Awareness and Continuity of Consciousness

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Awareness is a part of the extraordinary and single immaterial manifestation of our nature, which can’t be measured and weighed. The mind, evolved through the sensory and material perceptions, cannot perceive something that is outside time and space, so it cannot understand consciousness. The degree of individual awareness can’t be evaluated from the outside, it can only be experimented on by the subject who experiences it. The only valuation that can be done is when we observe another subject who has a lower degree of awareness.
What is awareness? It is the conscious perception of us in the world. The intelligence, sensibility, wisdom, the emotional balance, the capacity for love and other things, are aspects related with self-awareness. When this aspect expands over the normal degree, man transcends the natural consciousness and enters into the spiritual sphere: this is the aim of the inner path.
In the late nineteen nineties (1997-1998), I had been involved with my teacher and some other students in experiments about awareness, where the aim was to evaluate individual awareness. In this occasion, we had learned in practice that awareness can be defined in three degrees: duration, frequency, amplitude. Through these three parameters, we had the possibility to observe our degree of awareness and its increase.
Duration means how long we can maintain the state of awareness. Our mentor gave us a simple exercise based on the observation of the breath dynamics (inbreath-outbreath) without modifying anything, while accomplishing our daily tasks. The beginners of this group, without education on concentration, were capable in maintaining a voluntary and unified awareness at least two to three minutes before a thought or an external mechanical dynamic diverted their attention. The capacity of the other “expert” students was a little bit higher. Two or three minutes of intentional attention is too little time to accomplish a serious task such as trying to change ourselves.
The second aspect of the experiment, the frequency, was how much we were able, during one day, to recover the awareness of ourselves; in brief, how many times during a day we were able to remember ourselves. Our mentor gave us a practice: to keep in our pocket a string and to make a knot every time we remembered to recover the attention on ourselves. At the end of the evening, we had the exact number of times that we remembered to observe ourselves during the day.
Those two aspects are very important to become aware that we lose constantly, the attention on a specific object. The exercises explained above are simple and useful tools to work on our awareness. The duration of voluntary consciousness is brief, but if we can increase the frequency of recovering our attention during the day, our intentional awareness can be increased. The problem, in fact, is not only that the duration of one’s awareness is too brief, but even that we are aware just a few times during a day.
The third aspect to determine one’s awareness is the amplitude. This aspect allows us to reach the possibility of inner growth, emancipating ourselves from the mechanicity of daily life. Different from the duration of awareness, when we must bring our concentration to a single object, the amplitude involves the expansion of the same process – how many things we can consciously perceive at the same time.
This was the experiment: we had to enter a room, look around for 15 to 20 seconds, then exit and write on a paper, the objects we had memorized. Then, to verify how many objects we had perceived. Those who tried this experiment, knows how only few of the objects one is capable of remembering the first time. This is the basic amplitude of one’s awareness.
Awareness means continuity, and this isn’t a natural quality of human beings, but it can be acquired through serious training. We lack integrity; normally, we pass from one to another “I” of our fragmented personality, and the fact of “assembling together” some minor events of the day, gives us the illusion of continuity. We are sure that we remember all the facts of one day in all their segments. Actually, we fix only the essential features of one circumstance, those who have attracted our attention more and produced a higher degree of attention. Even this “theory” can be proven: the evening before bed, try seriously to switch back to the events of the day without cheating. “I am lying in bed and closed my eyes. Before, I entered the room and I turned on the light…and back with memory to the morning when I woke up”. You’ll be surprised of how little you can evoke the situation of the day just passed.