The great spiritual and philosophy literature is deep with the question of human consciousness. One might think mass denial was at work for so many people to ignore the conditions which led to the dot-com collapse, the 9-11 attacks, Enron and WorldCom, pedophilia in the Catholic church and the recent economic collapse precipated by the hyperinflated mortgage industry. In retrospect, it seems only complete ignorance or denial can explain how so many of us allowed these conditions to continue. Many today think the world is on the verge of “A New Awakening” as author Eckhart Tolle suggests. Are self awareness and consciousness on our minds?
Jesus said, “Seek the truth, and it shall set you free”. Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet encourages his son by saying, “This above all: to thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou cans’t not be false to any man “.
The great American psychologist William James said “Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’ and when you have found that attitude, follow it”.
A Native American myth recounts that the Creator gathered all of creation and said, “I want to hide something from humans until they are ready for it. It is the realization that they can create their own life and their own reality.” The eagle said, “Give it to me; I’ll take it to the moon and hide it there.” But the Creator said, “No, one day they will go there and will find it.” Then the salmon said, “Give it to me; I’ll hide it in the bottom of the sea.” “No,” said the Creator, “they’ll get there too.” Well, the buffalo came and said, “Give it to me; I’ll bury it in the plains.” The Creator said, “No, they will get there. They will cut into the skin of the earth, and they will find it even there.” But then Grand Mother mole came, the one that has no physical eyes to see on the outside but has spiritual eyes and the capacity to see on the inside, and she said, “Put it inside them; they’ll never find it there.” And the Creator said, “It is done”.
Self awareness is the key to consciousness. Most people live “the life they think they should” rather than the life that’s inside them. As Thoreau says in Walden, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still inside them. Without self awareness you cannot live an authentic life.
The answers are inside us but we often find them through dialogue with another human. In his 1923 book “Ich and Du” or “I and Thou” German philosopher Martin Buber explains beautifully how we define our world though dialogue with our fellow man and with God. As Jesus said, “Whenever one or more are gathered in my name, I am there with them”.
Find a therapist, mentor or coach, run, meditate, practice yoga, read about cognitive behavioral techniques. Be aware of your body and keep it fit. Learn to practice meta-cognition or, how to “think about your thoughts”. Accept every thought and emotion as it is, without judgement. Remember, thoughts and emotions are neither good nor bad. They are just thoughts and emotions. Eckert Tolle, author of “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth” is a great thinker about this issue. Be mindful. Be aware. Be fully present for others.