Author Topic: You're not conscious  (Read 4401 times)

Cramulus

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #30 on: March 22, 2017, 12:35:24 pm »
A concept that helped me out a little bit:

If we're talking about "increasing" consciousness, we will also need a way to measure it.

Let's focus on that moment of reflection and awareness ("Self remembering"). Recognize that in that moment, our level consciousness is higher than normal: We're able to see our own thought processes and incorporate them into our decision making. We're able to self analyze. (some would say: that's the nascent Real Self)

But it doesn't last! It quickly gets forgotten as the habitual mind grabs the reigns again.

  • We can measure Consciousness in terms of frequency - how frequently do you have these moments?
  • We can measure consciousness in terms of length - how long did you manage to stay conscious and hold off the habitual mind?
  • We can measure consciousness in terms of depth - while self remembering, how much more were we aware of? What were you able to do while in that space?

Once you have the language to measure consciousness, you can start thinking about how to increase it.

Yesterday, I talked about increasing frequency of consciousness by giving yourself "shocks", little surprises which remind you to focus. This is very familiar to we zen-absurdists who like knocking people out of their routine through humor and absurdity. Little did you know, this is 'the way of the sly man'.

Next, let's talk about length. If you want to increase length of consciousness, you have to fix a goal in your mind. Aim the bow. Next time you are in the 'conscious space', just try to stay there just a moment longer.

You will fail... you will inevitably be distracted & fall back into the mechanical self. But with concentration, you can preserve it, insulate it against the habitual mind. Try it out.

Do the split attention exercise. Take a moment to recognize the feelings in your body, your intellect, your emotions. The moment of distraction is coming. See if you can anticipate it. Focus on what that moment is like, what happens to you. Develop a conscious experience of that moment.


It gets easier with practice.

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #31 on: March 23, 2017, 04:37:54 pm »
Dunno if I can go so far as to measure my frequency precisely, but I could probably get a vague idea.   :p

Thinking about these ways of measuring consciousness makes me wonder if we are missing the point of consciousness.

Yes, one purpose of this exercise is to increase consciousness in general.

But I think there are some overlapping ideas that are less advantageous to conflate with consciousness.  I will say awareness is one because there are moments where you can be aware of multiple things at once, but it is only distracting for you to do so.  So is consciousness only focusing on what is important as opposed to whatever else we could be aware of?  In that sense, the measurement of depth creates ambiguity because it is measured by "how much" rather than "how little."

If the point is to be aware of as much as possible, I don't think that is helpful.  I would make the analogy of stretching and flexing a muscle.  A muscle can't be stretched and flexed at the same time.  I would say a balance is necessary between broad awareness and focus.

When we measure length, I again wonder what is the point?  Is there a purpose to staying in any one place for longer than there is a purpose?  For example, I can wake up anywhere between two extremes:  being happy and motivated or having a feeling of dread, but ultimately our purpose in the morning is to roll out of bed whether we want to or not.  So if I am aware of how I am feeling, but am still driven by a purpose, my consciousness has a goal which is to facilitate getting my body out of bed. 

Cramulus

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #32 on: March 23, 2017, 06:39:45 pm »
Great questions! really good stuff to chew on - apologies in advance if my response is a little scattered


Consciousness is isn't just awareness or attention, but those are involved. We don't have really precise language to discuss this fuzzy internal stuff, so it's really good to clarify like you've done.

and by the way, I just want to restate, I'm not an authority on this. I'm a student too, your conclusions might be just as good as mine. We're learning together.


Thinking about these ways of measuring consciousness makes me wonder if we are missing the point of consciousness.


At this stage, we're just trying to develop a finer awareness of our own consciousness. Since we're right in the middle of a stream of thoughts, consciousness is invisible to us until we learn to look at it (we aren't usually aware of our own consciousness, just like fish aren't aware of water). It's also like, if you're trying to improve your running speed, you need to measure yourself. You need benchmarks. Without either, you can never know if you're improving. Consciousness is such a nebulous term, the measurements I presented are a way to process it in more digestible bites.

