Thursday, 19 May 2016

What Being Conscious Means




We often hear about being conscious and aware. It is usually linked to “waking up” and becoming illuminated. Actually there is a writing category here on the blog labeled: Conscious Living. But what does being, and becoming, conscious truly mean? And what are the implications does it have on one’s life?

In simple terms, being conscious means being mindful; it means being aware, attentive, and responsive to one’s surrounding; awake. In the sense of “being aware of wrongdoing”, the word originated in the 16th century from Latin conscius “knowing with others or in oneself, from conscire “be privy to”.

Before delving into the topic and to portrait the idea in more practical terms, the following are examples from everyday life which had reminded me by what being conscious is. 
It is interesting to note that most of these observations only came to me later as I was reflecting upon the notion. But during the time they took place, it never felt like I was doing anything unusual or unnatural. It was indeed the total opposite; it felt so right and natural. It simply felt like the conscious thing to do, without seeking any reward or fearing any punishment. 


1- Reusable Grocery Bags

Once in Los Angeles I was going to the grocery store with my uncle who’s in his early 80s, when we forgot to bring the empty bags. I wanted to turn around to go get them but he said: “It's OK, the bag is only for five cents.”

I didn’t say anything then, though I was reminded that this is not the only reason why I like reusable bags. But it’s for conservation, recycling, saving the tress and all that. When we buy new ones we go home and usually throw them in the garbage or keep them in drawers which are already full of unused bags. So, the Big Picture wins.


2- Recycling and Removing Dog Poop in Egypt

Cairo, 2015
Be the change. The rest will follow.

Speaking of which, after recycling my trash and picking up after my dogs for five years in Canada and the U.S, it seems there is no going back. Once I went back to Egypt for a visit, it felt absurd not to do so. So even though I didn’t have to, but I wholeheartedly wanted to. I actually felt compelled to do it.

One day as I was picking up after Shakira, my cousin’s sweet Cocker Spaniel, three foreigners in the street looked at me like I’m from a different solar system. The garbage man, who has to sort the garbage by hands, must have been equally startled to find two separate bags.


3- Not Throwing Bubblegum Without Cover
How it's done in Japan

During the same trip to Egypt I attended a reunion with a lot of school boys. We were catching up and talking about those of us who are living abroad. Apparently after living in Japan for a while, one mate doesn’t throw bubblegum on the ground anymore. They found out about it when he was with them once somewhere in Cairo and, after he was done with his gum, he took out a folded note from his pocket so that he can ‘safely’ discard it. Of course for anyone who grew up and lived all their lives in Egypt, this may seem hilarious, yet also impressive. 



In fact, gum containers in Japan come with a little pad of post-it note for your discarded gum. How thoughtful are these Japs. Or should I say conveniently say: How conscious.

I have been doing the same with the occasional smoke butts, even on the beach. I’m trying my best to be honest.



4- Not killing insects

What ignited this was a single experience that took place when I was 20 and camping somewhere in Sinai. I happened to squash a tiny teeny ant and kill it, but because I was tripping on LSD and in a higher state of consciousness, this was phenomenally touching. It changed my perspective and made me think about how other creations look at us. Since then, I think 17 times before killing one.

After some careful observation throughout later years, I realized how a fly stuck in a room will always cooperate with us if we want to kick it out than if you want to kill it. Because, it’s mere instinct. The same goes for ants and other insects.

Truly, now when I see an insect the last thing on my mind is to run looking for a repellent or a shoe. If I can’t kick them out peacefully, I catch and release instead. With practice, I have actually become quite good at it. 



Eventually I got so interested in our cousins that I wrote three full articles about how ants carry their dead as well as other nest-mates as means of transportation.
 You can read about the madness Here, Here, and There.



5- Closing The Tap While Brushing Teeth


This only began later in life when I was in Los Angeles during the California drought of 2014. As mentioned, some of these simple transformations take you by surprise, and that’s why, again, I wrote an article about it: How inspiration Is Transferable.

