# 11 (b). Navigating Through the Layers of the Mind (Part 2): Clearing the Subconscious

The mind is like an iceberg. Just as an iceberg, 90% is submerged and is what we call the subconscious with 10% being the ‘surface’ conscious mind. The 90% is most influential and is where our life scripts are stored. These are electro-chemical impressions in the brain created by events that define our self-identity; our likes and dislikes and motivate what we consider to be our ‘conscious’ behavior. In yoga science these subconscious conditionings are called ‘samskaras’: the mental impressions that cloud our awareness of our true nature as divine being.

To clear the subconscious follow these steps:

Acknowledge the Truth

1. First and foremost always acknowledge, remember and understand that you are one with divine being, flawless, perfect and pure at your core.

Do an inventory. Resolve memories of past negative experience:

2. Face and neutralize uncomfortable and difficult memories by diffusing the emotional reaction to the memory. You will know when you are done as the physical reaction to the memory, such as anxiety, remorse, insomnia, addictive cravings, depression, rapid heartbeat, cold sweats, etc., will cease. When you no longer have a physical or emotional reaction to the memory then the memory has been neutralized.

If you suspect there are things you cannot recognize in yourself, or that you do not remember from the past, then over a few days reread this sutra. Talk less, observe yourself more and your subconscious will begin to release and reveal to you memories, repetitive patterns, wrong beliefs and unproductive behaviors that come from past incidents and subconscious conditioning.

Throw out the trash: Use the ancient Vedic ritual known as Vasana Daha Tantra*:

3. When memories emerge from your subconscious of past hurts, hurts towards others, mistakes made, regrets, trauma, guilt, fear, anxiety, worry, self-doubt, unworthiness, etc., write them down in as much detail as possible. If there are ways these memories are influencing your life now and there are certain behaviors in your life that you know are not your best, write them down too. Do not type but write in cursive – this is important as this encourages access to deeper brain regions. Be specific and give as much detail as you can. Be honest with yourself. If there is a lesson to be learned, face it, learn it, make a commitment to end any unacceptable behaviors and then allow yourself to let it go and move on. Then burn the paper. This is an ancient method used to clear the subconscious using the symbolism of burning the accumulated negative ‘mind-stuff’ in written form. Your subconscious will recognize the symbolism here – it may require several attempts to clear the conditioning but eventually you will experience the desired changes. Be diligent and write out those things you want to release when you are aware of them. Don’t give up! Be aware too that this is not an auspicious ‘sacred fire’ ritual. The instructions are to use an appropriate container to burn the paper, such as a trash can!

*Vasana means ‘subliminal/subconscious traits that are manifesting now’.

Daha means ‘to blaze’.

Tantra means ‘technique, instrument or method of applying higher knowledge to tie/weavetogether’.

Why do we resist change?

We may inadvertently hold onto much of our subconscious conditionings for a number of reasons. It may be that they are the ‘known’ and define and support our identity. Most of our behaviors are simply re-action: mechanical responses to life that are laid down in our brains software – determined by our past. Many of the conditionings are not in line with our highest good: they were perhaps imposed upon us by people who taught us, cared for us and/or who we respected. There is often a feeling of safety and protection at the root of many of our conditionings and releasing them (at first) can make us feel less safe. Instinctive areas of the brain are programmed for survival and can have enormous resistance to surrendering to an unknown future. We may have received negative messages in our early childhood which can create deep impressions and be the most challenging to release because they have become so much a part of our identity.

Addictions too have subconscious roots and are tied to neuro-chemical forces that drive the addiction. Addiction to a behavior is not really due to the behavior itself but rather to the rush of brain chemicals associated with the behavior – the neurotransmitter dopamine is the primary pleasure/motivator in most addictions – in this sense our subconscious learns to self-medicate by using a substance or a behavior as a source of relief from negative or uncomfortable feelings. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also a ‘conditioning of the subconscious’: the result of trauma triggering primitive areas of the brain that afterwards cannot turn off the surveillance, remaining hyper-vigilant, to be ever on the alert to any threat of danger. The severity of conditioning that occurs with PTSD requires a much more comprehensive approach. Currently there are very successful therapeutic programs using meditation, neuro-biofeedback, yoga and similar supportive tools to gently turn off the subconscious conditioning.

If you cannot understand why you have trouble releasing something, such as a behavior, attitude or relationship, ask yourself, “What does holding onto this particular conditioning do for me?”.

Many of us have resistance to growth, and to emotional maturity. Resistance to emotional maturity is perhaps the number one obstacle to our spiritual growth. There are many people walking around in bodies that are many years older than their emotional age, sometimes decades. We can get emotionally stuck at developmental levels and have the emotional maturity corresponding to those ages. We may have experienced a trauma, parents divorce, separation, or other unsettling circumstance that slowed or shut down our emotional growth. We can break the chains to the past by practicing being present, conscious and awake here and now.

In time, through honest self-inquiry, the answer to the question, “Why do I resist change and what is holding me back?”, will reveal itself enabling you to face it and move on.

