Consciousness is the ability to experience reality, to be aware of our inner and outer worlds. It allows us to adapt to our environment and act to promote our lives. All living beings possess consciousness, but human beings have a unique kind. Unlike plants and other animals, we can think and act beyond instinctual drives and conditioning. We can be autonomous (from the Greek, “self-governing”). While this autonomy is a possibility, it is not a given. We must develop it through conscious choices.
To be conscious means to be awake, mindful. To live consciously means to be open to perceiving the world around us, to understand our circumstances, and to decide how to respond to them in ways that honor our needs, values, and goals. To be unconscious is to be asleep, mindless. To live unconsciously means to be driven by instincts and habitual patterns.