Psychology of Becoming Conscious II: Awakening Journeys

by Ovidiu Brazdau

The Psychology of Becoming Conscious – The Awakening Journeys is an in-depth psychological approach to the process of becoming conscious, which incorporates various types of Waking Up experiences into a wider psychological perspective, allowing us to better understand the journeys of transformation.

I tried to see what the main types of awakening experiences are, what their evolutionary purpose for our species is and how people integrate all types of experiences in order to become more conscious. This approach evolved naturally as a theoretical necessity for my research on the Consciousness Quotient and the Consciousness Quotient Inventory (CQ-i), which is a psychological assessment of the conscious experience.

Table of contents

I. INTRODUCTION
II. SOME REFLECTIONS ON DEVELOPMENTAL THEORIES
III. BASIC PRINCIPLES OF AWAKENING/OPENING JOURNEYS
IV. CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE SYSTEMS
V. AWAKENING EXPERIENCES
.   Awakening from “collective hypnosis”
.   The “I am” experience: Activation of the witnessing awareness
.   Conscious embodiment – the reconnection with the body energy and body perceptions
.   Awakening to the energy flows
.   Vibrational awakenings: from erotic to ecstatic and beyond
.   Interconnectedness awakening – the shift from individual to collective awareness
.   Awakening the heart and the experience of unconditional love as deep resonance
.   Awakening of the multidimensional awareness
.   Consciously using non-conceptual perspective lenses to create a framework for experiences
.   Flow awareness and the modulation of life events
.   Merging of the inner mental space with the real physical space: inner eye vision
.   Entheogenic awakenings
VI. DEPTH PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESSES DURING INNER TRANSFORMATION
Transformation-Related Processes
.   Automatic life review
.   The symbolic journey and the theory of everything
.   Healing the transgenerational memes
Perspective-Related Processes
.   Opening to the unknown
.   The linguistic bias: using old language to describe new perspectives
.   Building perspectives through automatic contrasts and associations
.   Polar opposites and integrating polarities in a new perspective
.   Differentiating and prioritizing patterns: choosing the new perspective
.   Triggers: the conscious and unconscious anchoring of the perspectives
.   The cognitive answering machine
Ego- Related Patterns
.   Ego hijacking
.   Awakening meme
.   Maya pattern
.   Dark night pattern
VII. FINAL REMARKS

 

 I. Introduction


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Awakening Journeys and Inner Growth Journeys are two components of a new perspective that I am developing, the Psychology of Becoming Conscious. This is my attempt to use a unified conceptual framework to understand two complementary developmental paths, namely, Growing Up and Waking Up[1]. The Growing Up path is about learning to harmonize our “Self”, while the Waking Up path is about adding new depths and facets to our conscious experience of “Being”.

Awakening Journeys happen by going beyond, by refining our conscious experience and fully attending to various types of possibilities. I am introducing a conceptual link between these two approaches, using an expanded definition of the conscious experience.

In my opinion, to be conscious means to have a degree of witnessing awareness and a degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment. An important element of the conscious experience is intentionality, a mindset that allows a person to choose deliberately how to behave and what attitude to have. The state of being “more conscious” means having a higher degree of witnessing awareness and being less automatic in thinking-feeling-sensing, while acknowledging a higher degree of choice when initiating a behavior[2].

The previous paragraph reflects my operational definition of the conscious experience, which has been validated using scientific psychological assessment procedures. It represents one of the key premises of the Consciousness Quotient Inventory (CQ-i), the instrument I have been developing since 2005[3]. The witnessing perspective, which leads to the ability to observe the inside and outside worlds without engaging with them, is one of the key factors of the conscious experience[4].

Witnessing awareness is usually described as the “I am” experience, the observer experience, just being (as opposed to doing) and the acknowledgement of the awareness of awareness itself. The witnessing awareness mode seems to be a part of a new system that is becoming activated in the human race on a large scale. Richard Maurice Bucke conceptualized it as “cosmic consciousness”, but I think that it is a new evolutionary feature currently developing in humans, in a similar manner to the human self-reflective mind that has started to form in our evolutionary history. I prefer to call it the Presence Self (or the Non-Conceptual Self or Non-Symbolic Self).

The description of these awakening journeys is mostly an experience-based approach, rather than a philosophical approach, and it was developed as a step-by-step process. In 2001, I co-authored a book on consciousness (in Romanian), which consists of a summary of our knowledge about the psychology of conscious evolution. In 2002, together with Ion Mânzat, I founded the Romanian Transpersonal Psychology Association. I left the Association in 2005, when I started to develop the Consciousness Quotient approach as part of my PhD. In 2010, I decided to radically change my life and to dive into the unknown.

So, that was the background to this work, and when opening experiences started to happen in 2012-2013, I was quite familiar (theoretically) with the idea of spiritual emergency, ego death, stages of evolution, etc. This has allowed me to observe and understand what is happening to me during these opening experiences, as they are happening. I was also given an excellent opportunity to discuss awakening experiences with my students, as until 2016 I had been teaching psychology at the Ecological University in Bucharest. In 2015 I organized a one-semester course on consciousness and awakening in Bucharest, and I decided to invite the general public. To my surprise, out of 250 participants, only 50 were students. Many of the participants were already experiencing different awakenings, and they were looking for a theoretical framework within which to understand these experiences. By the end of the semester, around 70-100 people were coming regularly, which was great. It was a good opportunity for me to organize all my knowledge, observations and ideas about awakening.

It was at this time that I decided to pay attention to my experiences in a different way, noticing what about them was personal to me, and what was the human “structure” allowing that experience to happen to me and other people. Separating “objective” from “subjective” was a good skill, as I was paying more attention to the psychological structures that create human experience. By the end of 2015, I had written the first part of the Psychology of Becoming Conscious – The Inner Growth Journeys, before publishing it online at www.consciousness-quotient.com, with a shorter Romanian version on www.armonie.ro.

The Awakening Journeys is a continuation of my work on the basic principles of conscious experience and inner growth. Here, I am more focused on the deep psychological changes and processes that happen along the path toward inner harmony. What I describe in this paper is based on my experiences between 2012 and 2017. I suppose that, with time, other openings will happen; however, for the moment, these types of openings are what I am aware of, and the processes I describe here are my best framework within which to rationally understand them using a psychological approach. Please consider this as a work in progress.

 

 II. Some reflections on developmental theories


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I felt the need to introduce a new framework because the existing developmental frameworks do not include some of the openings I observed. I do have a deep appreciation for the work of all the developmental authors, especially Susanne Cook-Greuter, Ken Wilber and Terry O’Fallon, because their work has been foundational in the field. Their lifetime achievements have allowed a new generation of researchers to further advance their models and to keep what is good about them, while also improving on them and adding new developments.

Below are my reflections on existing developmental theories:

– In order to access a unitive conscious experience, a person does not have to reach a post-autonomous stage of ego development. Jeffery Martin, in his PhD paper “Ego Development Stage Does Not Predict Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience”[5], concludes that non-symbolic experiences are accessible across a wide range of developmental levels. This observation is consistent with my conclusions that the development of the Non-Conceptual Self (witnessing awareness mode) and the Conceptual Self (thinking, feeling, sensing, acting and interacting) happens in different ways.

– Ego development theories seem to look too much into the emotional-cognitive aspect, leaving the evolution of body awareness and body energy out of the system. This was corrected by Rosemarie Anderson in her paper “The Body and Embodiment in Human Development: Overview of the Body Map”[6]. She describes the evolution of body awareness, comparing the stages of body awareness development side-by-side with the stages of ego development described by Susanne Cook-Greuter. That was a necessary update, meaning that the world of dancers, movers, contact improvisation and authentic dancers is now included.

– The idea of momentary states vs. permanent structural stages is one of the solid conclusions arrived at by developmental studies. However, after I entered the world of ayahuasca, LSD, magic mushrooms, alternative communities, world travelers, buskers and psy music festivals in nature, meeting some amazing people along the way, the actual models failed to provide me with an explanation of the psychology of some of these people. Their complexity went beyond the existing models I knew of. Because of this, I started to think less in terms of states/stages, and more about “conscious skills”, “preferred ways of being/doing” or “preferred lifestyles”.

– A lack of description of the higher/later stages of development was due to the lack of research data and the unavailability of sufficient subjects. However, in recent years, things have changed. One example is the wider accessibility of various “technologies” with the ability to offer glimpses into transpersonal ways of functioning (e.g., holotropic breathing, ayahuasca, flotation tanks), resulting in an increased number of people waking up to life in various forms. Furthermore, secular awakenings are quite widespread (see interviews on Buddha at the Gas Pump[7] or Conscious TV[8]).

– There is a global energy shift toward a better harmony, resulting in increasing cases of kundalini/pranotthana experiences in people with no interest in classical spirituality, and these transformations need to be incorporated into psychological developmental models. It is not just about embodiment; it is about shifts in global energy, which is why psychology and psychosomatics need new concepts. Otherwise, the “light workers” will continue to misguide people.

