The Transient States of Consciousness between the Layers
Positive Affirmation: Absolute perfection resides within this moment. Nothing is out of place or needs to be different for me to be at peace.
This chapter offers brief summaries of the transient states of consciousness we experience as we move between each layer of the soul and the signposts to look out for. These descriptions will provide some insight into what sideways or backwards movements to expect, which can cause us to feel like we’re digressing in our growth on our path of awakening. In fact, the real work begins after an awakening. In the transient states we experience after an awakening, we might find ourselves stuck. These transition states are nothing to be concerned about. No matter if your awakenings are minor or major, they can cause you to re-evaluate your beliefs or re-adjust your life. Throughout my journey of awakening, I have often found myself out of sorts after such experiences. Normal routines no longer gave me comfort, and some of the people I enjoyed spending time with felt out of context with where my life was going.
Our consciousness changes with each awakening we experience as we move through the layers of the soul. With each awakening, we feel different because we see life from a broader vantage point. The changes that take place can range from subtle shifts we hardly notice to major breakthroughs in awareness. No matter how big or small a shift we experience, the landscape of the mind itself remains relatively the same. The mind changes slowly, which can cause us to return to our previous state of consciousness. Therefore, each shift initiates an adjustment period.
Many experiences can cause an awakening to occur, for example, after reading a spiritual book or meeting a person who holds a high level of consciousness or during a meditation or on a retreat. No matter what the reason, we will go through a transitional phase after a shift of consciousness. During a transition, we might feel misplaced or out of sorts as we come down from the high of awakening. There is a tendency to think we have lost our new sense of renewal. The mind challenges and seduces us to return to familiar ways of behaving and thinking. Post-awakening is a time to remain silent and resist the urge to overindulge the mind. Taking some quiet time allows us to ground our new level of consciousness. It’s a time to be reflective, not reactive. What sometimes accompanies the sense of being out of sorts is the propensity to feel “above” all the things we used to enjoy—causing us to reject some of the habits that used to give us pleasure and comfort. During this type of transition, I have often criticized others for the same ideas and behaviours I had just “transcended”! If we dramatize and focus our angst on the behaviours and activities of others, we can fall back into lower states of consciousness, which causes more sideways or even backward movement.
By maintaining love and compassion for others and ourselves, we will speed up the evolution toward our next awakening. As we continue to grow, we will also experience deeper challenges that test our Will and challenge our devotion to dissolving our soul and becoming one with God. We will need to abandon many partial truths during these phases of integration into new states of consciousness. What is true for us at one level of consciousness may not be true as we expand our consciousness. For example, jivatman is our awakening into the realization we have a soul, but paramatma is the realization we are not a separate soul but intimately connected to the soul of others. The new awareness that comes into us is responsible for much of the uncomfortableness we may experience. Because of our changing views of the world and ourselves, the mindsets and behaviours that used to give us stability and comfort no longer apply or offer the same security they did before our awakening. During these times, our faith and logic will be tested. I have often felt that I was going crazy when my life felt outside my “norm.” However, take comfort in knowing this stage of experience is transient. It will pass as you continue to ground and stabilize higher states of consciousness. Again, deep surrender and love for self quicken this process.
“What do we surrender to?” you might ask. We surrender to the silence within and whatever is unfolding around us. There is comfort in stillness and silence. In these beautiful moments, we simply offer ourselves to God. We surrender with trust, knowing that God will guide us.
True faith is like turning a corner; we don’t know what awaits us until we have committed to the turn.
I’ve realized, my transient periods are a time of stabilization and integration that inspire further growth and renewal.
Map of the Transient Layers
Part One: The Transient States After We Awaken From the Illusion of Maya
Even after we realize the world of maya is an illusion, we can easily slip back into it because of the influence and attraction of desire. The world of maya is complicated and difficult to transcend. Our journey through this phase can take a long time before we experience our next great awakening as there is a considerable amount of baggage to leave behind. Being stuck in the illusion of maya can be categorized as a period of collecting and holding false beliefs about who we are. While leaving this state of consciousness, many ties arise to hold us back.
