Are you with me so far?
If you want to develop consciousness, you are gonna have to figure it out on your own. But maybe I can help - I'll tell you a little bit about the territory I've explored. Which isn't much. But it's a start.Let's move on to something Practical.
Let's start with mindfulness
You can do anything consciously or unconsciously. The actions are the same. The experience is different.
You don't have to sit in the lotus position and say mantras to be mindful. You don't have to buy a meditation mat and you don't have to take time out of your schedule. You should do it in the middle of everyday life. We're not going to practice consciousness in some monastery on a mountain, everyday life is where it matters
Food tastes better when you're mindful. Hanging out with friends is more fun when you're mindful. When you're being mindful, you're here, in the present moment, connected to the experience. Your brain filters out a ton of information - recognize what's being filtered out. How do your clothes feel on your body? What thoughts are passing through your head, and where did they come from? Interrupt a train of thought mid-stream, then see if you can figure out what station it departed from.
Cut the words and see how they fall.
This type of mindfulness is sometimes called the "split attention exercise". It's an attempt to be aware of what's going on inside of you. It's not like Zen, where you are focusing your attention down to a point. You want to spread your attention out, be aware of as much as you can. Keep your awareness in your body. Be aware of your intellectual and emotional impulses. Acknowledge the thoughts you're having. Don't try to fight them, just recognize them as they come up.Okay I'm mindful. Now what?
For now, when we're being mindful, we're going to try to identify where our thoughts come from. My experience is that my thoughts and behaviors come from distinct places within me. Sometimes my actions serve one of my body's needs, like getting comfortable, cooking, picking my nose, going to bed. Sometimes my actions are a response to or pursuit of some emotion. Sometimes my intellect is driving the body.
Let's identify those mental train stations that the behaviors depart from. I think there's a small number of places within us which motivate our thoughts and actions.
Let me add a qualifier: we're talking about the internal world, which is basically formless chaos. The "internal places" I am discussing here are abstract. I'm making the cut like this: body / intellect / emotions
- but there are other ways to cut it and they're not necessarily wrong. There are totally valid criticisms about cleaving the fuzzy self into distinct units. But we need some kind of system to make sense of what's going on in there, and body/intellect/emotions is a good starting point. I imagine that you could also use the elements, or the chakras, or the id/ego/superego - the important thing is that it's a complete system that leaves nothing out. A cosmos, if you will.
Right now we just want to identify the train stations, the "centers", that our thoughts come from. What are we going to do tonight, Brain? Like, practically speaking
Be mindful with me today.
First, we're going to try to develop a habit of being mindful. The trick is to program the habitual mind to push us to consciousness. This is also a little bit like learning to Lucid Dream. We want to make random reality checks at various points during our day.
One method is to give yourself "shocks". A shock is a stimulus which surprises you and reminds you to be mindful. This is the same tool as Lin-Ji's fly whisk, or his Katsu! shout
. It interrupts our train of thought and reminds us to be aware.
You could draw a little circle on your hand or tie a string around your finger.
When I was starting off on this work, I changed my text message sound every few days. You hear it, you're like "WTF is that?", then you remember. Then you answer your phone mindfully.
Whatever it is, it should be something that you will experience randomly, while you're in the midst of your thoughts.
if you're still following along,
I'd be curious to hear your experiences.