TED Conversations

Simon Lewis

Author, Writers Guild of America, west

This conversation is closed.

Conversation with Simon Lewis: How do we make the most of our Consciousness?

Due to enthusiastic responses we are keeping this conversation for two days!

My goal is to find ways to answer this most important question of our time, so others may find their inner selves. Everyone wants and needs maximum mental performance, yet school dropout rates attest to the size of the gap that our adolescents drop into. Why are these solutions a hidden secret? How can we develop an integrated approach to maximize our most precious resource on Earth — our collective consciousness — and nurture it in each of us? Why aren’t measurable repeatable approaches, to bridge the gap from potential mind toward actual mind, widely known and available to all from youth to old age, and how do we make this become a reality?
I hope you join me to discuss these and other questions,

Simon Lewis
More info about the speaker:


Closing Statement from Simon Lewis

I just finished reading all of your final comments and want to extend special thanks to TED for making this civil, thoughtful and remarkably global forum possible, as well as the INK organization who originally invited me to India in association with TED, and gave a first opportunity to share my ideas before an international audience.

And I want to thank each of you, who spoke or who listened, for it is your contribution that empowers all. I understand from TED that remarkable audience of some 2,000 participated online in our swiftly assembled colloquy, with over a hundred drawn to participate with comments from countries as far apart as the USA, India, South Korea and China.

I wish all of you of the happiness to be found in seeking the hidden path toward actual mind, and I thank you for showing me how much interest and concern there is, how many tangible ideas are offered, from around the world to help achieve this for all societies and ages.
Thank you, Simon Lewis

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    Sep 27 2011: To me this is a question of awareness. I'd say that the majority of us operate in a sort of in between state where we're not exactly awake and aware but also not asleep and dreaming. How many times have you gotten on the freeway after work and just sort of dreamed your way home with no real recollection of the journey? In fact I'd be willing to go so far as to say that there are (or have been) very few human beings that are truly self aware and fully conscious. Those would be people like Michaelanlelo, DaVinci etc. It also seems that perhaps there's a function in the modern world that is limiting our ability to be aware and fully conscious. Maybe it's an over abundance of information so we become overwhelmed and sort of shut down. Maybe we have to compartmentalize our world and our inputs and our brains aren't built to handle all that stimulus. Actually now that I think about it, the times that I'm most aware and fully conscious is when I'm out in nature and my stimulus is limited. This is wordy, sorry about that.
    • Sep 27 2011: Well said!
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      Sep 27 2011: Yes, Travis, At INK on TED I describe this transition from Potential Mind to Actual Mind, and how it's the most important issue we fact--how to bridge the gap.
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      Sep 27 2011: Bridging the gap between consciousness and unconsciousness has to be a sort of instantaneous epiphany in some regards, but also must be a moment long in the making. True consciousness is the awareness of ones position in or debt to a structure of power and the knowledge of what it takes to act on it.
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        Sep 27 2011: I find that I have moments of true awareness or consciousness but then the day to day takes over and I slip back into the routine and all that. I also agree that it usually is a sort of instantaneous epiphany but the problem is that in the grand scheme of things it is just that, instantaneous. I would like very much to carry that moment with me for longer than a moment. I'm not sure I follow the power statement though. Power and my relative position to it rarely if ever has anything to do with my awarenss. In fact I'd say that proximity to power can sometimes hinder self awareness...maybe...actually it depends because I've also been inspired by more powerful or impressive people which can increase my own consciousness.
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          Sep 28 2011: By awareness of one's position in a structure of power, I mean being aware of how privileged we are, socially, economically, politically, knowing how we are treated or viewed in society and how we treat and view others in society. Marx talks of a class-consciousness wherein the poor should be aware of their subjugation and work against it and where the rich should be aware of their privileges and be inspired to share it. Consciousness is a keen self-awareness that stimulates humility and inspires courage all at once.
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        Sep 27 2011: Yes, and consciousness is the work of our lifetime, always.
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      Sep 27 2011: Good observation.
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      Sep 28 2011: Travis, Your stimulus from the mundane modern world may be limited, but not your stimulus from nature. In fact, it would be most unwise to not be "most aware and fully conscious" when one is out in nature. It's a Darwinian thing, you know.
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    Sep 28 2011: "How do we make the most of our Consciousness?"

    I am not a neuroscientist--just a house wife and mother-- but I have noticed that certain behaviors increase my own self-awareness.

