It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking about life and the events happening around you in very specific ways. We cling to tried-and-true thought processes because it’s easier than expending more thought energy to think in a different way.
But living more simply as a Christian minimalist means shifting our previous ways of thinking so that we can focus on what matters most and remove everything else. And there is a really interesting way to shift our thinking– by periodically changing our consciousness.
Lantern vs. Spotlight Consciousness
In her book Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life, Alison Gopnik explains how babies function with a “lantern consciousness;” they consciously notice, or shed light, on everything around them (like a lantern) so that they can take in as much information as they can and learn from all of their surroundings.
Adults, on the other hand, tend to function with a “spotlight consciousness” most (if not all) of the time, shining light on the very specific thing in front of them so that they only focus on that one thing. Obviously, “spotlight consciousness” has helped adults to focus on things as needed– but it has simultaneously kept us from noticing other things around us.
When we function with a “lantern consciousness,” we are more open to what lies beyond our typical line of vision. We are more aware of different ways of thinking or being, different ways of creating and innovating. We are more open to awe and wonder, as well as thinking about and doing things differently.
Peter’s “Lantern Consciousness” Moment
We see Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, experience the difference between spotlight vs. lantern consciousness in Acts, chapter 10.
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while it was being prepared he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.Acts 10:9-16
Before this moment, Peter had spotlight thinking around how he was supposed to act as a person of faith– he should always follow the rules around what is clean or unclean.
But through this moment of lantern consciousness, Peter receives a different message from God. He finds out that God has amended the previous rules, and Peter is invited to think differently about the world than he did previously.
Peter then goes to a Gentile’s house (which was not allowed because outsiders were considered unclean). Peter explains to the Gentiles assembled why he went there even though it was against the rules:
And he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is improper for a Jew to associate with or to visit an outsider, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.Acts 10:28
So because Peter experienced this lantern consciousness, he was able to follow God’s calling. He tells those at Cornelius’ house about Jesus, and they receive the Holy Spirit. Overjoyed, Peter calls for all of them to be baptized.
The religious leaders at the time were very unhappy that Peter broke the rules, but Peter explains to them what happened:
[Peter said:] If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”Acts 11:17
This is such an incredible story! Peter’s moment of lantern consciousness helped bring people to faith and change the religious leaders’ minds about teaching and baptizing outsiders. If Peter had rejected that experience and stuck to a spotlight consciousness, this shift in thinking would have never happened. But he leaned into experiencing something outside of his narrow view, and the world was changed forever.
How to Cultivate a Lantern Consciousness
We are only able to see different ways of being and doing when we open ourselves up to other experiences outside of our normal view.
We obviously can’t function in a lantern consciousness all the time– we’d never get anything done! But having these moments of expanding our awareness can help us to change our mindsets and simplify our lives.
Here are a few ways we can cultivate moments of lantern consciousness and focus on what’s most important:
- Spend time in prayer. Be open to any new things God may be showing you.
- Experience awe and wonder.
- Go to new places, do different things.
- Talk with people who have different views on the world than you do.
When you feel yourself being too narrow with a thought or action, become aware of everything else around you. Notice what you experience with your senses. Let what’s around you inform your current thought process.
Cultivate gratitude in daily experiences. Enjoy the little things in life. Slow down.
When we have moments of lantern consciousness, we can better become adept at shifting our consumer culture mindset and living a simple life. How is God inviting you to intentionally experience the world around you and change your current mindset?
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Jill BeverlinAugust 8, 2022 - 8:39 am
Very helpful article. Becca. Thank you for this perspective and exercises to help us live into this awareness!!!