Updated: Dec 30, 2022
Map of human consciousness
“Our true nature of eternal, infinite awareness is never completely forgotten or eclipsed by objective experience. However agitated or numbed, the objective experience may have rendered us, the memory of our eternity shines within it as the desire for authenticity, connection and fulfillment"
As I begin to contemplate on the journey of awakening and the diverse states of consciousness we enter in and out of, I am beginning to understand how each state of consciousness and realizations we have had along this journey contributed to the letting go or healing of everything that state of consciousness could. This is so that something more curious, unique, intuitively knowing, and unconditionally accepting can begin to flower and bloom in our human consciousness. This original way of operating then presents itself in every moment and all walks of life, from the most mundane to the most spiritual aspect.
These phases are actually on a spectrum of consciousness, and the journey is usually not linear. One can bounce all over the place, go backward and leap forward at various times and in different parts of their lives. Each state reveals the resistances and holdings that need to be let go of to be free from that state. None of the states are better or worse than another, and I am putting together a stream of progression. The intent is to provide a map for someone on the awakening journey. Any consciousness state has the equal potential to hit the source or True Nature, and our true potential is how we can integrate all the different consciousness states in our day-to-day lives and in all the roles we operate. How can we become complete and whole in all the 3 realms - human, soul and spirit dimensions? Let us explore the states of consciousness and the experiences:
Self as EGO Consciousness: I-AM-THIS (person)
Ego is about me, mostly our psyche, as a self-narrative storyteller in mind. Most humans exist in this state – a world of conditioned thoughts, beliefs, and stories (both good and bad). One identifies with the storyteller and the doer. Orientation is either in the past (feeling of sadness) or future(feeling of anxiety), depending on where the human is. One experiences suffering at this stage. There are many ego-consciousness levels, from being purely materialistic to spiritual (soul orientation, purpose, meaning). Most spiritual teachings still occur at this stage of consciousness, as do all self-help programs. The focus is on helping a separate-self (ego) become a better, happier, more intelligent, or more enlightened separate ego-self. There are two types of ego-consciousness:
Victim Ego Consciousness
This is on one end of the ego consciousness spectrum. We have all been here at some point in our life. This consciousness is more about the concept that "life is happening to me, I am the victim, life is not treating me well, I am not loved, and I am not accepted", and so on. There is a constant struggle to be better than where they are. There could be low confidence, lack of focus, lack of self-esteem, and self-worth. The narrative self judges itself beneath others and constantly blames others and circumstances. Most people here look to self-help techniques to achieve their desires in this spectrum.
Manifestation Ego Consciousness
This is on the other end of the ego consciousness; this is a healthy ego. Here there is a lot of striving to be the best, to do the "right" things, to get enlightened, to stand out, to be recognized, to achieve goals and desires. Some egos even keep a manifestation and to-do list, and many techniques of the law of attraction can be applied here (positive affirmations, psychological therapies, some healing methodologies for achieving desires). However, at this stage, the manifestation is still unconscious. People here are very driven, highly focused, and apply precise techniques to get the results they need, usually deemed successful in society. This ego can even hold on to concepts, stories, and pointers of purpose, meaning, calling, evangelism and altruism. If anyone wants to remain in the ego land, this is probably the better state. Much of self-help teachings will bring one to this place. However, as one matures into this stage, something within is not happy and desires a form of fulfillment, a deep connection with life and freedom. At this stage, something within intuits that there is something more than achievements, desires, and goals. We are now ready to dive into the actual spiritual world. The only desire from now on is to know the truth and to let go of as many stories and beliefs (however meaningful they are).
Self as WITNESS consciousness – I AM PRESENCE
Awakening from the Psyche - This is the beginning of the spiritual journey. All techniques till now operated within the mind. From now on, techniques are working from outside the mind. This is where we experience ourselves as the observer or as the one that is aware or conscious of the thoughts/emotions/sensations. There is no identification with the thoughts and narrative-self. We can now see through our thoughts/mind and the sense of ego that was created by these thoughts. We experience some freedom from the suffering created by thoughts as there is a kind of detachment. This is a freeing experience for someone stuck in the constant narrative-self or the constant chattering inner voice. There is much movement between this state and the ego suffering state. Nevertheless, the transformation process has begun, and the ego bubble has been punctured. Many people use this awakening level to go back to the manifestation ego state and use this energy to manifest their unconscious and conditioned desires. However, eventually, ego death has started in this stage. Although freeing, after a while, this state feels a bit distant from life, a bit cold and dry, and something within wants to connect.
Self as LOVING AWARENESS consciousness – I AM LOVE
This is the most beautiful feeling probably a human experience can have. It feels more like an aware, loving space that's aware of the person and everything in existence. There is a feeling of oneness with life, a level of indescribable intimacy, extraordinary beauty, and an inherent meaning in everything without conceptualization. It feels that the self's identity shifted to a spacious divine presence that can hold both sides of the spectrum (good and not good, kind and unkind, love and fear) without being lost in any of them. There is compassion, empathy, and unconditional acceptance towards oneself and others.
