May Reflections – States of Consciousness: Your Expanded Self


Would you view yourself differently, if you realized that vast vistas of sacredness, beauty and splendor are part of you? Would you have more confidence and an increased sense of self-worth? Might it give you a broader perspective on everyday challenges, taking them less seriously compared to the whole?

You are this greater self. You have experiences that surpass your everyday awareness, which indicate you are something more. Such experiences reveal that you’re tapping into immeasurable worlds that are both within and beyond you. At some point you may reach such an expanded state that you become these vast worlds; all is one.

Mystics and some transpersonal psychologists have written extensively about these experiences. Many organize them into a gradated framework, claiming they are stations or states of consciousness on the way towards oneness. Learning about and experiencing these states expands your self-awareness and gives you a different perspective on life.

You may have consciously encountered some or all of these states at some point in your life and it’s helpful to see how they fit into a complete schema.  The Sufi master Hazrat Inayat Khan claims we experience them all every twenty-four hours but mostly during sleep. It’s possible to become more consciously aware of these states through spiritual practices or simply by learning more about them. Becoming aware that they are part of you has many benefits provided you watch out for your ego, which tries to evaluate them in terms of your spiritual progress and consequently judges your self-worth.

Physical: This familiar state of consciousness includes awareness of your physical being –your skin, muscles, organs—all of nature, even the stars, and anything your eyes can see.

Mental/emotional: This part of you encompasses and goes beyond the physical. It includes awareness of all your thoughts and feelings including those you share with others. It sits at a deeper dimension then the physical because those undergoing near-death experiences have thoughts and feelings even when their body has been pronounced dead.

Subtle or Energetic: This state of consciousness includes awareness of your chakras, the energy field and vital life force known as prana or qi. You can become more cognizant of this state by concentrating on or making specific sounds in your chakras. Becoming mindful of your auric field as you walk or go about your day brings additional awareness of this dimension.

Creative imagination: When your intuition delivers a profound truth or inspires you to create something, you touch this state of consciousness. It’s a delicious feeling to experience something “higher” coming through you whether you interpret the source as your higher self or a sacred being. When an artist or musician says a song or poem wrote itself, they’re describing their experience of this dimension. Sometimes dreams are the source of this creativity. Cultivating your talents in this way brings meaning and joy to your life.

Celestial: This is the dimension in you that is pure, innocent, uncorruptible and angelic. It’s easy to connect with this aspect of your being when viewing a newborn baby sleeping or hearing uplifting music. Are you able to remember your purity and innocence even when confronting with the world’s bitterness? I admire the Dalai Lama who is able to be childlike and innocent despite his people’s decimation by the Chinese. Can you discover this place of purity and innocence in yourself?

Splendor: What happens inside when you see a magnificent sunset, listen to monks chanting, or watch an erupting volcano? Such experiences touch this dimension, described as sacredness, magnificence, glory, and power. It evokes feelings of awe, fascination, uncanniness, and amazement. Many who witnessed the recent solar eclipse tapped into this state of consciousness. One journalist aptly described it as a moment of collective awe. Everything makes sense at this level. Controversies, wars, struggles, random ideas and experiences are put in perspective in the face of such awe and power.

Universal Forms: Deep within all humans and all creation are dynamic crystal structures. They sometimes are described as the building blocks of the universe or divine ideas existing prior to creation. In my dissertation research, I came across an apt description of this dimension from a subject who formed part of a study conducted by Jean Houston and Robert Masters on non-drug induced altered states of consciousness.

Then I glimpsed the world of the forms. They were luminescent—like mathematical or geometrical figures—but not abstract. They were spiritually concrete and were unbelievably dynamic, the seeds of life. Their texture was crystal and they reflected the brilliant and glorious Divine Light.

Why are we so attracted to precious stones or to a grove of ice-covered trees glistening in the sun? Aldous Huxley claims they are reminders of those crystalized structures which form the building blocks of the universe.

Uncreated Light: Many mystics report a state of consciousness in which they experience pure, undifferentiated light. The Bhagavad Gita likens it to a thousand suns in the sky. Those who touch this dimension often describe it as having qualities of water and fire. Dante exclaimed, “And I saw light in the form of a river blazing with radiance.” I tell the truth when I say to others, “You are a being a light.” Would you view life differently if you realized that part of you is all light?

Oneness: This state of consciousness lies beyond words and images, even beyond any sense of yourself. It’s a place of peace in which you merge with all. Another subject for Houston and Masters’ research struggled to put into language his personal experience of this state:

It is difficult to describe this realm of silence. I experienced no images. I am there in silence, but I am not differentiated from the silence. In some sense there is no I. There is a deep profound peace and a sense of primordial reality.

The famous Buddhist Heart Sutra points the way to this dimension of consciousness. “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone far beyond, Oh what an awakening!” Imagine yourself moving into the beyond, into unknowing and even beyond that.

Given all these states of consciousness, you cannot help but realize you’re an amazing being. So are all those whom you meet. Their true self may be obscured by ways they use to protect themselves from their life’s challenges, but underneath they remain beautiful and uncorrupted.
Would you behave and see life differently, if you truly realized how magnificent you are?

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