    Here is my Recipe:

    1. Good nutrition to promote balance in neurotransmitters

    2. Regular exercise (especially exercise which increases my heart rate) According to studies by Dr. Servan Schreiber this reconciles imbalances between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex. (One such study demonstrated that running was more effective as a long term cure for depression than drugs. If you know someone who is depressed—become their running partner).

    3. Regular “mindfulness” practice, such as meditation or “down time observation”— (I call it “making my brain climb into my body”). This is just trying to listen, feel, smell and see simultaneously without reflecting on the stimuli.. I read that the frontal lobes have neural pathways to all other cortical areas and to the limbic system, so practicing these connections makes sense if you want to maximize self-awareness.

    4. Make time to day dream time and consider my life’s purpose and plan how to put it into practice.

    5. Just Do It--making my plans become actions

    What I would like to better understand is this: does consciousness have an evolutionary purpose or is it simply a byproduct or our neural complexity? Can consciousness be separated from the body?
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      Sep 28 2011: A very good recipe, and I suggest that it's no accident that as a wife and mother your focus is on the long-term health of consciousness for you and your family. There are many answers to the evolutionary purpose of consciousness, but think you demonstrate one so clearly: transmission of values, qualities, and ultimately survival through the thousands of generations that have brought us to here, and through your insights one can only hope will bring us through thousands more. I hope many more think and practice as you do, as well as turn to medicine and science where indicated as helpful toward actual mind, and healthy mindfulness.
  • Sep 27 2011: If you were to list 5 most important aspects to nurture our consciousness what would they be? I am a film maker working on a documentary titled the fully integrated human.
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      Sep 27 2011: I'm no expert but this is my list. It's also nowhere near exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order of importance.
      1. Live in the now
      2. Be healthy
      3. Be grateful
      4. Nurture creativity
      5. Practice balance in every aspect of life
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      Sep 29 2011: These are good answers, Stacy, and by definition there can be no order of importance since each person's consciousness is a unique expression of inner self. You use the term 'nurture' and at present four that interest me aree the four Cs of consciousness I term in my INK talk on TED and explore in Rise and Shine. To these I would add a fifth C: Cadence, for rhythm and its interpretation may be a critical first building element to the ability of our consciousness to learn.
      My web address is www.simonlewis.us and I will watch your documentary with interest.
      • Sep 29 2011: Thank you Simon. The answers were from Travis.
        I purchased your book and am looking forward to reading it.
        I am just now in preprodcution on the film, but my other film REWIRED on neurotherapy and brain mapping will be out sooner.
        I sent in a request to have you speak at our annual fundraiser.
        Thank you for your reply.
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          Sep 29 2011: I hope you'll let me know, stacy, including your thoughts on my book and your two docus. Simon
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      Sep 29 2011: Stacy, I would say that the recognition of our interconnectedness with each other is an essential aspect to nurturing our consciousness. Your consciousness -- or mine -- does not exist in a vacuum; we are shaped, influenced, created in part by our environment, our friends, our family. TED is helping to shape our collective consciousness.

