Extensive use of art and images to awaken higher consciousness”
The Way of Art:
Both Roman Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism make extensive use of art and images to awaken higher consciousness. Across all cultures, perhaps the single most familiar image of higher consciousness is the mountain, a symbol of a higher view of reality. Another quietly powerful image is the flower, with the rose or the lotus being two popular choices. The flower represents the animating flow of life energy from the seed underground to the bush to the bud to the opening of the flower itself.Try the following meditation on the opening of a rose and see what opens in you.
Imagery Meditation: The Rose
Read the instructions through and then try this exercise for yourself.
- Close your eyes and connect with your breathing.
- Allow your mind to focus fully on the sensation of your breath passing through your nostrils… As soon as you are aware of any other thoughts or sensations, bring your attention back to your breath.
- Now, in your imagination, visualize a rosebush… Notice it in as much detail as possible.
- Now become aware of a tightly closed bud on one of the branches… Focus on this bud… Now imagine the force of life gently moving into it and opening it.
- Now identify with something opening in you at the same time… Stay with this experience as long as it lasts…
It is not necessary for this meditation to produce pictures in your mind. Some of us are very visual in our imagination, while for others the imagination is more easily engaged through words or feelings or kinesthetic sensations. For example, you can imagine a rose opening without seeing it: you can imagine feeling it open, or think about the process of growth and blossoming.
Imagine a rose opening without seeing it
A different form of meditation that can evoke higher consciousness is to focus on the energy of your body. I saw how powerful this form of meditation could be through the illumination of a student named Eileen who came to meditation class to reduce her anxiety, which was based on the cold reality that she had a debilitating and possibly fatal illness. She kept coming to class to give it every chance she could. After four months, she had a breakthrough experience.
She was in class meditating on the energy in her hands when suddenly she began to experience her whole body as an energy field. Then she felt her awareness expanding to experience the whole meditation classroom as an energy field.
Eileen’s awareness kept expanding and expanding until it took in the whole city, then the land and water surrounding the city, and finally the whole planet. Eileen experienced the whole planet as energy with her awareness distributed everywhere throughout the energy field. She could see in every direction and she was pervaded with a dancing joy. Time was gone. Confinement in the body was gone. Eileen, as she had previously defined Eileen, was gone.
When Eileen re-emerged into awareness of the meditation class a few seconds later, her feeling of joy took in the entire the room and all people in it. All the colors were vibrant masterpieces, all the objects perfect. She was experiencing the aftermath of her higher state of consciousness, floating on a sea of gratitude.
The class ended and Eileen started toward home. As she walked, she sensed she had just been changed forever. Over the next few days, the changes kept coming to her. She no longer felt afraid of death. She now felt curious about it. But, at the same time, she also loved life more than she had before the breakthrough and was in no hurry to die.
Her mind had a new clarity and peace. She could pay deeper attention to her work and her friends. She could see other people’s viewpoints completely and felt no attachment to arguing with them because she found it much more satisfying to whole-heartedly experience and understand their view. And she found that when she tried to communicate her understanding of their view, people more easily let go of their view to ask about hers. This new way of being became so noticeable at work that her boss began to ask her to handle negotiations with difficult clients.
She could walk down a street and unexpectedly be in bliss at all of the richness and variety of life. Her understanding of God changed from what had been a non-credible humanoid male super-being in the sky to a limitless interpenetrating spirit of love and order that was present here and now. This new understanding simply showed up in her mind one day without conscious effort, and each time she recalled it, she went into a deeply pleasurable state of gratitude.
Two Energy Meditations:
Stand comfortably or sit in a straight chair.
Gently shake your hands for a minute…
Now place you hands in front of you as if you were holding a balloon, elbows at your sides, shoulders relaxed, the palms about 12 inches apart and facing each other … keep your hands and fingers soft and relaxed as you do this…
Place your awareness into the space between the palms of your hands…
Very slowly, begin to experiment with moving your palms closer or farther apart, but always keeping the palms facing each other…
Keep your awareness in this space, studying the sensations between the hands…
Now rest your hands on your lap and notice how you are…
You may experience the space between your hands as a bringing together of magnets from opposing poles and feel a slight resistance if you try to move them towards each other. Some people describe the space as bounciness or as a liveness. Your hands may tingle, feel slightly charged or hot, or be dominated by pulsations in your fingertips and palms. However, you needn’t feel any of these sensations in order for the meditation to be effective. What you are doing is focusing on a subtle level of energy that can lead to illumination.
- Use a straight chair with a good back.
- Sit close to the edge of your chair holding your back in a straight but not stiff posture… tilt your chin down slightly, straightening the back of your neck… keep your knees at shoulder width… your tongue resting lightly on the roof of your mouth…rest your hands on your legs. Relax into the posture, letting go of any tightening or stiffness…
- And now let your awareness contemplate your body… (Do this for one minute).
- And now slide back into your chair, relax, and notice how you are feeling…Do this for a minute).
- One more time—slide forward to the edge of your chair and repeat steps 2, 3, and 4…
You may find this posture uncomfortable at first. After two or three tries, however, it may turn out to be your favorite meditation because of its potential to introduce you to yourself as a living, dynamic energy field. Remember: this spirit element of your nature is not a metaphor; it is fact.
The Enduring Benefit of Higher Consciousness:
Higher consciousness reminds us that we are participating in eternity
After the initial fascination with illuminative experiences fades away, one benefit remains forever: higher consciousness reminds us that we are participating in eternity. We relax into the amazing fact of the world just as it is, and our being here becomes lighter.
As it did for Eileen, higher consciousness simultaneously changes our relationship to death. Instinctively, we as human beings love life so much that death appears to be our enemy. It is certainly our enemy when it takes loved ones away from us forever. Higher consciousness, however, helps us make a great cognitive leap to the understanding that our human situation is not life versus death. The opposite of life is not death. There is no opposite to life. It is eternal, harmonious, exquisitely ordered, and contains all things, including death. A moment of higher consciousness allows us to taste the eternal nature of reality and to experience “the peace that surpasses all understanding.”