Why Study Consciousness?

October 12th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Why should we study consciousness?

Your power as a human being lies with your consciousness. It is the seat of your free will, your ability to choose. If you can improve your ability to use your consciousness, you can radically change your experience of life for the better. In fact, I would say that developing your consciousness will do you far more good in the long run than any other skills you might develop.

How you use your consciousness will largely determine how you experience reality, more so than any external events which happen to you. For example, if you perceive your existence as painful in some way (overly difficult, depressing, boring, frustrating, etc), then you can attempt to remedy this problem in two ways. You can work on trying to change external reality (make more money, switch jobs, lose weight, find a mate, hang yourself, etc). Or you can develop your consciousness to the point where you’re able to wield greater control over your thoughts and thereby simply intend the pain to leave.

Whichever solution you attempt depends on how you define the source of the pain. If you define something external to yourself as the source of the pain, then you have to tackle that external source. Sometimes that’s easy, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible. And if you have an external pain source you cannot eliminate, then you’re stuck in a state of helplessness…. and you still have to experience the pain.

However, if you define the source of your pain as your own thoughts, then your solution is to change those thoughts. This is one of the key skills of consciousness. If you lack this skill, then you cannot reliably use this method to eliminate pain. You will simply recreate the pain over and over. For example, you may feel stressed and worried and can’t seem to stop thinking the thoughts that induce stress and worry in your body. But as you develop greater skill with your consciousness, you can learn how to create peace by changing your thoughts. This is the most powerful solution because then no matter what happens externally, you always have a pathway away from pain.

Under situations of great external stress and hardship, you may not have the control necessary to “fix” your environment. But with practice you can use your consciousness in such a way that you do not create suffering for yourself.

In this case I’m referring to emotional pain, but there are people who have also developed their consciousness to such a degree that they can eliminate physical pain as well.

So clearly one reason to study consciousness is because you have one and because learning to develop it will make your life much easier. Just as you can learn to use your consciousness so as not to create pain for yourself (regardless of what happens to you), you can also learn to create pleasure for yourself by inducing states of mind like peace and happiness.

I do not want to oversimplify this by saying that you should simply ignore and tune out pain. Often there is a good reason you’re experiencing pain, and there’s a message to be heard from it. But once you’ve heard and acknowledged the message, then you need no longer continue creating the pain for yourself.


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