      If our representatives in Congress and our government were truly conscious and aware of the widespread impact of their actions, we wouldn't have half the problems we are having today.
      • Sep 29 2011: I believe they are aware Linda, I think their agenda's are self serving and therefore limit their willingness to concern themselves with the widespread impact. That requires a shift in consciousness.
  • Sep 27 2011: Their isn't an existing program to teach this in school before teaching regular classes.
    I have advocated starting a program and contacted a company that designs such programming EFFECTIVELY and trains people to deliver the content. It works in about 90% of participants .
    I delivered this in person to a public education institution board president over two hours including a Q & A session, and the response was, "It sounds great, but, our bloated budget is in question and though this doesn't really make a dent in that, with the dunderheads that are in charge on the board, it will be a bone of contention and politicized rather than implemented.".
    Very predictable.
    There is no will to deliver this sort of content that would actually unlock the secret to self actualizing students and great school scores among the administrations of public schools in America.
    That's a huge reason why it isn't widespread, because our traditional and institutional methods of knowledge transmission are not concerned with the quality of knowledge transmitted by them as much as "looking god" and "trying" as a play for funding, no emphasis on results or quality of process.
    As far as some kind of "God Consciousness"
    I think God is the concept "that there is something that works and something that doesn't work" and that you as a singular entity may know the difference and experience a universe where that is so rather than universal entropy. Seen as a whole, the universe may appear as entropy with pockets of order, those pockets allow consciousness to exist in them as a byproduct of the existence of order. That doesn't mean we exist as any accident, it doesn't mean anything at all. However, here we are, and we may as well invent and live a life worth living in the present since we exist on a razor's edge of the illusion of time. How that works with the talk, anything is possible, even recovery from this traumatic injury.
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      Sep 28 2011: You make good points borne of experience. I hope that it is parents who will show the way for they are the repository of the long term perspective that fills Rise and Shine, my INK talk on TED and my profile in The Atavist. When Actual Mind is our lifetime goal, quarterly income statements and annual school budgets are barriers to overcome. To your discussion of the universe, I suggest that the universe is conscious and that we are at the dawn of understanding it--witness neutrinos thought now to exceed the speed of light--but that is a conversation for a different time. Thank you for your contribution, and let us hope these ideas can make a difference in the schools, to help so many children and adults, and so many tomorrows.
      • Sep 28 2011: Thank you for your very generous contribution to our consciousness.
        I'd like to introduce you to a friend whose foundation is about this very issue that you bring to our consciousness. He can be found at : http://www.foundationalchemy.org/Mission.html
        Thank you again, I hope you may both benefit each other in this work and bring this even more to light. It really needs to be a much more public and heard conversation.
  • Sep 27 2011: I had an experience during which I integrated into the divine. Here's what I learned, if you care:

    The divine is grateful that a piece of it (us) is conscious to experience this world. Our correct mental posture is some mix of "THANK YOU" and "YOU'RE WELCOME."

    As far as what you're asking about "developing an integrated approach..." etc. Here's my idea:

    Dissolve boundaries and continue dissolving boundaries. Cultural, educational, social, relationship, emotional, physical, political, spiritual. All tension has its source in some kind of separation.
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      Sep 28 2011: I do care, Mike, and thank you. There are many separations that prevent problems of consciousness and learning to reach their potential solutions. INK, TED and this conversation Ihope over time wilt help overcome.
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    Sep 27 2011: Thank you everyone for this good conversation and to TED for making it possible. I will check in for comments for the next two days. Best wishes, Simon
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    Sep 27 2011: QUOTE: "It also seems that perhaps there's a function in the modern world that is limiting our ability to be aware and fully conscious."

    I think there are several factors that make it challenging to make the most of our consciousness. They include:

    1) We think it is difficult to do; and;
    2) We assume there are external barriers (as cited in the quote.)
    3) It's not important to many of us (In which case, 1 and 2 would not apply.)


    In my experience, it's easy; and it's a choice.
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      Sep 27 2011: The techniques are profound and thoughtful, as you say and the reasons for inaction many.
  • Sep 27 2011: In my opinion, and that is getting more and more confirmed by my own experience... As you say we are talking of "collective" consciousness. Our western cultures are teaching us how to focus more and more on our selves. How can you get to something collective if you serve only yourself ? I think that the buddhist ideals have a lot to give to change this (I am not saying everyone should be bouddhist) I am saying that everyone should care more about the others than about itself, and understand that in fine the well being of others makes us happy. But here I am only telling things much better said by matthieu ricard in his ted talk (the habits of happiness).
    If we don t stop thinking of ourselves there will be no collective consciousness, and many profit driven companies and organizations will fool us and do whatever they want with us and our planet.
  • Sep 27 2011: And I want to thank all the other people involved here in this conversation!! This is beautiful example of unification. Blessings to you all.
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      Sep 28 2011: Yes, Niesha, as I read Brandon and Teddia, there's a universal pattern within the infinite individual expressions of consciousness, and how to influence personal growth of the inner self. I'm honored to share with this group that today Deepak Chopra on his website is now reading Rise and Shine:

