A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

I watched a TED.com talk recently. It was about Consciousness, partially defining it as that state of  being which we experience once awakening from a dreamless sleep and throughout our awake hours. The state of the brain during this time is consciousness. I enjoyed Philosopher John Searle’s quirky speech very much. I think I agree with most of what he said, and definitely would not put myself up as a dissenter. He has spent a much longer time on the journey than I have, and also, in a much more conscious fashion.

This brings me to my confusion. Is what  we experience which Professor Searle seems to have defined as the “state of not being unconscious” really all that consciousness is? I have no doubt at all that the scientific experiments and knowledge Professor Searle refers to in his lecture are all valid, correct, and reliable.

Yet, to me, it seems that consciousness is perhaps, a little more than that. How often do we tell our children to be conscious of the environment as they walk home from school or the playground? How often do we refer to someone’s mannerism as an “unconscious” gesture? Rather than these being incorrect use of the term, I feel that these are an extension of the meaning.

On the yoga mat we take conscious breaths, which as all practitioners of yoga know and experience, is very different in its results from just “unconsciously” breathing. Yet, according to Professor Searle’s definition, everyday standard breathing is also conscious. We know that if we play the piano, a conscious practise of a shorter time can yield far stronger results than a longer time just playing with the mind in a different realm. We certainly have, most of us, experienced sitting “like a zombie” in front of the TV and not taking in the programme at all. Is that conscious behaviour?

It is possible that defining consciousness in the wider sense that is described in the video can detract from the true meaning of consciousness. Perhaps it is important to remember that it is possible to live at least bits and pieces of one’s life in a robotic fashion, and the journey to making it all completely conscious is one of the things that makes life fascinatingly meaningful.

What do you think?

Do you think that it is important to draw a distinction between mere “awakeness” and full consciousness?

Do you think that there is a difference?

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Comments on: "A Few Conscious Breaths" (7)

  1. Ummm… good point.
    Yes, while I do think there is a distinct and discernible difference between mere awakeness and full consciousness… I also think that distinguishing and defining between those two states and throwing in a good many other in the mix is important only for those who find it so….
    For me, I may find categories and differences galore… for my own edification… nothing else. I am where I am and I will be where I need to be.

  2. I think that there is definitely a difference. In yoga practice one of the aims is to become more aware of what’s gojng on internally in ourselves and what’s going on around us. We often walk around as if we are wearing blinders, not noticing the people or our surroundings all that much. We lose our instinctual side in this way. Getting more in touch with what we feel physically, emotionally and on an instinctual level is important in my opinion – it safer if nothing else. So, yes, I think it’s an important distinction.

  3. Having “zoned out” at times on a long run, wondering how I passed my turn-around point, was I in a state of consciousness? Does daydreaming or lucid dreams count as consciousness? I’ve wondered about this occasionally. Also, interesting is his definition as being conscious when waking from a “dreamless” sleep. I believe he also indicated the dreams are a state of consciousness. Lots to ponder. Thanks for writing on this sopic.

    • Hi Mary Lou, yes, while “zoning out” and running was definitely not being “unconscious”, as a person who loves to run, I expect that you would want to be “zoned in”. Thank you for visiting.

  4. nice article – the mind is a wonderful thing – we think we control it, but do we really…sometimes it has a mind of its own…. 🙂

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