Many times the realization is surprisingly simple: moving on (or not) is basically a choice.
Be clear though, that this is not a process of psycho-analysis, psycho-analysis can be an endless loop. Rather, this is a process intended to allow your consciousness to rise above, or move beyond, this level of the mind in order to access the superconscious level. This gives us a higher view and a ‘pure’ understanding.

By making the subconscious transparent, by recognizing and exposing its’ contents and their manifestation, both good and bad in our lives, we can then begin to consciously experience the unveiling of the superconscious. Ever increasing glimmers of light, of a higher way of knowing and being will shine forth from the superconscious. This ultimately brings about liberation and freedom from all that restricts and all that clouds the radiance of the soul.

Affirm the truth:

4. Create an affirmation that is the truth, the reality at the soul level. Affirmation is not meant to reprogram the subconscious but rather to give the subconscious accurate and enlightened information. Affirmations should be short, positive and have motivational significance. Think of your affirmation as an antidote to any negative conditionings you identify and word it accordingly.

Three important and crucial ingredients to successful affirmation:

1. Focus, think and give full attention to the affirmation as you repeat it. Do not let the mind wander.

2. Visualize a mental picture with as many sensory components as possible to illustrate your affirmation. What colors are present? What sensations? What sounds? What odors? What are the physical feelings?

3. Feel it! Bring all the positive emotion, gratitude, joy and appreciation into your realization and conviction of the actualization of your affirmation.

 

Practice your affirmation for a few minutes after waking, again before lunch, before bed and if you awaken in the night. When you meditate bring the affirmation in at the end of your meditation session. Do this for a while and then if inspired try a new affirmation. A good goal is to repeat your affirmation for at least 50 repetitions per day.

Favorite affirmations:

Everything in my mind, everything in my consciousness, everything in my world is in divine order.

I am healthy, vital and radiantly alive.

I am calm, confident, and serene.

The radiant purity of my essence of being continuously illumines my mind and consciousness.

I am alright, right now.

“You can either walk through a city full of fog or climb above it.”
– Subramuniyaswami
(1927-2001)

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Brain Sutra #11 (a). Navigating Through the Layers of the Mind (Part 1)

Every person, at the center of their being, is pure unconditioned awareness; an individualized unit of divine consciousness. So why do we not consciously experience this all the time?

Visualize your divine essence as a sphere, and then around it are layers and layers representing the subconscious mind, finally an outside layer representing the conscious mind. This illustrates our expression from the inside out. The outer layers are like clouds and is where the various conditionings reside that obscure the purity of our awareness as it flows out to the external world – but at the source it remains ever the same.

Depending on our individual subconscious conditionings, our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors are modified accordingly. The purity of our soul is always here, the subtlest of the subtle, always conscious, always clear – it is always in the background, witnessing all our states of consciousness (even in the deepest sleep stages).  We do not achieve, deserve, or earn our divinity. The ‘I AM’ of us is already one with omnipresent divinity…always has been, always will be. Our path if we are so inspired, is to redirect the outward flow of our awareness and to inquire within, “Who am I?”. This inner questioning will ultimately reveal the same truth for us all. Every soul, in this life or in another, is destined to discover this. Studying books, teachings, or following teachers cannot give us this awareness – they can only point the way. Only our diligent inner seeking, learning to quiet and calm the mind and clear away the clouded layers of the subconscious, can lead us to the inner unveiling and realization of our true being.

It can be useful to understand the layers of the subconscious that cloud awareness and how we can manage and navigate through them. Contemporary psychology has relatively little to offer us in regard to reaching our highest potential as spiritual beings. It can help us manage our ‘human’ problems: our relationship issues, neurosis, and the day-to-day problems and challenges but does little to give us the tools that will provide us with the answers to life’s greatest mysteries. We can look to authentic enlightenment teachings for these answers. This information comes from individuals who have gained access to their higher mind, the superconscious mind. Most contemporary psychological theories do acknowledge unconscious and subconscious levels of mind but do not recognize the highest potential of the superconscious mind. In order to comprehend this higher reality we must first accept it as a possibility and then engage in spiritual practices that have been passed down over millennia so that we may experience this. These practices have been tested and proven and have allowed individuals to reach the highest states of Self and God realization. We, through these practices, can begin to glean the potentials of spiritual unfoldment – and move beyond just wanting to become more psychologically ‘normal’ and have stress free lives. There is nothing wrong with ‘normal’ or seeking stress free lives.  In fact, becoming more psychologically sound and growing into emotional maturity is part of, and the result of, our spiritual growth. We become more responsible, learn to make a real contribution to our world and become more functional in all areas of our daily lives. As we follow the spiritual teachings and disciplines, cultivate the virtues, and apply them in our lives, the healing, balancing and harmonizing of our lives and personalities will inevitably occur along the way.

The Levels of the Mind

The mind has conscious, subconscious and superconscious levels.

The Conscious Mind:

What we believe to be our conscious mind is somewhat of an illusion.

