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Challenge of Expanding Consciousness


​As a species, humans do not handle concepts of the infinite very well. With increasing numbers of people interested to explore realms of consciousness... this presents a challenge. Entering higher consciousness states requires not only commitment but a level of comfort in the face of uncertainty.

I believe, as a species, we like to think we can handle the big kahuna's of consciousness but all around are signs this is just not the case. In a most simple form, our need to pin something down, pull it apart and label its dismembered elements shows an element of stress faced with something like consciousness. Concepts such how to be (rather than do), the fluidity through which something becomes nothing and certainty of change offer much of the world a serious conscious headache.

Perhaps it is because such concepts do not sit well with our own... finite nature.

I find one of the easiest ways to express our conundrum is looking at measurements. I remember flying into London and noticed the distance between The Shard (tallest building in London) and my home (I lived very close to Putney Bridge - an easy landmark to spot). I knew the two were roughly 6 miles apart. It was a unique viewing point assuring a lifetime reference. I now had something sensory to comprehend distance.

Having since been able to use this reference on both land and sea a new world opened. No longer was a mile just a word. I could split the space between Putney Bridge and The Shard into 6 equal portions to grasp how far a mile was and on a larger scale, I could expand the picture. I could imagine how far it was to visit my parents, for example. At just over 125 miles from London, I need only recreate the vista from the airplane window and imagine it stretching 20 times further.

Making sense with measurements:

We all do it, perhaps subconsciously; working out how far something is based on what ever it is we have experienced in the past. How else would we do it otherwise?

Obviously this is very basic. We have much more sophisticated, universal measurements helping us to make sense of things. In addition to distance there are measurements of temperature, volume and pressure to name a few.

Do we have all the measurements we need or are there perhaps more we have yet to come up with? You can bet early man did not care for checking the temperature of his fire. He just built it and added to it if needed!

Here lies the problem - measurements will always have the capacity to be more accurate or increasingly detailed. Little room is given for something to just be. Heaven forbid a feature that is un-measurable! We see often, how science finds a way to negate these or avoid them but so doing white washes our reality. Perhaps we perceive the accuracy of measurement to be more reliable or helpful?

This raises the a second problem - Should we stick with measurements... we are forever tied to what we already know. There is inherent floor too - a point where the ability of measurement or description begins to fail? Not because the value is incorrect but because we, the means to understand the value, cannot grasp what the resulting answer actually means.

At 3460 miles away from London, New York is too far for me to use my own visual understanding. I am unable to grasp the distance between The Shard and Putney bridge stretched 600 times. In fact, I get lost at around 40 or 50 times.

To fully understand this distance, I would need to move up higher into the stratosphere. By changing position suddenly I am offered a greater distance but this only works to my capacity to recognise landmarks or geographical features. At some point the land below becomes essentially indistinguishable. It looks unreal or more similar to a map on a page than the real landscape. Should we give in and view it on a page, the distance from London to New York suddenly requires measurement by other means. Perhaps a grid reference or a ruler to be particularly accurate. Where does that get us I sometimes wonder? Without an true experience it would be just as helpful using a carrot as a tool of measurement. Both ruler and the vegetable fit between the cities on a map and neither offer authentic understanding.

I imagine pilots could grasp the distance from London to New York far more easily for they have more real life experience flying around the world. But even their skill begins to fade. Extend the distance much further than the size of our world and their abilities evaporate. At 7.4 Billion miles across (give or take a few million), to grasp the size of our galaxy would require me to imagine my known 6 miles placed end to end over 1.2 billion times.

It is safe to say pilots or even astronaughts are unable to grasp how big that actually is.

Absent of real comparisons, we humans begin to get uncomfortable and tend to make things up or fill in the blanks. The boundary line between comfort and discomfort mark our edge. These frontiers hold much fascination for we can go from organised to disarrayed in seconds.

Imagine when humans found proof of our existence within a solar system or the moment we realised we were our solar system was in a galaxy. Or that our galaxy was tiny in relation to what would later become known as the universe.

We of course had to find a way to measure it (miles no longer worked... they are become an inadequate description of such distances. Thank goodness for light years! Suddenly w were able to find ourselves feeling comfortable again.

As our reality expands, something interesting happens. Our existence becomes increasingly theoretical. We are void of the comprehension necessary to understand the probability of our own existence. How sad is that?!

Even light years or the more regularly used term Parsec (1 unit is equal to 30 trillion kilometers) begins to falter faced with the knowledge of an ever expanding universe. What exactly is it expanding into and what was before the moment it started to expand?

Hurray for machines! So complicated are the measurements we are increasingly needing they are called in do the job for us.

The machines are incredible for they are able to pull apart, measure and label things like we never could. But wait... have you noticed the trap we have fallen into? We are, I am afraid to say, still stuck on our need to know. And the more we need to know, the more we are aware of the immensity of space outside of what we know.

