The 3 Deepest Questions on The Wonderful Mystery of Consciousness

Awareness requires challenging our stories.

Do I have your attention now?

Wait, isn’t that usually said after something relevant happens? Was it the title?

What just happened?

Where is your awareness? Is your mind actively trying to make sense of what you have just stumbled across?

Well, while those questions may seem existential, you have seen nothing yet.

What is consciousness?

What responsibilities do higher conscious beings have?

When does consciousness fail?

I won’t claim to have the answers to these questions. I’m not even claiming that there are answers to these questions. Such questions may be like asking “why is the sky brown?”,. The questions could be so off the mark of reality that asking them misses the bigger picture altogether. Which could suggest a glitch in consciousness, thinking everything revolves around us.

Instead, we’ll do some exploration and see where it leads us.

This isn’t a claim of reality, it is an adventure out into the unknown to see what discoveries we can make. Writing has a beautiful way of shinning light on thoughts we didn’t know we had.

Join me. I’d love to hear in the comments sections your own interpretation of what I’m saying. It would also be lovely to hear your own point of view and additions as well!

Effective Living is about exploration, so let’s get curious! (:

Overview

Big Idea: Your thoughts create your reality,

Basically: What you perceive is a construct of your imagination.

Our exploration will comprise the following parts:

  1. The Motivation for Consciousness
  2. The Power of Conscious Control
  3. Bringing it All Together

Keep in mind that this is a concise presentation for readability and directness. The aim is pack as much quality in as few words as possible. Explaining complicated ideas in a simplified manner is what this site is all about!

Lots of what is explored here has been covered in far more depth. For example, Awareness, Connection, Meaning, and Principles of Life. For further reading, refer to the rest of the site.

The Claim

Reality as you know it is an interpretation. When you apply thought to something, that thing snaps into awareness with an immediate interpretation. That interpretation carries with it all of your past experiences and a whole host of mental predictions. What you apply thought to creates your reality. You control your thoughts and therefore you control your reality.

Concisely put: Your thoughts create your reality.

The Motivation for Consciousness

Big Idea: Higher levels of conscious awareness are a byproduct of survival during evolution.

Basically: The clever nature of ensuring survival has led to higher awareness.

The level of human consciousness is at a sufficient level of awareness to control our thoughts. We have the power to overwrite nature-given habits and instincts. Hence the idea that because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.

We are in the driver’s seat of consciousness. This gives us immense power.

Perhaps this power came out of the complexities of our everyday decisions. The degree at which we are social animals seems unique in the animal kingdom. Our ability to progress as a species as far as we have is likely because of our ability to cooperate in large numbers.

Perhaps ants also cooperate in large numbers. Given an ant’s size, they do extraordinary things. They create amazing structures and cities. But perhaps because of their relative strength or their small size, they don’t need nor have what they require for better processing power.

Humans are not the strongest nor the fastest species. We relied on our ability to chase prey for long distances until we caught up with, likely when the other animal collapsed from exhaustion. We could sweat, and this supported our ability for these long distance hunting campaigns.

Along with this, the brain itself likely only exists for movement. Sea Squits are a species born with a brain, seek and attach to a leaf, then consume their brain. Once attached to the leaf, they need not move anymore, hence they can get rid of their brain. The brain consumes a lot of energy (~20% in humans), if it isn’t necessary then it’s more energy efficient to get rid of.

The main point of the processing power of the brain is likely to calculate and control necessary functions to lead to movement. Life is completely capable of surviving and even thriving without a brain. Consider plants and trees. But once movement becomes the primary means of survival, a brain is necessary to process things.

Because humans had to rely on long distance running, we covered a lot of diverse terrain. We weren’t running in circles. This required our brains to rapidly and thoroughly process information about our environments. Not being the strongest also meant we had to be extra careful of what might be in the bushes we run by or the snakes by our feet. This demand for mental processing to support movement perhaps led to the development of consciousness.

The simple nature given habits weren’t enough anymore. The decisions we needed to make were too complicated and were too dependent on the environment for basic processing. The notion of if/then handling in decision making wasn’t enough to ensure survival of the species.

For example, if an animal comes out of bush, and if I am in good physical shape, and animal is food, and animal doesn’t see me… and so on… then attack, but perhaps in a particular way that comprises many other conditions… There are still plenty of complexity with any animal’s if/then processing, but this conditional would be far more complicated for humans, since we are in the middle of the food chain. Not the strongest and not the fastest.

The point here is a potential motivation for consciousness. The decisions and processing necessary for our survival was too complicated to be programmed into our instincts. Nature had to loosen the leash on humanity and give more control.

This is yet another supportive argument for my overarching claim that because we are conscious, we must learn how to live. We can’t rely on nature given instincts because we have the power to override them. We can condition our children to feel so ashamed and self-conscious about natural things to the point that they are constantly stressed and may even have eating or sexual disorders.

This is analogous to a computer program executing statically written code of pre-defined decisions vs artificial intelligence dynamically updating its code based on learned conditions.

The Power of Conscious Control

Big Idea: You can use conscious awareness as an advantage or disadvantage.

Basically: Learning to harness the power of consciousness can lead to rapid healing.

