I am a Healer, Psychologist, educator and Sound Therapist with an avid interest in consciousness and transpersonal experiences. Oh and did I mention Astrology?
Research suggests there are many layers to 'consciousness' including awareness, sub - , un - , supra - , super - to name the most commonly attributed. So many compartments each with it's own often hidden agenda, not necessarily working in tandem. Confused - oh you will be, it's the nature of the mind. At least if you believe the mind is purely an epiphenomenon of the firing of neurons! I am very much of the mind that our brains are antenna to other realms of consciousness and our personality is just a filter which, by means of allegedly directed conscious awareness, believes it is in 'control'. I just love the irony of the cosmic joke!!!
'Awareness' tends to be used as a term to describe where we are focusing our attention. Since we have limited scope/capacity for awareness it jumps from one thing to another in quick succession or becomes fixated on one particular thing for a slightly longer period of time. We can train our awareness e.g. through meditation or sports psychology, and thus adjust to a more stable, in the flow, 'controlled' mode of thought. A perceived ability to direct our awareness gives us the sensation of control and of conscious awareness. Consciousness is the 'knowing' that we are aware i.e being aware that we are aware - a dual edged sword in that it creates a sense of will and choice yet at the same time a dilemma as to how to direct that 'power'. The underlying 'truth' however is that we are making it all up as we go along. Our perception, due to biological limitations, is skewed in a certain way (neural wiring as well as e.g. mechanics and composition of the eyes/ears etc.). Most of what we perceive is really pattern recognition based on past experience (schemas) and slotting present stimuli into past experiences in order to make 'sense' of it all. This jumble of past and present is further reflected in the fact that stimuli take time to be perceived, processed, consciously assimilated and then 'understood' - our present is therefore already our past and an imprecise composite at that.
Compounding the problem or complexity are the multiple layers of consciousness. The sub-conscious and unconscious regulate our physical bodies e.g. breathing, heart-beat etc. and thankfully so. We do not appear to have enough capacity in our brain function and thus in the scope of awareness to carry out all these functions it would seem. There are ostensibly more important jobs to be done, thoughts to be thought and issues to be created and resolved if we are to give meaning to our lives - though what could be more important than breathing is questionable if we are to have any life at all. Meaning and purpose are however also driven by the unconscious and sub conscious. Below the surface of awareness these programmes are running amok and like broken records, play over and over, manifesting the same age old reactions to apparently new situations triggered by 'lost' or buried memories. All however is not lost. Memory is a storage house which has to be brought to conscious awareness to be understood and like our responses needs to be directed and made sense of. Each time a memory is brought to the level of conscious awareness however, it's composition changes, altered by present circumstances and requirements, tailored to serve a particular purpose. What also tends to be forgotten is that memory is not just a function of the brain but of every cell in the body, each of which not only contains the 'memory' of our ancestors in the form of our DNA but also each and every event of our lifetime/s. In this respect our conscious awareness is totally overwhelmed and can barely conceive of such a possibility since it is impossible to process such vast quantities of information on a conscious level at any one time. It is often through utilising non-linear right brain attributes such as art, poetry, music and dream processing that these more mysterious and ineffable understandings may be reached.
Of course words do not describe the ineffable. In trying to explain through words we are attempting to describe right brain material which does not fit the left brain' logical', linear and thus time centred modalities, including language! However, the sooner we understand the bridging purposes of the corpus callosum the sooner we may 'logically' accept our beliefs (and they are only beliefs based on our present level of conscious awareness) that, whilst the two hemispheres both reflect and create duality, they are intrinsically complementary and not dualistic in function - it's a spectrum not a polarisation. Both rather than and/or function would serve us well. Unfortunately western education has honoured left brain activities leaving us impoverished and creatively and spiritually stymied. It could be argued this is the yin/yang and divine masculine-feminine coming into play through segments of the brain. It's no wonder we have trouble uniting themes when our belief about how our brains (and thus alleged thought processes) are so compartmentalised. That however is changing with growing research and acceptance of brain plasticity. Whilst science grapples only with the material however we are still limited to biology as the 'cause' for thought - despite the fact that there is no biological explanation for how thought can come about from a bundle of neurons massed into a brain that sits in our skull.
An additional thought... if our brains are only thought processors then they are indeed limited and incapable of serving anything other than a purely human agenda. On the other hand if our brains are in fact sophisticated antenna to super - and supra - levels of consciousness then there is a great deal of hope, not only for personal adaptability and understandings but also for the survival and advancement of humankind. More of this another time...