This is an enormous subject. Although we will present it in a synopsis format our hope is that we can still do it justice. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking once you have read this you will have fully understood this topic because there is quite simply too much to understand straight away. Our hope is that you will better understand the different aspects of consciousness and thus be able to place yourself more clearly on the map of awareness, and as a result have the opportunity to choose where you want to be… For so many of us are not driving our lives in the direction of our choice, we are being driven: by our past, out-dated patterns, circumstances and most of all our fear and shame. It is time to choose… Drive or be driven?
SELF – The first of the three aspects of consciousness is ‘self’. This is a complex level of awareness and it would be impossible to address all of its subtleties and intricacies here, however for the purposes of personal growth, the following comments will be invaluable. Most people are ‘locked-in’ to self, which is easily done as it takes no real effort. It is after all the position we all start from. We enter the world with little definition and are increasingly defined by our environment, particularly by the relationships that are closest to us. It is through that social contact and feedback that the sense of self is constructed. There is a debate to be had around whether this ‘sense of self’ is indeed one’s ‘self’ at all! Given that the self is moulded by a largely conditional environment and given that we are so desperate to be loved and to belong, we would do just about anything to fit in, and in the main we do. So can a version of the self, constructed under those conditions, be trusted to be a true reflection of self?… We would say no. This is in fact an acquired self, and not the authentic self. But this is a different subject and will take us away from the description of this piece of the jigsaw. The sense of self we do acquire is the ‘thing’ most of us are busy protecting at any cost. The position of self, when out of balance, is one that is largely fixed, defensive, blinkered, aloof, shackled by prejudice, easy to anger and lost in its own point of view. It believes that the way it sees the world is how it is and this arrogance (which it is blind to) obscures the way forward. As a result of this position the self gets caught up in self-defeating cycles and victimhood. It blames everyone and everything for its demise, never taking responsibility for its own actions and circumstances. For the sake of accuracy it should be said that when the self is balanced, whole, and in harmony it is filled with humility and wisdom and transcends the illusions generated by the ego. We will address this more fully later (see The Three Aspects of Consciousness 2 – Below).
OTHER – The second of the three aspects of consciousness is ‘other’. Here, the position of other means stepping away from self and looking at self and reality from the other person’s position. It is a position which recognises that reality cannot be viewed or fully understood by standing in one place. It is a standpoint that recognises that the position of self offers us inconclusive ‘evidence’. Quantum physics has helped us to understand that just by observing something we are affecting it, so how can we hope to see the complete story without looking at what else is shaping the moment we call now? The position of other is a place of empathy. There is greater discrimination and humility applied from this position as our humanity begins assessing reality with care and consideration. The greater vision, warmth, sincerity and insight of this position offer valuable wisdom to the position of self. Other, at its most noble, is kind and regal in its concern for self, others and the planet; it values all life and all things. However when it loses its way it can also lose itself. It can become so preoccupied with ‘other’ that it neglects the importance of the self. This often looks like kindness, benevolence and care, which it is, but it is a dangerous place too: one of self-neglect. This can lead to a systematic dismantling of one’s esteem, respect and regard for self … Sound familiar? Good mental health is found in being able to move between the two positions and not being ‘locked in’ to either. Only then can there be true stability, strength and clarity. One is neither lost in the delusion of ego nor in the potential for self neglect.
LOVINGLY DETACHED – This is the highest of the three positions. It is an awareness that completes the circle of reality. We know a circle is 360°. The position of self occupies approximately 90° of the circle of awareness (this can be extended through the practice of silent reflection and positive affirming activities). The position of other is also about 90° and it too can be extended as we increase our empathy, acts of kindness and balance between personal and social responsibility. However even with the potential for extending each position of awareness we would still only cover a maximum of 270° and that is a rare achievement indeed, as such a maximising of consciousness requires determined, single-minded endeavour over a significant period of time.
So for most, their view of reality is somewhere between 90° and 180° dependent on whether they are ‘locked in’ to one position or not. If they are not ‘locked in’ then they have access to the rest of the picture, but as we stated earlier, to acquire such a position, it is simply not enough to read about this or to attend a workshop: it can only be achieved through practice. However in order to practice it, it must first be understood….
