Our experience of consciousness is, on one level, what happens when we wake up in the morning. But what is higher consciousness, and is it something that is worth developing? At the most basic level, consciousness is awareness and when we talk about humans being conscious, we mean they are self-aware in a way that animals are not.
But when we speak of ‘higher consciousness’, there are other levels of awareness that come into play which are normally lacking in our thought processes. It implies a spiritual awareness, or an understanding that we are more than just a solitary physical body and its associated electro-chemical brain processes.
One way to expand consciousness is through music and dance. From the trance dance of the Bushmen to the whirling dervishes of Sufi mysticism, Hare Krishna temple dances or even ecstatic gospel singing, we humans are able to experience ecstatic states of awareness through sound and body motion.
This ecstatic experience evokes the spiritual dimensions of our being, and hence its appeal for mystical experience. Even in the irreverent environment of the Trance party we may at times be able to reach a level of awareness where we experience a transpersonal state of consciousness, becoming aware of ourselves as part of a greater whole.
This ecstatic state of awareness is much like what Zen Buddhists refer to as “Kensho”, an “awakening” that is not a permanent state of enlightenment, but rather “a clear glimpse of the true nature of creation”. Satori on the other hand is the Zen Buddhist term for permanent enlightenment. The word literally means “to understand” and refers to a state of deep or lasting enlightenment.
Satori can be found in every moment of life. It is inherent in our experience of everyday activities, and to know Satori is to find the essence of being in the moment. Satori is achieved once you perceive the “True-Nature” of things in every moment.
So does that mean that we can achieve enlightenment through partying? Well maybe, but more likely you’ll need something a trifle more challenging than coughing up a few rands for your party ticket and whatever additives you imbibe. There have been many mystics throughout history, and their example shows that it usually requires a lengthy period of spiritual discipline to attain lasting enlightenment.
The experience of Kensho can be likened to the English term epiphany. An epiphany is a feeling, a sudden realisation or understanding of the essence or meaning of something. It’s like finding the last piece of a puzzle and suddenly seeing the whole picture. This new information or experience might be insignificant by itself, but it illuminates a deeper understanding of reality.
Back in the world of dance, the right music mix can lead the dancer to experience the higher levels of his/her own being. As we dance, we can loose our ego awareness and become conscious of our energy body – a period of Kensho that illuminates consciousness.
The energy body is an interconnected system of physiological, psychological and vibrational energy fields that are constantly interacting with each other. This field is for most people invisible, although some psychically talented individuals can see the shimmering layers of these vibrational fields as they extend into higher dimensions of existence.
The energy body consists of an aura (energy field), the chakras (energy centres) and the meridians (energy pathways). Just as we eat to nourish the body, so the energy body feeds off natural radiant energy. The human energy field ‘breathes’ this energy through the chakras while the meridians distribute it throughout the body.
Basking in the energy field of music, the energy body senses the vibrational information that flows through the sound. For example, music affects the emotional body so that we experience different emotions depending on the nature of the music.
The energy field is tangible – you can feel it by tuning in to it. Try moving your hands over someone’s back as they lie prone on their stomachs, about 5-10cm from the skin and you should be able to feel the vortices of the chakras. Energy vortices are particularly noticeable in the palms of the hands, which you will discover if you ever swing a pendulum over the centre of your palm.
Awareness of the energy body is a step towards lasting enlightenment. However it is necessary to bring whatever insights you gain through your dance experience back into the everyday world if they are to be really useful and have long-term effect.
Higher consciousness is an expanded awareness of who we are and how we fit into the overall pattern of the universe. By clearing and focusing your mind while dancing, you can experience a higher consciousness that will help you on your path towards enlightenment. Ain’t that something worth partying for?
Originally published in BPM magazine.