Avoiding Potential Confusion: What is Consciousness?

The lack of a widely-accepted definition has contributed to the word “consciousness” being used inconsistently and inappropriately, making it harder for people to understand what’s important and why. Here are some examples of how you might interpret or reframe teachings to reduce confusion and maximize learning. The purpose is to help others, to empower them with important teachings they can use to improve their life and that of the collective.

Substitute a More Precise Word

When you see the word, consciousness used in a way that implies any of these, simply substitute the proper words to get a better understanding of the teaching’s intention:

  • Mental processes or brain activity
  • Awareness
  • The conscious mind
  • Parapsychology, psi, telepathy, and so on

When it’s Just Filler, Remove It

Sometimes the word seems to be used as “filler” and it would be more clear to simply remove it. In the quote below, the subject is about the power we gain by learning to choose our thoughts. That’s a wonderful teaching, but using the word consciousness as it’s used here seems to equate it to something else, thereby adding to the confusion about its meaning. We could just remove it and focus on the core teaching: the power to choose.

Example: Remove It

We all have the power to change our entire lives drastically, and immediately. It all starts with our thoughts. It may not instantly change our outward circumstances, but it most definitely can change our inner world which then affects absolutely every aspect of our lives. It is the inherent power of our consciousness, our ability to choose in each moment how we wish to perceive our lives. – OmTimes

Break Subjects Down & Explain Them

The following quote has a lot of interesting information to consider but it’s so packed with concepts, including consciousness, that it’s ripe for confusion. The focus of this particular research abstract is a weighty subject: not only how people come to their worldview but how a worldview can transform, and the effects of that transformation. To then add the statement, “Worldview is one aspect of consciousness,” just makes it seem more dense. If the author wishes to discuss how worldview is related to consciousness, then how about breaking this topic out and writing more specifically about that point; otherwise, it’s likely the reader will equate worldview with consciousness, which is incorrect.

Example: Break it Down & Explain More

Each person has his or her own personal story about the nature of reality. Genetic tendencies, religion, culture, and geographic region, together with all the experiences people have both internally and in relationship to their environments, give rise to their worldview, or their general way of viewing themselves and the world around them. Worldview is one aspect of consciousness. [Research found that] as a person’s worldview transforms, awareness can expand… leading to enhanced prosocial experiences and behaviours. Increased social consciousness can in turn stimulate further transformations in worldview… –Peer-Reviewed Research (2010)