Three Distractions that Pull Us into Maya
- The distraction of our mind and emotions.
- The drama of the world. We can be easily pulled back into the drama and trauma unfolding around us because they feed and trigger our minds and emotions.
- Our desire to obtain peace through the acquisition of material possessions. The initial move out of maya comes with the realization that material possessions cannot deliver us into a place of peace, nor will they lead us toward deeper awakenings. Because we have created our false identity with the material world, letting go of it can be challenging. But this is the first step into the realization of our soul.
Dropping Our Baggage
The journey of awakening is much like a train ride with many stops. The four rides (Maya, Jivatman, Paramatma, Brahman) represent our awakenings to the layers of the soul described in the previous chapter. The in-between layers are when we unload and let go, preparing us for our next awakening.
When we first board the train, we are awakening out of the maya state of consciousness. While boarding, we bring everything we own, mentally, emotionally, and physically. When the train stops, we disembark, taking all the belongings we originally brought onto the train with us. However, we notice the world seems different and that we are different. After each awakening, we work through the transient layers that follow. This prepares us for our next great awakening. Once we’ve done that, the train reappears.
However, when the train arrives to take us to our next awakening, we immediately notice something different. The baggage compartment is much smaller, forcing us to leave behind more of our mental/emotional baggage because there is no longer space for it. We have been living in our minds and emotions with our worldly possessions our entire life. Therefore, even the idea of shedding anything can be stressful or leave us feeling vulnerable, and this is only the second stop. As we awaken further, we will be required to release more of our mindsets and emotions. Fortunately, the process of letting go becomes easier and more natural as we ascend into higher states of consciousness. Our need to acquire and hoard material objects naturally subsides. The material world and its physical elements are no longer our main priority. If we are unwilling to let go, the train will move on without us, forcing us to return to a lower state of consciousness in maya. Once we are willing to let go and surrender, the train reappears, and we can move forward to our next stop.
Our focus while living in the world of maya is split between living inside our minds and emotions and keeping our attention on the outside world, and yet the two are intimately linked. The attention we place on the external world leads us back into our minds, where we assess, measure, and attach opinions to what we observe. It’s also worth noting that what we see in the outer world while living in the consciousness of maya is limited and coloured by the filters of our past experiences. The contrast of moving out and back into maya tends to activate our mind and stimulate our emotions and the need for material objects.
The persistence of maya is understandable—it’s more about hanging on than letting go, because letting go, even after an awakening, is a relatively new concept to master. And because it is new, we might experience more sideways and backwards movement. So, we bounce in and out of maya as we slowly master the process of letting go. When the illusion of life lessens its grip, we will be free to move into the consciousness of jivatman, which is the realization of our individual soul.
Part Two: The Transient State after the Awakening to Jivatman (The Individual Soul)
The next phase of awakening comes after the realization we have a soul, and that we are more than our physical bodies. We are also beginning to realize the incredible power of God’s grace working in our life. However, we are still subject to the illusion of maya. Much like our experience while working through the transient layers of maya, we can bounce between higher and lower states of consciousness during these times of transition and integration. These are “transient states” because they are temporary.
To describe what is happening during this phase of our awakening, imagine getting on an elevator and pressing the top floor button. The elevator goes to the third floor and then drops back down to ground level. Then it takes us to the fourth floor and again drops us back to the ground floor and stays there for a while. Suddenly, it shoots up to the sixth floor and pauses for a moment before dropping down to the second floor. Do you see the progression here? We move into higher states of consciousness, only to fall back to lower levels along the way. This is the phase of integration. Understanding this helps us release the judgments we place on ourselves as we move through the four stages.
Moving forward in our evolution and growth is not about beating ourselves into obedience. Our mind can also take these experiences and wire them into a story about how far we have travelled down our path and how great we have become, which is essentially an illusion. This process is about acceptance, compassion, and letting go. We are not evolving our ego, nor are we acquiring higher states of consciousness. We are allowing our consciousness to arise and unfold naturally.
