A genuine Levels of Consciousness Scale is a great asset to anyone seriously willing to evolve and make their life situation better. As declared previously, the premise of this article series is that: “it’s all about Consciousness”. It is indeed all we have to appreciate what we experience and the main factor creating the experience in the first place!
In part 1 of this article, a scale of Consciousness Levels was presented. This free adaptation/interpretation of Dr David Hawkins’ scale describes six categories or ranges of Levels of Consciousness, organized in three sectors:
Sector A Suffering:
1) Submission (Submissive suffering with little to no hope of betterment)
2) Survival (Reactive Suffering with stress as the core mean of motivation)
Sector B Growth:
3) Repair (Healing, learning and all positive processes start here, it starts with courage and Integrity)
4) Contribution (More flow and positive adaptability, understanding and harmony with natural laws)
Sector C Peace:
5) and 6) Liberation and Illumination (a drastic shift in the sens of Self happens here, beyond linear thinking, real Freedom beyond words and descriptions)
Now let’s see why is all this so relevant and how to practically make use of it. As for any journey, the evolutionary path starts with knowing where we are now. Before being able to make any progress it is indeed necessary to assess one’s current situation. In other words, it starts with being aware of where we stand from a Level of Consciousness point of view in every situation, at any point in time. In that regard, the key elements of each category, given in part 1, can be of great help.
For example, in a challenging situation, we could explore how we feel: is it overwhelming or do we feel powerless, not knowing what to do about it? This would definitely describe a category 1 state of Consciousness: “submissive suffering”. Are we more anxious, stressed, fearsome or angry? This would correspond to a category 2 mindset: “reactive suffering”. Do we genuinely feel like we can manage, despite the actual challenge, beyond the possible fear? It could be a category 3 with genuine courage. We can totally see here why so many coaching and personal development methods insist on the “You can do it!” mantra. Even though most of them might have never heard of the Scale of Consciousness, they are all trying to help ensure that their clients will have the very minimum level of natural, non-forced or faked power. By repeating it, over and over again, they are literally building safeguards and reinforcements in their client’s psyche. This type of positive programing is particularly useful in the lower Levels of Consciousness as the more we raise up the scale, the less programing there is, positive or negative. Another common approach is to just “fake it”! This can actually be helpful to some, providing that it actually helps them get “in the mood” of what they are pretending. If they are just pretending and still “not feeling it”, it may actually backfire and let them with even less self confidence. It can be a tricky play. Once our current position is assessed and if we’d rather feel differently, the key is to check in the upper levels, which is going to give us the frequency we need to make the shift.
Let’s say that we have something to do. We’ve been procrastinating for a while, feeling bad about it and not really knowing how to approach it. There’s a fair chance that we are actually in the first category (submissive suffering). Being blocked, not knowing what to do and feeling bad about it, are quite clear signs. So, to get out of that situation we could use some form of stress: making lists, having deadlines and accountability partners are commonly used for that purpose. Those may be perceived as positive stress as they are helping us to go upward on the scale. The feeling better systematically associated with rising up the scale is due to the simple fact that the higher we are, the more vital energy we spontaneously have at our disposal. Hence the apparent paradox of being more relaxed and yet achieving more. Structure, as it helps focus and channel our energy is a form of stress, a positive and possibly necessary one, to some degree.
Yet, organizing, planning and having to report on our achievements might not do the trick. It just means that we need an even more powerful energy to help us take off from where we find ourselves at the moment. Stress being a category 2 Levels of Consciousness energy, we may have to look for the solution on a higher rung of the ladder. We may have to look up to a category 3) a category 4) or higher type of energy. Let us see how it can look like.
Category 2 type of energy: Again, some commonly used are deadlines, accountability partners but also fear of all sorts of things including the consequences of not doing, scarcity, urgency, … Stress is king. Beyond the positive use of stress, it has been largely used as a manipulation tool. It is the playground of some mass marketing and other “decision making management” method users. They would usually make sure that their targets feel bad about some issue – that is to say that they are at a very low Level of Consciousness (category 1) about the issue – and then use some form of stress to elicit a survival mechanism and so prompt a decision and ideally an immediate action. It is quite interesting to observe how it’s done. Interestingly enough, once we are aware of it, it may be a little more difficult for it to work.
Category 3 type of energy: Clarifying one’s values and aligning their choices and actions with those (Integrity), finding something bigger than oneself to contribute to (it could be as simple as just helping someone), finding and modeling someone we can relate to, who has mastered the resolution of that kind of situation, focusing on what we already are good at and so are certain that “We can do it!”… Focusing on sure wins will foster that vibrational level in us and so will eventually make it easier to tackle even the more challenging tasks. If this doesn’t seem to work either, or before it can work, we may have to go higher!
Category 4 type of energy: Getting to know oneself better, our natural “wiring”, and becoming more familiar with our natural tendencies, strength and weaknesses, gathering information on the task at hand, how it works and what may influence it, getting to know the natural laws at play, “going with the natural flow” of things as they unfold … A perfect image to illustrate that mindset is the Surfer. The surfer doesn’t control the wave, at all. He or she chooses their board, when they get in the water, and then wait for the wave they will want to ride. Once on the wave, their active control is focused on staying balanced while adapting to the currents to get where they want to go. When proficient enough, they can even add some acrobatics and look cool doing it! A perfect allegory for how we can approach a task or a challenge here.
Category 5 and 6 types of energy: Here the leverage can most commonly be activated by exposing oneself to people, situations, circumstances and other sources of stimulation that vibrates at that level. It can take the form of a work of Art, vibrating at high Levels of Consciousness. Some music, paintings and sculptures can really have a profound effect on our psyche. Once lifted up, we may be more opened to inspiration about our own situation and so be in a position to find new resources inside as much as outside of ourselves. It could also be to listen to an inspiring spiritual person or surrounding oneself with selfless truly loving ones. Just spending time in nature could definitely do it too. Being the realm of non linear thinking, it may not always be easy to make a direct connection between the effect of these energies and the actual task at hand. They act on a “bigger picture” and their benefits may far exceed the “resolution” of our current dilemma.