– A lack of psychological modeling for transformational journeys is leading to the continuation of some of the most accepted-but-criminal behavior in psychiatry: labeling people undergoing temporary experiences of deep transformation with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and blocking their transformation with long-term drug therapy. That is totally unacceptable in my opinion. The idea that some of these moments are “spiritual emergencies” and that some of them are just psychotic moments is also not good. Yes, if it happens to people at post-conventional stages, then they can be emergencies. But it is the same process of collective healing, even for people who are not lucky enough to be in post-modern environments. If it happens in New York to a person living in Manhattan with post-modern friends, then it is a spiritual emergency; if it happens in a village in Romania to a person from a traditional Christian orthodox family, then it is schizophrenia, or something even worse, like possession by some kind of devil.

I think that the idea of the collective healing of collective traumas needs to be included in developmental theories. It is psychology that must offer new models for understanding these transformative experiences and put them in the right psycho-social context.

 

III. Basic principles of awakening/opening journeys


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There are various types of “openings” which can be described as “awakenings”. I prefer to use both the terms opening and awakening simultaneously to describe these experiences. Technically, the awakening is an opening to new ways of functioning. In time, if this new opening is cultivated and consciously nurtured, it becomes a conscious skill. In other words, it habitualizes, supported by the neuroplasticity of the brain. After these neuroplasticity processes take place, the person can use this skill without investing so much of their attention in it and it becomes automated, thus creating the conditions for the next step in evolution.

Below are some conclusions about awakening journeys. I think they can be starting points for a discussion about the basic principles of the Psychology of Becoming Conscious.

  1. Awakening journeys are a continuum of openings and insights about the functioning of life and nature. Awakenings are subjective discoveries about the natural functioning of the various systems that make us up.
    Each awakening is a transformative experience, felt as a transition toward a more complex and deeper awareness.
  1. Awakenings are natural evolutionary processes, each one making a specific contribution to the collective self-reflection process.
  1. People all over the world have the same types of “openings/awakenings”, with a subjective flavor added by their preferred frames of reference used for perceiving-feeling-thinking-sensing-interacting. It is the collective evolution that is reflected in individual evolution.
  1. Each person creates meaning out of this natural opening, based on their individual/group worldview. The individual’s interpretation of these natural evolutionary processes is biased by their meaning-making structure due the inherent limitations of the language in each framework (spiritual, philosophical, religious, pseudoscientific, scientific, etc.).
  1. Awakenings happen either sequentially or, sometimes, simultaneously.
  1. Each opening has various depths.
  1. Awakenings can happen in individuals living with various ego development configurations. As the ego becomes more flexible, awakenings are experienced in their essentiality at post-conventional stages. Presence skills (non-symbolic/non-conceptual skills) are available at all stages of ego development.
  1. Usually, there is no such thing as definitive awakening after one experience (even if it lasts weeks, months or years). Each awakening system triggers a deeper understanding of other systems, until multidimensional awareness skills are acquired and all the layers are harmonized and integrated in a simultaneous, multidimensional conscious life.
  1. Each awakening provides a new set of conscious awareness skills. Some people just enjoy life with the new configuration without going further in their explorations.
  1. Each awakening takes time to integrate, anywhere between a few years and some decades. After integration, the new conscious awareness skills lead to lifestyle changes.

* Engaging in frequent transformative experiences facilitated by entheogens without allowing time for integration may not be a good option. E.g., one strong ayahuasca experience needs at least half a year/one year to integrate due to its cascade effect, from easy-to-observe changes in the first weeks, to deep and subtle changes in the months and years following the experience.

  1. There are various opening experiences that occur spontaneously during life, lasting from a few seconds to a few hours, but people usually lack the education to recognize and cultivate them (when they are very intense they are considered peak experiences or altered states of consciousness).
  1. New awakenings can happen even if previous openings have not been habitualized.
  1. Some evolutionary processes can happen in dramatic ways, which are quite shocking for the people around, and the societal reaction is to label these transformational moments as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and to stop the transformation process from taking place using long term medication.
  1. Nature explores evolutionary processes in various ways; some newborns already have certain new evolutionary features and society lacks the educational tools to take care of these children (e.g., autism).
  1. Sometimes, when the collective energy changes, individuals sensitive to collective flows receive an upgrade in configuration, and this is felt as an awakening.

* I presume that this happens all the time as there are continuous waves of change, but being aware of some of these upgrades as they happen is quite amazing. Some people tend to interpret this process as the “downloading” of information, as “messages” or as “divine missions”.

 

 IV. Conscious experience systems


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In order to understand openings, it is necessary to adopt a global view and to understand openings as part of the larger context of human evolution. Before awakenings, the essential role of each layer is hidden and partially conscious, while after awakenings, their functioning is usually seen and experienced on a deeper level.

I have listed some key words for each system, in a non-exhaustive way, to describe their function. I find this systemic approach useful for showing the diverse range of awakenings that can happen during our lifetime.

Some of us have some inherited openings brought about by favorable circumstances (e.g., awakened parents), while some of us have to work for years to develop these conscious skills.

A relevant observation is that the witness is not some sort of outer/inner observer; there is a witness on each layer, and we can witness each layer from within itself. After all, all of these systems are functioning within a physical space. Just by being constantly aware of this space, it allows us to permanently witness all the events that take place. Sometimes this space is occupied with dense information, dense energy or physical blockages, and sometimes everything is vibrating and flowing.

The systems I have described here are the main factors in the Consciousness Quotient Inventory; for each system there are 30-50 items exploring the various psychological facets of each system[9].

Presence Self

Psychological purpose: Self-reflection, mirroring, witnessing globally.
Provides feedback/self-reflection to all the other layers. Just being. Attention to attention.
Selecting the flows by attention management. Shifting the experience by attentionally allowing various flows (e.g. nondual communities seem to prefer living through mirroring the awareness flows).

Creates temporary moments of harmony in relaxed settings when the ego is chilled (e.g., holidays, meditation, spiritual practices).
Magic tool: sensing my presence as I am.

Evolutionary purpose: Non-localized mirroring potentiality. Feedback looper. Multidimensional feedback mechanism (fractal style, perhaps).
Self-reflection both inside systems and in connection with the whole.

Body-Physical Self

Psychological purpose: Body-physical space.
Felt sense, connection with the Earth, orientation in physical space.
Magic tools: Contact improvisation, Feldenkrais exercises.

Evolutionary purpose: Matter-space dynamics.
Body witnessing. Perception expansion: seeing/sensing the inner space.
Inner space is happening in the outer space (cosmos). Embodiment. Flexible 3D spatial length of perspective.
Vitality, using natural food.

Energy-Emotional Self

Psychological purpose: Emotional, pulsional energy.
Feel, emotional flows. Sexuality, vitality flows.
Kundalini activation, harmonizing through “heat” or “jets” of energy (cleansing process).
Magic tool: inner love-making, transforming the erotic into the ecstatic.

Evolutionary purpose: Energy-wave dynamics.
Maintaining the vibrational sync with collective flows and inner processes.
Consciously tuning into frequencies and flows. Harmonizing is aligning with collective energy flows.
Managing high energy experiences (high internal synchrony).
Life force is flowing and vibrating as it is, there is no need to “eject it”, information encrypted in waves is fully allowed, there is no need to partially erase evolutionary information through “heat”/jets of energy[10].

Cognitive-Information Self

Psychological purpose: Cognition.
Conceptual and visual thinking. Systemic thinking.
Remembering past events and exploring future possibilities.
Sequential time. Attention “triggered” by unconscious flows.
Causal reasoning.
Magic tool: Visual spatial thinking.

Evolutionary purpose: Information dynamics.
Consciously using frames of reference (time and space).
Connecting with other parts, seeing the big picture, seeing connections.
Language as a conscious tool.
Unified reasoning based on here-now-past memories-future possibilities.
Consciously selecting the preferred information density.

Social-Relational Self (interconnectedness system)

Psychological purpose: Connect, select interactions.
Magic tool: Selecting the interaction based on the quality of the flows.

Evolutionary purpose: Social-relational wisdom.
Harmonizing in interaction with other flows/patterns, joining and leaving groups/flows of matter/energy/information.
High sensitivity, paying attention when selecting connections.
Consciously choosing the preferred connectivity style (e.g., preferred density of interactions).

Spiritual Self (harmonizing system)

Psychological purpose: Living in harmony, sacredness.
Global values based on respect.

Evolutionary purpose: Harmonizing inner-outer connections. Local with global.
Inner harmonizing with collective flows.

Identity Self (self-regulating system)

Psychological purpose: Allowing order, keeping coherence.
Inner stability, patterns, fixed identity.
Preferred ways of experiencing.
Magic tool: Allowing deep relaxation and ego “death”.

Evolutionary purpose: “Particle” management.
Keeping existing rhythms, keeping patterns of functioning.
Multidimensional self.
Preferred way of being.

Inner Growth Self (self-regulating system)

Psychological purpose: Keeping transformation, allowing chaos.
Inner development, allowing new experiences.
Growth mindset.
Magic tool: Using the intention to surf through life.

Evolutionary purpose: Wave flow management.
Changing rhythms, adding new rhythms.
Adding new patterns of functioning.
Preferred way of flowing.

