This week Zoe is reading Waking from Sleep which explores various higher states of consciousness and awakening experiences and how to induce them. Our normal state of day-to-day consciousness is a kind of sleep and this book explores the ways we can wake from our slumber into a more intense, present reality.
There are sections on the methods people have used throughout history to induce awakening, including things like meditation, homeostatic disruption, drugs, and sleep deprivation. Steve Taylor also looks at how we can make this state of wakefulness our normal state of consciousness every day.
This is a great reference for different techniques and contains clear explanations of what higher states of consciousness are. The book compares two particular types: HD states and ISLE states, and looks at their relative merits and dangers.
HD states are induced through homeostatic disruption which involves pushing your body out of its normal state of equilibrium and balance. Examples would be things like fasting, sleep deprivation, illness, drugs, and particular breathing exercises.
ISLE states involve the Intensification and Stilling of Life-Energy in a controlled and long term way through the use of practices like meditation and yoga. While HD states can be wild and ecstatic, they’re also short-lived and dependant on certain conditions. ISLE states, on the other hand, take longer to master but tend to be more stable and serene.
During the awakening process you can experience both kinds of state, but if you want to develop permanent wakefulness you’ll need to cultivate ISLE states and not rely too heavily on altering your consciousness in sudden bursts.
Waking from Sleep provides lots of examples and quotes from individuals who have experienced awakening. It also looks at some of the problems that can come up if things get too intense, and the practices that can help bring about permanent awakening.
“Just as temporary awakening experiences have different intensities, so there are different degrees of permanent awakening. One person might become ‘stabilized’ at a low degree of awakening in which they are continually struck by the beauty and is-ness of their surroundings and feel a strong sense of kinship with nature. Another person might be permanently stabilized at a medium degree, where they see the world as infused with spirit and feel a permanent sense of inner peace and joy. And some people might reach the highest point of spiritual development and always see the whole of the phenomenal world as a manifestation of the Divine Ground, the ‘infinite shining ocean of consciousness’ which is the essence of reality. As with temporary awakening experiences, the higher the state, the fewer people reach it. There are probably millions of long-term meditators and hatha yoga or tai chi practitioners who have attained a low-level awakened state. But it’s likely that at this very moment there are no more than a few hundred mystics around the world who have reached the highest pinnacle of spiritual development.
Permanent awakening – not just at the higher levels, but the lower ones too – is potentially open to everyone. We all have the freedom to intensify and still the energy of our being if we so choose. This usually means permanently closing down – or at least reducing the outflow of – some of the channels through which our life-energy normally leaks away and permanently stilling some of the constant disturbances of thought, desire and emotion that take place inside us. This creates a new kind of psychic organisation inside us and a new distribution of psychic energy. The redistribution which took place several thousand years ago, when the ego ‘exploded’ and became so powerful, is reversed. At the very least, we return to the naturally awakened state which we ‘fell’ away from several thousand years ago.”