Oakville Zen Meditation

#131 Consciousness vs. Thinking Sept. 19th 16

                                                                      Consciousness vs. thinking

 We need consciousness to think but we don’t need thinking to be conscious.

Therefore, one can use consciousness to control thinking that is thoughts and feelings.

Like all our body functions, thinking – around 72,000 thoughts/day - is subconscious since we are not aware that we are thinking until we decide to pay attention, to watch our thoughts and feelings. In other words, you cannot, at the same time thinking that you are thinking and keep thinking about x, y, z. When I am aware of or thinking at “ I am writing this talk “, I cannot, at the same time, think about the content and meaning of that talk.

What does that mean?

Unconscious thinking cannot, by definition, be controlled. But, when thinking becomes conscious - I am aware of it or I am watching it, it can be controlled.

So: Unconscious thinking + awareness of being thinking = Conscious thinking.

Consciousness is the state of being aware of the present moment and its current components such as: your body, your 5 perceptions via your five senses, what you are doing, your thoughts and feelings, and of your immediate environment such as people and surrounding. Awareness is an experience, the experience of BEING. I am simply experiencing what "I am" now.

Awareness or consciousness is common and identical to all living beings and has nothing to do with thinking. In fact, being aware is like being a mirror reflecting things as they are without analysis, judgment or decision that is without thinking and without volition.

When you are listening to this talk or reading it, you pay attention to the words and their meaning; you are thinking for the purpose of understanding and make a judgment.

If, otherwise, you decide to be aware that is “I am listening this text” or,I am reading this text” and, at the same time, pay attention to the meaning of the words and sentences, you realize it is impossible. Therefore, being aware is a state of frozen thinking also called non-thinking.

Thinking / analyzing X and, at the same time, being aware that “I am thinking about X ” is impossible. However, just thinking either about X or either just being aware that “I am thinking about X” is always possible.

The mind cannot do two tasks at the same time. This finding is key to control it.

Meditation is based on this crucial difference: awareness of breathing is used to slow down the flow of thoughts.


What is consciousness?

Historically and still up to now, many of our greatest minds in philosophy, sciences, theology, A.I, have tried to explain the origin and mechanism of human consciousness (see ref.). They end-up with thousands of different theories and explanations proving that none of them is currently satisfactory. Explaining consciousness through conscious thinking is probably impossible, since again, consciousness is needed to think about consciousness. The end subject – consciousness - cannot be part of the mean that is conscious analysis.

Einstein understood this "chicken and egg" challenge:

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Or, in simple terms, One cannot see her/his own eyes, without obviously, a mirror. A seed of a flower cannot create the flower, which has created it. It is interesting to know that primitive living beings such as tiny jellyfish and mono cellular organisms don’t have brain in its histological definition but express awareness. It looks like consciousness comes with life.

Why practicing awareness is so important in achieving serenity?

One can divide the self into two components:

  • One is our body-mind self that I call societal self. It is acquired – genetically, education, etc.-), outward

And dominated by our ego. This body-mind self power is so great that we talk about being thinking Zombies or day sleepwalker. Our ego is critical in our life since its roles involve identification, survival, protection, body and mental functions, enhancement, pleasure, etc. However, it is also the main source of our suffering, unhappiness and dissatisfaction through endless desire, negative feelings, illusions and living in the past or future rather than in the moment. Identifying ourselves only through our ego-dominated body-mind is a recipe for misery.

2) The other self is our consciousness- based self also called true self

This genuine, innate and inward self is simply the state of BEING without any link with our ego-dominated Body-mind self. The state of being is simple a state of continuous awareness about whatever (see above).

Practicing awareness – or thoughtless mind- is a wonderful exercise in which you discover your true self and its serenity. You are experiencing BEING.

The “no-mind self”, also called “don’t know mind, or “empty mind” is the conscious self where thinking, feelings, and ego are watched and controlled. “Don’t know mind “It does not mean being stupid, it means being in control of our monkey mind.

Does that mean that we have to practice this “no-mind” all the time? Obviously not since we have to think for whatever reasons. But we should try to practice awareness of our thinking as often as possible. It will help to control anxiety, anger and illusions among others by quieting your restless mind.

There are many ways to practice awareness and we talk about them many times already.

Final words

Consciousness is innate, thinking is acquired from genes to education and experience.

We need to be conscious to think but we do not need to think to be conscious.

Being conscious of our mind that is to watch thoughts and feelings is to control it.

Controlling our mind is discovering serenity.

Here is a final quote:

“ We are part of the universal consciousness and our individual life is the means by which this consciousness is revealing itself” M. Gandhi.


Www. consciousness.arizona.edu/