 

 V. Awakening experiences


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Each of the transformative experiences I describe in this section have different degrees of depths and various ways of happening. Some of them can happen together, depending on each person. I see many connections between the transformative experiences and the stages of evolution provided by developmental theories, but a global analysis of where each conscious skill belongs, and to what stage, does not quite seem possible for me at this point in life, due to the complexities of some types of awakening. 

Awakening from “collective hypnosis”

This is an experience which happens when people start to become autonomous and to form their personal system of values. In other words, it is an awakening from cultural hypnosis, starting from becoming conscious of the cultural consensual reality and ending in seeing how culture itself is the consensual reality.

I have met people who have switched from one cultural system (e.g., corporate style) to an alternative community, without realizing per se how culture itself can shift their experience. They just changed from an unpleasant environment to one more suited for their way of life. This is a good step; it is better than living a life in a cultural system they don’t resonate with. Choosing a preferred way of living, a preferred cultural environment, is a necessary decision. A good conscious skill would be the ability to consciously select the shape we should take depending on each environment to which we choose to adapt.

Sometimes, this awakening can reinforce the ego by providing the “I am special” energy, but this is a good inflation in my opinion; it is just a step that provides energy for further transformations.

The “I am” experience: Activation of the witnessing awareness

This experience is about disconnecting from the mind-ego, about discovering a new way of “being” instead of “doing/thinking/feeling/sensing”[11]. It is the experience generated upon the activation of witnessing awareness and when the state of being aware of one’s awareness becomes available. Accompanied by a great feeling of interconnectedness, this type of non-symbolic experience is what people usually talk about as “enlightenment”; it is the base structure for unitive experiences.

The activation of the witnessing awareness is sometimes preceded by a critical experience of “ego death”. However, in time, this “death” can be considered as a “relaxation”, and moving the point of reference from mind to presence helps a lot. What is dying is a rigid structure, and the lesson I learned after this awakening was that of allowing myself to be more and more fluid, more “liquid”. In fact, after some years, I realized that these two systems, Self-Identity and Inner Growth, are just two parts of a self-regulating mechanism: one which maintains the form-structure, and one which pushes for transformation.

In my opinion, what happens in this experience is a shift of attention, from being permanently immersed in experiences to a diffuse-global attention, including the non-ego parts (the non-conceptual self or presence self). It is a sort of opening that splits the attention stream to a more contextual presence.

After I first experienced it in February 2013, it was fully active for some months, but then I began to lose it from time to time, becoming absorbed in some of the stuff I was doing or thinking. It became permanent after eight months, with quite an interesting visual. I was relaxing in bed when a snake emerged from somewhere in the subtle space in front of me, entered into me and my spine, shook there a for a bit as though preparing its nest, before melting into my spine. Since that moment, my inner witness has been here. Having said that, I think it was last year, I was meditating a little on the balcony when I felt something like a snake flying away from my spine. However, I have not been paying so much attention to the visual imagery in recent years; I know it is simply my mind working by itself, so I am unable to say whether or not it was the same snake. I rarely have visuals involving snakes and I rarely encounter real snakes, but there are a lot of movies and visuals concerning this process in the collective mythology.

Since then, I have had the ability to be absorbed in anything without losing the presence (the awareness of some parts of awareness being absorbed); these two flows are just two different streams of information happening simultaneously.

Mindfulness techniques are a good way of taking steps in this direction, and offer a new point of reference by accepting all that is in a non-judgmental way. Having said that, mindfulness as I have encountered it in Western countries provides rather a sort of self-reflection than a real witnessing (aware of awareness) activation.

Neo-Advaita/nondual movements also provide good training in this kind of experience. However, the ego is necessary for us to be able to function. In time, a person can learn not to use a rigid ego structure, but to keep a balance between the stability and the flexibility of the ego, instead of “abandoning” the ego. What I have observed in these Neo-Advaita/nondual movements is the preaching style of certain Western spiritual teachers, especially the style of talking to their audience using phrases such as “you will feel, you feel, you experience”. These teachers talk about their personal experiences as though they were general experiences. Some teachers seem to lack a basic awareness of their language, being totally immersed in the “I know – You don’t know” guru-ness setup. However, they do a lot of good work with people who need this break from a fixed ego, for a while.

I want to mention here an important event in my life that gave a new meaning to this experience. In 2014, one year after the activation of my witnessing awareness, I took a strong dose of LSD in a nice environment near a forest. It was a night-morning experience, which showed me a new way of being that I had never before imagined was possible. The sunrise became The Sun Rise, which was happening not only for me but for the entire human species, in a timeline of now. Every sunrise from our evolution as a species, condensed into the present Sun Rise at that moment. Now, that was a dense Being moment. This experience showed me how naive I was to think that the “I am” part of our psyche is somehow from the same story as the ego. It was sort of as if I thought that, if the ego was a particle, then the non-ego was a sort of non-particle. But I was wrong: the non-conceptual self is a field, an evolving wave, with the incredible ability bend, dance, flow, connect, interact… I realized that the “I am”, or white light, or what some call Paramashiva, seems to be in fact a full universe, not just white light. There are things happening, there are patterns, there are structures, and they are evolving… we just need to adapt our eyes so that the intense density of life-light will not blind us[12].

Conscious embodiment – the reconnection with the body energy and body perceptions

This experience is a natural part of inner growth, experienced as an “awakening” by those who do not connect too much with their bodies in their life. A good name for this experience, which is already in use and I like it, is “conscious embodiment”.

Some of my acquaintances have become massage therapists in order to consciously connect with the body and to expand their body awareness. For me, this experience was brought about by going to Feldenkrais workshops and contact improvisation courses and jams. It took me about two-three years to fluidify my body and to develop satisfactory body awareness.

What I discovered was a world of impressive expressivity; everything related with my body changed. As a result of these practices, my body awareness just opened up and I became aware of how the psychological process of letting go and the relaxation of the body happen together. This opening also gave me a new awareness of what food my body requires at different times, depending on my inner experiences.

Now, this opening looks like the easiest way to start out on the inner growth journey. Going beyond the ego is not an easy choice, but reconnecting with one’s body awareness is such an easy option (I recently encountered the term bodyfulness, as in mindfulness). However, it was quite a shock for me to discover that a lot of the professional movers and dancers that I was meeting seemed to behave as if this body awareness were a profession, not an amazing opening with the potential to lead to wonderful psychosomatic releases.

I would like to mention a few explorers of this experience who have amazing insights: Janet Adler[13] and Andrea Olsen[14]. Here is a description from Scott Kiloby[15]:

“An awakening experience itself is merely the first step. It takes a while for the body to catch up…

This exploration became so intimate, tender and gentle, like falling in love with every sensation and every thought about the body. A complete surrender to all of that as it arose. I would gently feel into the body all over all the time, throughout the day. It truly became a love affair. I started to see that all my life I had been looking for attention, love and everything else outside of myself. I was just looking for something to change how I felt, for someone to love my body, my experience. I realized that this is my job, not someone else’s. Looking for that outside myself is next to impossible. And it’s so indirect and inefficient to think that something outside of me will comfort and love my experience. It’s up to me to do that.”

Awakening to the energy flows

This experience is sometimes related to body awakening, but I have seen people who are connected with energies but less connected with their bodies… It is as though the energy activity is capturing most of their attention.

Kundalini awakening is a psychosomatic process that seeks a fluidified way of being. The most accurate description of the process that I have encountered is Jana Dixon’s Biology of Kundalini[16]. As an add-on to her exploration, my opinion about this process is related with the endogenous production of DMT (Dimethyltryptamine)[17]. Over the years, I have met a few people in this process who have helped me to understand that the process of energy activation has at least three parts.

The first part seems to be pranotthana, or the cleaning process, when the body is convulsing, moving uncontrollably or sometimes performing perfect yoga asanas or spontaneous mudras. From what I have observed, this process is quite difficult for people undergoing strong emotional traumas. It is a sort of automatic body purification.

The second part is when the energy begins to flow and becomes a drive to increase the connectedness of all the layers. The result is an increased frequency of being.

The third part is when energy has been flowing for a while and the person can increase the frequency of energy without losing energy by generating “heat” (energy movements or flows of energy). This is an experience often facilitated by the usage of exogenous DMT.

Some of the people I met were at various points on this journey: some decided that the pranotthana process was too hard to cope with, started taking antipsychotics and got stuck in the process; some found other ways to ignore the drive; while others completed the pranotthana journey, entered the kundalini free flow and transformed this energy into an energy of aliveness.

I have been practicing centering and deep meditation techniques for some time to explore the third part, and I can say that it is possible to enter the world of hyper-synchrony, to activate endogenous DMT production and to increase or decrease energy density at will. It is a bit like playing with fire, but is manageable. The good part about these exercises is that one’s sensitivity to energy fields during everyday activities remains high; indeed, I am usually able to remain centered in my own being even in the tensest of life situations.

The damaging aspect of using antipsychotics during energy awakening is that, for some people I met, the medicine did not stop the process, but simply blocked some of its features. I discovered this accidentally when I was dancing with someone at a contact improvisation jam. She had an extremely nice body contact energy and was super sensitive to touch. We melted our senses into an incredibly spontaneous and deep connection, even though we had never met or spoken to each other before; however, I later discovered that she was on antipsychotics. But wait, what? How could she be on antipsychotics, weren’t these drugs supposed to stop all of these kinds of energy manifestations? It looks like I was wrong. The antipsychotics just blocked her ability to consciously-cognitively manage the energy flow, but the energy still found ways to manifest. The process cannot be stopped, it just needs to be completed once it has started.

