Q: Why do some people turn their suffering into greater consciousness and others turn their suffering into more unconsciousness?
A: It all depends on how much they are attached to their particular perspective and understanding of life, which is itself dependent on the amount of fear and anxiety that the person is experiencing. In the cases where there is a lot of fear, suffering turns to more unconsciousness because the person is unwilling to face all the fear that is present within their mind/body, and so through more suffering they suppress it further, holding onto their understanding of how things work and their unwillingness to learn the lessons that the suffering is there to teach them.
When people are open to deepen their understanding of how life works and why things happen, they see suffering as an opportunity to expand in Consciousness.
However, it is also important to say that in both cases things are unfolding perfectly, and in fact suffering always leads to greater Consciousness. In the first case outlined above, the seeming unconsciousness is the only possible way for that person to process what they are going through, and eventually - as the fear within them diminishes - greater Consciousness is found.
Q: I hear what you are saying, and it makes a lot of sense. Do you think the fear always has to diminish for greater consciousness to be found, or does greater consciousness diminish the fear? I mean, greater consciousness is a diminishment of fear, so what is it that starts off the process of becoming willing and able to face the fear and learn from the suffering?
A: Yes, it happens simultaneously and is the same process - the diminishment of fear is the finding of greater consciousness and vice versa. Often, what starts off the process of becoming willing and able to face the fear is when things go "too wrong" according to that particular body/mind, which means that the way life unfolds is no longer acceptable according to the model of reality of the person. Things then need to change, and with that comes the openness to seeing things differently.
Of course, things don't have to go "wrong" in order to start looking into the cause of suffering and releasing fears. The process can also come from genuine curiosity about life or "strange" experiences during meditation or other life events that again do not fit the model of reality and require further investigation and expansion.
Q: Yes, this makes sense, until I consider the situation where a person is definitely suffering unacceptably and life definitely feels too wrong and still there is no change in consciousness. Or does this open up a whole new discussion about mental illness?
A: In my opinion, it opens up a discussion around reincarnation and suffering being spread across multiple lifetimes.
Q: Ha yes, that would make sense and fit with the model you put forward of everything unfolding perfectly and suffering eventually leading to greater consciousness. But then reincarnation suggests an individual consciousness that continues on and I don't see that it makes too much sense.
A: Not necessarily - your question asks about the evolution of Consciousness (turning suffering into greater Consciousness), which by definition speaks to the relative level of reality and the appearance of separation. If we agree that it is possible to find greater consciousness within one human lifetime, why not expand that process across multiple lifetimes? In that case it can be useful to talk about “the soul”, a term that I use as a concession to mean “the totality of what one believes about one’s self”. Each soul is Consciousness seemingly limiting itself. Consciousness - being the only conscious agent - knows that It is the only Reality, and also sees each soul that believes in separation. As these beliefs in separation are being manifested and mirrored in objective reality, there is a natural process of evolution towards a fuller understanding of Consciousness until the eventual dissolution of the soul (the belief in individual consciousness) and the realisation that there is only One Consciousness taking a wide variety of forms. In this way Consciousness infuses its substance in all places where there are beliefs in separation, and dissolves them.
Q: I suppose I feel that I just don't know about reincarnation and, that goes hand in hand with not knowing the purpose of incarnation. I mean, I have an inkling but I couldn't say for sure, and you know what, that doesn't matter does it? If all I do is meet what life puts in front of me in the moment with the life that I am, that is enough, because that is actually immense.
A: "Meeting what life puts in front of me in the moment with the life that I am" - yes, beautifully said! It is not really necessary to understand anything else. As you say, just that is immense. In fact, it's everything :)