Levels of Awareness

Higher Consciousness

When Buddha was asked who he was he responded, “I am awake”. He was referring to the higher consciousness that is usually available to people. All of us may have had one or teo glimpses of this, often described as being at one, or a feeling of unity.

Fully Awake

In this situation every impression is vivid, full of life and colour. We are not dwelling in our ownm thoughts or imaginings, but we are awake to what is happening around us. There is a connection with each of the senses; hearing, touch, taste, sight, smell.

Waking Sleep

A common situation: we are engaged in the various activities of life, but without being really present. It is like being on autopilot.. we travel from one place to another, but are unaware of almost everything that took place in between.

Dreaming Sleep

When we are asleep at night we may have sweet dreams or nightmares. Whilst in the dream it seems completely real. Sometimes when we wake up the dream can leave an after-taste. Yet even so, when we wake up, we know it was a dream.

Deep Sleep

If the mind is troubled deep sleep can be elusive, but really nothing could be more natural. All our hopes, our ffears, triumphs and disaters, our personalities and so on come to rest. We know nothing more than it was a good sleep.

Levels of Awareness

When we reflect on those people we think are wise, one of the things that is often remarked upon is their alertness to the subtleties of the situation, of their sense of life behind their eyes. They are perceptive or curious, and see things we had, perhaps, missed.

This leads us to consider what it means to be awake and more aware. So much of our time is spent in the circling thoughts of the mind, rehearsing for future events (which don’t stick to the script anyway!!!) or re-enacting past events (as if that could change history).  In this state we miss the life we are living now, missing the cues and clues which would allow us to live more wisely.

The following framework gives us a useful perspective on the levels of our awareness, many of which we experience every day. Through understanding awareness and exploring some practises we may be able to better understand the changes and effects awareness can have.

The Concept

It is clear that we spend a lot of our day on “auto-pilot” or in a state of “waking sleep”. We travel from one place to another completely unaware of anything that took place in between. The mind is full of imaginings and thoughts and meanwhile life passes us by unaware. Perhaps we are in another time or place, re-enacting past events or rehearsing the future.

When fully awake impressions are more vivid, knowledge pours in the eyes, ears and other senses; we are awake to what is actually  happening around us around us and this helps us free ourselves from our own imaginings.

The final state of awareness was that of “higher consciousness”. This includes the state of being fully awake but is something more. That something is the appreciation of the underlying unity, peace or stillness, which contains all the events taking place in the world.


Once a student asked Buddha, “Are you the Messiah?”

“No” answered Buddha,

“Then are you a healer?”

“No” Buddha replied,

“Then are you a teacher?”

“No, I am not a teacher”

“Then what are you?” asked the student, exasperated,

“I am awake” Buddha replied.


When any drowsy one wakes and springs up, him the nurse imagination beguiles, saying @Go to sleep my darling, for I will not let anyone disturb thy slumber’ But you, if you are awake, will tear up your slumber by the roots like a thirsty man who heard the sound of running water.                      Rumi, Mathnawi Book 6

When the soul contemplates in herself and by herself then she passes into another world, the religion of purity and eternity, and immortality, and unchangeableness, which are her kindred, and with them she ever lives, when she is by herself and is not let or hindered; then she ceases from her erring ways, and being in communion with the unchanging is unchanging. And this state of the soul is called wisdom.                                                        Plato: Phaedo 79

Source: Mindfulness Course, Tunbridge Wells  2013


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