What Is Awareness? Thirteen Individuals on Consciousness, Spirit, and the Nature of Reality.

If you're like me, you've spent countless hours pondering some of life's most complex ideas. 

Questions like: Why do we experience the wide variety of thoughts and sensations that we do? Are they just chemical impulses produced in the brain? What makes me, me? What does it mean to be human? Does any of this even matter? If you're asking yourself these questions, you are exhibiting consciousness, a fundamental building block of reality.

The general consensus among many academics is that a central nervous system (or something that can mimic the functionality of one) is required before a subject is capable of exhibiting behaviors that we can typically liken to cognition or ratiocination.

A lack of consciousness signifies the absence of life and ultimately the inability to analyze, catalog, diagram, or perceive the abundance of information that accompanies the sentient experience.

From a biological or utilitarian standpoint, it serves as a way to navigate this spatial reality, but is that all? If consciousness was reducible to a set of functions or qualities in a manner similar to that of other extremities and organs, why has the “problem of consciousness” persisted throughout the ages and why are there so many differing viewpoints? The pessimist could argue that the downfall of humanity is it’s self-awareness and individuality, the optimist, that qualia is necessary to absorb and enjoy the beauty of this experience.

Some philosophies like Animism and Panpsychism even subscribe to the idea that everything has it’s own consciousness, regardless of if that item is meets the traditional requirements of being "alive."

While some of the greatest scientists and philosophers have tried to understand and quantify what consciousness represents by way of algorithms, equations, medical technology, logistics, and theorems, there has been a collective of individuals who have opted to take a more theological approach to tackling one of humanity’s most difficult questions. These are the monks, priests, rabbis, shamans, spiritualists and other clergy that seek to illuminate the nature of immaterial realms and concepts.

To them, both the brain and it’s many sensory outputs act as an intermediary nexus between the human spirit and the ineffable Godhead. For many whom have decided to devote themselves to a set of spiritual doctrine(s) or practice(s), consciousness is far more than an evolutionary byproduct of development within the bicameral mind, but instead represents a metaphysical acuity that many living organisms continue to harness and cultivate for their survival and expression. It is with this tool that we are able to feel and transmit the will of the Creator on to this physical reality. For animals that may resemble a kind of oneness with it’s habitat, for humans, giving birth, the manufacturing of art, or a guy putting together an article.

Interestingly enough, as time progresses, we are beginning to find more integrated models of study.

The burgeoning and controversial field of Transhumanism has showcased our growing understanding of artificial intelligence which has in turn brought forth new ways in which we can define and understand the nature of choice, cognition, and reality.

If you ask two people how they’d define characteristics or phenomena associated with consciousness, there is a good chance that you’d receive two differing opinions. So what happens if you ask thirteen different people from various fields the following question: What is consciousness or what is consciousness for?

Rick Strassman Author, MD:

Definitions of consciousness will always vary. It's kind of like what that Supreme Court Justice said about pornography: "I know it when I see it.”

As my studies have taken me into more theological areas, I believe the ultimate function of consciousness is to connect us with our Creator, to acknowledge and give thanks, praise, and petition to It.

Regarding my own research, I believe that the brain was created in order to provide access to a providential awareness of the Creator.

In particular, DMT may help our mind-brain complex clothe usually imperceptible objects, processes, or forces in ways that we are able to recognize.

Spotlight: DMT and the Soul of Prophecy: A New Science of Spiritual Revelation in the Hebrew Bible

Erika BuenaflorCurandera & Spiritual Counselor/Coach:

First, it is important to define what consciousness is, before determining what consciousness is for.

Consciousness is often referred to as some level of spiritual awareness. But, this understanding is somewhat amorphous, and quite rigorous to deconstruct as it can be conflated and intersected with diverse and complex understandings and views on spirituality and awareness. To simplify and deconstruct what consciousness is, so we can assess what it is for, I will begin by relating it to a brain wave frequency. 

As a brain wave frequency, consciousness generally reflects a specific level of brain activity often identified by six distinct known brain wave frequencies: Beta, Alpha, Mu, Theta, Delta, and Gamma. Each brain wave frequency has its own set of characteristics representing a specific level of brain activity with its own particular state of consciousness.

