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What is to have a Consciousness?

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

What is consciousness? Is it merely us being awake? Is it us being aware of our own existence in the world? Is it the feelings we get inside like butterflies in our stomachs when we feel nervous? Is there more to consciousness than just us? Are we somehow interconnected with all living things as one organism through this notion of consciousness? Do non living things have a consciousness and if so what does that look like? Is consciousness a metaphysical entity that’s the basis for our souls? Can artificial intelligence eventually attain consciousness if it evolved as a human being?

The Buddhists believe that consciousness has 4 layers--mind, sense, store, and manas-- which flows continuously. Mind consciousness is what we are aware of like the thoughts that we have, It allows us to make conscious decisions. The sense consciousness comes from our five senses: touch, smell, hearing, taste, and sight. The store consciousness is the deepest level of consciousness, this is where information is stored from our past experiences, our ancestral DNA experience, and all information received from all other consciousnesses. Store consciousness is more like our subconscious such as when our body responds automatically to external stimuli like sleeping in a cold room and we automatically pull our blanket over without giving any much thought, it’s our automatic responses to the environment. Manas is that belief that there is a self.

We know in neuroscience that our minds are divided by conscious thought --what we are aware of-- and by our subconscious-- thoughts that we are not aware of -- some believe that the subconscious drives the conscious and it is the foundation of where consciousness comes from. The subconscious is the submerged part of the iceberg, and what we are aware of is just a tiny portion of the iceberg that’s above the water.

I’ve always wondered if we can tap into the subconscious in a conscious way, such as through meditation. I sometimes wonder what would happen if a person meditated for an extremely long time? Is it true what some Yogi’s claim that they lose complete sense of time when meditating--a 30 minute session turns into hours or even days-- I’ve felt a loss of some time during meditation, but never in the extremes of hours or days, mine were merely in minutes. My goal is to try to enter very deep meditative states, and that may be the key to unlocking something deep within ourselves. Our brain is so powerful that it consumes 20 percent of our allotted energy, it must be capable of more than what we give it credit for. I think the key to mastering one's brain power is through meditation.

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