I’ve always wondered about the totality of experiencing. What I mean by this is what is all the ‘constituents’ that make up our experiencing life? What does it consist of, exactly? Personally, I don’t think that is easy to explain as it may at first seem.
While walking along a stream some days ago I was stunned at some of the things I did. I had to walk on boulders and rocks along the stream. It was such difficult walking that I had a stick with me to help me move from one rock to another. Quite a few times I had to jump across the water. All in all it was difficult walking. Glancing up the stream I could see that it was incredibly rocky and, as a result, very rough. There were no consistent or continual surface (such as a walkway). Every step was upon some new shape at some new level. But, yet, I did this without hardly a thought of doing it. In fact, except in the tricky places, I hardly even thought about it. This is because I was thinking about other things. How is this possible?
It shows that there are definite levels to the mind. By this I mean that we live, experience, and do things on many different levels. What we are conscious of is only a small part of what we’re doing. In reality, there are a whole mess of other things going on that we are unaware of, and this is going on all the time. This means that the totality of experiencing deals with things that we are aware of and things we are partially aware of and things we are not aware of altogether.
Our experiencing of life is based in ‘conscious centering’. This means that our consciousness is centered on something specific all the time. In so doing, it leaves everything else in the ‘background’. This centering is going on all the time. By being centered we are focused on specific things. This allows us to deal with specific things in life but it makes us unaware of the other things going on.
My feelings is that we cannot escape ‘conscious centering’. In fact, it seems to me that ‘conscious centering’ is the basis for consciousness, wakefullness, and awareness. Without it we cannot be conscious. If we were to take ‘conscious centering’ from us then we’d sit staring into space and be catatonic-like. ‘Conscious centering’ allows us to pick out specific stimuli from the world, focus on it, and give it meaning. Otherwise, we’d we sit there and we’d be bombarded by a multitude of stimuli – visual, acoustic, tactile, etc. – that would all blend together in a mess of stimulation. Our senses are taking in all sorts of impulses and be overwhelmed. We surely could not ‘take it all in’ at once. We need to single out stimuli from all the rest, to make it relevent and give it meaning. This means some stimuli is ‘discarded’ or ‘trivialized’, so to speak. This makes life manageable and easy to handle and allows us to give meaning to specific stimuli. In effect, ‘conscious centering’ is a form of ‘stimuli filter’. It filters various stimuli out while letting some in.
Because of the ‘filtering’ of stimuli ‘conscious centering’ creates levels of the mind. It creates something like a spectrum from known (conscious) to unknown (unconscious). The mystery of the totality of experiencing, then, is based in this spectrum. This means that in all we do we are conscious and unconscious of things. In a sense, experience is like peering into a clouded crystal. We can see the surface, its glare and scratches. Then, looking into it, we see imperfections, cracks, etc. Looking deeper the image gets more and more blurry til we can see nothing. Such is the pattern of experience as well. At one level things are obvious, then things become a ‘hint’, then its a ‘maybe’, then its unknown. Contrary to what a lot of people think, I feel that the ‘fullness’ of experience is not based in what we “know” (that is, what we’re conscious of) but more in the totality created by the levels of the mind created by the known-unknown spectrum. That is where experience is to be sought . . . not in what we ‘know’ or in knowledge.
Because the ‘conscious centering’ is so dominant and powerful we tend to mistake all it perceives and contains as all there is in existence. We think that it is the ‘all’, the ‘everything’. If something is not within the knowing of ‘concious awareness’ we tend to think it does not exist. Most certainly, the attitude of ‘conscious centering’ is “out of sight, out of mind”. The dominance of ‘conscious centering’ makes it so that we disregard anything not within its awareness. Oftentimes, we are put off guard when something not within ‘conscious centering’ becomes known to us, such as an idea or point of view we were unaware of.
In fact, ‘learning’ is often considered as nothing but bringing things into the ‘conscious awareness’ that was not there initially. This learning, though, is only a ‘bringing into consciousness’ learning. This does not necessarily mean that there is an awareness or appreciation for the ‘unknown’ or ‘unawareness’ that we feel. A person can spend all their lives ‘learning’ the ‘bringing into consciousness’ way but still have no sense of what they are unaware of. For these people ‘learning’ is only bringing things into ‘conscious centering’ and that’s it. It’s what they know, what they think, what they feel that matters. As I’ve heard this point of view say: “if I can’t see, taste, or feel it then it doesn’t exist”. I often speak of this point of view as ‘ego-centered’ as everything is based on their ego’s. That is, what they – their ego – knows. But then there are other people who are very much aware of the ‘unknown’ – they know its there though they have no idea what it is. Typically, they do not seek to ‘bring things into consciousness’, as the ‘ego-centered’ people do, because bringing this into consciousness really does no benefit (I mean, what is there in a ‘consciousness of the unknown’?). As a result, they tend to ‘live with it’ or ‘express it’, typically. This awareness of the ‘unknown’ can become very dominant in their perceptions of life. I call these people ‘mystery-centered’ as the ‘unknown’ is a mystery. This means that the totality of experience is very much rooted, as well, in ones general orientation and character – ‘ego-centered’ or ‘mystery-centered’. It will lean you in a certain direction.
