What makes life full?
In the previous article we made a distinction between life as a thing and life as an experience. We described how the experience of fullness depends on which view of life we hold.
Fullness can be described in terms of:
- That which is being experienced (the container)
- The fullness of experiencing itself.
Here is the distinction we are going for: is the contents of the container expanding or is the experience of life itself expanding?
Is it possible that consciousness itself can expand and allow us to experience more of life?
When we think of life as a thing, then we think of the fullness of life in terms of what this thing holds. For some it is having a lot of friends, for others it is having a fine house or car, for others it is nice clothes or good food. For some it is the accumulation of knowledge. For some it is travel and seeing the world. For some it is checking off their bucket list.
This kind of fullness is something that we want to pour into our life as if our life is a container. The more we can pour into our container (things, people, experiences, etc) the fuller life will be for us. We see this container as something that we can manage and we have the responsibility to make our life as full as possible.
Then we talked about fullness as being the experience of life itself. We experience this moment, and then another, and yet another and it becomes a moment to moment sequence. We call this sequence “life”.
In this article we explore how life as an experience can become more full.
Consciousness is the experience of being alive.
At the heart of our inquiry lies our understanding of consciousness. What is it? How does it work? Do we have any control over it?
Consciousness shapes our experience of life:
We experience an outer world around us.
We experience an inner world within us.
In the overlap between these two worlds, we experience a personal realm.
In our culture we talk about consciousness as if it were a monolithic thing: consciousness simply is. Consciousness experiences life.
End of story. This view lends itself to the idea the fullness is filling the container
But it is more complex than this.
- It takes one kind of consciousness to experience the outer world.
- It takes another kind of consciousness to experience the inner world.
- It takes a third kind of consciousness to experience our personal realm.
- And there is a fourth type of consciousness that enables us to experience the Transcendent.
Four different types of consciousness. It stands to reason that if we can experience all four types of consciousness our life will be richer
than if we only use two types of consciousness (which is common in our culture today).
The ability to experience the Transcendent, for example, vastly expands our concept of life. We experience dimensions of reality which the other forms consciousness cannot access. Experience these and life will never be the same for you. Now that is living a full life!
Consciousness is more than thoughts and emotions. A lot of the literature on consciousness goes into very specific aspects of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. This literature links specific kinds of thoughts and sensations to very specific activity in the brain. Most of the literature on consciousness covers the relationship between brain activity and specific thoughts or feelings. This literature becomes the core of the scientific theory of consciousness.
Consciousness gives us a qualia of life. Qualia has intrinsic, non-physical, non-representational and ineffable properties. There are different forms of consciousness. Each form brings its own unique qualia to the experience of being alive.
Consciousness enables us to experience emotions, physical sensations and thinking. These are not consciousness itself. These are experiences inside of consciousness. Consciousness enables us to experience these things. This qualia gives a special flavor to our thoughts, emotions and sensations.
Let’s use an analogy to explain this. Consciousness is like the broth of a soup. The broth gives the soup its essential flavor. Thoughts, emotion, sensations are like the meat, potatoes and vegetables that go into the soup. They give the soup more flavor and nutrition. We tend to focus on the meat and potatoes when we are eating. But the qualia of our experience drinking the soup comes directly from the broth.
Your grandmother’s wonderful chicken soup began with chicken broth, either from a can or cooked directly from chicken bones. It is the broth that gives us solace and comfort when we are sick, not the meat and and potatoes. We can put the same meat, potatoes and vegetables into a tomato-based soup, but they will not taste the same. The qualia of the soup comes from the broth.
Two different soups. Two different flavors of broth. Two different qualia of taste. The same is true for consciousness. Each form of consciousness conveys its own qualia of life.’ Thoughts, emotions and sensations are the meat and potatoes that we put into this consciousness.
Now imagine that there is more than one form of consciousness. Just how many there are we do not know. Science has discovered 3 forms of consciousness. We can deduce a fourth form of consciousness from our own life experience. We can be reasonable sure that there are at least 4 types of consciousness. Each form of consciousness can give us a distinctly different dimension of life.
But this does not mean that we automatically experience all four forms of consciousness. Two are constantly present for us. One exists in a place we rarely go. And the fourth requires us to explore an area that science tells us does not exist.
If we can access all four types of consciousness, our overall experience of life will be richer and fuller than if we only use two forms of consciousness. The content of our consciousness will be more diverse and also the process of experiencing life itself will be more expanded.
Our life will be fuller.