What does it mean to be conscious?

Consciousness can be defined as the state of being awake and aware of one’s surroundings. Simply put: Consciousness is awareness and taking action with intention. The opposite of consciousness is doing things on autopilot.

Raise your hand if you’ve been living on autopilot?

It’s easy to act based solely on daily routines. Nine times out of 10, we do the same things we did yesterday. We think the same handful of thoughts because we are so busy doing that we sometimes don’t even realize we’re not feeling or acting with intention. This is especially true when it comes to you (or that precious thing known as your inner temple).

From the age of nine, I consciously started feeding (and sometimes restricting) my inner temple. I was a voracious reader. I would go to the public library and saddle myself, like a pack mule, with big, thick books that were not meant for a kid my age. This went on for years (and thankfully hasn’t stopped).

I was curious about many things that were truly unusual for a kid. The sophisticated functions of the brain. Unexplained phenomenon like aliens, spontaneous combustion, the seven wonders of the world, endangered species, and the causes of their endangerment, newly discovered sea-life, other cultures and traditions, growing plants and herbs (a hobby none of my friends that age were into). Anything having to do with psychology, relationships, family dynamics, and addiction. I read it all.

Also at the age of nine, I remember becoming aware of my physical body and that my weight (at least in number) sounded higher than the other girls I knew. So, in my lineup of research, I sought out food-related books. I started to understand that the meat I was eating came from the animals I loved to read books about. So, I shied away from eating meat, only to finally convince my mother to allow me to become vegetarian (for the first time) at 12.

This mass absorption of information brought me to a consciousness that what I ate impacted how I looked. (It was a painful awareness to develop at such a tender age, but I suspect many women will relate.) So, I began experimenting with only eating certain foods. Sometime around this age, I also started skipping school meals. I had become conscious that my lunch card was a different color than everyone else’s because we were on welfare. I felt shame. So, I stopped putting myself in the position of presenting that lunch card so that I could avoid the daily humiliation. And hey, it would help me lose weight too, right?

I was super involved in the Christian church over those years and was equally voracious to feel a connection to something greater than myself. I read every text the pastor recommended and wanted to attend the adult groups rather than the kid groups because I felt so ready for “next level” information and understanding.

I tell you these things to help demonstrate what was conscious for me then and perhaps lead you to reflect on your early consciousness. What did you believe? What did you approach with intention? What were you conscious of?

We are, after all, spending our adult lives either building on or evolving that early consciousness! I was making choices about what I was feeding my inner temple way before I could really comprehend consciousness. My greatest understanding in looking back is that I was on a mission to understand how my outer world connected to my inner world.

Consciousness is, arguably, a balloon that expands and contracts depending on our level of understanding. Consciousness leads to understanding, and understanding leads to consciousness.

Look at your own inner temple. What do you want to bring into it? How do you want to feel, both in your physical body and emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? I now understand that I have a threshold for the amount of American news I can absorb before it makes my inner temple feel slimy. I’m totally clear on the amount of alcohol and the types of foods and activities that are meant for my body to do its best work. Meditation and stillness are essential for my inner temple. While I’m still voracious for information, I’m selective about what I read, and I leverage information to arrive at my own conclusions rather than taking directives from it.

I challenge you this:

Spend ONE day asking yourself with each action: “Am I taking this action/saying this/making this choice consciously? Or is this one I make on auto-pilot?”

Evaluate each answer with curiosity, kindness, and understanding. Raise your consciousness around what you are putting in your mouth and brain. Become aware of how your outer world impacts your inner temple.

Live consciously.

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