I sat looking out over the ocean this crisp morning. I had finished my morning routine of yoga, calligraphy in the sand and tai chi, and so I could just sit in the sand and let my mind think on itself. What stood out today was how profoundly consciousness is separate from thinking. This may be a radical view. Indeed, many define consciousness as thinking, which implies that non-human animals are not conscious. That is just crazy! Naturally, what I say here will sound crazy to them — especially where I end up.
First, to review:
Consciousness is the foundation of knowing for all animals. Chapter 71’s, To know yet to think that one does not know is best is important advice because it underlines the distinction between knowing and thinking. The human problem is that we place thinking ahead of consciousness (1), and end up believing what we think is true and real. Consciousness, the source, gets short shrift. You could say we take it for granted.
‘Pure’ consciousness is impartial and that bores us. In contrast, there is nothing boring about feeling certain that one’s feeling and thinking are true and reliable. Ironically, our emotions are giving us this sense of truth and certainty. The stronger the emotion, the greater the schism between what actually is and what we think ‘actually is’. Emotions drive the ‘truth illusion’, as it were.
Survival instincts lie at the base of consciousness and power thought. (See One who speaks does not know?) Particular emotions then steer the direction our thoughts take, and consciousness provides the space for thought to roam. When circumstances trigger emotions, our thoughts mirror those ruffled emotional feathers and allow us to dwell on the event. This dwelling feeds back and re-stimulates emotion, easily setting off a vicious circle. We maintain the unbalanced emotional state long after the triggering stimulus that ignited the initial emotion ends.
Next, on to the ‘new’:
Future, present and past are figments of imagination. We think these are real because we think what we think is real. Time is simply the continuum of consciousness. The points, past-present-future, are simply the projections of our desire and insecurity (need and fear) that give us the illusion of time as we think of it. We are so habituated to clock time now that we think it is real… tick, tick, tick.
(1) Observing the birds on the beach helps me escape the trap of thinking. I imagine that is one of the prime benefits, besides companionship, that pet owners enjoy. For some reason I especially love that little long beaked bird. One of its kind is always there poking around in the sand looking for food.