The Magic Of Full Consciousness


How do we learn to be more present?


“We easily lose attention because our mind is so busy. When we
do, our emotional life can creep up on us and take us over.”
— Rob Preece


Zero-Based Living grants us the power to take charge of our money by becoming more conscious of how we spend, earn, and invest. If we apply this same method to daily life, something remarkable happens: we discover how to be happier all the time.


An Overlooked Wonder


Full consciousness is a simple idea with startling benefits. The idea is to look at life through fresh eyes—that is, to live wide awake in the present moment as often as we can. In the process, we gain great mental clarity and new insights. We also tap into a source of strength that enables us to let bad feelings go, and choose happiness instead.


“The point of power is always in the present.”

— Louise L. Hay


Words such as “consciousness” are overused. Sometimes they are spoken in great seriousness, and other times they are trivial slogans. Divergent views like this make definitions even more obscure, which is why it is often worth revisiting a concept to reflect on its value.


As we re-examine the meaning of “full consciousness”, we discover a core of great truth. This idea comes from Zen and other traditions that seek meaning and fulfillment in life. Another word for it is “mindfulness”. It is so useful that it has been well accepted by modern psychology.  The view we will explain here is basic, but it includes insights and tips from personal experience.



Are You Awake?


What does it mean to stay “wide awake in the present moment”? At first this seems like an odd notion. Don’t we wake up every morning and stay conscious all day? As we think of a concept like daydreaming, we begin to realize that consciousness is a variable state of awareness, not a fixed one.


Do you life on autopilot?

Are you living on autopilot?

Most of us spend a lot of our time half awake—we live on “autopilot”. We do many things by habit or rote, relying on skills we learned long ago. We go through the motions of washing the dishes or brushing our teeth, while our mind is somewhere else. We think about work, or we drift, allowing our thoughts and feelings to roam free. We are not present in the room. We are focused on the future or the past.  We are “absent minded”.


How awake are you? Consider this: to stay focused on a particular task or object means ignoring some or even most of the world around us. In this sense, we are only half awake as we write a letter, listen to music, or watch TV. We are only half awake as we read a good book. Sometimes we are half awake even as we speak with a friend. We hear him talking, but our thoughts are miles away.


Half Awake Versus Wide Awake


By “half awake” we don’t mean drowsy. We mean there’s a lot going on all around us we currently fail to acknowledge.  This could include the room we’re in, the air we breathe, the people who stand near us, their feelings, our feelings and so on. Being half awake means we are focused on something smaller than the whole—perhaps as small as a stray mote of dust or the color of a person’s eyes. We could be focused on an object we are working on, or a particular thought, feeling, or dream we are experiencing in our head. It’s like the zoom lens on a camera—when we’re half awake, our vision narrows and anything beyond the edge of our viewfinder disappears from sight.


On the other hand, to be “wide awake” takes full consciousness. We have broad awareness of our immediate environment. We notice everything, including our own thoughts and feelings, or even those of the people around us. With this broader focus, the world takes on special vividness, brighter hues and textures—it grabs our attention.  Of equal significance, anxiety provoking thoughts of the future and the past fade into the background and we become one with the present.


The Benefits Of Full Consciousness


To reach full consciousness we must get out of our head and all the thoughts swirling inside it, come down to earth, and look around at the room we are in. We must notice the objects and people around us, and all that is happening in the here and the now.


Few people realize it, but there is magic in this. It is only in the present that we are most alive. By learning to stay centered and aware in the moment, we see everything.We make fewer mistakes. We gain the broadest perspective on things, and the greatest clarity. Often this leads to new insights. If a better path opens up for us, we see it. Or we notice clever new ways to skip past the obstacles standing in our way.


More important, when we are most aware of the world we hold the greatest power we will ever experience to decide how we feel. For this instant at least, we have escaped from the “Machine” in our head—that is, from all of those scripts telling us why we are unhappy, or what we can’t do. We hold remarkable power to extinguish fear and hurt, and choose happiness.


The happiness we discover is reinforced by vibrant awareness. We see in full living color, not shades of gray. We see each object in detail, feel each gust of air against our skin, and hear each bird song outside. We notice everything.


Definition of the "Machine" in our heads.


The Other Ways That We Live


As rewarding as it is, we should remember that maintaining full consciousness becomes harder when there are things requiring our close attention. It isn’t always possible. Focusing on a task requires that we shut out part or even most of our immediate environment to accomplish it. To plan a project, read a story, or daydream, we naturally block out distractions and allow our autopilot skills and habits to take control. In the process, we lose track of time and tend to ignore our own feelings and needs.  This puts us at risk for falling into a stressed or unhappy mood. We may even become obsessed and focus too long, which can jeopardize our health.