After we had discussed this a great deal, I found out that one of her issues was an inability to manage and work with her sexual energy, and that this energy was manifesting itself in various forms, radiating from her externally through a very deep and over-the-top sensuality. However, to her, the issues related to her increased sexuality were less important; the fear of “losing her mind” was stronger, which was why she decided to continue with the antipsychotics treatment, even if it meant delaying her energy management and experiencing intense sensuality with many of the men she encountered.

A solution to her issue would have been opening up to a new level for managing energies – re-routing her sexual energy from an outside to an inside orientation, internalizing her sexual desire and transforming this erotic energy into ecstatic energy. This will be the next opening I will describe.

Vibrational awakenings: from erotic to ecstatic and beyond

The most common transformation in this category is the transition from erotic-externally-directed energy into ecstatic-internal-vibrating energy. It has been well described by many people, and is related to tantric traditions and certain Eastern practices such as brahmacharya. A contemporary resource that I like is available online at www.aypsite.org.

In my opinion, the transition from erotic to ecstatic has to do with changing the ways the energy flows inside the energy body structures. However, transforming sexual energy into ecstatic energy is just the first step. The next step is to allow all the energy to vibrate ecstatically inside oneself, and to allow this to happen just by increasing the “density” of the internal life flow, or life force (some people would say increasing the frequency). Allowing unconditional love seems to be an important step here.

This transformation is related with endogenous DMT, in my view. After a while, when the body energy has been fluidified, life can flow more easily and people can allow more things to happen simultaneously. This is felt as a permanent DMT experience (or awakened kundalini). It is all intense but, at the same time, everything flows smoothly. When there are no blockages, the energy flows naturally and the layers vibrate altogether more quickly and are more responsive to each other. The human being bends quickly to adapt to the events that are happening, and this ease is simultaneously happening in silence and in high ecstasy.

In other words, the silence becomes ecstatic, but the ecstatic concept is no longer adequate; it is just vibrating life, sometimes generating ecstatic emotions, sometimes not.

This vibrating life manifests itself in two ways:
– first, when the ecstatic energy is used from time to time and is allowed to produce ecstatic emotions;
– second, when energy is configured in such a way that it generates a permanent high frequency, creating an ecstatic-vibrating life most of the time. I am talking here about a “silent ecstasy”, not manifested in the sexual energy, or in the emotional energy, or in the mental energy. A better word is “enstasy”.

The first way is well described in an interview by Jeff Warren with a Buddhist monk[18]:

“What about the feelings of bliss and rapture? In the jhanas these are seen as part of a progression, aren’t they?”

He looked out the little window onto the muddy tracks behind the house, then chose his words carefully. “This happens when an object becomes an aesthetic object for you, when it feels like the most beautiful thing—you’re delighted, fascinated.

You have a strong emotional interest, like being in love. You pass a threshold where experience becomes so beautiful that there is nothing else you would rather be doing. Everything else fades away, even pain if you’re sitting uncomfortably. A lot of meditators get this. The object of your devotion can be anything—a vase, a piece of music. Once I was climbing up a hill and I entered an alpine garden of mosses and rock flowers and I got down on my knees and just gazed in wonderment.”

He stopped, a bit embarrassed. “This is a kind of bliss.”

“So how often does that happen for you?”

“It’s hard to say because it’s all a matter of degree. Maybe once a week or so. It began many years ago. I would be meditating and once in a while I would feel joy and delight, at being so totally engaged in the one thing. It was a kind of concentration where all energies—emotional, physical, intellectual—are centered upon one pointedness and sustained attention. I used to wonder how far I had proceeded along the jhanas. Whether I had reached level one or two or three. I don’t know how deep I’ve been, but to be honest I no longer concern myself with all that.” He waved his hands. “None of that is the point of the practice.”

“So what is the point?”

He looked at me with great sympathy and patience. “It’s not about the special effects, Jeff. Meditation is about increasing your awareness. I would say that after twenty-two years of practice the main ‘effect’ has been more presence of mind.” He stood up. “Go for a walk and really take a look around. You’ll see what I mean.”

The emotional bliss happens also when the object of delight is love-life itself, or some sort of aspect of “God”. This is a kind of permanent ecstasy, as encountered by devotional mystics such as Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, the Indian mystic Ramakrishna or Saraha – the founder of Tantra.

My explorations showed me that it is possible to experience a high vibrational life, in the body, in relative silence and inner peace, without involving any significant energy manifestations. Like a multidimensional buzz in the energy body, just enjoying life, without manifesting feelings or any desire to actively share something by actions, emotions, feelings or thinking. The energy is active, but it is in a “static” condition. We can consciously increase the frequency, and this is when things become amazing.

To me, it is a vibrational harmony, beyond lovejoy, beyond ecstasy, beyond bliss (or deeper into the cause of bliss, it depends where we look from). To habitualize these pure vibrational ways of being, it takes more than the desire to be free, or the desire to be aware…

I would say the difference between the energy flowing and the vibrational experience is similar with the transition from cells-energy to atomic-energy. A new type of field. A new layer of reality, existing in simultaneity with all that is.

Maybe there is a word for this vibrational harmony: “satcitānanda“. And maybe the tool is “spanda“.

Interconnectedness awakening – the shift from individual to collective awareness

According to my observations, this is a major developmental shift, bringing with it extra clarity. This shift from individual experiences to collective experiences is an amazing awakening, and it can happen in all the layers: the physical, subtle, causal and non-conceptual layers.

It can happen in the physical layer – when people realize they are just a cell in a big planetary organism; in the emotional layer – in the discovery of group emotions; in the cognitive layer – experiencing the “hive mind” and discovering “unconscious” group communication; and in the non-conceptual layers – experiencing the collective awareness.

It is perhaps the conscious connection to the collective mind that is the most frightening and hard to cope with. My way of adjusting was to realize that, in order to maintain my integrity, it was necessary to find and continuously sustain my own “frequency”; in other words, to remain centered in my own space while accessing bits from the collective information field. Some years ago, I met someone with this type of super-sensitivity, who was able to detect it almost every time I thought about her. This type of bonding is usually experienced in couples with good resonance between them, but the shift from “perceiving my partner” to “perceiving everyone” is quite a step, and there are only two ways to deal with it: reducing the sensitivity, or coping with it and finding a personal way of managing the information overflow from the collective.

I like the idea of the integral we space; a conference on this topic provided me with a lot of insights about how this collective feed can be approached in everyday activities[19].

Awakening the heart and the experience of unconditional love as deep resonance

This opening is usually felt as a big shift or as an awakening. Some women I met told me that they experienced this shift after the birth of their first child. Heart opening is well described in psychology and spirituality. I just want to add that for me, love is a deep and silent resonance, and experiencing full empathy is a skill that is worth developing very early on in one’s inner growth journey. The challenge of this opening is to keep the deep connection in all types of interactions, positive or negative, familial or non-familial. I would say that some of the preliminary steps for this opening require the development of a mature emotional intelligence.

Connecting through love feels to me like a deep resonance and intimacy with life. In “technical” terminology, unconditional love is maintaining a continuous perception of connection between equals. There are no masters and disciples in love, we are all equals in this layer of emotional connection.

Awakening of the multidimensional awareness

This is about expanding witnessing awareness in order to reach a perspective from which witnessing is simultaneously experienced as presence inside each layer. In my experience, this was possible because I had practiced splitting my attention across multiple layers while keeping my global attention active. Keeping this multidimensionality was only possible after I had managed to center myself, and here I do not mean centering in the heart, but in the space bubble measuring two meters in diameter, which includes everything from my body to my thoughts to the energy around me.

I suppose that seeing and experiencing this multidimensionality is only possible after the structure and content are aligned and vibrate in harmony. In Susanne Cook-Greuter’s ego development theory, that would correspond to developing beyond the fifth-person perspective. However, there is a limit to this nth perspective, in my opinion.

We are still limited to five or six elements together within our main focus; it all depends on how large the systems we are attending to are, and this depends on how centered we are:

E.g.:

– Presence (witnessing, awareness of awareness): does not require extra attention, this is felt-by-being.

– Content systems (body-physical-space, emotional-energy-wave-flows, cognition-information): require attention.

– Social-relational interactions: require attention.

– Self-identity and inner growth, spiritual self: require attention, depending on the stage of the ego (during transition stages attention, it is necessary, whereas during stable stages this attention is not so necessary).

– Non-conceptual mechanisms that create perspective (space length, time length, attention flows, frames of reference and their dynamical configuration together): require attention, but this process does not consume attentional resources, rather it just selects them.

Consciously using non-conceptual perspective lenses to create a framework for experiences

I list this skill as a separate opening, because its acquisition dramatically changes the inner experience. I feel like a visual explanation is needed here, in order to describe this opening as a conscious skill. 

