Of the Three Principles of Mind, Consciousness and Thought, people ask me most often about Consciousness. We are all looking to awaken, and Consciousness is about awakening. Perhaps it’s also because in some ways it’s the principle that’s the most mysterious, and elusive.
I recently read a book called Proof of Heaven that lead me to an insight about Consciousness. The author, Eben Alexander, is a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience. He was in a coma for a week, and by all accounts should have been dead. But he came back to life, and has an amazing story to report.
Prior to this experience, Dr. Alexander believed, along with most of his colleagues, that consciousness was produced by our brains, and that therefore a person’s consciousness ceased to exist when s/he died. During his own week-long coma, however, his neocortex – the part of his brain that governs higher functions like consciousness – ceased to function. Yet his awareness (consciousness) was stronger than it had ever been, as he made a journey through the spiritual dimension of life.
Here’s something Dr. Alexander said about consciousness that I found fascinating: “Each one of us is more familiar with consciousness than we are with anything else, and yet we understand far more about the rest of the universe that we do about the nature of consciousness. It is so close to home that it is forever beyond our grasp.” (P. 154)
I was reflecting on this today, while hiking in Acadia National Park and taking photos of the beautiful Autumn foliage. For me, taking photographs is pure fun – it’s not something I’ve studied or work on in any way – it’s just something I enjoy doing. One of the things that I love about taking photos is how it feels like consciousness is always at my side. When I aim my camera at something, I get a distinct feeling when it’s time to take a picture, like a ‘yes’ – a green light either goes on or it doesn’t. I’ve come to trust this nudge I get from consciousness when I take photographs, as when I follow it the photo usually comes out well. It’s so simple, and so helpful – like a divine director that is with me at all times.
This awareness comes to me about many things – a thought to remember something as I walk out the door, for example, or that it’s time to call someone, or pay a bill. But one of the times I am able to recognize it most consistently is when I take photographs – perhaps because that’s one of the times when my mind is the most consistently present and open.
Then, as I was reflecting both on how consciousness is so much a part of us that it’s difficult to see, and how it’s always at my side when I take photographs, an insight suddenly came to me about consciousness. The insight was this:
“When you feel the tap of love in your heart, that’s the right path to take, and that is consciousness.”
For me this insight was profound. It has many levels, but on one level it means that, it’s not just with photographs, it’s with everything – we are always being guided in a simple but recognizable way – if we are but awake enough to realize it. This guidance comes to us through love, is love. Consciousness is love; it arises out of love and is an act of love.
At the same time, Consciousness is us. One of the things that makes consciousness so hard to understand and to describe is that we are trying to describe something that is such an essential part of us that we can’t separate ourselves from it enough to see it . As Dr. Alexander says, ‘it’s so close to home that it’s forever beyond our grasp.’ It’s something that you realize, when you are present and open enough to do so, and in moments of insight, like the one I am describing here.
I believe I knew these things – that consciousness is love, and that consciousness is me/us – intellectually before, but through this insight, I realized it. When you have an insight like that, it comes with a feeling, and that feeling changes your life. Then you know a little bit more about what consciousness is, from the inside out.
What a gift it is to realize this, to the degree that we are able to – to realize that we are consciousness, and we are love.
May the Divine Mystery of Consciousness unfold beautifully in your life.
With love, Annika