What is the best way to understand consciousness? In this recent essay in the online magazine aeon.co, I set out my basic approach - which (with tongue a little bit in cheek) I call 'the real problem'. Instead of focusing on empirically unresolvable metaphysical mysteries, I think the greatest progress can be made by drawing explanatory mappings between properties of brains (and bodies, and worlds), and properties of phenomenology. This is of course not a new idea - it is for example highly redolent of Varela's neurophenomenology - but I try to cast it in a new light. Partly by integrating up-to-the-minute new experimental data, but also by advancing my emerging theory of conscious selfhood: the idea of being a beast machine. This essay was selected as one of seven 2016 Editor's Picks.