We are a region of space, a two-meter-diameter bubble where energy and matter is denser, and this is the space in which the body-emotion-mind connection happens. We can attend to and interact with emotions and ideas, but the body is not available for direct interaction. We can listen to the body, but cannot interact directly with it in the way we interact with ideas (this is good, of course, that we are not allowed to interfere directly with the evolutionary force of nature).

What we can do is either change the “causal” structure of experience, or change the content of experience. “Causal” structures form the framework of the experience, while these configurations form the “perspective”, which acts like a colored lens. We can change the perspective either by changing the lens color, or by changing the device we look through – glasses or telescope, for example.

The “causal” components of the perspective are space length (the length of the space we decide to use for the perspective), time length and styles of paying attention. All three elements form a specific lens color through which we look at the world, and this color generates our conscious experience.

We can instantly change these filters with almost zero consumption of attentional energy, just by using a visual. For example, we can increase the space around us from two meters to an expanded space, e.g., the size of the planet (some call it the overview effect, which is a good label in my opinion). But the fact remains that we are still denser in our local two-meter area of space. So, we can set the perspective to a planet-size frame of reference, but the content is still coming from a localized space measuring two meters in diameter. The result is a global view with local content.

We can just replace the two meter visual with the planet-sized visual and that is it. The experience changes due to this new frame of reference. Pieces of information in the two-meter bubble become entangled in a new way if a larger context is set for the experience.

In review: space and time set the frame of reference, and attentional styles select the flows of information.

Usually this is an unconscious process, but it can become conscious in the construct-aware stage of ego development.

Consciously using perspective mechanisms is an amazing skill and it makes things simpler. We can change the experience just using variations of these filters, with instantaneous results that require almost zero energy consumption.

I found this description in Susanne Cook-Greuter’s description of the unitive stage:

“Unitive perceivers can shift focus without effort and behold the whole simultaneously with its constituting variables. They operate within an expanded time frame which includes all of earth’s history and its future. Life is seen as a form of temporary and sometimes voluntary separation (Bodhisattva vow) from the creative ground to which it will eventually return. Though adults at the Unitive stage are aware of themselves as separate and unique embodiments, they also identify with all other living beings. The separation of self from others is experienced as an illusion, an invention to safeguard the ego’s need for permanence and self- importance and to defend against the fear of its death.”[20]

I guess what I have described is how this quick shift can happen. Understanding this skill enables a person to be trained in it, rather than simply waiting to acquire it and hoping for some divine intervention. However, it all depends on how much we can allow the change to happen inside us as a result of this perspective switch. Shadow work should be undertaken before learning this skill, otherwise the person’s fears will block the process.

Flow awareness and the modulation of life events

Maybe this opening happens during the unitive stage of ego development, but I do not feel that it is limited to unitive individuals. This is an awareness of life events that happen in a succession of small events and that intersect with other sets of events. In other words, this is about becoming aware that everything is connected, but that some things/events are more connected than others. I found this type of opening in relation with descriptions of wise men in Chinese history, where they say that the wise old man just looks at the natural flows of events and takes meaning from it. Well, this is a result of watching the flows of events unfolding. We can participate in these unfolding events with patience. Or, sometimes, when action is needed, we can invest our energy and modify a flow (by altering its speed, direction, intensity, etc.).

Since I began to look at the world as an intersection of flows and intermixing groups of events, life became much simpler. The preliminary stages of this opening start with observing “synchronicities”, but this is usually when positive things are happening. The less positive things are not seen as being in sync.

But, the fact is that everything is in sync all the time, and this sync is fractally expanding at every level, layer and depth of life.

What I have learned is that each of us has some way of contributing to life flows, and that the key is to carefully select the flows in which we participate. This includes flows of actions, thinking, feeling, interacting and being.

I Ching is an amazing piece of wisdom describing the flow dynamics. 

Merging of the inner mental space with the real physical space: Inner eye vision

This is a result of the perspective that everything happening inside of me happens in a region of space measuring perhaps two meters in diameter, which contains my thinking, my body and my emotions. It all happens here.

When I meditate with my eyes closed, I continue to use my eyes, but in a different way. I keep the visual perception activated and focused on the space. When the senses are internalized and the point of viewing is this space, after a while, the eyes begin to work in sync and the vision from both eyes transforms into a centered vision. This center is located in the middle, in the region between the eyes. The inner eye vision activates when the entire brain is acting as a whole; I think this is the effect of the whole brain working in synchrony in some frequencies.

In my opinion, the inner eye vision has nothing to do with mystical realization; it is available through this simple training to interiorize one’s vision. Then, when both eyeflows synchronize, people can experience the inner space in a 3D-360 degree perspective, and this space is where things can happen. The inner eye vision seems to be the result of the synchronized perception of both eyes, generating a centered point of view in a region between the eyes.

What is happening in this space? After the inner eye starts to see, a wide range of inner experiences become available. In my experience, the content can be either inner projections/inner visions or physical perceptions.

With time, I realized that inner visions are just a visual way of thinking, conscious or unconscious, nothing more. Sometimes it is amazing, sometimes it is not.

However, the physical perceptions are quite amazing, because the area we inhabit is vortexing through space, the planet is moving around the sun, the sun is moving around center of the galaxy and the galaxy moving towards the Great Attractor. Our experience is static only because of our frame of reference. If I tune into the fundamental grid, or use various frames of reference, I find myself flowing a lot. Relevant to this topic are Walter Russell’s insights[21], cubic wave field theory[22] and Hannah’s 3D graphics[23], which show how energy is vortexing through the cubic grid.

A few times I played around with my inner eye vision by mixing the inner-outer perceptions with energy perceptions. With my eyes closed and in sync, looking from the center, I moved one hand in front of my body and tried to attune my inner vision to the energy flowing in the space occupied by my hand. After a few rounds of tunings and by opening and closing my eyes, I could adapt my inner vision to the real 3D position of my hand. My inner vision “locked” onto the energy of my hand by recognizing its qualities.

The adjustment of my inner vision happened this way: I was scanning through the almost-dark field in which these light-like particles were moving, and then I asked where my hand was… and I let my attention move by itself, until… aha, it arrived at my hand. After that moment, I was able to recognize my hand as though it were a group of energy bubbles moving through space. After the “locking” happened, every time I tried to verify the 3D location of my fingers by opening my eyes, the 3D position of the finger in both the inner and outer space was identical. In this enhanced state of perception, everything physical looks like a fine shower of particles, some of which are grouped within flexible boundaries.

This exercise was easiest to perform in a dark setting, in a very relaxed state but with an activated kundalini.

People who live in dark environments for many days report similarly enhanced perceptions, so I guess it is related to melatonin and endogenous DMT production. 

Entheogenic awakenings

I have listed these separately, as they seem to be part of a different world of openings in comparison with “regular” awakenings. Although there is endogenous DMT product happening in our body in various situations, experiences generated by the ingestion of ayahuasca/inhalation of DMT are different; they are much more intense and amazing. The experiences I consider relevant for inner growth journeys are those mediated by ayahuasca, changa or DMT, LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. Moreover, the sacred use of ganja is also a good tool; it is like a driver, taking us where we want to go.

A lot of people use the argument that awakening is possible without entheogens. Sure it is. But some special types of openings generated by entheogens have almost a zero chance of happening naturally. The informational wisdom in these plants is an added value for any explorer wanting to dive deeper into reality.

In my opinion, there are two ways of using entheogens wisely

  • As a tool for insights, to support inner growth journeys and to live a good life
  • As friends and allies for inner explorations, for going where nobody has ever gone before.

It is a fact that in nature, we have plant friends who can open some doors. And it is a personal decision to step through those doors and to see new ways of functioning. And, after coming back from that configuration, it is our choice to decide whether any of the new discoveries are worth habitualizing in our daily life.

It has been quite a challenge to understand what has been going on with me after connections with ayahuasca and changa, but now I consider them to be allies for surfing the fundamental information structures of the universal wave, here on Earth. 

 

 VI. Depth psychological processes during inner transformation


.

In this section, I describe some of the processes and patterns of inner transformation, which I have researched and observed both in myself and in other people with whom I have connected. Some of these experiences are already mentioned in the research on human development (Terry O’Fallon and Susanne Cook-Greuter), or have been mentioned in some spiritual texts (e.g., Satprem). For many of them, I could not unearth any findings in the literature that were in alignment with my ideas; I thus introduced them with adequate labels, which provide a little description of them.

Transformation-Related Processes

Automatic life review

“Automatic life review” is an automatic process that offers new perspectives on past events by reframing and reinterpreting our memories of past experiences, thus providing new meanings. Its outcome is a kind of automatic “memory reconsolidation”. The process can be generated by the first activations of the non-conceptual self, when the witnessing awareness becomes available, or by a conscious choice to change one’s life values.

This is a process described in Yoga Sutra by Patanjali, where he mentions that the imprint of “enlightenment” would rewrite all other imprints.

In my opinion, this rewriting is being done by adding a “truth mirroring” program into each memory imprint and letting it reorganize by itself. The process not only happens consciously, but also in unconscious or semi-conscious states such as during flashbacks, dreams or daydreams. It is a flow of reorganizing information about our past in a harmonious way.