The key here is that there is kind of a “sweet spot” phenomenon. There is an energy level that will really facilitate, for that specific situation, our success and evolution. This “key” to unlock the situation, to initiate progress is not necessarily the only one useful in that situation though. It is indeed very common, once progress has started, to then get into and use different energies coming from different Levels of Consciousness. A mix of stress and integrity might be the first key, for example, in the form of the accountability partner to report to: On one hand having to report means deadlines and so some form of stress (possibly positive) and, on the other hand, following through on a commitment and honoring one’s engagements certainly builds integrity. We could then feel more confident and relaxed to just open up to what our real values are and get great energy and clarity from that. Or we could then be drawn to a new source of information that will give us a new, more efficient way to approach the situation. Or it can be the other way around, new understandings about ourselves or the situation may give us the energy to really start and work with an accountability partner… The critical point here is to be opened, “listening”, to Act on it and course correct whenever necessary.
So this is what this evolution cycle could look like:
1- Assessing our current situation,
2- Looking at higher Levels of Consciousness for something that would feel natural and doable,
3- Act on it,
4- Assess the results, and
5- start over at the beginning of the cycle.
There is no real linearity in the use of the scale. One could go from a category 1 Level of Consciousness to a category 2 or from 1 directly to 4 or 6, there is no set rules. Only the reality of each situation will tell us what to do. On the other hand, if we just try to use the highest energy level or “the one that worked last time”, it may just not work at all and add some discouragement to an already challenging situation.
It is not about what is good or bad. There is absolutely no judgement and what is appropriate is definitely relative. It is about what is going to help us rise up to a better state of Consciousness. It is better to be afraid than to be ashamed, for example, better to be angry than to be afraid, and so on… So, is anger good or bad? Neither. Using whatever vibrates at a higher Level of Consciousness than our current position, that will effectively facilitate our return to more Awareness, more Life, that’s the method. We should just keep in mind that below category 3, the use of these energies will still be depleting our Vital Force. So, if we are to use a stress enhancing energy (for example), we should do it for a period of time as short as possible. We may use whatever’s helpful, yet we want to do it consciously. And always remember that every situation is unique. So, we should always be prepared to adapt with no preconceived ideas. Yet, it could be helpful to have explored different scenarios and possibilities to fall back on if need be. Making our own list of things we can do when challenged and sorting them out to place them on the Scale of Levels of Consciousness could reveal very valuable when the time comes.
By becoming more familiar with the Scale of Consciousness, it will be easier and easier to know where we stand regarding any situation, at any point in time. It is about making it a habit to locate our Level of Consciousness in various activities, listening to music, natural sight seeing, … What is your own Level of Consciousness when hanging out with this friend? Is it always the same? How do we feel when thinking about our dreams, our projects, our family?
Let’s make it very clear. The purpose of this article is not to give the tools to determine other people’s Levels of Consciousness, nor is it to start categorizing situations or objects for that matter. It is a whole different endeavor with a different set of skills to master first. The aim here is to help becoming more aware of our own Levels of Consciousness, be it on our own or in the context of specific situations, relationships, or focused on what is important to us. We may have to dig a bit (or a lot) as how we feel it is not always simple or straight forward. We may have different feelings at once, conflicting ones even. The key is to learn to recognize them one by one and to locate them all on the simplified Scale of Consciousness. Doing so will give us a new venture point on what is at work in our psyche and thus, on why we get the results we get in different areas of our lives. One key element to notice is that we cannot necessarily know the Level of Consciousness based on external appearances: “To the fool, nothing looks more like a coward than a wise man”. Non action for instance, can occur at the level of “apathy”, of “fear”, as well as in “acceptance”! Yet there is a Universe of difference between the three vibrations and so between their outcomes. So, it may take some deepening of one’s ability to Observe inward.
Exercises described in previous articles can be of great help here also. Training oneself to recognize systematically WHERE the first physical sensation appears when thinking of something, observing an object or considering a decision to make, will indeed facilitate our general awareness about how we feel in each situation. Observing, without comment or judgement is the “secret”. It is all about recognizing, acknowledging and accepting how we feel BEFORE trying to do anything about it! That level of non-attachment is what will give us the ability to see things clearly enough and eventually the actual power to change things for the better.
Again, if we locate “acceptance” and “non-attachment” on the Scale, it will immediately appear that those correspond to relatively high Levels of Consciousness. As discussed about the body temperature, this illustrates the fact that there is a minimum Level of Consciousness for anything we would like to do. There are actual Consciousness Technologies that will help determine these Levels very precisely. Such technologies will be discussed in later articles. For now, becoming more aware of our inner states and really familiar with their corresponding Levels of Consciousness is our focus. Doing just that, everyday, consistently over a period of three months, will enhance our awareness and ability to have power over our experiences, to an incredible degree. Again, such a thing is not to be described with words. Let’s experience it first and we’ll discuss it after, as much as we want to as it might then make sens.
It is most certainly obvious yet I will make it explicit. This is merely an introduction to the Levels of Consciousness and their implications. There is much more to get into to really get to the core of this topic. As stated in part 1, the work of Dr David Hawkins is a great source of insight on the subject. Yet, those who have red, or are going to read, “Power vs Force” and “Transcending the Levels of Consciousness” will see some differences and nuances between Dr Hawkins’ approach and what is presented in these articles. It is an opportunity to train yet another important skill: Discernment.
So far, we have introduced two key notions:
1- A broad conception of Consciousness, that encompasses much more than just what we are aware of at one point. It is to say that we have much more going on in our psyche than what we are aware of and that we can benefit or suffer from it depending on our level of inner coherence and congruency.
2- The notion of Presence as our point of reference for anything related to Consciousness. Being Present has been described as a combination of being fully aware of what is, Here and Now, while Observing, completely non-attached to whatever thought, emotion or sensed perception is going through our mind. The weight of past experiences or expectancies for specific outcomes have no more power over us. We can be free, even just for a moment.
