Mediation: Conscious or Not?
A true, in depth understanding about what human consciousness is and how it works has eluded mind and brain scientists for many years. A few very interesting ideas have been presented by Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus and director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Consciousness Studies. Consciousness rests in the center of many brain-mind discussions. In it’s most basic form, consciousness is simply awareness – think meditation experience. Something changes in the dynamics of energy, and we become aware of it. The brain’s one-hundred billion neurons have much to do with this process of becoming aware. In their complex electrical-chemical processes, patterns, and interactions our brain’s neurons produce something experienced as aware consciousness. We are always conscious about something going on inside and/or outside of us. Thus, consciousness can be a double-edged sword – keeping us fully attuned to what the universe (small and large) is doing, but also maintaining a steady-state of mind-noise – endless flow of thoughts that may be either comforting or terrifying. Consciousness, itself, may be one reason why the human brain has so much difficulty relaxing itself. Let’s begin to review a few of Hameroff’s ideas.
1) Quantum processes in the human brain connect our brains to the quantum processes of the universe. We may be connected to others and everything in more ways than we could ever imagine.
2) Human consciousness may be as complicated as quantum superposition – that in the field of physics allows something to be in two states or places at the same time. This may refers to the particle-wave phenomenon in physics, when an atom/particle and it energetic location (wave of energy) cannot both be measured while being observed. The very act of simultaneous observation by a human brain (or machine made by human brains) becomes impossible. We cannot observe/measure both at once, even though they appear to be existing at the same physical dimension of time and place. So, this is to say that human consciousness is a highly complex phenomenon. Human consciousness may be the single most complex process we experience.
3) Today we know that photosynthesis – the sun-powered process that gives rise to plants and thus everything we eat – uses quantum coherence. What is even more interesting is that a laser also uses quantum coherence. So the very hard sciences dealing with quantum laser technology is also at work making the food we survive on. The raw requirements of consciousness exist everywhere in the universe, and effects almost all the things we know about (are aware of).
4) The mind-body system processes human consciousness within a two-second window of awareness. That is very, very fast. Some neuroscience research conducted by the Antonio Demasio suggested that there may be a process of backward time, in which subjects respond to a signal that has not yet been produced in their time-space experience. How can that happen? Perhaps our connectivity to all the energetics of the universe might explain this.
5) Research by Chrisof Koch at UCLA suggested that brain neuron firing in response to pictures of human faces actually occurred about a half-second prior to the actual perception (awareness) of the face being shown. More backward time perspectives. Or perhaps just a more powerful human brain than we ever imagined.
6) As Deepak Chopra has noted, consciousness is the fabric of all human experience in the universe. This coming together of science/physical and spiritual/classical understandings presents consciousness as something very important to human functions – and possibly our survival in the long term. What Vedic mystics called “locus locations” may also explain the fact that time-space realities may exist on different planes – thus different state of consciousness. The fact that human can perceive only 5-10% of the universe’s energies clarifies just how weak our human perceptual powers are regarding complete or higher consciousness.
7) Back to your meditation practice. Do you think that your meditation practice helps you handle energies better? Does meditation slow down or speed up energetic qualities of your awareness? After years of regular meditation practice, you may finally experience being nowhere and being nothing at the same time. Does this have anything to do with physical selflessnesss and the ultimate reality of Buddhist emptiness. In the final analysis, it is all empty of inherent origination and meaning. Or, is the meditation doing something very special to the brain’s consciousness processes? In such a state, bliss in the great void of existence may be possible. Keep meditating!
CONSCIOUSNESS – A conversation with Deepak Chopra and Stuart Hameroff
For more information refer to Noetic Now #13, August, 2011.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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