I came across something called the Map of Consciousness in a book I’ve been reading recently – Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins. In it he talks about the different emotional levels we operate on.
He presents them in a way I’ve never seen before – as a kind of ladder that we can climb. Starting with depression at the bottom all the way up to enlightenment at the top.
It’s more complicated than I’ve presented here – but to help me get my head around it, I decided to abbreviated that table and roughly explain how one “climbs” to the top.
In essence, this is the ladder from top to bottom:
At the very base of the emotional ladder is depression or apathy. This is one step away from death. Basically, you’ve given up all hope.
A helpful question to ask ourselves is what biological need is there to be depressed?
On some level, it’s a cry for help. There’s a desire for someone to come and save us from drowning because we don’t believe we can save ourselves.
The way to climb out of depression is the same at all levels. As the author notes, “The fastest way from the bottom to the top is by telling the truth to ourselves and others.”
You find the truth counter-intuitively – by acknowledging and letting go of your emotions (and all resistance to them).
Here’s a truth about depression. The overriding belief that “I can’t” is actually a cover. “I can’t” actually means “I won’t.”
By acknowledging this truth, we make it clear that we’re not really incapable. The truth is we’re scared. This moves up the ladder into fear.
When we acknowledge our fear – and what it is we’re actually afraid of – it becomes clear there’s something we desire that our fear is preventing us from going after or getting.
Associated with this acknowledgment is often a sense of grief (depending on the length of the depression) over all the things we didn’t pursue/lost out on due to this fear.
Anger is the other emotion that arises. It’s often anger at our fear for preventing us from going after what we want. (Or the thing or person that caused us to become fearful.)
So we graduate to the next emotional step on the ladder of consciousness: anger. Anger is a far better state to be in than depression. At least with anger there is energy.
It’s this energy that is priming us for action.
When we use this energy wisely – to take action despite our fears (not out of bitterness or resentment) – we gain confidence. Over time, our self-esteem strengthens. This helps us let go of any residual fear/shame or apathy left over from the past.
Eventually, by relinquishing the remainder of our emotional baggage, we graduate to a state of neutrality or acceptance. We’re at ease with ourselves and who we are. So we become at greater ease with the world itself.
This frees up our minds to think about other people in our lives. This leads us to the next step on the ladder: compassion.
We start to feel more empathy in general. We recognise the fear and suffering in others – the same fear and suffering that we have struggled through.
This greater compassion inspires us to help those people. In doing so, there is a gradual loss of self-consciousness. We become far less concerned about ourselves.
We start to find inner peace from this mode of selflessness. We also experience greater joy. We begin to do things intrinsically. We’re no longer motivated by ambition – but purely for the joy or love of something.
This, in turn, generates greater peace.
At this level, we experience greater connectedness with the wider world. We operate on a level of flow where everything happens effortlessly. We come to see a greater truth about ourselves. That we are one interconnected whole.
It’s from here eventually; finally, we graduate to enlightenment.
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