Leveling Up: What is Consciousness?
A description of the levels of consciousness and the optimal way to navigate each level in a given situation.
Consciousness is a measure of awareness and intention. It is what we care about most that consistently motivates our behaviors and actions. As Einstein once said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”. He was definitely onto something here.
For most of us, existing roadblocks can act as a catalyst to expand our consciousness to the next level. This happens when the consequences of our existing blocks become so great that the current level of consciousness is too restricted for us to properly find resolutions.
For example, imagine you are in a relationship with someone, be it romantic or otherwise, and find yourself focusing on the belief that the other person doesn’t care about you and is self-centered. This could potentially be a projection on what you assume to be true about what’s going on in the other person’s head. As we all have a unique framework of the world, with different perceptions and beliefs, you really never know exactly what another person is dealing with at any given time. The other person may be dealing with situations, traumas, or challenges outside of your relationship dyad that monopolize the bandwidth of energy they are able to give. It is important to humble ourselves to this truth that we never know what other people are going through.
If we were to lean into our projections of being shorted for another person’s perceived intentions without considering why they might be acting in such a way, we are adopting an ego-centric, or self-orientation, mindset. This level of consciousness inhibits our ability to recognize that others have different feelings than what we are feeling and we can take their actions as a personal attack. A separation is created between the two perspectives along with a disregard for others’ needs and boundaries, resulting in a “you vs. me” duality. This ignites the survival instinct and activates the nervous system response. Holding space for each other to collaborate on a productive solution for both parties is not possible on this level.
When the issue at hand is created on an ego-centric level of consciousness, we must advance to a higher level of consciousness in order to resolve it. If we adopt an ethnocentric awareness, we can exercise the ability to care about things outside of ourselves. We begin to recognize the needs of others who affect our inner worlds, such as friends, family, peer groups, etc., as different from our own. Acknowledging the difference between someone else’s reality and our perception of their reality is key to bringing two parties together for effective conflict resolution.
We can advance our awareness to an even greater level through a world-centric level of consciousness. Here, we expand beyond just those around us to include awareness of others outside of our own specific social groups as well as animals and the environment. Our actions become motivated by emotional connection and caring for other living beings as we open up to the experience of empathy. This gives us the ability to resolve conflict as we hold space for others and respect their boundaries.
With the highest level of consciousness comes a spirit-centric focus, where there is a regard for all things, be it people, plants, animals, all aspects of nature, all things. The focus here is on what is most beneficial for the greater good of everyone and everything that is seen through the lens of collective individualism. There is a felt sense of cosmic connection to all people and things: a union of feelings and knowledge.
When you unlock a new level of consciousness, you always have access to the levels that come before. There is not one optimal level to operate at 100% of the time, but we want to unlock the highest level possible to give us the ability to discern which level of consciousness to operate from in a given situation. For example, if our survival is threatened, we want to act from an ego-centric level, whereas in business negotiations, we would want to act in an ethnocentric manner. All levels are necessary to make up the whole of the human experience.
So how do we unlock higher levels of consciousness?
It starts with opening the mind and expanding our awareness. Mindful practices such as meditation, breathwork, yoga, and journaling are great tools for this. We can acknowledge how we are feeling in the present, work through whatever comes up, and keep pure intentions in mind for all parties involved. It is important to respect the boundaries of what each side is capable of and to not take the actions of others as a personal attack. To reiterate, we never know what someone else is really experiencing. With that, it is wise to mitigate any projections we might have by bringing them into our awareness so we can transform them with an open mind.
Making the choice to expand our consciousness through mindful practices opens up our world of possibilities and allows us to flow through life with much more ease.