An abundance of great information on the future of the American Dream came out of the Peak Oil Sustainability Forum on Dec. 3 (see "Running on Empty?" in the December Desert Exposure). Near the end of the event, moderator William Joseph posed the overarching question, "How do you change people's consciousness?"
We were talking about the fact that events that try to educate people on worthwhile issues are often "preaching to the choir." A young woman countered with the fact that gatherings, such as the forum, are great for bringing together people of like mind. They build a sense of community.
I'm a big fan of groups living and working together. There's great security in hangin' with the known, everyone holding, and building on, a similar consciousness.
Sometimes it is too safe. For instance, when consciousness is held in abeyance to fear—like the fear being perpetrated of an avian flu pandemic—we respond in learned, safe ways—going for a flu shot. Fear will make you hold on for dear life to this opinion versus that, this belief over any other. Consciousness can thus be shut down.
The workings of the mind are distinctly different from consciousness. My Teacher, Yogi Bhajan, says, "You are not a body, not a mind, not a soul, not God and definitely not a devil. Every normal person thinks, imagines and projects through his mind. He ultimately identifies with the mind and becomes dependent on the mind. The reality is that he should not depend on his mind. Instead, he should project from the point of view of consciousness."
Consciousness can be viewed as a confluence of knowing, sensing, feeling, truth. It includes accepting there is more to life than we can imagine, knowing that at the heart of All That Is lies Truth, and believing that it is available to you. Consciousness can be compared to a clear bubble of total awareness where wisdom lives. It completely surrounds your mind and heart. Existing beyond reason and logic. Beyond feeling. Sharing a bed with your soul.
Consciousness itself is basically passive. It can expand and contract, but it's what you do with it that counts. I'm thinking it may be a matter of "use it or lose it." Growing in awareness can be fun and terrifying at the same time. There are things we may not want to know—like the raping of babies. Or accept—like the existence of other beings and worlds beyond Earth.
Expanding one's consciousness can result in a disintegration of all previously held thoughts. You may even be forced to accept the fact that you don't know it all. Your understanding of truth and falsehood may flip in a nanosecond. Consciousness brings the great "Aha!" while shaking the foundation of your known universe. Being open to the new, different and bizarre helps facilitate changes of consciousness.
Every instance where my consciousness changed, it was because I was seeking answers, because I was looking for change. Well, not every time. On occasion I've had to be hit over the head to make my consciousness shift.
Either way, it is possible to change one's consciousness. This expanded type of knowing is so multilayered, however, that parts don't often change in a synchronized fashion. For example, you may be very knowledgeable about the latest technology or fashion, but may not have given a second thought to where your "must haves" come from.
Growing one's consciousness is a process that continues for years and years—if you don't shut it down. This past year my environmental consciousness deepened to new levels. I finally "got" how incredibly dependent on fossil fuels we are. I kind of knew that without them we wouldn't have plastic anything but it didn't sink, seep or totally dissolve into my consciousness until I examined in some depth the concept of peak oil, sustainability and how it is affecting life as I like it on planet Earth.
The key to consciousness is: What are you going to do with it? Will your "knowing" be buried in the furthest reaches of your being or will you act on it? Every time I enter Wal-Mart to buy all those necessities of life, I bury my consciousness that part of me that secretly depends on products from China—even though I detest corporate America's plunder.
Which brings me to "collective consciousness"—that deep place in our human psyches where we are all linked. It is my understanding that this particular period in the transition of the ages is focused on bringing the hidden levels deep in our collective subconscious to the surface—to be seen and known by all. Then we still have to decide what to do about it: continue to avoid it or decide it's no longer acceptable as a modus operandi?
We all walk around with gaping holes between our consciousness and our actions. I've concluded it's the human condition meeting head-on with our souls. We have a choice each moment as to how we will live. We can conveniently forget and deny the gap between what we know to be true versus what we need at the moment. We can feel guilty and beat ourselves up because of it, or we can keep working, persistently, to align our consciousness with our actions.
As Yogi Bhajan says, "This is a way of living. It is a relationship to your mind from your consciousness. . . . When you live consciously conscious with mind and consciousness balanced, you develop a sensitivity we call reverence."
Maybe if our consciousness expands and this reverence for life develops, we will still have a chance to build a sustainable world—even with the fallout of peak oil, or the pursuit of terrorists. Wouldn't that be a testament to the power of "consciousness"?