  • Sep 27 2011: I think this thread/conversation is a great example of the pros and cons of consciousness. I feel that with the current state of speed, connectivity, and exposure to it all, it gets overwhelming... and fast. As someone who is pushing himself to amount to even half of his idols in film, art, entertainment, philosophy and more... having the ability to connect and learn about so many other cool things that aren't your own can be quite diminishing. Our current culture is bent of exposing what everyone ELSE has, making people devalue their own things. I know I ebb and flow with the current state of social media, YouTube and entertainment, heck even TED is FILLED with vast volumes of knowledge and opinions, but it all boils down to time. With the current state of attention, I feel that taking time to fully enjoy things keeps me away from 'something better'. A real 'grass is greener' mentality. I tell myself it will be better once I obtain something: a finished project, a new job, the weekend, etc, but the angst of missing out or falling behind is overwhelming. Do you think to be the case as a result of collective consciousness? Am I just supposed to keep my nose to the grindstone and play my part? In the end, I love asking questions and have created a bunch on YouTube content to reflect my current interests and desires. You never know what's 'going to work'.
  • Sep 27 2011: Hello Simon. As a long time practitioner of meditation and other ancient wisdom traditions I have noticed a similarity between side effects of these practices and brain injuries in individuals such as yourself, the artist Jon Sarkin and the author of Stroke of Insight. I consider these effects gifts to be explored. Have you found any advantages to your "disabilities"?
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    Sep 27 2011: Simon - Forgive me for not having followed the thread. I was at Rokeby or King's College School (Wimbledon) with you. I don't remember which (my excuse is my brain has worn out). But I wanted to wave across the thousands of miles and say hi. I've only skim read your extraordinary story and will delve deeper. I'm a big fan of the TED talks and delighted to have stumbled across this chat particularly.
    - Simon Treves
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      Sep 27 2011: Simon! How nice to span 50 years or so and see you! Look forward to hearing what you think of my book and to seeing you one day in UK or US..
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    Sep 27 2011: "Modern academia is teaching politicians without politics"

    Modern education systems are teaching facts, figures, preexisting theories and philosophies. But it does not teach "critical thinking". It does not teach how to handle information, claims, and overall knowledge.

    The "actual" mind is a loose phrase to me, because in neurology the mind is a machine, in psychology the mind is a series of patterns, and philosophy the mind is a vigorously open-ended platform. Truly and "actually" it's all three, and more. What works for one, may not work for another.

    Trial and error constantly is needed to teach different kids different things with different tools.

    Trying to put a 1, 2, 3 step on helping others achieve "enlightenment" "awareness" of "wisdom" is how you create hypocritical educational systems. Look at the forefathers of philosophy, they state two major humanistic philosophies. "Know thyself" and "I don't claim to know "that", but I think it is something like "this", what do you think about "this" and "that"?" (very roughly - I don't think I know).

    They inspired questioning, for everyone, especially the educators!

    Take their ancient lessons of "critical thinking" educations, and modernize it with technology to keep interest levels high! That is my best advice. Oh, and stop relaying on others to inspire the children you are able to educate. Make education interesting young, make them life long learners. Be a parent creatively, be better than a parent, be a "path" setter.
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      Sep 27 2011: I really appreciate "Take their ancient lessons of "critical thinking" educations, and modernize it with technology to keep interest levels high!"
      Do you have any helpful resources to recommend? I enjoy the challenge of modernizing the material to engage current learners with pretty short attention spans.
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        Sep 27 2011: I heard about education programs that promote twitter.But, really no, this is still all theory to me as well.Just trial and error, trying to and going to take that advice most. In every perspective that goes into the question "what is an education" and this proves problematic to me too. Since technically EVERYTHING is an education; involves a philosophy and an artistic approach to conquer. So I'm looking in the directions of trying to teach how to "critical think" existentially. It proves maddening.

        If you so find a modern philosophical school of education, I would enjoy a link.
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      Sep 27 2011: Agreed!! Well put. Although if someone were to find a way to be truly conscious and they put it in a 1, 2, 3 step process, it couldn't hurt to learn their process in order to find your own way. If nothing else it would give you a starting point perhaps.
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        Sep 27 2011: Many 1, 2, 3 steps are fine, but a select few is limiting to everything wanted here.
  • Sep 27 2011: Whats Ur way of thinking Simon ? How would u suggest people to use there couciousness more ?
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      Sep 27 2011: My way of thinking is a combination of flat time and blindsight as I describe in my book and is explored in The Atavist and on KCRW in the interviews. I've come to understand how our sub processes of consciousness know only the present.

      That is my way of thinking and it maximizes every moment of the present. For others, I recommend all steps that increase cognitive awareness through natural processes. I hope this brief summary helps with what is a complex process that defines who we are each day we open our eyes and transition from Potential Mind to Actual Mind.
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    Sep 27 2011: I truly believe, and I think Karl Marx, Franz Fanon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith would agree, that collective consciousness is instigated, inspired, and ignited by a common struggle, hardship, or purpose. When the poor class in France were subjected to absolute poverty, their class consciousness was powerful enough to inspire a revolution. When man's self-interest overwhelms his need of others to survive, he will sacrifice his trivial self-interests for the sake of his most essential asset - social relationships. When you place the individual in such a desperate situation when his or her own hands and feet cannot solve the problem, the human with outstretched arms will admit defeat before the world and accept collectivity as the foundation of a surviving humanity.

