Higher Plane of Consciousness
Attention: The Vehicle to a Higher Plane of Consciousness
Attention plays a central role in the practice of Sahaja meditation.
Attention is the vehicle that carries us to the higher realm of consciousness and awareness, which transcends the mental, physical and emotional planes.
We first experience this state of consciousness during the inner energy (Kundalini) awakening, during which we actually perceive the inner energy flowing through our energy centers. Attention is the mechanism through which we reach and remain in the state of thoughtless awareness each time that we perform meditation.
Achieving thoughtless awareness in this higher state of consciousness is key to realizing all the benefits that Sahaja meditation can provide.
Solving problems that are due to imbalances of energy in various energy centers is possible because Sahaja meditation techniques allow us to focus our attention on a specific energy center and fix problems with that energy center.
And attention makes the perception of enlightenment possible.
Focusing our attention on our energy centers widens the channel through which the inner energy passes as it pierces each energy center, facilitating better energy flow. When you first begin meditating, only a few strands of the inner Kundalini energy rise, piercing the center of each chakra. But over time, with more practice, more strands of energy pierce each energy center, almost like a pipe of energy.
Three Forces Drive Our Attention
There are three natural tendencies that exert force over our attention:
- inertia or resistance to action
- the tendency to create action
- the force that maintains balance
These three tendencies are known as gunas: creation (rajas guna) destruction (tamas guna); and preservation (sattva guna). (For an in-depth look at gunas, please see gunas page
You can think of attention as a pendulum that can swing to the past, the future or remain still in the present.
If the force of inertia is greater, your attention is likely to be more focused on the past. If the force of action is dominant, your attention tends to be focused more on the future. If the force of balance is dominant, your attention tends to remain in the present.
When your attention is perceiving only the present moment and is not muddied by reflections on the past or plans for the future, it is a pure, white, clean canvas.
Your past is stored in memory, as are your musings about future plans. When something in the present resonates — through similarities, connections or correlations — with something recorded in memory, your attention is quickly drawn to those moments of the past or musings of the future, muddling your attention. A once-pure canvas now depicts images projected from the past or the future. The canvas is now colored or stained.
Some rare individuals have perfect attention equilibrium. But most of us have a tendency to allow this canvas to become stained, our attention to become muddled. Some of us have general personality types or mental health issues that create an overall long-term tendency to dwell too much in the past or future. For example, people who suffer from depression may have a tendency to ruminate or circle the past in unhealthy ways; people who suffer from anxiety and/or have the personality trait of neuroticism tend to worry — often needlessly — about the future.
Most of us find that our attention is subject to short-term, situational imbalances; for example, when we’re facing stressful situations. Emotion might sway our attention to the past in the short term, but as we begin to view the situation rationally and analytically, our attention may return to the present.
For the person with an extreme attention imbalance who dwells too much in the past or in the future, or perhaps rapidly swings from one to the other, attention is all over the place. Once this imbalance draws our attention into the past or future, still more reflections are drawn upon the canvas of our attention, which, in turn, propels us even deeper into the past or the future. It’s a vicious cycle. How do you break the cycle? By restoring balance, directing your attention to the present.
How Attention is Balanced
Sahaja meditation techniques can help restore balance in a more impactful, powerful way that clears the canvas and helps prevents us from misusing it in the future; i.e., projecting the past or future onto it. When your inner energy is awakened, your attention is taken to a higher strata of consciousness, a completely new plane of awareness where you are free from thoughts, problems and pretty much all that goes on on the mental plane.
While most other forms of meditation attempt to achieve thoughtless awareness through a focused, concentrated attempt to avoid thoughts, thoughtless awareness is established in Sahaja meditation by shifting your attention to a higher plane of awareness.
Many of our problems can be traced to our attention becoming tangled with negative emotions (e.g., fear, pain, unhappiness, hopelessness, dejection or manifestations of anger such as aggression), or even excessive positive feelings (such as excitement or elation). Through the awakening of the inner energy, attention remains on the higher plane and above all our thoughts and emotions, achieving a state of silence within.
In this higher state of consciousness, you can isolate yourself from thoughts, almost as though you are merely a witness to all the turmoil happening below on the lower mental plane. This state, in turn, creates a tremendous capacity for introspection that will allow you to accurately assess and understand your own problems and solve them. You’re less likely to be consumed or overwhelmed by your thoughts, feelings or current situational stressors. You have a tremendous amount of control and power over your own mind. Because your attention is no longer ensnared in criss-cross thoughts, your ability to quickly and efficiently switch your attention to a new situation in the present is significantly improved. You’re also less vulnerable to the phenomenon of attentional blink, which occurs when two pieces of information are presented to you in close succession and your brain doesn’t detect the second piece of information because it was still busy processing the first. Attentional Blink: Meditation Makes the Brain’s Information Processing More Efficient.
