Most of us make the mistake of taking consciousness for granted as we do so many other things. The act of taking some things for granted can have really bad consequences because it affectively limits the possibility of a deep understanding because we simply don't investigate what we take for granted. One of the consequences of taking the landscape of consciousness for granted is the shallow superficial world we live in today.
While anyone can choose to subscribe to any perspectives that can produce different views on the quality and value of today's material world, if we explore the concept and reality of the material world today, we will almost always encounter the basics and there we will find the landscape of consciousness.
How many of us even give a moment's thought to the idea of consciousness? We assume that we are conscious if we have thoughts, perceive the world around us, perform actions and are not knocked out and rendered unconscious. Scientifically, mind and consciousness are little understood and currently these concepts are only clearly perceived through the means and methods of meditation.
Even without getting into the world of meditation, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the average person today isn't very enthusiastic about exploring the reality of consciousness. It's almost as if we intuitively know that this is scary ground, and given the fact that we are a civilization long accustomed to self-deception and denial, then exploring our consciousness could easily reveal the mechanisms that underlie our strategies for avoiding personal responsibility. Exploring the unknown territory of our mind means risking self-realization and an encounter with the truth.
This kind of activity is not likely to become a popular event at the Olympics; the possibilities are much too scary. But even though we work hard to avoid becoming aware of our weaknesses, we occasionally somehow accidently encounter moments of clarity in which we suddenly see ourselves as we truly are, and it is during these moments that we are presented with an opportunity to make a different choice. Instead of flight, we can choose to stand our ground and fight for ourselves and our freedom from the tyranny of fear and ignorance.
When we do find the courage to take a stand, one of the first things we discover is that we don't have a clue what mind and consciousness are about, which also makes us aware of the extent of our ignorance of these and other matters. Once we get passed the idea of how scary it might be, exploring the idea of consciousness is fascinating. For example; we begin to realize that there are different levels and different types of consciousness. In a typical meditation session where the person is focusing all their attention on the experience of breathing, certain question may arise, such as "if I am aware of the feeling of breathing, is this consciousness or direct experience? Who experiences our experiences? And once we are thinking thoughts about the experience, is this consciousness? And who is able to be aware of the activities of the mind such as thinking about what we are experiencing as well as the sensations of our experiences?
I am conscious of the experience of the feelings of my breath going in and out of my body through my nose. I am now conscious of the thought of breath and breathing. I am now conscious of being conscious of the thoughts regarding the sensation of what I am conscious of experiencing. Time is involved in the types of consciousness as well. I can be conscious of what I am experiencing in the present moment and suddenly, often without realizing the shift, I am now conscious of thoughts related to the future such as what I must do later today, or the past as I rerun the experiences that I had earlier today.
The truth is that there is only one time and place where the real world is just that, real and actual. That time and place is right here and right now. The Buddhist philosophy calls this the present moment and holds it in high regard. Any consciousness can only happen in the present moment, but if we are now, in the present moment, conscious of thoughts of the past or future and we are not conscious of what our mind is actually doing, then we will fall under the oh so common delusions that our minds are susceptible to, and we will no longer be experiencing life in the present moment, but a conceptual representation of reality created by the thoughts of our mind, and usually designed to distract us from being aware of what we need to be aware of in the present moment.
Developing conscious control and discipline over our mind is not a high priority educational goal in today's civilization and in fact, there are forces in our world that would not find such an agenda in their best interests. However, this is a personal life goal and is associated with the knowledge and skills of personal power. The choice of whether to travel this path depends on whether you want to continue to be a slave to the random activities of your own mind or set yourself free from the tyranny of a life that is not really experienced because there is no real consciousness with which to do so.