The Contrast Between Illusion and Our Individual Soul
Waking up to our soul calls us to abandon the mind and emotions. During our awakening, meditation can be a great tool to help us make this transition. However, we don’t meditate our way into enlightenment, we use meditation as a tool to focus on the silence within. And by doing so, it changes our relationship with our mind and emotions. The transient state after we awaken to the individual soul is much like awakening out of the illusion maya. There is a great deal of baggage to let go of, heal, and make peace with from our past. This stop in our awakening has more to do with changing our relationship with the past than letting go of our immediate desire for material possessions as a path to inner peace. Once we move into the consciousness of our individual soul, the focus is more inward, beyond the level of our mind. We begin to see ourselves from a different vantage point. By healing our relationship with the past, we give ourselves more time to rest in the silence of the soul instead of grinding away at the grievances in our minds. We see above our behaviours, problems, fears, and insecurities.
The pull and grasp of the material world has begun to loosen its grip on us. We are now looking within to find the satisfaction we used to expect from acquiring material possessions. These internal experiences unfold as we move deeper into an experience of the soul. As desire falls away, contentment and appreciation take its place. The discovery of our inner world—of living in the silence—is like finding a door in your house you never knew was there. When you open the door, you realize you’ve been living in the basement. You discover that your house is a mansion with many rooms, each room has a second door leading to more rooms. The experience of journeying into the silence is an endless discovery of joy and wonder as we open each new door. Our past will continue to pull us back into maya, but as we go deeper into the silence, our perspective grows and we heal ourselves of our past by cutting all the cords that are holding us back. During this time, we must remain steadfast in our new relationship with the soul and the peace found in our discovery of it.
Perspective Leads Us into Healing
Waking up to jivatman challenges us and thrusts our healing under our “now conscious” nose. We must let go of all the mindsets, habits, and behaviours we weren’t aware of while we were asleep, lost in the illusion of maya. Time spent resting in the silence widens our view and reach into what is unfolding around us. For example, in the past, we might have felt triggered when disrespected by another. Now we are conscious of those emotions and thoughts as they arise, and this awareness changes how we respond. This awareness and lack of reaction to our emotions is a form of personal empowerment. Knowing our triggers can lead us to heal our wounds.
There are times when we work through our healing alone; other times, it’s good to seek the help of a trusted friend or counsellor. When we find ourselves repeatedly getting stuck, it’s time to ask for outside help. Asking for help can be difficult because while lost in maya, we believe our minds solve every problem we face. However, asking for help can be a powerful tool. It also helps us learn how to surrender.
The transient states of consciousness that occur when we move into jivatman is a time of great insight into the nature of the baggage we’ve been unconsciously dragging around. Experiencing the soul more directly teaches us that the challenges we face, are more about previous traumas than current events in the world around us. In maya state of consciousness, our challenges are typically influenced by forces outside of ourselves. After the awakening of jivatman, we realize the difficulties we face are largely due to our unhealed wounds. By healing our traumas, we gain insight into why we have drawn various people and experiences into our lives. Jivatman is also a time of evaluation. By evaluating our behaviours, the choices we make, and the environments we end up in, we’ll have many decisions to make about who and what will remain part of our lives.
Moving Deeper into Jivatman: The Individual Soul
Once we begin to move deeper into our relationship with the soul, we start to establish a relationship with God. God might have been nothing more than a concept in our previous state of consciousness, whereas now, our living relationship with the Divine is beginning to take noticeable shape. God becomes a living force that is visible within us and in the world around us. Our connection with God offers moments of great insight as we plunge deeper into the soul.
As we ground and stabilize this state of consciousness, great changes will happen in our inner world, and an equal amount of transformation will occur in our outer world. We no longer identify with the dominant attitudes of other people. Those who started to gather around us in our awakening phase might distance themselves as we go deeper into our soul experience. They might not understand what we are going through—which won’t be a problem unless we have an attachment to certain people in our life. Very few people are willing to move more than one rung on the evolutionary ladder we are climbing. Very few will be willing to climb with us, although this is rapidly changing as our collective consciousness keeps expanding in the world. Hold on to nothing behind you on the path to enlightenment. Be conscious of any desire to cling to the past; it’s a trap that can easily pull you back into the illusion of maya.
