Thinking is a conscious act. Without consciousness it does not exist. While the brain uses reasoning, memory and sensory information to evaluate, solve problems and decide on actions continuously in our everyday lives, often without our awareness, or with partial awareness, this is not thinking. The act or process of thinking requires an awareness of the “whole” or gestalt of a situation, and we call this over-arching awareness “consciousness.”
Consciousness is a way for the brain to hold a problem or observation of a situation in the here and now while time is passing by. In this suspended state, non-essential stimuli are blocked; perhaps this contributes to the experience afterward of having “lost one’s sense of time.” Without this ability, thinking would be like riding the rapids with an assault of sights, sounds, and emotions. It would be very difficult without the ability to set aside time (within time) for a thought process to focus and develop on one particular aspect. Thinking is intellectual consideration, whether of an external object, or of concepts, or both. Because of consciousness, a person can complete this consideration.
By keeping us “in the moment,” consciousness keeps us where we actually are in time: always in the present moment, and gives us a sense not of passing time, but of timelessness or time without end, the eternal (nunc stans, the Eternal Now). It is this experience that attracts people who are seeking a “higher awareness” and a suspension of thought and freeing from the physical, the body and the world, and from time. It is in fact a suspension of thinking about non-essentials as one focuses more on the present moment. What is considered non-essential increases as considerations are made and understanding or resolution achieved. Some call the apex of this an experience of “nothing,” but in fact it comes from the understanding of every action and thought as it reaches its culmination. In other words, there will be no epiphany, or nirvana, or heaven, without the wisdom that comes from living.
“Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum. (The now that passes produces time, the now that remains produces eternity.)” – Boethius, an early 6th Century Italian philosopher, The Consolation of Philosophy
Nunc stans, the Eternal Now, was thought to represent the consciousness of the Supreme Being in medieval times.
This is part of a work in progress, currently titled Essays, by Mary Clark