During this process, various data from our past experiences are being revealed to the self via conscious awareness. There may be gestures, images, actions or feelings, all of which are elements of perspectives that were not taken into consideration when the memory imprint was first stored or reanalyzed in the past. This process does not select between positive or negative life situations. People can re-observe themselves in a past situation in an amazing light, or they may face their shadows.

In the book “Neural Plasticity and Memory: From Genes to Brain Imaging”[24], Carlos J. Rodriguez-Ortiz and Federico Bermúdez-Rattoni propose that, instead of using reconsolidation, the proper term would be “updating consolidation”:

“For a long time, consolidation was seen as a process achieved only on newly acquired memories aimed to store them for the long term. However, pioneer and recent studies have demonstrated that after retrieval, long-term memories may once more undergo a consolidation-like process referred to as reconsolidation. Mainly, reconsolidation is sustained by the now widely reported observation that after a memory trace is activated by means of retrieval and is susceptible to disruption by the same treatments that disrupt memory during consolidation. However, the functional purpose of this process is still a matter of debate.

Recent evidence indicates that reconsolidation is indeed a process by which updated information is integrated through the synthesis of proteins to a memory trace. Hence, the so-called reconsolidation seems more like an updating consolidation intended to modify retrieved memory by a process that integrates updated experience into long-term memory. Through this process, previously consolidated memory is partially destabilized. By the infusion of disrupting agents, it appears as if the process is intended to consolidate memory again. In this chapter, we discuss this issue and propose that updating consolidation is a more descriptive term for this process.”

It may be that the functional purpose of this process is inherently the evolutionary drive. As an observation, I see this process as similar to the life movie that sometimes reported by people who have had near-death experiences (NDE). In fact, NDEs are temporary moments during which the ego is cut off, and a wide array of information becomes available in a non-judgmental way. The life review that takes place in NDEs in intense flashbacks happens slowly throughout the inner growth process, over months or even years. But essentially, it is the same drive that pushes the transformation: evolution.

The life review process happen in steps during our inner growth journey, until the entire content of our memory has been reorganized.

The symbolic journey and the theory of everything

This is an associative mental process that indicates the start of a deep transformation; it is sometimes generated by the emergence of systems thinking, sometimes by a traumatic life event and sometimes by other causes. During this process, all the elements in the inner and outer worlds begin to connect in various symbolic ways. It is a natural process that will eventually lead the journeyer to their own “theory of everything”, a kind of personal map that charts the known territories of their life.

In this process, a person may see that a cup of tea is the primary vortex of the universe. They live deeply inside these symbolic connections, and this process activates many cognitive-based emotions. The systems begin to interrelate and the mind is constantly in a state of cognitive seduction. It is like a continuous flow of “aha”, which may go on for years. The logical connections are extraordinary and can induce a state of hyper-agitation. It is a “new” type of energy that creates the sensation that the person is an explorer, journeying continuously through a miraculous, uncharted territory.

When the process is active, it sometimes gives rise to an agitated style of speaking, usually cognitive, and the person is in a state of cognitive amazement most of the time. Many people start to talk about resonance, symmetry, Fibonacci, etc. They begin to see patterns and connections between the components of various systems. When they discover a pattern, they apply it to everything they experience. This is good: it is the evolutionary force in action, acting to promote integration.

A side effect of this symbolic journey is that people tend to become stuck in their mind during this process due to the cognitive and emotional excitation generated by the knowledge gained by seeing connections and patterns. The worst side effect is to remain stuck in this symbolic world, attracted by these connections. When this configuration is interfering too much with usual activities, many people are hospitalized and they are labeled as psychotic, schizophrenic or as suffering some kind of related condition. In some cases, this process can trigger ego inflation. It is all about the capacity of the individual to allow this interconnectedness to happen while maintaining at least some ability to carry out daily activities.

To facilitate this process and to keep the ego in a relatively stable state, doing activities involving the body is necessary, for example, art, dance, massage, running, walking, climbing or sports. Doing this means that the energies generated by the process will not all go into mind processing.

The symbolic journey is the natural way for the mind to rebalance itself and to reconnect with the deep meanings. It may take years for this reorganization to happen, but it can also become a permanent way of experiencing life. People can get stuck in this process, hypnotized by the infinite numbers of connections between meanings. In Zen, it is said[25] of the process of awakening that: “In the beginning, mountains are mountains, and woods are woods. Then mountains are no longer mountains and woods are no longer woods. Finally, mountains are once again mountains and woods are once again woods.”

For transformational counselors, creating a visual map of these new ways of thinking is helpful. This new perspective may also be discussed as a “personal theory of everything”, linking everything in a big picture. When the individual sees the big picture, then their mind can jump to the next perspective and take the entire symbolic world as a system that reaches beyond the mind.

The symbolic journey is a kind of fractal journey through the mind: we can see that everything relates with everything, and that every part is simultaneously contained in every other part and in the whole. This journey through never-ending circles of connections, seeing parts that form a whole, before then seeing this whole become a new part of a bigger whole, and so on, is related to a range of processes described by Susanne Cook-Greuter and Terry O’Fallon: the “hall of mirrors” and the “polar opposites iterating pattern”.

In my opinion, the completion of the process by designing a personal theory of everything allows for a vertical shift: the entire mind can become the “object” (as in subject-object theory[26]), the result being the activation of a larger perspective with a more inclusive experience of being present in the here and now.

Healing the transgenerational memes

This process is about awakening from the spiral of continuous patterns that persist from generation to generation. It requires an understanding of transgenerational schemes of thinking, feeling, sensing and behaving. Growing up is not just for ourselves; we grow up as a part of a collective evolutionary process and each individual person has to update their transgenerational flow in order to become free.

I have seen this process happening in all of the people I have worked with. Usually, it happens automatically as a part of the life review process, when people are reframing their childhood experiences. It can take months or years until the family patterning is revealed and reviewed. In other words, I would say that people do need to disconnect from their personal flow of transgenerational family conditionings for a while, in order to connect to the larger family of humankind.

This process is now facilitated by psychological games known as “constellations”. Even if this exercise is not scientifically proven to really do what it is said to do, in my opinion it provides good experiential moments for a larger audience, giving people the opportunity to talk about their transgenerational connections. For some participants, this could motivate them to enter an in-depth self-reflection/counseling process, in order to explore these connections and to see how transgenerational patterns have unconsciously influenced their lives.

Perspective-Related Processes

Opening to the unknown

This is an experience where a person begins to see that new perspectives are possible. A new content and structure is available, but the person is still interpreting according to the old configuration. People have described their experiences using words such as, “everything is new”, “I’m seeing details I have never seen before” and “I’m having thoughts that I didn’t have before”.

These new insights are blowing up the mind and some people interpret them according to their fears, ascribing to them a meaning that might be, for example, “the new thoughts are from angels, demons, extraterrestrials or disincarnated beings”. This can lead to delusional thinking.

When this experience first happens, usually during the earlier stages of inner development, people do not realize that this is a way of life and that the perspective-taking process is a fluid one. It other words, it is a transition to a postmodern way of meaning making. I would say that one of the key skills of the post-modern mind is to accept that other perspectives are possible and that there is no good or bad perspective, just an increasingly global perspective.

It looks simple for most people who are already involved in personal development, but for a person with a conformist ego, this skill is an amazing discovery. The end of this pattern is the permanent awareness of the present moment, when the person just lives constantly in the ever-changing flow of “now”.

The linguistic bias: using old language to describe new perspectives

This is a natural phenomenon during the early stages of transitioning to the new perspective, when the feel of the perspective is different from the person’s previous experiences. If the person is in a creative environment, they will adapt and update their language. If the person is transitioning and the old ego is still holding on, then all of their new perceived reality will be translated using their old language.

One of the tasks when transitioning to a new configuration is learning to use words in a new way. There is a YouTube interview with Susanne Cook-Greuter – “How Language Creates Your Clients World”, where she explains the importance of choosing our words[27]. 

Building perspectives through automatic contrasts and associations

In the earlier stages of development, the new perspective is automatically (unconsciously) created by comparing it with previous experiences. Full letting go is impossible – it has to be done in incremental steps. Until our psyche can allow us to fully immerse ourselves in the new reality, the mind uses contrasts and associations with already known experiences. This new perspective is “felt” through its association and comparison with previous feelings, and not by using an out-of-the box interpretation.

For example, we could go into the mountains and experience a wonderful landscape with forests and lakes, and we could enjoy a blissful “here-now experience”. The content of the experience is new. However, the structure of the experience is not. Our emotions are generated not only by the real actual landscape, but also through contrasts and associations with our past “here-now” experiences.

We have a built-in “configuration for new landscapes”, a configuration that is unconsciously labeled as “this is how the present moment is in nature”. This configuration has a specific way of paying attention, a specific way of creating a visual image inside our mind that reflects the outer landscape, a specific configuration of the “time” and “space” filters. All of these filters combine automatically with each other and gave birth to the experience of being “here-now in nature”. These configurations are dependent on elements in the environment and those within our inner psyche, which trigger the activation of some configurations. Observing the configuration of the perspective, and how the perspective is created by our mind through associations and contrasts, it is an action that produces a relaxation of the emotional structure. It is necessary to go beyond bliss and beyond using the perspective-taking system to really connect with the here-now experience.

