Have you ever wondered about higher states of consciousness? What they are, and how some people reach them? Do you ever wonder if you could reach a higher state of consciousness yourself? And if you could, what would that look like?
Many people have different notions or ideas about what it means to achieve states of higher consciousness.
Some imagine yogis living high in the mountains, devoting their lives exclusively to the pursuit of higher consciousness.
Others imagine it as a spiritual practice that leads to a sudden and complete awakening, or so-called enlightenment.
And of course some people think it’s simply impossible to break free from “normal consciousness” and reach elevated states of awareness.
The spectrum of beliefs is wide, and there’s room for everyone’s beliefs.
This article discusses ways in which it’s possible for you to reach higher consciousness without using complicated theories or practices. So, if you’ve ever wanted to achieve higher levels of consciousness, continue reading. You’ll discover what high consciousness is (and is not), and how you can work towards achieving it through various popular practices of meditation.
What Is Awareness and What Is Consciousness?
Let’s start with the basics.
First, let’s consider awareness – what it is, and what it is not.
Essentially, awareness is a perceptual state of realization or knowledge.
For example, one is aware of the time of day. Clues could include the appearance of the sky, the sound of the environment, or even simply consulting a clock. So, one perceives the time of day through some means and is therefore made aware of it.
One is also aware of things like thoughts and feelings.
Even deeper, one is aware of certain facts. If you are asked, “What’s your address?” you don’t have to consult Google. You just know your address. You are aware of it.
More complicated is intuitive awareness. This is when people say that they “just know” something. This is the kind of awareness that is difficult to prove or disprove, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Your sister calls you out of the blue because she has “a feeling” that you’re struggling with something – just when you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend. You go into work one day and “get the feeling” that your boss is unhappy with your performance. You’re all set to leave for a party when you suddenly just don’t feel like it.
How this kind of awareness works is up for debate – it may be that you’re reading subtle clues without consciously realizing it, or it could be that humans do indeed have some kind of Spidey Sense that is as effective as it is inexplicable. Regardless, the point is that you can be aware of things without understanding how you are aware of them.
There is nothing intrinsically magical about awareness. Until, of course, it encounters magic. But that’s another article for another day.
So now, let’s look at consciousness.
Scientifically, consciousness refers to either a state of awareness of self (or something within oneself, such as a thought) or to the higher levels of mental activity that we can somewhat control. These include things we say, physical actions we manifest, etc., as opposed to involuntary and unconscious brain activity (heartbeat, respiratory system, etc). It’s the stuff we’re aware is happening.
Spiritually, consciousness usually refers to a state of awareness of self as the observer of self, capable of witnessing one’s own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. And ultimately seeing the self through a lens of expansive mind.
These two different views are complimentary, with the chief difference being how one considers the “observer” to exist. That is, while a scientific perspective might regard the observer as simply a person having thoughts (which include feelings), a spiritual perspective might regard the observer as the soul or the spirit witnessing the behaviors of the body.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to split the difference. That is, let’s say that basic consciousness is the awake human mind aware of its own existence (and possibly examining its existence). This doesn’t negate the spiritual aspects of consciousness. In fact, it allows for the many open questions that spiritual meditators typically bring to their practice. Questions of “who am I, and what am I?” are at the core of spiritual awakening. But these are also the questions that scientists end up asking in the pursuit of understanding what the human mind actually is and what it’s actually doing. It’s just that scientists and spiritual seekers are frequently, though not always, looking for answers in different places.
So, for now, let’s consider consciousness as the awareness of self-awareness. It’s the string of moments in which we become observers of our own thoughts, feelings, actions, and surroundings.
This might sound simple, but let’s unpack how wonderfully complicated it can become.
The Seven Levels of Consciousness
Let’s examine what are often considered to be the so-called Seven Levels of Consciousness. As you’ll see, there is an evolution of wakefulness that seems to happen with higher forms of consciousness as compared to lower forms. Viewed this way, we’ll see that consciousness is considered as rising from dim awareness and relative unknowingness, to increased illumination of awareness and knowledge. In other words, it rises from darkness to light, from obliviousness to enlightenment.
Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
1. Unconscious State (Deep Sleep)
This state of consciousness deals with your most primitive behaviors as well as your ego. While in this state, your body is at rest. The mind experiences an almost complete lack of awareness of what is happening in the physical or waking world. It is a mental state that prevents interactive access to memories and experiences. Emotions and thoughts that occur during this state are typically repressed.
In this state, negative and positive habits and behaviors exist without your awareness. This level of consciousness deals with your primitive behaviors and your ego. It forms a significant portion of what we regard as human consciousness, but without the filters of conscious awareness and behavioral choice.
2. Waking Consciousness
Waking consciousness is the natural state of waking up and being conscious of yourself and your environment. During this state of consciousness, you interact with your thoughts, emotions, and environment. It’s the you that you typically show the world.
3. Subconscious State (Dream State)
This is the information that is acquired through dreams. It is only recognized in bits, and most times happens only when you don’t expect it. It is the level of mind where you store information until it is needed. A popular exception to this is lucid dreaming. This is a practice of bringing waking consciousness into the dream state of consciousness.
4. Transcendental Consciousness
This is an elevated form of consciousness in which the mind (thoughts and feelings) becomes hyper-focused on one thing only.
Of course, the mind is slippery, and so the practice begins with watching the mind trip and stumble over an onslaught of mental distractions. But over time, with practice, the mind begins to becalm like waves in the ocean, until finally all that remains is the water itself.
This peaceful state of consciousness helps you silence the demands of your environment and the diversions of the chatty mind. What’s cool about transcendental consciousness is that while you experience the “normal consciousness” of the waking state mentioned above, the degree of focus elevates your awareness to a higher perspective of that state. You are as fully conscious as you are during waking consciousness. It’s being in the world, but not of the world, in the most fundamental way.
Transcendental consciousness is a powerful tool in the search for enlightenment and awakening. By silencing the noise inside and outside your body, you can begin to connect with even higher forms of consciousness.
5. Cosmic Consciousness
This is a state of awareness in which the self (often written as “self”) becomes supplicant to the higher self (“Self”). This is not a small thing.
Human consciousness is very attached to its normal perception and way of being. Breaking free of this limited “normal” and entering a broader and higher cosmic normalcy takes practice.
While it doesn’t happen overnight, many people do experience their first intense sensation of cosmic consciousness in what can be described as a flash. This can be a sudden awareness of having stepped outside the constraints of egoic awareness, and into a higher awareness of the self, the higher Self and the cosmic realities of existence. But then, the light seems to dim just as quickly as it opened, and we return to normal awareness and the cares of the day.
Practice is essential to make it up this particular “rung” of the consciousness ladder. This first step in not just identifying but truly releasing egoic perception requires sincere self-compassion and practice. You feel yourself move up, and then slip down. Up, then down. Over time the flashes of non-egoic reality stay in focus longer, until eventually they become fluid and easy.
Your previous cares, needs, fears and problems fall into perspective as you begin to experience ascended consciousness as the norm rather than the exception.
6. God Consciousness
This is a difficult form of consciousness to explain. It is beyond cosmic consciousness in the way that the petals of a flower are beyond its stem. It’s a higher expression of the flower, if you will. Same flower, just more brilliance of expression. More fruition.
When you reach this level of awakening, you experience life in a state of bliss that is based on no particular thing or event. You feel the connections between everything around you, including the connections between your lower and higher self and all other things.
Achieving this state of consciousness, you may describe yourself as having a heart that is full and open. With mastery over your ego, you see people as pure radiance of love, your self included. Rather than seeing differences, you see people as having energy flowing through them in different forms.
In a state of god consciousness, you view life through a lens of love and joy because bliss is the natural reaction to this perception of all-encompassing connection.
7. Unity Consciousness
This state of consciousness is neither easy nor difficult to achieve, but it takes absolute commitment to achieve it. Once achieved, however, it is said to be eternal.
