The idea of raising consciousness is an interesting thing: almost everyone has a desire to do it and yet there is no consensus as to what it actually means or entails. Every spiritual tradition has their own, often-contradictory philosophy and scientists are hardly in agreement as to what consciousness is or how it operates. But I believe that there is great wisdom in each of these viewpoints and that the areas where they align and overlap hold great insight into the nature of consciousness and how we might actually be able to raise it in a tangible way. I’d like to think I’ve discovered meaningful answers, distilled from a synthesis of the shared wisdom across all the different paths I’ve studied: from Shamanism to Sufism, Hindu/Tantric philosophy to Daoism, Jungian Psychology to Non-Dualism, Kabbalah to Quantum Physics and everything in between. I’ve combined what I’ve learned from these traditions with personal insights and distinctions I haven’t specifically seen mentioned anywhere else to form a very powerful set of ideas, insights and guiding principles outlined below that have the ability to dramatically shift consciousness in a remarkably short period of time and that offer a loose, holistic framework for what the process entails.
Based on my own personal insights and what I have gathered from intensive study in the above fields, expanding your consciousness is generally about the following four things:
1. Understanding the true nature of reality
2. Experiencing the full range of human ability and potential
3. Developing your spiritual awareness and becoming self-aware
4. Deep inner healing to move into higher states of being such as love, connection and compassion for oneself and all life/existence
While it’s beyond the scope of this article to go into depth explaining what each of these mean in totality and there are certainly more aspects to the act of becoming conscious than I’ve outlined here, these four core concepts are an accurate summary of the areas of synergy, agreement and overlap from all the fields/traditions mentioned previously and that are encompassed in the act of raising consciousness.
But that brings up the question, why even pursue higher consciousness in the first place? And the answer to that is simply that the act of raising consciousness is one that will take your life from wherever you currently find yourself to an extraordinary level of fulfillment, happiness, success, freedom, peace, flow, and growth. We are biologically wired to evolve, grow, expand and thrive—it is an unmistakable characteristic of all life, sentient or otherwise—to find that point of balance, harmony and full self expression. And for humans that means to move into a state of self-actualization, for example, as described by Abraham Maslow, where our needs for safety, security, survival and community have been met at high levels, allowing us to focus on those things that truly make life deeply fulfilling—our growth, expansion and personal evolution.
And in order to accomplish that goal in the shortest time possible, if that is your desire and intention, I recommend focusing your time and energy on the following three key areas that will reliably produce expansions in your consciousness.
1. Advance Through the Six Stages of Consciousness
One of the most important things to understand is that within the general framework of raising your consciousness, there are sublevels and distinctions of perceptual awareness you must move through. These are directly related to your understanding and ability to perceive the true nature of reality, meaning that they primarily have to do with how you see, interpret, and experience life and the world around you. I will outline them here as they have been summarized by nondual teacher Mary O’Malley:
1. Life happens to you.
2. Life happens by you.
3. Life happens in you.
4. Life happens for you.
5. Life happens through you.
6. Life is you.
These stages or phases describe the process of perceptually moving from unconsciousness to consciousness, from the belief that life is happening to you, through the realization that you are creating your reality and ultimately into the understanding that there is a greater intelligence at work in our lives and the cosmos as a whole than we could possibly comprehend, which is not so subtly being alluded to by breakthroughs in quantum physics research in recent years.
Rather than offering a rehashed description of the six phases here, I recommend that you take a minute to read Mary’s brilliant, in-depth explanation that can be found here: consciouslifestylemag.com/the-six-levels-of-higher-consciousness-how-to-make-the-shift.
It’s an excellent roadmap for gauging how far you have come and where you are headed in your personal evolution, grounded firmly in a synthesis of psychological and spiritual developmental models.
2. Shift from Rational Thought to Intuitive Awareness
Our minds, as amazing and powerful as they are, can also inherently limit us and keep us locked into lower levels of consciousness if we believe that they are the only valid faculty for navigating life. Let me explain. Your mind is, by its very nature, limited to processing via images, thoughts, ideas, imagination, and logic. And while these are all incredible tools that are essential for us to grow and thrive, conspicuously missing from this lineup are the equally important and essential processing methods of feeling, emotion, and intuition, which can and do open doors into entirely new realms of human experience, ability and ultimately consciousness. Without incorporating this felt intuitive sense into your day-to-day awareness and using its insights to navigate your life and augment the data from your rational mind, you keep yourself limited to only experiencing a fraction of the true nature of reality and operating from an inherently narrow vantage point that is counterproductive to the act of expanding your consciousness.