    In our current conditions of complacency in the West, we function at a high level of political life, enjoying the fruits of one of the most complex political economies in the world and yet voter turn-out is at its all times lowest, except for those countries with incentive programs. It took a great amount of collective consciousness to bring about a highly functioning democracy and to continually include those who were excluded, but once we feel as though we've arrive, we cease to be engaged. In this way 2 things must take place: 1) the subjugation and poverty which takes place in our own country and around the world must be magnified and publicized to heighten awareness about the ails of the other and the imperfection of our system in connection to those troubling situations should not go unnoticed. 2) there needs to be a renewal in the importance of civil society which is the foundation of political life - religion, culture, moral community. The power of collectives, organizations, and movements unites ordinary individuals and gives them extraordinary potential. The same collective consciousness which brought us to this point in history will allow our progress to go undone.
  • Sep 29 2011: Open forum public schools. Seating for hundreds, just like the ancient schools. Passing true knowledge from generation to generation. Not industrial knowledge, but, fundamental earth based knowledge. Keep your universities and colleges, as well as creating new open forum institutions. The school system could cater to like wise motivated individuals who will pave their own path through education based on their interests. Giving students hands on approach to learning, increases motivation to learn more about it. Open forum gives access to passersby, and those with the thought to stop and listen.

    Bringing education to groups of thirty in the community. Active educational networks to ease the cost of materials and supplies. Open source digital educational interface for alternative access (OLPC). Dedicated national funding and resources on priority listing. Backing the system by purchasing a number of neglected buildings. Reclaiming the buildings, and putting it to good use.

    This would allow small groups of neighborhood kids to learn life long skills in a more natural and inclusive way. Maybe, think of it as an educational franchise. Thus enabling people to work their way through management, to ownership. Giving rise to autonomous employment and skill acquisition. Self funding education, in essence, for everyone, to learn anything. Making sure resources are unlimited, would allow for the best educated populace in the world.

    To cut public funding costs, and reallocate funding from food programs currently active, to teaching the urban populace to grow their own organic produce, and raise livestock and poultry. By franchising, corporation sponsorship incentives spur economic growth by alleviating long term investments, and increasing long term ROI. Thus, providing basic necessities and allowing productivity, morale, health and economic standing to increase.
  • Sep 28 2011: Hi Simon
    I have schizophrenia and live in the present, it's a way of thinking or percieving time and space. People consider me disabled but I don't, I simply don' think like everyone else. I once took a psychological test and the person giving it to me said that was faster and more accurate than my supervisor could do it. I'm well employed and spend much of my spare time in the forest where I feel connected to nature. MRIs and CT scans show a lack of grey matter, but something is clearly working well, any ideas on what that might be?

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      Sep 29 2011: Many ideas and possibilities , James, within within your many billions of nerve cells and their constant search for possible neural pathways and workarounds. It's interesting you spend time in the forest. The reporter for The Atavist describes how I spend hours tree-gazing, looking at the Canary Island palms in my back yard. I feel the air stir my hair, hear the sounds of birds and watch the light and shadows play on the cones and needles. There may be pathways to your mind that are more accessible to you in this visual and auditory (and olfactory) environment.