A case of this pattern was identified and described by Susanne Cook-Greuter and Terry O’Fallon, which they called the “Polar Opposites Iterating Tier Pattern” [28].

Polar opposites and integrating polarities in a new perspective

Observing both sides of a story and accepting them is a key element in conscious decision-making. This is the first step when moving to a new perspective. There is a paper available online entitled “Polarities and Ego Development: Polarity Thinking in Ego Development Theory and Developmental Coaching”[29], by Beena Sharma and Susanne Cook-Greuter, in which they wrote:

At each stage of development, we can again discern how human beings navigate the phenomenon of polarities and their dynamic. Whatever the stage we are at, we might consciously or unconsciously hold on to one pole, unaware of what we exclude. The current perspective provides us with a sense of self and certainty and with a set of clear values. When we grow beyond the confines of the current stage, we can begin to sense the value of a pole that becomes salient at the next stage of development. Once we have entered a new stage, we often consciously reject the pole we embraced at the previous stage because we are now aware of its limits and downsides. We are naturally drawn to the benefits of exploring the newly discovered perspective and to privilege the new insights into what is important”.

… As human beings, we are always subject to blind spots, areas where we don’t even realize there is a ‘there’ there. Subtler and subtler pole-preferences show up even at ego transcendent stages.“ 

Differentiating and prioritizing patterns: choosing the new perspective

This pattern is described by Terry O’Fallon in her paper “Stages: Growing up is Waking up – Interpenetrating Quadrants, States and Structures”[30]:

“In the early stage of a person perspective, the new person perspective quality is apprehended. Those moving into any new person perspective (Expert [early third-person perspective], Individualist [early fourth-person perspective], Early Construct Aware [early fifth-person perspective]) are so naive to the unique quality arising at this new level that they cannot prioritize it easily. They tend to spend time familiarizing themselves with this new person perspective and its quality, rocking back to a more interior exploration of the quality. The incapacity to be able to prioritize with the new quality sometimes represents itself by shying away from categories, including developmental categories.

When individuals mature and are in the later person perspective stage, they are then able to prioritize the quality, thus the rocking back and forth between the inability to prioritize, and the ability to prioritize the quality at successive person perspectives.”

Working with polarities may include also working with subpersonalities[31], as in some cases, a preferred pole might give birth to a subpersonality. Integrating the poles means integrating the subpersonalities. Some examples of polarities could be order vs. disorder, autonomy vs. connection, masculine vs. feminine, doing vs. thinking, discernment vs. intuition, being vs. doing, appreciative vs. evaluative, knowing vs. mystery or seeking vs. non-seeking.

In my experience, this pattern is about selecting perspectives from multiple options. During the stages of inner growth, we realize that each perspective is a new configuration with a certain “quality”; this may be an emotional touch, a larger spaciousness or a special mixture of past-present-future. It is as though we can play a part in many internal movies: we can be in “The Terminator” configuration for some years, whereas last year we discovered “The Titanic” perspective and we have just now discovered a new one that we cannot yet label with anything but “The new one”.

When “The new one” is just being born, we need time to explore it so that we can use it by choice. We need to see “what is different” in this new perspective and then we can “prioritize” it, that is, use it as a primary filter. This process is related with the neuroplasticity of the brain. I think the inability to prioritize it is a natural process until the synapses related with the new configuration are formed. 

Triggers: the conscious and unconscious anchoring of the perspectives

Each perspective has its own triggers, or anchors. Anchoring is an important process: an anchor is a trigger or stimulus that retrieves a desired emotional state. Here is how Amit Sodha describes anchoring[32]:

“We are constantly creating anchors. Every day all the time anchors are being formed through the repetitive actions we are doing and associated feelings we are having. E.g. you might have anchored yourself to feeling motivated for training by hearing a particular song. When I want to get ready to play a badminton match or go to the gym I might put “Eye of the Tiger” on my iPod because I have automatically associated success to that song through watching the Rocky movies”.

During inner development, I recommend paying attention to the triggers related to the perspective and to patterns of global interaction. From a vertical development outlook, when observing our transition to a new stage of development, we are unconsciously connecting to filters (space, time, life values, etc.) in a specific way. However, this can be de-automatized: we can consciously set anchors for the perspective we want to prioritize, and disconnect the anchors from the old perspective we do not wish to use anymore.

The cognitive answering machine

This is a pattern of communication style, which shows when if a person is not flexible in their thinking and when they are blocked to a specific perspective. This pattern of communication is visible in dialogues. A person who is locked into this pattern will respond to everything through just one filter – their actual perspective. For example, say their fixation is on “love”. When asked about food, they will respond with something related to love; when asked about dogs, they will talk about love; when asked about their friends, they will talk about love. No matter what they are asked, they will respond like an automatic voice message. The fixation may be love, but it may also be awareness, mindfulness or the view that “we are all one”.

This can easily be seen in cults and spiritual circles, where local dogmas are observed as universal solutions. This is also valid for some nonduality teachers. Jeff Warren describes this pattern in an article about “The Promise and Peril of Spiritual Belief”:

 “I know a man, a Buddhist vipassana teacher, who lives in emptiness. When he walks down the street the world gushes like a fountain, emerging from and disappearing into emptiness, which for him is everywhere and nowhere. It is the great reassurance of his life. I know another man, an Advaita non-dual teacher, who lives in awareness. From moment to moment he is connected to the unshakable sense that everything is awareness and only awareness – solid, undying, unchanging. It is the great reassurance of his life. I know a woman, a lapsed Catholic, who lives with God. As she goes about her day there is a continual and vivid sense of presence, of being in relationship with an alive and loving Other. It is the great reassurance of her life.

The strange thing is, I kind of know what they mean. When I go on long vipassana retreats, my sensory experience of the world begins to thin. Everything pixelates; the whole sensorium seems increasingly dreamlike. I get a taste for emptiness then – but only a taste. I can understand how this is a direction I might take.

When I immerse myself in nondual teachings, my own awareness becomes vivid and spacious. I begin to see how there are no problems with awareness, only in awareness. I realize that even my desire to change the world is, in its way, complete. I get a taste for awareness then – but only a taste. I can understand how this is a direction I might take.

When I participate in plant medicine ceremonies, I get the sense that the whole world is alive and secretly winking to me. Everything is meaningful – the crow flying across the sky, the shadows in the trees, that person’s voice, right there, at that exact moment. I get a taste for God then – but only a taste. I can understand how this is a direction I might take.”[33]

Ego- Related Patterns

Ego hijacking

This is a pattern of experience whereby, after a moment of pure awareness, the resulting energy is captured by the ego and consumed by its passions, instead of just being allowed to change the structure and facilitate the transition of the ego to a new configuration. I found this description in a book by Satprem[34], describing the Aurobindo’s teachings: 

“Because it is always the same: the moment we are clear… The moment it appears, it is instantly snatched up by the vital, which uses it for its own brilliant flights of exaltation, its own “divine” and tumultuous emotions, its possessive loves, its calculated generosities or gaudy aesthetics; or it is corralled by the mind, which uses it for its own exclusive ideas, its infallible philanthropic schemes, its straitjacketed moralities – not to mention churches, countless churches, which systematize it in articles of faith and dogma. Where is the psychic being in all that? It is there, nonetheless, divine, patient, striving to pierce through each and every crust and actually making use of everything that is given to it or imposed upon it. It “makes do” with what it has, so to speak. Yet that is precisely the problem: when it comes out of hiding, if even for a second, it casts such a glory upon everything it touches that we tend to mistake the circumstances of the revelations for its luminous truth.”

In my opinion, ego hijacking may be the primary cause of the bipolar mechanism: after a moment of inspiration, the available energy is consumed by various activities (either regular activities or “divine missions” or “change the world missions”). During the “consumption” phase, the high availability of energy looks like a manic episode; after it is consumed, depression ensues. The key skill in this process is not to consume the energy by performing activities and not to engage in big projects, but to use the energy internally and to allow it to transform internal mechanisms of being. In other words, the energy should be interiorized and transformed in a similar way to how erotic energy can be transformed into ecstatic energy.

Awakening meme

This meme contains a set of ideas and behaviors related to the “I am awake” idea. People start to relate to mystic literature and “awakening” movements. I consider this a very good meme, but only for a certain period of time. After an awakening happens, the new ego configuration has to change accordingly.

If the person remains stuck in the awakening meme as their preferred emotional way of living, this then blocks the integration of awakening and the person stays in the early stages of transition. It is a sort of addiction to the awesome emotion of awakening. In the communities that have formed around this meme, the topic of discussion gravitates towards awakening. A good step would be to change the feed of information to blogs such as Beyond Awakening[35].

After the blissful high of the awakening, a person’s energy level decreases and some people think that they have lost their awakening configuration. If they move in religious circles, they may feel like God has abandoned them. This is just an illusion created by the old configuration that wants to maintain its grip on this way of being. Instead of searching for ways to return to the awakening configuration, the task is to see that the awakening configuration is in fact flexible; the awakening can only happen by abandoning the configuration in each moment. In a way, abandoning is the configuration that most resembles awakening. In the Christian tradition, kenosis[36] is a concept worth exploring, as it relates directly to this transition.