An additional reminder came to me when I took a break from writing this piece and went to have dinner at the local Lemonade. Along with my food, I picked up four tiny salt and pepper packets and put them on the tray, but I only used one of each. So when I was done and about to throw what’s on the tray in the garbage, I remembered those two unused packets and proceeded in putting them back to where they belong instead of wasting them.




You see how small these acts are? But it's the collective of minute individual changes that eventually makes the difference. After a while you do not think about doing these acts; your attentiveness to your surrounding is just there. And if you follow through it, you will find that you will lead a happy and peaceful life. Simply because down, deep, inside you know you are connected to the whole and you know you are doing your share. Not because you are forced or required, but because you want to…because being conscious makes you feel alive and in-sync with the Natural Order.

Now that you have a better idea about our topic, let us dive a tad deeper.




By beginning of 1680s, conscious meant “aware of one’s action” — a word of the English Enlightenment. This was a philosophical, intellectual, and cultural movement during the 17th and 18th Centuries, which stressed on the advantage of reason, logic, and freedom of thought over dogma and blind faith. The Enlightenment was the time when the notion of absolute authority of the church and state was openly rejected — hence sometimes referred to as The Age of Reason. 



This epochal movement was ignited by Les Philosophes in France, who were a group of literary men, scientists, and thinkers.

In the field of science, names like Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Gottfried Leibniz are considered pioneers of The Enlightenment; in philosophy there is Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Kant, and Voltaire.


It is similar to how several centuries earlier Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo were deeply associated with the Renaissance, which is widely regarded as an antecedent to The Enlightenment.

We can find the same happening much later when the Hippie Movement followed through Bohemianism in terms of borrowed ideas and ideals. More on that here: Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians.


Conscious brings us to another term, “self-conscious”. In psychology and philosophy, being self-conscious means: Having knowledge of one’s own existence, especially the knowledge of oneself as a conscious being. 



Paradoxically, self-conscious is also an adjective, meaning uncomfortable, uneasy, and embarrassed. This reminds me of a phenomenon eloquently explained by Alan Watts in The Book on The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. The title may be enough to give you a hint of what I mean here.

What I would like to note is, the word ‘conscious’ may have been new to language during The Enlightenment, but the concept of “knowing oneself” to reach enlightenment — or Illumination, Soul Liberation, Nirvana, Satori, The Source... — was nothing new to humanity. For Ancient Egyptians, we find it as: The Kingdom of Heaven is within you; and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.



For Ancient Greeks, it’s Gnothi Seauton; in Latin, Nosce Te Ipsum.



We also find it in Judaism as He is in all, and all is in him; in Christianity, it’s “Know Thyself”; and in Islam, especially Sufism, the emphasis on self-knowledge came in the form of “Who knows himself knows his Lord.” 



Equally in Buddhism: Look within, you are the Buddha; and in Taoism: In the death of the soil, one sees the Divine, the One.

Psychotherapy is one more school of thought that is based upon knowing oneself — the conscious self and its subconscious counterpart, which is “in charge” of the brain during a staggering 95 percent of the time.





Conscious also brings us to the act of “becoming conscious” — commonly portrayed as awakening. Because we are born conscious, in the sense of connected. But then by the time we grow up through all the conditioning, indoctrination, distractions, most of us lose this sense. If we are fortunate, later in life we may be given the chance to awaken and re-become who we essentially were. We do so by letting go of all that is not us.  

Awakening means different things to different people. Generally, it follows a big change in one’s life. This can happen spontaneously in an instant, perhaps as a result of a certain realization or a mystical experience. Or it can happen throughout a longer period of time and through different stages, as with meditation and other esoteric practices. It could also be triggered through overcoming suffering or trauma, like abuse, addiction, or simply a divorce.



One thing remains certain, this self-transformation is not easy. 