These two notions have been approached both theoretically and practically, to some degree, with a set of exercises to actually experience them. It has now been stated more than once that most of what is related to Consciousness cannot really be described. It has to be experienced. Only then can words really make sense. There is no way around it. Words and images actually play the role of pointers or “signposts” to put us in the right direction, nothing more. Nevertheless, the right use of words and images can be of great help to open up to these new inner territories.
From now on, we should always keep in mind that whatever is presented in these articles is to be approached, as much as possible, from a state of Presence. It means, reading, listening, in a passive yet very attentive way, fully aware of whatever inner resonance, in the form of thoughts, emotions and other sensations, is brought to light. No judgment, labeling or even comment is necessary. It is about being a Witness, and letting things unfold naturally. Doing so, our own inner guidance system is triggered and we may become aware of much more than “just” what is explicitly described. It is a fantastic journey! One of countless Marvels, to be enjoyed yet not to get attached to. What could appear as causes of sorrow and suffering may also occur. They should just as well be welcomed and experienced with equanimity. By being Present, Here, Now and non-attached, we are creating something properly exceptional: A Space where Miracles can occur. As stated previously, we shouldn’t do it as a mean to an end though. It would indeed become a serious limitation. Yet we should be aware of the value of what we are building in and around us.
It has been said by wise, seasoned practitioners that our main goal is actually to allow as much Consciousness as possible to reach the dimension we live in. By so doing, everything is made better spontaneously, in ways and measures that will always surpass our wildest dreams. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make plans and have dreams! Absolutely not! We should just make sure that we plan and consider our projects from that state of Presence, allowing ourselves to be inspired by our real Self, the part of us that is beyond tribulations, perturbations and influences, the part of us that is already Free, the one we would indeed want to experience more of.
That being said, practically speaking, it may not seem that easy… That is why we are going to explore the third basic Consciousness notion: the Levels of Consciousness.
The concept of Levels of Consciousness refers to the degree of awareness one has of reality, beyond all filters and interpretations. Our state of Consciousness is indeed not binary, Conscious or NonConscious. There is an almost infinite spectrum of possibilities as to one’s openness to what is. Having a map to navigate this inner ocean will prove to be a great asset, almost a necessity.
There has been many attempts to create such a map. In recent times many “emotional scales” tried to fill that gap. One that caught my attention early on and that I would recommend to the serious student, is Dr David Hawkins’ scale of Consciousness. It is described in-depth in the many books he wrote on the subject. Out of his profuse work, I would particularly recommend two books: “Power vs Force” and “Transcending the Levels of Consciousness”. Dr Hawkins’ approach have made a great contribution to my own understanding. Yet, like with any author, including me of course, you should always stay Present and let go of what does not resonate with you at the moment. You may come back to it later or just decide that it is not for you. Although congruent with Dr Hawkins’ scale, the version presented here is a free interpretation that came as a result of my own research on the topic.
First let’s clarify what is here understood by Levels of Consciousness. We may have previously mentioned that we consider Consciousness as an energy field. This energy field is not confined to the physical frontiers of our skull or our body for that matter. Just for the sake of communication, it could symbolically be pictured as a “cloud of information” expanding inside and around the body. Some have called the densest layers closest to the body, the Aura, the Etheric Body, and by many other names. Now, imagine that, like the temperature is not exactly the same all over the body, this Field of Consciousness has different zones with different degrees of clarity, organization and coherence, aka different Levels of Consciousness. The Levels of Consciousness are here describing degrees of quality of that Consciousness. As stated earlier: clarity, freedom from reactivity, freedom to spontaneously express oneself, awareness of ones true Nature and of the true Nature of things, (…) are considered relatively high quality of Consciousness. Like the temperature, even if we have established a convention as to determine a set temperature for the body in general, we are well aware that it is just a convention. The reality is that there is a whole spectrum of temperatures represented on and in the body, even if they are never to part too far from one another for the body to function properly. So there is more of a range of temperatures than a fixed number. And, of course, it all evolves and fluctuates depending on what the body has to adapt to. It is quite the same with the Levels of Consciousness. There is a range in which one is functioning, most of the time. Yet, it may evolve and there might be picks and drops depending on the inner and outer circumstances. Take a calm, poised person. Having him or her experience a traumatic event could drastically change their Level of Consciousness, for the worse. Take a frantic, stressed individual, give them good news or a foot massage and they might, not automatically but they might see their shoulders drop and the whole ambiance in their mind may change for the better. These are very simple examples. The fact is that our inner state (thoughts, feelings and emotions) depends entirely and then reliably depicts our current Level of Consciousness.
Going back to the temperature allegory, it is a well known fact that certain physiological features require the body to increase or decrease its temperature. We warm up before being able to exercise at full intensity. Anger and other “fight or flight” related emotions may induce a sudden increase in temperature to prepare the body for any required action. We cool down before going to sleep yet not too much, as being too cold may prevent us from relaxing! And yet, if the cold becomes extreme, it may be very difficult to stay awake. The temperature will influence almost everything: muscles, digestion, emotions, even the kind of thoughts we have! Again, the Levels of Consciousness work exactly the same way. Each level will facilitate certain functions and potentially inhibit others.
So, what does it look like? Dr Hawkins’ scale has no less than one thousand levels! It is a numerical, highly detailed and comprehensive scale. The version proposed here displays six categories falling in three main sectors: Suffering (Submission and Survival), Growth (Repair and Contribution) and Peace (Liberation and Bliss).
1- Submissive Suffering
Here, life events are undergone from a submissive point of view, there is not much hope for betterment. It is the realm of the most “fixed” mindsets. Life is perceived as rather dark and desperate, confusion reigns (often not consciously). It does indeed corresponds to very low Levels of Consciousness that usually goes with quite low vitality levels. In some cases the energy would, on the contrary, seem to be high. This can happen particularly when the individual is undergoing a severe crisis and/or is suffering from a serious mental condition.