To be lovingly detached is an amazing vantage point of love and pure kindness; it is a position without negative criticism. This does not mean it lacks judgement and discernment. On the contrary it has no shortage of either, it simply chooses kindness and love when ‘looking in’ because it knows the alternative is without benefit. This is a position of total benevolence and clarity. It stands outside both the position of self and other and so is able to assess clearly and honestly, without a hidden agenda. It is also able to see all the other factors that impact on any given moment of time, such as fear, the past, conditioning, social forces, self image, ignorance…; the list goes on and on. The lovingly detached position sees it all as it is, not blinkered by the forces of prejudice, but its view is protected by the filters of kindness and love. This beautiful pairing (see: Virtue or Vice?) immunises the spirit from any of the harshness and limitations of the other positions and gains the advantage of seeing what is missing from them. This position has been described by great cultures of the past as the ‘third eye’, the eye that sees that which the other two cannot. We think this is an accurate description because one who is lovingly detached transcends the limitations of both logic and the senses. This is a point of view that recognises that logic and the senses can only take us so far down the road of truth and true awareness. So how is this position achieved? How can we become one who views reality from a 360° perspective? Is it even possible? The answer is practice (see: Routine is Power) – ( All You Need to Know) and (Practice makes Permanent).
CONCLUSION – The practice we have to undertake is to repeatedly step away from seeing things only through our own eyes. We cannot possibly see and understand reality from that limited vantage point. We must strive to see the other’s point of view. Whatever relationships you are exposed to: mother, daughter, father, boss, colleague, carer, lover, friend etc …, practise seeing the world through the other person’s eyes. This takes regular effort, it is not a fleeting activity – if you try, really try, you will over time develop an empathy that will become advanced. This is the first step. Practise moving between the two positions and they will inform one another, as they share their gifts and insights. It is only when you have truly mastered this that the third position will start to come more easily and naturally. You can then practise stepping away from ‘self and other’ and ‘look in’ from outside both positions. To do this theoretically is not a great challenge, but to really ‘step away’ and ‘look in’ is quite mind blowing as it introduces you to a reality and awareness that leaves you awe struck and genuinely grateful as you are able to fully appreciate life’s rich tapestry. Let us not encourage you to do any more at this point: this would be a mistake, as this is about doing less. So start by stepping away from self and looking kindly at others. Once this is done it gets easier to truly respect and look after the self and value others. This practice of self nurture and social care moves one ever-closer to the kind wisdom of the loving detached position.
There is much more to be said on this subject but for now we believe there is plenty of food for thought here … Start practising this and enjoying the results!
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THE THREE ASPECTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS 2
We referred to the enormity of this subject in the first handout and hope you came away with a working understanding of the subtleties surrounding awareness and how they relate to consciousness. We tried to illustrate how your awareness is always dictated by the consciousness you have, whether that be: self, other or lovingly detached. One’s view of reality is governed by one of these positions, each offering a different perspective and awareness. Good mental health starts with being able to move between ‘self’ and ‘other’ according to the need and context of the moment. It is not healthy to be fixed or ‘locked in’ to either self or other because at that point you are denied understanding of the wider picture. Optimum mental health is the healthy movement between all three positions.
One who is able to occupy the right position at the right time lives in true harmony with life. Their heartbeat is in sync with the biorhythms that drive life’s countless processes and patterns. Such individuals live within the natural laws because they realise we are all part of nature’s dance. In fact we are co-creators and have a responsibility to stay within the natural laws for only then do the laws of the universe cooperate with our highest intentions.
The challenge with a subject of this depth and complexity is to do it justice. What we hope to deal with here are some of the paradoxes of consciousness, because consciousness, like truth, is not simply black and white. There are many shades of grey too. Let us begin with the ‘self’. We spoke previously of this position, largely in a way that shows how the self becomes an obstacle to personal growth. However, as we hinted in the last handout, the position of self is also magnificent when it is in balance. The ego dominates the landscape of the self when it is out of balance and so a rigidity of perspective and arrogance take over. However, when one is self-loving and full of self-respect there is order and peace. The self then becomes selfless, which doesn’t mean a loss of self: on the contrary, one maintains a healthy relationship with the self. This ‘healthy attachment’ means one lives in a conscience-driven way, meeting one’s own needs but never consciously at the expense of others. It is largely fear and our emotional inheritance that denies us this position of well-being. One who is locked into self has bought into the idea that their needs are best met in that way. They do not see the limitation of the ‘locked-in’ position as they are so busy defending ‘their truth’ and sadly cannot see the bigger picture. Conversely, a life of self-nurture gives us access to an ‘awakened’ self that is in harmony and balance. All the activities we suggest through our approach help to achieve this state of balance, self-love and harmony (see Story of Health 1, 2 & 3).
