Consciousness, Awareness, and Presence: A Neurobiological Perspective

Author: Vinod D Deshmukh1
1 Department of Neurology, Jacksonville Campus, University of Florida, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
Conference/Journal: Int J Yoga
Date published: 2022 May-Aug
Other: Volume ID: 15 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 144-149 , Special Notes: doi: 10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_77_22. , Word Count: 265

It is proposed that consciousness is different from awareness. Consciousness can be thought of as a dualistic, embodied, and embedded cognitive process, whereas awareness is a nondual and nonlocal process. Nonlocal awareness is the ever-present, ever-fresh, and an affective self-awareness that can be aware of itself as well as of the ongoing subject-object duality, and cognitive conscious contents. This nonlocal awareness is our default mode state. Although very few of us are aware of it due to our habitual mental preoccupation and mind-wandering. We need to relax, learn to meditate, let go of all preoccupations, and return to our default mode state of being, which is peaceful, silent, fulfilling, energetic, and ever-fresh. Then, one feels effortlessly alive and free and at home in the world. This is the essence of meditation for living a happy, peaceful, and meaningful life. The rest of the article provides details of meditative presence, yoga meditation, and mindfulness meditation with their current practice and applications. The main focus of the article is on the neurobiology of meditation, which is discussed in detail. It covers the experientially perceived mind-space including personal, peripersonal, and extrapersonal space, the concepts of mind in the Western and Eastern literature, and the neurobiological foundation in the brain stem, reticular-limbic system, forebrain including the five thalamo-cortical-basal ganglia circuits, multiple sensory modalities, integrated perception, speech production, language communication, voluntary movements, and intentional actions. The wholeness of conscious mind is expressed as bio-psycho-social-abstract/spiritual.

Keywords: Bio-psycho-social-abstract; cognitive consciousness; experiential mind-space; language communication; meditative presence; mindfulness meditation; nonlocal awareness; voluntary movement control; yoga meditation.

PMID: 36329768 PMCID: PMC9623886 DOI: 10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_77_22