Emotionally, such Levels of Consciousness manifest as shame, despair, guilt, blame, judgement, apathy, powerlessness, grief, … It is particularly interesting to note that guilt, blame and judgment are vibrating at exactly the same level! It starts with judgement. Then, directed inward the energy becomes guilt and directed outward it becomes blame. Therefore, it is so common (and easy!) to shift from guilt to blame or vise-versa. Yet, the vibration staying at the same “level of quality” it will not change much in terms of real betterment of the situation or the outcome.
The environment is perceived as hostile and to be protected from. The mind is in a Reactive mode. Stress, in all shapes and forms, is the main motivation to action. So much so that an absence of stress could easily be mistaken for apathy. Thoughts like, “If I’m not worried, it means that I don’t care” may come to mind. So stress is used to try and gather energy. The possibility to react makes this stage quite better than the previous one. There is, even unconsciously, a beginning of hope. Yet, it is still not a sustainable state. The vital energy is still drained, it just appears as if there were more of it, as it is more focused and thus expressed more intensely.
It is the emotional realm of fear, lack, worry, desire, jealousy, anger, pride, … All these are reactive emotions that may prompt us into automatic reactions to situations, with little to no awareness, nor concern, for the long term consequences.
The key here is that in the first sector, Suffering, the Life Force is drained, consumed, depleted. It may take time to become aware of it, but on the long run, it will only promote decay, disease and death. Suffering may still be a state of Consciousness we have to go through, from time to time, as long as we do not have enough awareness in our system in general or regarding a specific situation, just like an alarm system. If there is yet enough awareness in our system, suffering can actually “force us” to evolve and search for a better approaches of our life situations. Crazy as it may sound, the prevailing unconscious belief here is that by creating more negative energy, we may impact our situation positively. We literally create more negative energy, more suffering, in the delusional hope to make our situation better! That is a profound fact that would deserve to be deeply meditated on for a while, for real understanding and integration to emerge.
This is the beginning of the healing phase. It all starts with the return to Integrity. It is the tipping point, the very notion without which there can be no real positive, life sustaining, endeavor. That is another critical element to ponder and meditate on. With Integrity and Courage, Life force starts to be added instead of drained. We literally have more of it and so the “feeling better” is much deeper than whatever could be experienced at the lower levels. It will also last much longer. Here can start the real learning and healing process. Out of the survival mode, we may now be able to learn from our experiences. The passage from Stress to Courage, is indeed a crucial one. These emotional states need to be recognized and acknowledged when experienced. Being able to identify when we are stressed by a challenging situation and get ourselves back to feeling courageous, for real, no wishful thinking, is indeed a worthy skill to acquire! The shift from suffering and stress back to Integrity is THE key to healing. The word Integrity can actually be used almost as a synonym for balance or health. It is illustrated in the concept of “physical integrity” for instance.
Below that level, the energy at our disposal, when there is any, is quite shallow and superficial, as intense as it may appear. Like a shot of caffeine, it consumes whatever vitality we still have as a flash in the pan that will leave us even worse afterwards. From the stage of Integrity and Courage upward, the energy comes from a much deeper place in us and we may feel like our efforts are supported and sustained “by the Universe”, or whatever is congruent with our beliefs. The fact is that our relatively higher Level of Consciousness actually changes our physiology. It literally changes the way our mind/body manages energy. In other words, healing and growth are physiologically impossible when stress reigns. When we manage to overcome stress, we may still experience some struggle but it is welcomed and the “emotional bottom line”, if you will, is still on the positive side.
The emotional spectrum here includes integrity, courage, respect, positive will power, peaceful determination, other people’s perspective may be considered, a sense of something greater than ourselves may appear, … Life already feels so much better experienced from here! There is kind of a “day and night” contrast, compared to the previous stages. Instead of reacting we are now able to respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in.
Our perception of “how the world works” is now much clearer and the universe feels like a much more friendly place. We literally understand it better and our relationship to Life in general is much more positive. Our ability to act, in harmonious resonance with Natural laws, is significantly greater. We are much less attached to certain outcomes, we naturally adapt and see the positive side of things. Or we can just accept things as they are, without being disempowered or dragged down by it whatsoever.
Emotions experienced here include goodwill, trust, openness, hope, acceptance, understanding, really taking full responsibility for whatever happens in ones life, … The ability to choose freely is now present. Action is thus free from reactive programming or the illusory necessity to respond a certain way. The universal inherent beauty and underlying harmony, despite appearances, can be perceived here. It is a space where the highest levels of reasoning may be expressed. It fosters the expression of human intelligence at its best.
This second sector, Growth, marks the real beginning of Life sustaining states. There is definitely more and greater quality of Life Force here. It only gets better and better as we progressively evolve and open up to more Conscious ways. “More Life in our life” means less efforts to get results, more flow… At the top levels of this category, things may seem to unfold almost spontaneously, as if we were not “doing” anything.
5 and 6- Liberation and Bliss
We now enter a totally different realm. Without first hand direct experience, words, again, will not be of great help here. Let us just say that it starts with the end of linear thinking. For example, the boundaries between self centeredness and altruism may reveal their illusory nature. Not as an idea or a concept, but as the way we actually experience our lives. The term Liberation implies a dis-identification from what “used to be” our sense of self, our personality, and its replacement by some deeper understanding of who we really are. It is the realm of real unconditional Love, the kind of Love that would make us as close to the homeless in the street as we can be to our parents, spouse or children. Again, not out of morality or principle, absolutely not. It is just as obvious and real as the solidity of the ground under your feet.
