Well, it’s a wet and typical British “summer” day, and I’ve literally just finished another fascinating book, “Zen and the art of consciousness” by Susan Blackmore. I totally recommend the book as one to read, just for the sake of it. Beyond that though, it got me to think about a whole lot of additional questions, along with the one’s central to the book.
I thought I’d share a few of them, to see what others thought. Also writing it out helps me process my thoughts. So to kick off there is the central premise that there is no such thing as the common perception of consciousness. That all the neuroscientists trying to find the “site” in the brain where it emerges are miss-guided and are not going to find where the brain generates consciousness. To be fair it’s a pretty good point.
I am fascinated by consciousness and how it arises, but I’m also well aware that our minds and bodies are “just” cells, nothing more and nothing less. If this is the case, which it would appear to be, then unless there is some “magic” in the system, consciousness must be a clever evolutionary adaption. This also knocks on the door of the age old question of whether there is “free will”. Do we consciously guide our actions, or does essentially our body just do it? It might appear that on the face of it, we’re choosing what to do all the time. If you really start to think about it though, and observe what really happens you’ll start to notice that lots of things you do “just happen”. That there is no obvious conscious thought, just a pre-destined causal chain of events.
As simple as this, I’m drinking some orange juice right now, did I “chose” to drink it, was it my free will, pure and simple? Or is it a causal chain? I was thirsty, I wanted a drink, I’ve already drank lots of tea today, I don’t want too much more caffeine, so coffee is out. I don’t really like sweet drinks, so no to squash and water seems a touch boring right now. So I know I bought some orange juice yesterday and it’s in the fridge. So really, my “choice” could be seen as a narrowing of options towards and inevitable conclusion. Is this scary? Or just reality? I’m an organic entity operating in a physical world, there’s only so much I can really do, only so much influence I can have on my actions.
The more you take the time to think about the things you do, the more you’ll be able to see there is a huge amount of inevitability to what we do. If we accept this, what does it mean? Well this is clearly an issue way too vast to cover on my blog, but I’ll chuck in a few ideas.
I believe it means that we can start to really go with what we feel like doing, to “listen” to our bodies (this is inclusive of our brains/minds). Stop thinking what should you be doing, and start to feel what you’d like to be doing, what do you need to do? What do you want to do? Be guided by circumstance. I wanted to play tennis today, but sadly the rain put an end to that, as I didn’t fancy getting drenched whilst I played. Therefore it gave me time to finish the book I was reading and jump on my notebook to write this. Even this blog has a level of inevitability, I haven’t written one for a while, and I want to write at least once a month, plus I was moved by the book.
What does this all mean from a therapeutic point of view? I’m not sure yet, all I know is that I practice from what I believe. So the more I think and feel about this fascinating topic the more my mind is opened and the more I want to assist others to do the same. To allow everyone to experience the world as they want to, to avoid constraint, which includes from their own “over” thinking. To be and accept we’re just organic entities acting in a set physical world. This might help overcome a great deal of the anxieties out there. To help establish what it is that clients want and need, to help come to an understanding, if it’s helpful that there might not be a consistent self. That we all change over time, that every time we become aware of something, our consciousness is essentially reset, that we experience a fairly random and eclectic series of events and perceptions at any given time. That there probably isn’t such a thing as consistent consciousness, because we’ll admit to times when we thought we were “conscious” and paying attention, but we weren’t really. Sometimes we totally manage to empty our mind of thoughts and totally just be. What some might say is “flow”, this to me seems to be a pretty good place to look for contentment.
I will now delve into a new book, and carry on working with my wonderful clients with a slightly different view of things and see where it takes me. Life is totally fascinating and being as aware as we can of it is even more fascinating. Enjoy grappling with these ideas, try Susan Blackmore’s book, also have a look at Daniel Dennett too, he’s got some fascinating if fairly “chunky” ideas to get to grips with.