As human beings, we spend most of our time operating in “lower consciousness”, or “normal consciousness”, as some people may call it. Lower consciousness often refers to states in which we feel drowsy or sleepy, not fully engaged with what’s happening around us but capable of processing brain signals and performing instinctive actions.
However, this term also refers to the more reactive and unhelpful behaviours we engage in when we’re not practising mindfulness or experiencing the benefits of a higher state of consciousness.
For example, when occupying a lower level of consciousness, we take a pretty narrow view of things and are primarily concerned with ourselves, our survival, and our successes.
We feed unhelpful cycles, striking back when we’re questioned or criticised, blaming others for mistakes, thinking only about what’s relevant and practical, and reinforcing a flattering image of ourselves and our life direction. Lower consciousness is when we fuel our tendency for impartial judgement and biased behaviour.
This outlook is often rewarded in ordinary life, which requires plenty of practical thinking and a narrow focus on task completion.
There are, however, moments in which we can access a more profound state of being. And moving into a state of higher consciousness can significantly improve our experience of life.
What is Higher Consciousness?
Certain theories of consciousness tell us that it’s possible to operate in a higher mode than the typical selfishness, reactivity, and brittle pride that defines the first level of consciousness.
Higher consciousness is the term given to describe a state of elevated awareness and perception that allows individuals to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. These states move the mind beyond self-interest and craving. We stop acting so judgementally, and we approach others with a more open mind, considering the reasons they may act the way they do. In higher states of conscious awareness, we pay more detailed, non-judgemental awareness to present moment experiences.
We consider how people may be influenced by pain or suffering, and we develop the ability to sympathise more with the contexts and motivations for others’ actions, rather than focusing on how it affects us.
So when do these states occur? According to some, we’re able to access this higher mind when there are no threats or demands upon us, perhaps late at night or early in the morning, when our bodies are at their most comfortable and relaxed.
This process involves loosening our hold on our own egos, putting aside our biases, relaxing onto a seat of imagination and open-mindedness, and cultivating a kind of universal sympathy.
Is There Any Evidence For Higher Consciousness?
There are key parallels between higher consciousness and certain types of psychedelic experience. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that research into the impact of psychedelic drugs on brain signals provided evidence for the existence of “higher” states of consciousness.
Brain activity becomes more complex during higher states of consciousness, as electrical activity in the brain becomes more unpredictable and our perceptual experience expands.
This is not dissimilar to the impact of meditation on the brain.
Check out our article on brainwaves during meditation for more information on this.
What are the benefits of higher consciousness?
So how can we measure the impact of accessing a higher model of consciousness?
While it’s hard to pin down due to the subjective nature of perceptual consciousness, accessing higher states often leads to increased compassion and empathy towards others. In turn, one can move away from feelings of selfishness, thoughts regarding status or power, and ties to material possessions, helping us regularly develop a more positive response to humanity.
Accessing a higher-order awareness state can alter our experience of emotions, making us better at observing and managing them rather than reacting instinctively.
Buddhist and Christian monks are among the many religions and spiritual believers who use meditative or contemplative techniques to access higher consciousness, but you don’t have to be tied to a belief system to enhance your conscious experiences. One of the benefits of higher consciousness is that it can be a totally secular experience too.
Cultivating different types of conscious level can help you understand and unlock the power of your own mind. So what exactly can we do to bring on these deeper experiences?
How Can I Experience Higher Consciousness?
There are a number of techniques and exercises you can use to help yourself achieve a state of higher consciousness.
Some of these stem from ancient spiritual roots in Asia, while others are more suited to a modern context. Below, we’ve collated a list of 5 things you can try out to encourage the appearance of deeper conscious experiences.
1. Practise Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing can help alter subjective experience and expand our sense of consciousness in various ways. Getting in tune with the breath can reduce anxiety and reactivity, change our emotional states, and re-energise us in moments of weariness. While this doesn’t necessarily lead directly to a heightened state of phenomenal consciousness, it can be a great gateway to accessing these higher states.
2. Sink Into Deep Meditation
The term ‘deep meditation’ is complex, but most people would agree that sinking into deep meditation is the perfect example of experiencing higher consciousness. This term refers to deeply relaxing meditative experiences in which there is nowhere the subject would rather be and nothing they’d rather be doing. You can find out more about how to get into deep meditation in this article.
3. Cultivate Joy and Compassion Towards Others
This is the perfect way to move beyond the self-centred attitude that tends to dominate what we call “lower consciousness”. By practising meditation techniques like Sympathetic Joy and Loving-Kindness Meditation, we can actively cultivate feelings of joy, sympathy, and compassion towards others, which is a great way to give birth to new conscious experiences.
4. Practise Acceptance
Practising acceptance in daily life can help you achieve a heightened state of awareness in which you’re more understanding of others and more engaged with the world around you. Try to respond non-judgementally, rather than reacting emotionally. Accept both the positive and negative things that happen to you, and focus on what you can control, rather than what you can’t.
5. Try “Do Nothing” Meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be pretty difficult — how could meditation ever be effortless? “Do Nothing” meditation is a term used to describe a meditative practice that focuses on simply allowing whatever happens to happen. This can lead to some profound states of consciousness. Find out more in our article on “Do Nothing” Meditation.
Gain a Deeper Understanding of Life
In day-to-day life, our minds will often drift between different thoughts, ideas, and states of being in a highly natural, effortless way. This is why many people refer to us as having “streams of consciousness”. And that’s totally natural!
But it’s possible to maintain that natural flow of thought while also transcending the ordinary modes of living that tend to keep hold of us.
Accessing higher states of mental and visual consciousness can help us become less reactive, more open-minded, and more accepting of the people and experiences we encounter.
Try out the 5 techniques we’ve suggested above, and you should get a better idea of what we’re talking about.
If you want to find out about another transformative way of re-imagining the world, check out our article on the perfectionist trap. Here, you’ll learn how switching up your standards of perfection can lead to a healthier perspective on life.