Interacting and engaging in life and the world around us, we believe our motivation, judgments, thoughts, intellect and decisions are being determined from our conscious, rational mind. But in truth our conscious mind is being driven by our subconscious conditionings. The conditionings include ideas, concepts and beliefs: everything we assume to be true and have learned about ourselves and the world around us. Learning occurs when information first passes through our conscious mind and, if accepted, gets stored in our subconscious and programs our brain – the brains auto-pilot, default mode network (DMN), is imprinted with the information. We then believe and behave accordingly, perhaps never really examining the basis of the information and determining if the information we stored away is true. The question is: What is the source of the concepts and beliefs our brains software has accepted as truth? If we examine the sources we may find that, yes, there are some obvious facts and things that are true. But in regard to many concepts and beliefs, much of what we hold to be true is just someone else’s opinion – and this could include information that came from less-than-enlightened minds. The only information we want to accept into our minds and hence, into our subconscious, is that which is accurate and enlightened. Enlightened information that emerges from the superconscious as a result of spiritual practice is higher knowledge. The source of this higher knowledge is Self-revealed and is unveiled as we learn to access superconscious levels of our inner being.

The Subconscious Mind:

The subconscious is the storehouse of the impressions we take in. Everything we have experienced is a memory recorded electro-chemically in our brain and body.

The beliefs that make up the content of the subconscious are like a magnet and attract circumstances that confirm them and reflect back to us as our outer lives. In a sense the subconscious projects out and attracts what we call the good and bad things in our lives. In this way our experiences are self-created. If the subconscious impressions are negative we will have corresponding experiences until we eradicate the wrong or harmful subconscious belief.  Success too is a manifestation of subconscious conditioning. The problem though, is most of the time we are unconscious of this principle. Our minds tell us, “things happen,” but in truth things can only happen according to our subconscious beliefs. Learning to recognize the subconscious impressions is the key to releasing the unfavorable conditionings and a first step to gaining more conscious access to the superconscious level.

A popular theme among the new age community is around the notion of reprogramming the subconscious. If our goal is to awaken to the reality of our being and to consciously experience our divinity, then reprogramming is not a good idea. That just creates more mental impressions and more mind stuff that has to eventually be cleared away. The subconscious cannot be programmed to experience the divine essence – the divine essence is behind the subconscious and is what we refer to as the superconscious. Unconditioned pure awareness is our real identity. Anything else just obscures this. So clearing away the subconscious impressions that are not useful is the proper approach but first we have to learn how to recognize the impressions and the manifestation of them in our lives; to make our subconscious transparent.

Learn to Observe Your Subconscious: Make it Transparent

If you can just take a minute the next time you are in a public place, driving, shopping or eating and try to observe your mental chatter…notice the background internal conversation going on in your mind. You may notice a running commentary on people and things, sometimes an internal dialogue, occasional judgments and pre-judgments towards others. It can be very revealing and give a notion of how much is actually going on in the subconscious that is almost totally outside of conscious awareness. Notice if there is anything habitual that you do or think, a judgment about a certain type of person or a persistent attitude that you may not have noticed before. If you can do this you are witnessing the play of your subconscious mind as it projects its contents onto the outside world. When we are not consciously being present our subconscious colors all our perceptions according to its content and beliefs.

If we continue to observe ourselves, over the course of time, many of us will begin to identify the contradictions between our conscious and subconscious mind. Our conscious mind tells us we believe and behave in certain ways, but if we can be present and observe we will see that oftentimes this is not the reality.  We ‘know’ better than we ‘do.’ This requires keen observation and being very honest with ourselves. We have internal mechanisms that keep us from the discomfort of seeing that what we find most annoying and disturbing in others is usually a prominent feature in ourselves – just unrecognized. Our judgments of others, complaints of unhappiness with the world and other people’s weakness or behaviors is usually because we see this reflected in ourselves. When we discover these inconsistencies we do not want to start judging ourselves but rather practice compassion. If we can have compassion for ourselves the same principle applies and we will see this compassion extended and reflected to the world and people around us too – judgments will cease. But first we have to practice being conscious and alert to our own inconsistencies – this is what is meant by making the subconscious transparent.

Often simply reading the type of information contained in this sutra will pull on the subconscious and information and in-sight will be brought into your conscious mind awareness. Because of this it is useful to read this sutra several times over the course of several days and you will experience more and more insight. Dreams also provide a look, symbolically, into the contents of the subconscious. If you become aware of subconscious conditioning, beliefs, attitudes, thoughts or behaviors that are not conducive to your highest good, the practical exercise outlined in the next sutra, Clearing the Subconscious, will help.

The Superconscious Mind

The inner source in each one of us that gives us our hunches, our intuitions, our inner guidance, higher knowledge and higher revelation is the superconscious mind.

