UNDERSTANDING AND NAVIGATING YOUR STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
6 Weeks, Starts February 22
Discover how to identify and navigate your different states of consciousness for deep healing and greater creativity.
Decades of pioneering consciousness research have led Ralph Metzner to identify fundamental states of consciousness, each with its own characteristic mindspace and timestream. We need to learn how to navigate these states and apply them with intention to benefit from the opportunities and learn from the challenges. Our conceptions of time, of space, and identity are powerfully affected by these changing states.
There are four daily state changes that are connected to the common sleep and wakefulness cycle. Every day and night, we move effortlessly and automatically through these four distinct states of consciousness: the functional waking state, dreamless sleeping, dreaming sleep, and meditative relaxation. It’s easy to miss how profoundly different these states are and yet we can learn a lot by mindfully attending to and working with these changes.
In addition, we all experience a variety of expansive and concentrative states, in which our awareness of time, space and identity may be distinctly altered. We have expansive states -- often associated with psychedelic, artistic and mystical visions — that can be harnessed for healing wisdom and creative insight. We also have states of concentration and focus that we engage for productive activity in our daily life and professional practice. Both the expanded and the concentrative states can also get distorted into negative and unhealthy forms, such as ungrounded mindlessness, or narrow-minded obsessions and addictions. So we need to learn to mindfully navigate through these states and guard against the negatives.
Ralph Metzner, the renowned consciousness researcher, psychotherapist, and inspirational teacher, has dedicated his life to understanding the nuances and varieties of consciousness. From his early psychedelic investigations with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) at Harvard, through his three decades as a professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and work with the Green Earth Foundation, Ralph Metzner's distinguished career has brought a trained psychologist's perspective to the insights that come from psychedelic and meditative explorations.
In this special 6-part live, interactive video course, he will share insights and practical techniques that you can learn and apply in your own personal and professional life.
In this course you will learn to:
Recognize and navigate expansive and expanded states of consciousness for healing and creative visioning.
Navigate and direct concentrative and contracted states for productive functioning in daily life and professional work.
See how both insight and mindfulness meditation practices can assist us in recognizing and utilizing our various states.
Recognize over-expanded and over-contracted negative statesand use both therapeutic and spiritual practices to find our way through them.
These are tools you will be able to apply throughout your life. Each session includes an in-depth, interactive exercise to help you develop these skills.
During Q&A you will be part of the discussion, able to ask your questions on camera, just like a Skype call. If you happen to miss a live session, you can view a video recording at any time.
Don't miss this opportunity to learn from one of the most respected consciousness researchers of our time.
Session 1: The Janus Model of the Life-World and Self System.
Wednesday, February 22
Janus was the Roman deity of doorways and thresholds. His face, portrayed on coins, faces in two directions – the past and the future. This image symbolizes the two main kinds of divination: the healing divinations that face the past in order to remember, recover and restore the broken or lost connections in our life-story; and the visioning divinations for planning, creating and developing our probable and possible futures. The self is seen then, not as a thing or an object, but as a fluid system of relations always on the cusp between past and future, between memories and visions.
In this session, you will learn to draw a map of your own evolving personal life-world, our self-system, centered in the here-now. This is the place of choice, responsibility, power and freedom.
Session 2 - Stages of the Life Cycle
Wednesday, March 1
In this session, we will consider how your basic values and attitudes towards life -- the challenges and opportunities -- change as you move through your life-cycle.
The life-cycle has 3 main stages. In the formative phase, which lasts from birth to the late twenties, the main focus is on growing, developing and learning. Our sense of who we are
shifts from being embedded in the family matrix to becoming part of the larger world. The middle phase of the thirties, forties and fifties is when we settle down to a career path, growing a family, building networks and support systems, earning a living, making a contribution to society. In the elder phase of our lives, the sixties and beyond, our attitude shifts again, becoming more introverted and reflective, focused on guiding and educating the young – and we begin to contemplate the end of life, and ask the ultimate spiritual questions of what comes beyond.
There are additional phases and changes to consider: the so-called mid-life crisis of the forties, coming in the middle of the middle years, often a significant turning point to begin a more interior questing attitude to life. And then there is the important pre-natal phase and birth itself – which we can’t consciously remember, but which can be accessed in special states with hypnotic, entheogenic or holotropic means.
Psychedelics and meditative practices can play an important role in each of these phases, helping to focus the questions of meaning and purpose in each of these stages.
