Recommended Meditation – Through 4 States of Consciousness

By Dr. Keith Witt
October 8, 2011
woman_meditating Physician/new-thought writer Larry Dossey once said in an interview with Kelly Howell on a Theater of the Mind podcast, “The body loves meditation.” By all measures he’s right—lower blood pressure, stress reduction, sounder sleep, accelerated development, greater equanimity, enhanced empathy, and deeper self-awareness. In fact, the ultimate goal of most meditative traditions is to live every waking and sleeping moment in mindful awareness. The world overflows with fun, effective meditation practices. One cool modern approach is from my friends Eric and Patti at Check them out. People love their program and their enthusiasm.

If you like to meditate, here’s one you might enjoy.

I do a lot of meditations, and one of my favorites travels through four different states of consciousness—gross, subtle, causal, and nondual. I learned these states from my friend, Ken Wilber (Integral Psychology’s originator), and we’re mostly on the same page with what they are, though I don’t think he’d entirely agree with some of my definitions:
  • Gross consciousness—feeling everything in you, around you, and in the universe, including your own body, constantly arising in the present moment out of nothingness.
  • Subtle consciousness—experiencing all objects (from tiny grains of sand, to towering mountains, to clouds across the sky) as precious, unique expressions of spirit arising.
  • Causal consciousness—relaxing into complete nothingness, emptiness (Śūnyatā” in Sanskrit). Myamoto Musashi called this emptiness the “void,” and ended his famous warrior text, A Book of Five Rings, with: “In the void is virtue and no evil. Wisdom has existence. Principle has existence. The Way has existence. Spirit is nothingness.”
  • Non-Dual consciousness—feeling the cosmos as totally full, present, unique, and connected, flowing constantly from absolute nothingness.
In many Hindu traditions, there are seven chakras, or radiating energy centers from perineum (base of your spine), to pelvis, to solar plexus, to heart, to throat, to forehead, to crown (I like to extend upward one more to the universe as pure consciousness). The practice I’m describing expands the first chakra at the base of our torso—the physical universe arising out of pure emptiness.

This meditation is easy to do.

In this meditation, I recommend you find a beautiful spot in nature, and sit comfortably with your hands loosely on your knees or in your lap—whichever feels best. Breathe easily and deeply into your abdomen for a count of four and breathe out smoothly for a count of four. Do this for five breaths. You might want to use your electronics to put on music that feels sacred to you, as I occasionally do when I meditate. Currently my favorite is 10,000 Miles by Mary Chapin Carpenter, but I’ve used other music over the years from Dire Straits’ Local Hero, to Bruce Springsteen’s Land of Hope and Dreams. Kelly Howell’s Theater of the Mind meditation tapes are wonderful for this. With the music washing through you, direct your awareness through the following four states: Gross consciousness. Look out over nature with a sense of unity with the material world, gravity, light, the cosmos, and the expanding universe. Relax your body, and breathe down into your pelvis. Breathe out smoothly and easily. Take five such breaths and then extend your focus all around you. Feel total awareness of everything constantly arising out of complete nothingness. Savor this awareness for five breaths. Subtle Consciousness. Now feel every object in the universe, including you, as a miracle of creation flowing constantly from emptiness. Every atom and nebulae is a perfect expression of God. Savor these infinite expressions for five breaths. Causal Consciousness. Relax into the pure emptiness from which everything is constantly being born. Be the expansive ocean of timeless emptiness for five breaths. Non-Dual Consciousness. Anchored in emptiness, feel creation’s endless flow into complete and utter fullness, alive and chaotic, but always seeking coherence. Feel the bliss of emptiness and fullness simultaneousy arising in the living fabric of time, including and transcending time. Extend the feeling for five breaths. Keep cycling through the four experiences as long as you’d like. I’ve found that regularly shifting from one state to another amplifies all of them. As I’ve done this meditation through each of the eight chakras, I’ve found that the different states have unique flavors, except that nothingness—Causal consciousness or sunyata—always feels the same. I mentioned this to Ken Wilber once when I was visiting him in Denver. He was escorting me down the hall and, when I asked him about it, he stopped, smiled, and said, “Each chakra is different, but pure emptiness is always the same—pure emptiness.” In future Blogs I’ll describe similar meditations for the other seven chakras, as well as others you might enjoy. Please share the ones you like—and your own favorite practices—with friends. It’s good for all of us. The body loves meditation.  

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