These brain wave frequencies consist of:

  • Beta (12-30Hz): Beta brain waves are generally associated with a waking consciousness, and involve critical, analytical, and rational reasoning. 
  • Mu (8-13 Hz): Mu waves are most prominent when the body is physically at rest. Although Alpha waves occur at a similar frequency, Mu waves are present when we are visualizing ourselves engage in a motor action. 
  • Alpha (8-12 Hz): Alpha brain waves are typically experienced when we are daydreaming, in a relaxed state, or right before falling asleep. This state is a gateway to the subconscious mind, where non-ordinary realms can begin to be accessed.  
  • Theta (4-7 Hz): Theta brain waves are usually present in deep meditation or also a light sleep, including the REM (rapid eye movement) dream state. Theta is often identified as the state where we experience great inspiration, enhanced creativity, and can be journeying within a non-ordinary realm.    
  • Delta (.5-4Hz): Delta frequency is the slowest of the frequencies. It is typically experienced in deep dream states and deep altered states. This state is often linked with deep healing regeneration and profound intuitive insight. 
  • Gamma (25-40Hz): Gamma brain waves have the fastest brain wave frequencies. Unlike, Beta however which predominantly comes from the left side of the brain, Gamma waves are found in all parts of the brain, and are often found in experienced meditators. 

These deeper states of consciousness—Alpha, Mu, Theta, Delta and Gamma are often associated with meditative states that have numerable health benefits, including: decreasing anxiety; release of good chemicals, such as endorphins and dopamine that enhance positive moods and creativity; developing a greater sense of compassion; pain management by significantly reducing brain activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, an area that is crucially involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is; increase of cognitive functioning; reducing depression; and managing high blood pressure

There is no doubt that entering these deeper states of consciousness have their health benefits. But what about their spiritual benefits? After all, journeying into these deeper states of consciousness must also benefit more than simply our mind, body and emotional well-being. 

On the quantum physics side of life, these deeper brain wave frequencies also typically correspond with a human energetic subtle body field (aka the auric bands), and dimensions of existence. Each human energetic subtle field is theorized to correspond to dimensions of existence; our human energetic subtle bodies are a microcosm of the universe, wherein everything can be accessed. Each dimension in turn has certain sets of laws and principles that are specific to the frequency of that dimension. 

Interestingly, the brain is seldom in just in one brain wave state. It fluctuates between states, generally emitting different brain wave activities simultaneously. We are naturally multi-dimensional beings, and interact with different dimensional realms through our states of consciousness. But, we are not typically aware that we are interacting with different dimensional realms. By learning how to go into these deeper states of consciousness—Alpha, Mu, Theta, Delta and Gamma we will benefit not just our mind, body and emotional well-being, but we can deliberately open up to infinite world of possibilities. 

Consciousness hence can become the vehicle for us to be able to tap into our infinite potential.

Erika Buenaflor, M.A., J.D., has over 20 years of practicing as a curandera, mentoring with curanderx and shamans principally in the Yucatán, and studying ancient Mesoamerican shamanism and curanderismo in academia. She has written, Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo, and also Curanderismo Soul Retrieval (releases 5/10/19). She excels at applying this sacred knowledge to help her clients realize their bliss. www.realizeyourbliss.com

Spotlight: Cleansing Rites of Curanderismo: Limpias Espirituales of Ancient Mesoamerican Shamans

Robert Rich, Musician:

I am inclined to think that we participate in a process that we call consciousness, and that it is not something that lives only inside of each of us. It is a convenient illusion to think that we “make” consciousness, just because our own personal self awareness comes and goes with our being alive.

When we have a thought, I suspect that the neurons in our brain don’t know what we are thinking. They participate in that thought, but the thought is built up from the complex system of interactions. Likewise an ant might not specifically understand why it is crawling through the walls in our house trying to get to the kitchen faucet, yet the ant nest might “know” in a chemical form that it needs a new source of water. 

Perhaps our historical attraction to hierarchical concepts like theism grows from this intuition that order expands both outward and inward in fractal self similarity. Consciousness appears to be a universal process, an organizing principle that grows out of the interactions of increasingly complex systems. Perhaps the surface of Earth is conscious, with all living things making up its neurons, the atmosphere as lungs and geology its digestion. Perhaps our galaxy is conscious, with planetary systems resembling a multi-lens eye, viewing the evolution of time through the neurons of each planet and star, with thoughts that span millions of years. 

