Level One: The Awake Mind

What we experience or call our mind is actually the awake mind, which appears to operate independently of the higher forms of consciousness in our system. The awake mind is what we associate with everyday living and is that which experiences the material world primarily through the senses. The information from the senses provides a series of paths or choices that we learn to use day to day and is primarily directed by our ego. In one of its most basic ways of functioning, the awake mind and ego preserve our self-image, that is, what we think about ourselves. This can be positive or negative and can produce high self-esteem or low self-esteem.

The awake mind experiences, we experience, the constant stream of thoughts that spontaneously arise and pass through the mind during the day. The awake mind is dualistic, meaning that it has an ego- generated identity, sees other identities as separate or distinct from itself, and uses a process of comparison and contrast to evaluate things, events, and people (good or bad, better or worse). It is not difficult for our awake mind to recognize different points of view, and with the ego’s help, the mind can use or defend each point of view, while at the same time not recognizing the conflict in values that it holds within the same thought system.

Although we might succumb to the illusion that the awake mind is an independent entity, or that it exists as the larger, more expansive entity of consciousness, it actually functions at lower levels unless a person consciously chooses to open a “channel” to higher levels of awareness. There is a very important aspect of the awake mind and the relationship it has with the ego: the ego deceives the awake mind into believing that it understands something when it can describe that something. An analogy of this would be like saying that the ego thinks it understands a book because it can describe the color of the book, and because it can recite the letters and words contained within the book. The process of cataloging, naming, and describing the book can appear elevated, but in reality, the awake mind is simply collecting information and fragmenting “reality” in a variety of ways. What results from this process of describing the book should not be confused with understanding the meaning of the book, which is the result of an entirely different process. The same is true of our descriptions of the material world, or the recitation of ideas without the deeper understanding; both fall short of truth or ultimate reality. Until we take the time to understand how these processes function within us, we will find it difficult to realize the ways that our thoughts can be influenced or controlled by unconscious processes. These processes can keep us stuck in lower developmental stages because they perpetuate many illusions and forms of ignorance.