Most commonly associated with a full awakening or enlightenment, it can be described as never-beginning and never-ending because it is constantly unfolding. You realize that you have always been this awareness and you always will be this awareness.
But the great signifier of this state of consciousness is that, as the connections you perceive in god consciousness come into greater focus, their true nature is revealed. You perceive that they are not connections after all but a large and bright wholeness. A oneness of reality. There is no me and you. This thing and this other thing.
And come to see that the lens of love and joy you became aware of in god consciousness is actually you. You are the lens and the love and joy. There is no difference between you and not-you. All distinctions between things are easily seen as egoic expressions of self.
The true meaning of “all is one” is revealed in unity consciousness: all things are the expression of all things. There are no differences, there is only oneness.
How to Make Elevated Consciousness Last
So, why doesn’t it always “stick” after we experience those first precious flashes of higher consciousness?
Human attachment to ego is strong. So strong that we experience discomfort and even genuine fear at losing it. Even when we actively want and seek out transcending beyond this limited perception. This is due to the way the conscious and unconscious minds work.
The conscious mind is the decider. It’s the part of ourselves that seeks change and progress.
The unconscious mind, however, is the opposite. It’s the gatekeeper of safety and the enforcer of the status quo.
So, while the conscious mind can be on a committed quest to achieve higher consciousness, the unconscious mind can easily view achievement of higher consciousness as a kind of death. If we no longer experience the ordinary world in the ordinary way, we are indeed changed into another kind of living. The unconscious mind will fight that in its quest to maintain safety and the status quo of “self”. This can manifest in a variety of negative thoughts and feelings that impede progress.
This is the “ceiling” that many advanced meditators hit in their journey towards higher consciousness. Even though they have a conscious desire to move beyond ordinary awareness, the unconscious mind is so strongly attached to that familiar awareness that it manifests thought and feelings of boredom, so-called laziness, to outright anxiety and fear. It will erect any roadblock possible to prevent the loss of the egoic self.
However, once we achieve even a glimmer of cosmic consciousness, the unconscious mind presents less and less resistance. This is due primarily to familiarity – the unconscious mind has experienced self as being able to view itself in a different way – and the comfortability that unconsciousness human awareness has with practice and repetition. Once the unconscious mind gets on board with the conscious mind’s desire to achieve higher states of awareness, it becomes an ally in that quest rather than an enemy combatant.
As we increasingly release attachment to awareness of egoic perception, and gain awareness of and comfortability with not-ego”, the disconnect between normal human consciousness and elevated cosmic consciousness diminishes steadily. This allows us to release attachment to constructs of personality and identity preferences, as well as attachment to larger constructs of time and space…the fabric of what we experience as reality.
As a result, you experience greater perception of connection to the universe and how you are a part of it.
How Meditation Can Connect You With Higher Forms of Consciousness
Mediation can be used to connect you to higher forms of consciousness. It can be done in many different ways and many forms of practice.
Here are a few meditation practices you can use:
- Mindfulness – centers on being an intentionally passive observer of your thoughts as they drift in and out
- Spiritual – silencing your egoic self through prayer to seek spiritual awakening and a greater connection to the Divine consciousness of creation
- Focus – using your five senses to focus on one singular thing
- Movement – using quiet practice with movements such as tai chi, qigong, walking, etc
- Mantra – repeating sounds, such as “om” or “sat nam”, to help clear your mind of chatty thoughts
- Transcendental – a more specific form of mantra meditation with scientifically researched effects
- Guided imagery – with a teacher or by yourself, focusing on mental images to stimulate certain thoughts or feelings
- Visualization – practicing the ability to perceive energetic realities of existence
In all forms of meditation, you are fundamentally seeking to relax and let go of thoughts and feelings that do not serve you in order to become more present. Through repeated practice, higher consciousness can be nurtured and developed.
With greater presence and enlightenment, you can progress up the levels of consciousness. As you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, ego, and response to stimuli, you can find the presence of heart and mind to let go of attachment to these things.
How “far up the ladder” you go really isn’t the point. The point is to live life open to higher awareness of what life is.
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