If this is the case, consciousness makes us. We don’t make consciousness. The question “Why are we conscious” becomes better formulated as “How can we recognize the conscious scaffolding that we live within.” If everything moves with intention towards mind, then maybe there is no “why” and no “what for” except for the pure intention of the universe knowing itself. 

Robert Rich has helped define the genres of ambient music, dark-ambient, tribal and world fusion with dozens of albums across four decades. Rich began building his own analog modular synthesizers in 1976, when he was 13 years old, and later studied computer music at Stanford's prestigious CCRMA while earning a degree in psychology, researching lucid dreaming. Rich has performed in caves, cathedrals, planetariums, museums, concert halls and festivals throughout the world. His all-night Sleep Concerts became legendary since their debut in 1982, and his 15 hour Blu-ray Perpetual maintains this tradition. His sound design graces many films and synthesizer sound libraries, and as a mastering engineer he has applied his ear to hundreds of albums. http://robertrich.com

Spotlight: The Biode

Mary Mueller Shutan, Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Craniosacral Therapist, Zero Balancer, and Spiritual Healer:

Consciousness is the basic building block of existence. It is the energy of creation, and its purpose is both creation as well as evolution. While we are in our human forms we have the unique opportunity to evolve– to release the past, to move through or decondition from the bonds of collective conditioning– to liberate ourselves from what is obscuring or preventing us from realizing our divine potential.

Many of us in human form do not live… we simply exist. We are fractured, unhealed, and have lost our vital energy through varying traumas and lack of recognition of our divinity. The purpose of becoming conscious is to become realigned with our divine potential, our divine spark, our vitality/essence, our unique combination of the elements that allows for us to be of unique benefit to humanity. It is through the process of becoming more and more conscious that we can recognize and realize our divine potential, we can become more of who we truly are, and we can end up not only benefiting ourselves, but benefiting humanity in some small or large way.

We are not here simply for ourselves. We are a part of a web. While we are a part of many webs– familial, ancestral, societal, world, and humanity are but a few– it is through these webs that we co-exist and co-create our reality. We do not singularly create our reality (although we do put some heavy filters on it through our traumas and perceptions) but are in a state of inter-being and continual co-creation through these webs. It is by each one of us becoming more conscious, each one of us healing and evolving and bringing our awareness to these webs that we can liberate not only ourselves but evolve humanity as a whole to its divine potential.

There is a pivot point in the path of awakening in which the individual person realizes these webs, and recognizes that their work to become more conscious is to carry that spark of divinity forward, to do their work not for themselves but for assisting and evolving these webs. To become realized (or to become conscious) means to recognize divine purpose, to recognize how to carry clear light and flow of divinity forward (en-light-enment) to assist both personal, societal, and world evolution.

This is done quite paradoxically by deeply anchoring in our humanity, by looking towards our suffering, by clearly seeing what obscures us from realizing our divine potential. It is through a process of katabasis– a deep descent to the Underworld or the very darkest aspects of self– that we can heal or release what prevents us from realizing this state. Only then can we “rise”, or in any way contain or realize light, as well as soften, looking compassionately at others and realizing that they too are a part of the web and deserve to discover their divine potential just like we do. It is our birthright to do so.

Mary Mueller Shutan is an acupuncturist, herbalist, craniosacral therapist, zero balancer, and spiritual healer. Author of The Body Deva, The Spiritual Awakening Guide and Managing Psychic Abilities, she has helped hundreds of people worldwide through her programs and consultations. She lives near Chicago, Illinois.

Spotlight: The Body Deva: Working with the Spiritual Consciousness of the Body

Bryan Lewis Saunders, Artist:

I'm not a neurologist but I just read a great book by Zoltan Torey, The Conscious Mind and in it he makes a pretty convincing case that consciousness came when human babies started being born before their brains finished developing. The extra time that the infant brain develops outside of the womb allows for it to reorganize and give the speech areas motor abilities and that is what empowered the brain to manage itself.

He says, "The motor response of speech and thought generates a sensation of an active self." and "Motor-wiring of the speech areas gave the brain access to itself. This led to language, to the brain's genesis of and control of saliences. This raised cognition to a higher plane and established the "self" as an integral part of its own cognition. Finally the mind's generation of mental options, in combination with the brain stem's decision-making role, gave us the selection mechanism, the key to our functional autonomy". 