The paradox of ‘other’ is also very interesting because the one who can move from self to other has access to amazing empathy and can see some of the unseen. It is not a position of total clarity but it allows for a more bountiful view of the world than the position of ‘self’ alone, and with time and practice develops the social aspect of conscience. However, as we touched on previously, if the individual gets trapped in other, what looks like selflessness does in fact lead to loss of self, as the person moves to a place in which they over identify with the needs of others and thus becomes consumed by the other’s needs and issues. So what starts out as kindness and empathy becomes self-harm, even self-abuse. This is a trap that many fall into because of their desire to help. This is often made worse by the fact that if they have not been adequately affirmed over the course of their own lives this ‘helping’ may be the primary way that they get their own need for affirmation met (see The 3 As) and so such activities can become addictive. This is a classic pattern which ties so many to the unhelpful aspect of other.
Other, in its full glory, is where genuine psychological and emotional contact is made with another person. It is a position where one is able to surrender ones own views in the name of truth, while never surrendering the beauty of the self in that gesture, for there is a deep recognition of one’s own value and that is never compromised. This is the version of other which we need to pursue. The more we do, the more the position of self expands. Remember: 180° is the most that those in the position of self and other can see of the ‘circle of awareness’ (reality).
However, when one practices travelling between the two, the ‘collective consciousness’ of ‘me’ and ‘we’ (self and other) can expand up to 270° of that cycle of awareness, leaving only 90° beyond view (see: Understanding Your Blind Spot and Who are You When No One is Looking). This expansion of consciousness takes daily practice and involves stepping away from self and moving into other, so that ‘me’ becomes ‘we’. From here reality looks very different indeed.
The ‘lovingly detached’ position also has its own paradox because although this is the truly divine part of consciousness, if one drops the ‘lovingly’ bit what is left is only detachment. And detachment alone can tell a very different story (see: Virtue or Vice?). The power of the lovingly detached position is the welding of love and kindness to the ability to stand ‘outside’ the circle of awareness, ‘looking in’ without prejudice. If this were detachment alone, the position of being a witness to life’s events could in fact become a rather cold, clinical, aloof, emotionless perspective, one that is even arrogant in its assessment. This sense of superiority could overthrow the humility and wisdom of this transcendental place, so instead of floating above a situation or issue with a benevolent eye one sees it without warmth and compassion. It becomes purely a ‘fact-finding’ observational out-post, divorced from kindness and humanity. Detachment alone can also, when one is out of balance, swing the pendulum the other way leading to a sense of persecution, paranoia, fear and panic as the lens of clarity becomes distorted by the absence of love and kindness. This is why kindness is detachment’s eternal life partner: separate the two, and everything goes awry. The lovingly detached being never loses her warmth, humanity and spirit of kindness. The lens of clarity always remains clear which is why she is not deceived by the limitations of logic or of the senses.
This position recognises that although logic and the senses are invaluable windows onto the world, the view they offer is incomplete and it is only intuition (the 3rd eye), validated by experience, that completes the circle. Intuition here does not refer to those ‘gut feelings’ we all get, which are often right but are also sometimes wrong. It is a more sophisticated aspect of consciousness than ‘gut-feelings’ alone. To be more precise, those who set up a genuine and consistent inner dialogue develop a relationship with their gut feelings and this ‘listening-in’ allows them to hear the ‘voice within’ and a relationship of trust ensues. In fact what happens is this relationship then takes them into the world of insight. This takes time and practice. Those who choose to tread this path come to realise that this is ‘the road least travelled’, where one is able to ‘see the unseen and hear the unsaid’. It is a place that through its kindness is able to see beyond self and other and to detect and decipher all the other bits of information about the moment called ‘now’. It offers a life beyond limitations: a joyous, wise and humble position that neither seeks nor needs any recognition as it basks quietly in its own state of bliss.
SUMMARY: Hopefully the depth and complexity of this subject has been made a little more transparent. The paradox of each position can at first appear to muddy the waters but on closer inspection it is possible to see that how each aspect of consciousness behaves is entirely dependent on whether there is order, balance and harmony. Each position depends on its relationship to the other positions. Each aspect exists and has relevance because of the others and so they are truly interdependent. Optimum mental health is the smooth and fluid movement between the three positions, never getting ‘locked-in’ to any one position because to do so threatens the overall balance and harmony of one’s own reality. So make the effort from now, in your very next interaction, to step away from self and engage with other. Unless of course it is a moment where to remain anchored to the self is what is essential for that transaction. Practice this again and again, until you are good at it, and you will be! Then try practicing being in the lovingly detached pose. This will take more effort and time. In truth this requires the underpinning of other practices, however it is a good place to start: really looking with kindness at yourself and others will open up your heart and mind and rapid healing and recovery will follow … practice with hope and enthusiasm and prepare to be surprised!