Quilt by Inge Duin, www.ingeduin.nlWhen I was living in the Netherlands a group of friends discovered a common interest in studying consciousness. Perhaps this was so because we were already fascinated by learning from examples and pattern recognition.

We started in 2000 as a group of seven people: Alexander, Bob, David, Dick, Ela, Marina and Pavel. Andrzej, Carmen, Piotr and Sergey joined later on. Many new members arrived to the group over the period of ten years. People were coming and leaving depending on their interests or the changes in carrier and place of living.

Consciousness ideas

In each meeting we focused on studying a question or a task which we prepared for in advance.  We shared our views in response to the questions such as

  • “What is consciousness?”
  • “What is Self?”
  • “What are the attributes of thoughts?”
  • “What are your personal truths?”
  • “What is free will?”

and so on. We shared personal stories and observations, performed experiments, discussed scientific articles (e.g. the classical paper on consciousness What is it like to be a bat?” by Thomas Nagel or the The Matrix as Metaphysics” by David J. Chalmers) and discussed (excepts of) books, investigated non-traditional subjects such as near-death experience, studied other philosophies etc. We studied some works of influential philosophers or mathematicians, such as Daniel Dennet, John Searle, Sir Riger Penrose or Douglas Hofstadter. We also looked at other philosophical texts, e.g. by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Sometimes we did simple experiments such as observing how others describe objects or read a text. And sometimes we did more demanding experiments such as paying attention to our involvement and consciousness levels on daily basis.

If you are interested in studying texts on consciousness, there is a big online library here.

Note also that there may be a lot of confusion about consciousness. Some people see consciousness as e.g. a field of infinite potential that we all emerge from. For our purposes, however, we will mostly focus on individual consciousness. This is your consciousness. And this is mine consciousness.

Synergy in a group

It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life concerning the stimulating yet respectful atmosphere we created as a consciousness group. I loved it. I really loved it simply because I experienced a synergistic approach first hand. I was inspired and transformed because of the presence and contribution of others.

As a group of individuals we were able to investigate ideas and create new concepts. We were able to create synergy in a group over and over again. We all contributed individually and parts were recognizable as ours yet, as a group, we were creating something novel. I was amazed by this process, when you experience how the sum of parts becomes so much greater than the whole you would imagine.

What supported this process was our openness and courage to be ourselves in the presence of others and respect we had for each other. Our goal was to share our views and experiences so that we could learn from each other and become enriched as a whole. We encouraged conflicting views, but there was no need to judge nor convince one another about taking a particular stand. Nobody was there to hold the ultimate truth, but to explore own ideas and participate in learning.

I must also say that it was challenging at times simply when we individually held extreme views. For instance, one meeting we found ourselves split into two camps. Some of us thought that consciousness could be simulated in a computer, while some of us thought it was impossible. Often in such cases, we would disagree on the meaning or definitions of particular words (e.g. what does simulation mean?) Of course, sometimes we got emotional about our views or disagreed such that discussion was going nowhere. Yet, we were able to stop and solve the issues in an assertive way.

Overall, we maintained the practice of respecting our differences and being open to learning. We took extra care that all of us felt well and appreciated. I loved the experience of cohesion and synergy.

Future blog posts will present a few interesting findings from these times. These are the discoveries of the Consciousness Group.

Be curious!

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The image above shows a wonderful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.

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Other posts on Consciousness:

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self-esteem

While looking at my own challenges and those of my friends, I’ve again realized how important self-esteem is. Healthy self-esteem, of course :).

It is very important, even fundamental in your life.

Self-esteem is a particular experience of Self. It is an experience in which you like, appreciate and respect yourself, are competent to deal with life challenges and believe you are worthy of happiness. In practice it means you

  • know yourself,
  • accept yourself and
  • trust your own thinking and decision making.