Great inventions, discoveries, and breakthroughs are not just the result of individual genius or brilliance but rather of individuals gaining access to this level of ‘brilliance’, of superconscious knowledge. We do not each have a personal superconscious mind – the superconscious mind is one. It is universal, sometimes called the over-soul, the mind of God, and we are a portion of the one mind at the level of superconsciousness. All knowledge resides here…not in books, not outside of ourselves but within each one of us. When we read a spiritual truth over and over and then suddenly we understand it for the first time, the understanding is a recognition of what we already know within – the book just helped remind you – your teacher is your own realization. This is a level of pure potentiality, stillness and infinite knowledge. When we learn to go within, silence the mind and touch the superconscious level, we tap into a “peace that passeth understanding” and begin to experience an out-pouring of infinite divine knowledge and inspiration. The etymology of the word inspiration is from ‘inspire’: to inhale or breathe in. Great spiritual adepts say that the ancient scriptures were ‘realized’ within and recorded. The way to the superconscious requires us to clear away the subconscious conditionings that cloud our inner vision. This is why superconscious meditation is the primary tool recommended in virtually all enlightenment traditions. We go within, and within and within…passing through the layers of the subconscious until we reach the point of profound stillness – we become aware of being aware.

In the next sutra¸ Navigating Through the Layers of the Mind (Part 2): Clearing the Subconscious, this theme will be continued…until then reread this sutra a few times when convenient and practice the exercise described above.

#10. A continuation of the previous sutra – a discussion on the theme of Waking Up

This Sutra is a continuation of the previous sutra – a discussion on the theme of Waking Up – continued…

If you attempted the practice explained in brain sutra #9, ‘Have you had a wakeup call?’, you may have verified for yourself how difficult being present, and remembering to make efforts to be present, can be. Often we can go hours and days forgetting to give ourselves the nudge to wake up.

So the question arises,

“Why is it so hard to be present?”

As explained, primarily it is the brains DMN that keeps us from thinking, keeps us on auto-pilot and keeps us from being present. If you tried the suggested exercise you may have discovered several things:

1. It is hard to do and hard to remember to do.
2. It is easier at certain times of the day when you have more energy.
3.The state of ‘being present’ has degrees: sometimes there is more clarity and sometimes less – the degree of clarity is totally dependent on how much energy you have available.

You can gauge how successful your efforts were by simply reviewing: Did you experience a moment that produced vivid memory – a conscious-present moment?

Those moments from our lives that we remember in complete vivid detail were moments when we were conscious-awake; it was in those moments that we were truly present. As mentioned in the last sutra, sometimes these moments are produced by shock or trauma, sometimes by seemingly normal influences, and other times by great beauty or spiritual inspiration. It is in these moments when we are truly Being; truly living. These moments create memory and we call them, “a conscious moment.” We never forget the tangible reality of feeling ourselves alive and existing in those instances.

Therefore to cultivate the energy required for these moments we can:

1. Stop loosing energy.
2. Learn to build energy.
3. Practice superconscious meditation.

1. Stop loosing energy

A primary loss of energy is through negative emotions. Every emotion you experience immediately affects every organ in your body. Anger, fear, insecurity, guilt, envy, anxiety, depression, jealousy and worry are just some examples, but all negative emotions rapidly use up large portions of our energy reserves. It is this energy that can be channeled for higher states of consciousness. That is why we feel exhausted after a strong emotional stressor and why the root of many diseases can be traced to one or more significant life stressors. Our inability to handle negative emotion is also at the root of addiction. We self medicate the uncomfortable feelings with food, alcohol or other substances or behaviors.

Practice being present and awake when you are immersed in a negative state – this is the single most powerful thing we can do. Being awake can stop the leak and transform the reactive patterns that led to the negative state. Separate your awareness from the emotion and find the witness state – stand behind the emotion. Remind yourself  that you are ‘having’ a negative emotion, you are not the emotion.

Then to take it a step further, if it is appropriate, in order to literally chemically transform the negative energy/chemistry and the effects on your body, do the *Inner Smile technique described at the end of this sutra. A guided audio version is here on this website as well: http://www.wuttkeinstitute.com/meditation/ 

The Inner Smile can help neutralize the cascade of destructive stress chemicals that occur. We can learn to literally transform negative emotions such as fear, doubt and worry into strength and courage by applying this technique. Be sure not to suppress or deny negative emotions. That is like trying to seal a pressure cooker. The goal is to recognize that you are not the emotion, and transform or neutralize it.

Other ways we waste and use up energy include excessive talking, superficial forms of entertainment and stimulation, addiction to excitement and sensation that give us a temporary feeling of being alive but leaves us empty in the end.

Unconscious judgments of ourselves and others also deplete our energy reserves. Judgments never have a useful result. If we look upon others with compassion, and we acknowledge the divine essence of their being, we will find it impossible to judge, to be disappointed or to get angry. The same applies to ourselves.

