This practice really is about developing your awareness. Your entire life can change from this one activity. Not that it's an easy activity but it really is a primary one that involves authentic care, kindness and curiosity.
The definition of 'unconscious' is anything not in your awareness.
Even when we're not conscious of so many things, they are happening under the radar. And truly, we need our unconscious because it isn't possible for us to be aware of all things all the time. Just the amount of bodily processes happening in any given moment would be impossible to conceive and process consciously. And then throw in memories, thoughts, habits etc. So our unconscious is awesome and incredibly helpful but I am suggesting we learn to interact with it more and not just by our default settings.
Think of the iceberg metaphor where consciousness is the tip that sticks out just above the water line and the unconscious is the massive entity in the depths below. I believe that with practice we can lower our water line to reveal more of what is under the surface, influencing our lives and experiences.
Now, it is true that we can live with minimal awareness and this can work fine. But if you are even a little interested, there are tools to help you reveal more of what is happening below the surface of your awareness. Lowering the water line allows you to touch those things that were previously invisible. By making them more visible (tangible) you can interact with them consciously to actually make choices. It's incredible. We are truly empowered to change our ratio of conscious/unconscious.
And as we do this practice it begins to grow exponentially. Because everything you bring into conscious mind has threads or connections to more that is still below the surface. You begin to sense and understand more of the unconscious simply by experiencing what you have brought up into the light thus far.
Okay, so the practice takes effort. Yes. And some might say 'hard work'. And it's not always comfortable. It can feel at first like you are going against the 'grain' of who you are. But often times the habits that we have developed don't even register as habits. They simply feel like an integrated aspect of who we are. They are what you think of as 'you'. So to change a habit can feel like going against the grain of what is familiar as you. And any habit, thought or feeling can become absolutely familiar and comfortable. Even something like anger or melancholy (which on the surface we might identify as being unpleasant, can become part of your familiar comfort zone and habit). When you develop your awareness and lower your water line to reveal your unconscious habits, you can ask yourself if they are life affirming habits and whether or not you want to engage them. So, the work really is about developing your awareness to reveal what is below the surface so you can choose to interact and potentially create alternate habits. This can apply to anything in your life.
But in the beginning it is a learning curve for sure. And it can feel like going through withdrawal to not engage some of these well ingrained habits. The cool thing is that once you are cultivating your awareness and your observation skills, it becomes easier.
The moment to moment noticing of thoughts becomes more effortless. It's like you have developed a new, core sense. It becomes second nature to discern what is or is not life affirming for you. Awareness becomes a new habit and perpetuates even more awareness. It becomes ubiquitous. You then find you have shifted that ratio of conscious to unconscious. You have lowered your water line by choice.
Check out this companion video "Lowering the Water Line"