Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

Are you here now?

January 7, 2010

Christmas is over and the New Year begun. My book is off to the publishers and I’m at last able to do other things, including getting back to those Questions!

Chapter 8 asks “Are you here now?”.

I like this question a lot because at first sight – like “Am I conscious now?” – the answer seems as though it must be an emphatic “Yes”. And yet my meditation experiences led me far away from “Yes”. This is not just because I have spent so much time questioning the nature of consciousness that I no longer have any idea what the word means, but because the whole sense of a persisting self has taken so many knocks.

In this chapter I describe a retreat which was extremely painful in many ways and included an interview with John which left me quite disturbed. He didn’t seem to understand me at all, and I didn’t really understand why not, or why he reacted the way he did. I suppose I was expecting a certain kind of help from him and that is not what I got. The way I have written about it makes it seem much less dramatic than the interview described in Chapter 6 but it was just as disturbing.

John clearly thought so too. In the “Response of a Zen Master” which follows the rest of the book, he writes “The interview on  p. 132 was a disaster for both of us. I failed to show you a way beyond your intellectual fixation and you persisted in a partial viewpoint that was intellectually convincing to you.”

If you’ve read his response you might like to comment – for I still don’t know what to think about it all this time later.

Chapter 2 What was I conscious of a moment ago ?

January 28, 2009

My first question “Am I conscious now?” was hard enough. The answer seemed easy at first – “yes, yes, of course I’m conscious now.” But gradually that certainty began to shimmer and dissolve as I realised that whenever I asked the question I seemed to be waking up – but from what? Was I unconscious a moment before I asked? Surely not. I must have been conscious of something mustn’t I?

Thus was the question born “What was I conscious of a moment ago?”

Try it for yourself. First ask “Am I conscious now?”, then just glance back and see if you know what you were conscious of a moment ago.

Once you’ve had a few tries – or lots of tries – you can listen to me talking briefly about the question, or read excerpts from Chapter 2 of the book Ten Zen Questions.


Please tell us how you got on.

Chapter 1 – Am I conscious now?

December 18, 2008

Am I conscious now?

This is the first question in the book, and in a way forms the basis for all the others. At first it seems the most obvious thing in the world. Of course I am conscious now. How could I not be?

But on deeper exploration this question yields strange effects.

I first discovered this when teaching “The Psychology of Consciousness” at UWE Bristol (there’s more about this in my book Consciousness: An Introduction).

You might like to try the students’ weekly task, that is, ask yourself the question, as many times a day as you can (preferably hundreds of times) and see what happens.

“Am I conscious now?”

It’s not easy to remember to do it, so you might like to invent tricks to remind yourself. I suggest that you try this for a few days (or at least a few hours if you’re impatient!) before reading the chapter and seeing what I found.

Am I conscious now?


I’m longing to hear what other people find. Do similar things happen to all of us? Does it depend on the sort of person, or how much we’ve meditated or done other things before this? What other questions does it inspire? Do join in with some answers  – or more questions.