|A reflection of Adyashanti's original illustration|
We don’t have to be 'c o n s c i o u s' to be alive…
To simply be 'a w a r e' that ONE AND EVERYTHING IS, is to be alive
Simple awareness is in principle what life entails.
(om tat sat & tat tuam asi)
(All the asterisked words below can be etymologically derived from sounds and expressions - not necessarily words yet! - that were vocalized at the earliest beginnings of our emergence as humans, when we were intent on distinguishing ourselves as a separate species on the evolutionary branch from which we and our 'sibling' species evolved.)
I. Consciousness as an Aid to make Sense of the sensorial World
As distinct from awareness* and secondary to it, I see consciousness* strictly as a functional mode in the dynamics of our human being, a tool designed for the maintenance of being and remaining human in a comfortable fashion, a faculty though that in principle is not of primary importance to human life or even... conditional to human life. In the view I'm promoting here, I see the importance of consciousness as being of a secondary nature, as a maintenance tool, a means intended only to enable us to return to our unquestioned and fully trusted immediacy of life (that of simple and direct awareness) in circumstances where external conditions made us realize that we might not be equal to enjoy, handle or fit human life's conditions in simple, direct and immediate (non-mediated) awareness.To be equal to life's conditions in this view is exemplified by a life that is simple and unquestioned - though not simplistic and short of wonder, not lacking inspired and inspiring vital dynamics. It is a life that has enough resilience (room to move) built in that naturally safeguards unconditional ease and comfort, a life in which external environmental challenges do not immediately create elevated feelings of unease and discomfort beyond the built-in resilience that can easily fit in or handle challenges.
Obviously such are not the overall and usual circumstances in which we humans live since the days - so very long ago now – when we decided to take advantage of our possible erectness and thus enhanced our mobility to enable us to migrate into environmental settings where the challenges were greater than what they were at the beginning of our emergence as a distinct species.
What enabled us to migrate to those more challenging settings was the discovery of the possibility to modify and/or relax our up to then automatic reflexes (fight or flight) that were controlled by our Sensorial System and the R-complex (R for reptilian) of the Sympathetic part of our Nervous System.
Instead of fleeing or fighting we learned to 'sit with' (con-) situations and analyse (-scio, as in science) the complexity of their often overwhelming qualities. Instead we learned to regroup and come forth with solutions so very different from fleeing, fighting, forcing to flee or being forced to flee. We started to use a new mode of behaving, a 'con-scious' mixture of previously habituated re-activity and newly acquired inter-activity, a mode of 'con-sciere', of being in-the-know-with the things we were surrounded with: we could become conscious when needed as needed! Eventually we became so adept in the use of consciousness that we could henceforth creatively extend our comfort individually and communally to zones and habitats where we previously could not survive.
(About the word 'consciousness':
The Aryan/Sanskrit root SKA and its later derivations like SKAD, SKAL, SKAR (meaning 'separating', 'cutting', 'splitting') can be found in
- the Latin scio ('to know') and scientia, ('knowledge' as 'having separated one thing from another'),
- the English science, consciousness, conscience, rescind, schism, scatology, shit and scat (two meanings), even words like skill, shape and shave, shell and skull,
- the German scheiden ('to separate') and UnterSCHeidung ('analysis') and
- a host of other Indo-German and Roman languages words.
And thus us early humans started SKA... eh... 'SCIENCE'... (the original beginnings of the scientific method!) with care* and caution*... instead of habitually resorting to flights in fear or fights to create fear.
When needed, now 'being conscious' became our newly acquired mode of sitting with (con-) a difficult situation that we could analyse and get to know (-sciously)!
Eventually though and over time we developed a propensity to be and stay conscious all the time... even in situations where not required, situations when we could simply enjoy the direct immediate awareness of quiet repose or dynamic play.
Unfortunately now, most of us are in a stymied state of being conscious all the time but now without actively using its possibly freeing faculty to return to our original and natural state of repose and play which consciousness was supposed to help us reclaim: our birthright to abidance in blissful repose (Buddha) and our birthright to being able to surrender without a care to blissful play (Krishna).
Unfortunately now, the means have become the goal, the tool the thing to have, humankind's birthright to pure and simple awareness seemingly lost and non-reclaimable, and consciousness now addictively talking most humans out of their own and others' birthright with the ceaseless verbosity of internal pseudo dialog and external non-dialog that for most humans came to characterize consciousness... unconscionably and neigh uncontrollably so.
Ah, to be able to use consciousness as intended again... as needed!
And indeed, after understanding this fully - with a renewed and fresh discovery as to what being conscious actually entails, it is indeed possible to return to our simple native and innate state of awareness which consciousness was originally designed to help us return to and restore.