All our thinking, analysis and rationalization occurs at the mental level and at a level of consciousness lower than the state to which your attention is drawn during meditation. Therefore, it is not possible to fully understand the experience of Sahaja meditation through analysis, rationalization, or accumulation of knowledge through, for example, reading a lot about it. It can only be experienced.
There’s a world of difference between experiencing attention on the normal plane of human consciousness — the one that we operate on most of the time — versus attention elevated to a higher plane. Think of this as going to a completely new higher floor of your home, where there’s perfect silence, a deep sense of tranquility, and lots of new stuff to discover. Only those who enter this “top floor” of consciousness can really understand it. Anyone who views it from outside can only have a limited perspective.
Once our attention rises to this higher plane of consciousness, we can balance the tendencies that drive our attention and break the vicious cycle of having our attention focused too much on the past or future.
We’re able to balance the two forces that draw our attention either to the future or the past with the aid of the force that helps our minds stay within healthy, reasonable boundaries of reflection about the past or future so that our attention remains anchored primarily in the present moment. As your attention moves to a higher plane of awareness, the burdensome weight of thoughts about the past or future is lifted from your shoulders.
Attention feels lighter and more nimble now, free to focus on the useful and productive things in life.
Call it “attention fitness,” if you like.
Sahaja meditation ultimately elevates your attention to a new realm of experience altogether, which can dramatically impact your awareness and perception of life. At this new level, you perceive:
- The flow of the inner energy piercing through the center of each chakra, which is experienced as a sensory perception of a cool breeze at the finger tips and on the palm of the hand.
- The experience of thoughtlessness
How Attention can become subtler
Attention hovers at the edge of our awareness. Wherever our awareness is diverted, attention goes there, too. In Sahaja meditation, the awakening of the inner energy grants a new level of awareness to our central nervous system that allows us to feel the energy centers inside us. As an expert practitioner, you also feel the energy centers of others, which allows you to help diagnose problems and suggest solutions. We can also feel any obstructions to the flow of energy by paying attention to each of our energy centers.
In other words, through the process of inner energy awakening, attention becomes subtler and is capable of perceiving the inner subtle energy system, the energy itself, and the energy centers. Developing this subtlety in attention is a significant breakthrough. A simple example of this breakthrough would be a person who never cared for music or poetry suddenly being granted a sense of deep appreciation and enjoyment for it.
The elevation of attention is even more real than just a change in “feelings.” It is a real sensation, a soothing inference that the flow of energy is the beginning of a huge discovery of self.
It’s as if one develops the ability to discover new depths of one’s inner self through the attention that is now connected to it. It’s like having a whole new HD TV channel come online to show us our inner beauty, as Nature created it.
How do Meditators do it?
This extrasensory perception that one’s attention has at this new level, higher than the mental plane, cannot be compared, analyzed or equated with mere knowledge gained through reading and analytical processes.
In fact, the meditators who find it easy to make the jump to this new level of awareness are the ones who aren’t too firmly fixed to an analytical and rational way of understanding and processing everything.
Those who get stuck are usually the ones who cannot comprehend this new level of awareness, perhaps because they’re over-read, over-analytical or heavily conditioned by their own past experiences. Being conditioned means that they’re clinging too tightly to some version of “facts” they’ve read, thus are unable to accept the notion that alternative concepts or ideas might actually also be true.
That said, sensing this new level isn’t so much magical as it is just new. It’s similar to how we routinely sense our physical body… our arms, legs or other body parts. Or to the way we experience our “feelings” at the emotional level, or the way we experience our “thoughts” at the mental level. And now, in comes a whole new level, the “subtle energy” level that helps our attention perceive everything about our inner subtle energy system.
Once you’re aware of the subtle energy inside you, you can strengthen and increase your sensitivity to a point where you can actually feel the subtle energy system all the time, or at least most of the time, not just during the act of meditation.
In the longer term, a significantly higher percentage of your attention is focused on subtler things rather than on the other three levels we’re already aware of and have directed our attention to all our lives — the physical, mental and emotional levels.
You’ll find it easier to “take the high road,” as they say, and not by feeling that you’re superior, or by making a special effort. You do it easily, almost intuitively.
While there are some who can’t get their attention to perceive this subtle energy, there are others who perceive it, but try to connect the dots too soon with the levels we’ve known all our lives; for example, someone who meditates and feels the inner subtle energy, but within a few minutes is in a bookstore trying to read up on the Kundalini energy and understand how it works or buying a book about “How to Enjoy the Subtle Energy.” Well, the way to understand the subtle is by being subtle, not by stepping down one level in your awareness. And you can’t enjoy something simply by reading about how to enjoy it.