2. Learn to create energy

All the impressions we take in during our day have specific qualities of energy and are registered consciously or unconsciously by our brains. Negative impressions give us negative energy, positive impressions give us positive energy. Once we understands this, we realize how very important it is to be intentional in regard to what we allow into our consciousness. Learn to avoid negative impressions especially when you are depleted, stressed or tired. Sources like the popular media, advertisement, news, TV, internet, politics and gossip can imprint ‘unconscious’ messages if we are not careful. Did you know there is something called ‘Neuro-Marketing’? This is where marketing experts scan subjects brains and figure out how to manipulate buying behavior by looking at the brain and nervous system. This information is then applied through marketing techniques as an attempt to coerce us and make us ‘feel,’ believe (or sometimes fear) that we need that particular product. Politics use these methods as well.

Seek Positive Impressions

Be intentional about positive impressions too. These are impressions that give us energy and feed us with inspiration. The classic arts and the beauty of nature have much to offer. Great artistic works can provide us with a higher quality of impressions. Whether they are paintings, statues, poetry, music, plays, books, cathedrals, temples, monastery’s, sacred places, etc. All can have special qualities of energy that we can learn to appreciate and absorb. However, this does not necessarily happen automatically – it does not happen in sleep. The key to taking in the positive energy is to make efforts to be present at the moment one is observing the impression.

Over time we become more proficient and the energy we need for greater awareness is readily available. We stop wasting energy and the primitive-instinctual areas of the brain become less reactive to people and events that would have produced negative reactions in the past.  Our lives take on a new vitality, new purpose and new meaning. Being calm, centered and non-reactive in all circumstances is perhaps the number one indication of spiritual growth and is the result of learning to be present-awake.

3. Practice superconscious meditation

A recent study of the brains of advanced meditators indeed showed that they are more awake, more present, have much more refined awareness and perception. Each moment registers anew in the advanced meditator’s brain – everything has great meaning and is filled with wonder and awe. Their brains indicated a predominance of a rhythm designated as Gamma – these are very fast brain waves (40 Hertz) and are many times greater than that of the average person. Gamma is a binding frequency in that it connects many areas of the brain and magnifies consciousness so that it is always new, always clear and always present, unbridled by the primitive-instinctual areas of the ‘older’ brain regions. They had all practiced and used some form of the tools being shared here with you. And even though these were long time meditators the fundamental step to this transformation and state of consciousness is quite simple: This path begins and ends with ‘being present – being awake.’

A seeker went to the Buddha and asked:

Seeker: Sir, you seem to have achieved great spiritual heights. May I please enquire? Are you a god?
Buddha: No.

Seeker: Are you the messiah?
Buddha: No.

Seeker: Are you a king?
Buddha: No.

Seeker: Are you enlightened?

Buddha: No.

Seeker: Are you a perfected one?
Buddha: No.

Seeker: Well? then, what are you?!
Buddha: Awake

 

*The Inner Smile

The practice of “The Inner Smile” is not only reserved for a special time, the meditation room, place of worship or other holy place. Nor should it be reserved for some special time when we are less distracted. Although our practices are important as support and respite for realigning ourselves, the life we live is the real field for the application of the inner smile. The practice can be brought into every situation and every relationship, consciously and with intention. First though, it can be useful to practice at the beginning of our superconscious meditation sessions in order to get a feel for the state.

“The Inner Smile” requires a gentle shift in awareness: it is a state of alert-conscious-presence within and without. It is a state that is always available to us, silently underlying all that is occurring. To practice requires some effort because of the tendency for our attention to drift out of the present moment and engage in the workings of the mind and events happening around us. Identification with the mind and its contents keeps us from experiencing the consciousness that illumines the mind. By making efforts to remind ourselves to smile internally: to be simultaneously aware of the life force that is expressing through us and manifesting as everything around us, although an intellectual exercise at first, eventually becomes a living state of smiling awareness. The simplest things in life then reflect great beauty and grace…we are no longer bound by the conditionings of the mind, i.e. the labels, judgments or preconceived notions, but rather, we see the world in a new light as it is, without our projections.

1. Begin by gathering ‘smiling energy’ behind your eyes.

2. Let this energy permeate your brain then move it down into your body through your nervous system.

3. Smile to all your internal organs, bones and cells of your body – then smile to the whole universe and all beings everywhere.

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#9: Have you had a WAKE UP call?

Sometimes life has a way of exposing and pointing things out to us in not-so-subtle ways, doesn’t it? When there is resistance to the growth process and to our own personal evolution, we may have an unhealthy attachment to poor attitudes, self limiting thoughts, petty beliefs, bad relationships and self-destructive behaviors, in other words, to ‘life as we know it.’ Even if we know in our heart that life as we know it is not conducive to our highest good, we may hold on for lack of direction or lack of foreseeable options. Letting go and moving into the void of the ‘unknown’ can be more threatening to our subconscious mind than staying in the unhealthy ‘known.’ If this is the case, often life will send us some kind of message to shake us out of our slumber and force us to pay attention and make the necessary changes. If we refuse to pay attention and change, the message becomes more forceful and often has more severe consequences. We are all destined to wake up eventually, to learn our lessons and to release self-limiting thoughts…to do those important things we know deep down we should be doing for our own highest good and ultimate spiritual unfoldment. So why not make the move to wake up beforehand? Why not head off the wake up calls by learning to be awake now?

