We all function at 2 very different levels of consciousness (ways of being) on different occasions.
How often do you recognize this in yourself?
Why is differentiating between these important?
Too often, most of us are striving to control our external world – ‘just trying to get by’ – not only in the present, but even in the future or the past! This feels stressful. No matter how well we manage situations, we feel it should have gone better, and there’s a nagging sense of lack or emptiness inside – ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ At this level of consciousness, we feel alone & at least somewhat alienated from everyone & everything else in the world. To some extent at least, most of us have been conditioned to perceive the world as uncaring, at times even hostile to us. As a result, this fear-based, survivalist (FBS) level of consciousness / way of being - often referred to as the ‘small self’ (Eckhart Tolle’s ‘pain body’) – dominates our way of being in the world.
“All of us are prisoners of our early indoctrinations, for it is hard, very nearly impossible, to shake off one’s training.” Jubal, in ‘Stranger in a Strange Land,’ by Robert Heinlein
At times, however, you may feel deeply immersed, ‘at one with’ an activity - alone or with one or more people. There’s no thought of yourself, time, or anything outside of this one activity. You, the activity & other participants are a single, pleasantly flowing process, like a wonderful dance or joyous celebration. You feel gratitude, intimacy with everyone & everything. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi named such common but sporadic, universal human experiences ‘flow.’
However, when this sense of (‘true self’) Self becomes increasingly dominant in one’s life, spiritual teachers refer to this sense of unity or oneness as ‘Universal Consciousness’ in the process of ‘awakening.’
Our deeper intelligence tells us that we're profoundly interconnected & interdependent with everyone & everything - AND - science shows that we're only truly happy while intimately engaged with whoever / whatever we're dealing with in each successive present-moment. Killingsworth MA, Gilbert DT. “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind.” Science 2010; 330(6006): 932.
“When we quit thinking (excessively) about
ourselves & our own self-preservation, we undergo
a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” Joseph Campbell
"… the greatest antidote to insecurity & sense of fear is compassion. It brings one back to the basis of one's inner strength. A truly compassionate person embodies a carefree spirit of fearlessness, born of the freedom from egoistic self-concern." The Dalai Lama
How can we tell when we’re in fear-based survivalist (FBS) mode?
It’s pretty fast & easy when we learn to focus on & thus refine awareness of our thoughts & feelings. Physically FBS mode feels tight & cold. Mentally / emotionally FBS feels insecure, repetitive, unpleasantly stressful & unsustainable. It’s easy to recognize the re-run of old internal conversations we’ve heard way too many times before: ‘I’m no good at this,’ ‘I can’t handle this,’ ‘When will this be over?’ ‘I hate this,’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘If only I could have x, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only I could avoid y, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only z never happened, THEN I’d be happy,’ ‘If only so & so could change, THEN I’d be happy,’ etc, etc.
Habitually worrying about ourselves almost non-stop, is simply failing to realize that far from being helpful, it is the cause of most of our unnecessary suffering.
Even in the worst possible situations – the death by suicide of one’s child or the loss of one’s family, home & all possessions in fires or floods – the most healing thing people who’ve sustained such unimaginable losses can possibly do, is to help others who’ve just suffered these same losses. This is the all-important shift from preoccupation with self to concern for others.
It’s impossible to be happy when we fail to be authentic / true to our Self, just as it’s impossible for a fish to be happy flopping about on dry land; or for a healthy eagle to remain stuck in a small cage. It’s largely up to us WHETHER we remain stuck in the rat race – OR – be authentic to our true nature. Re-discovering who we truly are is primarily an intuitive journey, not something we can think our way to. Thinking is based on theories & models of reality. Who we truly are must be directly experienced, in the moment.
Gangaji skillfully points us to directly experience our true nature:
“I really try to direct people into just discovering there is a direct experience and then there is a narrative about that direct experience. Because we’re so attuned to the narrative (our internal conversations, opinions, judgments), we often follow the narrative as if it were reality, as if it were the direct experience. (BUT our narrative is based on our past experiences & how these have conditioned us to react. So, as Anais Nin has keenly observed, “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ie we see & react to memories from our past, triggered by the present, rather than being able to directly experience & thus respond appropriately, to what we encounter right here & now.)
So even a superficial experience like feeling anger, or irritation not even anger. You feel irritation, we have a narrative about that. We’re righteous in our irritation because somebody cut me off on the freeway. Or, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t feel that way, I should let them do what they have to do. I shouldn’t feel this.’ And we get caught up in our internal conversation and we don’t get to experience the depth of what is here.
Even if it starts as something superficial, like an irritation, in the willingness to experience that without the narrative about that; without good or bad judgment; just to for a moment be absolutely, completely irritated. And without a narrative, irritation can’t last. But it can reveal something deeper – maybe it’s true anger, maybe fear, maybe bliss, and finally, maybe, this radiant, unspeakable, indefinable presence of your own being.”
Gangaji interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSVtlpsN58k - POWERFUL 81-year-old female spiritual teacher
"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