Most of us are surprisingly USED TO feeling: stressed, unsafe, "not myself", upset, uptight, angry, stingy, grumpy, reactive, rigid, confused & at least vaguely homesick. This is our normal waking state of consciousness.
WHY do most of us ONLY RARELY & BRIEFLY feel: at ease, safe, authentic, peaceful, spacious, unconditionally loved & loving, nurturing, joyful, equanimous, creative, wise & at home?
Could feeling pleasantly at ease, safe & loved be a sign of being in a different state of consciousness?
Could then the opposite, being grimly certain that life is nothing more than stress & "ordinary unhappiness" lock us into our (stressful) normal waking state of consciousness?
Could even a bit of flexibility, curiosity, or inkling that there might be more to life than "ordinary unhappiness" open the gate, allowing a shift into a different, more pleasant state of consciousness - one which most people only rarely & briefly experience?
“Whether you think you can,
or you think you can't
feel at home & at ease in this world – you're right!” Henry Ford, slightly modified
Eckhart Tolle on how we ALL CAN realize this deeper state of consciousness:
“There is an equivalent of dreamless sleep in our ordinary existence, but most people are not aware of that dimension of consciousness that is possible for human beings. And although spiritual teachers have spoken about it, and pointed to it for thousands of years, it still is not common knowledge that there’s a potential in every human being for realizing within him or herself a state of consciousness that is deeper, infinitely deeper than the ordinary state of thinking-and-doing normal life. I sometimes call that state spaciousness, inner spaciousness, presence or stillness. In Indian spirituality, they call it the fourth state of consciousness, turiya. [pure consciousness, the state of enlightenment, the background that underlies & pervades the three common states of consciousness which are: waking state, dreaming state, & dreamless deep sleep] Most humans don’t know that it’s there for them. And that is the greatest tragedy of a human life, to miss the possibility to realize that fourth stage of consciousness.
There is an assumption by spiritual seekers, even in India, and anybody who hasn’t realized it for themselves, or even had glimpses of it, there’s an assumption that that fourth state is extremely hard to attain and you need countless years of spiritual practice or countless lifetimes to finally achieve the fourth state of consciousness. And that belief actually prevents you from realizing it within yourself because that state of spaciousness is already in you all the time. So if you have the belief that it’s something that you need to achieve at some future point, then that belief, that thought, would continuously prevent you from realizing it now. Mentally, you will always project. You’ll say, ‘I’m going to meditate because at some point I want to achieve the fourth state. That can be a great hindrance in your meditation because it prevents you from going deeper into the present moment which is where the fourth state is. Or one could almost say, it’s not just where the fourth state is, but the present moment is the fourth state – the space of now, not what happens in the now, but the deeper, the space in which it happens. The background to your life is continuously there, and continuously also often seeps through in between two thoughts. You take a deep breath between two thoughts, and for 3 seconds you were free of yourself. And for those 3 seconds you might look at something or whatever, and just experience a moment of peace & aliveness. And then of course you get drawn back into thinking. And then at another time a little space comes in again when you’re maybe tasting something, perhaps there’s just the perception of the taste, without any mental interference, just an aware presence behind the sense perception. And then you notice that the state is always there. Every thought exists in that space – it’s only a wave movement in that space.
And so it’s not something that you need to attain as if you didn’t have it, because it’s already here. It is essentially who you are. It is intrinsically one with the essence of your being. And if you don’t know that, then your life is very limited to just a little person, with no transcendent dimension to your life whatsoever. And so we are here, in order to deepen our realization of inner spaciousness. That’s all. So you realize something that is already here, rather than needing to look for it. So why do you often not realize it? Because you overlook it, just like the fish may overlook the fact that it’s surrounded by water and starts looking for it. “Where is the water? People keep talking about the water.” And the more the fish looks, the less likely that it’ll find the water.
So that spaciousness is something that at first may appear in your life as a glimpse. At first, in many peoples’ lives, they don’t know that that is spaciousness. They experience it as heightened aliveness or a deeper sense of peace or joy, an absence of problems for a little moment. ["causeless joy"] So they don’t know that this is a different dimension (or state) of consciousness that has suddenly arisen. They can still confuse it with something else, as I did when the shift happened, and that was a rare thing. In my case, it happened and kind of stayed. For most people, it’s a more gradual thing. It comes gradually for us in glimpses, and then suddenly it’s there for a longer period of time, or you go deeper into it, and there’s a gradual transformation of consciousness. It might be so gradual you don’t even notice it.
And when it happened to me, I didn’t realize that there was spaciousness. I wasn’t familiar with the word ‘spaciousness.’ I didn’t know anything about the ‘fourth state of consciousness.’ I knew nothing about ‘presence’ or even ‘mindfulness.’ I didn’t realize even that my mind had subsided and become spacious. All I knew is suddenly life is very peaceful. This moment feels so good. That’s all I knew. 'And where does this peace come from?' I asked. I didn’t know. I didn’t know it was the depths of who I am. Realizing the depths of who I am was joy and peace. But I didn’t have the words for that. I couldn’t call it ‘the depths of who I am.’ I just thought, ‘Why am I suddenly so peaceful?’ … There was no understanding of where this peace originated. How did this peace come about? The understanding came later.
Some people are totally, continuously unhappy, anxious, angry, fearful or continuously upset, or continuously in a state of deep discontent - and there are people like that. A not-insignificant proportion of the population live in an almost continuous state of discontent in one form or another. There’s always a residue of anger. They’re just waiting for the next thing to be angry about, to be upset about, [hypervigilance, preparedness to definitively eliminate the next assault, due to history of trauma]. Or they’re totally unhappy & depressed and everything is just dreadful. Or they’re approaching the borderline of what we conventionally call sanity and insanity, and then they step beyond this borderline, and then they’re declared clinically whatever. So there are many people in mental institutions who are so obsessed with their minds, that there is no space between thoughts whatsoever. And people are very unhappy, totally unhappy. They experience virtually no relief from their mind. So no spaciousness at all makes for a very unhappy life.
Imagine if you could only dream but never reach a dreamless state. You would go insane, because you need the dreamless state. Now in ordinary wakefulness, you also need the spaciousness. And if you have absolutely no spaciousness, you go virtually insane.”
The Fourth State of Consciousness - Eckhart Tolle (Sub ESP) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bim73icRzCk
Those who've taken MBSR courses, or have participated in guided meditations might realize that the instructions guiding you to pay closer & closer attention to subtle physical sensations such as posture, muscular tension, temperature in various parts of the body, subtle sounds in the distance, etc are all geared to bring about inner silence (quieting of self-talk) and inner & outer stillness (cessation of physical, mental & emotional restlessness), focus on the present moment, and therefore, allow you to shift into & thereby directly experience this fourth state of consciousness - your true self - which is always present but easily drowned out by self-talk & other restless distractions.
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