      Congratulations for finding such good ways to live within time and space that works for you.
      • Sep 29 2011: Thank you for the reply Simon, have you ever noticed how the wind shapes the way our vegatation grows? This is especialy clear on high mountains or places that get heavy wind gusts on a regular basis. By the way, you inspire me to know I can do anything that I want to do if I put my mind to it.
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    Sep 27 2011: To make the most of your conscience you must rest your mind and free your soul. The rest takes care of itself. Live in the present and embody truth. The strength to do this is in Love. You must realize that you are not in control that love is. Do not fight it or deny for that will lead to pain and suffering. If you can embody love and truth you will have infinite strength. As corny or cheesy as that may sound. My friend Love is simply Truth. Truth never dies; love never dies. Many people in this world mistake God for a deity(or multiple). God most simply put is: truth. Know Truth; free your soul and rest your mind. Something cant come from nothing unless everything is nothing and nothing is everything. Only that which is, exists; only truth is exists. Three principles govern all of creation: that which is, that which is not, and that which is nothing. Nothing is the empty vessel which truth fills. It is the very same principal that determines your ability to read my text. The contrast of black and white shows you the text. One cannot exist without the other. People ask which came first the egg or the chicken. The only true answer is they are one in the same. Because, how can one exist without the other True or false? The entire relationship of reality is love. Please read the website below if you wish to understand more my friend. There is no limit to love. Peace and love be with you.
    • Sep 27 2011: Depends completely on YOUR definition of truth, and I think if you defined you definition of truth your explanation would make perfect sense to many more people.
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        Sep 28 2011: Truth is simply the present. Live in it, embrace it, and love it. The good times and the bad; make the two one. Be aware of everything in your present even pain. The present is all we have and the only thing we can know for a fact. Practice this and you will see a definite positive change .
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      Sep 28 2011: Brennan,
      Love is all powerful, yes. At the same time, the research shows up to 30% of children have learning difficulties that are not self-correcting with love alone, and that with screening and detection and targeted therapy and stimulation it is possible to avoid academic failure and maximize children's future. I hope your definition of love might expand to include a society that loves its future by using science to nurture the consciousness of all. This is something more than love and caring; it is love accompanied by effective intervention and action.
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        Sep 28 2011: My definition of truth is: that which is. Truth is fact. What is the one thing we all can know for a fact to be true? Why the most obvious answer is the present. You can see it, you can smell it, you can taste it, and you can hear it. Simon i completely agree science is one of the answers. For what is science? It is merely the collection of data from the present. The most raw and uncensored form of truth. I used to be an atheist and i believed science held every answer. I now know science is a big part of the answer but not the whole answer. To be a good scientist one must ask the right questions some times asking the right questions is very difficult without a little inspiration from the observation of the present. The most simple and condensed form of my message is: to live in the present love it all, even the times that are more bitter than sweet. If one does this inspiration and life will flood one in a way that one could never have imagined.
  • Sep 27 2011: I think we can also consider Maslow's hierachy of need theory. The majority of individuals are content to have achieved the first 3 levels either through personal effort or social support. As humans our basic physical and emotional needs are more of a focus than our mental agility or our ability of to "reach our full potential". A futher subset of individuals will strive for the 4th and 5th level because that is part of their nature, and its the natural order of life to want more. The ability to have a mind that strives for more knowledge, and or better use of waking consciousness is a nutured trait taught by whoever is responsible for our formative years. We learn the ability to maximise time through experiences we gained in our youth. By the time we reach adulthood, the distractions of today's society, and our need to just have the basic physical, emotional and social requirement catered for, can leave even the most brilliant mind fatigued and inept to reach for conscious growth.
    • Sep 27 2011: Maslow's theory figures very highly in this sort of work BUT it's not a complete course. I still love it though.
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      Sep 28 2011: I think the question is where the true balance lies between nature and nurture. To take the four Cs of Consciousness I raise in INK on TED, my goal is some long term population studies and see the outcome. Not simply accept that some limp in their learning and accept the first 3 levels of Maslow's hierarchy, but understand the sub processes of consciousness and see how far each mind can then rise toward Actual Mind.
  • Sep 27 2011: What specifically do you mean by 'maximise our consciousness'? That phrase could be understood in many different ways - the mind has many different faculties. Are you talking about maximising concentration, memory, alertness, complexity of thought, awareness, self-discipline, joy, compassion, intuition, or what? Without answering this question, I think a focused discussion is impossible.

