The Consciousness Connection
Psychedelic based therapies are currently on the rise in several countries with what are being presented as seemingly astounding results, but why they actually work is still shrouded in a great deal of mystery. Through the use of substances such as psilocybin found in certain mushrooms, and ayahuasca, a tea brewed from a combination of rainforest plants, people are finding relief from depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, fear of death and dying and highly addictive habits and substances. Since we as a race have struggled with these maladies for centuries, discovering the effects of these medicines seems truly amazing however, the discovery is less brand new material, and more an outcome of our collective awareness having only recently decided to re-introduce plant medicines as an acceptable form of healing therapy.
In a sense, we are transitioning from a place of fear about these substances, into a place of wonderment, but the movement begs a question.
Why were we afraid of them in the first place?
Part of the reason for our resistance to plant medicines as therapy, is due to the extreme rhetoric that was created around the use of substances like cannabis, prior to it's initial prohibition in the 1930's, and LSD in the late 1960's before it was made a controlled substance. Even though their use as healing medicine goes back for many centuries of human history, the fear of "hallucinogenic" plants and derivatives generated by smear campaigns in our last century, was so intense in the public arena that the Nixon administration was celebrated in 1971 for inaugurating a "war" on these and other so-called "drugs".
The American Public has been heavily conditioned over nearly a century to see cannabis, mushrooms, LSD and any other substance that conveys similar effects as violent, terrifying and insanity-producing. Through this lens, control made obvious sense. Even the idea that this caste of plants (hallucinogens) causes hallucinations is a verification of the framing that has been placed upon these substances, also more kindly known as entheogens.
To hallucinate means to experience something that is not real. While it is true that many people who use entheogenic substances such as psilocybin or ayahuasca may see visions or have experiences that others cannot see or participate in, it is precisely these encounters that create the effect of the healing journey. When you have traveled to a distant physical destination, just because others can't see the things you describe witnessing in your travels, doesn't make them any less real, does it? Well the obvious answer is "no", but did you know that the answer to this question is the same, whether we are talking about a physical or mental journey? It's true, and the reason for that, as well as the healing that comes from such journeys, is directly linked to consciousness.
But what is consciousness exactly?
In one way, you could look at consciousness as the energy that enlivens you. Quite literally, whenever your eyes are open or you are aware of yourself, we call that being conscious! When we are fast asleep, or in some other way not aware of ourselves, we are considered to be unconscious. If we are not deeply asleep, we can still be aware of our activities during rest, which is why we remember our dreams! Take just a moment to ponder this idea - wherever we are in awareness, there we have consciousness, there, we are! This applies to places both physical, and mental.
To take the thought a little deeper, lets think about what happens if we become unconscious somehow and are transported during that time to a different place. When we awaken in the new place, we will only have the conscious awareness of being in one place and then being in another, and we won't be aware of how we got to where we are now. This brings us to another very important concept about consciousness that begins with a question - while we are unconscious, do the things that happen to us really happen?
The answer to this question gives us a very important clue about consciousness!
To answer this question we can look at the idea we have been pondering. If in an unconscious state we happened to be transported say, to the hospital; though we may not remember the actual events of the transport with conscious awareness, we can verify that they happened in physical reality once we realize that we have been taken somewhere different. So the answer is that regardless of whether we are conscious or not, things continue to happen, life continues to go on. This is important because it allows us to see that reality, whether we are aware of it or not, is continuing around us at all times. When we are conscious, we are aware of at least certain portions of it, but we are never aware of all of it at once. What's more, we sometimes rest from our awareness, in a state of unconsciousness - a retreat from conscious awareness, while consciousness itself continues to exist and expand.
When our bodies rest, but our minds are still aware, are we still having a real experience?
A mental journey is very similar to a physical one, except the body stays in the same place in physical space, while the mind a.k.a., the awareness, goes somewhere else. A good example of this is when we are aware in a dream. Our bodies are lying somewhere appearing unconscious, but our awareness is actually still active within the dreamscape. Now just because you cannot visit this place physically, who is to say this dreamscape is not a real place? Many people unaware of each other, have reported being in similar places or situations in dreams. So though these places may not be navigable in the physical space, they seem to be accessible to a variety of individuals in the dream space, indicating that this is a place where different awareness's can visit, or gather without their bodily vehicles.
