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Consciousness

Here is a piece I wrote many years ago.

Zen is a pathway of consciousness. The more consciously your live your life, the more direct your path towards spiritual realization.

Defining Consciousness
People on the Spiritual Path commonly talk about consciousness. But, what is consciousness? Many believe it to be some mystical state that can only be achieved by an ancient sage after years of meditation. This type of definition removes consciousness from the realms of the here and now. It makes it something distant and unobtainable and provides the framework for all kinds of justifications why you cannot become conscious, Right Here, Right Now.

As human beings, schooled by this modern world, we have, in fact, been guided away from consciousness. There are an untold number of distractions, self-orientated philosophies, and teachers who guide us towards selfishness, but not consciousness.

Consciousness must, therefore, be redeveloped by each of us. This is accomplished by transcending the limitations of learned physical existence and evolving to a new level of universal awareness and understanding.

The Bathroom Detail
When I was sixteen or seventeen I was asked to accompany a fellow disciple and professional electrician, whose spiritual name was Bhagwan, to the Montecito home of our guru, Swami Satchidananda. I was to assist in the installation of our Guru’s jacuzzi. Though I had spent a lot of time in the presence of my Guru, I had not been invited to his home. So, I was obviously filled with an untold amount of youthful exuberance.

Bhagwan and I arrived early in the morning and spent the day working on the jacuzzi. Occasionally Swamiji would come out, check on our progress, correct the logistical mistakes he thought Bhagwan had made, and occasionally make joke with me or pat me on the head. He was obviously amused that I was much younger than the majority of his disciple. I was still in High School...

This personalized interaction was, of course, a higher honor than I could ever have hoped for at that point in my life.

As the day concluded, we were scheduled to travel a few miles up the coast to Yogaville West, were Swamiji was to give a talk to his disciples. As we were a bit dirty, our Guru invited us to use his personal bathroom to clean up. This was a blessing of an unparalleled degree. When I later related this fact to the other disciples, their jaws all dropped in disbelief that we were allowed to use the Guru’s bathroom.

Bhagwan was the first in. He took seemingly forever. I sat on Gurudev’s bed, anxiously waiting, knowing that Bhagwan was taking way too long. When I finally was allowed in, the bathroom was a mess. Bhagwan had left dirty water all over the sink, the dirty towels he had whipped his hands with were thrown haphazardly on the ground. I couldn’t believe it! I immediately got to work cleaning up his mess. Approximately two minutes into the job, a knock came upon the door and Swamji’s secretary said I really needed to hurry up, as Gurudev needed to get ready. So, I had only a moment or two to finish my clean up of Bhagwan’s mess and to wash my own hands.

I exited none too happy with my spiritual brother. I mean, how could he do that? Make a mess and leave it for me to clean up. And, he made me look I was the one taking way too long...

I was very young and naive so I keep my opinions to myself, as he was in his early thirties with a family and a job. But even then, I understood conscious verse unconscious actions.

Not to be critical of any individual, but we all possess our own set of foundations. Me, I was taught that you should not make a mess in someone else’s house. Bhagwan, even though he possessed the outward appearance of walking the Spiritual Path, obviously had not learned the same lesson—nor had he opened himself up to the level of consciousness where you take other people into consideration.

The First Step to Consciousness
You must begin at the beginning. The first step on your path of consciousness begins with your foundations—with what you already know.

You must study yourself and detail how you have learned to act and react to situations. For example, what would you have done if you found yourself in the aforementioned situation? How would you have naturally reacted?

Once you have defined these areas of your personality, you must consciously decide if they are right or if they are wrong.

Each of us will find areas that appear to be fine and other areas where we know we need to change. This is the point where you make your first conscious decision to make the person you are into the more universally conscious person you hope to become.

This is not necessarily easy. For we have all learned how to react certain ways—encounter specific situations with a particular attitude and interact with people in a prescribed manner. For the most part, this education never took place in a formal manner. We, as children and young adults, learn how to treat people and encounter situations from those around us. In many cases, we learned from people whose lifestyles were in complete contrast to consciousness. Thus, you must focus and motivate your own change.

Change does not occur overnight. It must be practiced.

This is where your first formalized steps into consciousness take place. You must decide to alter an area of your own personality and then do it.

If you slip and retreat to your old patterns of behavior, don’t beat yourself up about it. Simply realize that you are on the Spiritual Path. The Spiritual Path is a step-by-step road to realization. You are now taking the initial steps you need to becoming the more conscious individual you know will emerge.

Keep in mind, that this preliminary step to consciousness is essentially important. For without a complete internal assessment, you can never hope to truly know yourself. You will simply pass through life reacting unconsciously to whatever situation you may encounter. This is the most animalistic level of human evolution.

Without knowing self, you can never transcend self. Transcendence requires that you know what you are ascending from and where you are ascending to. Thus, knowing you, is the first step of refined consciousness.

R. Buckminster Fuller
When I was an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge, I observed another interesting occurrence, which delineated varying levels of consciousness. R. Buckminster Fuller, one of the greatest analytical minds of the twentieth century, came to speak at my campus. The hall was stuffed beyond capacity and they were not allowing anyone else to enter. I was not willing to be turned away, however, so I eventually found my way up to the second level mezzanine where the spotlights found their source. From there, I could see and hear him fine.