The infant brain has come to merge speech and vocalization with interpersonal manipulation and that is how speech connects with the motor cortex. Because of that, our brain's attention oscillates back and forth from experiencing things and the sensation that we are experiencing things. Like an extra layer. It is language that creates that sense of self, and authorship and agency. And I believe consciousness is for making better decisions. It is just another tool that developed naturally for homeostasis. 

Spotlight: http://bryanlewissaunders.org/

Martin W. Ball, Writer, Independent Publisher, Energy Work, Visionary Artist, and Musician:

This. Right here, right now. Everything. All of it.

Martin W. Ball, Ph.D., is a writer, independent publisher, energy worker, visionary artist, and musician currently living in Ashland Oregon.  In the spring of 2009 Martin underwent a profound energetic opening and transformation - the product of intensive work with entheogenic medicines and a year of profound self-exploration.  The result is Martin's articulation of what he calls the "Entheological Paradigm," a Grand Unified Theory of all of reality from God to the direct experience of each human being, which he characterizes as an articulation of his view on “radical nonduality.”  

His approach is unique in that he sees the tension between duality and nonduality not as a spiritual or religious issue, but as an energetic issue that can best be addressed through the intentional use of powerful entheogens, such as 5-MeO-DMT.  As such, his approach is thoroughly practical, straight-forward, and free of metaphysics, speculation, and attachment to spiritual or religious ideologies and mythologies.  The result is a view of the nature of reality and the self that is challenging, liberating, and powerfully transformative, pointing to the true nature of being and personal responsibility as an energetic being.

Spotlight: Entheogenic Liberation: Unraveling the Enigma of Nonduality with 5-MeO-DMT Energetic Therapy

Romanie Sanchez, Artist:

First of all I must say that I don´t believe in Consciousness as a quality we possess naturally.

I would say that Consciousness exists, the Universe is Consciousness.

We can only access this through discipline or extreme experiences.

Why are we conscious?

This is a question hard to answer because “Why” and “Consciousness” are two words that rule different dimensions. There is no Why for Consciousness. It is in itself.

Why is it so hard to access? Might be closer to what I can answer.

What I call the mask or rational everyday awareness is the filter though which we function as human beings in the world of matter we need to survive in.  Consciousness can only reveal itself to us in moments of extreme experiences like birth, death, near death experiences, extreme pain, etc… and Why I think this happens is because the veil fails to function under those conditions and we become the Universe again or Consciousness (however one prefers to call it).

We can also access this though discipline or certain drugs.

Why do we feel so attracted to the state of consciousness? Because it brings meaningfulness and a sense of complete understanding to our existence, . This is something we are astray from usually so when one has this experience, we want more.

When consciousness is accessed through discipline it becomes a state one has the ability to enter when required but doesn´t live constantly in this state.

If one does live in this state permanently (there are many cases of this), it means one is unable to look after ones basic survival needs.

I was born in England in 1976, but brought up in Ibiza, where I have spent most of my life.

I paint as a way of discovering the unknown to me. I don't search beauty, I search messages that come from the subconscious. I never know what I will paint, I just follow the shapes and find relationships between the elements. Painting is like dreaming at night, where lots of images overlap shifting their meanings. 

Spotlight: http://romanie.net/

Andrew Newberg, MD, Professor and Director of Research Marcus Institute of Integrative Health:

Consciousness is notoriously difficult to figure out. From the neurotheologial perspective, we might ponder whether consciousness arises from the brain or the brain arises from consciousness. This is tantamount to asking whether the material world is primary (i.e. the brain) and consciousness develops from matter; or whether consciousness is primary (i.e. there is a universal consciousness) and matter develops from that consciousness?

From a brain perspective, consciousness is the awareness we have of ourselves and the world around us that develops from the neuronal processes of the brain. Of course, the brain has many different process from neurons depolarizing, electrical changes going on within and between neurons, the release of neurotransmitters, metabolism and blood flow, and with all of these processes, no one has ever been able to determine where or how consciousness arises. It is also possible that consciousness emerges from the processes of the brain so that a single neuron does not have consciousness, but millions of them do (much like one molecule of H2O does not have "wetness" but millions of water molecules do). 