Self as PURE BEING and PRESENCE consciousness - I AM BEING
This identity feels like a solid foundation, restful, grounded awareness, and is usually felt below the gut, in the Mooladhara, or the root chakra to the crown chakra. Self is identified as simply the presence, as "I exist". Kundalini Shakthi moves freely without much obstruction and is felt like a relaxed bliss in the body. The presence is felt as space within the body and outside the body. It feels like there is only energy moving, not limited to oneself. There is an integration process between all parts of ourselves (the negative, suppressed, ignored parts). The holdings sometimes are even pre-cognitive/pre-conceptual. Stillness begins here.
Self as AWARENESS (The I of I AM)
Here in this state, the self-identity is in the pure awareness. This is a feeling of emptiness, nothingness, although it cannot be called any feeling state. It is as though one is awareness and awareness is watching itself. It can feel a little alien at times. It is sometimes possible to get stuck at this stage. This is the pure formless potential. This awareness can even be aware of the presence/being.
This is quite tricky to talk about. This is a kind of internal annihilation, a death of the self-identity (all forms). Emptiness is all there is, and it does not feel negative. This is the experience of the seer merging with the experience and what is seen. They all become one. Initially it can feel as though everything is happening through the person, without the doer doing anything. In all the previous states, there was a self-identity, and the knowing happened through that identity/perspective, a doer or an experiencer. There was a physical hold (a form of self-reference, a loop) that created the illusion of self-identity. No-self is where the self-referential falls away. Technically, this is felt as a complete physical relaxation as there is no holding, sometimes described as falling into the groundless void. There can be much disorientation here, as the mind and body are not used to this way of existence. An existential fear arises within, and survival instinct kicks in during this phase. Eventually, as this matures, the mind and body slowly learn that nothing can be done, and the only path here is surrender, a deep surrender that continues to happen at various holds(identity).
When the no-self state (actually, it is not even a state) is experienced (and it is not even an experience), nothing much can be said. Something begins to flower; this is when quotes like "We are spiritual beings leading human lives" apply. This is what is talked about as resurrection. IT is now beyond oneness, beyond unity, beyond spirituality, beyond any concepts, beyond any beliefs, beyond good or bad, beyond time and timeless, beyond love and not love, but paradoxically coming back to the ordinariness of the totality of life. There is no difference between the spiritual or non-spiritual world. The human, soul, spirit, and external world become one, and that intersection point is NOW. One important aspect here is that seeking finally stops. The simple realization here is, there is THAT without the self-referential aspect, and THAT is aware. There is no way to know what this is, yet, intuitively, we know we cannot be anything else other than this. It is like the eye can never see itself and can only see the world. This is a big paradox, a mystery. Everything at this stage is straightforward, very ordinary. There is a kind of simple joy without having to do anything climactic. The teachings and pointers that talk about nothing to do and nowhere to go can be used as a very useful pointer to keep surrendering the resistances and holdings.
INTEGRATION and REALIZATION
There is still integration that is needed in all aspects of human lives, but it is done without anxiety or fear or any conceptual holds. Washing dishes, cooking, cleaning, going to a 9-5 job, raising kids, running a business - everything is equal. The instinct here is to willingly get back to all those aspects of us that need to be healed, transmuted, or released. Inner work that includes inner child and shadow work proceeds at an alarming rate, going beyond the cognitive and emotional healing. It feels that life has aligned or you have aligned with life. Kundalini energy flows and helps clear the stuck places, and provides clarity. This is a process that happens by itself. The only action we can do is trust and surrender to this intelligence of life. I want to specify here that this is not climactic - it does not need you to become a billionaire entrepreneur or a spiritual teacher or a life coach, or someone who is going to save the world (these are concepts that fall away). Nevertheless, you can become all of these too, but only if they are aligned. You will reconnect more with yourself, doing and finding joy in all things like career, art, gardening, music, spending time with family, yet you naturally become a benevolent presence that changes other people lives - knowingly or knowingly (sometimes lovingly, sometimes fiercely) and this IS the intelligence of life. .
Although the states seem to be defined, it is possible to jump all over the place. When a problematic resistance comes in, one who is in the no-self can shift to the egoic consciousness. The journey is unique to each person.
Eventually, we learn that this whole journey has been about losing the doer identity's willpower. When THAT, which is indescribable, becomes more pronounced in our day-to-day living, IT naturally chooses and uses all the awakened states to seamlessly move between them without getting stuck in any awakened state. That is freedom! Ultimately we can let go of the driver seat into the fluidity of consciousness (this is how my favorite Zen teacher Adyashanti puts). HERE and NOW becomes the only place to be, as there is no other choice. Now becomes the intersection point at which the Absolute, Soul, human, experiencing, and the world finally becomes ONE. And this is not something that anyone can do, it spontaneously happens, and that IS our true nature. We finally become complete and whole in all the 3 realms - human, soul and spirit - to authentically lead a deeply connected and meaningful life, moment by moment!