We simply do not wake up one morning to find ourselves awakened, it does not just happen. Echoing with Carl Jung: “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Change, however, requires sincere work on the self, which not many people are willing to go through. That is mainly because they do not want to face their true selves and take full responsibility of their own lives.

The process of going through an awakening and “coming to consciousness” goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of this consciousness. 
It is usually a profound and worthy experience which guides us through the path of the transformation of the soul. It is the process by which we shed our old skin, open our eyes, and become aware and ‘knowing’. As Nietzsche reminds us, “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”

When the level of consciousness is raised towards illumination — Enlightenment, Nirvana, Moksha... — one the major transformation entails experiencing a constant state of unconditional love. Not towards anyone or anything in particular, but with Everything and Everybody. True love is directed outwards, yet it still include loving ourselves. 



When you come to truly know your self — your real Self — you cannot help but to love it, you see. When you do love yourself you tend to become conscious towards it; therefore you maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul. Consequently you eat right, move right, and talk to yourself right. 



The same cycle also means empathy, compassion, and selfishness; you see beyond the self. Someone who is truly conscious means they are capable of seeing the bigger picture of things and the greater good.

 They understand, or come close to understanding, the true nature of reality. Echoing with Joseph Campbell's word, “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.

This is not a mere philosophical stance, but as you have seen in the shared examples, it reflects everywhere on one’s life. When you feel you are one with the whole, not separated from it as it is commonly believed, you naturally become more loving and empathetic — towards others as well as towards yourself. This is where the beauty of Oneness lies.


Metaphysically speaking, becoming conscious also means dropping the ego-self and embracing the Higher-Self — the real us, the soul.

Further, when one becomes conscious of their subconscious mind, they learn to be guided by some mysterious inner knowing — namely called intuition or inner gut — rather than rely solely on the confines of the conscious, rational mind. This knowledge lays beyond thoughts and words, or language in general; it cannot be taught, only discovered within oneself. And the subconscious is the intuitive mind.

The revival of the intuition is one of the signs of higher consciousness. Intuition essentially means learning from within; in-sight, as inner seeing; a direct perception of truth. It is an untaught, non inferential insight and knowledge that partially comes from awareness, which makes it an essential element of mysticism discussed time and again by scientists, philosophers, and laymen alike.

Spinoza believed that intuition is the third kind of knowledge and is the highest kind attainable.



Later, Einstein said that “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant; we have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”


Jung considered intuition to be one of four basic psychic functions — along with sensation, feeling, and thinking — which are capable of becoming conscious. These functions are the methods employed by humans to acquire knowledge of themselves and the surrounding world. Cognition is not restricted to one function, but rather, each function provides its own kind of knowledge.

Yet intuition still remains commonly misunderstood and hard to define. Again, because it lays beyond the apprehension of the rational mind or even orthodox science.

However, the more you follow that inner knowing, the more the results come to your favour. Be it something as simple as finding a parking spot or as a big life decision, when you consider your intuition to be the wise knowledge of the collective Soul and you trust it, it will not lead you astray.

More ‘symptoms’ of a raised consciousness include heightened creativity, finding purpose in life, Wu Wei, discarding old beliefs that are no longer useful, the ability to chose certain thoughts over others and taming “The monkeys”, the ability to enjoy each and every moment — the Here and Now. 


One could go on forever talking about the subject, but this is not my initial intention. What is shared herein is only a minute portion of what is there to be written about the causes and effects of an awakening. 

I attempted to somewhat briefly show how being — and becoming — conscious is beneficial to you, and inevitably to the rest of us, to the world, and to the universe. And how that applies to our everyday lives. The lengthy, dense material shall be left for the book.

Remember that a single bubblegum can change the course of history. We are not just all in this together, we are This. Stay conscious. 




“Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.”
— George Gurdjieff



ALSO VIEW:


Who Are We?

Why I Share Stuff

How inspiration Is Transferable

Change Is The Only Constant

Why Hippies Are Sometimes Called Bohemians

The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries]

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