Many people spend their entire lives trying to understand and answer the question “What is consciousness” and it is actually more complex it first appears. Consciousness is something we all experience yet it is something we are still really unsure about what it is. What makes it hard to explain is that Consciousness isn’t something we can point to or hold in our hand. It’s not something we’ve been able to calculate. And we’ve yet to find a rigorous method of measuring it. What we do know that it’s to do with different brain regions networked together rather than a single part of the brain. In this article, we will try our best to explain What is consciousness?
What Is Consciousness?
At a lower level, the best way that Consciousness can be explained is that it refers to your individual awareness of your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and environments. Essentially, your consciousness is the awareness of yourself, your surroundings, and your own perception. If you can describe something you are experiencing in words, then it is part of your consciousness. At a high-level consciousness can be described as more fundamental than, and precedes, higher-level mental activity such as thoughts and emotions. These thought and emotions are subjective and unique to you. Consciousness is very different from other biological functions and is like some sort of nonmaterial essence within our heads. Thoughts and feelings seem more ethereal and untethered from anything physical.
Levels of Awareness
We experience different states of consciousness and different levels of awareness on a regular basis. We might even describe consciousness as a continuum that ranges from full awareness to deep sleep.
Although you may not feel as if you are aware of every single detail of what is happening around you, even in a state of consciousness where you have a low level of awareness, your brain is still capable of processing the signals it receives Think about the way a person who is asleep in bed may instinctively grab a blanket when they feel cold. Although they are not actively thinking about being cold because of their current state of consciousness during sleep, their brain received a signal that their body feels cold.
A person who experiences a high level of awareness tends to be more in control of their thoughts. The ability to pay attention to detail and analyze the activity around you comes with heightened awareness, but this can typically only be achieved during certain states of consciousness.
The practise of mindfulness is one example of how heightened awareness of a person’s thoughts can be achieved by focusing on the present moment. Meditation is often used to reach this type of awareness because the practice can help individuals achieve an altered state of consciousness which allows for better access and control of one’s thoughts.
How can a purely physical thing feel like something? Surely consciousness is some kind of otherness? Perhaps consciousness is an as-yet-undiscovered fundamental property of the universe, pervading the universe like electromagnetic radiation? Trying to understand and speculate on the nature of consciousness without a fairly deep understanding of biology and neuroscience is a futile undertaking. For the moment, the best we can do to explain What is consciousness is like most definitions, is that consciousness simply involves some level of awareness or subjective experience with the world around us. But we all know there is more to it than this.