This, as you can imagine, becomes a vicious cycle.

Hands tied behind our back!

If we didn't measure things, what are our options? Hands become tied behind backs - the devil we do, the devil we do not. A life without labels and knowns becomes scary and ungrounded. One needs only think of the incredible breakthroughs we would be without should measurements and label never existed. Incredible architecture, magnificent machines and medicine, even language. Everything we have created helps offer structure and a platform to understanding other things. Without labels perhaps we end up not caring?

How would you even begin to live a life without labels? I like to wonder how a three year old makes sense of things. I feel inadequately prepared for such a task. In fact few of us are for we have nothing to relate it to. Our own youth was a most intensive period spent learning labels.

It becomes impossible to grasp a life without them for we do not have the means to separate ourselves. From the youngest age we learnt our differences and similarities to things. We learnt what it means to be in relationship. Ideas such as I am a boy in relation to you as a girl and I am white in comparison to you as black. You are rich and I am poor. Of course these are basic but their idea and where they came from is fundamental. Babies are not born knowing the difference.

What happens if who or what ever taught us got the label wrong? Is it worrying to consider how few teachers teach the same thing? What variance might have we received?

Though our young self is taught to distinguish through similarities and differences, rarely are we supported to bring everything back

together again. It takes a deeper level of development to comprehend differences are not separations.

To be without labels would require us to let go. Release measurements, language and descriptions. It requires us to just... be. Perhaps silent, perhaps not, but just being; experiencing each moment as it arrives.

Wait... I think we are onto something.

Challenge what you know!

To truly expand consciousness we are demanded to challenge what we know. To take things as they are minus the labels which means poking our comfort zone; Being open to discomfort.

As a body therapist what I notice most, written into the physical forms of clients, are the signs of discomfort. Tension played out in physical form. It does not matter what someone thinks they know and believe they are able to handle. Their body shows a clearer truth. It is this truth that shows what has been their reality and what growth is possible. So what have these themes got to do with breath I hear you ask?

Our breath holds a key to immense knowledge and capabilities. It is a truth bringer for within our breath, discomfort can be first identified. Those moments we freeze, gasp or spit angry fire. Breath has been our constant companion. It offers a chance to experience both our known and unknown. A challenge for our perceptions to experience differences as well as similarities. A space where colours coexist in blurred definition. Breath is a chance to understand ourselves on the deepest level both in and out of relationship. It does so by offering an experience of the unknown, ever changing and unquantifiable.

You will find few practices offer this level of experience - it is this aspect that affords practicing breath such empowerment.

Why would anyone want to do this?

This is a great (but challenging) question for the answer is individual and built within our own framework. It is more appropriate to ask "What is possible when an individual connects to the unknown?"

So is there a breath that can help us explore the unknown?

Yes! The unknown can be complicated... so let us engage a simple breath.

1. Seated (or standing if you prefer) shut your eyes and breathe three times, connecting with the sensations of your breath to begin.

2. Then begin to just breathe. How ever that occurs to you. Over the next 3 minutes take the time to observe the sensations of your breath... how would you describe them? For example a sensation may be felt as an increase in depth, heard through the sound breath makes or felt by the contrast of temperature between inhalation and exhalation. There are near infinite qualities to observe.

3. At the end of the three minutes the aim is to come up with one or more characteristics and choose the one you are most drawn to.

4. For the next 20 minutes, stay focused on your chosen observation

5. Maintaining an observer mind (meaning without judgement of good or bad, right or wrong), explore this chosen characteristic. Notice, without deciding how it should be...

- How does the feature change over time?

- Do you have an attachment to elements of this breath?

- What arises for you? (including emotions or feelings).

5. Experiment releasing these, always coming back to only observing.

- What else arises or what do you notice?

6. Repeat.

NB: This is best done without time restraint and in truth you could spend days, weeks, years doing it, continually expanding past your known borders. I find it helpful to set boundaries in the beginning to offer the container of safety (it also helps to ensure you do not miss lunch!). You will be surprised how time morphs into something very different in such a place.

Important: This breath can raise many feelings. Anxiety, euphoria, panic. This is because when your mind experiences lack of structure or relaxes its ability to make sense of things, it can be quite confused.

How does this breath help?

Firstly, you will find your thoughts getting involved.

"This is boring"

"This is easy"

"I already know the outcome"

It is helpful to recognise these voices as they are the sounds of our "known". These are the sounds that accompany everything we do and all decisions we make. Over time, these voices quieten and something new and exciting fills the space. Something... unconscious. Something unknown.

Do not worry if the voices stay with you. To dislike or wish them away is engaging with another part of our known. It will not be easy to clear this away. Instead we observe it as part of the experience.

This breath offers a magical and at times painful experience as we realise how attached we are to our known; Emotionally and physically.

The invitation is to be gentle. I would love to hear how you get on.

Good luck and enjoy!

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