You can also see self-esteem as a healthy balance between shame and pride. You know who you are, you know your features, characteristics, skills, values, morals, pitfalls and problems. You know your past and you know your present time. And you deeply appreciate yourself and love yourself.

You are both humble and proud, humble about your present and future and proud about your past and present. Pride relies on the honest recognition of whom you have become while humbleness appreciates what is still before you on your path. You simply see the truth, accept it and take the responsibility for it.

How much do you like to be with yourself?

Self-esteem is neither an inborn gift nor a by-product of living.

It doesn’t just happen.

Instead, it is a continuous creation, an experience of consciousness for valuing Self and enjoying the being with Self. It is a very deep inner feeling of your own competence and worth that is being built and strengthened over time.

You need to cultivate it daily, reflect on who you are and what your path is. And whatever your current status of self-esteem, you can always improve it.

Nearly everything you do aims either at increasing self-esteem and personal value, or protecting it from being diminished by other people. Your self-esteem if essential to anything in your life. It is fundamental for your success and happiness.

Your self-esteem determines how you feel and how you approach all situations. High self-esteem encourages you to take courageous acts while low self-esteem makes you be immobilized by fear.

Self-esteem determines your emotional health and overall well-being. It inspires you for reaching beyond your comfort zone, strive for achievement and peak performance.

It is a building stone of any successful marriage or relationship. It inspires you to think bigger than yourself and act accordingly. It continually challenges you to grow and shine.

Low self-esteem

In practice, however, many people lack a healthy, high self-esteem. Look around and notice what you see, hear what others are saying, and feel their joys and problems.

So many of us strongly depend on the evaluation of authorities, teachers, bosses, parents, significant others, and so on.
So many of us generalize single experiences or unfortunate events in order to make final decisions about our own (in)capabilities and skills.
So many of us are helpless in the presence of strong authorities and their judgements.
So many of us are fearful and shy.
So many of us cover our poor self-esteem with arrogance, overconfidence or self-pity.

Low self-esteem requires a constant feed of approval from the external world. If this need is unfulfilled, the person starts complaining, becomes frustrated and negative, and basically powerless.

It doesn’t need to be like that.

Self-esteem is an inner feeling of worth

We are not our behaviors.
We are not our performance.
We are not frozen states.
We are human beings in progress and personalities to become.

External opinions or complements are not a measure of our self-esteem. External achievements are not a measure of our worth. Our confidence and behaviors are not a measure of self-value. True self-esteem cannot be acquired by approvals, fame, opinions, affirmations, achievements, sexual appeal, beauty, hypnosis or implanting of beliefs. All these may help but are not the answer.

Self-esteem is internal. It is a basic trust of your consciousness in yourself, your worth, thoughts, actions and decisions.

In order to nurture your self-esteem you need to align yourself with the truth, the reality as much as you understand it.

You need to recognize who you are and where you are in life. And you need to accept it: your past and your present, your look and your skills, your ambitions and your choices, your illnesses, problems and challenges. Your studies, your job or its lack.

If your life sucks at the moment, accept it. It’s OK.

If you know where you are you can take a few breaths and decide where you want to go. Then you will determine how to take the first steps.

If you need help, you can ask for it. If you need knowledge, you can educate yourself. If you need forgiveness, you can receive one. If you need time, you have it all….

Nurture your self-esteem

You need to become aware of your self-esteem and take the responsibility for its development. Whatever your circumstances, whoever opinions and judgments determined your feeling of self-worth so far, wherever you are, know that you can make a different choice this very moment.

Simply, make a choice to nurture your self-esteem. It is not of your parents, peers, teachers, colleagues, managers, husband or wife, children, mentor groups, web communities, music fan clubs etc.

Nobody can give you self-esteem, neither take away from you.

It is your conscious recognition, acceptance of who you are and a reflection on how to become the one you want to be. You can begin strengthening your self-esteem.

Face the truth, embrace it and act in integrity with yourself.

If there is one thing you can work on this year, focus on developing your high self-esteem.

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Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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