The deeper levels of the soul can’t be described by concepts we hold in our intellect. These levels can only be known by the direct experience unfolding within us and with our relationship with God. We hold a good portion of our spiritual ideas in our mind, which we must let go to move forward. This can sometimes be difficult because we’ve labeled them as special; they hold meaning for us. But many of these spiritual paradigms are only partial truths that transmute into greater ones. They may not even reflect our own experiences, if they are just concepts our mind thinks it knows. We can study dolphins all our life, but we will never know what it’s like to actually be a dolphin. To think we know is very different from actually knowing from direct experience.
Part Three: The Transient State after the Awakening to Paramatma (Soul Mastery/Universal Soul)
As we transition into soul mastery, there will be many behaviours, ideas, and preferences we will need to release. Soul mastery is the awakening into our connection with God and other people. As we heal and expand our experience with the silence, we begin to see glimpses of our connection to others and the events taking place in our lives. These experiences and observations give us insight into the meaning of our existence. Value and purpose become interwoven into everything we experience on the path. All of these connected, purposeful moments further accelerate our letting go and forward movement.
With connection comes great energetic rewards. We begin to have experiences with higher levels of energy coming into our bodies. In a balanced relationship with our mind and emotions, our body becomes a tool we can use to further our awakening rather than an object we fixate on that stifles our growth and awakening. When we are physically and emotionally balanced, we won’t get trapped in our feelings or suffer the karma of the body. As we release the burden of past traumas, we lighten our load and ready ourselves to “board the train” to our next stop in awakening into soul mastery/Universal soul.
Soul mastery/universal soul liberates us from suffering and moves us into a deeper context of purpose and meaning. There are significant spiritual rewards for the seeker who enters this layer of the soul. Along with newfound purpose and meaning, you will begin to experience moments of deep peace and solitude. The meaning and value of life changes considerably, but it’s not that life changes; we change. It’s like watching a movie we’ve seen hundreds of times, but this time we catch a deeper subtext hidden within the film. Waking up to paramatma/universal soul helps us draw out the subtext of life and the eternal moment flowing around and through us. The subtleties of this flow instruct us as to what we should do or not do in each moment. In the previous layers of the soul, we find temporary comfort in the presumptions of the mind, but when we move into soul mastery, the moment at hand holds everything we require. The destiny of the soul is unfolding and ever-present in each step we take. Knowing or thinking we have purpose pales in comparison to living our purpose.
Another characteristic of mastering the soul is that we gain a greater capacity to embrace the power of love and compassion. It becomes easier to live in the world because we feel less angst towards others and the events of the world. We have transcended our traumas. Our struggles give way to discernment, and we become devoted to our purpose, which is serving the Will of God. The weighted ties we had with the past still might come up during this phase of integration, but the entrapment we experienced in the past while caught in our illusion no longer hold us back from living our purpose and serving the purpose of others. This experience is liberating because we can understand how much unnecessary effort went into repeating our traumas and dramas. It’s like shedding a dozen layers of clothing. We are now free to move!
When we are stuck reliving our past, life becomes repetitious and monotonous. Soul mastery is an invitation to live in the present in a “live-feed,” so to speak. We no longer pause to chew on our thoughts while missing what’s happening in the moment. Our struggles don’t go away entirely, but our experience of those struggles transform into opportunities for growth because we’ve learned that growth offers reward and redirection. Struggle provides us with a chance to surrender to God and give thanks for the gifts we have. It creates an opening to redirect our attention to the silence within.
Our practice during this time is to ceaselessly remain in a surrendered state. We still may be drawn to return to our attachments, but we now understand that they bear no fruit. Our daily routines might still be bothersome, but this is a time to practice deep surrender. We need to surrender the mind because it cannot go where we are going. There is no more room for baggage on the train. The subtle attachments we’ve been holding under the radar of jivatman and the individual soul must be released before we can enter our next level of awakening.
