An example of how I use this, is when I am doing shamanic journeying with people.
Going through the different aspects of experience gives a full picture of what is present for that person and allows us to access deep and profound meditative states together.
- How does your body feel?
- How would you describe your heart? What emotions are present?
- How does your mind feel? Can we create more space for what is here?
- What wants to be expressed?
One of the things that is worth saying explicitly is that the process of opening or awakening will often be the opposite of the end goal – i.e. it may be a stressful and intense process, or we may have to go through something difficult in order to become a more peaceful, connected or awake being.
The fear or the pain is the barrier that is standing between us and the more open, connected way of being. If the barrier wasn’t there, we would already be open and connected to the thing on the other side.
A big awakening or shift will go through all these different stages, too:
Body: We need to go through a physical change to create space in our beings, this could include a physical process like crying, moving the body, relaxing or allowing energy to move through us
Heart: We need to trust that we know what is present for us, without getting fixed ideas about what it means, so that we can connect with it in this moment
Mind: We need to build an understanding of what is happening in experience, integrate insights into our world view and apply language or a working model to it.
NB: Lots of people stop here and get stuck. This mental understanding is a process, not an end-point. We want to focus on creating clarity and spaciousness, rather than concreting insights in in a fixed and permanent way. If you tend to get stuck here, journalling is a really good way to keep mental understanding flowing in a productive way.
Soul: We want to integrate this into how we flow with life. What does this experience mean to you personally? How would you describe what this means in your own words? What do you believe it says about you, the world and others? How can you use it as an expression of your being?
Awakening & Integration
It is only once an awakening has filtered through all the layers of our being that it becomes fully integrated. Often it has to go through several iterations of each layer before it is somewhat complete or stable.
Here is an example of how an awakening might happen in the different layers.
Body: Feeling a big energy explosion in your root chakra
Heart: Knowing that this energy is connecting you to something bigger than you
Mind: Using language to name it as a kundalini awakening, writing down or journaling about what you think is happening, reading about other people’s experiences
Soul: Connecting with a sense of aliveness or sexuality that it has opened for you, investigating any shadows or difficult emotions it brings up, considering and exploring what you believe about kundalini energy and how it connects you to the world and others
If you want more detail about the sorts of experiences that can open up with each area then I’d recommend looking at my True Nature Framework.
The awakening process happens on different levels, in different parts, in different intensities and over different time-scales.
The different intensities and time-scales overlap and intersect and we could be in several different places at once, depending on where we are focusing.
For example, you could be going through something very heart-opening and emotionally intense in wider life, navigating a big awakening that you are very much in the body phase of and needing to work mainly on the mind section while in a specific practice session.
These are all interrelated – you can’t separate them out and all the parts impact and contain each other in every moment.
The model of the concentric circles isn’t intended as a reflection of reality. In my experience reality is more like a continually moving, 4D psychedelic image. There isn’t a way that we can ultimately make sense of it or land on anything fixed or concrete. This insolvability of the process of life is ultimately what allows anything to exist.
With this in mind, the model that I have created could easily go the other way around, with body being in the centre and soul being on the outside. Or be presented as a flow diagram that progresses from one to the next.
Rather than getting fixated on what the metaphysical truth is, you can use a model to allow you to feel into different areas of your experience with more clarity and sensitivity. It is an expression of the mind – it is not something concrete or final but a tool for deepening our understanding of the world and ourselves.
It is worth recognising that the way you present the model will affect how you practice and experience life.
All my practices are built on a sense of compassionate presence, with the purpose of building a healthy, empowered expression of our beings in the world that is connected to the mystery of life while also being grounded in shared reality. This is reflected in my approach of putting the body first and keeping things simple.
There are almost endless models with endless levels of detail you could create about how the different aspects interact. The model that you use will impact the way you see the world and they way you teach and practice, which will impact the result.
If you put the mind first, you’ll end up with a very different working model that will create a different experience and way of looking at the world.
It is worth experimenting with the different ways of understanding these aspects of experience and noticing what works best for you.
The outcome of a positive awakening might look something like this.
Body: more jhanic energy present
Heart: more connected to contentment
Mind: understanding the conditions that help create this state and the limitations of it
Soul: embracing our personal expression of this state to support a deepening of practice and life
It may be that the process unfolds in a different order for us. But my experience is that it needs to go through all the stages or it won’t stick around.
For example, we can realise insights in our mind but if we’re not willing to open to feeling the emotional impact of them in the body we will just cycle through them again and again.
Or by bypassing the heart we will create world-views that oppress huge parts of experience.
Or if we feel things in our emotions but aren’t willing or able to be open-minded about the truth of a situation we will get trapped in the naive emotional story of it, or feel depressed and ashamed of ourselves.
It requires for all the parts to be aligned and included for the insight and change to be realised. This can take a bit of time to process.
When we consciously allow and incorporate all aspects of our being in this way, awakening can happen incredibly quickly.
This process can be incredibly challenging and painful – opening up to parts of ourselves that we shut down because they weren’t safe or acceptable to have or express in the world.
This is essentially what awakening is – opening to the parts of us that we (as a species, as collectives and as individuals) have had to keep closed to or separate from in order to survive and fit in in the world.
It can be really hideous going through the fear, judgement and pain that keeps these parts closed in the first place.
But when we practice together in a safe and connected way, with people who have already opened these parts of themselves, this process is inherently much easier.
When we set up shared practice in the right way we are lending each other the capacity to open to these new parts of ourselves:
- in our energy bodies
- through our physical presence
- in our hearts and the connection we feel there
- through the open acceptance and non-judgement in our minds
- and the ineffable connection and sense of meaning that ties us all together in our soul
When I am journeying with people, people regularly report various expressions of connections that go far beyond what our current scientific understanding of the world could make sense of.
I hope at some point this will be proven to reveal a more interconnected side of reality that I believe will be more nourishing and meaningful for people to feel part of.
For now, if this feels a bit woo for you then I’m sure we can all agree that sharing difficult experiences with people who we trust and feel safe with is infinitely easier and more rewarding than sharing them with people we don’t trust and who might use it against us.
Ultimately the way we set practice up and the ways we practice together is one of the biggest things that will impact our capacity to awaken parts of us and deepen our experience. As much as anything else in practice we need to be cultivating healthy, meaningful and supportive practice spaces.