(and I want to acknowledge: consciousness is "wiggly", hard to define. We have to trap it using nets of words, reality grids per the PD, but we shouldn't get fooled by them. Related reading from Alan Watts, will be very familiar to Discordians: http://cramul.us/post/27126060129/from-alan-watts-on-the-tabboo-against-knowing )

You can see that your level of consciousness varies throughout the day. Sometimes your consciousness is high, sometimes it's low. Think about how your capabilities are different in these two states. It's really hard to realize your potential, to lead a fulfilling life, when your consciousness is low and your habitual mind calls the shots. A lot of the time, when you need to be making conscious decisions, you're making automatic, habitual decisions.

Like you said, just being 100% aware of everything at all times isn't actually helpful, it's chaos. The goal is not to replace all mechanical actions with intentional ones. You need your mechanical mind! But you shouldn't let it have too much power either.



Another way of stating the "point"

When you examine your own consciousness, you'll probably notice that a lot of your behavior appears automatically, mechanically, as a response to some internal state. We have all these sub-selves inside of us, and they all want different things. Our ultimate behavior emerges from conflict between these forces. One part of me is hungry and wants to go out to eat, another part of me wants to read a book--whichever of these signals is "louder" automatically gets control of the body. (unless you're conscious of what's happening)

A lot of the selves inside of you want basic, shallow, ego-driven things. We easily become slaves to these patterns and habits. That keeps us at a low level of energy, low potential, low quality of life. Many of the selves have become prison bars. That's the black iron prison.

Through self reflection and consciousness, by fighting against your habits, you can make intentional changes. You can escape the cell for a little while. You can "think for yourself, shmuck!"

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Quote
Yes, one purpose of this exercise is to increase consciousness in general.

But I think there are some overlapping ideas that are less advantageous to conflate with consciousness.  I will say awareness is one because there are moments where you can be aware of multiple things at once, but it is only distracting for you to do so.  So is consciousness only focusing on what is important as opposed to whatever else we could be aware of?  In that sense, the measurement of depth creates ambiguity because it is measured by "how much" rather than "how little."

If the point is to be aware of as much as possible, I don't think that is helpful.  I would make the analogy of stretching and flexing a muscle.  A muscle can't be stretched and flexed at the same time.  I would say a balance is necessary between broad awareness and focus.

Right! But similarly, if you're aiming to build muscle, you need to work it. A workout isn't 50% flexing and 50% stretching, most of it is working at the thing you're trying to improve.

We are really bad at focusing our attention for any length of time. We are really bad at noticing what's going on inside of us. Both of those are necessary to make conscious decisions. The split attention exercise is kinda like a workout aimed at building those muscles.


There is another answer in the literature, but I am still making up my mind about it, so take this with a grain of salt and decide for yourself.

Some people say that the distractions you suffer are from the different "centers" (physical, emotional, intellectual, whatever) conflicting with each other. From that perspective, the "work" of consciousness is an attempt to get your centers to work together and coexist harmoniously. That's why the split attention exercise is important, it is like a survey of the factors influencing your behavior. Your ignorance of these factors empowers them, keeps you in an unconscious fog.

In that fog, your fears and weaknesses and laziness have a huge power over your life.



Quote
When we measure length [of consciousness], I again wonder what is the point?  Is there a purpose to staying in any one place for longer than there is a purpose?


When you're focusing your energy and attention on something, you don't want to suddenly start thinking about potato chips. 

You don't want your decsion subverted by your own desire for potato chips. If we learn how this distraction takes place, and the factors which create it, we gain a small degree of control over it...

The point here is to practice fighting against the mechanical, habitual mind. We're so easily distracted. If you've ever meditated, you've seen it: we are really bad at focusing our attention for any length of time. That focus can be developed. It's an important tool in mastering our Will.



Consciousness isn't an end.

