Uncovering Conscious Experience

Uncovering Conscious Experience beneath Ideas, Beliefs, Opinions, and Values

By George A. Boyd © 2017

One of the challenges of the modern seeker is discovering what is their actual conscious experience apart from the ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and values that create a secondary conceptual and perceptual filter over their inner witness. The first thing the seeker must do is to differentiate the content that is arising in the mind and to recognize it. The thought things of ideas, beliefs, opinions, and values need to be identified for what they are—as you withdraw your attention from these cognitive layers of the mind, you are able to awaken as the conscious witness of mental content, and achieve mindfulness and conscious presence.

This article came out of a dialog I had with my Higher Self in two separate sittings. The first question and answer session drilled down on defining what are ideas, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, and values. The second session focused on the difference between facts, opinions, and conscious experience.

Here’s the dialog:

Q: What’s the difference between on idea and a belief?

A: An idea is an image that encapsulates meaning. It combines visual models, verbal statements, and a written explication that describes and supports the idea.

A belief is an internalized verbal statement that:

  1. Makes a judgment about truth or falsity of an idea
  2. Give arguments why something is true or false
  3. Stores information related to the belief that reifies the contention why the statement is true or false

Q: How is an opinion different than a belief?

A: An opinion is a belief you express verbally—you state your belief aloud or communicate it through writing.

Q: How is belief different than attitude?

A: Attitude is the physical and emotional expression of a belief. What you believe often becomes charged with emotions, and shows up as certain facial expressions or postures that communicate the belief non-verbally. For example, people who are self-righteous—who believe they know the final and absolute truth, based of their reading of a scripture or other authoritative book—will hold their body in a certain way; and they’ll express their beliefs arrogantly and condescendingly.

Q: How is a belief different than a value?

A: Values assign rules or standards for making judgments. Values commonly condition beliefs. For example, if you hold a value that sex outside of marriage is wrong—if you believe in that value, you will affirm it, and you will attempt to act in consonance with that value. When your behavior matches your values, you will experience integrity; if you act counter to that value, you will experience inner conflict.

Q: What is a fact?

A: A fact is something that our senses and reason determine are objective reality—something that exists whether we believe it exists or not. Facts are objects you can detect through your senses or instrumentation: for example, you can extend your physical senses to view extremely tiny objects through a microscope.

  • Facts are measureable.
  • Multiple witnesses can verify them.
  • They exist at a specific location in the physical universe.
  • They can be observed at a specific time.
  • They are documented through written accounts or photographic, audio, or video recording.
  • The person experiencing the fact has intact and normal sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functioning—for example, a person under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug could not be said to demonstrate intact and normal sensory, perceptual, and cognitive functioning.
  • It can be represented as data that can be analyzed, calculated, computed, and communicated to others.

Q: In our modern contentious political environment in the United States, there seems to be a discounting of facts based on beliefs in a certain political ideology. Factual reporting of statements of witnesses is labeled fake news. Facts are ignored or cherry picked to support a particular agenda. Facts are discredited if they do not agree with political or religious orthodoxy. What creates this phenomenon?

A: The facts are what they are—regardless of whether someone chooses to consider them or not. Science attempts to uncover facts and verify they whether their hypotheses about these facts are accurate.

On the other hand, these political actors hold strong beliefs that support their values, which they express as opinions. These values and beliefs are primary; they will cling to their beliefs even if the facts do not support them.

Opinions appear to operate in several ways:

  1. You form opinions about what facts mean, and what they imply.
  2. You decide whether a fact is real, or whether it is an artifact or optical illusion.
  3. If you have political or religious beliefs, you may decide not only if the fact is real, but also if it is right or wrong, or if it is good or evil.
  4. You may decide whether a fact is relevant, or whether it can be ignored. For example, a biochemist detects glucose in a cell, when he is searching for the presence of a specific protein. He may note the glucose is there, but he will ignore it, because it is not relevant the protein he is seeking.
  5. You decide if a fact fits into mental category, schema, or classification, or not. You decide whether a fact should be included in a discussion of a topic or not, or whether or not it is germane to a dialog you are having.
  6. You decide if a fact fits into an ideological, political, or religious belief system’s doctrine or not.
  7. You decide whether a fact is important to you personally or spiritually, and whether or not you need to take action.

Typically, opinion type 6 heavily influences these political actors. Their doctrine is primary, and they reject any facts that do not fit in with it. This system of beliefs filters their perception, and forms a mindset through which they view reality.

These perceptual filters, or mindsets, operate in most people. These mindsets may not be founded upon political or religious beliefs, but they do lock people into a particular perception about what is possible and who they can become in the future.

