I think there are three different experiences that all get labeled as "consciousness." Three experiences. Same name. This makes conversations about an already complicated topic more difficult. Without being able to distinguish between each kind of experience with clear language, conversations quickly get confusing... Not so fun. Anyway, I'm going to examine each of these experiences in more detail and give them their own words.
Let the naming begin! Here goes:
There is a spiritual experience that people call consciousness. I'm going to nip this in the bud right away. I call it "sensa." I define sensa as "sensory experience to 'ah.'" What does that mean? Sensa is a sensory activity, followed a pleasured pose of "yes," of "ah." (Think of "yes" like a pleasured inner yoga pose. The architecture of the pose includes lifted soft palate, lowered larynx, expanded ribs, abdominals, expanded pelvic floor, with pleasured contractions in the pelvis, gut, stomach, heart. A pose of "ah") Sensa starts with sensory activity followed by moving into a pose of "yes." For example, I walk in nature. I gather sensory experience around me. Then, I move into a state of wonder, a pose of yes, of ah. Sensa. Sensory experience to ah. It is an experience that does not require words.
Sensa can also happen when I imagine. For example, I imagine flying over landscapes. I dream. Senses exercise in a process of imagination. Then I move into a state of wonder, of ah. Sensa. Sensory experience to ah.
Sensa is not consciousness. However, it can feed into processes of consciousness. More on that later. First I want to define two distinct processes: consciousness and self-consciousness.
What is consciousness? Consciousness is a process of learning and decision making. You repeat a self-generated sensory experience (an idea*) and then exercise a core posture afterward. For example, let's say I am standing before the entrance to a dark forest. I wonder if I should walk into the forest. I imagine. I imagine not being able to see. I imagine feeling cold. I imagine hearing a hungry predator. All of these imagination experiences are followed with the core posture of "no." They are experiences I don't want to have. I imagine over and over, following each experience with a core posture of "no." Not seeing <no>, feeling cold <no>, getting eaten <no>. As I imagine, I am learning. I am teaching myself about the experience of walking into a forest. Whether my imagined scenarios are realistic or not, I learn about walking into a dark forest without walking into it. The decision has been made. I will not go into the dark forest. At the end of the experience, I exercise the core posture of "yes," affirming my decision and encouraging my core to return to a calm state.
This is a process of consciousness.
Now, perhaps I'm a little more adventurous. I am standing before the forest. I imagine coming across exciting forest life. I imagine smelling the trees. I imagine discovering a creek or a tree or a hot spring. All of these imagination experiences are followed with the core posture of "yes." They are experiences I want to have. I imagine the scenarios over and over. Exciting forest life <yes>, smelling the trees <yes>, creek, trees, hot spring <yes, yes, yes>. As I imagine, I am learning. I teach myself about exploring a dark forest. The decision has been made. I will go into the dark forest.
This is a process of consciousness.
Realistically, both kinds of thoughts (the good and the bad) would be part of my experience. I would exercise the yeses and the no's, thinking of the different outcomes of walking into the forest. Eventually the deliberation stops, and I make a decision based on how I want to feel.
This is consciousness. Consciousness includes felt experience. The felt component is shaped by the core muscles.
Self-consciousness. When I say self-consciousness, I don't mean anxiety that someone is watching and judging you. No, I'm talking about affirming our own consciousness. It is an "ah of ah" or "yes of yes" experience.
I'll explain. You exercise a regular process of consciousness (i.e. walking into a dark forest then exercising the core posture of yes) Then you focus specifically on the felt of experience of "yes" repeating the core posture of "yes" over and over--and then acknowledge that core posture of yes with another core posture of yes. It is a "yes of yes." An "ah of ah." Literally a moment of ah-ha. An epiphany of core awareness. A felt awareness of yourself.
This is self-consciousness. It's pleasurable.
But! This is where I want to plant a red flag. Self-consciousness is a body process. It's not a divine, supernatural, infinity event.
I make this distinction because there are many people of different religions, spiritualities, and ideologies who have put this process on a pedestal and made it into something to be worshiped. They label it divine and advertise it as golden ticket for escaping the body. The effect is a divided conceptualization of self, and leads to all kinds of problems.
To sum up, there are three processes, all different, that people call "consciousness." I want to clarify the consciousness confusion by giving each experience a name.
1. Sensa--An often wordless experience of interacting with the world and then moving into a core posture of "yes."
2. Consciousness--A learning experience, that involves imagining a situation over and over, and then exercising a core posture, often "yes" or "no." Consciousness is a thinking tool for decision making.
3. Self-Consciousness--An act of affirming one's consciousness.
Each of these experiences can feed into each other. For example, I may have a sensa experience (sensory experience to "ah") then I focus on the "ah" component. "What is that I feel?" I exercise the "ah" (the yes) again in a process of consciousness. I realize the "ah" is a felt inner experience. I affirm it with another "ah" creating an "ah of ah" experience. An experience of self-consciousness. Got that? First sensa, then consciousness, then self-consciousness. It's a lot of "ahs."
Or perhaps I experience self-consciousness (ah of ah), then I start to question how much self-affirmation is healthy. Should I affirm myself all the time? Doesn't that get too self-absorbed? Is self-consciousness really that big of a deal? Maybe I should focus on developing a rich skillset to interact with the world and make good decisions rather than obsess about self-consciousness all the time.
And with that, I end my essay on consciousness. Time to go outside and move around.
*An idea is a self-generated sensory experience that includes core movement. A "good" idea is often punctuated with a core posture of "yes."