The Narrowing of Discernment
The direction we point ourselves toward has a great influence on our trajectory. As we hone the ability to hold our focus on dissolving our subtle attachments, we begin to see how they impact our path. Any little step off that path can veer us off the course to our greatest awakening. Moving into Soul Mastery/Universal Soul reminds us that we are a reflection of the absolute supreme God. We are entering the sacredness of life. As we begin to master our soul and realize the universal soul, we feel a strong urge to preserve and support life rather than just existing and enduring. The sweetness of life is no longer experienced with just the senses, for our inner experience of Divinity is a far greater experience. The radiance of creation in the world of form reveals its sacredness. This radiance the world reflects to us is the reflection of our soul. The perceived distance between us and others and the outer world only exists in the mind of the experiencer. All life is one vibration reflecting itself back to the Divine.
The Esoteric Realm then merges with our awareness as we stabilize our arrival in the consciousness of soul mastery. This realm contains our inner spiritual knowledge and experiences. For example, I’ve felt surges of energy pouring into my body and powerful healing sessions. I’ve experienced deep insights that have come directly from my soul. Still, one can get trapped by the allure of the Esoteric Realm because we carry our mind and senses into these experiences. When we return to ordinary states of consciousness, our mind can sometimes crave to go back, or we might come to believe that we are special because of these experiences, which causes more sideways and backwards movement. Remember: Where we are going doesn’t allow us to carry along the mind and senses. Therefore, a narrowing of discernment becomes more critical. In other words, enjoy the Esoteric Realm, but don’t get attached.
Another aspect of narrowing our discernment is sharing the knowledge we’ve gained through our awakenings and experiences. Others might confuse the power of the message with the power of the messenger. If our messages initiate an awakening in another, we don’t praise ourselves. The same applies if others praise us. Such praise can sometimes go to our heads. This can happen not just to individuals but in groups and spiritual organizations. The allure of power and fame can be too much to handle. In such situations, simply give thanks for the wisdom that the Divine has imparted to us and the chance to be of service.
The Connectedness of Realizing the Universal Soul
Unity with others is the next leap of dissolving our soul into the oneness of God. As we move deeper into soul mastery, we begin to see that our individual soul is unified with all other souls and the world around us. We catch glimpses of this unity by surrendering ourselves. We not only find our soul in the heart of all other souls but in the heart of everything. The deeper we go into the experience of unity, the more we dissolve the very notion of an individual soul. The idea that we have a soul is temporary. The soul is but one breath of the ever-breathing God. For an instant, the soul is made manifest; in the next instant, it returns to the unmanifest. The soul is breathed into manifestation for the evolution and expansion of God.
We hold ourselves back from dissolving into unity by grasping at the experiences unfolding in and around us. When we hold nothing, nothing can get a hold of us. In the deepest levels of surrender, one of the last things we surrender to God is the experience of the experience. There is no you or me—just “I” in the heart of unity.
Tools to Deepen Your Experience of this Chapter
- Spend the day watching whatever happens like you are watching a movie. Instead of reacting to what’s happening around you, be reflective. No matter what happens, understand that everything is happening for you, not to you.
- Take some time to evaluate your beliefs. What do you need to let go of? As we grow and evolve, so do our beliefs. Be willing to set down your outdated belief structures.
- Try to spend an entire day letting go of any desire that arises. Maintain an awareness of acceptance; do not try to change anything.
- Do a twenty-minute meditation on the stillness within. As you close your eyes, imagine there is a door, and when you open the door, you enter a beautiful room filled with the presence of peace and love. Next, imagine another door in the room that leads you into another room, where the presence of peace and love is even stronger. Spend your entire meditation moving through rooms that hold deeper and greater peace.
- Can you identify your triggers? Spend some time looking at what causes you to leave your state of peace. Once you’ve identified one or more triggers, take some time to trace the origins of that trigger. When you find where it started—usually an event where you felt harmed in some way—visualize that moment. As you replay that event from your past, it is essential to also intentionally bring up a feeling of love. Now watch the event play out in your mind like a movie; be careful not to feel any emotion other than love while watching. Just keep projecting love onto yourself. When you feel you are ready, reach out and bring that part of you back. Hug yourself and welcome that part of you home.