What is Consciousness: Consciousness vs. Awareness
Defining consciousness is like explaining what shape water is.
Read 10 articles on google and you’ll get 10 different answers ( I've read them all).
We all know that humans are conscious, but are dogs conscious ? Are trees conscious ?
Are dolphins conscious ? How about fungi mushrooms ?
Are there different levels to consciousness?
Is a 6th grade student more conscious than a PDH graduate? or a buddhist monk ?
There are so many questions when it comes to consciousness.
It seems that consciousness is just one of those things that we all know what it is, but can't describe.
What is Consciousness ?
Consciousness is defined as “the state of being aware”
While awareness is defined as “the state of understanding that something is happening”.
Same thing right ?
One is a measurement of the other
Awareness is a measurement of consciousness.
The difference between the meaning of Awareness and the meaning of Consciousness are debated but in most contexts, both terms refer to the same thing, a state of being.
To be conscious is to think and act.
To be self-aware is the level in which you realize that you are thinking and acting.
And also your level and ability to analyze those thoughts and actions.
How conscious, aware, and self-aware do you think you are?
How Do You Describe Consciousness?
According to the team of physicians and psychologists at Very-Well-Mind,
“Consciousness [can be described as] your individual awareness and ability to act on your unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and environments.”
But what about when you dream? Would you describe that as being conscious?
How about if your in a coma? Or drunk? Or High?
Would you describe those states as different 'levels of consciousness'?
Experts believe that there’s actually different states of consciousness, different types of consciousness and different levels of consciousness.
What Are The Different States of Consciousness ?
We are all constantly cycling through different states of consciousness day in and day out.
Changes to your state of consciousness results in changes in perception, thinking, understanding, and interpretations of the world.
8 Typical States of Consciousness:
- Lucid (awake)
- States induced by psychoactive drugs
What Are The Different Types of Consciousness ?
The late and esteemed, Dr. David Armstrong published a study in the National Library of Medicine, and the study found that there are…3 Types of Consciousness
- 'Minimal' consciousness - Very basic general awareness and ability to act and react.
- 'Perceptual' consciousness - Awareness of and recognition of self and others, emotional awareness.
It’s possible in many cases for ‘minimal’ and ‘perceptual’ consciousness to be present, but 'introspective' consciousness could still be lacking.
- Introspective consciousness - A perception-like awareness of your own current mental state and activities.
Without introspective consciousness awareness of yourself and the past history of yourself are lacking.
What Are The Different Levels of Consciousness ?
According to the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology…,
A person's state of consciousness is interconnected with their level of awareness.
For example, if someone is drunk or drowsy state, generally they’ll experience a lowered level of awareness.
On the flip side, if you drink a stimulant like coffee, generally speaking, you’ll typically experience a heightened level of awareness.
o Lower Level “Contracted” Awareness
Although you may not feel aware of every little detail of life happening around you, even in a state of consciousness where you have a 'low level' of self-awareness, your brain is still processing the signals it receives
(even if you’re not consciously aware of it)
A good example is someone who is dead asleep and instinctively grabs a blanket when they feel cold.
Although they are not actively conscious and thinking about being cold, their brain is still self-aware to a lower level degree.
At least enough for the brain to receive a signal that their body feels cold.
o Higher Level “Expanded” Awareness
A person who experiences a high level of awareness tends to be in greater control of their thoughts.
The ability to be consciously aware to high level details and analyze the activity around you comes with a heightened awareness.
Usually this can only be achieved with practice during certain states of consciousness.
Practicing mindfulness is one example of how someone may reach a heightened awareness of their thoughts.
Mindfulness is achieved by focusing on the present moment with out any distracting thoughts. This is easier said than done. If you don't believe me, try sitting still for 20 minutes without being distracted.
Those who do this best practice mindfulness daily.
Meditation is also used to reached this type of ‘higher level’ awareness. Practicing meditation can help you achieve an altered state of consciousness which allows for better access and control of one's thoughts.
How Can You Measure Your Level of Awareness ?
No matter what your current level of awareness is, you can always reach higher levels.
Also, you can always become stagnant or blinded by ego and fall back to lower levels.
Since, defining exactly what consciousness is can’t be 100% agreed on, measuring levels consciousness is quite difficult as well.
Much like with a beautiful blended sunset, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where one color ends and another starts.
Same with levels of consciousness.
Having said that, Dr. David Hawkins dedicated his life and career to trying to solve this exact problem of measuring consciousness.
Dr Hawkins performed over 250,000 experiments over his career and as a result developed the widely praised “Hawkins Scale”. (see above)
This Hawkins scale is not an exact science, but it helps link emotions to levels of consciousness.
For example, Love is a ‘higher level’ emotion and jealousy (or anger) are ‘lower level’ emotions.
Lots of these emotions are sub-conscious and may be controlling or blocking your level of awareness with-out you even knowing.
There are many tools to help raise your emotional awareness. Most popular are yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and psychoactive substances like psilocybin.
What’s the Difference Between Awareness vs Self-Awareness ?
Can you be aware with-out being self aware ?
or visa versa ?
After researching consciousness I found that many experts seem to be confusing awareness with self-awareness when defining what consciousness means.
You can be hyper aware of your surroundings, but still unaware of your internal ego and your effect on other people.
General awareness is defined as being alert and conscious of your environment and fully understanding what is happening all around you.
Expanded ‘higher level’ awareness is the idea of being observant and allowing your eyes to pay attention.
The more aware you become, the more capable you become in understanding new environments quickly.
Self-Awareness is defined as your ability to, not only be conscious of your environment, but also conscious of your purpose and effect on others within your environment.
When you’re more self-aware, you become more capable of effecting your environment.
Awareness = Understanding your environment
Self-Awareness = Understanding your environment, your purpose with-in it, and your effect on it
Does Your Ego Block Self-Awareness ?
Both new age psychology, lead by the legendary Dr. Freud, and the ancient way of life, Buiddhism agree that the human ego is necessary, but often is the cause of unhappiness due to blocked self-awareness.
If we want a more satisfying existence, we have to teach our ego to loosen its grip.
It doesn’t help that our western culture (especially pop culture) is all about EGO.
Our western culture is centered more on 'how can I have more' instead of 'how can I give more'.
Hollywood stars driving Lambos to fundraisers – Rappers literally throwing money away on jewelry – Kardashina’s promoting the environment while flying on their private jet.
All examples of Ego blocking self-awareness.
Our ego’s serve a purpose for survival and ego is necessary for self confidence. But often we’re unaware that our ego is blocking our view of ‘higher level’ self-awareness.
Both Western psychotherapy and Buddhism seek to rebalance the ego by reducing self-centeredness and by encouraging self-reflection.
Consciousness is one of those things that ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Incas, and Buddhists may have had a better grasp on than we do today.
While success in today’s culture is measured by wealth, Instagram followers, and how many Ferrari’s are in your driveway.
In ancient culture, success was measured in achieving the higher level of consciousness.
Defining, measuring, and explaining consciousness, awareness, and self-awareness is one of those things that currently falls between the cracks of our scientific understanding and our philosophical understanding.
As technology, science, physics, and our understanding of our universe and our place in it continues to expand, so will our collective understanding for consciousness.
What we know now is that humans, animals, and plants all meet the current definition of being conscious.
With-in consciousness are different states and different levels.
While plants may be in a constant state of consciousness, humans have the ability to achieve higher levels of consciousness with practice.
Also, humans have the ability to be blinded by ego when it comes to their ability to judging their own level of consciousness.
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