The Shift to Expanded Consciousness

When I experience wonder, beauty, or amazement, I often feel my consciousness shift. This is both startling and familiar. In one way, the experience is a shock because it enlarges my sense of self. It wakes me from my ordinary way of seeing and propels me into a different mode of perception. But in another way, it feels like home.

I may be walking along, preoccupied with my thoughts, and suddenly see the brilliant bloom of tulips sprouting in my yard, a color burst of pure brilliance;


I’m listening to the radio (do people listen to the radio anymore? It must have been Pandora), enjoying the music when a song comes on that transports me back to a tender moment in my youth;


I’m sitting in meditation, and I have one of these rare times when the ordinary falls away and I glimpse what the masters have been talking about; time lengthens or stops or both; my body feels both solid and weightless; I sense what being-ness is when words and thoughts are absent.

In each of these cases, I have experienced the shift from ordinary consciousness to expanded consciousness, where the quality of my attention is markedly different – deeper, fuller, imbued with intensity. It is not a switch from dark to light. It is an altered state, a ballooning out into a larger circle where everything in ordinary consciousness is still present, but much more is also available.

In this expanded state, I am more connected to my higher self, to others and to the world. My perceptive abilities are opened to a greater range of impressions and insights.

I spend much of my time in ordinary consciousness, so the shift to expanded consciousness can be startling, even surreal. But after a few seconds, I recognize that this enlarged state feels familiar, that it is my true nature, not the confined version of reality that occupied my attention a moment ago.

I try to extend these periods of open awareness, to spend more time living from this deeper, richer place, but I rarely hold on to them for long. Within a short time, I am absorbed again in the details of the day, and I fall back into ordinary consciousness. 

I lament the falling back, but it’s normal. Our attention has a flexible focusing capacity, allowing us to concentrate narrowly on small details and open to expansive states. The key is to operate the focusing lens intentionally and avoid being distracted mindlessly.

It’s important to remember that there is always a subtle pressure from the ego self to avoid expanded consciousness. The expanded state is intimate and spacious, with many possibilities and few boundaries. The ego self does not like to spend time in this space. It feels too free and exposed. It makes her nervous because it is outside the safety zone she has built to protect us. 

My ego self looks for ways to distract me when I am in expanded consciousness. She will remind me of an event I must put on the calendar or an urgent online search I need to do (urgent, really?). Or she will raise an uncomfortable sensation in my awareness that draws my attention and causes me to contract.

I’m not upset with my ego self. She is looking out for me in her own way, expending energy to keep me safe. I try to recognize when this is happening and gently tell her, “It’s okay. We’re going to hang out here for a while. You don’t have to worry. We’ll be alright.”

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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