From a more spiritual perspective, the universe begins with consciousness -- universal consciousness as in Eastern traditions or God's consciousness as in monotheistic traditions. Either way. consciousness comes first, and thus, everything in the universe from rocks and suns to the human brain has consciousness. Perhaps one other possibility from a neurotheological perspective would be that consciousness and matter are two ways of looking at the same thing (analogous to a photon of light being both a particle and a wave).  No matter how or why we have consciousness, neurotheology would argue that we must use a combination of science and spiritual approaches to uncover what it truly is. Through consciousness self reflection and through scientific experimentation, we have the best possibility of unraveling the mystery of consciousness. 

Andrew B. Newberg, M.D. is currently the Associate Director in Charge of Research at the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital in Philadelphia. He is also a Professor in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University and he is adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Spotlight: Neurotheology: How Science Can Enlighten Us About Spirituality

Pia Orleane, Author, Ph.D:

To answer the questions of why are we conscious or what is the purpose of consciousness, we must first define the concept. Consciousness is cosmic awareness, and I will use these terms interchangeably here. It is a knowing wisdom that comes from trust in the universe and awareness that Nature is divine and energy has intelligence. We are divine energy ourselves, and how we use our energy defines our level of consciousness. 

Questions about consciousness cannot be what questions. They are how questions. Awareness is lived concepts like respect, honor, kindness, acceptance, compassion, cooperation, peace, and love. Lack of consciousness results in thoughts and actions that are based on judgment, jealousy, rage, or fear. Defining or seeking consciousness is not an intellectual pursuit, for consciousness cannot be found by or in the mind. True, deep awareness and understanding comes from the heart, for this is where consciousness resides. It is here that we understand that everything is connected and that we are all one. 

It is the mind that judges and separates, causing conflict, competition, and the urge to control (others or Nature.)  The heart discerns, accepts, and seeks harmony through exercising compassion. We cannot find consciousness through the mind. Even reading an uplifting spiritual article (such as this one) is to seek consciousness through mental understanding, while a simple walk in the quiet of Nature can bring awareness, sensitivity, and empathy, principles that naturally raise our consciousness. True understanding only comes when the mind is lead by the heart.

We achieve higher consciousness when we begin to take responsibility for all of our choices, our actions and our thoughts (energy). We experience an enlightened moment when we understand that killing one thing (a cow or a spider) is no more acceptable than killing another (a pet or a person). Consciousness comes when we stop asking an outside force (God or extra-terrestrials) to save us, but instead take responsibility for changing the world we have co-created through our choices. 

Basically consciousness is living the principle of Ahimsa ("Do no harm") in

all areas of our lives, including what we think about others, how and what we voice to others, and the actions we choose. Ahimsa is a principle of unity. It comes with the understanding that what I do to you, I do to myself as well.

Another way of saying this is In Lak'ech ("I am another yourself.") Still another way of saying it is "Love your enemies as yourself." 

Our interstellar friends, Laarkmaa, who hold a much broader perspective than we do, tell us that our emotions (defined as anything we feel that makes us uncomfortable) are signposts, pointing to the work we must do to overcome our shadows and elevate our consciousness. When we successfully work through our emotions without causing harm to others, we return to our natural feelings of love, joy, trust, and compassion. These are the elements of consciousness, for they bring unity and peace. 

A long time ago I learned a way that works for me to bring myself into a higher state of consciousness when I am suffering from my own emotional states. It consists of three parts:

1) Really feel what it is I am experiencing in my heart, and then ask what am I thinking about as I feel this. I do not allow anything to distract me from this full participation. This part of the exercise leads me to find where my mind has judged my experience and cast blame, either on others or on myself. Now I have to take responsibility for what I have discovered and begin to make changes. 

2) Take a walk in Nature, enter a meditative state, or monitor my breath to stop the mental thoughts and allow the peace and quiet to return me my natural state of calm balance and equanimity. It is from this place that I can make whatever changes are necessary from what I discovered in the first step.

3) Find a way to help someone else, for everyone is suffering. This can be as simple as offering a smile or a kind word to a stranger. This is practicing Ahimsa by not allowing unbalanced energy of my own emotions to penetrate and negatively affect someone else's field.

