A place for people interested in introspection, self awareness, mindfulness, meditation and training the mind to abide in a state that is free from the constant flow of meaningless chatter, mind theatrics, and discursive thought.

Accessing Higher States of Consciousness

Accessing higher states of consciousness is often mistakenly believed to be something only mystics, sages, monks, gurus and shaman are capable of, but the truth is, we all are capable of accessing higher states of consciousness. All of us have had some experience with higher states at some point in our lives. Metaphorically speaking, we are all bouncing along like a wave in an ocean of consciousness, constantly in motion between various states, some higher, some lower than the previous ones, and sometimes just shifting sideways on even ground. Depression is a very low state of consciousness compared to joy. Gratitude is a much higher state than envy. Deep concentration, intense learning, or problem solving are much higher states of consciousness than wallowing in self pity, self doubt, or being lost in fantastical thinking and daydreaming. Some states are driven by emotions and others by mental or thought activity. Since thoughts and emotions react and interact with each other, both have easy influence over the lower states. The higher states tend to be more immune from internal or external influences than lower states. Higher states are governed by attention and concentration. The lower states are prone to distraction and wandering minds. They are frequently immersed in self destructive or self impeding behaviours, operating from outside of conscious awareness, by the sub-consciously driven Ego.

The states of consciousness that the mystics, sages, monks, gurus and shaman refer to are at the upper end of our consciousness spectrum. They are highly stable, free of non-essential thought and mental activity, abiding in pure, calm, sublime, tranquillity and equanimity. When the mind is no longer wandering off reliving past events or imaging future ones, it becomes fully immersed in the present moment, regardless of the pleasantness or unpleasantness that exists in that moment. This mind is free from the habit of passing judgements on everything, instead, simply observing from a place of detachment. These states are completely free from Ego, because Ego itself is nothing more than a collection of thoughts that a person has about their self, so if the words and pictures in the mind fall silent, so does the Ego.

As elusive as these higher states may sound, they are not as rare and difficult to access as they may seem, and odds are that you have already experienced glimpses of them before. If you have ever had a moment that 'took your breath away', such as seeing a falling star, or seeing some magnificent wonder of nature, you have experienced a state of higher consciousness. At that moment, you were not thinking about your grocery list, or the local gossip, or worrying about tomorrow, or feeling fear or anxiety, or any other lower state of being. You were fully engaged in the present moment, and at peace with that moment.

Artist, musicians, and athletes access some of these higher states routinely. Artists can become deeply absorbed, almost entranced in their work. Intense focus on detail and perfection causes them to become so deeply connected with their artwork that nothing else exists at that moment.

Creativity is a higher state of consciousness, and creativity is a manifestation of inspiration. Merriam Webster defines inspiration as: "a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation; the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions". The origin of the word inspiration is 'in spirit' from the Latin word inspīrāre, which in turn is from spīrāre which means "to breathe".  It's not hard to see the connection between spirituality, breath meditation, and higher states of consciousness.

Musicians not only rely on creativity but must also have strong intense focus and concentration while engaged in their craft. If they allow their mind to wander off into a daydream, they can quickly lose concentration and drop their rhythm, or miss a note, and their music will be negatively impacted.

Athletes, who are always looking for a competitive edge, have come to recognise a phenomenon they call 'Being in the Zone'. Wordnik.com defines 'In the Zone' as "a mental state of focused concentration on the performance of an activity, in which one dissociates oneself from distracting or irrelevant aspects of one's environment." What this translates to is, being fully immersed in the present moment without the distractions of a wandering mind. Meditation and Mindfulness have become routine practice for many athletes who want to learn to stay 'in the zone'.

Common to all of these higher states, the creativity of the artist, the intense concentration of the musician, the athlete's 'zone', and the states the mystics speak of, is that they are all rooted in the present moment, and operate outside of conventional or fantastical thought. The higher the state of consciousness, the more rooted in the present moment, the less influenced by the Ego, and the quieter and more peaceful the mind becomes.

All of the lower states of consciousness share some common traits as well. They are Ego driven, disconnected from reality in varying degrees, and the mind is almost continually being engaged in endless loops of mental chatter and monkey mind theatrics. The lower the state, the greater the disconnect from reality, and the bigger the Ego. An example of this can be seen in thought disorders such as psychopathic or narcissistic behaviours, both of which are associated with 'big egos’ and a disconnect from reality, and both are clearly very low states of existence. The implications of learning how to gain control over our own minds and states of consciousness are quite profound. If a person could learn to manage their own thoughts and mental states, they could regain control over their own thought disorders and drastically improve the quality of their life.

