Surprisingly, only 20% of our brain is conscious. So, what does that mean, 80% of what we do is out of our conscious awareness, we are basically responding to life on autopilot. Our brain’s energy operates on default mode, which keeps the brain engaged in a myriad of thoughts and daydreams at any given time. For this reason, people often cannot say or recall what they have been thinking about when someone asks.
Our brain is constantly bombarded with a multitude of sensory input that consciousness has no chance of actively dealing with. Therefore, the brain continuously monitors every flow of information and only the most important, relevant thoughts are selected and forwarded to the consciousness. Think of your brain as being the “gate keeper” to what enters consciousness.
So, what exactly is consciousness? According to brain scientist, consciousness is being aware of yourself. While the term consciousness has often eluded and still remains a mystery to researchers and scientists, all agree that consciousness is easier to identify than to define. I often refer to consciousness as being aware that you are aware—a deeper level of sensorimotor capacity.
Consciousness has two levels: primary level and secondary level. At the primary level of consciousness is basic awareness—I see and the flowers. At the secondary level of consciousness, there is awareness of awareness—I see, smell, and can feel what the flowers are evoking in me.
Automatic processes are unconscious, bottom-up processing. Direct behavior occurs without much attention. Unlike automatic processes, conscious operations require focused attention, requiring top-down processing. For example, stopping at a red light is a bottom-up processing, requires little thought processing. Whereas, actively searching for street address is top-down processing because it requires more cognitive processing.
When we are able to become consciously uninhibited, our sensorimotor capabilities become expanded. Likewise, creativity and ingenuity become less restricted. According to scientists, latent inhibition limits brain consciousness. Geniuses and extremely intelligent people have low inhibition, which creates more creativity. Mediation and certain brain wave states can facilitate a higher level of consciousness and low inhibition.
Here is a simple technique to exercise your consciousness. For one hour try being fully conscious—at the secondary level. Become aware that you are aware. Whether you are at work, school, grocery store, coffee shop, etc, become aware of your existence—be aware of your surroundings, thoughts feelings, and behaviors. See how it feels to go for one hour without being on automatic pilot. See how much information your brain will become overwhelmed with. Use this opportunity to make conscious decisions instead of perfunctory ones.