People are mystified by the need for sleep. Why do we turn ourselves off for eight hours out of twenty-four? Some likely answers are to restore the body and mind, and to keep us out of trouble during the dark hours. But to call sleep a mystery begs an even larger question? What does it mean to be awake? A basic definition of being awake is to be aware. Aware of what? When we speak of sleep and, we are referring to awareness of the outside world. Yet while asleep and unaware for the most part of the outside world, one can still be aware(and thus "awake") in a world within the mind.
There are degrees of wakefulness . Lucid dreamers are more aware of their real situation-they know they are dreaming; thus we can say they are "awake" in their dreams." Exponents of traditional methods for achieving higher consciousness speak of "awakening," meaning increasing one's awareness of one's place in the cosmos. But how does anyone or anything come to be "aware". Awareness in biological organism is a function of the brain. The sensory organs detect information (light, sound, heat, texture, odours) in the world and transmit it to the brain. The brain intercepts the information and synthesizes it into a conception of what is happening in the outside world.
The brains with which we experience our world, whether dreaming or awake, are the product of biological evolution. During the past thousands of millions of years, living organism have completed in Mother Nature's life and-death game of "Eat or be Eaten": Survival of the fittest." The simplest one-celled organisms don't know until they bump into something whether it is a predator or prey. If it is food, they engulf it. if it is a predator, they are eaten. This is obviously a dangerously ignorant way to try to stay alive.
Since knowing what is going around you obviously has enormous survival value, creatures, gradually evolved sense organs that allowed them to predict whether they should approach or avoid something in their environment without having to bump into it. Over billions of generations, organisms developed increasingly sophisticated nervous systems and correspondingly reliable and precise capacities for perceiving the environment and controlling their actions.
Our brain maintains an up-date model of what's going on in the world and predicts what may happen in the future. Prediction requires using previously acquired information to go beyond the information currently available.
If you are a frog and a small dark object flies by, information built into your frog brain through evolution allows it to predict that the object is edible and -zip! you have eaten a fly. Or if a large shadow suddenly falls on your lily pad, information () also acquired through evolution) allows your frog brain to predict danger, and -plop! Frogs do not see the same world as we do-the complex patterns of colour, light, shade, and movement that we can identify as trees, flowers, birds, or ripples in water.
The frog's world is probably composed of simple elements like "small flying object" (food), " large approaching object" (danger) (frog of other sex). Although the human brain is far more complex than that of the frog, it works on the same basic principles. Your brain accomplishes its world-modeling task so well that you ordinarily aren't aware that it is modeling anything.
You look with your eyes, and you see. The experience of visual perception seems as straightforward as looking out the window and simply seeing what is there. Nonetheless, seeing, hearing, feeling, or perceiving through any other sense is a process of mental modeling, a simulation of reality. The contents of your consciousness, that is, your current experiences, are constructed and depend on your present purposes, what your are doing and what relevant information is currently available.
Reference: Exploring the World Of Lucid Dreaming : Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D & Howard Rheingold
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