MORE ON CONSCIOUSNESS

However this has led to many valuable, yet everyday aspects of awareness being largely ignored. The new emerging science of consciousness studies often references quantum mechanics which does seem to imply a validation of the idea that we are each creators of the personal world in which we live; informed by our beliefs, prejudices, attitudes, focus and expectations.

There are now a number of conferences being held all over the world where scientists and theologians from diverse backgrounds are joining together to change our existing perspectives, towards new paradigms, which promise to be inclusive of what we intuitively know in our spiritual selves, as well as that which we can prove, test and measure with the tool of science.

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PERCEPTION

We live in a culture saturated with ‘self-help’ books and ‘inspirational’ speakers, keen to share their wisdom for living more fruitfully. A common message is that we should do what we enjoy and follow our passion. Those of us who are in a position to do this are truly fortunate indeed but many feel lost, trapped and oppressed; believing they have little hope of achieving anything.

The more I observe of myself and others, the more it seems that, to a great degree, we write our own script, which the universe then patiently reflects back to us.

This is wonderfully illustrated by the following story of a father and son who were travelling together on a train. The son sat on the left hand side of the carriage and the father sat on the right.

As the son looked out of the window he marvelled at the growing fields of bright yellow corn, the herds of cattle grazing on lush green grass and the gentle winding of the river dancing over multihued pebbles. The son reflected on all the beauty manifested in the world as he smiled, deeply relaxed and enjoyed the journey.

He arrived at the destination energised and in joyful mood.

The father sitting on the other side of the train carriage stared out of the window and despaired at the queues of traffic on the motorway, the trees and shrubs distorted by toxic fumes, the graffiti on the concrete bridges and the piles of litter at the roadside. He reflected on all the hardships of his life, how the world seemed harsh, dirty and unfair. He tensed, sighed heavily and brooded on all the misery manifested in the world.

He arrived at the destination feeling drained, morose and melancholy.

Whose perspective was accurate? both? neither? (amend punctuation) What if that which you focus on or expect to see, feel and experience is exactly what is mirrored back to us? (change you to us) The stories we tell ourselves about the world are necessarily incomplete and distorted. Spiritual practice encourages us to be more open, tolerant and accepting of what is, just in this moment. Our everyday language also alludes to the benefit of this; we use the phrase ‘going with the flow’, which is often said rather flippantly but is a fundamental aspect of living a more fulfilling life because it reduces resistance.

Why is this important? The trees that survive a raging storm are not those that are strong and tough like the Oak; even the Great Oak can be found ripped out by its roots. The trees that survive the storm are those with delicate and supple boughs like the Willow, which can bend almost to right angles and regain their shape without snapping.

My personal experience has been that when I trust the universe and get out of my own way, (‘let go and let God’ as the bumper sticker says) then I function at my best and the world seems to reward me with good progress. The challenge is to find the flow in the first place! This does not mean that life is a bed of roses and without challenges of course. Our challenges are the catalysts that call forth the slumbering potentials from the very depths of us. In our despair all we have to hold onto is our trust, our faith in something beyond and larger than ourselves, even if that is our own higher self or wise mind – our intuitive self.

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NON-ORDINARY STATES

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Attributed to Einstein but is a paraphrase by Bob Samples in ‘The Metaphoric Mind’

Research has suggested that many altered states of consciousness, whether those caused by high arousal or those created through deep relaxation are also accompanied by changes in brain wave activity that can be measured – for example;

• high anxiety / stress (Gamma Waves)
• conscious waking state – (Beta Waves)
• absentmindedness – (Alpha waves) • unconsciousness
• automatic / autonomic responses
• sleep – (delta waves)
• dreaming – (theta waves)
• typo-meditation – (theta and alpha waves)
• prayer
• relaxation

This might seem to suggest that there is a neurological basis for the unusual phenomena which frequently accompanies these states.

In truth we all experience a variety of ordinary and non-ordinary states of consciousness each day; some giving rise to seemingly strange, anomalous or paranormal experiences; for example in the hypnagogic / hypnopompic phases (falling in and out of sleep) we might hear voices, see images in the room or feel bodily sensations such as being touched by another.

Some nightmare episodes that appear to be more real than dreams such as ‘night terrors’ and ‘sleep paralysis’, involve a sensation of something sitting on the chest, attacking, threatening or suffocating the individual, whilst the body remains paralysed and unable to respond. Other frightening phenomena that have been reported are the alien abduction experience and demonic possession.

Whatever we might believe to be the cause of these phenomena be it neurological or paranormal, they are very real and terrifying for the individual.

Many of us have witnessed an incident that was seemingly out of the ordinary, in the normal waking state, such as a light trance whilst reading a book, telepathy with a loved one, synchronistic events, precognitive dreams and flashes of intuition. Often these are whimsical, pleasurable and occasionally a little creepy but for some the experience of hearing voices or seeing visions that are frequently hostile and aggressive, can be a torment and feel out of control. In rare cases the individual may believe that these phenomena are created by an external unseen force which originates from the realm of the paranormal.

Our cultural beliefs define our understanding of human experience; anomalous phenomena and non–ordinary states are sometimes diagnosed as psychosis yet in other cultures the same experiences are thought to be caused by negative spirits or even praised as a sign of spiritual awakening.

The view of some Eastern traditions is that psychosis might be the spontaneous release of Kundalini energy, without an individual being prepared or adept at managing such a force and thus creating psychological disturbance.

These realms must be navigated with a note of caution and a great deal of respect, yet it is through the more non-ordinary states of consciousness that we can find our own inner wisdom and receive messages from the divine, which may be revealed to us through our dreams, meditation, prayer or intuitive insight. (It is said that Albert Einstein was led to the Theory of Relativity through a dream).

I have worked with Voice Hearers and those who see visions. One of the important aspects of this work is to support the individual in finding their own meaning and management of the phenomena. I also work with dreams which are the bridge to the richness of the unconscious mind.

“One of the most important implications of the research of holotropic states is the realization that many of the conditions, which are currently diagnosed as psychotic and indiscriminately treated by suppressive medication, are actually difficult stages of a radical personality transformation and of spiritual opening. If they are correctly understood and supported, these psychospiritual crises can result in emotional and psychosomatic healing, remarkable psychological transformation, and consciousness evolution”

(Stanislav Grof)

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