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!"
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.
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.