Needless to say that, even though some of us may have had glimpses of such states, we have now far exceeded what most of us can even start to comprehend! Nor would most of us actually wish to truly experience that level of non-attachment, to anything… Yet, it is the territory of real freedom. Like in the previous categories, it evolves progressively as we rise up the scale. We may reach the point where emotions, and feelings, our inner states of Consciousness, are now totally free from all external circumstance. The inner Peace, the deep Joy and Aliveness experienced are indeed solely related to the direct Awareness we have of who we really are, of our essential oneness with all things. Again, at that Level, words are just abstractions and they do not do justice to the experienced reality.
While reading all this it is important to keep in mind that what is described here is not a moral code, a set of principles or a dogma of some kind. It is a digest of what has been described and reported by human beings of different cultures and time periods since the earliest recorded times. It is about how human beings feel, for real. It is about what makes us think and act the way we do. The implications and practical applications of such a scale are incredibly wide and profound. In part 2, following this article, we are going to explore how to practically make use of it.
Since the dawn of the Human adventure, the practice of what could be called Presence has been the keystone of all high performance and real Consciousness evolution endeavors. It has been done in almost as many different ways as there were different people, from various cultures, creeds and time periods to practice it. A great deal of them didn’t necessarily know they were practicing Presence but they were all, in one way or another, aware of the primordial importance of being fully present, Here and Now. The key is that there is no optimal expression of human potential outside of the Present Moment. Actually, there is no REAL expression of who we are outside of this Instant. It is indeed a key point. So, if the Present moment is indeed all there really IS, how could we ever be outside of it? Well, that is the all point. In reality, we can not. Yet, regardless to our culture, age or gender, we as human beings have a general tendency to “be stuck in our minds” instead of being in touch with the reality of our experiences. In other words, we generally try to figure things out instead of Observing how things actually are and adapt to them consciously. The filters of our past experiences bring anxiety, guilt, a whole spectrum of negative emotions and breed expectations about the future. These expectations will in turn generate stress and irrational fears as we anticipate undesired outcomes. This has been referred to as “the vicious cycle of Time”. Our minds tend to stay focused on anything but the Present Moment, except as a mean to an end which means looking at the Present Moment through the filters of our expectations. Past and future seem to exert a quasi-hypnotic effect on our psyche. Inhibitors and Motivators from the past alike, Fears and Plans about the future alike, we seldom are purely, consciously Here and Now.
Because of that, some would rather voluntarily design a positive future to focus on. Others came to the conclusion that being Present is great and all but then we have to get back into the “real world” and take action! This could not be any further from the truth. Anybody who can only be Present when inactive or just in silent, non-soliciting environments is not yet Present. Don’t get me wrong, being immobile in a peaceful, silent environment may be a good place to start practicing. Yet, if entertained for too long without experiencing that state of being fully Present in our daily lives, there is a great danger to create an illusory inner world of “false peace”, a pure construct of the mind that could seriously delay our access back to real Consciousness. Reality is then often confused with a set of concepts, beliefs, we can get strongly attached to and do our best to be in conformity with. We would typically defend these points of view whenever challenged as if our very identity depended on them!
Best case scenario: We follow that model for some time as it feels reassuring and gives us a sense of “doing things right”, “by the book”. We may come across some incongruences as our life experiences would not seem to follow the same models and values. The suffering coming from the distortions between the reality of our experience and our representation/interpretation of it will, in time, be our greatest ally to dissolve the illusion and bring us back to what IS. The key here is that the pain and suffering we experience is, in most cases, largely caused by the drama and stories we tell ourselves, and others, about our experiences. Although we are mostly doing it unconsciously, our interpretations of the facts are often way, way worse than the actual events.
Yet, in some cases, the suffering will be interpreted and used to feed and further the illusion. This is particularly true when the stories include an “enemy”, and “adversary”, seen as responsible for the obstacles encountered and the pain that seem to come as a consequence. We will go much more in-depth into this notion of an “enemy” and how we use it almost universally. Some may see it as a motivator, a kind of guardian that keeps us on our toes, and it can be for a while. Yet, at the end of the day, it is one of the greatest hindrance to our real fulfillment.
As stated in a previous article, there are different depth or levels of Presence as there are several layers in human Consciousness. A functional approach of the Levels of Consciousness is part of the foundational Consciousness Practice described in this article series. So, it will be the subject and center of articles to come. The point I would like to make here is that coming back to Here and Now is just the beginning. It is like a doorway if you will, to start our journey back to full Awareness of who we really are. This is actually what all this is about. We human beings have collectively forgotten our real Identity. And because of that incredible fact, we try desperately to find surrogate identities in concepts, beliefs, goals, sometimes material objects or relationships… This process of identification, due to a lack of awareness of our actual Identity, is the core principle underlying all our suffering and seemingly short comings.
The actual journey back into real Self-awareness is not, in most cases, a straight line. There is quite obviously as many paths as there are different people to make the trip. The point is, not everyone goes through, to the end of it without stopping in a “nice” (or painful) place for a while. Some stages of the journey may indeed be quite attractive (or quite uncomfortable). For some, it may take the form of a illness, a trauma or other forms of intense suffering to be overcome. In addition, or totally independently from that, phenomenons like telepathy may become much more common or the ability to read into how a situation could unfold, physical prowess, and so many other fantastic deeds… Yet, those are not the reality of who we are. They are just glimpses of how we actually interact with the Universe in our Natural Awakened State. There is also the possibility that none of these show up! In that case, it shouldn’t be taken as if something was missing. It is just a different path. Focusing too much on those or on their absence, could again create or feed a false sense of identity that would only delay the realization of our real Self. In all cases, painful and extraordinary phenomenons alike are not to be pursued nor are they to be rejected. They should be welcomed and disregarded with equal non-attachment.