If anyone has deep experience with meditation, they will be able to say with certainty that meditation is a vehicle through which we can mentally journey to other energetic places while our physical body remains stationary. While doing this type of mindful mental travel, as opposed to simply falling asleep, we can both travel and remain aware of the journey and the destination. With practice, we may even be able to direct our awareness to a particular destination within the energetic reality.
When I do my daily meditation practice for instance, and I am able to bypass the constant mental chatter that is always present at the surface of the mind, I can go into mental spaces that I am aware of, but not actively cognizing or creating. In these places, I may hear messages or see visions that help me throughout my day or in my life in general.
It is clear to me from these journeys, that I am accessing real information which would not otherwise be available in the physical environment.
In both the meditation or dream experiences, we can think of the consciousness as riding around inside of the body, but getting out of the body entirely to travel to a destination that is not physically accessible. When done in a focused manner, the awareness is capable of performing this task while maintaining awareness of the mode of travel and the journey itself.
In a journey with plant medicines (entheogenic substances such as psilocybin), the medicine can be seen as another type of vehicle. You can think about it as a tour guide operated by a driver that is aware of all of the different places you can go in the area and even what you can do to maximize your experience. When you create an intention, it acts like a set of directions that inform the driver who will take you to that specific place during the journey. In some cases, the consciousness cannot always remain aware of the travel, but the driver (the medicine) will alert the awareness when it is time to focus and pay attention to the scenery.
The driver in this example has its own kind of consciousness which is more connected in a sense to the ever evolving and expanding consciousness of the universe, because it does not have a pre-conceived reality that obscures the vision of what is. This is also why it can act as a type of guide throughout your journey, as navigating the entirety of the universe without assistance is a daunting task that will almost always end in confusion and misunderstanding. Plant medicines often come to us as nurturing spirits, to make these difficult journeys easier and more understandable. Their guidance also allows us to become more adequately exposed to the healing frequencies that cause so much of the amazement for our medical professionals.
It is important to understand in these examples that having awareness of consciousness is a special kind of evolutionary talent that humans have acquired through countless millennia of evolution, it is also something we are still perfecting as we continue to evolve. With each new cycle of growth, the human collective proceeds to acquire knowledge of both the physical and metaphysical (intangible/energetic) worlds, and as we do, we expand our ability to perceive and understand what IS. We do this through the acquisition and experiential understanding of new and ever more expansive practices of living. You can see examples of this type of evolutionary growth most easily in creative industries. Singers are ever expanding vocal range and ability for example, and dancers continuously utilize their physical bodies in ways never before seen with each new generation.
It isn't that these things were never possible before, its is just that as we continue to grow and evolve our understanding, we also continue to expand into the limitless possibilities of life which already exist. If you have followed me so far on this journey of understanding the question of consciousness, perhaps now you may get a glimpse of realization about what it truly IS. When we are aware and we are conscious, we feel a sense of ourselves and who we are. We can define ourselves, ambulate here and there, philosophize, create, commune, and many other things. When we are unconscious, our bodies are often completely sedentary, not moving or maintaining any awareness of what may be happening in any reality whether physical or energetic. Yet what IS continues to be. When we discover something new, it is not that it is actually new, but simply that our awareness of it is new. When we discovered it, it already was in existence but we did not realize it or recognize it in the way we do once we are aware. If we can humble ourselves enough, we may be able to recognize at this point, that we are of consciousness, aware of being conscious a large portion of the time, but we are not the same eternally conscious awareness that continuously maintains existence.
We were forged in this physical reality by consciousness, but we are yet evolving into the sea of continuous awareness.
Remember that when we make a discovery, we discover something that already exists. The truth is that there are many things in existence we are not aware of because we are not all conscious, we are only partially conscious. Consciousness IS. It is as simple, and as complicated as that. Though we often try, we can not argue what is at any given moment. We say things like "that shouldn't have happened" or "you don't deserve that", but it did happen an