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I have been studying consciousness since I took a philosophy course in college. I instinctively knew that what I perceived was not necessarily reality.
Going to college in the early 70s was probably another cause of my inquiry, during that time we were questioning everything.
It fascinated me that there were different ways of perceiving the world, and the fact that we could choose which way we perceived it was enlightening.
Consciousness is a term which many people talk right now.
Most vaguely know that having it is a good thing, and being un-conscious may be problematic. Many people go through life with the lowest entry level consciousness wishing things were different and wondering why life is so challenging.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We are human beings and most of us don’t have the focus and discipline it takes to transcend the quirks and daggers completely all of the time. Sometimes we can, if we understand what the different levels of consciousness are.
Knowing what the nature of consciousness is, and how it is structured, is necessary to understand how it works.
The nature of consciousness comes home when our lives do not satisfy our desires. When we are lost, depressed, ashamed or panicked we need a foundation to carry through. I have lost everything important to me which I write about frequently, but by understanding how I perceived my life I was able to turn that around and begin to flourish again.
Here are five levels of consciousness, which I have discovered to help us weather the storm:
Entry Level: Survival. The entry level of consciousness is survival mode.
We spend a lot of time in the past in order to survive the future. For the most part, using it as a tool to remember what not to do again. In fact, we get stuck in the past because we think we need to change it to succeed in the future. If only I hadn’t given all of my money to a cult. If only I had been a better parent. If only I had tried harder. If only I had not quit being a successful lawyer. In entry level consciousness, victim consciousness is strongest, which is the belief that life happens “to” us and we have no control over anything that happens in around us much less in this world. We are consumed with materialism because we believe that will keep us safe. The more we have in our bank accounts, our saving accounts and possessions, hopefully will help us in hard times. We are always wishing life was different or better and we grasp for whatever our desires may be in the moment.
Happiness is often confused with pleasure, i.e. we feel good when we get what we want ( remember the red bicycle you asked Santa for and and we suffer when we don’t. We are controlled by our emotions. We suffer at all times, afraid that we will not get what we want and afraid we will lose what we have. We suffer from anxiety, high blood pressure and illness that are caused by the constant stress we create. We are trained by society and the powers that be to be stuck in this level of consciousness because we are controllable and easily manipulated. We can transcend entry level consciousness through self awareness.
Second Level: Self awareness. In this level of consciousness, we strive to discover who we are and what our purpose is.
When I understood that entry level consciousness was only a trap and was limiting my experience in this life, I began to understand that our place in the world does not depend absolutely on what we possess. When I lost all of my money, I understood that I could create whatever I wanted if I could have faith in myself. I started to examine the effect of my behavior and actions upon others, how I relate to others and the world. I began to be aware of the world and decided life is more than just survival and collection of possessions.
It is at this level we become aware that there is more to life than survival. It is also the level that we begin to suspect that there is a God, or at least for me that there was more to this universe than my limited perspective. Often we connect with a teacher or guide who has a higher level of consciousness to help us transcend the lower levels. We can transition from survival level to self-awareness through the practice of gratitude.
Third Level: Waking Up. The third level of consciousness is the dawning of the awareness that we are not who we think we are.
We are not our thoughts, emotions or beliefs. One of my most comforting realizations was that I can detach from my thoughts, emotions and beliefs and be at peace. Our awareness is not the same thing as our thoughts, memories or beliefs. The social conditioning that we experienced in the survival level begins to fall away and we seek the truth of what is really going on in life. We begin to connect with a larger consciousness that animates us and sustains us (and has all along). We are aware that the lower levels of consciousness are a dream state and we are beginning to wake up. We begin to take control of our mind and emotions, understanding that they will control us if we do not control them.
Probably one of the most important emotion we begin to master is the fear of the future. We begin to focus more and more on the search for connection to the divine, the universal aspects of our being. It is at this level we start to detach from our addictions to pleasure and pain, judgment as well as people, places and things. The need for companionship or a significant other decreases. As I discovered, ironically that is when the person I had been looking for all along shows up. We can transition from self-awareness to detachment through meditation and mantras.
Fourth Level: Letting go of the Self. The fourth level of consciousness is forgetting our self and our selfish wants and desires.
When I reached this level all of my “mistakes” were only experiences and all of the negative emotions I had been suffering from went away. It is our belief in the existence of ourselves as a specific collection of past experiences as a personality, that causes all of our suffering. When we are concerned solely for how we can help others anyway possible, our ego is no longer concerned with the “me, me, me” aspect. We have a deep and total compassion for all beings, we connect with the universal energy of love. We let go of our desires for sex, companionship, material possessions or status. We are only concerned with serving others and raising the consciousness of the planet.
We begin to merge with universal knowledge and consciousness that results in longer periods of bliss and enjoyment of all that is. We spend longer times in meditation and solitude and seek only that connection with the divine that gives us joy. I spend almost every waking moment in meditation. You don’t have to be in a lotus position and have candlelight and soft music to meditate. The best meditation is simply being aware of yourself at all times. At this level we are in a state of “human-Being”, and have dropped the need to “Do” anything. Whatever actions we take are directed by our divine consciousness and intuition and for the good of all. We know and implicitly trust that all of our needs will be met and we have let go of needless and foolish concerns of materialism. We transcend from the level of detachment to selflessness through complete focus on the divine.
Fifth Level: Enlightenment. The highest level of consciousness is enlightenment.
It is difficult to reach this level and to stay at this level for any length of time because it requires long periods of solitude and focused devoted thoughts to your divine self. It is simply a matter of reality that when we are at the highest level of consciousness we are not able to function in what most consider the real world or what some call the third world.
We meditate for long periods of time, surrender the need for interaction with others because we are connected to the divine. Often we don’t eat or sleep, we simply bask in the arms of the divine. This does not work well with a job or relationship. The physical needs of life require our attention to the daily things of life like spouses, ex’s, children, bosses, employees, family and friends. We long to be fully connected to the divine but understand that we have to focus on what we are doing in this life.
I believe that we can be born into any level of consciousness.
It is the grace of the divine that we can raise our consciousness anytime we like. It is also our ability to lower our consciousness at anytime based on our conviction to being a victim of our circumstances.
This is what is known as free will. The choice is ours.
Author: James Robinson
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Photo: martinak15 / Flickr