At a certain turning point in our lives we may be compelled to ask the most important questions:

  • Who am I?

  • What is my purpose for being here?

  • What is life?

  • What is God, the Supreme being, ultimate reality?

These questions are a great blessing, often occurring in or after moments of a certain impetus: an event that shakes us and impels us to look past the transitory and superficial meanings and appearances to the deeper meaning of our existence. It can be a health crisis, a relationship gone awry, an accident, the passing of an acquaintance or loved one, etc. There are also serious collective wake up calls: world events that humanity is facing that include political, social, financial and environmental problems that we need to pay attention to as the consequences are mounting and are here now.

Many spiritual teachings have referred to this ‘shaking’ as necessary to wake us up. Neuroscience research on advanced meditators indicate that when one enters an authentic spiritual path (one based on a systematic practice of spiritual discipline, meditation, cultivating the virtues, surrendering the ego, etc.), over time the brain of the individual literally becomes more awake.

For the most part, the brain is an energy conserving organ. There is a neural network called the default mode network (DMN) that functions as auto-pilot, keeping us from having to actively think about everything we do. Once something is learned, be it an attachment, aversion, behavior, etc., it is programmed in our brain’s DMN and we do not have to think about it for future reference; it becomes automatic and requires no conscious thought. Much of the brain’s energy and chemical resources (glucose, neurotransmitters, etc.) are doled out according to what our subconscious perception views as important events in our environment. The more of a shock, or out of the ordinary, the stimulus, the more awake our brain.

Great inspirational beauty and profound spiritual experiences trigger ‘awake moments, however, so does trauma.

Some spiritual teachers point out that this brings us to an important point: In order for us to wake up (to begin the process of seeing and experiencing more to life than just a sleep-walking existence), it is necessary for us to recognize and realize that the majority of the time we are in a ‘sleep condition.’ And therefore, the need to make efforts to wake up rather than be at the mercy of events in our lives to produce the shaking or the occasional inspirational moment.

Recent neuroscience research reveals a disturbing fact: for subjects studied, the average attention span is 3 seconds! Sounds discouraging to say the least! But do not be discouraged. Attention is a brain function and involves pathways in the brain; exercising these pathways can be compared to building stronger muscles – the more you exercise and train ‘attention’ pathways, the stronger they will become. More and more areas of the brain will devote connections and neurons to this function if we know how to train it. This is crucial to understand if we are engaged in a spiritual growth process whose stages include practices that require us to learn to control and direct our attention.

The final goal of the stages of spiritual practice can be summed up in the following:

We are, at the core of our being, pure awareness, or pure consciousness. This pure, unconditioned state is behind our thoughts, behind our minds, behind our emotions, and is the silent witness. It is always here but due to the nature of our attention we do not experience this very subtle aspect of our being. Pure awareness is our very nature and is what is referred to as the ‘Self’ or God, the Supreme Reality, manifesting as us. This is our deepest essence of being, and whether we are conscious of it or not, this is the reality of our existence. The goal of spiritual practice is to remove all that clouds the ‘superconscious’ experience of this.

This is why we have various spiritual paths that have been delineated over the ages. Sages, saints and enlightened teachers have mapped out the process of awakening. Indeed, neuroscience is now corroborating this by documenting the physiologic changes in the brain that occur as we go through the process of waking up.

“HAST never come to thee an hour, A sudden gleam divine, precipitating, bursting all these bubbles, fashions, wealth? These eager business aims—books, politics, art, amours, To utter nothingness?”

— Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass

A spiritual teacher in the 1920’s pointed out an obvious fact mentioned earlier: Before one can awaken, one must first of all realize that most of the time, one is asleep. One must engage in a process that will help one to wake up. Why? There are many, many glorious things we miss in this sleeping state. If you have ever experienced a moment of true reality, where divinity is spontaneously recognized as a presence (and this presence in fact is not something separate from you, but your own presence) then you have had a glimpse of what lies beyond the auto-pilot state. The more powerful this divinity is realized the more potent, overwhelming and all-embracing the divine love is….to the degree that this is experienced, one’s life and world is touched and transformed beyond measure. This experience is here for all of us to live now – but to experience it for greater and greater periods requires brain changes. Again, that is what spiritual practices are for.

The phrase “be present” has become cliché. Unfortunately the term has been overused and many miss the profound implications of what it really means. Indeed being awake requires that we learn to be present and all that this state implies – if we are simply not present to ourselves and to our environment then how can we consciously experience our own inner divinity (our Self) which is always present? Because of the brain’s DMN we are literally shutting off the pathways in the brain required for our attention and awareness to be present.

In Sanskrit the word used to define the state of consciousness when we are fully present, awake, when we are conscious of our divinity and the divinity as all that is, is called ‘Samadhi’ (definition: ‘union’ or ‘absorption’). When we begin to experience Samadhi during superconscious meditation practice, our individual awareness is inwardly revealed and recognized as a unit of the total divine presence. No separation – we are indeed one with God just as a drop of the ocean is one with the entire ocean.