Among the lowest of states that we can can encounter are those that hijack our consciousness and completely disconnect us from reality. Daydreams and fantasies are the playground of the Ego and can cause us to indulge in unrealistic expectations of life, setting us up for even lower states of suffering when reality does not live up to our expectations. When mystics speak of quieting the mind, it is daydreams and fantastical thinking they are referring to, not skillful uses of thought. For many people, a wandering mind has become the default state that consciousness falls into when the mind is not engaged in intentional purposeful activity. Putting the brakes on fantastical thinking leads to an end to our self created mental suffering and allows the mind to migrate toward resting silently whenever it is not being intentionally put to skillful use.

Bridging between higher and lower realms of consciousness are states that still involve using imagination and conventional thought, (words and pictures in the mind) but are rooted in the present moment, and used for skillful purposes such as problem solving, learning, concentration, deep listening, and includes any states that are free from Ego.

What mystics teach are various methods of focusing our concentration and attention inward with the intention of understanding our own mind for the purpose of mental self healing. From this simple activity we can learn to recognise and consciously shift away from self harming, self defeating, and self limiting states, and gravitate toward higher ones. They teach methods of honing concentration and awareness through practices like Samadhi meditation, training the mind to stabilise and not constantly wander off aimlessly. Concentration and attention put the mind into learning mode. Every student has heard a teacher exclaim "Pay attention or you will never learn anything!"

Practices like Vipassana meditation consciously engage the mind in the activity of simply paying attention to itself. This is done for the purpose of learning more about ourselves, and uncovering the real causes of our lower states of consciousness and self created suffering, and then developing mental skills that allow us to consciously choose to let go of and disengage from any mental activity that is not serving in the best interests of our selves or of others.

Through simple non-judgemental observation of our mental activity we start to notice how thoughts and emotions influence each other, and ultimately influence our actions, reactions and interactions with the world around us. We are literally seeing our own Kharma. When we objectively observe the mind without judgement from a higher state of consciousness like learning, our mind starts to connect the dots, and we start to recognise harmful thought patterns, and we learn to take responsibility for harmful thoughts by not indulging in them. By letting go of them we are not giving them any of our energy. When we indulge in thought patterns, we are feeding them with our energy, and they will keep coming back for more in repetitive loops that can quickly spiral out of control. When we stop feeding them, they wither and die off. We are signalling the mind that these thoughts are not important enough to waste energy on, which starts to break down the feedback loops and the lower states of the repetitive monkey mind. As these repetitive patterns of Egoic thought start to break down, quiet space in the mind starts to open up, and the mind shifts naturally into higher states.

Advancements in the fields of psychology and neuroplasticity continue to validate the millenniums old teachings that the mind is not fixed and rigid, but rather, that it can be moulded and reshaped. It can be re-trained to avoid harmful states of consciousness, states that many people seem to almost wallow in, states that are really nothing more than mental bad habits that have become addictive. Like any bad habit, breaking it starts with bringing awareness to the problem, recognising when it is occurring, and letting go, re-directing consciousness to some other activity that is rooted in presence, such as mindfulness or watching the breath. Repetition, vigilance and diligence are key to breaking the bad habits of the mind. Developing introspective self awareness carries the power to bring about the type of profound inner changes that lead to true trans-formative enlightenment and an end to our self harming and self created suffering.

Michael L. Fournier

Daydreams Influence Kharma

When we allow our minds to wander off in thought, we become disconnected from the present moment and from the reality that exists around us. We enter a sort of pseudo-reality dream-like world within the mind, as we reflect upon past events, or try to imagine our future. The simple fact is that most of our mental activity distracts us from reality and since it is not reality, can be classified as fantasy, or daydreams.

Daydreams and fantasies imprint upon our memory in the same way as any external event. Some will produce stronger imprints than others. Some will be forgotten, Others will feed and shape our Ego. Just as it is with events in reality, those that stir or invoke emotions leave the strongest imprints on our memory.

Because we live in a society that practically worships big Egos, we are never really taught the importance of inner reflection and self awareness. Without self awareness, the Ego is free to operate without any checks and balances and this free reign of our unobserved Ego often leads to clashes with other Egos.

In our fantasy versions of reality, where we are script writer, director, and star of the play, we have complete control and dominion over everything, and usually create versions of realities that inflate and reinforce our Ego. Events that occur in physical reality seldom bend completely to our wishes, and when our Ego does not experience reality the way it thinks things should be, we suffer.

When we anticipate future events, the mind likes to play out various scenarios searching for what seems to be most favourable to our own desires and will. In this fantastic reality, we can always say just the right thing to fit the circumstances, and of course, we can always achieve the results we want. We exist in a universe of infinite possibilities, and physical reality does not bend so gracefully to our will or our wishes as we would like. No matter how many scenarios we run through in our minds, we can not possibly imagine every outcome in a sea of infinite possibilities.

