If you understand, things are just as they are.
If you do not understand, things are just as they are."
--Zen proverb


"Once you see the way it is, you won’t really wish to change it.
It’s just the horrible beauty of suffering."
--Ram Dass

So there I was a few days ago, shamelessly eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation.

And there they were, earnestly expounding about how the world’s consciousness is moving to a higher plane of love, peace, and all things living in harmony. This person believes the planet is getting to a state of higher awareness, beyond self-interest and craving.

Whoo hooo! We’re on the way! Transcending the ego state coming up any minute now. No more killing, no more cruelty, no more unfairness or suffering, poverty or pain.

Although…. we’ve heard this before, haven’t we? At least for many many decades.

Unsurprisingly, your friendly Mind Tickler has a few questions.

Because how does this work, exactly?

First, where’s the evidence that this miraculous journey to peace and love is now happening? Has this person not seen any news, like, ever?

And then… “Higher consciousness” - higher than what? What makes it go higher? What has prevented it from doing that so far; what’s it waiting for? And what happens to the lower consciousness that’s left behind? What's transcending and where does it go?

This version of consciousness seems to be entirely a human thing- other creatures need not apply.

I guess animal instincts are too lowly for higher consciousness. Luckily they just live moment to moment and don’t much care about transcending anyway.

Though we might wonder why we care about it.

Because if evolved consciousness is human only, then it’s just one out of many liked experiences that could possibly be had. Just a state, one of many possibilities, one of the options.

Not something grand. Not something permanent.

And certainly not the all-encompassing consciousness which includes everything.

Since it’s just for humans.

It makes sense we find transcendence appealing though. i mean, we don’t like the lowly animal-like true nature of our own either, where we have all kinds of desires we can't control and which we believe are wrong. Here we are, getting hungry for dinner and sex and companionship and fun. Here we are, getting angry and hurtful and fighting and following those desires just like every other creature we think is less evolved than we are.

Naturally we’d rather dream that there must be a way to be less war-like, less needy, more advanced. We’d rather imagine there’s a way to not want so much, think so much, feel so much.

Never mind that this goal-state has been achieved by no human, ever.

Not one single person has completely gotten beyond self interest to find only love and peace.

Not one.

Yet we insist it is not only possible but on the way and coming soon.

More importantly, what goes unnoticed is that if there is a doorway to transcending the everyday at all, mostly it has been opened-

not through love, peace, bliss, or gratitude-

But through intense suffering. And through pain.

Which is something well known to mystics, American Indians, shamans, and religious zealots. All of whom found various ways to experience a more heightened awareness through pain.

As in, they hurt themselves on purpose, in order to experience the feeling of transcendence.

And perhaps some lovely readers have discovered that suffering such as depression, hitting rock bottom, or living a dark night of the soul has enabled the phoenix to rise too.

Here’s everyone trying to attain personal higher consciousness through calming approaches like meditation and inquiry,

When for so many, it’s suffering- suffering they try so hard to eliminate- which actually might succeed in opening that door.

If it can be opened at all.

Now of course I’m not saying go on out and try to hurt.

It’s just that the constant attempt to eliminate pain might not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Suffering is just as worthy an experience as happiness and spacious awareness,

and it may come with its own charms and blessings.

Besides, consciousness is not some personal ladder-climbing achievement for an individual Me, anyway.

Rather, the individual is part of and included in consciousness.

So that any person’s “heightened awareness” is just one more thing consciousness gets to experience.

Within consciousness.

Making higher awareness no better, no more special, no more evolved, and not even higher, than no awareness at all.

Loving, spacious, peaceful, calm. Contracted, crying, miserable and ego-bound…


Consciousness eliminates none of it.

Awareness needs nothing from us.

We’re already doing this life thing perfectly.

Whether we like it or not.

Making the ideas of higher consciousness and transcendence

very odd concepts indeed.

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