How Enlightened Are You?
No, this isn't an internet quiz in which you respond to 20 questions and get a generated answer with a picture of the enlightened guru who fits you best (You scored an 18, you're a "Yogananda"). I, and all other meditation teachers, harp on and on about enlightenment and expanding your consciousness state with meditation, but I realized that I don't often go into exactly what that means. How do you know what your consciousness state is and how it compares to others if you've never known what it's like not to be you?
What is a consciousness state?
I'm sure you've heard, either through meditation people or quantum physicists, that everything is One thing, One indivisible, whole consciousness field. That means that the world is made up of nothing more than shaped consciousness. If you look at the smallest part of the smallest thing, the leptoquarks of the nucleus of an atom, you can see that there is actually no true particle there at all, but energy oscillating back and forth between a wave and the appearance of a particle. So everything to some degree has consciousness, or awareness, of its status as that One thing. The chair I'm sitting on has a very limited awareness of its status. Humans are the only species that is able to experience enlightenment, which means realization of this true status, though few reach this state in full.
How do I know what my individual consciousness state is?
This is an interesting question as, until we reach the stage called "Unity Consciousness," we can only know what it's like to be in our own mind, and many people highly estimate where they are along the enlightenment track judging by their social media comments. Enlightenment dawns more like a dimmer dial than a light switch so everyone has some percentage of enlightenment. Plus, our consciousness state goes up and down depending on what we have going on–didn't sleep for a few nights in a row, your awareness and patience are going to go down. However, we all tend to have a baseline where we return to when emotions and other factors have normalized.
Hallmarks of high/low consciousness
There are some hallmarks of high and low consciousness behaviors and experiences. The best one is to measure the degree to which you are suffering. I'm not talking about pain, but suffering which is the rejection of an experience. Also, a related one, to what degree can something make or break you? In other words, to what extent do you look to the outside as the source of happiness and fulfillment? To what degree do you perceive what is out there, whether people or nature, as other? For example, racism is a low consciousness perception because it is based on the idea that someone of a different race is "other" than me, therefore threatening. To what degree do you go into flight or flight mode when you have a change of expectations? Consciousness state is not measured by how many followers someone has, how much money they make, whether they've published a book, etc.
How do I expand my consciousness state?
Most people who come to me to learn to meditate are already in a very high consciousness state. They already are globally minded, loving to their families and communities, yet simply live in the modern world so stress is ruling too much of their existence. The fact that they're interested in consciousness is an indicator of a high consciousness state. Stress is what muddies the waters of consciousness. Imagine stress is like agitation in the waters making them impossible to see clearly through. Meditation expands our consciousness in two ways, one of which is reducing the stress in all of our cells. After practicing meditation for a while, our mind and experience of Self is clear and feels expansive regardless of outside influence. The other way it expands our consciousness is that whenever we meditate, our minds are accessing that deeper, more expansive field and bringing more and more awareness of that field into the waking state. Our baseline then drops lower and lower with each meditation until finally, the baseline reaches that whole, indivisible consciousness field and you can get your enlightenment badge.
One thing to mention here is it's not a competition, and there's no state of consciousness that's "better" than another in the same way an adult is not "better" than a child simply because he or she is further along in their physical development. No matter where we are at, it's all perfect. We are all just at different parts of the same journey and it's our job to extend kindness, helpfulness and understanding to everyone and ourselves.
We've all come so far and still so far to go.