When we encounter an anticipated situation in physical reality, the Ego (which has unrealistic expectations of control, since it has become accustomed to having control of it's inner fantastical reality), will sub-consciously try to manipulate the situation into playing out as close as possible to our preferred fantastical reality. Since other people's Egos are doing the same thing, the likelihood of our Ego clashing with other Egos increases. Our responses, actions, reactions and interactions with physical reality are influenced by a combination of our life conditioning (memories of similar prior experiences), our views of who or what we believe we are or should be (Ego), and unconscious programming from our fantastic reality. We are indeed creating our own kharma.

The way to break free of this cycle of Kharma is to learn to observe the inner workings of the mind by paying attention to what is going on inside at all times. Attention is the mind's learning mode. As every grade school teachers says, "Pay attention or you will not learn anything".  As Carl Jung said, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Driven by fear of the unknown, fear of making a mistake, fear of not being in control, fear of saying or doing the 'wrong' thing, or any of many different fears, the Ego will most assuredly defend itself with flawed logic to justify all of its daydreaming as being necessary to be prepared for whatever may arise. Ego wants to say or do just the right thing at just the right time. After all, this is precisely what the Ego can do in fantastic reality. We convince ourselves that with enough preparation we can somehow control physical reality like we do with fantastical reality. More suffering.

So where is the flaw in this reasoning? In fantasy, thoughts seem to flow effortlessly into words during mental conversations where we can always say or do just the right thing. If the circumstances of physical reality played out exactly the same way in physical reality as they do in fantastic reality, this might actually be useful. However, in physical reality, there are far too many other variables for our limited minds to be able to consider or compensate for. Driven by a fear of saying or doing something less than ideal to our Egoic expectations, we become reluctant to just allow that same easy natural flow of thoughts to manifest outside of Ego's control. The simple truth is that if we can just let go of our preconceived ideas and conditioning, and our need to be in control, opting instead to trust in pure present moment awareness, then our thoughts, speech, actions and re-actions can arise from a place of purity and truth. Some aspects of conditioning (inherited kharma) may still be there, and may not be what the Ego desires, but our actions, re-actions, and interactions with reality will certainly be much more appropriate, genuine and authentic when we let go of our need to control reality and trust in the natural flow of life instead.

Michael L. Fournier

Does fantasizing cause suffering?

Daydreaming and Fantasizing cause us to suffer!


Any time our mind is left to wander unattended, without being engaged in an activity that is rooted in the present moment, (such as learning, problem solving, planning, creating, etc.), it will tend to revert to a default state of daydreams and fantasies, a place to keep itself occupied and amused. It seems almost as though the mind itself is afraid that if it ever stopped, it would never start up again. Instead, it drifts off into repetitive, endless mental projections of past and future. This state is comprised of nothing more than fantasies, daydreams, mind theatrics, inner dialogues, re-inventing the past, or imagining the future. It is not reality, it is our imagination running away unsupervised. Imagination is a very powerful tool when used skilfully for creativity, but can be very harmful to our psyche when allowed to run away unsupervised.

This default state of mind is often called 'monkey mind' because of the way it is constantly jumping from one fantasy to the next. These fantasies have little or nothing to do with reality as it occurs in the present moment. Daydreaming can actually hijack your consciousness and cause you to miss out on reality. When your consciousness is hijacked (fully submerged in a daydream, or 'lost in thought'), you actually become disengaged from the present moment. It is a common experience to be driving along in a car and suddenly realize that you don't know if you stopped at that last stop sign or not. Or to sit down to eat a meal, and suddenly find it's gone, and barely remember having taken a bite. Or having a conversation with someone, and your mind wanders off, until suddenly you realize with embarrassment, that you have no idea what the other person just said. You were not present for these events, you were lost in Fantasyland. Not only can this be embarrassing, it can endanger your life and the lives of others. Truth be told, the root cause of most car accidents is a wandering mind, not paying attention, not being rooted in the reality of the present moment.

The majority of our mental suffering, stress, worry, fear, anxiety, depression, anger, etc., etc., can be traced back to too much indulgence in daydreams, fantastical thinking and mind theatrics. In Fantasyland, we are the script writer, director, producer, and star performer of our own self choreographed version of the world as we would like it to be. Because we are writing the script, the outcome is always exactly as we wish. We can be the hero, the villain, the victim, or whatever else we may choose. We have absolute control over how things unfold and what the outcomes will be. In our fantasies, everything is completely within our control, even if we imagine it to be out of control. Its our choice as to how the fantasy unfolds. We have absolute power and dominion over everything, and it is precisely this level of control that causes our mental suffering and dissatisfaction with the real world, where power and control over the unfolding of events is much more elusive. We have created an internal conflict between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