I could make another argument regarding the importance of frequencies in life. Frequencies, as in the vibrations we are not consciously aware of that goes on all around us. The wave of energy that radiates off everything.

Dancing is basically an act of synchronizing with whatever frequency is in our environment. This syncing is incredibly harmonious, and I’ve found it extraordinarily powerful in processing negative emotions.

Go ahead, try it. Relax yourself, drop all tension, and start dancing in place. See what happens if you let the stiffness that is holding you up in your legs goes away. See what happens if you let the muscles that are supporting your rigid form relaxed. When they do and you seep to a new position, go with the bodily motions as your reflexes overcompensate and bounce you in the other direction.

Repeat this in a wavelike manner as you find a rhythm. It is important to trust during this process. The point is to release tension, any rigidity or stiffness will only add to the negative emotions you may be feeling.

When you are irritated, try this out. Just dance, full focus on the movements. No concentrated effort on them. Feel as if you’re trying to find a groove. This groove is the appropriate frequency for the surrounding environment. At times, this frequency may be higher, and thus lead to more elaborate and quicker movements. Examples of such situations are those where someone is angry around you or you are feeling irritated. Other times a more soft frequency might be in the environment, this may lead to far calmer and slower movements.

This is the act of processing your emotions. This is essentially where the recommendation of “going for a walk” or stretching comes from. For example, situations when you can’t focus, feel irritated, or otherwise have some emotion blocking your way.

Whatever is there, just synchronize with it. Any resistance to this energy is represented as tension within the body. And all tension comes from a place of fear, impatience, or ego. This leads to stress and causes a fight-or-flight response, which leads to a weakening in the immune system and poor digestion.

After trusting and allowing your body to synchronize to the energy or frequency in the room, then you can begin influencing its change. Movement is the language of frequency and energy. Frequency is what rhythm is. Dancing is all about rhythm. So you can influence the energy of your body through the act of movement.

Dancing, wiggling back and forth, or whatever rhythmic motion you engage in provides this synchronizing in many ways. For starters, it serves much like a cat’s purr, it promotes digestion and the movement massages internal organs, much like deep diaphragmatic breathing. The body relaxes. We end up processing tension in a manner much like a good massage.

The act of dancing also drives attention to the present moment, your thoughts more easily turn away from past/future or irritation labeling. There is an innate feeling of free flowing energy. No resistance, just trust to the body for processing the energy.

Those who are often great dancers are usually the most loose and limber. Whereas the stereotypical bad dancer is one that is rigid, likely having anxiety and easily stressed.

Perhaps sudden savant syndrome (where an individual suddenly gets incredible abilities) closely relates to frequencies. A sudden hit on the head or some insight led to the mental alignment with a particular frequency that promoted a new perspective of reality.

The point here is that the powers of consciousness come with responsibility. A sign of maturity is when an individual can recognize they are in a funk and that they are in control of getting out of it. Consciousness is a tool of evolution to improve survival. Like any tool, there are times it fails (e.g. anxiety, depression, emotional overwhelm).

Bringing it All Together

Big Idea: The more conscious you are, the more responsibility you must have.

Basically: Failure to respect the power leads to disease and dysfunction.

Everything you perceive results from a compounding effect of your past experiences paired with the current state of your body. The current state of your body is also influenced by your past experiences. Everything stemming from the information your brain receives through your sensory organs. Based on the current stimulus and the predictions of the brain, your body responds by arriving at a particular physical state. This is often perceived as emotion. Your body is communicating to your about the current information it has and pulling on past experience to motivate action in some way.

This idea is explored in great depth and detail by neuroscientist Lisa Barrett‘s book: How Emotions are Made.

Lisa does a wonderful job at making a very complicated idea seem tangible. This book has had the most profound impact on my understanding of consciousness. It has improved my ability to handle emotional overwhelm and sparked my curiosity of my existence even more. The kindle addition is only $3!

If your sensory organs pick up a rustling in bushes near by, your brain goes to work to process this information. If you have never experienced any rustling of bushes before then you brain may take the cautious route of making you in a physically alert state. You would be on the verge, ready at any moment, to run or fight.

This also requires pulling on past experiences for your relative safety given the current environment. If you are in a location where you have always been safe, then the demand for physical alertness may not be as high. The stimulus can be thrown away as background noise.

Let’s say that you were raised in a world with completely different associations. You don’t even recognize the potential threat of rustling bushes and the unknown.  Perhaps the majority of your experiences with rustling bushes has been associated with your grandmothers house and the sweet smell of cookies. The rustling of the bushes brings back fond memories.

This last scenario is an extreme that isn’t likely due to the brain’s preference towards survival. The unknown is a great threat to safety. Rustling bushes is a concept that usually packs with it the idea of something lurking in the unknown.

The point is that your past experiences contribute to the world that you perceive.

Interpretations

But it doesn’t even need to be explicit bushes rustling to provide a similar enough stimulus to the brain to trigger a nearly identical physical state. It just comes down to associations and a secret ingredient.