Maya pattern

In Vedic texts, Maya connotes[37] a “magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem”. In Indian philosophies, Maya is also a spiritual concept referring to “that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal”, and the “power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality”. In human development, the “Maya pattern” reflects progressions in the way we connect with reality.

It is described by Terry O’Fallon as a pattern through the stages of development, in the following steps:

“This pattern appears to iterate through the floors (tiers) as people gradually recognize finer distinctions of illusion: first concrete objects are seen as real; then concrete objects are seen as an illusion (That I am only a concrete entity is an illusion); subtle objects arise; subtle objects are seen as an illusion (That I am merely a subtle entity is an illusion); causal objects arise; causal objects are seen as an illusion (That I am merely a causal entity is an illusion)”[38]

When people first realize the amplitude of Maya, it is especially dramatic for the social-relational perspective: observing that many people are living in a kind of “internal movie” and that they are not really connected to the outer world. This insight that “we are the robots” is followed by the development of a new skill: the ability to observe people’s patterns of thinking-feeling-sensing and being.

Dark night pattern

The dark night of the soul is another name for the experience of ego deconstruction, when the individual ego ceases to exist and the connection with the collective is felt. Terry O’Fallon, in her research on stages of development[39], describes this dark night experience as a pattern:

“This pattern has been described in Christian traditions but seems to hold resonance with many people’s experiences. In this pattern, there is a series of dark nights in each tier or floor.

E.g. Concrete floor

1 . Dark night of the senses: This can be seen as “the night of correction where the senses’ appetites are curbed”.

2 . When one stops identifying with the senses and the concrete as the self, one becomes empty of that self, and experiences a hole or a pit where that self used to reside. That experience of not identifying with the senses as “me” is the Dark night of the soul.

3 . When one sees that the mind that makes concrete distinctions is not the self, and stops identifying with that mind, a vacuum exists where the concrete mind used to be- this is the dark night of the concrete self that leads to union with God.

This pattern repeats with the subtle floor and the causal floor, engaging, rather, with the subtle and causal mind and objects rather than the concrete senses”

In my opinion, this pattern connects well with the experience of the void, or emptiness, as seen in oriental spiritual traditions. My personal experience was similar to those in the descriptions: when I first arrived in the void, there was a void I was feeling, an empty void. I took the decision to throw myself into this void to see what would happen. I asked a friend to read me the last sutras from the Kaivalya chapter of Yoga Sutra. While she was reading, I allowed myself to be carried deep into the meaning of her words. However, my journey was short and I fell back into myself, but this time, as an awakened human being. When I told this story to my students, some of them told me that they had had similar experiences. Instead of being absorbed by the void, their journey took them back to the present moment, but with a new witnessing ability.

One person told me that his visual, when his ego crashed for the first time, was that of a frozen body-form breaking down on the floor into hundreds of little pieces.

 

VII. Final remarks


.

I hope this approach provides a useful explanatory map for navigating and understanding transformative experiences. I am not a native English speaker; I have tried to explain my ideas, usually visual thinking, in comprehensible ways. It would have been easier and would have required less space to explain some of the processes by drawing them in 3D.

To sum up, below I describe some assumptions related to my conceptual framework:

– Introducing the Presence Self as a natural system/layer of the human psyche. The “I am” experience is just the surface layer, a visible effect of the Presence Self. In other words, it is just the entrance gate to a full spectrum of conscious experiences based on the witnessing awareness mode. The Presence Self is not a “static” quality, but a dynamic system.

– Introducing non-conceptual perspective mechanisms as natural psychological skills which can be consciously taught. We can effortlessly modify our conscious experiences by modifying the structure of our perspective. It is about how we manage to use space length, time length, preferred ways of flowing with life and preferred styles of paying attention.

– We can “interact” with fundamental awareness flows and nurture the flows we would prefer in our life. We do not need to abandon choice-making options when connecting to the fundamental awareness.

For example, we are already unconsciously participating in the evolution of human awareness mechanisms through our preference of certain attention styles. If two people start to use wide attention styles all day long, this will increase the chances of “wide attention” happening in the local-collective being. The collective intelligence instantly distributes the “wide attention” style to the collective. As a result, some friends may “feel” that day a little differently, and this change would happen “unconsciously” for them. A very sensitive collective tuning is happening in all of us.

– Introducing the evolutionary features of conscious experience systems as unconscious parts that can become conscious during awakening journeys (e.g., emotions are a result of energy-wave dynamics, cognition is an effect of information dynamics).

The assumptions that I have presented here are results of my experiential observations. I had to choose some preliminary labels for some of the phenomena I have observed, e.g., “non-conceptual perspective mechanisms”. Perhaps in the future, I will be able to find better ones.

Many thanks to all the people who shared their awakening experiences, to Cornelia Cacu, my fellow explorer, for her insights, and to Sadhna Sharma and Valita Jones for their support with editing the text.

Good journeys!
07th of April, 2018

 

References

[1] “Three Selves on the Journey to Growing Up and Waking Up”, video interview with Ken Wilber available on http://live.soundstrue.com/psychotherapy-and-spirituality-summit

[2] Brazdau, O. (2015). The Consciousness Quotient: Construct Development and Content Validity Research. Elsevier Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 187, 244-249

[3] Brazdau, O., Ahuja, S. (2016). The Consciousness Quotient: Introducing the Conscious Experience as a Research Variable in Psychological Assessments. In P. S. Satsangi & S. Hameroff (Eds.), Consciousness: Integrating Eastern and Western Perspectives (pp. 187-217). New Delhi:, India: New Age Books

[4] Brazdau, O. (2014). Witnessing awareness and modes of cognitive awareness. A terminology proposal for the psychological assessment of witnessing and (meta)cognitive experiences. In Deepak Chopra (Ed.), Brain, Mind, Cosmos: The Nature of Our Existence and the Universe (Sages and Scientists Series Book 1) [Kindle edition].

[5] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323443834_Ego_Development_Stage_Does_Not_Predict_Persistent_Non-Symbolic_Experience

[6] http://rosemarieanderson.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Role-of-Embodiment-in-Human-Development-10-26-08.pdf

[7] https://batgap.com

[8] http://www.conscious.tv

[9] http://www.consciousness-quotient.com/what-is-cq/

[10] “The Deep Physics Behind the Second Law: Information and Energy As Independent Forms of Bookkeeping”, an article by Todd L. Duncan and Jack S. Semura, https://arxiv.org/ftp/cond-mat/papers/0501/0501014.pdf

[11] Brazdau, O. (2014). Witnessing awareness and modes of cognitive awareness. A terminology proposal for the psychological assessment of witnessing and (meta)cognitive experiences. In Deepak Chopra (Ed.), Brain, Mind, Cosmos: The Nature of Our Existence and the Universe (Sages and Scientists Series Book 1) [Kindle edition], www.amazon.com.

[12] http://happinessofbeing.blogspot.ro/2014/04/scientific-research-on-consciousness.html

[13] https://www.amazon.com/Offering-Conscious-Body-Discipline-Authentic/dp/0892819669

[14] http://www.body-earth.org/work/

[15] https://www.scienceandnonduality.com/conscious-embodiment/

[16] www.biologyofkundalini.com.

[17] “DMT, microtubules, kundalini and witnessing awareness – Some research hypotheses related to the Orch-OR theory, witnessing awareness and the psychology of becoming conscious”, a paper presented at the Romanian Neuroscience Conference, 2015. Available at http://www.consciousness-quotient.com/dmt-microtubules-kundalini-and-witnessing-awareness-some-research-hypothesis/

[18] Warren, J. (2007). The head trip: Adventures on the wheel of consciousness. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 314-315

[19] https://www.thewespacesummit.com

[20] http://www.cook-greuter.com/Cook-Greuter%209%20levels%20paper%20new%201.1’14%2097p%5B1%5D.pdf

[21] ftp://leo.co.ls/Philosophy/russell/The_New_Concept.pdf

[22] https://youtu.be/6NaDy4Kgtbo

[23] https://www.youtube.com/user/helenahannah

[24] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3905/

[25] http://mortentolboll.weebly.com/a-critique-of-ken-wilber-and-his-integral-method.html

[26] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kegan

[27] https://youtu.be/x4nQRyeK_4s

[28] http://www.pacificintegral.com/docs/statestagesofallon.pdf

[29] http://www.cook-greuter.com/Sharma%20Cook-Greuter%20paper%20EAIF%20SUNY.pdf

[30] http://www.pacificintegral.com/docs/StAGES_OFallon.pdf

[31] http://www.voicedialogueworld.com/en/coaching-with-polarities-introducing-the-stretching-technique/

[32] http://www.unlimitedchoice.org/blog/daily/anchoring/

[33] http://psychologytomorrowmagazine.com/curfeat-the-promise-and-peril-of-spiritual-belief/

[34] http://www.auro-ebooks.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Satprem-Sri-Aurobindo-or-The-Adventure-of-Consciousness.pdf

[35] http://www.beyondawakeningseries.com/blog/

[36] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenosis

[37] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28illusion%29

[38] http://www.pacificintegral.com/docs/statestagesofallon.pdf

[39] http://www.pacificintegral.com/docs/StAGES_OFallon.pdf

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