The beginnings for so many thousands of years were so good, and fortunately - when not - for the many subsequent millennia that we found ourselves so distractedly off track, many a Buddha and many a Krishna re-minded us or helped us re-mind, so that we could reclaim our reality of awareness by helping us restructure our falsified 'consciousness-carried-away-with-itself'.
But back to the early days.
Early humans at the beginning of the invention and application of consciousness could sensibly relax to modify and eventually let go of their automatic reflexes consisting of 'running away' and/or 'shooing away', not having to separate themselves anymore from situations they would eventually embrace and enjoy with trust, in ease and comfort, being simply aware in them.
Consciousness was good, is good; it is not for nothing that being con-scious became a mode of being that showed 'being-with-it-ness' as a preferred, let's say - using a current word - a cool mode to be in even when conditions of extended durations of strain abated an did not warrant being conscious at the cost of being at ease and comfortable.
An unfortunate notion for the need of continuity of consciousness developed, consciousness was never supposed to be an ongoing mode of being, but some humans with a misguided need to manipulate in order to gain power and create inequality (this took place between 16 and 12 thousand years ago) saw that a side effect of consciousness could be used and exploited for their own use.
Consciousness then became a tool to jeopardize and even halt freedom and independence, it would even hide simple awareness, at best making it something to be wished for, at worst something that most became oblivious of. Consciousness instead was used to create dependency, slavery and fear, the very thing it was supposed to find solutions for to overcome. Manipulators of power found out that continuously conscious but non-clear-unaware people were not independent at all as they had gotten easily hooked into a habituated unceasing stance of alertness to discomfort, disease, fear and fear of fear, a stance that made them weak and dependent and exploitable, readily available for the acquisition of superficial products that simulate ease and mimic comfort.
II. Sensorial Reality as an Aid to keep Consciousness realistic
Our sensorial system is a system that feeds directly into the enjoyment of repose and play through our central nervous system. In fact the central nervous system employs a system of energies gross and simple, physical and metaphysical that make enjoyment physically/spiritually enjoyable... blissful (ananda). Our sensorial system is, so to speak, the tool that measures and records our internal comfort and ease based on and next to its measurement of external situations and influences that impact on our comfort and ease. In addition to that system and in intricate relationship with it we have our central nervous system with its categorizing and indexing infrastructures, with physical and metaphysical processes, all systems coming together in an overseeing, witnessing agency, a system of ultimately awareness in which mind, (simultaneously physically as well as and metaphysically characterized) is traditionally seen as all encompassing entity: Man.
My intent was (is) to show that consciousness is a very important tool that when it functions as intended, is not suspect at all. My intent was (is) also to show that consciousness took over a leading role rather than keeping its supporting one, in the mutual plays of our interdependent lives and appears to have relegated or at least is attempting to relegate simple direct awareness to the background to such an extent even that now humans tend to be totally engulfed in consciousness and thus seem unable to live in simple awareness as it is so en-veiled in the webs of intricacies that a now dys-functioning, overworked and overworking consciousness has woven.
As long as one is in the buzz of consciousness (which one can know by noting its verbosity and tendency to keep an inward dialog going) one is not directly aware and thus not in the immediacy of being. While conscious one operates in life in an indirect way.
We actually need no tools to live, but we do need tools to procure and maintain that living when situations arise that challenge our ability to be equal to in ease and comfort.
We only need to use those tools, especially consciousness, when needed.
When alertness to fear, disease and discomfort has become our steady state, when we have been tricked into believing its continuity, we have the tool of consciousness buzzing ALL the time, making its efficacy null and void as no moment of simple ease and comfort are ever reached. We have then been led to believe that there is a continuous reason to keep one's guards up. A person with his guard up all the time is always a pawn, a guarded foot soldier in the service of someone who took advantage of the possibility of extended dependency of humans by keeping them in a state of dependency, having them constantly exposed to the illusion (lie, deceit) that the possibility of a to be feared situation is not just a probability but a continuous possibility that can easily take on (and it all too often does) the semblance of reality as the memory of an instance of real discomfort, disease, pain or suffering, which ONCE did occur in reality, is now constantly being kept alive artificially thus seeming actual and real and... being dealt with as even MORE real than a short moment of promised, but never really given authentic ease and comfort.
Consciousness is a tool to return us to the directness of just being, but there is no need to be in that mode continuously, especially not when one sees that the possibility of a challenging event is not equal to the probability of such an event.
When the possibility of an event is constantly in view and supported by an imagination based on a memory of that event, it is as though the event is acting itself out in reality (that is the state of illusion that the Buddha pointed out)
One only need to use the tool of consciousness when needed...
Awareness can gauge when the need to employ the functionality of consciousness arises, as the level of ease and comfort diminishes as reported to it by the sensorial system.
Awareness can gauge the veracity of what consciousness (through its derivative conscience) proposes.