Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Call to Consciousness

There is much said these days about simplicity.  I've given some of my thoughts about it on this blog.  I do think that it is good to live simply.  But today I'd like to talk about something consciously.


The knowledge of sensations and mental operations, or of what passes in ones own mind; the act of the mind which makes known an internal object.

Consciousness of our sensation, and consciousness of our existence, seem to be simultaneous.

Consciousness must be an essential attribute of spirit. (from the 1828 Webster's Dictionary)

Have you ever driven home from work or the grocery store and realized that you don't remember the trip at all?  Have you ever found your keys in the refrigerator?  Or answered "yes" to your child before you knew the question?  (I don't recommend that last one, by the way!)

There are so many ways we can go on "autopilot."  We let our mind shut down, and function at some level without our input or attention.  Sometimes it's done intentionally, like when we've had a hard day and "unwind" by watching TV, or when we train ourselves to do things by habit so that we don't have to remember them.  But what happens when this state of mind becomes the norm?  When we go through our days doing the same thing, the same way, all the while somewhere else in our mind?

I had to clean my refrigerator today.  The last few weeks of business had taken it's toll.  Actually, it hadn't been really cleaned in a lot longer than that.  The crisis came when I made a pot of chicken stock, only to realize that there was no possible way that I would fit it into my refrigerator to cool.

Some of you know that cleaning the refrigerator is my least favorite thing to do.  If I could pay someone to clean out my refrigerator periodically, I would probably do it.  Something about the smell of moldy food gets to me the way nothing else can.  But, here I was, faced with the necessity.

Do you know what I found out?  It wasn't that bad!  I don't mean the refrigerator.  That was bad.  But cleaning it out was okay!  Lily helped me take all of the things off the door, at which point she lost interest completely, but I took all the shelves off the door and washed it down.  Then, I took things out of the refrigerator, and washed down the interior.  I threw out all the old stuff, and washed the storage containers.  My refrigerator looks good!  And I didn't hate the process.  I did it thoughtfully, and consciously, not wishing I was doing something else, or thinking about what I was going to do later.

Is it possible that we are discontent because we aren't really living our lives?  It's easy to spend our days thinking about what happened yesterday, or planning what we'll do tomorrow.  How much of the present are we missing?  Did you miss the beautiful tree on the way home from work?  Did you miss the taste of the soup you had for lunch?  Did you miss the story your child told?  Did you miss the chance to connect with someone?  To change something?  To create beauty in your world?

Simplicity asks us to pare down, to take out, to streamline our lives.  In our overindulged culture, these are probably good goals.  But we can't organize ourselves to the point that we're working like a machine.  We have to notice.  We have to be present.  We have to "know what passes in our own mind," as Webster said.

So, let's start something new.  We'll call it "Conscious Living."  Let's learn how to live the lives we have, and let's learn to live them consciously.  Who's with me?

1 comment:

  1. I like the sound of that - Conscious Living. I've driven home or to work on many occasions on autopilot not knowing how I got there. I do that at home when online and watching tv or reading a book.


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