Yearning for More: The Quest for Enlightenment, Part Three
Cosmic Consciousness: Functioning Within the Wellspring of Fullness
In my last post, Part Two of this series, I talked about the first of the higher states of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness. In this blog we will talk about the next higher state of consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness, which unfolds naturally through the alternation of transcending with activity.
Cosmic Consciousness, the Normal State of Awareness
Persons who have had glimpses of the blissful serenity of pure consciousness describe the naturalness and familiarity of such experiences, as if something profoundly familiar—but lost—had been found again.
Maharishi has explained that indeed enlightenment—the stabilized state of pure consciousness, called Cosmic Consciousness—is our normal state of awareness. Most people are experiencing something less than their full potential: the state of ignorance consciousness.
What does ignorance mean? People tend to think of ignorance in the sense of being illiterate—not having learned to read, or not having enough knowledge. But the way we are using this term is in reference to the quality of our consciousness. If a mirror is covered with dust, it cannot shine. That which is foreign to it—the dirt—needs to be cleansed. If a lake is polluted, it cannot reflect the light of the sun with full brilliance. When the pollution is cleared away, the lake reflects the light of the sun brilliantly.
TM Purifies So Our True Nature Shines
Like the clear lake, this brilliance is our true nature. The light of pure consciousness is always there, but lies hidden, obscured. What TM does is to clear away the obstacles—the stresses—that cover and dull our true nature. How does it do this? Through profound rest which dissolves stress. Stress is foreign to us, and the body is so designed as to, when given a chance, rid itself of stress. We need to give the body the opportunity to do this. And we need to give our awareness the opportunity to settle down to quiet, expansive levels of awareness. This dual effect—of mind and body settling down—is what TM does, effortlessly and naturally. Maharishi states:
To go to a field of greater happiness is the natural tendency of the mind. Because in the practice of Transcendental Meditation the conscious mind is set on the way to experience bliss-consciousness, the mind finds the way increasingly attractive as it advances in the direction of bliss.
Because it is such a beautiful, restful state, unbounded and fulfilling, very quickly the system starts to gain the habit of returning to that state.
Through regular alternation of Transcendental Consciousness with normal activity, a time comes when all the stress of the nervous system is dissolved. The unbounded nature of the Self is maintained along with ALL three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and sleeping. Hence this 5th state of consciousness is called Cosmic Consciousness, meaning “all inclusive.” The physiology is so resilient that stress no longer accumulates. Maharishi has emphasized that this is the normal state of human life.
Tender Signs of Developing Consciousness
Not long ago I talked with a group of women who had recently learned TM. They each displayed tender signs of progress in their development of consciousness. Within the first few days, they described positive transformation, noticing inner fullness, calmness, joy, peace. One woman, trying to find the right word, said she felt “lighter” inside. Her depression was dissolving, and she felt energized to begin her exercise program again which further nourished her well being. Another woman felt more equanimity and fullness. She found herself more resilient and less defensive in her relationships with co-workers and friends. A third woman shared that, for the first time in her life, she began to feel a quiet glow of happiness.
In the following weeks, these women started looking radiant, years younger. They shared stories of more harmony at work and in relationships with boyfriends and spouses. Their happiness was coming from within, allowing for more tolerance, patience, appreciation, kindness. Consequently, their family members and co-workers were more harmonious and helpful to them. The women shared stories of how desires were being fulfilled more effortlessly, and how when we feel more harmonious, there is less resistance and more support from the environment.
What they talked about touched a personal chord within me. I flashed back to the time when I first learned TM. That summer I was a hiking counselor at a camp in New England. We explored a nearby section of the Appalachian Trail. I remember the rich freshness of the air, the quiet music of the stream, the ancient presence of boulders covered with emerald green moss. There was a quiet magic there, and I noticed that the hushed silence of the atmosphere matched a silence within me—a familiar but forgotten experience. And with the children I found myself more light-hearted and playful than I had felt in a long time. My senses and heart were opening. In contrast to the heaviness I had felt in past years, I was starting to feel like a happy child myself, quietly awake to the beauty of nature and friends. After returning to school in a high-powered suburb of New York City, through my daily meditation I continued to dip into this inner wellspring of fullness and felt its effects in my life. I was less anxious; my depression dissolved; my activities and choices in friends were much more life-supporting. I was enjoying life again. My parents were relieved and impressed. (They learned TM within a few years).