To understand more fully what I am getting at, take, for example, what the field of neurocardiology is revealing about the heart:
In it’s own way, the heart rivals the brain as a sensory processing center in the body containing it’s own nervous system with around 40,000 neurons, described by scientists as sensory neurites. What is quickly becoming known as the “heart-brain” or “heart-mind” in the emerging field of neurocardiology is an intricate network of several types of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins, and support cells similar to those found in the brain itself. It’s remarkably elaborate circuitry enables it to operate as a sort of secondary information-processing center that can learn, remember, and act independently of the cranial brain and actually connect and send signals to key brain areas such as the amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus, which regulate our perceptions and emotions. By all markers, we seem to have a second “brain” in our chest.
A groundbreaking study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the heart can receive and respond to incoming sensory stimuli well before the cranial brain can process it, which most people experience as a premonitive flash of insight about impending events or their current circumstances, which is an academic way of describing the phenomenon of intuitive insight.
If your goal is to ultimately expand your consciousness, and I assume it is if you are reading this, then you’ll definitely want to develop your trans-rational intuitive emotional intelligence. Here’s why: your intuition dynamically adjusts itself to the ever-changing circumstances and conditions that exist whenever you need to make a decision.
Operating on a quantum level, it takes into account a huge number of variables that your conscious mind cannot even begin to comprehend, let alone process, and guides you towards the choices that will provide the most beneficial outcome for you and everyone involved.
To understand what I am getting at, imagine for a second that you are playing a game of chess against a powerful computer. How many moves in advance can you see before things get hazy? Maybe two or three at most until the number of possible combinations of moves and countermoves you and the computer could make becomes so complex it is beyond the capability of your conscious mind to keep track of, let alone make sense of.
Now consider the computer you are playing against. In a few nanoseconds—instantaneously for all intents and purposes—it can foresee every possible combination of potential scenarios that could occur, and make the ideal move given whatever circumstances are present at that very moment.
As you may have guessed, the computer is a metaphor for your intuition—one of your greatest allies for improving the quality of your life and expanding your consciousness. And in order to experience the full range of your human abilities—a cornerstone of raising your consciousness—you must ultimately learn to calibrate to the messages and feelings of your intuitive awareness. That process begins by moving from rational-mind dominance to a more balanced state that incorporates intuitive-emotional feeling states and sensory signals.
3. Rewire Your Heart and Mind to Experience More Love, Peace and Joy
How did you develop your personality? If you are like most people, you believe it is something inherent in your biology—something that is genetically encoded into you at the time of birth. But the truth is that you, in many ways, are a construct. Your personality, your beliefs, your preferences, your taste in music and food, what you like and dislike… These are almost all learned habits that are conditioned into you over time, mostly by your experiences as a young child, well before you had the ability to rationally discern, challenge and analyze the experiences you were having in order to decide if you would accept them into your belief structures, which are your conceptual map of the world, life, and reality. That faculty doesn’t come until later in life, typically around age eight or nine, which means that almost everything you experienced before that age was simply absorbed and encoded into your mind without rational discernment, in whatever way you interpreted it at the time.
Experiences, ideas, philosophies, euphemisms, etc. we experienced and we’re exposed to as children were basically accepted without challenge, which means that you have been highly influenced and shaped by a) your parents and immediate family b) friends, teachers and authority figures and c) society as a whole. In your early childhood years, you’re basically like a sponge picking up whatever comes into your awareness. These perceptions and beliefs go on to form your “default programming”, which takes the form of beliefs and perceptions about yourself, reality and the world around you. And, as you may have guessed, it’s usually pretty terrible.