Occasionally, someone who is able to perceive this new awareness will accept it with complacency or be completely matter-of-fact about it. Some experience it as a thrill, elation and sheer joy at having found something new in life, like Einstein discovering the law of gravity. Occasionally, and surprisingly, you’ll see people perceive this new awareness and treat it as if it’s just another short-term pleasure, like a good movie or a tasty snack. The discovery and perception of the subtle energy sticks with them for a while — say, a few hours or days — but after that, they’re back to operating within the three levels they’ve always existed in. You have to wonder if they behave as nonchalantly about those, too!
Now, these interesting reactions from meditators are mentioned to convey the idea that the thirst for subtle knowledge varies among human beings. Those who are thirsty for it drink it up like water in a hot desert. Those who aren’t so thirsty, taste it and continue to evaluate whether they’re going to need it in future. And those who aren’t thirsty fail to see what this whole thing is about.
There’s a fourth category amongst us: those who immediately attempt to capitalize on this new sense of perception in a tangible and meaningful way. For example, “Can I teach this to other people for a fee?” or “Can I develop this new skill at work?” or “Can I use this subtle energy system to get a raise or a promotion?” Wow! Talk about packaging something subtle into a utilitarian package so that you can make a profit from it.
In a perfect world, awareness of the subtle energy through our attention is a very pleasing, enjoyable and soothing experience that one continually wants more of.
Children, for instance, take to it spontaneously and enjoy it, more easily than us mature and complicated adults. Improving your attention is a matter of making it subtler, rather than trying to fix it through forceful concentration exercises, or trying to focus on some object for a long period of time. This is where Sahaja meditation is very different from other forms of meditation in terms of the mechanisms through which it improves attention. The elevation of attention to a higher plane of awareness, and being able to spend some time at that level, helps improve attention. And since the mental plane is where thoughts, feelings and problems reside, it’s much easier to hold your attention steady on the higher plane than it is to try and fix the attention problem through any exercise that must take place within the mental plane.
Appreciating the Subtler Things in Life
Over time, focusing your attention on subtler things trains your attention to tune out the more basic level of thoughts, reactions and distracting external stimuli. A good example is enjoying a beautiful natural setting — say, you’re watching a sunset at the Grand Canyon, which is perhaps similar, in itself, to the joy of meditation. Few people would be occupied with other thoughts about their lives, families or work in such a beautiful moment. This means that the subtlety or natural beauty of the moment has a more powerful effect on attention than mundane matters do. And when your attention becomes subtler, your reactions to and involvement in those external disturbances significantly reduces over time. They no longer matter to us or appeal to us like they used to, which directly improves the quality of our attention.
Awareness of the subtler aspects of life also has an impact on our self-imposed priorities. Often we find ourselves tense, nervously glancing at our watches, anxious about getting somewhere on time or getting something finished, or fearful that we’ll miss out on something. We become slaves to the watch beyond all reason. Now, if we’re looking at the Grand Canyon and enjoying the silence and natural beauty, chances are, we’re going to tell ourselves to extend those moments of enjoyment as long as possible, not glance at our watches as the sun is sinking in the west and suddenly decide to go grab a sandwich.
In other words, being attuned to the subtler things in life relaxes our association of everything in our lives with time. Once your attention begins to discover subtler aspects, it feels a lesser need to be bound by time, within reasonable limits. (For example, this doesn’t mean you should stop showing up for work on time.) No doubt, being punctual and honoring your commitments is essential, but most everyone would agree that preprogramming our entire lives by a watch isn’t good for us.
As our attention grows subtler, we reprioritize our lives to give ourselves more time for subtler things, things that give natural and genuine enjoyment.
This helps us break free of the shackles of modern life and walk away from those less subtle things that may be occupying too much of our time and attention. And guess what? In the process, you’ll probably discover that you’re breaking free of some habits that weren’t really good for you anyway.
Attention can be a source of joy
When you’ve practiced meditation for a while, you reach a stage where you actually enjoy your attention because your attention is now enjoying the subtler beauties of life. And when you start enjoying your attention, there’s so much less need to control it, be afraid of it, or worry that you have attention deficit problems. This is the secret sauce of how Sahaja meditation has a permanent positive impact on attention.
The enjoyment that’s derived through perception of things in the mental planes (like a science fiction thriller), emotional (like a love story) and physical (sense of touch) is temporary, and cannot be equated to the permanent and subtler enjoyment that comes from experiencing attention on the higher plane of awareness.
You may begin to notice, for instance, the beautiful music being played by the violinist in the subway — even with all the surrounding crowd noise. You may even enjoy this violinist more than hearing a full orchestra in a comfortable, cozy concert hall. The reason? Your enjoyment and attention is focused on subtler things now. Your awareness has been elevated to a new plane.
