by Alan Davidson
We are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in consciousness and just about time, you read the news and in the world there’s a lot going on and we really need to pull ourselves up by our boot straps.
So what is Enlightenment? Well, that’s a very loaded question and it’s one that has fascinated people for thousands of years. I just want to spend a little bit of time explaining what I mean by Enlightenment. One of my teachers is Ken Wilber and he talks about these “changing temporary states” of unity consciousness, of joy, of bliss, of peace and how we take those temporary flashes and transform them into actual “permanent traits of character.”
So by temporary states, what do I mean by that? Well, here are a couple of examples of different ways that we all have possibilities for that portal, that door to open to unity consciousness. Now certainly athletes talk about those moments of crystal flow, when the dance dances the dancer. The race runs the runner. And I remember my friend Richard Strozzi Heckler, who was one of my first body centered teachers and lives in Petaluma, California. It was 1964 and he was running in the Pan Am Games in Mexico City, which was a pre-qualification for the Olympics. So he was at the top of his physical form and as he was running his heat he had an out of body experience.
So he actually sensed himself completely above the race looking down on himself and the other racers as they were running. He actually won the heat. So the minute he crossed the finish line he was slammed back into his body and all these people were coming around him and congratulating him, there was lots of enthusiasm and excitement and he was like “but something weird just happened to me during this race and I’ve never experienced it before.” And it was in trying to describe and understand that out of body experience that turned Richard toward psychology and ultimately to meditation to just be able to have the words to understand what had happened to him. And that put him on an entire lifelong path of being a Body-Mind-Spirit teacher.
But certainly martial artists, dancers, athletes all talk about these moments where everything comes together and there’s beautiful gracious flow, because everything seems perfect. And for the rest of us there are moments of watching a sunset, or looking at a fire, watching a candle, where there are blissful moments of joy. We really do have a sense of being greater than ourselves or something other than ourselves or something exquisitely beautiful about the life we live and life we’ve been given. But the thing about these temporary states is that they shift; they change and one moment it’s all exquisite and beautiful and in the next moment we’re back at our ordinary lives.
Ken Wilber talks about the process of shifting from a temporary state and making that a permanent trait. Religious history, spiritual history is filled with beings, priest and nuns and spiritual teachers who have achieved those permanent stages of enlightenment. The Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tsu, Lord Krishna; I would say Gandhi, Mother Teresa, certainly the Dalai Lama. They’re all people who through their own devotional practice were able to transcend the ego in a permanent way and then at different levels begin to reintegrate that ego back into a non-dual consciousness or spiritual consciousness, holistic consciousness. When we talk about these stages of development, how we go from an ordinary state of mind into a transcendent, a glorious unity consciousness state of mind. We talk about stages of enlightenment, stages of development. I call it Rainbow Rising.
There’s a lot of serious study that’s gone into the human development, the human growth of spiritual development and enlightenment. I like to think about it as that spectrum of light, spectrum of color, that spectrum of consciousness. Abraham Maslow was one of the first psychologists to talk about the levels of human development. It’s very easy to see in babies, children, how they do develop and grow. But then there was sort of this understanding that we reach adulthood and sort of stopped growing psychologically. Now the body proceeds to move to old age but there wasn’t a clear sense that we as adults continue to grow and evolve. And Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology was the first to really point that out.
Now this is Ken Wilber’s interpretation of the different levels that adults and human beings go through, here’s Maslow’s five levels. Jean Gebser is another one, Piaget is another Western psychologist but paralleled very quickly with Aurobindo who is an Indian mystic. And then a lot of people are fairly familiar with spiral dynamics and the work of Claire Graves which is now made popular by Don Beck. Robert Keegan is a Harvard psychologist and then Jane Loevinger and one of her students, Susanne Cook-Grueter. Susanne is the one who’s done the most statistical studies of people who have begun to dance around what we call second-tier consciousness, or you could begin to say enlightened consciousness.
So there are statistical studies being done by people who are self-actualizing and having these peak experiences and taking those peak experiences and growing them into a permanent state of consciousness. There are many, many paths that talk about how embodying this personal transformation: martial arts, tai chi, Yoga and its eight limbs, are full-fledged Body-Mind-Spirit integration practices.
Ken Wilber certainly has his Body-Mind-Spirit-Shadow practice. My work has been inspired by many of these people, in particular the somatic, the body aspect of body mind spirit. What I introduce in Body Brilliance are the Five Vital IQs which are our physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual IQ’s.
So it’s when we begin to work with our physical, our emotional, our mental, moral, and spiritual intelligences and begin to integrate them and unite them that we have a real chance for transcendence; moving from those temporary flashes of enlightenment into ordinary self. But here’s the thing: all of the different practices, all the spiritual traditions talk about the importance of one essential thing that helps us to spiritually grow and to transcend.
That is important of stillness and the cultivation of presence.
And so no matter what practice you have, whether you’re a Nia dancer, or a tai chi practitioner, or kung fu artist, an Aikido practitioner, a Zen meditator~ all things point to developing this quality of stillness in the body, stillness in the heart, stillness in the mind, and the stillness in the spirit, or stillness of that energetic flow of energy through the body. Our ability to be present to it, no matter what’s happening.
So if you are grounded in a sense of stillness and presence it actually helps you be more effective in your life. And that’s where a Body-Mind-Spirit practice is so helpful and I know in Nia when we dance there’s always the question “What are you sensing?” Right now as you are reading, “What are you sensing?” You feel your hips in the chair, can you feel the tips of your elbows, can you feel the back of your ears? So you can ground your attention in the sensations of your body and allow what’s happening with the sensation and be a part of your presence.
So one of the things that I think is so important to be clear on before I begin any exercise is “What’s my intention?” Whether it’s what’s my intention for the next 90 minutes, or what’s my intention for the day, what’s the greater intention for my life. So as long as I’m clear and connected to my intention but I’m being mindful of what my greater vision of my life is then I can gauge very effectively what’s happening, what am I doing with the sensations of my life? Is it aligned with my greater sense or is it taking me away from that? And that’s where that moral intelligence, that quality of discernment, that awareness of skill or action is very helpful. Am I on track or not? Am I more connected to source or am I allowing myself to be pulled away and absorbed in the world of time and space?