We also have a rational mind that operates by making constant comparisons. We compare self with others, others with others, things with others, things with things, discriminating between safe and unsafe, right and wrong, good and bad, etc.. Everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, sense, or interpret is being compared to our memories, knowledge, and past experiences. Comparing is how we determine what is safe to eat, what is potentially harmful to us, and what brings us pleasure or respite. It is part of learning, and is basic to how we navigate our way in the world. Whether we realize it or not, we are also comparing reality, and life as it unfolds, to our fantasy versions of the way we think life should be. In reality, we do not have the same level of control as we do in our fantasy worlds. We find that in reality, we actually have very little control over anything beyond our choices and how we interact with the world. This lack of control causes us to seek further refuge in our fantasies and turn away from reality. When we don't get what we want or what we feel we deserve in life, when life doesn't play out as smoothly as it does in our fantasies, we suffer. We become depressed, anxious, nervous, fearful, stressed. We all have our own unique combination of mental pain we inflict upon ourselves. Even when we do get what we want, we only end up wanting more of the same, more money, a bigger house, a faster car. We get what we want and yet, we still suffer, because even getting what we want does not bring us any lasting happiness, peace or tranquillity.

Because our thoughts are linked to our emotions, mental suffering can lead to some very real physical problems as well. Emotions are physical and chemical responses to events that are experienced in the mind, either in reality or in Fantasyland. Our minds do not discriminate between fantasy and reality. We experience very real emotions in response to our mind theatrics. This can be easily proven to yourself. Remembering the loss of a loved one, even years later can still invoke grief, but remembering good times spent with that loved one can still invoke joy. Emotions are experienced physically in the body as a result of chemicals and hormones that are released by the brain into the body. Different emotions have their own chemical cocktails. If we experience fear, real or imagined, our bodies release adrenaline, if we are nervous, anxious, worried, or stressed, cortisol is released. These chemicals are supposed to help our body physically deal with critical and dangerous events. The fight or flight response is an adrenaline boost to give extra energy to muscle tissue to either fight, or escape as quickly as possible. When these chemicals are released into the body, and there is no corresponding physical response, (such as fighting off a threat or running away from danger), these chemicals are not burned off. Instead they accumulate in the body with negative health effects like weight gain, high blood pressure, increased risk of cardio-vascular problems, and many other health problems as well.

Daydreaming is nothing but a bad habit, and like any bad habit, the key to breaking it is to bring awareness to the problem. Not just awareness on an intellectual level, because this will not solve the problem any more than reading a book about flying a plane can make you a pilot without any practical experience. The bad habit of allowing the mind to wander off has to be broken at an experiential level, by paying direct attention to what is going on inside, seeing how our thoughts influence our actions, recognizing the consequences of our actions, then deliberately choosing to disengage from thought patterns that are not serving in our best interest. A good starting point is simply paying attention to the activity within your mind, by actually 'listening' and hearing the 'voice in your head'. With determination and resolve, practice catching yourself whenever the mind wanders, and redirecting your attention to a present moment task. Try focusing on the breathe, placing your full attention into one of the five senses, such as deep listening, or focusing intently on a body part or movement, or any mindfulness task that can hold the attention for a little while. If this is done with full attention, thoughts will subside momentarily in anticipation of what might happen next.

With consistent repetitious practice, catching the mind when it wanders, and constantly pulling it back to the present, the mind will gradually experience increased concentration and longer attention spans, and grow to become more peaceful, tranquil, and quiet. Eventually this new peaceful state of the mind being at rest will become the new default state that the mind falls back into when it is no longer actively engaged in skillful legitimate tasks.

Paying attention is the first and most important step in learning anything, which is why teachers always tell students 'Pay attention or you won't learn anything'. This simple act of self awareness with full attention allows the mind to 'do the math' and 'connect the dots', becoming directly aware of how our thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn affect our actions, reactions, and inter-actions with our external environment, and also to see the impact this has on the world around us. In other words, we are learning to see our own karma. We see first hand how our outer world is a direct reflection of our inner world. Direct observation leads to understanding and learning in a way intellectual knowledge can not provide us. With practice we learn how to uncover thought patterns that are harmful to ourselves and others, and to disengage from them by simply 'letting go', and refusing to allow our consciousness to be hijacked. We see repetitious patterns and recurring themes to our thought patterns, which operate like feedback loops. Those we indulge in grow stronger, and those we learn to let go of, wither and die. It is this direct observation of our karmic creation that allows space for choice to open up, choice to stop indulging in thought patterns that are harmful to ourself or others. The sanest thing a person can do is turn their attention inward and observe their own insanities with the intention of purifying and freeing their own mind.

"Mental excretion is represented by imagination, that is, a continuous production of waste images, the by-product of past perceptions, which flow through and out of the brain in a meaningless and unbroken stream. In fact, dreaming goes on night and day, without a break." -- Rodney Collin (20th c. Fourth Way spiritual teacher) The Theory of Celestial Harmony

Michael L. Fournier