Have you ever wondered if people perceive and react to situations the same way you do? I know you’re already guessing a staggering “no” as I am. Why is this? Why do humans and even other animals experience consciousness differently? How is our consciousness primarily shaped? This will be a small study on the subject in hopes that I can make light of these answers with the primary intention of harnessing the mind’s power.
A walk through the canyon of consciousness
Often, I walk through the trees bordering my university. The trees zip through a small yet lush canyon and reside on either side of a river that fills in the winter months, but empties in the summer months.
I use these walks with hope of connecting to the trees or hearing the “who” of an owl ripple the still, misted air. I use these walks to empty my mind and fill my consciousness. If I’m lucky, I’ll even find a bough hanging over the trail that’s comfortable enough for a meditation.
During one such mediation, I heard a group of students in the distance. They were playing loud rap music over a Bluetooth speaker, throwing things, and cussing about someone’s ex-girlfriend all awhile paying no heed to the orchestra of owls I was meditating to.
Thinking back on the experience, I realize that we all had experienced the night very differently. Of course, there is the fact that they were in a group, high off each other’s gossip and aggravating music, but I have been in groups plenty of times to experience glorious nights the way I experienced this night.
That night was physically the same for myself and that group of friends, yet it was experienced differently.
A professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience at the University of Sussex by the name of Anil Seth said that “instead of perception depending largely on signals coming into the brain from the outside world, it depends as much, if not more, on perceptual predictions flowing in the opposite direction. We don’t just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside-out as from the outside-in” (Anil Seth Ted Talk). If this is so, then the group of friends were experiencing the canyon on the basis of preconceived ideas about the world. These could have been formulated from their upbringing, pattern of thought, or influence from friends.
I was experiencing the canyon on my own basis of formulated ideas about the world. I am able to track these:
I view nature as a place of mystery and discovery. Nature is a place to enter and leave with more than you had when you came. I believe, as the master puts it, that “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks” -John Muir.
Afterthoughts on consciousness
Learning about the mind can prepare us to fully harness it if we wish. Knowing that we can change our internal condition is powerful; it is the catalyst by which we can better enjoy the external world. Find ways you can physically alter our brain chemistry here.