Consciousness is a means to becoming less mediocre, less trapped by fear and doubt and habits that keep us from being fulfilled.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 07:37:03 pm by Cramulus »

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #33 on: March 23, 2017, 07:59:07 pm »
I'm kind of trying to minimize the degree to which I am an annoying science pedant, because nobody likes those, but I feel like it might be helpful to the development of this thread if I mention that a lot of this discussion seems to conflate "consciousness" and "mindfulness". Consciousness is simply awareness of self; mindfulness is awareness of consciousness, and of physical, mental, and environmental contributors that affect our experience of consciousness.

Much of the time in this thread when the word "consciousness" is used, I think people may be referring to the process called "metacognition", which means, simply, being conscious of your consciousness, or thinking about thinking.

There is some really interesting work coming out of metacognition research, which is particularly useful in education. An emerging field in science is science education research, which focuses heavily on how conscious awareness of these processes can facilitate intellectual growth.

A few links that might be of interest:

https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/metacognition-gift-that-keeps-giving-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers
http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/metacognition/teaching_metacognition.html
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Cramulus

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #34 on: March 23, 2017, 08:34:53 pm »


Yeah the language here is tricky, since we’re talking about hyper-subjective internal experiences. I’m thankful that this thread hasn’t gotten too mired in definitions. I’ve intentionally shifted between terms like Consciousness, Mindfulness, Self-Awareness and Self-Remembering, even though they are not technically interchangeable, and none of those are 100% accurate to what we’re talking about.

The way that I’m discussing consciousness here, it’s something aspirational - a clear state of mind that we can achieve through self-observation and intentional effort. The little sparks we get from time to time are the tip of the iceberg.

If most of your thoughts and behaviors are mechanical, there’s a level of selfhood that you’re missing out on. The consciousness I am pointing at is a path to build a “real self”.

Some people call this the development of the “soul”. I’ve avoided talking about the soul, because that word comes with a lot of baggage. But it’s worth mentioning: in this scheme, people aren’t born with a “soul” (whatever that may be). One can develop a “soul” over a long period of time through conscious labor and intentional suffering. But we’re in deep metaphor country here. Let’s not worry too hard about metaphysical stuff like that - for now, let’s stick to the practical.

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #35 on: March 23, 2017, 08:54:36 pm »
I'd like to take a sec to touch some of my own skepticism and uncertainty:

There's all this talk about the "centers" - mental, emotional, physical... Each center is an "apparatus" or "mind" that dictates certain functions.

A lot of people have chopped up the centers into various subparts. One system tells you that each center has its own intellect, emotion, and movement. Another system will tell you that the physical center (more often called the "moving center") has three parts: motor, instinct, and sex.  Et cetera.

I think this is kinda dodgy and hard to verify, especially since the centers are all working at the same time. If I want a healthy sandwich, is that intellect? emotion? body? a mix of all three, right? so how are these categories useful?

The self is a funhouse mirror - if you go looking into your own mental processes through the lens that there are two centers, God and the Devil, you will be able to recognize your thoughts and behaviors as either belonging to God or the Devil. What you seek so shall you find. So how can any of these divisions be "real"?



BUT

What I think is key here is that we're trying to figure out where our thoughts come from.

And through doing that, we're trying to develop something outside of those forces, which can moderate it.

I used to think of emotions as these more or less automatic processes that get in our way. I saw the rational, logical mind is the real self we have to listen to. After all, of all the centers, the intellect seems the most under our control. So isn't that the self?

But this line of self-observation illuminated to me the ways that my intellect is also mechanical, that it has its own needs which are sometimes in conflict with other parts of me. And if I focus on intellect, I become unbalanced. The consciousness we're working on is something outside of the intellect, something that can moderate it or make room for it as needed by the harmonious, combined self.

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #36 on: March 24, 2017, 12:44:35 am »
I'd like to take a sec to touch some of my own skepticism and uncertainty:

There's all this talk about the "centers" - mental, emotional, physical... Each center is an "apparatus" or "mind" that dictates certain functions.