    "Why aren’t measurable repeatable approaches, to bridge the gap from potential mind toward actual mind, widely known and available to all from youth to old age, and how do we make this become a reality?"
    That is an interesting question. One possible answer is that mainstream Western culture has looked down upon the consciousness and thought it less valid than the material world. The scientific method led to a worldview in which all that exists is matter and the mind is an unreliable, irrational instrument to be overcome. If this is your worldview, then you neglect training your consciousness, and instead focus on rearranging the physical world around you. This Western, scientistic worldview has been extraordinarily successful at rearranging the physical world according to human whim and - I think few will deny - has been equally unsuccessful at cultivating happy and high states of consciousness.
    This trend is already reversing. People are taking more and more interest in their consciousness and in all kinds of mental training. Maybe one reason is that scientific theories (specifically Einstein's) started to include the observer's consciousness about 100 years ago; common sense seems to catch up with science after about 100 years. Another reason is that with neuroscience, faculties of consciousness like concentration, compassion, or whatever, now have physical correlates, which make them more valid to materialist worldviews.
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    Sep 27 2011: The ultimate potential of consciousness can be fulfilled when an individual strives to resolve the ultimate question of his self-awareness and his identity. One has to look at all his identifications, and question if one is defined by that. Most of the wisdom traditions recognize meditation to be an integral part of such a deepening process. Wanted to bring this idea of different meditation upon self-awareness in order to deepen and enhance it .. :)
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    Sep 27 2011: I believe the reason why this might be so difficult to answer is because it has no single answer. Everybody has their own personal consciousness, their own personalities. Unlocking your full mental potential is a very personal journey everyone must go on. Some lose there way and it may be a longer path for others, some may never make it. But I believe it's a path you must take on your own.
    Only you know how to unlock your full potential. I believe it can be achieved through philosophical thought about your own mind, personality and actions in which you discover all the things that hold you down, and let them go. Reaching some sort of intellectual nirvana.
    • Sep 28 2011: Agree. And also different country, different world has different levels of consciousness. How do they interact under their systems and how do different systems interact with each other plays a role in person's life. Hope more and more people realize and recognize this is not luxury to seek the answer, and at some point or the other human is destined to face the challenge.
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    Sep 27 2011: I find myself thinking about "Bridging the gap" and also finding a balance. I think that it would be exhausting to be truly conscious all the time, in fact I have trouble sleeping because of an over abundance of consciousness. But to be completely unconscious all the time would also seem to suck the life out of life (as it were). Perhaps the real goal should be to allow unconsciousness when it's advantageous but know how and when to apply consciousness in order to get more out of life.
  • Sep 27 2011: One last thing; since part of the challenge we face in integrating as human beings is the overwhelming amount of varied distractions, I have found something that always seems to cut through those and raises my consciousness: If I notice or bring myself to notice synchronicity in my current surroundings, that type of awareness has a domino and multiplying effect and it is as simple as seeing or noticing a synchronistic occurrence once and focusing on it intently, and then it appears everywhere. Then all things slowly become related and a certain magic and flow reveals itself. EVERYTHING IS A MIRACLE. That's the idea that pulls the veil off our eyes one fold at a time. Even the veil of "time" can lift this way. This is the portal door: Notice an occurrence (large or small) that could not be a coincidence,or that seems to fall out of the laws of reason---> focus on that thing or occurrence and the connecting occurrences---> pull in more and more focus to that connection---> feel the focus and energy of that improbability begin to integrate within you---> lock in your intention of focus on that incident of synchronicity into a unified place within---> hold the focus---> feel it--->look around and notice that all physical matter is a display of this synchronicity at play---> pull that intent inward---> see that it is YOU---> see that you are magic--->become a container of the magic that you are by constantly noticing the impossibility and magic of every single thing around you--> repeat. YOU ARE EVERYTHING, YOU ARE LOVE
  • Sep 27 2011: Simon, I want to acknowledge, thank you, and honor your efforts here and prior to raise consciousness about consciousness. I believe this discussion and activity is precisely one of the ways to effect the transformations you are speaking about, and to bridge the gaps. I am learning more and more that by raising one's own consciousness WITHIN, the collective consciousness is integrated, raised, and subsequently deepened. The devotion to change and deepen the dialogue one has with the soul, is the action that appears to create interconnectedness of a higher frequency between all other beings, and thus creates a profound movement towards the sustainment of all "homes" like our bodies and the planet at large, and eventually the Universe and beyond.
  • Sep 27 2011: In your TED talk that I watched recently, you touched on a number of what I will call "threats" to consciousness. The one that resonates with me is depression, because I suffer from it personally and it is quite debilitating. Is your book some kind of self help book that can help me find ways to cope with depression?
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      Sep 27 2011: It's not a self help book, but readers find great insights and also great inspiration. I hope it is helpful..

      Sonny, an EDIT of my first answer:

      I thought more about your question, Sonny. I think my next book will contain exercises, but that will take me time to develop and write. Ahead of that, I will tell you that Rise and Shine has had a very profound effect on its readers. Some read it in one sitting, until the dawn and they see the sun again Rise and Shine. Many are are moved to tears, to reflection, and yes to action that is the best kind of self-help, when based on knowledge. If we think of depression as a separation between Potential Mind and Actual Mind, and my book is an exploration of specific tools that in my case enable me to bridge some of that gap and strive toward Actual Mind, then perhaps it might give you some ideas for you to explore. For these experiences bring me to my mental state today, where I know with metaphysical certainty that I am the luckiest person I know, to have this second chance of consciousness.

