Experiencing Consciousness Through Mindfulness
Have you ever had a moment where you felt a heightened sense of awareness in which you could tune into your environment and people around you; allowing you to perceive things you wouldn’t normally? Or have you ever experienced becoming aware in a dream in which you were then able to start making decisions within the dream world (lucid dreaming)? What about a moment of love and compassion where you could actually feel what another person or animal was going through almost as if you were them?
These kinds of experiences offer us a glimpse into a profound way of being and perceiving reality that we each carry within, and that we can learn to use to bring about a more conscious, connected, and spiritual way of living that is literally just waiting for us to shift into whenever we choose.
Coming into the present moment
You may have noticed that a heightened sense of awareness is always accompanied by our perception coming fully into the present moment. It can feel a bit like switching on a light in a darkened room or focusing the lens of a camera—all of a sudden it’s like the world around us comes into view and clarity.
By coming into the awareness of the moment in whatever we’re doing, we perceive from our consciousness rather than the subconscious; which manifests as dreams and daydreams in which we lose perception of what’s happening around us and are drawn into the self-created images of our own thoughts and emotions. And because consciousness is the eternal, spiritual part of us, not only can we see physical stuff more clearly, but we can also perceive things that are non-physical too.
“…end the sleep which weighs heavily upon you. Depart from the forgetfulness which fills you with darkness… O soul, persistent one, be sober and shake off your drunkenness… Light the light within you.”
The Teachings of Silvanus from the ancient Gnostic Nag Hammadi Library, translated by Malcolm L. Peel and Jan Zandee
Taking control of the wheel
Although consciousness tends to get neglected—usually remaining submerged in a continuous stream of thoughts and daydreams, and forgotten amidst the concerns of everyday life—like a muscle, when we exercise it, it gets stronger and we can feel clearer, more “present,” and “truer” to who we are.
Coming into the present moment can feel like something we have to put down whatever we’re doing to experience, but being more conscious doesn’t mean we stop acting, thinking or feeling. Instead, like a driver taking control of the wheel, it means we are able to be more conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, and therefore more discerning with those we choose to have.
Expanded Consciousness is the point we ultimately develop spiritually from, as it’s the eternal part of us—deeper than our intellect, knowledge of facts, or personal talents, it’s the part of us that journeys through eternity and that’s why in many spiritual traditions it is the focus of their disciplines and exercises.
“Intellectual knowledge exists in and of the brain. Because the brain is part of the body, which must one day expire, this collection of facts, however large and impressive, will expire as well. Insight, however, is a function of the spirit. Because your spirit follows you through cycle after cycle of life, death, and rebirth, you have the opportunity of cultivating insight in an ongoing fashion. Refined over time, insight becomes pure, constant, and unwavering. This is the beginning of immortality.”
Lao-Tzu in the Hua Hu Ching, translated by Brian Walker
Consciousness is something we can experience anywhere anytime. Here’s a little exercise that anyone can try, no matter what they are doing.
For example, if you’re reading as you are now, you can begin by just becoming aware of reading these words. Start then to become aware of your own breathing, and of your body sitting in the chair. Next, become aware of the various sounds you can hear around you. Look around and perceive the light and colours of the things you can see, any people, animals and interactions, the objects and sense of space. Just consciously perceive what’s around you without labeling. See if you can spend a few moments doing this.
Notice how thoughts start to appear. They could be about this article, or about what someone said. Just become aware of them. Observe the state you feel—perhaps a slight tension in your stomach, or a feeling of agitation. Notice how these feelings can cause you to move in a certain way, like jiggling your legs or clenching your muscles. Don’t become distracted by them, just perceive them.
Consciousness is that which is doing the perceiving—and can be directed both inwardly and outwardly. Notice that you can perceive without thinking—that you can perceive just by seeing.
Consciousness – beyond body and mind
Simply by trying this one exercise we can experience consciousness and observe how there is something within us that is beyond thoughts and feelings, and even beyond the mind. Going further, consciousness can even be experienced as being beyond the body in near-death and out-of-body experiences.
If you try this exercise a few more times, you will begin notice that there’s a permanent observer—one that is essentially always there, and always the same, whilst the different thoughts and feelings change from one moment to the next. If you recall a memory of when you were a child for example, you’ll feel that what was fundamentally having that experience then, is what is experiencing this moment now.