Now, this is not to say that enjoyment of “non-subtle” things is bad, or that those things shouldn’t be part of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying aspects of the physical, mental or emotional plans. Feelings of happiness and pleasure and even aggression are essential for our survival. But what causes us to struggle is the lack of balance, overdoing it — too much pleasure, too much aggression. For instance, certain pleasures can be addictive (e.g., alcohol). Feelings and recollections about activities that have an addictive or habit-forming component attached condition the motivation-reward circuitry in our brains, which reinforces our desire to repeat those experiences again and again. We lose control of our attention. Soon those pleasure memories consume us. We have become victims of powerful neurochemicals like dopamine — this is especially true with respect to addictive substances like drugs or alcohol. Our attention becomes emotionally, neurochemically enslaved to those pleasures, which motivates our behavior to seek out these pleasures, perhaps even at all cost.
If our attention is perfectly balanced, we’re able to freely direct our minds elsewhere.
More importantly, we very quickly realize our limits. We’re aware that we’re being emotionally manipulated by our own minds and we’re able to take corrective measures to make sure that the “coloring of the canvas” isn’t excessive or gaudy! And sure, what would the canvas of our life be without the colors of pleasurable activities? Yes, they’re part of the picture, but only in moderation, and only if we’re able to live our lives without constantly craving them, devoting too much attention to them, especially if it happens at the expense of other activities that are healthier for us.
Everything at the higher level of awareness is subtle, but that doesn’t mean that subtle awareness can only occur at this higher level. A form of subtle enjoyment such as enjoying nature or the fine arts, for example, can certainly occur on lower levels of consciousness, as well as such subtler, finer experiences as simply spending time with loved ones. Basic positive emotions like love, benevolence, joy through charity and so many others are all subtler forms of enjoyment. The higher level of awareness is decidedly subtle and joy-giving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all that is subtle and joyful can only occur at this higher level of consciousness.
Why Are We Pleasure-Seekers?
It’s human nature to seek comfort, to seek pleasure, and to take the path of least resistance. We’re genetically hard-wired to think this way. All the inventions and discoveries made by mankind had the common goal of improving, bettering or increasing enjoyment of our lives in some way. So, it’s not surprising that we naturally pursue any type of enjoyment, and the strong tendency to muddle our attention with the random and unrestrained pursuit of these things is understandable.
Perhaps this human tendency is just an interesting trick Nature plays on us… “give them full freedom to choose, then sit back and watch. How will they mess themselves up, then learn to come out of it?” Yes, we have the choice to mess ourselves up through our excesses, or we can choose to keep ourselves in balance. When we choose balance, we get the best of both worlds: the one that promises excitement, enjoyment and happiness and the one that gives us the control, power and inner strength to enjoy these pleasures in a controlled fashion over the longer term instead of getting carried away by our feelings about temporary, ephemeral sources of enjoyment.
The recommendation for getting the most from the Sahaja lifestyle is to strike a balance between the subtle and the forms of enjoyment that aren’t as subtle, with the balance tipped toward subtlety.
Overdoing the subtler side is not good either. It can also cause us to isolate ourselves from society and create an entirely different kind of problem to solve. Many saints or yogis tried to do this thousands of years ago — renounce pleasures and enjoyments associated with the lower levels of consciousness and sought a higher level of consciousness by restricting themselves to living in caves, far away from humanity and all that the world has to offer. Many were successful as well, so perhaps the effort was worth the results.
In today’s world, that’s neither practical nor necessary.
We don’t need to travel to the Himalayas on a quest to become a yogi-like being. We can deftly balance our attention every day, right here in the modern world, in the midst of humanity.
Life is meant to be enjoyed. Enjoyment for you in the present moment might mean watching a baseball game, or it might mean sitting on the seashore absorbing the beauty of Nature’s creations. Sahaja Meditators lead easy, flexible lives that don’t require them to sacrifice activities that they enjoy. They are lively, cheerful, vibrant people who also happen to meditate to balance themselves. Sahaja Meditators are not supposed to be boring, too-serious people who are expected to forsake a pastime like watching baseball, if it brings them pleasure.
The permanent solution
The most permanent, long-lasting solution for improving attention is to shift it to a point where it can tune out the noise and automatically focus itself on subtler things.
And if there are none around, your attention is directed within, which helps keep you consistently calm and relaxed — you are calm from within. A sort of gravity builds within you. Before meditation, your attention hopscotched from place to place, and for people with AD/HD, for example, in an uncontrollable manner. But now, your attention likes to stay fixed on deeper and subtler things and this creates the additional gravity necessary to prevent the rapid, haphazard attention switches.
There’s a certain amount of joy to be experienced simply by directing your attention to something subtle. Even if you don’t fully comprehend the beauty of a thing’s subtlety, your attention is still focused, for a longer period of time, on its subtlety in an intuitive way.