      I hope this longer answer is helpful to you. I think online you can read the Introduction and see if you think my tone and the book's reviews give you a sense of this. Thankyou for sharing your personal question, Simon
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      Sep 27 2011: 1) Inspiring TED talk by Dr. Sherwin Nuland, who suffered from depression before drugs were avail.

      2) I learnt some interesting and helpful methods from Kathy Freston, who is a self-help author and wellness counselor; she specializes in a body/mind/spirit approach for bringing about health and happiness. Freston has worked with people healing from cancer, addiction, and depression as well as those who simply want to live consciously and healthfully.

      Hope you find your path to recovery Sonny!
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    Sep 27 2011: Also, I feel that ultimately this is what will have to happen .. that the individuals step up to the plate to raise his or her own consciousness .. To fulfill his or her own potential ... I feel that used to be the system in place in ancient cultures, and especially wisdom traditions .. That is being lost by the materialism and emphasis on the physical side of things present in our modern lives .. The individual needs to have raising his consciousness as his ultimate objective .. Not just for his benefit alone, but for the benefit of the collective .. It must be SEEN that how lowering of one's consciousness by decreasing awareness of our own actions and its corresponding consequences is disastrous for the collective .. That must happen at the individual level .. What happens then is the flowering of the true potential of the individual ..

    The other day I was reading about how Einstein considered intuition ( emerging out of his creativie side of the violin )as a superior faculty to actual scientific thinking .. The most creative thinkers in our history have always nourished their creativiity and have allowed that consciousness to expand upon the science aspect .. However the present education system is currently not encouraging any kind of creativity within the child , and forcing the child to limit his or her potential .. At times I wonder what the whole point of such a mediocre school system is at all if potential within all the children aren't awakened ?

    Ultimately it all comes down to one's identity .. What does one identify as themselves ? Do they identify what the world is telling them to be ? Or will they grow up to identify themselves as another pearl of the collective potential that can shine forth the brightest light through their lives ? It is the nourishment that is lacking .. It is the hard look at themselves that is lacking .. It is the paradigm shift that is lacking .. Hopefully the new generation holds some promise ..
  • Sep 27 2011: I feel that before we can look at collective consciousness we need to take a step back and look at self-awareness. When I was a kid and in my teens and 20s I had no self-awareness whatsoever. Didn't know such an animal existed! Would have loved to have been exposed to that in school.

    Once we are self-aware I think the natural progression is towards a collective consciousness... seeking like-minded, curious people. That awareness and curiosity needs to be sparked and nurtured at an early age.
  • Sep 27 2011: I think there may be critical assumption in the framing of the question:

    "Everyone WANTS and needs maximum mental performance..."

    The assumption that everyone wants maximum mental performance indicates one of the serious problems with why the development of our collective consciousness may not be occurring (or at least not at a rate some people desire); it is quite possible that people actually do NOT want this - it may simply not be a consideration for them, perhaps because they don't have a sense of the NEED, or non-"necessary" benefits, of it.

    If this may be the case, then it would raise a number of questions as to WHY someone may not care about developing their mental performance / consciousness. I feel that, here in America, this may be because many of our systems, be they institutional, social-cultural, etc, are not exactly promoting the sort of attitudes and behaviors that view "consciousness development" or "intellectual growth" as positive and worthy of time-investment.

    Unfortunately, there may even be institutions, attitudes, or individuals that almost oppose such development (writing it off as "too intellectual" or "too academic" or simply "stupid" or "pointless").
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      Sep 28 2011: Bad attitudes do lower IQ. I personally believe every one of us has a genius within themselves that wants to break out of its subconscious prison. The key is to not listen to the nos and realize it can be done by everyone.
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      Sep 29 2011: Yes, and to Kevin Taylor's point that cultural bias may impede solutions, I see drift in institutions in the West and N.America where excellence is praised too little and political leaders limit ideas to talking points and extreme rhetoric for their base of support. In my INK talk on TED, I touch on where we will find the will--the collective consciousness--to address issues such as climate change, so that the Human Channel can stay on the air as the universe's most fascinating reality show.