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describing changes in levels of awareness

I am afraid I will need to begin by stating the limitations of the task I see at hand. These limitations will present a paradoxical situation. I am going to attempt to explain the ineffable. By the very meaning and nature of that statement, I will be attempting to describe something that is not describable. Or at least it has generally been acknowledged to be something beyond explanation and description to this point in time.

I also believe, however, that my descriptions will in fact resonate with certain people, but perhaps not everyone. But they will do so at a level that is recognizable. I contend that the states of mind I will be attempting to describe are of the sort that is actually a common or shared experience; perhaps not by all, but at least by some. Who specifically I am referring to will need to sort itself out as we continue.

I will base my explanations on personal experience of various states of mind or, more correctly, states of consciousness. I am of the belief that in describing state changes within consciousness I will be describing states of mind that are recognizable to those who have shared that experience. I am suggesting that there are in fact discrete and recognizable states of consciousness that have been and are being shared by many. Analogous to basic modern physics, I am suggesting that state changes within consciousness itself will occur as quantum in nature. That is, the states of consciousness that I will be discussing are not continuous changes within consciousness. They are in fact unique and discrete levels of consciousness that are known to those who experience them as different than ordinary consciousness or different than a previous state of consciousness. Furthermore, these changes occur as a unique differentiation that one recognizes as starting and stopping at certain and specific points in time.

What I’m talking about can grossly be defined as an awareness of being awake, which we distinguish clearly from an awareness of being asleep. There are admittedly periods where a transition from sleeping to wakefulness has a very groggy and confusing element when the mind has not fully accepted the change from sleeping and dreaming to a fully awake awareness. Sometimes this can be caused by the interference of certain drugs but it also in fact occurs without that interference. Nonetheless, I contend that at least in retrospect, we are usually able to see where a state change took place even in those instances where the process of change was somewhat confusing at the time.

But I don’t want to get lost in the details of anomalies such as an instance where the experience of wakefulness includes confusion. Generally speaking, we are aware when we have awoken from a dream and we are aware that the very foundation of our awareness at that point in time is in fact a different state of awareness than what we experienced while we were dreaming. Another familiar instance of this subjective knowing occurs with hypnosis. In most cases, the subject of hypnosis may not realize what occurred while they were hypnotized, but does in fact recognize that it must have been a different and discreetly separate state of consciousness. And that state differs from the self-awareness the subject had prior to the hypnotic experience and following the hypnotic experience.

In the case of loosing consciousness, one may have no memory during that time, but one is still clear about their state of mind directly before and after such as episode. In other words, we know when we are aware.

I claim no professional knowledge or training in the study of these types of state changes in consciousness. I speak only from experience and can only describe what I myself have experienced. I have a certainty that what I’ve experienced near perfectly matches what others have experienced. Just to make a list of the types of conscious states that I’m referring to, let’s take for instance an awareness which occurs when we have been compromised by drug- or alcohol-induced awareness. It is sometimes recognizable by the individual that they are in fact perceiving their awareness of reality through a mask of drug or alcohol perception. At other times, there might be no or only partial recollection of the event.

I believe that many of us have experienced a drug or alcohol induced awareness and that we can honestly say that during that experience there was something that altered our perception. We may not be able to have stated so at the time, but upon regaining our unimpaired awareness, we can look back on our experience and realize that it was not the same awareness that we look back with.

Another such induced altering of conscious states occurs with psychedelic drugs. In undergoing the psychedelic experience, it is usually the case that, when the reactive element kicks in, we know at that moment that there has been a shift in the basis of our perception. Conversely, when that psychedelic experience ends, there is a point in time when we know that we are no longer under the influence. Somewhat differently than the beginning of such a change in awareness, that point of change from the psychedelic experience to our typical level of awareness may have a confusing or fuzzy element where we can less precisely identify the moment when that change occurred. But over a brief period of time, we know that at some point during that time interval a change in our state of awareness did in fact occur.

I further contend that there are certain changes in our states of consciousness that have a consistent and identifiable feeling wherein we know that our awareness has undergone a change in state. I offer the example of meditation as one such experience. There may be gradual changes to consciousness as we enter deeper and deeper levels of meditation. But at some point, there can be a change where we know because of a difference in how we feel and perceive, that there has been a change in the state of our awareness. A few other examples include the knowledge that we are in a lucid, wakeful dream; that we have attained a discrete change of state upon realizing we are in an astral projection; or in those instances when we experience what has become known as a near-death experience (NDE). During those events, our awareness has a strong certainty that we are in fact experiencing something uniquely different from normal consciousness.

Another element of this “knowing” is the fact that, if we have previously experienced that altered state, we will recognize it as being identical to the previous experience of that state of mind. In other words, if we are able to have an astral projection, we will recognize that it is the same state of consciousness as it was the previous time that we experienced astral projection. The same is true for each of the various states of consciousness that have just been mentioned. Each of them holds a uniqueness which is identifiable.

That uniqueness can present as identifiable levels of consciousness. And between those levels, there appears to be no consciousness whatsoever. By that I mean that the changes within our awareness are discrete quantum changes in our awareness.

Another claim I wish to make is that, when discussing our experiences of various levels of consciousness, other people can identify what it is that is being described, and they can have a certainty that they themselves have also experienced the level of consciousness that is being described. Essentially, descriptions of these levels of consciousness can be shared and understood by others.

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