The path, stages or steps to Samadhi are described as:

Attention > Concentration > Meditation > Contemplation > Samadhi

1. Awareness must be stabilized by strengthening attention: attention to being present.

2. Awareness can be focused, avoiding distractions and held to a point through concentration – gradually extending moments of being present.

3. Awareness is then directed deeper within and held steady in meditation, quieting the mind, and going beyond the mental fluctuations.

4. Awareness is directed towards an object, truth, idea or knowledge in contemplation.

5. Awareness is turned back upon itself: ‘being aware of being aware’ eventually leading to a progression through the levels of Samadhi resulting in the highest states of consciousness where subject and object merge. (The small ‘self’ merges with the larger real ‘Self.’)

I cannot stress enough that this process is a neurological process… Parts of the brain are refined so that the gradual training of awareness can progress through these stages.

The process of spiritual awakening is not just a metaphysical event and does not happen ‘out there somewhere.’ There are certainly transformations happening at subtler and subtler levels of our being; these are at the root of what we can measure in this physical/material level and the subtle changes do reflect in our nervous system and physiology. It happens to, and in, our brains and this body temple.

The practices we have been given by the great spiritual adepts are to facilitate this process.  Paramahansa Yogananda said at the Congress of World Religions in 1926, that the human nervous system and brain is the altar of God and by refining it through spiritual practices one is naturally led within to the highest states of enlightenment, Self and God realization.

There is an important point regarding this whole process that is often missed or overlooked: to start, our awareness has to be trained. Our awareness is silent, witnessing, but gets pushed and pulled this way and that way by wherever our attention strays. Our awareness attaches itself to things, thoughts and ideas (every 3 seconds!). Therefore, the first thing we must learn and train our brains to do is to practice being present: to train our awareness to stop attaching and identifying with thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that are simply programmed into our brain’s software. This is not easy. This requires training attention and a conscious directing of attention, beyond 3 seconds! There is tremendous inertia we must overcome to do this. Our brains want to do the opposite – our brains want to remain on auto-pilot.


I invite you to try something until the next newsletter to verify for yourself.

A  Practical Exercise in Being Present:

All work on oneself must be practical: it must give one a tangible, verifiable result. If it does not, then it is mere ‘theory’ and ‘philosophizing’ – what is referred to as ‘being in your head.’

First release all notions and everything you have learned and heard about what it means to ‘be present.’ This is important to start anew; clean the slate.

Being present begins as a very simple exercise in making efforts to be conscious of yourself in a given moment. The first thing we realize is just how difficult this is – I wake up in the morning and say to myself, “Today I will make efforts to be conscious, to be present.” Then, that afternoon, for about 5 seconds, I remember this commitment I made and I wake up! But then it is the next day and I realize, “Oh my God, I completely forgot to be present since yesterday!”  What happened?
The brain’s DMN puts us back on auto-pilot, back to sleep! Try this yourself, you will be able to verify very quickly: it is very difficult and it requires a certain amount, and distinct quality, of energy for one to create moments of awake consciousness, of truly being present. And if we just depend on wake up calls or on our own memory to remind us to be conscious and awake, we will often be discouraged.

Pick a day to try this:
Get a watch, or a timer, that has an alarm that you can set to sound every hour or two. For one full day, have this with you and when the alarm goes off, make an effort to be conscious, be present. Divide your attention between what is going on inside and what is going on outside. Conceptually try 66% of your awareness within and 33% without. Witness and observe the process. Do not judge, think, analyze or do anything with your mind. Consciously use your attention to direct this process. The key to this is to be aware of your breath while you do this for breath is always happening in the present. Observe the rhythm of your breath…breathe from your lower belly, and watch and be with your breath. Just be there. Observe and be aware of all your senses. Look and see the environment around you: hear it and feel it with your body. Be aware of being aware. If you can do this for 3 to 4 seconds then that is great! Try to gradually hold the state for 5+ seconds, but do not strain and do not get frustrated if you find it difficult – Your brain ‘muscle’ has to build new pathways to do this, and that requires time.

After one day of this exercise see how often you can remind yourself to do this, to be silently present-awake, without any external prompting. Over time you will experience more and more spontaneous moments of clarity and presence. This is the beginning of the awakening process and is the crucial first step to the gradual refinement of the brain and nervous system.

Please try this. This exercise brings many interesting results – see for yourself.

#8. The Big Picture: A Perspective on the Evolution of Ourselves and Humanity.

According to Vedic literature, humanity goes through cycles of ascent and descent rather than a linear progression from less evolved to more evolved. This explains why there are so many mysteries from the past, remnants of ancient civilizations whose advanced knowledge and remains still cannot be satisfactorily explained by “modern” science. Stellar calculations with roots from perhaps 10,000 years ago show that our Milky Way galaxy revolves in an elliptical orbit around a grand central source. And just as the earth revolves around our sun and receives its life-giving radiations, so does our galaxy revolve around, and receive life-giving radiations from, the central source. The closer we are to the source, the more influential the emanations.

