Being conscious in the present moment

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ― Anne Frank

I listened to a recent Radio 4 radio programme and in it, they were talking about the lifestyles that we have developed in the 21st century. We are immersed in time-bound activities. Whether at work, in our social circles or even in our personal lives. Whether it is checking Facebook multiple times a day. Posting endless tweets, I think of it as chirping like a bird. Endlessly checking e:mails. Running from one meeting to another without a break in between. Watching TV whilst eating dinner. You get the picture. I am sure if you stopped for a moment, you can add to the list with some of the things that you do.

I love the fact that most people would call themselves, “Human Beings”. We are not. We are in fact “Human Doings” rather than “Human Beings”. We spend all of our lives doing things, rather than being present in the moment, every moment. Even in inside our heads, we ruminate and constantly have thoughts flickering and jumping out. I have no idea who measured it, but someone has come up with the fact that we have on average, between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day.

Mindfulness meditation helps to calm the jumping mind, as well as make you more present and conscious in the present moment. Those fleeting moments, where the mind stills, the thoughts cease and you are at peace are truly magical.

As a questing and inquisitive person, I was wondering what being conscious meant, when I saw an article entitled – A great brief video introduction to consciousness and its myriad mysteries. I have shared the link and the separate article that related to the video at the end of this post.

I loved the tag-line on the video – Here’s what we know, and what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. (The Economist) – and sat and watched it a couple of times. The science of consciousness and what it means to be human is the basis of the video. We might be the only species on the planet that have consciousness, though there is research to say that Bonobos, orang-utans, elephants, dolphins and magpies react in ways that might be interpreted as self-recognition. Gorillas, gibbons, monkeys, dogs and pigeons do not.

Scientists are searching for the neural correlates of consciousness—the bits of the brain responsible for generating conscious experience. In effect where consciousness exits in our brains. The article and video go on to describe one area of the brain that is of particular interest. The claustrum. This is a prime candidate because of its extensive connections with other parts of the brain. A crucial property of consciousness is that it integrates many sorts of experience, both sensory and internally generated. Discovering how this integration happens is known as the binding problem. In 2005, a paper published by Francis Crick and Christof Koch looked at the binding problem. The two researchers lit upon the claustrum as something that might help illuminate it.

The claustra (there are two, one in each cerebral hemisphere—see diagram) are thin sheets of nerve cells tucked below the cerebral cortex that have connections both to and from almost every area of the cortex. They are the only structures that link the various parts of the cortex in this way. More research is underway to try to confirm that this is the centre of our consciousness.

As for me, I will continue to practice being the present moment and try to still my ever “roving claustrum”. 

The video is here:

The article is here:

An article on animal self awareness:

I leave you with the following quote:

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.   Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

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