Consciousness is awareness of our thoughts, our actions, and our reactions. Someone very wise once told me, "You cannot be in a state of compassion if you are in a state of reaction. You cannot be in a state of reaction if you are in a state of compassion."

When my heart guides my thoughts, I can experience enlightened moments where I recognize that we are all one, that separation is an illusion, and that every aware perspective can be compassionately harmonized into the fabric of true consciousness. Consciousness is love. Why are we conscious? What is the purpose of consciousness? To recognize ourselves as part of the cosmos and practice simply being love. 

Pia Orleane, Ph.D., is the author of Sacred Retreat, a groundbreaking work that offers a template of how we can restore balance to our driven, radically unbalanced society. She is co-author with Cullen Baird Smith of three other books on consciousness and human evolution: Remembering Who We Are; Conversations with Laarkmaa: and Pleiadian-Earth Energy Astrology–Charting the Spirals of Consciousness.

Spotlight: Sacred Retreat: Using Natural Cycles to Recharge Your Life

Zoltan Istvan, Author, Politician, Transhumanism Activist: 

Why are we conscious? Consciousness is a compilation of neurons firing within the brain  that creates an overarching organized sense of self. Some people believe consciousness is something more than biological, and while that might be true, our 3 pounds of meat that make up our brains cannot tap into that yet.

We might be able to once we are directly connected to Artificial Intelligence which might be much smarter than us, but for now, our consciousness is limited to our finite neurons firing within our brain. Ultimately, we are conscious because that was the easiest way for evolution to gain control and be able to manipulate a great many of our body's biological mechanisms, which in turn helps our survival. 

Or what is consciousness for? Consciousness is for helping to control and regulate our bodies. For evolution, this is a must, since as rational creatures, we can improve our odds of survival by thinking and being rational. This can only come from consciousness and the complexity of a thinking entity. In the future, however, consciousness might be used for far more than evolutionary survival--it will and is already being used to transform ourselves into transhuman beings--beings that might have a very different and far more superior form of consciousness when connected directly to Artificial Intelligence. 

Zoltan Istvan is widely recognized for spearheaded the modern-day transhumanist movement, which advocates for using radical science to improve and evolve the human being. He was the 2016 presidential candidate for the Transhumanist Party and toured the country in the Immortality Bus, which he used to deliver the original Transhumanist Bill of Rights to the US Capitol. He was also a party endorsed 2018 libertarian California Governor candidate. Zoltan has spoken at the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, Microsoft, Harvard and was the opening keynote at the Financial Times Camp Alphaville.

Spotlight: The Transhumanist Wager

Chris Dyer, Artist:

We are consciousness. There is no purpose or reason for it, it just is. There's no separation, a hammer doesn't grab a hammer to hammer, it's just the hammer. In our case (consciousness in physical bodies), whatever we do is consciousness hammering. 

Chris Dyer is a Peruvian artist, living in Canada, and traveling the world half of his time.

He experiences different cultures and then re-expresses them into his own oneness visions. He serves as a Bridge builder between different art movements from skateboard graphics, visionary paintings, street art murals and more. He wants to break boxes and see everything as one optimistic reality.

Though his subject matters are as varied as his styles, his art is just a reflection of his personal spiritual journey.

For more, look out for his coffee table book, his documentary or look him up at www.positivecreations.ca

Spotlight: www.positivecreations.ca

Darren Cockburn, Author and Business Consultant:

Psychologically speaking, consciousness refers to awareness. When we are conscious, we are aware of our experience. Both within and outside of us. This includes bodily sensations, things coming in through the senses, feelings and thoughts. We then have mindfulness, which is consciousness plus acceptance. When we are mindful we accept what we are conscious of. Regardless of whether we find it pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Through accepting what we are conscious of, we align ourselves with what is.

We transcend psychological consciousness by moving towards spiritual consciousness. Beyond awareness, and beyond mindfulness. Spiritual consciousness is enabled when we are both mindful, and also allowing ourselves to connect with something transcendental. Spiritual consciousness goes beyond what we can understand scientifically. I call spiritual consciousness mindfulness+. Mindfulness is awareness and acceptance of our experience, within the present moment. The plus is the transcendental connection or spiritual consciousness element.

