Recently I was asked the question “Are you conscious now?” and it sent be down a bit of a rabbit hole. Am I conscious now? As I asked myself this question, repeating it over and over in my head like a mantra, one thing became abundantly clear: I am not cut out for (traditional) meditation. Be it the way I am wired, the amphetamines I am prescribed to take, or a simple subconscious closed-minded resistance to the idea, the ability to clear my mind and genuinely focus on one thought simply seems beyond my grasp. Try as I might, my mind inevitably and nearly instantaneously begins running through possible outcomes, searching for the “right” answer.
Unfortunately, when the question at hand has no “right” answer that persistent search begins transforming into something else: anxiety. At this point the initial question simply becomes a meaningless, droning chant that acts as background noise while I attempt to figure out what it is that I am “supposed to be feeling” (though I am well aware that there is no “supposed to” in the given situation) and why it is that I don’t feel it.
Perhaps to ease the wave of ungrounded anxiety, the analytical part of my brain kicks into high gear, removing me from the equation and breaking down what potential outcomes to the exercise could be and what it would mean for a person were they to achieve a given outcome. Now the obvious response to my inability to fully engage would be “you’re overthinking it” but to that I would say, if you haven’t ended up where I have, maybe you’re under-thinking it.
If the solution to a problem is to simply ignore your doubts without any evidence as to why your doubts are invalid, then that doesn’t seem like much of a solution at all. Furthermore, if the doubts never arose in the first place then clearly the problem hasn’t been fully explored from every angle and confirmation bias is leading you to believe what you want to believe without considering any other point of view. At this point you may be thinking that I have gotten off track, but I believe in doing so I have stumbled upon the only honest answer to this question.
To answer “Am I conscious (present) now?” requires an analysis of oneself at a given moment in time and analysis requires objectivity. This would in turn require one to detach and take oneself OUT of the moment to reflect on what one is doing, why one is doing it, what it means, and it relates to this idea of consciousness. In doing so one is forced to reflect on a past version of oneself (likely the version that initially asked the question) as one's present self is busy with objective analysis, the realization of which leads to the obvious: If you are in the act of asking yourself “Am I conscious (present) now?” the answer is indisputably: No, you are not.