Q: How is it possible to become conscious? It seems most people are completely entrenched in their mindsets and belief systems, so they cannot see any other viewpoint.

A: To become conscious, to become aware and mindful, you have to transcend the field of mindsets, of the nested array of values, beliefs, opinions, and ideas that form them, and collect your attention.

When you are established in conscious experience, you observe:

  • Your body position and movement in the present time
  • The environment around your body and become aware of what your senses are experiencing in the present time
  • The physiological activity of your body and your experience of your muscles, organs, and other tissues in the present time
  • Your feelings and emotional reactions in the present time
  • Your thoughts arising in the present time
  • The different identity states of the ego and the thoughts, feelings, actions and perspectives each identity state embodies
  • The memories that arise in response to different stimuli

As you go deeper in meditation, following the thread of consciousness to deeper strata of the mind, you eventually encounter the three immortal principles—the attentional principle, the spirit, and the Soul. When you reach these essences and come to identify with them, it shifts you out of the mindsets and belief systems that captured your attention. You wake up within. You experience that you are separate and independent from these gossamer palaces woven from belief and you are the conscious witness of all that occurs in the mind.

We teach the method to isolate your conscious experience and direct it along the thread of consciousness in our beginning class, the Introduction to Meditation program. We teach you how to awaken your conscious essences in our intermediate classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—and how to use them to transform your spiritual potentials.

We encourage you to reflect deeply on these different elements of the cognitive strata of your mind, and learn to isolate your attention from the ceaseless cascade of thought things that separate you from your naked awareness that exists behind this river of thought. Then you can shift from being locked in the hypnotic absorption of mindsets and belief systems and become a conscious being.

Effect of Attentional Withdrawal on Mental Functioning

By George A. Boyd ©2017

Q: When your attention moves along the thread of consciousness in meditation into an altered state of awareness, is there a concurrent shift in mental functioning? For example, if I move my attention into the field of the senses, will my perception of the world change from the waking state of awareness?

A: There are three major ways that you can travel within along the thread of consciousness.

  1. You feel your awareness deepening, but you have no clear vision of the content at each level of the mind. In this state, you move into greater depths of feeling and energy, but you can’t recognize any landmarks of any vehicle of consciousness through which you are traveling. Your body is immobile and you are in a trance-like, passive state.
  2. You feel your awareness deepening, and you note distinct markers at each level. You can differentiate the content of each focal point. You become aware of the content arising at each level of the mind in the present time. You are inwardly alert and mindful, and can witness and label the content that is arising. For example, you might unite your attention with the focal point of the feeling center and you become aware of a succession of feelings that arise and pass away. Your body is immobile, but inwardly, you are fully conscious.
  3. You feel your awareness deepening, and you intensify and become completely absorbed in a succession of states of mental functioning. This shift of functional set can occur while you are walking around or engaged in other activities. You are aware that you have shifted into a new perceptional and operational mindset in which the content becomes richly alive and vibrant—you may receive insights and revelations as you are in this state.

The beginning meditator often experiences the trance-like movement of attention without clear awareness and differentiation of content. This type of meditation experience commonly culminates in falling asleep.

With greater facility with meditation, the meditator is able to achieve mindful, inner alertness, and is able to witness mental content and differentiate the content of one level of the mind from another. This type of meditation results in you becoming fully aware of your mental contents at each focal point upon which your attention rests.

The most profound state of meditation is when you are able to shift your functional set during your daily activities. On Buddhist Vipassana retreats, for example, they introduce students to this lyrical state of mind through walking meditation. Meditators are initially fully aware of the experience of walking, but as this state deepens, they enter into clear states of intense insight and revelation.

This deepest state of meditation has been referred to as Samadhi, Satori, or a peak experience. This mental shift of perception and functioning appears to pass through 12 discrete states of absorption.