There is an even bigger twist! It isn’t just the experiences that you have… It’s the interpretations of those experiences. It’s essentially how you decide to tag the experience. The way you treat the experience when you talk about it also play a huge role. The people listening and their suggestive words and implicit/explicit communication contribute to how the memory gets updated.

The memories that you have are likely not at all how the situation was experiences. It was from a limited perspective at the time, and a huge effect from the Principle of Initial Conditions and the Principle of Compound Impact. Given all of the sensory information the brain is exposed to each moment, there is a ton that is not relevant.

So given the same situation, from the same perspective, but with different brains containing past experiences, what is decided to focus on will be different. Hearing your name called while in a group of people is a fine example. Names may be rambling off, each name sounding as mundane as the previous, but then one which has a particular special meaning to you stands out. Perhaps it is a name of someone you know, or a recently passed away relative, or simply your name itself.

The announcer didn’t necessary say your name louder than the others, but yet you experienced it completely different. Others in the crowd likely treated your name the same as you treated their names, as just irrelevant noise. But you pulled out a strong meaning.

Let’s return big picture of our discussion. Your thoughts create your reality.

Depth – It Just Keeps Going

What has been discussed has so many implications that I can’t cover them all. It would suffice to say that the reality you perceive is not reality in any objective sense. It is simply the reality that your brain has constructed. Which, by the way, the brain lives in a dark skull, with the only way of knowing the outside world being through its sensory organs.

Each new sensory input has to be processed with only what the brain has to work with, much like a computer being given a large problem but it has limited computation power and memory. The brain pulls on past experiences and makes predictions, it then adjusts your physical state to encourage appropriate action for survival.

Any moment could be the moment you die, every moment could be dangerous. It can’t afford to shut off, its very reproductive evolution was allowed due to its vigilance.

I won’t go into the implications now, but here is a brief list of a few direction our conversation could go in. Each of which stem from the basic idea that your thoughts create your reality.

  • Phobias
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Autism
  • Childhood
    • I could hit this point hard for decades. The power of Initial Conditions and Compound Impact makes it as if a caregiver is literally programming a human being. The responsibility and maturity this requires to do right is enormous. Raise yourself before raising another human being.
  • Disorders of all sorts, from eating to sexual
  • Discipline
  • The uncanny realization that everyone has a fundamentally different experience of reality that would be completely foreign to you, but yet you have no way of experiencing or even being made aware the degree at which this is true.
  • Emotions and the power of reframing
  • Unlikely success/failure given extreme conditions (e.g. high adversity or privileged)

With a sigh of satisfaction as we conclude our journey, let’s revisit the big idea once more. Your thoughts create your reality. Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.

Thanks for trucking with me!

Summary

Big Idea: We all have a choice. To learn how to properly use our tools, or to abuse them.

Basically: Will you use the power of higher levels of consciousness for good?

Your thoughts create your reality. What you think about shapes what you perceive. You can’t have a negative thought and not change your perception of the world. It’s like saying to not think of a white polar bear. Words are pointers so just saying the words white polar bear influences the receiver’s thoughts to go to a white polar bear. It is the only way the individual could understand what the other is saying.

Since words are pointers, it is like saying don’t look at this thing (points to door), this thing right here, don’t look at that (points harder). In order for such communication to be effective, that thing has to be brought into awareness. You can’t communicate an idea effectively and not have it brought into mind. Having the idea brought into mind is to think about it, even if not done consciously. But again… Your thoughts create your reality and thus negative thoughts create a negative reality.

The brain is hard-wired to drop positive thoughts far quicker than negative. It is simple survivorship bias.

What is (perceived) as negative threatens our existence and thus deserves our attention. What is positive promotes repeated action, sure, but it ultimately isn’t that important since we will live on.

Therefore, if you reframe an annoyance or irritation as positive it will drop out of mind much quicker. To attach and engage with a negative thought about that annoyance will lead that annoyance to gain form within your mind and result in a negative spiral of your mind paying more and more attention to it. This is because you make it out to be worse and worse.

This is an easy trap to get into. This has led to the rise in anxiety and depression resulting from these negative stigmas and pressures that cause negative thought patterns. Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live. There is a point where consciousness work against us, a point of diminishing returns. Consciousness puts us in the driver’s seat. But that power comes with a lot of responsibility. We must learn how to live or else suffer to the fate of chaos.

Returning to the motivation for consciousness. Perhaps ants are not as complicated as they seem. They may follow simple rules as well. Perhaps this illusion of complexity is a byproduct of the brain ignoring what isn’t relevant (which is contaminated by our past experience).

Maybe this suggests something about human consciousness. Maybe we also follow pre-programmed rules, but the height and diversity in their reach leads to so many complicated scenarios that it can’t be so easily pinpointed.

Again, I am not claiming that this is the answer or that there is even an answer. This is for exploration purposes during my search for truth.

Plenty more of this kind of exploration to come. I’ve spent many years thinking about these kinds of things and I am excited to finally have a platform to share!

Your Call to Action

Thank you for reading!

Another deep exploration! Well done, if you made it all the way through. I want to hear from you. What is your take on consciousness? What criticisms do you have about my post? Let’s have some meaningful discussion around these ideas. Share in the comments section below!

Learn more about the author here!

Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.

I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.

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