Column: Confusing streams of consciousness

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Are you wound up? Worked up? Burnt out? Are you tired of being tired? Do you have outrage fatigue from whatever political scandal is dominating today’s headlines? Believe it or not, we weren’t born with smartphones and social media connected to our wrists 24/7. We are growing increasingly anxious as a culture. It’s time to disconnect from our unsustainable, frenzied existences for a minute to calm our overwrought brains.

Can I make a suggestion? Try a simple breathing exercise for five minutes. Get alone, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Put your phone away. Pay attention to your breath and watch your anxiety meter drop down a few notches.

Only when we make an intentional effort to slow down can we achieve higher levels of consciousness — or is it conscience? Unconscious? Let’s clear up the differences between these confusing words.

Conscience is a noun that refers to someone’s internal sense of right and wrong. When you steal paperclips from the office to make chainmail for your fashion-forward upcycled clothing line, your conscience is the thing that makes you feel a little guilty for pilfering $27 worth of office products. The adjective version of conscience is “conscientious,” which means that someone is guided by her sense of right and wrong, careful not to make mistakes.

Conscious is an adjective that means to be aware, alert, intentional or awake. Before your alarm goes off in the morning, you’re unconscious (most people call this “sleeping”). If you make a “conscious effort” to make eye contact and be present with people, that means you’re taking intentional steps to change your behavior for the better. If someone is self-conscious, that means he is more aware of how he perceives others view him.

Being self-conscious can mean being “self-aware.” In negative connotations, however, being self-conscious can make someone hyper-aware of how others view himself to the point of paranoia. Be self-conscious in a good way.

The term “consciousness” is a noun that has to do with the state of being conscious. It is a deep level of thoughtfulness that helps people become more aware of themselves and others.

I’ll offer one cautionary note before you begin your intentional breathing exercises: If your surroundings are too dark, you’re likely to slip into unconsciousness before you can gain a sense of higher consciousness. On the other hand, you look like you could use a nap, so make sure to set the alarm on your smartphone.



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