  1. The ground state of awareness – Here you are aware of your attention witnessing the activities of your daily life, and you operate on objects in the environment. You might, for example, be cleaning your house, but the experience of each piece of furniture and environmental surface is intensely vibrant, and every movement seems meaningful and purposive. Your tasks take on a sacred quality.
  2. Movement flow state – When this mental set dawns, you are completely absorbed in your movement. Time seems to slow down and there is an unbroken link between your intention and what your body does. You are capable of peak performance during this state. You feel one with your body and your movement feels effortless.
  3. Heightened sensory state – In this state, the objects in your environment appear to glow with light—you may become aware of energy fields or auras around each object. Colors are rich and luminous. The world around you seems magical and animated. If you are a painter, you may feel compelled to capture this magical experience.
  4. Body absorption – When you shift into this mental set, you become aware of your body in a heightened way. You become aware of each muscle moving, each tendon stretching, the operation of your organs and physiological rhythms. You become aware of your heart beating, the movement of peristalsis, the blood coursing in your veins, and the whole process of breathing. It is almost like you are looking into your body with x-ray vision. Your vision penetrates into each organ, each cell, and each sub-cellular structure—even down to the molecular and atomic level.
  5. Emotional and relational synchrony – Shifting into this mental set, you gain powerful insights into how emotions are linked to thoughts, memories, and attachments to other people. You gain intensified empathy for others’ experience. When you listen to others, you completely connect with them and become one with their experience—they feel completely validated and known. This state inspires great trust and safety in others: they feel profoundly loved—you sense great love and compassion for others while you are in this state. Those therapists and coaches who tap into this state experience their deepest work and most profound therapy or coaching sessions—it is almost like some deep and wise being came through you and moved your interaction with your client to a whole new level.
  6. Logical fascination – When this mental set dawns upon you, you become aware of the computer-like operation of your rational mind. You become aware of the mental commands that govern each movement, the calculations the mind makes to orient your body with the environment, and the chain of causation for each action and event. Your logic operates in a heightened way—your analogical, inferential, and deductive reasoning powers become penetrating and precise. You become capable of connecting sensory details with behavior, and inferring motivation. Like Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective, your ability to investigate and solve crimes is heightened, as your powers of observation and logical deduction are amplified. If you are someone who enjoys solving puzzles or playing games of skill, you may find that you come across the solutions readily. If you are a student, entering this state moves your study to a whole new plateau, and you discover that you are able to do very well on difficult tests.
  7. Egoic union – When you enter this functional state, you become aware of the layers of activity of the ego. You become aware of the egoic octave of will that governs individual units of behavior, and you are acutely aware of your ability to control each vehicle of consciousness within your survey. You become aware of the identify states and the roles you play. You become aware of your story and life narrative. You gain penetrating insight into the layers of psychological defenses and your core life issues. You tap into the joyful, inner child that transcends the stress and suffering of your life. You may feel connected with a great Life within you that is your true essence.
  8. Stream of consciousness – When you enter this state of absorption, you are able to clearly access the rich reservoir of your memories of the past. In this reverie, it feels like you are re-living each moment of your life and you re-view your significant relationships, your greatest lessons, the most important events, and the meanings you have derived from living. You touch a deep wellspring of peace, wisdom, and joy—you sense that behind your life is your ancient, eternal Soul.
  9. Chakra insight – When you shift into this functional mindset, you become aware of the chakras of your Subconscious mind with penetrating clarity. Each petal opens and reveals its creative intelligence and intuitive wisdom. In this state of absorption, you may feel the chakras that operate in yet higher vehicles of consciousness similarly begin to reveal their knowledge and abilities. You gain the highest discernment of each level of your mind. You may experience a full awakening of the energy of awareness, the Kundalini Shakti, rising up into the Soul, and revealing every vehicle of consciousness within you.
  10. Existential illumination – When you become completely absorbed in this state of awareness, you become aware of the Self at the core of your personality, and the state of being that is behind it. You gain the greatest insight into each vehicle of consciousness of the Conscious, Subconscious, and Metaconscious mind, and you become acutely aware of the power of your will to alter your destiny and change your life. In this state, you can make radical life changes, transform your habits, alter your life direction, recommit to new objectives, and create new congruent and authentic goals that capture your passion and powerful desire to achieve them. When you spend time in the transformational state, you can reinvent yourself and transform the way you function in the world.
  11. Atma Samadhi – When your attention is lifted into this ecstatic state, you realize the true nature of the Soul, discover the atom of Divinity within, and experience Gnosis. Knowledge pours through you, revealing each aspect of your nature, each vehicle of consciousness, and each layer of the mind. Your illumined mind (Buddhi) ignites and you are able to discern the nature of the Soul and its reflections on each Plane of Light, and to penetrate and bring forward the knowledge that is contained in each nodal point upon the Soul’s transformational journey of spiritual evolution. When this state becomes actively established in you, you gain the capacity to function as a guide and teacher for others.
  12. Higher Octave Samadhi – Those that work on spiritual Paths outside the cutting edge of spirituality may experience Samadhis with higher aspects of their nature—a nucleus of identity, ensouling entity, or spirit. This transcendent state shares similar features with Atma Samadhi, but revelation and intuitive downpour enlighten another spiritual essence. At the summit of these higher octave Samadhis is union with Satchitananda, the highest state of consciousness—Divine Knowledge or Brahma Vidya—that extends this penetrating insight to every level of consciousness.

Bringing out this deepest level of experience and illumination does not come readily.

Some people may touch this state only once or twice in their lifetime. It dawns upon them and then withdraws, and they cannot go back to that state.