The beliefs and perceptions we pick up as children are so deeply embedded into the fabric of our subconscious minds that we believe they are reality, not understanding that they are simple neural programming that allows us to make sense of reality—to interpret the incredibly complex stream of data that hits our mind’s incoming perceptual filter in any given moment. There is simply too much sensory information coming in for the conscious mind to process at any given moment and so our subconscious picks up the slack using our belief structures to interpret and categorize what we experience in real-time, rejecting that which is out of sync with your beliefs and accepting that which fits your perceptual model of the world/reality. Therefore your beliefs are your programming. They determine how you experience and see the world. They form your personality, your preferences, and your tastes, and they also largely determine your emotional reaction to various situations and experiences. In short, they are hugely influential. To you, they are everything.
For most people, the beliefs they pick up as children are very simplistic because children can’t really understand higher order logical thoughts and interpretations. Which means they take the form of very broad generalizations about life that are rarely unequivocally true and often quite limiting and destructive. For example, say you are three years old and your father gives you some finger paint to play with. Not really knowing better you start painting off the paper and onto the dinner table under the paper, ruining it in the process. You are happy as can be enjoying the moment until your father walks in, having a stressful day, seeing his expensive table ruined, loses his cool and remarks “What are you doing?! Bad girl Elizabeth! You ruined daddy’s table. I am so angry with you.”
On the surface as an adult it seems inconsequential, but as a child, it’s all very intense and even traumatic. You’re happy as can be just following your bliss and suddenly a giant, intimidating authority figure, often one of the most important and meaningful people in your life, is yelling at you and telling you essentially that you are bad and wrong for doing what came naturally to you. This leads us to form beliefs like “I am wrong” and “Love is conditional” and so on. These become deeply embedded in our psyche and typically go unchallenged for the rest of our lives, leading to all kinds of destructive and maladaptive behaviors and perceptions that affect every area of our life from health to wealth to relationships and beyond.
Eventually, if you desire to become truly happy, successful and fulfilled in life, which most people do, you will need to examine this unconscious baggage—these sacred wounds you have been carrying with you your entire life. This is, in large part, the process of becoming conscious and aware. First discovering and then challenging these unconscious patterns, perceptions, and beliefs on every level—as they pertain to you, to others, to life, to the world and so on—fundamentally reprogramming your heart and mind in any direction you choose. You must shift your inner neural programming to align with the true nature of reality, to see the world and life how it really is, or at least in a way that is constructive, positive and uplifting.
There are many powerful tools to do this kind of work, and I highly recommend looking into the following: Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, Hypnosis, Jungian and Integral Psychology, Huna Philosophy and Constellation Therapy, among others.
It is this process of healing old emotional wounds and limiting beliefs and perceptions that allows us to feel deep, lasting happiness, peace and joy. These are in fact our most natural states but we unconsciously cut ourselves off from experiencing them by carrying around decades of unhealed mental and emotional baggage which keeps us locked into old patterns and maladaptive behaviors and relationships. As such, releasing this old conditioning is essential to the act of raising consciousness, because you can’t experience oneness and authentic connection with others if you believe that you are separate, which is a remarkably common limiting belief that almost everyone carries in some way shape or form. You can’t experience true, unconditional love if you believe you are not worthy of it, again, another remarkably common belief we all pick up as children through misinterpreting the events and circumstances in our life.
Ironically, as you work through these deep inner wounds and misperceptions, you tend to naturally evolve through the stages of consciousness and your intuitive awareness tends to expand as well, as you reconnect with your emotional awareness and somatic sensing, showing that indeed this is a holistic framework for conscious development. And at the very least I can promise you this: if you engage in any of the practices outlined above, your life will improve dramatically on many levels. After all, if it didn’t, why would so many people be so fascinated with the act of raising consciousness? I believe we all intuitively know it is our destiny and that great pleasure awaits those who undertake the path. Speaking from personal experience I can verify that this is, in fact, the case.
Photo credit: Issara Willenskomer
Justin Faerman is a visionary change-agent, entrepreneur and healer dedicated to evolving global consciousness, bridging science and spirituality and spreading enlightened ideas on both an individual and societal level. He is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and a sought after coach and teacher, known for his pioneering work in the area of flow. He is largely focused on applied spirituality, which is translating abstract spiritual concepts and ideas into practical, actionable techniques for creating a deeply fulfilling, prosperous life. Connect with him at consciouslifestylemag.com and artofflowcoaching.com