As I near the completion of my second book, I have been wrestling with the definition of consciousness. Most of my professional life has been spent in healthcare. In healthcare, the definition of consciousness has to do with brain injuries and the resultant brain activity. The survivor is rated by their ability to move their eyes, to speak, and to move their body. Usually, consciousness is assessed after a brain injury by using the Glasgow Coma Scale. Neuropsychologists define consciousness as the ability to know that you are alive, that you know you are you, and you are aware that you are different from everyone else. When you look in a mirror, you recognize yourself. You are aware that at sometime you were born and at sometime you will die. In the last decade or so, the New Age community describes consciousness as being synonymous with the word spirit or soul.
I have always believed in a spirit residing in the “meat suit” of humanity, but I have wrestled with trying to understand how spirit is the same is consciousness. This conundrum reflected my professional life intersecting with my spiritual evolution.
This morning, it became clear to me that the neuropsychologist definition can be a suitable description for spirit. Spirit is the essential part of you. When you were born, or likely by about five months in utero, a spirit began to emanate from the cells of your body. From the moment you were born, you appeared as pure spirit. You had no control over your flesh – you were reflexes. But beneath the reflexes and the flesh, your spirit was singing out to the world. I do not see the newborn as a tabula rasa, a blank slate, as John Locke described it, but rather the complete representation of you and your past lives. Everything else we add on top of this spirit begins to cover it up, like layers of paint on a house. We were spiritually complete at birth, and we made ourselves into something unrecognizable to our own spirit. If we want to get in touch with this spirit, we need to begin scraping away the layers.
You were never more close to your spirit, or your actual self, than the moment you were born. Each moment from birth forward was programming from parents and society. All your experiences – good and bad, began to add layers upon layers which started to cover your spirit. As you moved through adolescence and into teenage years, ego began to quickly add more and more layers. There was a fear that if you listened to your spirit, or let it shine, you would be ridiculed and not fit in – you had to conform. As you entered your early twenties, your ego, which is produced by the programming from your subconscious mind, is well versed in portraying you as the version people thought you should be and who you started to believe you are. As often happens for people in their twenties, they start to move away from home and become more confused about their identity. A feeling of loneliness begins to creep in and the young adult begins to question who he or she actually is. Now comes along a job, and maybe a family, and responsibility. And “poof” the memory of self is buried so deep, you can barely remember anything about yourself. As middle-age approaches and kids leave home and jobs become routine, thoughts of retirement begin to arise.
Once a person starts thinking about the reality that they are not, in fact, their jobs and they are not their car and they are not their home, or possessions, or savings- they are not their hairstyle and not their clothes. They are struck with something even more frightening: the question of , “Who am I?” The same fearful question that they asked themselves in early twenties was completely stifled in middle-age by deepening the groove of who people thought you should be, and who you thought you should be. Now a person thinking about retirement, or into retirement, is confronted again with this most important question. Into late adulthood, if a person has not done the work to scrape off all those layers, the older adult accepts the reality that they will either only figure out again on their last breath or they choose to make their final opus the work of discovering self again.
This journey back to self can happen at any stage of life. The sooner one starts to regularly commune with spirit, the less likely they are to start adding egotistical layers of a disingenuous self. At any age a person needs to decide if they want to do the work- if they do the work, they can re-discover themselves.
This process sounds simple enough – consciously descend beneath all the layers. You must descend deeper than the chattering subconscious which created your ego – you must go deeper down. This is indeed going to be work. In the depths of conscious awareness you become aware of consciousness – you meet spirit. In this meditative space you may have an emotional experience as you remember that you were and in fact are bliss – happiness and joy. See a newborn when their physical needs are met – look at this spirit, this is bliss. In addition if you choose to spend more and more time with your blissful spirit, you can get some glimpses into past lives as well. These past lives explain why you are passionate or skilled about inexplicable things – these are the gifts of your past that you have brought forward.
I hope you get time this Thanksgiving weekend to go home. Take the journey back to self. Honour your spirit and try not to stay away so long next time.