The orbit of our Milky Way galaxy takes 24,000 years around this source: 12,000 in an ascending cycle (moving toward the source) and 12,000 descending (moving away from the source). When our galaxy is in close proximity to the source in the elliptical path, the collective consciousness of humanity is receiving the highest degree of Divine light. This time period is known as a golden age (Satya Yuga) in which peace, cooperation, and the spiritual qualities are predominant, affecting all levels of society, daily life, and existence. When we are the farthest from this point, the collective consciousness of humanity is considered to be in a dark age era with the inertia, chaos, discord, and primitive, instinctual attributes inherent to this period as the driving force. The peak of the last golden age was approximately 11,502 BC, the time of the great pyramids, Atlantis, and perhaps other forgotten but highly advanced great civilizations. The trough of the dark age was approximately 12,000 years later: 498 AD.

yogatimecycle

Along the ascending path, because of the gradual approach, the emanations from this grand source contribute to phases of greater and greater unfolding of knowledge moving from the dark age (Kali Yuga) to electrical/technological knowledge (Dwarpara Yuga)—to advances in mental powers and their application (Treta Yuga)—and finally to spiritual qualities at their peak during the truth age (Satya Yuga). In the descending cycle the collective consciousness of humanity again passes back through these phases in a deteriorating passage and finally enters the dark age before the galactic orbit again returns to the ascending path.

Currently our galaxy is ascending in Dwarpara Yuga (the electrical/technological age), moving away from the last dark era, Kali Yuga (702 BC to 1698 AD). The transition to Dwarpara Yuga occurred 1698 AD and history indeed corroborates a shift in the collective consciousness of humanity. There was a rapid influx of knowledge including inventions and discovery of the telescope, microscope, photography, X-ray, and other developments of the Renaissance period.

Although humanity as a whole is influenced by these dark periods, there are many enlightened individuals who come forth at all times and especially during these dark eras to connect with the Divine consciousness and remind humanity of its ultimate spiritual purpose. Christ, Krishna, Buddha and many other great lights all came forth during descending or dark eras to infuse humanity with the Divine will. The influence of space and time upon such individuals does not cloud their light. Indeed, if we so choose, as aspiring spiritual seekers our path is to overcome the inertia as well and awaken to our individual Divinity regardless of where we are in the cosmic cycle.

We have now moved three hundred years into this next phase, which brings forth knowledge that gives electrical and technological advancement. Also present now are allusions and glimpses of the next “mental” age, in which knowledge of the mind will bring us to profound advancements—as difficult for us to comprehend from our current view as space travel would have been for humanity five hundred years ago.

The next spiritual age where all of the planet and humanity will be imbued with Divine knowledge is 7698 AD. As we progress even at this early stage in 2015, more and more individuals are seeking spiritual answers to life’s question. There is a struggle as we move forward, but the breaking free from the inertia of the dark era is visible all around us and is indeed inevitable.

As this electrical/technological age advances, we can observe that collectively, humanity is struggling to shift core values. If we measure humanity’s progress by material gain, technological advancement and intellectual knowledge as reflected in how much we can gain, control, manipulate, dominate, and master the outer world, we miss the truth, the core principle, the purpose of what we are doing here. Technology is a great boon to mankind. But it can be used for negative, self-serving purposes.

We can wisely use technology to eradicate many of the world’s challenges if our core principles are awakened and cultivated.

Therefore, what is most important is how much we each develop spiritually in our inner world regardless of what is happening around us. We can seek to replace competition, aggression, and division with the core principles of kindness, compassion, responsibility, and forward thinking. This is exclusively an inner process we individually cultivate. Our bodies contain primitive, instinctive traits programmed within our DNA from millions of years of evolution. These traits were for primitive survival and territorial protection, and they lead to aggression, unrest, tribalism, perverted religion, violence, and war. It is fruitless to try to change these traits in ourselves and others by shame, pressure, coercion, force, control, punishment, or other oppressive, manipulative, or aggressive means—these only produce the opposite force, resistance.

Focusing on our own personal spiritual growth is the key to cultivating a resonant response in the collective consciousness of humanity and will do more for the spiritual evolution of humanity than anything else. Therefore rather than looking at some group, faction, or culture “out there” and fault them, one can effect real growth and change the way Gandhi advised: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

How do we do this?

Engage in spiritual disciplines.

Practice superconscious meditation.

In everything we do, cultivate the virtues.

We do not all need to be “world change activists” by pushing and struggling with humanity’s inertia. This can of course be useful to draw attention to obvious sources that foster ignorance and stagnate the spiritual growth of humanity.

But by far, what will produce the most profound change in the collective consciousness of humanity is when we change ourselves—when we remove all that veils and clouds the radiance of our Soul—and when we awaken to our Divine purpose for being here.