It is very common to get interested and actually start the whole “Consciousness journey” either to solve a major issue or in pursuit of “superpowers”. Both can be great motivators, both with their own pitfalls. So at some point, they would have to be put aside. By that I mean that, as justified as our first motivations may be, they shouldn’t stay our point of focus for too long. Fancy and useful as some of the “abilities” may be, they are not the “Pearl”. Painful and problematic as our life situation may be, it paradoxically can act as an incentive to find Peace. Challenges and suffering can indeed open us to areas of learning we might have just not even considered otherwise. Yet the betterment of our life situation, important as it may be, is not the ultimate goal. It has been compared to a prisoner making its cell nicer as opposed to actually breaking free… By the way, the seeming absence of “problems” in ones life, or the display of “supernatural abilities”, does not mean that this person is free, or more awake, absolutely not! Things just happen at a different level at that particular time for that person. So, along the way, we may experience many things, “good or bad”, let us make sure we stay focused on the actual “game” and don’t get too distracted by the commercials…
So, how can we get out of the illusion? How do we practically come “back to our senses”?
To answer that question, we will come back to the basic content of our minds: Thoughts, emotions and sensed perceptions. Each of those can as much be a source of distraction as they can actually be used to come back to Presence. They could be looked at as doorways in and out of Presence. So becoming more aware of those items, by learning to Observe them, will prove to be a great asset in our journey back into the remembrance of our real Self. This is what the whole deal is about: remembering, reconnecting with our real Nature, beyond all and any conditioning. We can so easily get confused between our habitual self and our Natural Self. The deal is to recover the awareness of our Natural Self so it can become our new Habitual one.
Now, let’s get into it. Again, all five senses, emotions and thoughts can be involved. In previous articles we have discussed a modality of Observing ones thoughts and emotions in correlation with physical sensations. This is definitely a key modality to start detaching ones identity from the content of their mind. We may begin to be aware of the Space surrounding all mind content and witness the liberating effect of “just” letting that awareness grow, organically, all by it self. For further detail on how to focus and Observe thoughts and emotions, please refer to those articles.
How to apply it to sensed perceptions, on the other hand, have yet to be described. We are going to consider them one at a time using signals coming from the environment. Before we start, it can be very useful to keep in mind that we are all wired differently. So, if indeed each of these methods can be practiced by just anybody, it is very common to feel, particularly in the beginning, more at ease or as if more familiar with one (or two) methods amongst all of them. So if one does not seem to resonate with you, just go to the next one. Starting by the point of less resistance will help you to become more familiar with the state of Presence first. Exploring the less obvious senses could then become much easier. The fact is that there comes a time in the practice when you will be able to reach Presence through any and all “doors”, almost indifferently. It is a matter of being aware of the current state of your system, your body/mind complex, and to work with it, never against it.
So no force, no submission, just consistency with a lot of non-attached Observation and always adapt to “surf the wave of Presence”. With Permanent Accurate Training, you will become able to do that regardless to the situation you find yourself in.
Wherever you may be, consciously listen to the ambient background noise. Listen carefully and openly to each sound for a few seconds. Take your time and really listen. No comments, analysis or labeling involved, just actively listening. Then pay attention to the silence preceding and following each sound. This is the point: Being aware of the ever present Silence regardless to the noise surrounding you. Sounds, like all stimuli, have a tendency to attract and polarize our attention. Just observing them while being aware of the surrounding silence, at the same time, can be incredibly relaxing. Also, witness how being aware of it seems to create an echo inside. An inner silence, a space of tranquility seems to appear.
Choose two different surfaces you may have easily access to right now. A table and the fabric of your trousers, the cover of a book and the pages inside the book, the inner and outer surface of a banana peel, … It really can be just anything. The contrast just has to be clear for you, easy to feel. Alternatively touch each surface, one after the other, back and forth. Again, no comments or labeling of any kind involved, just actively feeling. Then, when the contrast has been clearly perceived, touch both surfaces at the same time, with each hand. Even though the whole hand is appropriate, the pads of the fingers are usually the best to use for this exercise. At first there might be a tendency to, very quickly, go back and forth between the two contrasted feelings. Be aware of it if it happens and make sure to really be aware of the two touch sensations at the same time. It requires to “step back” from the front line of our perceptions, if you will, and to Observe as if from a more opened and receptive state of mind. This makes you instantly aware of the Space in which the feelings occur. At this point, you start to disentangle the content of your mind from what your mind really is: a Space of Awareness.
Consider the totality of your visual field. It can schematically be divided in three concentric zones. In the center, right in front of you, is the focal zone. Around it is the proximal area which contains images we are easily aware of without focusing on them. It is the part of the background we are actually aware of. Then there is the peripheral zone, close to the edge. This quick description does not take into account the binocular aspect of it but it is not absolutely necessary at this stage. The idea here is to learn to focus our attention on what is at the periphery of our visual field. Becoming aware of the content of our visual peripheral zone has so many benefits, it would deserve its own entire article series! For now, pick an object in front of you. Let your gaze gently on it while you progressively switch your attention to what is close to the outer limits of your visual field. You may be tempted to actually turn your eyes (or your head) to take a peak! Don’t. If it happens, just come back to passively Observing the chosen object in front of you and start over. As with the first two, no comments or labeling of any kind involved, just witnessing, as passively and consciously as possible. This inner gymnastic will open your awareness to things that have been there all along without you noticing them, both literally and figuratively.
Before or at least two hours after eating anything, pay attention to the possible presence of a taste in your mouth. Kindly pay attention to it, following the same principles previously described. Just Observe, no comments or labeling of any kind. Let the taste evolve, by itself. It may change a lot both in intensity and nature, or not. Stay passively, yet ever consciously, with it. Observe and become aware of the space in which the taste perception occurs. The same practice can be performed while eating. It helps greatly to get and absorb the best of what we eat.
In a relatively odor free environment , pay attention to the quality of the air you breath in. Try to discern if there is indeed a smell, subtle as it may be. There may be more than one. Do not try to identify or otherwise categorize it. Not even to determine if you like it or not. Just Observe it and, as before, let it go its own course, just be its witness. The more passive and aware you are, the better. The same can be done in a kitchen or any other place full of obvious smells. The only difference is that you will have to open up to all the smells at once and let them be spontaneously sorted out by your system. Observe which odor may or may not be selected and let it go its spontaneous course in your mind/body complex. The sense of smell directly involves the most basic structures of our brains. We have little to no filters involved with this one. Awareness of the air we breathe and the smells in it, may greatly contribute to enhance our vital energy. Again, this is vast topic I would strongly encourage you to explore. It is really about witnessing what happens inside of us when there is Awareness with no interference.
