conscious of being conscious / by Michael Sloyer

It’s that classic shot in a film. The heroine is climbing the wall of a skyscraper in pursuit of the villain. The camera zooms out to reveal a bird’s eye, aerial, 360 degree view of the city. The heroine becomes the size of an ant. But just for a moment. A special moment. A moment of stillness. A moment of perspective. But as quickly as the camera zooms out, it zooms back in. The pursuit comes back into focus. The heroine’s sticky situation becomes real again. Drama.

If this scene is a microcosm of life, then I spend the vast majority in “zoom in” mode. In fact, I am so zoomed in that I spend most of my time inside my own head. Or more accurately, listening to the voice in my head. Trapped. Thinking. Plotting. Planning. Debating. Labeling. Judging. By definition, I exist physically in the present, but that voice seems more comfortable hanging out in the past or in the future. The default is what was or will be. What could have been or what could be.

This way is not working. Well, actually it does work. But only in the most practical and least fulfilling ways possible. It generally allows me to have a good grasp of what I am going to eat for dinner that night and allows me to determine exactly how frustrated I am with the old guy on the escalator who doesn’t appreciate that the left lane is for people that can walk a little faster. I am quite thankful that there is no way (that I am aware of) for anyone to track the length of time I spend with each of my thoughts. Because I would be mortified with how long I spend with the most useless ruminations, especially the negative ones. But maybe that is exactly what I need. Some hard data to shock my world.

But if you ask me about how I am feeling or how I am doing, I will generally reply with an expression of satisfaction. An authentic expression of satisfaction. I am a lover of life and feel incredibly grateful to share this planet with fellow humans. So what gives? How can this zest and gratitude be reconciled with the unfulfilling time spent living inside my own head?

The answer lies in those moments where the camera zooms out. Those moments of oneness where everything aligns. Body, mind, and spirit. Where we feel connected with not only other humans but with the dirt underneath our feet and the water in our oceans. We recognize that we are ultimately made of the same stuff. We feel a divine connection. Presence.

These moments can occur at almost anytime. Some in more expected situations (after a workout, while meditating on the side of a mountain, after taking drugs or alcohol, during a meaningful conversation) and some when we never see it coming (when a young child holds the door for us, when a cool breeze of air passes by our face, or in the moment just before we drift off to sleep). And though these moments may occur far less frequently than we would like, there is a shift in consciousness in which we can actively engage that will get closer to where we would like to be.

We can create moments of presence, or more accurately, “just be,” by recognizing that the voice in our head is not really us. It is our ego. Instead, who we truly are is one step above. We are that which can observe the voice in our head. So it is not the I that is the subject of the scene in the movie where the camera zooms out, but the I is the camera itself. We are the ones with the bird’s eye view. As Eckhart Toole talks about in his book “The New Earth”, we can be conscious of being conscious. And by being conscious of being conscious, we are present and in fulfillment of our true selves.