Finding Fullness Within Instead of Searching Outside: Becoming Self-Referral vs Object-Referral
I enjoy discussing with other women the satisfaction of fulfillment growing from within. Instead of trying to satisfy our hunger for happiness by looking outside of ourselves—for the “ultimate” things, person, or job—we are blossoming in inner fullness. Instead of the search for the perfect, wonderful person to fulfill us—which inevitably scares such wonderful persons away—we are becoming the wonderful person our self. We discover that others are attracted by inner fullness, rather than emptiness or negativity. From within this happiness, we are able to give and appreciate others: the basis of healthy relationships. And we find ourselves attracted to healthy relationships!
Rather than being “object-referral,” we become “Self-referral.” That means that our sense of identify and fulfillment lies with our true Self. Not the stressed, limited, small ‘s’ self, overshadowed by whatever we experience, but rather, the full, blissful Self of unbounded awareness. And—we find we can achieve our desires much more easily. Our growing creativity, clarity, confidence and energy allow us to pursue and achieve our desires.
Helen Boyce, a small business owner, credits her practice of TM for her comfort and confidence in activity, based upon unshakeable inner happiness:
I experience inner bliss when I meditate [and]…inner happiness is remaining during my activity. I am very comfortable and confident with myself regardless of what is happening around me. I am moving in the world, but I am not controlled by the world. The spiritual joy within myself is…deep….
Here Helen describes a fascinating aspect of Cosmic Consciousness—the experience of pure awareness during ALL states of consciousness, including sleeping and dreaming:
During sleep sometimes I notice that I am dreaming, or the body is sleeping, and yet I am awake inside. In the bed as my body is relaxing there appears what looks like bright daylight; there is no sense of time, then it is time to get up, and I am extremely rested and blissful. There is an inner light….
Patricia Cline is a gifted sculptor who has been practicing TM for years. She talks about creativity overflowing from stabilized inner silence:
The forms I create emerge from the quiet levels of my experience of consciousness, or Being, and then they flow within me and manifest through my skill into an objective form…. I have cultivated my nervous system and consciousness, which allows me to move into the stillness of self-referral consciousness. I would say that this is also a good definition of the creative process, a shift into stillness. It is from where all of my work emerges—a quiet, still place…the inspirational source within me that is based in truth.
The state of enlightenment includes all these natural qualities we have been discussing, blossomed to the fullest extent.
Maharishi’s elaboration of higher states of consciousness gives each of us a grand vision of possibilities for human development that is within reach and naturally grows in a way that is perceptible, tangible, definitive and obtainable. All that is required is the simple alternation of rest—twice daily TM practice—and activity that doesn’t strain the mind or body. Maharishi explains that:
Cosmic Consciousness should not be considered as something far beyond the reach of normal man. The state of cosmic consciousness should be the state of normal human consciousness. Any state below cosmic consciousness can only be taken to be subnormal human consciousness. The human mind should be a cosmically conscious mind.
Higher States of Consciousness in the Vedic Psychology of Maharishi Mahesh by Charles Alexander, Robert Boyer and Victoria Alexander: https://www.mum.edu/pdf_msvs/v01/alexander.pdf
Maharishi quotes from The Flow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language, edited by Rhoda F. Orme-Johnson, Ph.D. and Susan K. Anderson, Ph.D., MUM Press http://www.mumpress.com/books/other-authors/g04.html
Quotes by Patricia Cline and Helen Boyce are from A Symphony of Silence by George Ellis. http://www.mumpress.com/books/other-authors/asos.html
About the Author
Cynthia Johnson is a teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and is a mother, wife and writer. She is a contributor to the book A Symphony of Silence: An Enlightened Vision (1st and 2nd editions) by George Ellis.