The key with each sensed perception is the same: Observe them freely, and let them evolve spontaneously. Be as aware as possible of the inner context, the virtual Space in which they occur. Listen, feel, observe, taste, smell and let the perception go its own course with as little intervention as possible involved, better none. When the perception has reached a seeming point of equilibrium, continue to Observe the inner Space of Awareness itself, for as long as it is comfortable. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how long it lasts. Being aware of our inner Space of Awareness, even for a fraction of a second, is already of great benefits. Just do it over and over again. Doing so, on top increasing dramatically our ability to heal and recover from various disruptions of our equilibrium, opens the doors of the inner Space of Presence, where everything IS possible. These simple practices can be performed just anywhere, anytime and bring great benefits to any committed individual. You can not over do it.
The primordial importance of being able to be Present, “Here and Now”, has been asserted over and over again since the dawn of human spirituality. This is one of those topics most Sages and wisemen agree on. There is simply no real awareness, no actual evolution of human Consciousness outside of this Instant, the Present Moment. Interestingly enough, it is a common trait shared by almost all high level performers! From samurais to business investors, be it in arts, surgery, sports or meditation, the importance of having their whole being entirely Present, into what they are doing when performing is indeed a common ground, at least to some degree. Don’t get me wrong though! Lots of things can be accomplished and created outside of this very specific state of Consciousness. They are just not the expression of one’s greatest potential and as such, hardly promotes real evolution and in the end, real fulfillment.
It is indeed the only “place/moment” where we are free, free from the conditioned mind that otherwise rules over our lives. Learning to be Present is actually coming back to reality, taking off the virtual “lenses” and other filters we have, altering our perceptions of reality. Whether we do not have a definite purpose in life or whatever we define as a goal from a “non-present” mindset, we are still governed by subconscious and unconscious conditionings. These beliefs and motivations can hardly bring the kind of Peace we, knowingly or not, really aspire to. Again, it is in most cases, better to have a goal than not to have one. Yet, the real motivators feeding that goal, if coming from the non-conscious parts of our psyche, will almost certainly, sooner or later, lead us to some form or another of disappointment. Strange as it may seem at first, it is to say that it matters less if we achieve our goals or not than to be aware of the actual REAL motivation backing it: The Why. Clarity and alignment on the “right” why will actually bring some very different energy to our projects. It makes us naturally happy, right then and there. Not just the superficial enthusiasm that lasts for a while and then, most of the time, brings us back to square one! No, we are talking about a real, deep joy and vitality coming from inside that no external circumstance seem to be able to tamper with.
So what does it really mean and how do we know for sure that we are Present? Are there reliable signs or “symptoms”?
First let’s make it clear: there are many levels of Presence. From merely focused on what is going on right now in one’s environment, to being aware of the subtle nature of things beyond appearances, to literally accessing other levels of reality, and more… There is a whole lot of different degrees of Presence. And even more states of Consciousness that would look like Presence yet couldn’t be any different! Having what some would call spiritual experiences, in the form of visions and other extra-sensorial perceptions, even accurate ones, doesn’t necessarily mean Presence. Being able to sit still for hours meditating, doesn’t automatically imply a deep level of Presence either. Being able to withstand difficulties or discomfort in a more or less stoic way, could be the fruit of being Present, or not! It could just be a massive Psychological Reversal!
What is it then? As usual with Consciousness phenomenons, only direct first hand experience will tell. Yet, let’s see if we can help with some clear guidelines. As stated before, it all starts with coming back to the Present moment: Being aware of what IS, Here and Now, external circumstances or inner state alike. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The main part is: How do we relate to what IS? And talking about reliable signs of Presence, one way to know for sure where we stand and to monitor our progress is to pay attention to “What happens inside of us and how do we behave when things don’t seem to go our way?
Most of us start with the perception that how we feel is the result of what happens in our daily lives. Becoming more Present starts to change that perception by de-correlating the events from our feelings about them. In other words, we start to realize that the same events could elicit very different emotional responses, in a less automatic way. We become more aware, almost spectators of the reaction mechanisms at play in our psyche. This distance, this space inside, around our thoughts and emotions is an important sign of us being on the right track. This makes us less reactive, less prone to feel that we have to defend an opinion. Not that we do not have those anymore, not at all. They just do not appear as important anymore, we may feel like we are much more aware of their transient nature. Opinons come and go, even the “big ones”. Without having to change our Values in essence, we may further clarify them, reframe them in a new context and end up realizing that what we believed to be so important was actually bounded to our situation at the time. Things may indeed be quite different now. Those who do not go through that kind of process at some point may actually find themselves stuck, with little hope for evolution or growth.
This ability to Observe what is happening and what we think or feel about it, without diving or dwelling into it is the first big change, the first big perk of being more Present: More Freedom. We are now less stuck in certain forms of behaviors. We could say that Presence helps us naturally evolve from:
- React to situations: On automatic, conditioned behaviors with little if any room for choice. We could hear ourselves (or others) say things like: “Did you see what happened? I had to … do this or that, I had to!” or “When someone does that kind of things in front of me, there’s only one way they should expect me to react!” or even, “I don’t know what took over me, I could see myself saying those things but couldn’t help it”.
- Respond to a situation: There is already more space, more awareness about what is happening inside of us. So much so that we could feel like we can actually choose to react a certain way. It may still require some effort but there is definitely more freedom of choice regarding how we act and so, ultimately about how we feel about things. This stage may evolve into a much more poised and relaxed mindset regarding events and situations.
