“What is consciousness?” It’s a word used frequently in spiritual discussion, but you really start to wonder, well, what is it really and does consciousness exist beyond my physical body? Sri Chinmoy, author, poet, fully realized yogi, describes it as “the inner spark, the inner link in us, the golden link that connects our highest and most illumined part with our lowest and most un-illumined part.” That begs the question, what is our highest and most illumined part and what is our least illumined part?
According to the Hindu philosophy, our most illumined part is our soul. The soul is commonly referred to as “the best in us” or “everything good within us.” Of course there’s more to it than that, but for the sake of clarity, lets save that discussion for another time. Just know that the soul represents our highest part.
What is our lowest and our most un-illumined part? That is, certain philosophies would say, our physical body. The physical body is pretty unconscious. Our mind is much more conscious, vibrant, pliable and malleable than our physical body. Our physical body is our most restricted, limited element.
This is where consciousness comes in. Consciousness is the connection, the energy, the spark of light that holds all of our existence together. It is the reason why a stubbed toe leads to an angry mood, or, more seriously, why a person suffering from depression often can develop real physical ailments even though by all means they should be healthy. Our consciousness flows through our entire being. What we think affects our body, and our emotions influence how we behave. Our lowest part (body), our highest part (soul), and everything in between are connected by consciousness.
During our ordinary activity, we focus our consciousness on our lower parts to help us get through the day. It is our body that physically runs errands for us and our mind that tells it what to do. This is the state of consciousness that most people find themselves spending most of their time in. Unfortunately, many never elevate past this level and remain ignorant of the realm of the soul.
When we meditate, we shift our consciousness to more illumined places. All that peace, all that bliss we experience in meditation comes directly from our own souls. It is what Jesus means when he says in the Gospels that the kingdom of heaven is within. In the same sense, but stated differently, Sri Chinmoy says, “Consciousness is the connecting link between heaven and earth.” Heaven, nirvana, the deepest states aren’t on a distant planet or in another solar system, it’s within our own consciousness. It’s in our highest, most refined and subtle dimension.
To get there we have to learn to relax our body, to take a step back from our thoughts and not be so attached to every single one that goes by. The same goes for our emotions. When we can make our mind real still, our mind calm, our emotions really clear and sincere, then we start to experience this deepest part of ourselves, our own most illumined part.
Consciousness not only connects the different aspects of our being, but it also connects us with the world at large. Sri Chinmoy writes, “the ordinary human consciousness will only connect us to something very, very limited at the same time very fleeting.” Think about your own life and the attachments you have. Maybe you’re the type of person that feels it is necessary to check your phone every other minute and keep it near you at all times. If it isn’t you then you probably know someone who that describes. Clearly people can connect with things they see and possess.
The same applies to the people we meet in our lives. Maybe there’s a certain range of people you feel a connection to; you find it much easier to converse with one person and become instant friends, but not with others. Meditation is the ability to expand these connections. For example, it’s easy to connect with the feeling of frustration, anger or disappointment. But how about connecting with the feeling of gratitude? Or connecting with the feeling of forgiveness?
“For one second, you will be able to focus your concentration on another person. Then our consciousness disappears. But when we build with the inner consciousness, which is boundless, illumined, transformed consciousness, then our concentration can go on, go on, go on.”
In meditation, concentration is key. In order to maintain a connection to the highest, we must not allow fleeting thoughts to disturb us. When you do that, a whole new realm of understanding and experience begins to open up for you.
Sujantra McKeever has practiced meditation since 1980. He began studying with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy at age 18. He is the author of five books on meditation and spiritual philosophy which are available on Amazon. He the founder of the online yoga studio PYO.yoga. His writings can be found in Elephant Journal and Huffington Post.