Some inward-focused states of mind have tremendous importance, such as reading, listening to music, or meditating (See our post “Telomerase & Mediation”). To focus or relax in these ways is essential for a happy life. Even so, it is wise not to carry even these to extremes, or to live only within our heads. A happy life requires balance.


Many of us enjoy living on autopilot—until we come face-to-face with the consequences. Autopilot is a convenient means to cruise through life. It allows us to rely on pre-programmed skills and habits to get us through the day. We daydream, we attempt re-live past glories in our head, we project endless scenarios over the future, and all the while we ignore everything going on in the present. What we fail to realize is that when we cede control to our autopilot, our destiny becomes one with the Machine. That Machine in our head is full of “scripts”, or mental habits we have collected since childhood. Often they came from our parents, friends, or others, and no longer serve our best interests. Unless we are conscious, a script can be triggered at any time and endanger our mood, our health, or even our lives.


Definition of a mental script.


Suppose John is driving home from work and thinking about his day. He is “on autopilot”—letting his skills, habits and mental scripts drive the car for him.


It's easy to slip into a half conscious state.

Are you driving around on autopilot?

Suddenly, another car swerves into his lane. The Machine in John’s head reacts at once. Since he is focused on something else, one of his mental scripts takes command—perhaps a macho script from earlier days. It perceives an “insult” by the other driver, and triggers quick anger in John, so that he flies into a rage. By the time he gets home, he is a nervous wreck and any pretense of happiness is shattered. He wonders what got into him.


To some of us, the very idea of staying wide awake is disturbing. Due to painful life experience, reality seems harsh and grating to us. We spend a lot of our time trying to avoid it—be it through TV, an occasional drink, or other means. We miss a remarkable truth in the process:  The present moment is the solution, not the problem. It is only in the “here and now” that we hold our greatest power to control our destiny and choose peace of mind.


The world is what it is: good and bad. What we need is the strength to handle it. The present moment is unaffected by all the losses of our past or the anxiety of an unknown future.  Staying present allows us to feel better with unexpected ease.  Mediate on this idea:  “In this moment I am okay.”  If we think of the present as the place where we stand, we need only recognize that there is not yet any reality in all those “what ifs” down the road.  That means peace is attainable in the here and now. Equally important, as we claim it we gain the strength to overcome the obstacles that felt so daunting in the first place.


Gaining Full Consciousness


How can you become more “tuned in” to the present? Here is an exercise to try. In your own words, whenever you notice you are unhappy or stressed, try telling yourself: “I am not the Machine. The Machine is running a script, and it doesn’t serve me. I choose to live in the present!” Now, look at your surroundings. Take a deep breath. As you release the air, release all of the bad feelings along with it. Stay alive in the present.


The next step is to remind yourself why you are doing this: “When I’m wide awake to the present, the Machine holds no power over me. I now reject its old scripts and bad habits. I can choose my own destiny.”


Now that you hold the power, decide to be happy. Choose patient tolerance for the shortcomings of others, and deep, unshakable peace of mind. With practice, this exercise will come easier, and the peace that comes from doing it will make you a stronger, happier person.


Are you aware of everything going on around you?To reinforce the skill of full consciousness, try going for a walk each day, weeding the garden, or fishing. Communing with nature makes it easier to stay in touch with the present moment. Even playing with the dog or laughing with a child can help.


The Balanced And Centered Life


By practicing awareness of the present moment, we can learn a new, more powerful mental script: full consciousness. From this state of mind, we have the perspective and strength we need to make better decisions.  In turn, these lead to greater happiness. To be sure, achieving a state of consistent full consciousness is not always possible, but it is a pursuit guaranteed to bring a richer, fuller life.


By establishing a habit of full consciousness, it is safer to venture into ourselves when needed, focusing on an important task or enjoying a pleasant daydream—without being sucked into negative scripts or bad habits. We can launch from firm ground and return if needed, in order to stay on track.  The key is balance.


Mindfulness And Money


Full consciousness is crucial to success. In order to make good decisions, it’s important to have the broadest perspective on our priorities, situation, and plans.  Full consciousness keeps us alert to seize opportunities and avoid critical errors. It helps us to notice innovative ways to reach our goals faster. On a day-to-day basis, it provides the deep well of emotional strength we need to handle stressful situations. In a crisis, it extinguishes panic with surprising ease, and allows us to function. It helps us to deal with friends, associates, and customers in a tolerant and respectful way.

Full consciousness provides each of us with the ability to make life better. It lights our world, helping us to see everything with clarity. It gives us the strength to acknowledge bad feelings and then let them go—choosing happiness and peace of mind instead. Take charge of your destiny.  Embrace the power of the present.

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