The Vedantic Tradition as expressed by Adi Shankara tells us that Pure Consciousness is the only reality, everything else is an experience in consciousness. Pure Consciousness is that in which all experiences occur and out of which all experience is made.  In every experience you are creating the world. You are not in the world, the world is in you. There is only Pure Consciousness and its modified forms.

The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote that, “Awareness sleeps in minerals, it dreams in plants, it awakens in animals and it has the potential to become Self-aware in humans.” He is telling us that everything in creation has some level of awareness or consciousness but only we, as humans, have the potential and the ability to become Self-aware.  Your dogs or cats for example don’t walk around asking themselves, “Who am I?”

In the Vedantic concept of creation or evolution, everything arises from Pure Consciousness or the non-dual Absolute, Brahman.  From this emerges the universal soul, Atman.  The Atman gives rise to the Jiva or individual soul, which carries the seeds of our memories from lifetime to lifetime and orchestrates our karma. The memories and desires or karma that the Jiva brings into this incarnation create the ego, our individuality and sense of separation.  This then creates the intellect, the mind, the senses, subtle and gross elements, the body and the manifestation of the material world.  This process of evolution is an outward movement, whereas our spiritual journey is one of involution, the return back to the source. As the Bhagavad Gita states, “The unmanifest appears as manifest and then returns to the unmanifest”.  Pure Consciousness modifying then dissolving back into itself.  The out breath and the in breath.

Everything in creation is evolving.  No matter how it may sometimes appear, nothing goes backwards.  The constricted, limited consciousness we have created for ourselves is gradually expanding. However, with the practice of meditation, we can accelerate the process.  Meditation is a spiritual journey, the goal of which is to reawaken to our true state of Consciousness.

All experiences are Space-Time events.  Everything you perceive with your senses has a location in space and an existence in time.  However, the one who is having the experience, the real you, is beyond space and time.  All the experiences are local (limited) but the one who is having the experience, the Soul, is non-local (beyond limitations).  Experiences constantly change but the Experiencer is beyond the field of change.  In a meditation practice such as Primordial Sound Meditation, we go to more and more refined levels of the thinking process until we slip into the space between thoughts, we step into the field of non-local, Pure Awareness.  We bump into our Self, the Experiencer, the Soul. Here there is awareness of nothing in particular but everything in general.

You are not your thoughts, your mind or your body.  Your mind and body are the instrument that captures the non-local, unlimited Pure Consciousness and converts it into the localized, limited, space-time events of your everyday life. However, when the mind and body are filled with stress and fatigue, memories and desires, doubts and fears, these act to distort our picture of  the True Reality.  Meditation therefore is a process by which we purify the mind and body so that Pure Consciousness may flow fully in our lives.

The Vedantic Tradition describes seven different states of consciousness we will experience on our spiritual journey, each of which has its own biology, bodily activity, emotions, memories and perceptions.  The three we all experience regularly during a 24 hour cycle are Waking, Dreaming and Deep sleep.  Through our practice of meditation, we discover a fourth state called Transcendental Consciousness.  Here we go beyond (transcend) the mind and slip into the silent spaces between our thoughts.  With regular practice of meditation, we begin to integrate the state of Transcendental Consciousness along with our Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep states.  This allows three other states of consciousness to unfold, Cosmic, Divine and Unity, which are referred to as higher states of consciousness.

In this article we’ll focus on the first three states of consciousness, usually referred to as “normal” consciousness.  However, they are only considered “normal” because they are what the majority of people experience on a regular basis.  Our true normal state should be Unity Consciousness.

Waking State of Consciousness

This is the most disturbed state of consciousness.  It is the experience of an external physical reality, localized throughout the selection of our attention.  Our senses experience things as solid and structured with defined rules, impermanence and decay.  Our experiences are seen as space- time events, where linear time, logic and stress all exist.  It is a waking dream where we dream of a future and a past and it only seems real because we are in it.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience and our spiritual journey is to “wake up” from the waking state.

Dreaming State of Consciousness

Dreaming requires energy and unless we are very tired, every creature dreams. However, the use of medications, drugs and alcohol will disrupt this cycle.

There are two phases of dream sleep, Light Sleep and REM (rapid eye movement). Light Sleep begins with a short transition from waking into the regular Light Sleep, which consists of over half of our time asleep each night.  We dream during Light Sleep but the dreams are not as intense as they are during REM sleep.  During Light Sleep the body repairs muscles and tissues, stimulates growth and development, boosts immune function, and builds up energy for the next day.  It’s not as refreshing as deep sleep however, it also is necessary for proper brain functioning.

In REM sleep the mind energizes itself while the body is immobile.  It’s called REM sleep because the eyes dart in various directions. Breathing becomes shallower and irregular while the heart rate and blood pressure rise.  Most dreaming takes place here revitalizing the brain to support sharp and alert daytime functioning.

Dreaming is where we create an internal world that seems real.  Mental and emotional stresses are released and the mind is rejuvenated during this period.  Space and time don’t exist to the same extent that they did in the Waking State, it’s not so localized or clearly defined.  Dreaming is closer to the vibration of Being.  Mental images and vague memories, which we have no control over, come and go.  Our personality is reflected and the truth is revealed. If we have prophetic dreams, they are coming directly from “Source”.

Deep Sleep State of Consciousness

Here the body is rejuvenated with the release of the day’s physical stress.  Good sleep helps us avoid many illnesses and dementia.  During Deep Sleep there is no thought, no subject-object split, no separation, everything is in potential. We go back to our non-local ground state. Thoughts have settled into Being, returning to their source.  We are in touch with the Soul creating a feeling of peace and bliss when we wake.  During Deep Sleep, consciousness is there and at a deep level we know we exist but there is no awareness of “me”.  We go back to our Divine being so that when we wake, we re-create our universe but are not exactly the same person as before.

Deep Sleep is a similar experience to Transcendental Consciousness, when there is no thought activity.  However, in Transcendental Consciousness we are still fully aware, so this State is referred to as restful alertness, whereas Deep Sleep is restful dullness. 

In a normal eight hours of sleep, a person will typically spend five hours in Light Sleep, ninety minutes in REM and ninety minutes in Deep Sleep, although as people age, they tend to spend more time in Light Sleep.  All are restorative.

From the Upanishads

OM is the original primordial sound, created as the unmanifest Pure Consciousness, manifests into the conditioned consciousness we know as the world around us. That first vibration of OM diversifies and unfolds into all the sounds and vibrations that make up the universe in which we live.  In its original form, OM was AUM.

As the Mandukya Upanishad tells us “A” represents the Waking State of Consciousness, “U” represents the Dream State and “M” Deep Sleep.  When we chant this original form Aaaaa – Uuuuu – Mmmm – Silence, we are, in essence, progressing through these states of consciousness, from the most constricted to less constricted until we end in the silent state of Transcendental Consciousness, the silent sound of OM returning to its source.

All the states of consciousness are actually non-local.  Locality is an idea we impose on the Waking and Dreaming States. Meditation is our path to step out of this self-imposed delusion. We can still enjoy the localization when we witness it from the perspective of our true non-local Self.

During meditation we reach or access the Cosmic Mind.  When we die physically, the soul enters a Cosmic Deep Sleep.  At some point, the soul has a Cosmic Dream, which we call human life.  The soul repeats this cycle numerous times until it eventually wakes from its slumbers to reach the Cosmic Waking State, which is Enlightenment.