- Act appropriately: Free from any negative feelings about a situation, we are much more able to then actually Choose to do something about it, or not. Sometimes the best course of action is not to do anything physically or mentally about the situation. It differs from the previous stage by the level of awareness, of emotional freedom regarding the situations. It is not to be confused with coldness or other types of “suppressed feeling” states that would be no more than forms of Psychological Reversals. It is not to be detached so much as it is to be non-attached to what the situation means, the outcome, etc… Although this may seem like a superior state of Consciousness, and it is, we may all have had experiences of it at some point. When witnessing a situation and naturally, without looking for it, “knowing” what to do with perfect timing, even more so if we acted on the “knowing”.
Even though reacting is automatic, it can usually be trained to become more coherent with one’s aspirations in life. It may actually prove quite useful to reach specific goals and learn specific skills. Yet, as satisfying as the results may be, we are still a long way from the kind of inner freedom related to real lasting fulfillment. Becoming able to respond, with more and more clarity, is gradually freeing us from the bondage of our past conditionings and by so doing, helps us to bring more awareness and more Life force to our life experience. But it is only when we are free from automatic reactions, free from negativity or attachment to situations and events, really free to act or not with real equanimity, that we start experiencing what all this is actually about.
With more emotional freedom, there is basically more Life flowing in our lives. Aliveness, genuine creativity, synchronistic favorable events, … a lot of unforeseen advantages are now free to flow into our experience, much more abundantly. The key though is not to do it as a mean to an end. It would just constitute another thought we would need to be non-attached to. We are Present just for the sake of Being, everything else is added to it, spontaneously. The deep inner joy, the springing aliveness and genuine creativity are actual manifestations of Presence. Many strive to manifest those without actually knowing their natural source. It is the “fake it ’till you make it” mind set. Not that there is anything wrong about it. It may be helpful and produce some results, to some extend. Yet, it is nothing compared to what happens spontaneously when one is Present and really commits to deepening that Presence. The positive thinking approach may then seem like shooting repeatedly in the dark hoping to hit the target at some point. Again, it can produce some results, yet there is only limited change in the actual level of awareness. Being fully Present, Observing and Allowing things to be as they are first, on the other hand, is like letting the Sun shine in by just opening the windows.
The image of a GPS could also be useful here. In order to be of any benefit, the GPS first needs to locate our position as precisely as possible: Knowing where we are, right now. It may then be given instructions for a destination we would like to be guided to. Interestingly enough, the main GPS feature is to be able to “know” where things are right this instant. Its distance from the earth and ability to focus on any point on it, gives it the accuracy and wide perception angle necessary to do so. The GPS is always in the Now. It is never trying to predict the future or dwelling on the past. It takes all the information available and designs the best route to connect two points. If things change along the way though, the GPS will automatically re-evaluate the new situation and propose a new course of action. The allegory goes even further. No matter how many times we get out of the suggested path, it will keep re-evaluating and proposing a new optimal course of action. No judgment or criticism, no “how many times do I have to tell you …?”, just seeing things as they are now, adapting and defining the best course of action, for Now! Of course, the GPS is just a machine and I am not suggesting we should strive to act like machines! Absolutely not. It is believed by some to be a common trait of our technologies to (often not consciously) mimic natural human features. That kind of thinking views the telephone, the television or the internet like reflections of our natural telepathy for example. The work of scientists like the British biologist Rupert Sheldrake is quite interesting in that regard. Our point here is to use it as a working hypothesis: If indeed, we create technologies that mimic the functioning of our own minds, how can we access these abilities directly, from the inside?
Many paths to such freedom have proven effective. Literally any aspect of our lives could be used to bring more Presence in our experience. A rather simple and quite effective one focuses on the sign mentioned earlier: How do we behave when facing challenging or otherwise unpleasant situations? It could be described as follow:
1- When anything happens that is not to our liking, first accept to see things as they are. It doesn’t mean to resign to staying in the situation, at all. It is to first accept to take the full measure of what is, without resistance or jumping to try and change it. It means accepting to be aware of it first, as factually as possible, without judging it, categorizing it or trying to understand or justify it. It is also to be aware of any reaction, thought or emotion manifesting inside us regarding it.
2- Eliminate all and any negativity about it, as much as possible. Here, some energetic practices and other emotional release techniques may prove very useful. A great variety of really effective techniques exist and are available nowadays. It ranges from the use of acupuncture points, like TFT (Thought Field Therapy), of sounds, colors, movements and postures, breathing, or just Observing what one feels, and so much more! It is indeed a vast subject, with a lot of possibilities. All the information available not being necessarily reliable, my own findings on this topic may be the subject of a future article. It is indeed a theme worthy of our attention.
3- Only after the second step has been successfully achieved should we then decide to distance ourselves from the situation, act to change it if ever possible and relevant or just fully accept it one hundred percent.
To begin with, these three steps may seem quite exotic, to say the least. It is indeed a very different process than what we may be used to. Yet, it is definitely worth practicing on very simple, non dramatic situations at first and progressively moving into more challenging scenarios. The key here is obviously to go progressively. It is quite guaranteed to fail, possibly painfully so, if undertaken lightly, without the proper preparation on too big of a challenge to start with. Yet, done properly, with no force, consistently, listening and adapting to one’s own feelings, it will bring results and benefits beyond words.
Stress and challenges can indeed be promoters of progress and positive change. Or they can do the exact opposite and precipitate decay. This is a very important point. Stress and challenges are almost certain to arise at some point in one’s experience. There is hardly anyway to avoid those completely and permanently. We might as well learn to address them in a constructive, growth promoting way. This is one of those occurrences when going slow, adapting, improvising at times and above all persisting, persisting, persisting, … will prove to be invaluable assets.
This is just the beginning. Other ways to promote Presence and awareness will continue to be discussed in future articles. The work of Eckhart Tolle and his three books “The Power of Now”, “Stillness Speaks” and “A new Earth” can also be a great asset to anyone willing to deepen their understanding on the topic.
Some fun and scientifique elements concerning the impacts of the sound vibration on the matter. Sooner you will get practices !