A lot of people have chopped up the centers into various subparts. One system tells you that each center has its own intellect, emotion, and movement. Another system will tell you that the physical center (more often called the "moving center") has three parts: motor, instinct, and sex.  Et cetera.

I think this is kinda dodgy and hard to verify, especially since the centers are all working at the same time. If I want a healthy sandwich, is that intellect? emotion? body? a mix of all three, right? so how are these categories useful?

The self is a funhouse mirror - if you go looking into your own mental processes through the lens that there are two centers, God and the Devil, you will be able to recognize your thoughts and behaviors as either belonging to God or the Devil. What you seek so shall you find. So how can any of these divisions be "real"?



BUT

What I think is key here is that we're trying to figure out where our thoughts come from.

And through doing that, we're trying to develop something outside of those forces, which can moderate it.

I used to think of emotions as these more or less automatic processes that get in our way. I saw the rational, logical mind is the real self we have to listen to. After all, of all the centers, the intellect seems the most under our control. So isn't that the self?

But this line of self-observation illuminated to me the ways that my intellect is also mechanical, that it has its own needs which are sometimes in conflict with other parts of me. And if I focus on intellect, I become unbalanced. The consciousness we're working on is something outside of the intellect, something that can moderate it or make room for it as needed by the harmonious, combined self.

My advice would be forget about the source. It's as elusive as to be irrelevant. Might as well be emergence itself. I've written it off as the bit of me I can't look at (although it's fun to try). It's where the looking comes from. A point, not a thing. Models and terminologies are very much subject to the map/territory issue. Be mindful of this and then go exploring. There's a lot of different bits at play, as you've noted. Spend some time watching how they interact. Get to know them. Figure out what you want to do with them. Figure out how.

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #37 on: March 24, 2017, 03:48:06 am »
Cram, I feel like you might really enjoy the writing of a researcher named Cristoph Koch. He can get a little navelgazy for my tastes (and Salty just helpfully pointed out that I am unnecessarily curmudgeonly about navelgazy stuff), but I think that something about what you're trying to get at and something about what he's trying to get at... might just resonate.
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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #38 on: April 19, 2017, 03:11:22 am »
I'm posting here from the far reaches of somnambulence. Two weeks of trying to sleep between a hammer-drill and a cement-truck can do wonders to the gestalt of consciousness. We work with what we have never sounded so wrong.
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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #39 on: April 19, 2017, 03:24:44 am »
So this all boils down to the (false) dichotomy that I am a meat machine, as you say, or I am not, as Kipling and Hemmingway say.  The third option is that I am in fact a meat machine, but that one of the attributes of that meat machine is consciousness.  The entire question is silly, because it's an observable fact that we are meat machines, but the fact that we question consciousness is an iron-clad proof of consciousness.

So all of you fuckers are wrong, or at least not entirely correct.

so, to clarify a little

The OP's position -- that you're stuck in this meat machine, that consciousness is a lightbulb that appears above your head only occasionally, and only for a moment -- is not to denigrate you to mere meat. Nor am I saying that the meat machine is an illusion.

I'm saying that most of us are stuck in routines, chasing physical needs, chasing emotional needs, chasing intellectual needs. And that I think that there's something else we can develop outside of that, another place (in an abstract sense) from whence behaviors can originate.




I can think of times in my own life when that light shone brightly and it illuminated stuff that was invisible to me. Fight with a girl, go for a long walk, eventually when the emotional poison has run its course through my body, I can think clearly again, I can see the ways that I was a shithead. Or when I hit rock bottom in the job market, I had a long dark night of introspection and ultimately decided to make big changes in my life. In order to make those decisions I needed a certain perspective. That perspective was hidden until I detached from the routines I was running. The mind, the body, the emotions -- they are competing, but each of them has an incomplete perspective. With self-remembering, you can build a more complete picture, and operate based on that.

