By Bruce Barbour
Part 1 - What is Consciousness
The Consciousness Vessel
While Drawing No. 1 shows the relationship between awareness, thought, emotion and memory I would like to introduce a further concept. I contend that our consciousness at any stage has a certain capacity or volume. This capacity is filled, or partly filled, by the three aspects of consciousness: awareness, emotion, and thought in various proportions. I have called this the Consciousness Vessel (6). I have provided a diagrammatic representation of this in Drawing No. 2 below.
Drawing No. 2, The Consciousness Vessel
The used volume of the Consciousness Vessel varies over the day. When sleeping the used volume of the Consciousness Vessel contracts to a low level where the three aspects of consciousness: thought, emotion, and awareness are all at a low level. The main thing that impinges on consciousness during sleep is dreams, which is largely based on memory. During the day the used volume of the Consciousness Vessel varies from daydreaming, where thought, emotion and awareness are at a low level, to full volume where a combination of thoughts, emotions and awareness fills the Vessel to its capacity. At any particular stage of life each person would have a maximum volume of their Consciousness Vessel, which defines the limits of their thought and emotional processes and awareness ability. This is not to say that that the volume of the Consciousness Vessel cannot be expanded over a lifetime through training and / or practice. It can also contract.
During the day each aspect of consciousness can vary in
size within the Consciousness Vessel, however this has an
impact on the size of the other aspects the consciousness.
For example if our consciousness is filled with thought
processes, then the level of emotion and awareness is
proportionally lessened. Similarly you can be in an
emotional state that can limit your ability to think
effectively and to be aware of your surroundings.
The varying of the relative size of the various aspects of consciousness usually occurs without any awareness and little control by the person. Over the next few days I suggest that every now and then you take notice of the changes in your consciousness and the proportions of your each aspect of consciousness that fill the Consciousness Vessel. For example, you may be walking down the street but if you are thinking about a problem from your work or your family you will have only a minimal awareness of the street - just sufficient to stop you walking into poles or other people. You probably won't be aware of exactly which shops you are passing or any of the details of the people that pass you - clothing, hair, whether they were they carrying anything, etc. You won't be aware of the warmth of the sun, if any, or the breeze. You may not be aware of your emotional state, unless what you were thinking about was related to your emotional state. Your consciousness is largely filled with Thoughts about the problem from work or family.
The same thing may happen if you are on a bush walk or nature walk, suddenly you may be "miles away" or at least your thoughts may be "miles away". Your awareness of the nature around you subsides, you don't notice the beauty of your surrounds, you don't hear, or more correctly you are not aware of hearing, the birds singing. Are you aware of your emotional state while having these thoughts? Probably not, or if you are it is at a low level.
In fact stop reading this page right now. And listen.
* * *
What noises can you now hear that you weren't aware of before you stopped? Perhaps you can hear the sounds of vehicles on the street or a bird outside the window, the sounds of other people in the house, the radio or television on? It might be something else. It is not that these sounds suddenly start to occur when you listen, they were there all the time. You were concentrating on this page (thank-you for that!) so that your awareness, through the sense of sight, to view the words on the page and interpret them into shapes and your thoughts processes to further give names to these shapes. The words on the page filled your Consciousness Vessel, so limiting awareness and interpretation of other sense information.
Now stop and experience what you can feel.
* * *
Can you feel the clothes on your skin? Perhaps you are a
little hot or a little cool. If you are outside you might
feel the breeze on your skin and the sun on your skin.
Again it is not that the environment that you are in has
changed, the noises that you were aware of earlier haven't
stopped. It is just that the focus of your awareness has
changed, what filled the Consciousness Vessel changed.
Similarly emotions can dominate the Consciousness
Vessel. If there was a significant event in your life such
as, say the break up of a relationship or a death in the
family you may become emotionally "overcome" by the event.
It will limit your ability to think clearly. It is also
likely that you would be less aware of your surroundings.
In this instance it is Emotion that is filling the
Consciousness Vessel, forcing out the other aspects of
Also within each aspect of consciousness a different part of that aspect can dominate. For example with thought, Self Thought could dominate over intellect thought and vice versa. In awareness one, or two, of the senses could be more dominant than the other senses at any particular time. If you are concentrating on hearing you may not be as aware of the touch senses, as indicated in the example earlier.
As I suggested, in the next couple of days just notice the operations of the Consciousness Vessel and be aware that this is the process that is happening.
This process of your Consciousness Vessel being filled with different aspects of consciousness is not necessarily bad. On many occasions it is very useful to be able to concentrate on and think about only one thing at a time and to not be distracted by what is going on around you. Imagine trying to read this page, or any other website or book, when all the time you were equally aware of all the sounds and everything else that was going on around you. You would be distracted. Could you read and understand a book on a crowded train if you could not block out the surrounding conversations occurring? Could you work as productively in an open plan office if you were equally aware of everything that was happening around you as well as what you were actually meant to be doing? I suggest not.
The only aspect of this filling of the Consciousness Vessel that could be thought of as bad is the inability to control the process of what aspect of consciousness is dominating the Consciousness Vessel at any particular moment. And this can at least be partially addressed. Even just knowing the concept of the Consciousness Vessel makes us more aware of the process.
Not being aware of the processes contained in the concept of the Consciousness Vessel can impact on our ability to achieve maximum happiness. When we are not aware what may happen is that for the majority of the time Thought processes, the bully of the Consciousness Vessel, will dominate the consciousness. And it is usually not intellect thought but Self Thought that dominates. As will be discussed in detail in Part 2 to enable us to maximise happiness it is very useful to be able to control how we use our consciousness, to control what aspect or aspects fill the Consciousness Vessel. This takes both awareness and practice.
Further discussion on the use of the Consciousness Vessel will occur throughout this site.
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