The potential to develop consciousness
Many different peoples throughout time discovered the inherent potential each of us has to develop our consciousness. They termed the outcome of this development enlightenment, awakening, self-realization, etc. Using their developed consciousness, they built sacred sites, created masterpieces of art and music, and explored the mysteries of life and the universe, all of which remain a timeless testament to human spiritual potential. We too have this potential, which is why spiritual truths remain timeless and just as relevant now as they were thousands of years ago.
Consciousness is what connects us all to the spiritual source, to each other, to all forms of life, to other planes of existence, and throughout time into eternity. Therefore by experiencing and developing it we can perceive, connect with, and partake in the greater spiritual reality and majesty of all that is—something truly wonderful to be alive for and to experience.
Soham: Wisdom You Can Access
I first learned to meditate over 40 years ago. Friends of mine learned Transcendental Meditation in high school, but I couldn’t afford the fee. I had friends in college who also learned the TM method, but again, I was unable to pay and no one was parting with any information about the process. Stubbornly, I took it upon myself to research meditation techniques in the library and learned as much as I could. This was my introduction to mantras. I chose a mantra and one beautiful day, sitting under a tree, I gave it a whirl. It changed my life.
Your first mediation is never forgotten.
Eventually, I learned the TM method from a certified teacher. Although the basic idea was the same, I was given my mantra and in my first experience, felt a great opening of consciousness that I hadn’t experienced before. It was different. With this in mind, I began experimenting with mantras. One day, I meditated with the Soham mantra, not knowing what to expect. I found it to be peaceful, relaxing and connective in a way that’s hard to explain.
One With the Universe
Soham is Sanskrit and essentially means, “He whom I am.” It could be translated as, “I am He,” implying, “I am one with everything,” The “He” in this case is the Universe and the singularity of the divine. Soham is an ancient mantra and one that has been used in different ways, by numerous groups and societies. Some believe that it can connect us to what are known as, “The Ascended Masters.”
A Human Tendency to Expand and Interpret
The term “Ascended Masters” was coined in the 1930s and used to define spiritual adepts whom, after their time on Earth, ascend to a place where they help guide humanity and commune, or merge, with those who seek their wisdom. This movement gained great popularity and had a vast following, one that still exists today. This wasn’t the first time such an idea had been put forth. Theosophy, through Madame Blavatsky, had “The Great White Brotherhood.”
Many have accused Blavatsky’s work as being discriminatory, or outright racist. Some have pointed to her writings as being instrumental in helping to design theories for the Nazi party. It’s hard to know the actual truth behind all of this, but I genuinely don’t believe that Blavatsky had any such thoughts about singling out one race, or type of people, as being “less” than others. I’m certainly not an expert on Theosophical philosophy, but I’ve read some of her works and can see both sides of the argument. The complexity of her writing style is open to a myriad of different interpretations, as is often the case with any spiritually based text.
This brings me to a point. One of the things that human beings tend to do, is take a basic thought and then expand upon it, often to fulfill our own philosophical ideals and agendas. A quick look at history should convince us of the power of this process.
Through rhetoric and dogma, it’s often possible to reinterpret the underlying purpose of a text, in order to rationalize our unique point of view.
This has been done again and again in religion and is also a powerful tool in politics, where interpretations of founding documents are hotly contested and reviewed. Perhaps this is one of the dangers of proclaiming a text to be sacred. They may, in fact, be sacred, but the interpretation of these texts and ideas are usually man-made. Some seek to overcome this ambiguity through an individual, a human channeling a specific source, one pure and spiritually unquestionable. Enter the Ascended Masters, or so say those who believe in the doctrine.
I’m wary of most spiritual systems. It’s not my desire to demean, nor cast doubt upon, any religion or philosophy. I’m a metaphysician and have been a seeker for most of my life, so I’m used to being left out, considered odd, deemed ignorant, thought simpleminded, or daft. I’ve experienced way too much not to believe, but I’ve also seen enough to realize that there has to be a standard of feasibility that allows us not to be deluded, or worse.
This amorphous, subjective realm exists somewhere between hard fact and faith.
It’s for this reason that I’ll discuss the Ascended Master concept a bit differently than some might. I’ve known individuals who consulted with an Ascended Master, through a channel, and received advice, only to have another channel of the exact same Master contradict the advice earlier given. It always amazes me that the seeker is able to rationalize the discrepancy, through some excuse or the other. It speaks to the unreliability of the process at the very least, and to much bigger problems, at worst.
