generation to the next.