Those who practice a skill for long periods of time and develop it may have more episodes. For example:

  • The artist may experience stage three.
  • The physician and healer may drop into stage four.
  • The psychotherapist and coach may cross the threshold into stage five.
  • The detective and scientist may go into stage six.
  • The psychoanalyst may penetrate stage seven.
  • The fiction writer and poet may encounter stage eight.
  • The hatha yogi and psychic voyager, who meditate on their chakras, may kindle stage nine.
  • The existential and humanistic therapists, counselors, and coaches, who work to get their clients in touch with the Self, may trigger existential illumination in themselves.
  • The meditator who removes the veil over the Soul through patient and methodical inner work uncover the ecstatic state of Atma Samadhi. Those who meditate on higher octaves of being likewise bring about Samadhi for these other essences of consciousness.

Those who meditate can ignite these states after long practice, and sustain them as they train their attention to focus intensely and continuously on different focal points within. We encourage those who meditate to recognize that these Samadhi states exist. We urge them to continue the practice of meditation until they can awaken these most profound states of mind.

For those who complete our advanced course, the Mudrashram® Advanced Course in Meditation, we have a program that trains you in attaining Samadhi in the Superconscious mind called The Online Samadhi Week Program. We start with Atma Samadhi and explore each higher stage of Samadhi in the Superconscious mind.

Why Mystics Don’t Identify Consciousness with the Brain

By George A. Boyd © 2017

Q: Many scientists say that consciousness is a product of neuronal functioning. They purport to measure it through the electrical currents emanating from the brain. They say there is no Soul other than an evoked potential of the word, “Soul” in the brain, and no God but the evoked resonance of the word, “God” in the brain. How is it that mystics testify to the existence of a Soul and the all-pervading Presence of God, when this cannot be detected in the brain?

A: Science objectifies phenomena, and only considers that which the senses [or their technological extensions] can detect, that reason can verify, and that the intellect can represent and manipulate as words, mathematical formulas, symbols, and models of correlated ideas.

For this reason, scientists cannot detect attention, the attentional principle, the spirit, or the Soul. They cannot examine the strata of the mind. They cannot explore the Continuum of Consciousness. They cannot find God in neurons, in the logical circuits of reason, and the problem-solving strategies of the intellect.

To have the experiences of the mystics, who encounter the Soul and God, you need to have a subjective experience, drawing attention along the thread of consciousness, where it can detect the focal points at each layer of the mind, unite with the essences of consciousness—attentional principle, spirit, and Soul—and follow that thread into the presence of the all-pervading consciousness of God.

This withdrawal of attention from full brain identification to union with the highest state of consciousness, Satchitananda, appears to pass through seven steps:

  1. Consciousness appears to be a product of brain activity.
  2. You observe the activity of the brain as a detached witness, from the standpoint of your attention. You collect attention into a sphere and become present and aware. This stage is the beginning of mindfulness. It appears that your attention is the carrier of consciousness.
  3. You gain the ability to follow the thread of consciousness with your attention to observe the content at the different levels of the mind. You may variously experience this material at each level of the mind as a seed atom upon which you contemplate, a field of phenomena, a form or vehicle of consciousness that has discrete functions, or as ever-changing content that arises in the present time. It appears that your attention is the carrier of consciousness, and it perceives the content that is present in altered states of awareness through shifting its focus.
  4. You move along this thread of consciousness with your attention until you unite with the attentional principle, and as you gain union with this essence, you shift into its perspective. It appears consciousness is innate to the attentional principle.
  5. Your attention travels further up the thread of consciousness until you gain union with the spirit. As you contemplate this spiritual essence, you merge with it and view from its perspective. It appears that the spirit also has innate consciousness.
  6. Your attention rises up into the Soul and you gain union with it. You become aware that your Soul is also a conscious essence.
  7. Your attention follows the thread of consciousness up to the highest stage of consciousness, Satchitananda. You become aware that the energy that animates the Soul and activates it emanates from this source. You become aware of the eternal source of consciousness, Satchitananda.

The methods of the scientists use senses, reason, and intellect to gather data, to organize that data into the schemas of knowledge, and to use that knowledge to predict phenomena and to invent new technology, methods, and products. Since attention cannot be reduced to neural functions, the scientist must shift from brain awareness to witnessing mind (attention) to begin the journey of meditation—to embrace a subjective, non-empirical way of knowing that the external senses cannot detect, that reason cannot verify, and that the intellect cannot fully comprehend.

You can only understand the ways of the mystic through adopting his practices. You cannot know it from without, only from within. You must shift from an objective orientation to the world to a subjective one, and journey into the depths of that subjectivity to encounter the Soul and God.