There are lots of ways to cultivate that self-mastery. And it's not easy. You have to brace yourself for it like it's going to be a lot of work. The Fakir of India develop their self by transcending the body. Yoga also uses the body to develop awareness. In Zen, you learn to develop your awareness through control of the mind, sharpening its focus to a point. Monks work on self-mastery through control of their affections and emotions.

But those are just a few of the methods. I am exploring a fourth way.

I missed this response, I think.

Fact is, having routines to manage most of your day is the best thing that ever happened to people, really.  There are plenty of daily tasks that are mind-numbingly boring, and why would you want to be paying attention?

Example:  Driving to work in the morning.  Your body knows when to turn the car and when to stop.  Getting involved with that sort of shit only causes problems.  Just relax and let habit and custom take the wheel.
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Cramulus

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #40 on: April 19, 2017, 03:10:18 pm »
Oh yeah definitely! You can't escape that, and shouldn't. You can't just go about your entire life with awareness cranked all the way up. You self-remember, then you get distracted by something, and you're back into the habitual mind. And do you really want to be fully conscious while doing boring repetitive work?


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But on the other side, there are entire weeks that go by where I'm just running mental routines--awareness is just a flickering pilot light. While you're in the habitual, you never ask yourself "Why am I doing this?"

It seems like we only ask ourselves the BIG QUESTIONS after a tragedy. Why is that?


in part, it's because the everyday has been BREACHED

 

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #41 on: April 19, 2017, 05:22:12 pm »
I put a huge amount of energy into being less conscious so my brain doesn't eat itself. Like, I have a whole system for reducing the amount of time I spend thinking about reality.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #42 on: April 20, 2017, 12:43:08 am »
Oh yeah definitely! You can't escape that, and shouldn't. You can't just go about your entire life with awareness cranked all the way up. You self-remember, then you get distracted by something, and you're back into the habitual mind. And do you really want to be fully conscious while doing boring repetitive work?


I <3 Huckabees: The Ball Thing



But on the other side, there are entire weeks that go by where I'm just running mental routines--awareness is just a flickering pilot light. While you're in the habitual, you never ask yourself "Why am I doing this?"

It seems like we only ask ourselves the BIG QUESTIONS after a tragedy. Why is that?


in part, it's because the everyday has been BREACHED

This is exactly what I try to drill through technicians' heads. 
" It's just that Depeche Mode were a bunch of optimistic loveburgers."
- TGRR, shaming himself forever, 7/8/2017

 "Billy, when I say that ethics is our number one priority and safety is also our number one priority, you should take that to mean exactly what I said. Also quality. That's our number one priority as well. Don't look at me that way, you're in the corporate world now and this is how it works."
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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #43 on: April 20, 2017, 12:48:54 pm »
I'd just like to step in here and remind everyone that I <3 Huckabees is a work of genius that is simultaneously often hard to watch due to it being a poorly-constructed film.

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Re: You're not conscious
« Reply #44 on: April 20, 2017, 10:24:24 pm »
Oh yeah definitely! You can't escape that, and shouldn't. You can't just go about your entire life with awareness cranked all the way up. You self-remember, then you get distracted by something, and you're back into the habitual mind. And do you really want to be fully conscious while doing boring repetitive work?


I <3 Huckabees: The Ball Thing



But on the other side, there are entire weeks that go by where I'm just running mental routines--awareness is just a flickering pilot light. While you're in the habitual, you never ask yourself "Why am I doing this?"

It seems like we only ask ourselves the BIG QUESTIONS after a tragedy. Why is that?


in part, it's because the everyday has been BREACHED
I thinks it may be helpful not to assign a strict hierarchy that elevates self-reflection over the mundane routines of everyday habit. Some have argued that it is actually in the transparency of everyday activity that we are most ourselves.  When that is breached, the act upon which we reflect, with BIG questions, will not necessarily be making present to us a more informed view of ourselves as opposed to who we are not. The "privilege" of the break-down is then more to provide a differential for self-understanding, instead of being an end in itself.  The thing about when I am most myself is actually that it usually consists of an absence of self-reflection. So, that's tricky.  :lulz:
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