He began his talk at about 12:30. A little before 1:00, half of the audience began to get up and leave. He asked, “Where are you going?” “To class,” was the answer, which rang from the mobile audience. “Why are you going to class,” Bucky exclaimed. “They have nothing to teach you. But, I do!” Unfazed, the exodus continued.

I was standing there in disbelief—nobody even knew what Bucky was about. He was just a name and a lecture to attend during lunch.

For me, this optimized the perfect example of unfocused consciousness. You do something for the doing, with no mental content.

The lecture proceeded with half of the auditorium empty.

The Second Step to Consciousness
The second step to consciousness is to consciously perform all actions.

To focus your consciousness you must make all of your actions as precise as possible. This is how all of the great spiritual teachers have truly given something to this world.

As long as you do not think or do not care, your acts will forever remain simply unconscious actions. Unconscious actions only cause reactions.

If you wish your acts to transcend the limitations of this material world, you must do whatever it is you do from a perspective of pure one pointed consciousness.

Doing things conscious is not as easy as it may sound. For example, think about the brown rice you prepare. When you wash your rice before you cook it, do you ever allow a few grains to fall into the sink and be swept away? If so, think about this next time you are hungry. How many of those grains of rice, that you have unconsciously let slip away, would it take to fill your stomach?

This is obviously simply an example. But, if you wish to enter the realms of true consciousness you must do everything you do in a very refined manner.

There will always be mental justifications to forgive yourself for the unconscious actions you take if you allow yourself to accept them. If, on the other hand, you choose to live a life of consciousness, those justifications can never be embraced.

The Third Step to Consciousness
The next step in ascending consciousness is you must ask yourself, “What are you doing with your life?” If you cannot answer that question, you are not walking the path of consciousness. Thus, you must take the time to sit down and define what is going on around you. Formally designate what has taken place in your life and what has led you to where you are today.

The best way to do this is to actually write it down so it is in front of you in black and white and can be studied. From this, you will gain perspective. From perspective you can conclude how you have ended up where you have ended up. Thus, you can chart the next step in your life from a place of consciousness.

Once the first question is answered, you must then ask yourself, “Why you are doing what you are doing?” Because without formulated reasoning, what you are doing is simple what you are doing. It is not performed consciously.

Nobody can tell you why you are doing what you are doing. Not religion, not astrology, not your loved ones. You are you. Each person is based in a secular consciousness. You have lived what you have live. These factors have defined the person you have become. Before you can transcend the limitations of self, you must know who self is.

So, at this point, acutely detail why you are doing what you are doing. You may like what you find. If so, then nothing needs changing. If not, then you must be the one to consciously make that change.

The biggest mistake that people commonly make at this stage of life analysis is that they decide they hate their job, hate their mate, hate their life and they throw it all to the wind. This is not consciousness.

From a perspective of consciousness you make changes to your life consciously. You chart out your actions, how they will affect others, and then you move towards a desired end in a slow controlled manner. From this, you do not damage the lives of others, nor do you leave yourself destitute.

The Forth Step to Consciousness
This is the stage where you begin to formalize your spiritual pathway. Though you have no doubt been walking the Spiritual Path throughout each of the previous stages, at this point you formally make it the defining element to your life.

Many people believe to do this that they must leave the material world behind and move to an Ashram or go to India, Nepal, Thailand, or Japan. This is incorrect.

Going is only going. Though you may have new experiences, you may even have fun, going is not the pathway to consciousness, as going is based in desire.

In Zen we understand that everything you need to find spiritual enlightenment is Right Here, Right Now. Going only takes you away from the here and the now. Thus, going never leads to Nirvana.

To become consciously spiritual, is to accept.

Life is life and there will be trials and tribulations. Many people falsely believe that they should not happen to a spiritual person. Yet, they do.

Embracing truly conscious spirituality is about accepting the perfection. Knowing that all is as it should be. If you want things to be different you are only embracing a mindset bound by desire.

The consciously spiritual person understands that by letting go of desires, they will be joyous at any life occurrence, as they will see it as a pathway to further refinement of consciousness.

Consciousness Unconsciousness
There are some people who walk the path of spirituality and place reasoning behind their unconsciousness. They provided seemingly poetic statement to justify their unconscious actions. “I am just doing what I am doing—simply a leave which has enter the stream of life and am flowing as nature guides me.”

Yes, you can place a leave in the stream and, yes, it will flow until it reaches the ocean or is stopped by some obstacle. But, does it care that it is flowing in the stream? No, it does not. It is simply flowing the path that was laid out before it, with lack of consciousness.

To consciously enter the stream of life is very different from unconsciously ending up in the stream of life and ending up wherever it is you end up. This is why you must take control and refine your consciousness.

The refinement of consciousness can only begin with you. Ultimately, consciousness is how you interact with this place we call life. Consciousness is the thoughts you think, leading to the actions you take. Consciousness is what you do and how your do it. Consciousness is your choice.

Choose to live consciously and Nirvana becomes obvious.