Always, there are aspects of the mind we are unaware or ‘unconscious’ of. As my experience at the stream showed, these aspects of the mind work independant of the conscious mind. As I went across the boulders and thought, the ‘conscious centered’ part of my mind was focused on my thought. But another part of my mind was climbing on the rocks, working independent of my ‘conscious centered’ mind. Noticing this I stopped thinking and watched myself. I could as if see that part of my mind working once I stopped my thought and watched what happened. I could see how I jumped from boulder to boulder, leaned over the rocks, balanced itself, and so on as if another mind was in control. It did it with complete confidence and, it almost seemed, without my ‘conscious centered’ mind to help. Once I focused on the climbing then, of course, I became very aware of what was going on and I saw what I was doing very clearly (that is, I became conscious of it). It was then that I was stunned at what my ‘other mind’ could do.
Most certainly, this ‘other mind’ is almost like another self. Sometimes it can work quite extensively on its own accord, as it did climbing the rocks or in dreams. It can affect our conscious self without us knowing it, as in making us feel certain emotions, or have certain thoughts, or have neurotic-like symptoms.
Some people may say it is like another personality but I do not think so. It is all part of our self. The problem is that we think that our ‘conscious centered’ self is our self, when its really only a small part of it. Our ‘self’ consists of the ‘conscious centered’ self and everything else contained in the levels of the mind, much of which is unknown. It is all this, in its entirety, that makes up the self and it is all this that makes up the totality of experience. To say that the ‘conscious centered’ self is all there is in experience is like walking around looking through a tube.
I tend to feel that the ‘conscious centered self’ is rooted in the reality and existence of the ‘non-conscious centered self’ much like a foundation. It is the confidence and certainties of the ‘non-conscious centered self’ that allow the ‘conscious centered’ self to go beyond the immediate conditions. That is to say, if it was not for my ‘non-conscious centered mind’ climbing the rocks I could not of gotten lost in thought. It allowed my conscious self to go in another direction. By doing this it allows for a more extensive form of experiencing. I sometimes speak of this as the ‘conscious extension’ as it allows consciousness to go beyond its immediate reality, in whole other directions and other pathways it would otherwise not go.
I have always been mystified by this ‘non-conscious centered unseen self’ and what it contains. It effects so much that we do. What, exactly, are the things that our minds do that we are unaware of that make up the totality of experience? It is so much a part of our life but yet we are ‘unaware’ of so much of it.
Like everything else, there seems to be a spectrum, going from totally aware to totally unaware. Its interesting that this spectrum also has a corresponding relation from external world to internal happenings. This spectrum is like:
TOTALLY AWARE – EXTERNAL WORLD
- Awareness of ones immediate situation and surroundings.
- A persons mental state, inner sensations, and impulses.
- Physical homeostasis and maintenence.
TOTALLY UNAWARE – INTERNAL HAPPENINGS
As we go more internal we actually lose the ability to ‘sense’ things (such as we cannot sense our digestion or blood flowing). This shows that consciousness is really geared to the external world. We tend to be aware of ‘internal happenings’ if there’s a problem (such as a pain), or if it serves some other purpose (like pleasure). Otherwise, all our attention is ‘outward’. Since we’re facing ‘outward’ it’s as if our ‘internal happenings’ are ‘behind us’, out of our sight . . . and as the saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”.
The part of our mind that is ‘out of sight’ internally (that part of us that we are unaware of) seems to have levels. These include:
- Deeper motives. This includes things associated with the unconscious which includes life passions, wants, symbolism, etc.
- Deeper awareness. This includes things like intuition, the influence of memory, awareness of self, etc.
- Deeper maintenence. These includes things that keep us ‘maintained’ as people such as balance, breathing, and such.
These ‘deeper’ levels can manifest themselves a number of ways:
- As a constant force. This means its always working and effecting us in some way.
- As a fluctuating force. This means it comes and goes for various reasons.
- As a reactionary force. This means it is reacting to some form of stimuli.
All these together create an incredible wealth and variety of mental activity, far more than we realize. Anatomically, the brain consists of a multitude of ‘organs’ and ‘centers’ that carry out all these different functions, most of which is not in our conscious control or awareness. In some ways its like a maze of functions and processes all wound together in a tapestry that is our self.
In many ways, the mind/brain can be compared to a city. Most people are not aware of all that is required to keep a city running. All we are conscious of is our own little lives – what we’re conscious of. But what keeps the city running we don’t know about? It’s almost endless. These include: the constant supply of food, gas for vehicles, removal of waste and garbage, transportation of the people to various places, health services, businesses to supply people with goods and services, laws to keep order and keep things going, etc., etc., etc. So it is with our minds . . .
I tend to feel that how one wants to classify the internal hidden workings of the mind/brain depend on how one wants to look at it. Because it is ‘hidden’ we cannot ‘pinpoint’ things making it so that we have to fabricate a ‘model’ of how it works. This, naturally, leads to differing opinions and points of view. Any ‘model’ cannot take into consideration everything about life. As a result, any ‘model’ of the hidden part of the mind/brain is always lacking. Despite this, the unknown hidden aspects of our selves exists and plays a tremondous role in our lives and in our experience.
But, regardless of all that I said above, the great power of experience isn’t in debating it but in the experiencing of the experiencing. That is the true “knowledge” of experiencing.