The Myth of “Higher Consciousness”
(3 minute read)
By now, most of us have heard the phrase “higher consciousness.” Thanks to new-age spirituality, this phrase has become the holy grail of spiritual awakening. Every other self-proclaimed guru or master in the new-age world offers their eclectic hodgepodge of beliefs, practices, and ways of life to elevate our consciousness, raise our vibration, and ascend to the new, 5D paradigm.
Here’s what I find problematic with this phrase:
Saying that we need to ascend to a “higher consciousness” implies that our current level of consciousness is somehow inferior, less-than, subordinate, or not enough. It also fragments our consciousness and gives us the false illusion that there is something to “achieve”with our spiritual practice. Third, it inflates our spiritual ego by creating more divisiveness and separation between our human versus our spiritual experience—implying that our human experience is “lower” and our spiritual experience is “higher.” This separation is what gets projected onto others when we judge or shame people for being “lower” in consciousness (i.e. unconscious).
Sound familiar? Don’t worry. We’ve all been there.
So, allow me to slice through this new-age B.S. and remind you of the age-old understanding of what consciousness is.
Firstly, consciousness is energy.Energy cannot be divided. Period. Saying that we are achieving a “higher consciousness” is like saying we are achieving a “higher energy.” How can energy be higher or lower? It just is! Second, this energy exists on its own, without us having to “do” anything. As such, you cannot add to or take away from this energy. You don’t need to achieve it, because it is already there. And lastly, and the most beautiful part, is that this energy we call Consciousness is the essence of who you are. It is the very fabric of your Being. It is your true nature.
That said, this Consciousness energy fluctuates moment to moment by either expanding or contracting. How expanded or contracted our consciousness is (moment-by-moment) depends on how aware we are of our direct experience of reality. In other words, in every moment that we are awake and conscious, we receive information into our field of awareness. This information comes through in the form of a sensation (i.e. sound, sight, smell, touch, taste), or it can be an inner experience of a mood, thought, feeling, emotion, etc.
For example, right now you might be aware of the words you’re reading on this page. Maybe you are also aware of the device you’re reading it on; or how the device is positioned in your hand or on the table. Maybe you can also notice sounds around you. You can also include your breath into your awareness; or your body. What thought just crossed your mind? Are you aware of your mood? Perhaps you’re sleepy, tired, hungry, or full. At any moment, there are so many pieces of information in your inner and outer reality that are coming together to create your unique experience of time and space.
Think of consciousness like a rubber balloon; the more inflated the balloon, the more space it has to receive more information coming into your field of awareness. When we are stressed, tense, or reacting out of our past and conditioning, our awareness is narrow and focused and thus our consciousness is contracted. When we are relaxed, peaceful, and open to reality as it is, our awareness grows and consciousness expands.
There are a number of ways we can experience expanded consciousness.
Some people experience it as a heightened sense of awareness.
Others can experience it as intense bliss or ecstasy.
Some of us can realize our interconnectedness with everything or have an experience of “Oneness.”
We can also have an experience of being flooded with the energy of love and discover the presence of a divine force or entity in and around us.
There are many ways that we can experience our expansive consciousness—you can have all the profound and miraculous experiences that will bring you to your knees; but that’s not the point.
The point is that expanding our consciousness doesn’t mean that we are ascending into some other reality or dimension. It’s being present to what this reality is. It’s realizing the mysterious dimensions of Being. It’s applying the same holiness and sacredness to all of our experiences, not just the mystical ones. It’s recognizing the extraordinary in the ordinary. The sacred in the mundane. It’s deeply remembering, embodying, and embracing who we are—a living expression of the universe. We can’t see it when our consciousness is contracted. It’s through the simple practice of presence and awareness, that we do. And that makes all the difference.