Awareness: Knowledge or perception of situation or fact
Self-awareness: Conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings
When you say you are aware, what exactly do you mean?
At the first level, nine out of ten of you would say it is about knowing what is going on around you in terms of sensory information. You may have seen it, heard it, heard about it, felt it, tasted it, smelled it or knew about it in some way. Your mind integrates what your senses received as data. Your mind, another part of it perhaps, relates this data to what is already in storage, which is in yet another part of your mind. Another part of your mind processes the data to help you decide what to do with this new input.
This highly complex neurobiological, psychological and possibly psychical process is handled by your mind with tremendous ease and speed in most cases. I use the word mind rather than brain because the intelligence system involved in this data processing is spread throughout our cellular system and not confined to your neural network in the brain.
Experts in learning say that 70 percent of what we sense as our learning is not retained or remembered. The sensory information goes in and out. Paying attention as you sense, reflecting on what is sensed and acting on reflection embed what we sense as learning.
We also term this Mindfulness. Focus, engage the senses in awareness, pay attention to what is being sensed in the present moment are key mantras of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the foundational state of awareness in any learning process. Mindful process happens within the beta state functioning of our brain.
The problem is that we stop with Mindfulness. There are three higher stages of awareness for higher learning.
Freud and Jung spoke of two additional states of awareness beyond conscious awareness. First of these occurs at the alpha level of brain wave function. This is similar to Rapid Eye Movement or Dream state, the state below the conscious level of awareness.
In one manner or another, techniques of closed-eye trance, energy tapping, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and others lead us into this space.
At this subconscious level, we learn faster and with greater ease. At deeper levels of the subconscious state, physical body awareness reduces while emotional and cognitive awareness remain high. In a dream state, you would experience the emotional effects of being attacked with no physical manifestation.
At the subconscious level, memories stored below conscious-level awareness can be accessed. We may even process stored memories. These can be of helping healing emotional traumas.
DEEP SLEEP AWARENESS
Eastern scriptures call the third state of awareness “Deep Sleep Awareness.” Freud and Jung termed this the unconscious mind. The Mandukya Upanishad, possibly many thousands of years old, calls this the true state of awareness.
At this level of the theta state of brain wave functioning, most of the body and mind functions are at rest. The survival mode functions, which include core memories, are active. Eastern scriptures teach processes to access this mind while conscious, and if needed, rewire the neural network and cellular intelligence. Transcendental Meditation, a Buddhist technique of Vipassana, and Yoga technique of Yoga Nidra may help you reach this state.
One can create oxytocin and reduce cortisol at will using these processes to destress, reach out and recreate one’s world.
FOURTH STATE OF AWARENESS
Only the Mandukya Upanishad and a few other Eastern scriptures speak of this highest state of awareness simply called the Fourth State or Turiya. I am yet to find a reference to this state in Western psychological or neurobiological or spiritual literature and would love to know of any such reference. At this level, our brain functions at the gamma level, a state studied and recorded by Herbert Benson at Harvard.
The fourth state of awareness is a detached, disengaged, witnessing mode of consciousness, transcending the other three. This is the true “being” state where you just “are.” You are no longer an actor in the drama of your life, merely a witness.
This state of acceptance, to some the state of complete surrender to the flow of the universe, is accessible through advanced techniques like Yoga and Zen, without drugs and external manipulation.
At Coacharya, we call this the Mindless State. Zen calls it the No Mind State. We help learners learn this process to achieve mastery in coaching presence, one in which the coach is absent.
The Mindful state of awareness limits us to our sensory perceptions and to the present moment. The Mindless state helps us free ourselves from time and space boundaries and body and mind boundaries. In this Mindless Fourth State of Awareness, we realize we are a part of the universal energy. Simply put we validate Einstein.
Finally, we can glimpse our potential.
Ram Ramanathan is a leadership coach and trainer and spiritual wanderer, blending Eastern spiritual wisdom with modern psychological and neurobiological knowledge to create mindless awareness.