Consciousness is a subjective mental process, whereby a person is able to experience a phenomenon and reflexively understand that he or she is experiencing that phenomenon. Consciousness appears to be seated in the upper brain stem, but also integrates with many other brain centers.

Like me, you may have friends and connections on a mission to "raise consciousness", as though this would be the solution to the world's problems. Other friends of mine never give consciousness a thought, or simply just dismiss the topic of consciousness as something new age people talk about a lot.

I'm always curious to know how people define consciousness, and what they mean by raising it. Do they mean adding more consciousness to the consciousness we already have? Do they mean moving our consciousness somehow from a lower to a higher level? And if so, then who defines the levels? Are these levels of behavioral strategies? Are they levels of values and beliefs? Are they levels of esoteric experience? What are other words for consciousness? Mindfulness? Awareness? Waking time? Paying attention? Which of these aspects are trying to be raised, and who says that our consciousness needs to be raised anyway? Why? In whose service? So many questions about such a vaguely wonderful term.

Within the consciousness community, I can't seem to find two people able to agree on what consciousness is, how it works, where it comes from, how to increase its capacity, or change the quality of it… even those who are in the consciousness business disagree, unless they are writing a book together. What is your definition?

Personally, I like NLP's non-technical, working definition of consciousness: "what we are aware of right now", and everything we are not aware of right now belongs to the domain of unconsciousness… another nice working definition. What we are aware of changes throughout the day, so it is a cumulative phenomenon. NLP gives us a definition of consciousness that we can actually work with. Let's work on what we are aware of right now, and perpetually.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work suggests there is a cap on how much attention we have access to in a given moment, or even across the span of a lifetime. Our throughput is about 110 bits of information per second, or between 5 and 7 chunks at a time… often less, but seldom more. Agreeing with him, I believe our real task is not to increase our natural conscious capacity, but to direct our limited conscious capacity in ways that bring satisfaction to our self-selected and ecological goals. Want to become a better musician? Adjust what you're paying attention to. Want to have better relationships? Adjust what you're paying attention to. Want to see your bank account fatten up, or your waistline slim down? Adjust what you're paying attention to. Want to see your world more green? You get the picture.

So how can NLP enhance what goes on in consciousness?

NLP starts with the question "what do you want?" From there, NLP sets about restructuring one's cognitive strategies to get that outcome in an ecological way, not by doing more of the same, but by doing things differently, and more elegantly. Whether you want to win at work, win in relationships, get closer to God, or support projects to improve the planet, NLP can help you structure or restructure your consciousness to bring these outcomes to pass.

Within the limited light of consciousness, we have other wonderful cognitive resources to help us organize and leverage our limited conscious throughput. Steve Andreas calls these Scope and Categories. Classical NLP would call these aspects Deletion, Distortion, Generalization, or Chunking. Still others would call this Framing and Meta-Framing. For centuries, philosophers have called this the "aboutness" of things… we experience things, then spend huge amounts of time and attention thinking about them. By willfully adjusting our scope, categories, chunk sizes, frames, sequences and submodalities, our consciousness literally shifts.

NLP reveals the structure of what happens within experience, and then allows us to tweak that structure intentionally in ways that provide better results, without increasing the amount of conscious energy involved. With NLP, we can often get more results with the same or less conscious effort that with the old strategies that were playing out either consciously or unconsciously.

So my definition of raising consciousness is not about recruiting you to support my agendas for how the external world should be. I would rather use NLP to explore your consciousness, and assist you in making your world as rich as it can be for you. In other words, let's tweak the structure of your conscious experience to bring about the outcomes you feel passionate about. Let's use NLP to eliminate those aspects of your strategies that stand in the way of your outcomes, and replace them with better strategies, and watch them play out in the light of your consciousness.

How does NLP compare to meditation?

Meditation focuses one's consciousness on watching the mind, and stops there. NLP also watches the mind, and then tweaks strategies playing in the mind to get a better result. Meditation may ponder problems of the world and hopes for a better one. NLP examines one's interactions in the world, and then consciously adjusts one's interactions to be more inwardly and outwardly congruent. Meditation seeks to treat all things equally. NLP respects similarities and differences, sets outcomes, measures results and makes adjustments along the way to achieve better results. Meditation fosters universal acceptance, NLP fosters acceptance when appropriate, and also exploration and action. If Meditation is a gentle breeze, NLP is a power leaf blower. If Meditation is a deep lake, NLP is a fire hose. If meditation is the diffuse light in all being, NLP is a spotlight where neurological strategies play out and can be altered. Meditation takes one out of the world into the inner world. NLP engages and enhances the inner and outer worlds (in that order).

So I am all for raising consciousness by changing what happens in its light. NLP is a robust and wonderful tool set for doing just this. NLP has tools to help heal the afflicted mind, and stimulate the robust and healthy mind to reach new heights. NLP can help one communicate one's best intentions not only to the universe, but to one's own self, one's family, one's work, or one's community, thereby increasing the odds that the intentions come to fruition.

As always, I invite your comments and questions. The more debate, the better for everyone!