Consciousness is more than a description of wakefulness. It is as fundamental as life itself. Without consciousness, we do not exist but does its quality matter?
Quality of consciousness v. quantity of actions
What is more important – our consciousness or our actions? Society tends to judge its members by what they achieve and, sadly but inevitably, we are affected by that. Value is put on what people do. Life is dominated by an ethic that demands that we be doing something, all the time.
This belief creates patterns of thought in virtually all of us, so that we are preoccupied with doing and being busy. Whether we spend our life running a home, studying, going out to work or caring for others, in most of us there is a tendency to need to be doing things. Because of a sense of guilt, many of us feel a need to be seen to be doing things, otherwise we may be perceived as lazy. It becomes a habit. Many people who retire from work find that they feel they have to be engaged in something because that is the culture we live in. One man told me it took him five years after retiring before he could allow himself to sit and do nothing for a while without feeling guilty.
But is what we do always so important? Pareto came up with the principle that 80% of what we achieve comes through only 20% of our actions. From my observations throughout life, even that is optimistic for many people. Given that we spend so much time engaged in action, is life so much better for it?
Why are we here anyway?
If we look at why we are here on the face of the Earth, we might come up with several answers. Some may say we are here to improve the lot of others, some may say our purpose is to love, whilst there are those who say we are here to learn and gain experience. Quite a number, who perhaps haven’t looked at things as deeply as they might, hold the view that we are here by chance or accident.
It is for each of us to find why we are here and the answer for each of us may be different in its detail. But the essence of all the answers must be that the reason we are all here is to evolve.
That process of evolution must include improving, widening, deepening and clarifying our consciousness, an unfolding that is often called enlightenment. If that is the case, it must be that whatever we undertake should be done with the fullest awareness we are capable of. If our awareness is only partial and is on other things while we are carrying out an action, we are only living partially. Our consciousness is split, which makes improvement difficult.
It’s not what you do…
That brings us back to the question posed a few moments ago – what is more important, our consciousness or our actions? The quality of our consciousness is the most important thing in any given moment and provided we look after our consciousness, the actions that we carry out will be filled with quality. As the old song says, “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
Please do not think that I’m encouraging you or anyone else to stop doing things. But it’s better to do something well and with full awareness than to rush through half a dozen things with only half a mind on the job. Make sure you are always fully aware in the present moment. This means relaxing in your body and carrying out whatever needs to be done with calmness and clarity. It may be that you will carry out fewer actions but you will be fully alive and that is what matters. This will bring poise and gradually your life will become more serene. Being will become part of doing.
Someone wrote years ago that the in-tray is never empty. There will always seem to be something waiting to be done. One day this life will be over and we won’t be able to reach for the in-tray. But what we will have with us is our consciousness. Will that consciousness have been improved as a result of our life? At that point, that very final point, that is all that is going to matter.
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