A friend shared some perspectives in an email:
I have become increasingly fascinated with 'mental energy'. I almost feel like I am holding it, examining it from all sides, turning it this way and that, and just incredibly curious. I have lots of fun making up theories about the history of mental energy on this planet, its role and some possible ways for non-self conscious awareness and mental energy to co-exist. Life seems to really be engaged with pushing mind and mental energy to the limit.
And I also enjoyed watching and listening to your Buddha at the Gas Pump interview. I have listened a couple of times to parts of it and feel quite alien to the idea that decadence and indulgence as you all were discussing it is anything to avoid. My resonance is definitely not in that direction anymore but it seems to me that it would be just one of the additional experiences of consciousness. Nothing more nothing less. Even your eating of sweets and feeling bad seems to be just another experience. A particular kind of experience. with lots of discomfort and self-recrimination. But at the bottom of it just another experience.
I replied as follows:
I read a definition of consciousness that contrasted it to pure awareness. It was suggested that consciousness is awareness combined with the capacity for conceptual thought. Pure awareness by itself has no concepts, but Being wanted to experience "mental energies" so it developed this further capacity to think about and reflect on its experience. And so Being created consciousness, or conscious experience. It is not better or worse than pure awareness, just different. It seems that this capacity for mental reflection adds a new dimension to experience, along with the capacity for a kind of dynamic push and pull between reality and consciousness. At its extreme this interaction between the mind and reality creates our suffering, but it also is the source of a new kind of creativity. Playing with mental energies is like playing with fire; it can be beautiful, creative and inspiring and then sometimes you get burned a little :)
And I hear you that indulgence and decadence are ultimately just different experiences. Consciousness cannot be harmed, so it is willing to try anything and everything! And there is a natural wisdom and discrimination that can develop also. William Blake once said, "The path of excess leads to the palace of Wisdom." This suggests there is a place of Wisdom where the whole truth of excess and indulgence is seen, and a different choice can be made, not from a place of recrimination or judgment, but simply from a place of choosing something different. When I stopped indulging in sweets it was not from a place of feeling bad about myself or even about sweets. It was simply a seeing of the whole truth of how sugary foods felt and making a choice to feel differently. There was no struggle or sense of denial to it, and I still occasionally make the choice to indulge, just much less than before when there seemed to be no choice. If I saw a cookie, I ate it! Now I look at a cookie and I can both imagine how it will feel in my mouth and how my body will feel in half an hour. When I include the whole truth of the cookie, it is rarely worth the fleeting pleasure it gives. However, if a dear friend has baked me a batch of cookies just for me, then the whole truth will probably mean eating a few with a sense of joy and gratitude. But most of the time, I feel a sense of joy and gratitude for being able to not eat a cookie!