Is Consciousness an Innie or an Outie?



Even given all of our empirical science, there is plenty of room to speculate on the fundamental nature of the universe. Nature might be particles all the way down, but both the processes we know–The Laws of Physics–and those we don’t, might be responsible for their actions. Having come this far down the path, it is mere baby steps to speculate a process ontology and computational universe–one that not only manipulates existence, but also experience, our conscious states.


There is more science than fiction to a conscious universe. Donald Hoffman builds a conscious network out of our shared evolutionary-fitness user interface that stands on top of objective existence in his theory of conscious realism. In my book, Meaning in the Multiverse, I posit that interference between qualia in near-parallel universes creates a distribution of conscious states. This speculation is falsifiable through the study of virtualizing experience in quantum computers.


However near or far modern neuroscience is from understanding consciousness, the fun of meditating is experiencing the mystery for yourself. In the lab of your mind, you are the most preeminent theoretician and most dexterous technician. It is important to travel light into meditation and not take a bunch of metaphysical baggage, but the question of “what would it be like if consciousness was just a different sort of universal process” seems to be a relevant object of meditation.


Consciousness–the world-navel that it is–most often seems to me to be “an innie.” I recognize the nature of my headlessness, that where my head should be is the vibrant world, but experience the contents of consciousness differently based on the sense organ they act upon. I can experience that the thought of self is also arising in consciousness, but it is a persistent model that tells me with great accuracy where sounds are from and if I can throw a ball to out there were the shadows and lights grow dim.


The idea that “I” am on the edge of my experience and consciousness comes from within me–from my brain–is my experience in most of waking life as well as in most of my meditation.


But do we experience consciousness as a field, as a network, from outside our selves? I have had these experiences and have gotten reports from some friends that meditate that they have experienced this selfless state of consciousness. I feel as though I am at one with a plane of infinite spacetime or that my experience is distributed.


These brief windows into enlightenment feel intimate. In this construct alone, I experience a loving universe.


I prefer the word intimacy because it is an invitation to come closer, to fully embrace and lovingly engage with your life right where you are, rather than trying to move beyond it. It is a recognition that we already belong. To me, intimacy better expresses what I imagine enlightenment might actually feel like. – Frank Ostaseski

I have collected little mantras in my studies of experience. Each of them helps loosen the mental-model-of-the-self’s hold on the projection of consciousness and brings access to a multiversal consciousness:

  • “what it is like”

  • “being consciousness”

  • “intimate”


Feel free to use them as you experience consciousness both as an innie and and outie… and let me know what you think. @justinaharnish

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