Saturday, March 15, 2008

Life: The Understanding of Consciousness. Part 2

As the mind continually identifies itself with the physical body, thoughts and feelings begin to surface from the silent background of consciousness. Both owe their existence to this marriage of consciousness with the body. However, these thoughts and feelings spring from the limited perspective of this newly emerging identification and are therefore 'self-centered' in nature. By ‘self-centered’ we mean that all of these thoughts and feelings seemingly arise from an individual body, called ‘me,’ and move out in a linear direction towards ‘the world,’ which we're referring to as everything other than ‘me.’ The experience of life is, therefore, translated through this screen of 'self-centeredness,’ which weighs every encounter against whether or not ‘I need or do not need, want or do not want, am or am not.’ Through time and experience a dichotomy solidifies between ‘me’ and everything else, as a means of guaranteeing survival. Consciousness, or mind, now identified with the physical body is transfixed in this identity through the attention being paid to the body and the interests it has in the things it needs.

As this attention gets caught up more and more in the realm of this particular body, and its needs, there is a residue that accumulates. This residue is called memory and it is the action of memory that firmly cements the formation of the identity, for memory is, in essence, the recording of repetition. Through recording the experiences of life it is repetition that allows consciousness to recognize something as having self-value. This recognition allows patterns to emerge, which play a fundamental role in creating the constitution of the newly emerging individual, for these patterns are what one will be commonly referring to as themselves. Consciousness and memory are now hopelessly intertwined. The constant by-product of consciousness mistakenly referring to memory, as itself, is the self-centered movement of thought, feeling, and the personally translated experiences that continually fuel this closed cycle. Consciousness, being snared in the knot of the body, becomes narrowed down to a point of only being conscious of itself in reference to the physical body. This body-bound consciousness, therefore, experiences itself as completely separate from consciousness as a whole, and must now survive in a world of infinite bodies struggling against each other for the same basic needs.

The question is, how different is the consciousness that has identified itself with this particular body, calling itself 'me' and 'I,' and the consciousness that has identified itself with every other particular body on the planet, also calling itself 'me' and 'I'? Is the difference superficial or fundamental? For when we speak of the independent physical body, we simply mean that it has distinct limits, boundaries seen and felt, and that it has certain needs for its survival. For example, if one body doesn't get what it needs to survive, it dies, but the body standing right next to, living under the same conditions, may not. It is this relative separation we are calling independent, but surely our bodies would be considered absolutely dependent objects in every other sense of the word, right? So our bodies look different and experience the world quite differently, but the consciousness that has identified itself with each and every body and refers to itself as 'I' in each distinct place, where is the difference? Is consciousness actually divided or does it just seem to be given our relative, self-centered perspective? (Part 3 will be posted next week.)