Consciousness and Creativity, Part VII: Basic Practices for Engaging Consciousness


Let’s further our exploration of consciousness, this time focusing in on how to better engage it. How do we begin to befriend the dynamic lens through which we see the world when we are looking through it all the time? How can we get any real perspective on consciousness when we are dependent upon it for perspective in the first place? These are huge challenges but well worth the effort. Drawing from my own experience and from the experience of innumerable others, what follows in the next two sections are various time tested practices that can help us on our journey, practices that have contributed to the innovations and creativity of humanity over tens of thousands of years.

Creating intimacy with our own consciousness begins by setting intentions. Setting intentions reminds us to keep paying attention to consciousness itself, and not be entirely distracted by the objects of consciousness. For example, you can say to yourself, “for the next hour I will pay attention to the movements of my mind.” or “This month I commit to befriending my consciousness.” Setting intentions doesn’t mean that you notice your consciousness at all times.  That is impossible. But setting intentions does help consciousness move from the background, where it’s busy coordinating the whole show, to the foreground, where you can begin to see it more clearly. Think of how you might ask a shy, but extremely competent stage hand to come out and take bow. Do the same with consciousness.

Next, record your observations as a way of keeping both consciousness and your commitment to observe it present in your awareness. Since consciousness itself is the ever present, umbrella awareness governing your experience, when it changes, you do too. Recording your observations will allow you to compare and contrast your various states of consciousness when you’re in the middle of them.

Need a break from your worn out way of viewing the world?  With deep, cross-cultural roots in the human experience, music and dancing decentralizes the heady, often overused awareness of the intellect through sound, sensation, and movement, extending your awareness throughout the body and beyond, leaving you with an expanded sense of consciousness. Music and dancing have been used ritualistically in all corners of the world for thousands of years, allowing one’s sense of individual identity to set sail upon the waves of sound and rhythm, ultimately surrendering to a broader, more interconnected collective.   Whether it be the sensual sounds and movements of salsa, the high energy head banging of metal, or the trance-like beats of electronica, each type of music and their accompanying movements resonate with different qualities of consciousness and different flavors of creativity.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve been stuck on one of my creative projects and had the whole thing resolved simply by going out and surrendering to the power of music and the inimitable energy of a dancing, swaying, reverent crowd.

Austin Hill Shaw is a creativity expert, author, writer, architectural designer, and mapmaker of creativity across art, science, and religion. He specializes in helping others tap into and utilize the creative life force in everything they do.   He can be reached at

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