I am writing this article as a quick thought, as an epiphany that dawned on me as I worked to unravel this “consciousness” thing. I realized that my religious exposure (Christian) did not give me any space to accept that I could evolve into something greater or experience something greater. That was the stuff of God, not lowly me. So, part of my not waking up to my potential was not understanding that it was possible.
Know that the way western religion is structured and the way we celebrate extreme cases of success have influenced what we see as possible for ourselves. Since religion or eastern traditions are how most of conceptualize this powerful mental serenity called “consciousness,” let’s take a quick look at 3 main world traditions that truly believe that a calm, controlled, “awareness” or “consciousness” is available to all of us.
Buddhism is a tradition that was imported to China from India in the first centuries A.D. Indian Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism teach practitioners how to free themselves from suffering by practicing meditation, understanding philosophy, and using devotional practices. According to Buddhism, all people are capable of becoming like the Buddha. Fully awake, aware, and enlightened.
Taoism is the most ancient of the three schools of Chinese spirituality (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism). Taoism means “the study of the Way.” This concept is difficult to completely define because this Way refers to a “reality that is beyond words and concepts.” You make progress in life through introspection and observation, not through following a dogma or church. It has its roots in ancient healing arts where solutions were pursued through observation of the environment and intuition, not through books or the use of the intellect.
Our understanding of Hinduism is shaped by Western notions of religion as it was originally documented during colonialism. It is actually too broad to be categorized as one system of spirituality or one tradition. Hinduism has no unquestionable religious authority or governing body. It has no prophet nor any singular holy book. Instead several revered Hindu texts cover how to transcend what we face here on earth through good conduct, purification, pilgrimage, self-inquiry, meditation, discipline, and surrender.
Notice that ALL of these traditions see that the power to improve our mental state and thereby improve our lives is available to all of us. They are not debating whether you can or can’t. The only difference is the degree to which you have transformed yourself, based on where your currently are on your own path.
Readers of Tai Chi Basics consistently ask for resources to start meditating or improve their practice. I have become a big fan of the Art of Mushin Meditation Study Course because it is accessible to everyone – everywhere and is a good blend of hands-on practice, explanation, and science.