It’s impossible to be spiritually conscious without mindfulness. When we’re unmindful, we are lost in our thoughts and emotions. This blocks the transcendental stream that we are connected with, channelling through our thoughts, and influencing our communication and physical action. When we are spiritually conscious, we take the whole into account. All of our actions, whether they be thoughts, communication, or physical action, are skillful. They are based on love rather than egoic control.

We must be mindful to be spiritually conscious. We must also be spiritually receptive. This is something else that is impossible to explain or prove scientifically. Spiritual receptivity requires belief and faith in a higher power. You have to be open to there being something beyond your form-based existence and the stuff that you can explain and observe.

Why are we conscious? As human beings, we need to be aware, in order to operate. Even if we are unskilful, the basic functioning of a human being requires awareness. Why are we spiritually conscious? Because to varying degrees, we serve the higher power that created us. Being spiritually conscious also means that we contribute towards spiritual evolution. Again, serving the higher power whose wish it is for us to evolve.

Darren Cockburn has been practicing meditation and mindfulness for over 20 years, studying with a range of teachers from different religions. As a coach and teacher, he has supported hundreds of people in meditation, mindfulness, and finding a connection to spirituality, with a focus on applying spiritual teachings in everyday life to cultivate a peaceful mind. Darren also works as a business consultant supporting organizations with strategy formulation, interim leadership roles, and transformation programs. He lives in Bournemouth, England.

Spotlight: Being Present: Cultivate a Peaceful Mind through Spiritual Practice

Theodore J. Nottingham, Author, Publisher, Teacher, Translator of Spiritual Works and Visionary Fiction:

These are foundational questions in our understanding of the purpose of our existence. Without asking these questions, we take life for granted, are hypnotized by the external world and allow the cultures in which we find ourselves shape our idea of reality. Merely reflecting on these fundamental issues requires that we step back from our illusions of ourselves and our endless reactivity to the stimuli around us. This detachment or inner separation is the first step to new discoveries that can transform our understanding and our choices in life.

One of the quantum leaps that is offered to us in reflecting on these matters is the shocking esoteric teaching brought to the West by G.I. Gurdjieff telling us that we are not conscious and only imagine that we are. He suggests that we live and act in a lower state that he calls “waking sleep” as it is so close to the literal state of sleep and the world of dreams. Efforts of will, of inner unification around the aim to “awaken,” can lead us toward a state that is properly conscious. Modern psychology knows nothing of this even though cognitive therapy has absorbed some of Gurdjieff’s central ideas on self-awareness and the relationship between passing thoughts and our essential Self. 

We can see, then, that we cannot assume that we know the definition of consciousness and therefore cannot answer these questions without incorporating the best of humanity’s understanding of the term. If we realize that consciousness is a state of being that we must work for internally and spiritually, then perhaps we can confront these questions with some authenticity rather than general opinions. The ancient teachings on the spiritual awakening of human beings -- purification, illumination, divinization – presented in different forms down through history, point to the evolution of consciousness to a stage of enlightenment or unification. Therefore, we cannot speak only of consciousness but of illumined consciousness when seeking to understand its purpose.

The perception of that our journey through life is meant to be an awakening of wisdom and increased consciousness, the goal of so many profound teachings and instructions, we may then respond to these questions: Consciousness is given to us to discover our connectedness with all life and to lead us to an intentional participation in the Source of life itself. Consciousness leads us to a recognition of our true identity as child of the universe, as a spiritual being rooted in infinite Spirit. Evolving consciousness liberates us from the chaos and insanity of human life, heals us of our wounds, transforms us into its ultimate nature which is light and unconditional Love. We then become incarnate blessings in this transitory world. We exist to seek and find this path to our true nature and purpose.

Ted Nottingham is an author, publisher and translator of spiritual works and visionary fiction. He is also a media producer and spiritual teacher online at: http://innerworkforspiritualawakening.com

Spotlight: Written In Our Hearts: The Practice of Spiritual Transformation

I’d like to leave you with two quotes, the first from Philosopher Alan Watts “Life is the universe experiencing itself, in endless variety.” The second, from Cosmologist Carl Sagan “we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” Both quotes possess similar sentiments, but are derived from men who are students of what would seem to be two very different fields.

Perhaps mysticism and science are far more inseparable than we tend to believe in this age.

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