Ascended Masters: A Conceptual Offering
I believe that anything can be mined for its positive, beneficial value and doesn’t have to be presented in a specific form to be of use. This doesn’t imply that the Ascended Master belief isn’t valid, or is unworthy of study. I’ve known many who have been followers of its doctrine and received value in their lives, some through personal work and others through relying on a Master being channeled. It simply isn’t my way of doing things.
To be direct, it seems overly religious and even though the Masters are purported to be from various cultures and eras, it strikes me as being a form of Saint worship. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with that; it just isn’t my thing, but it still has value. With that in mind, let’s look at what it can offer you.
We Are Never Alone
A common thread throughout spiritual cultures is a belief in a place to where our consciousness can ascend to and there share information and commune with fellow members, past, present and future. These locations have different names, appearances and purposes, but they all share one goal, to help those in need, or who seek truth. By this doctrine, we are never alone.
I do believe that there is an intelligence that seeks to guide us, one that is powerful and ancient.
I consider this intelligence to be the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of all humanity, from the beginning to the present. I don’t see a need to identify specific members of our species in this, as that quickly turns into a form of worship and defeats the purpose. This could be considered a form of ancestral guidance, since it depends upon people who have passed, their only agenda to better their progeny, namely us. Incidentally, I consider our time on this planet to be just as important and to have the same goal.
If we’re not doing something to better the human experience, then we’re missing the point of being human.
How then can we find this place and connect? The ability to receive this information, this wealth of humanity, is not only possible, but within your grasp. It takes concentration, determination, sincerity and the ability to listen to truth without fear, or prejudice. I believe that this has been one of the motives behind much of the ritual that we have been obsessed with over the millennia. Luckily, connecting is much simpler than it sounds and one method of doing so is the use of mantras, one of them being Soham.
I mentioned earlier that I’ve used different mantras over the years and can attest to the fact that each mantra has a definitive and unique energy. Some of these mantras have had influences that I was able to discern, while others are still a mystery to me. Each sound in Sanskrit has a specific energy and combining different sounds can be like putting together commands on a computer, accessing more information than seems possible.
The Soham Mantra: The Oneness of All
The Soham mantra, by the very nature of its meaning, “I am He whom I am,” indicates an association with the divine monad, the oneness of all.
As one meditates upon this word, it becomes a personal appeal, from us to the Universe, to unite with everything. By extension, we are then connected to the wisdom of all and can gain an inner understanding of ourselves, perhaps otherwise inaccessible to the conscious mind. This is something that you can do and benefit from.
Practice: Soham Meditation
As with anything, there are different opinions as to how the Soham mantra should be used. I find it to be aligned with natural breathing. When I inhale, I think, “So.” When I exhale, I think, “Ham.” There are masters who contradict this, insisting that Ham is the inhale and So the exhale. There are just as many masters who disagree with them. Many practitioners vocalize their mantras aloud. I prefer silent mantra repetition and personally feel silence to be more powerful, but in truth, it’s completely up to you.
A simple way of using the Soham meditation is to sit in a relaxed way that connects you to your process. For me, it’s a comfortable chair; for others it may be a yoga position. Do what you feel connects you to your source. Close your eyes, or leave them open if you prefer, and begin reciting the mantra, either out loud or to yourself, and forget about a goal. Breathe in, “So.” Breathe out, “Ham.” Let the words resonate in your mind, but don’t overthink it. Be in the moment and allow yourself to be devoid of motive or purpose of thought, other than to be.
Your mind will race, but never scold it. Instead, smile and return to the mantra.
I never ask for information or wisdom directly, but you may do so if you choose. I open my mind to whatever may come. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, other times information is there quickly. I have meditations where nothing comes through at all, except a deep and profound sense of calm and the conviction that something much more powerful than me is present. That’s good enough for me. Once again, determination, patience and sincerity will eventually deliver results, often spectacularly.
The information is out there and is designed to be accessed by every one of us, not just channels who speak for Ascended Masters. There is nothing supernatural about any of this. In fact, I believe that this is an important part of Humanity. It seeks to guide us in the way that will make us better than we are and can help to pave the way for the future. It reasserts our ethics and redefines our values in an ever-changing world.
I consider it to be a link in the chain of the spiritual evolution of our species and I pray that we will always listen. Tap into the source and listen to the voice. Everyone will benefit. Never forget, it begins with us.
I wish you all peace and love.