• Erika Rose

Expand Consciousness: A Conversation

“You are an explorer, and you represent our species, and the greatest good you can do is to bring back a new idea, because our world is endangered by the absence of good ideas. Our world is in crisis because of the absence of consciousness.” – Terence McKenna

In the famous 75-year Harvard Grant Study (in which scientists followed a group of boys over the course of 75 years and into the current day), researchers discovered some enlightening details about human development. One of my favorite revelations emerged out of an understanding of what a person needs to feel satisfied with life. It turns out that love is all one needs in order to be to be happy with life. To put it plainly: love makes a person happy. In an interview with the Huffington Post, psychiatrist George Vaillant, who oversaw the study for nearly three decades, explained that there are two pillars of happiness: "One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."

It’s simple and now scientifically proven by Harvard researchers: love + human = happiness.

It seems so easy and intuitive. So then why are we surrounded by so much unhappiness? Easy answer: because of a lack of love. But let’s go further. I think it’s because of a lack of consciousness.

But what is consciousness?

Well, Merriam-Webster defines consciousness as “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.”

Hmm. Ok, well I don’t know about you, but I get caught up on that word “aware.” It’s just as vague as “consciousness.” So, ok - what is it to be aware? Go for it, Merriam Webster:


: knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

: feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound, sensation, or emotion)

: knowing and understanding a lot about what is happening in the world or around you

So, let me get this straight – being aware is to know or notice “something” or understand something “a lot.” So, then, to be conscious is to know, notice, or understand a lot about something inside or outside of yourself.

Uh huh. Well I have to be honest with you, Merriam-Webster, not that I don’t appreciate your valuable service, but that whole concept sounds inadequate to me … and really vague. It sounds like you’re being too medical in your approach and superficial in your understanding. In fact, I’m going to say that the definition itself is not very “conscious” even by your own standards. And since you are simply a recorder of the English language and its meaning, then I ask you, Merriam-Webster and fellow speaker of the English language, to consider what the spiritual (especially metaphysical) community means by “consciousness.”

I would like to propose that we expand the official definition and maybe, just maybe, it will expand consciousness itself.

Here’s what we should add:

Consciousness is attached to free will, to decisions and intentions. A truly conscious person chooses to support the greater good in life-serving (not just self-serving or even human-serving) ways.

In other words, consciousness is aligned with goodness. By choosing to be conscious, one chooses to be on the side of good. In this particular case, the side of good is peace. A conscious person sees that a happy, supportive, responsible, and loving world is the only reality that can lead to peace. (And peace is an ultimate goal, even if much of the general population believes it is impossible.)

But let me be clear: a conscious person is not an impractical idealist. Rather, a conscious person understands the complexity of emotion - of underlying hurt, fear, and ambition - and attempts to use that understanding to promote peace, kindness, and fairness in practical and sustainable ways. A conscious person researches thoroughly, believes wisely, and follows/leads humbly.

And you know what, Merriam-Webster, even though I think very few people in the world are conscious in this way, I know it exists. But you have to realize it exists in thought, not just in body. As famous Descartes said: Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am. I would add to this: I think it, therefore it exists. That is the power of consciousness. That is the power of belief.

I realize that consciousness as I define it describes a frighteningly small number of people. Sure, far greater numbers are conscious in the way you define it (coincidence?). But they are here. They do exist. Consciousness does exist. Record the meaning and expand your definition. And in that way, with small steps like this, consciousness literally expands.


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