We can learn to use practices of memory and vision to access these different stages. They are like the three major movements, and prelude, of a sonata, which we are both composing (improvising) and performing as we move through our lives.
Session 3 - Stages, Levels and States of Consciousness
Wednesday, March 8
In each of the stages of the life-cycle, we function with markedly different worldviews, different basic attitudes towards life, and different relationships with others. In religious myth there is a concept of stages of spiritual growth: these are stages on a pathway, where one moves, with the guidance of a teacher, toward enlightenment or liberation. For this session, we will explore different models of the life-cycle stages, and how consciousness shifts from stage to stage.
A fascinating three-stage model is that of G.T. Fechner, who described the three stages of our existence as progressively enlarging realms of consciousness: the prenatal phase, the phase of life between birth and death, and the after-death phase.
A quite different paradigm is presented by the idea of levels of consciousness – as somehow layered one “below” or “above” the other. These are realms or domains of consciousness that are always there, potentially accessible to us – spontaneously in dreams or through spiritual practices.
A third paradigm is that of states of consciousness: these are defined by a period of time in which thoughts, feelings, perceptions, images, etc, function in characteristic ways, different than before and afterwards.
We all know the four normal, everyday states of consciousness of waking, sleeping, dreaming or meditating. And we may also know the specific altered states, both positive and negative, produced by various stimuli and practices. The set-and-setting hypothesis asserts that the content of a state of consciousness is always determined by the set/intention and setting/context. In the area of psychedelic studies this determining relationship of set and setting is well known – but it actually functions quite generally for all states of consciousness. Intention or set is always the key and determines whether the setting and context will be arranged for positive, healing and creative experiences, or devolve into useless “bad trips” and distractions.
Session 4 - Four Familiar States: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming, Meditating
Wednesday, March 15
At this moment, as you read this, you are in the functional waking state between the two transition phases of waking up and falling asleep.
How come we never say or think of “waking down” or “rising asleep”? There’s a hidden spatial metaphor of the “field” of consciousness. Like all forms of life on Earth, whether animal, plant, fungal or cellular, our human organism is embedded in the planetary circadian sleep-wakefulness cycle. This cycle is associated naturally with autonomic changes in brain chemistry – but can be and is often disrupted by stress and anxiety, leading to various kinds of psychosomatic and interpersonal difficulties and potentially serious accidents.
The transition from a sleeping-dreaming state to a state of wakefulness is seen as a metaphor in spiritual traditions, like Buddhism, for the transition to a more awake, aware and enlightened state. The Buddha was “The Awakened One”. Following this metaphor we then regard spiritual meditative practices as helping us to “wake up.” How do we learn to wake up in the normal dreaming of everyday life and consciousness?
Not only Buddhism, but indigenous cultures like the Australian aboriginals speak of a conscious or lucid dreaming state in which we are in contact with a separate, autonomous reality which harbors creative insights and healing messages.
How can we learn to intentionally work with such lucid dreaming? In this session we will explore these practices: monitoring your sleep cycle and eliminating dangerously unhealthy “sleep debt”; meditation and mindfulness during waking life; increasing dream recall; dream incubation and divination; learning to distinguish past and future dreams and visions.
Session 5 - High and Low Energy, Pleasurable and Painful States
Wednesday, March 22
You can classify your states of consciousness in terms of two continua, arranged along two intersecting axes: one the sleep-wakefulness arousal continuum, and the other the pleasurable-painful or heaven-hell continuum. The vertical axis ranges from high arousal energy through a mid-point of normal wakefulness, to the lower energy states merging into the stages of sleep, from light to deep. The horizontal axis or hedonic continuum, ranges from a painful, hellish extreme at one end, through a normal neutral mid-point, to the pleasurable heavenly extremes at the other end.
This model then gives us four main kinds of states: high energy, highly pleasurable, ecstatic, euphoric and orgasmic states; low energy, pleasurable states of relaxation, tranquility and meditative absorption; high energy dysphoric, stressful states of anxiety, agitation, panic, terror and mania; and the low energy states, of exhaustion, drowsiness, sickness and depression.
Stimulant drugs such as caffeine, amphetamines and cocaine move us higher on the energy-arousal continuum, whether on the pleasurable or unpleasant side. Depressant and sedative drugs such as alcohol, tranquilizers and narcotics move the brain into the lower half of the energy spectrum, which tend to eliminate all subtleties of mood and perception. Psychedelic drug experiences, because of their extreme individual variability, do not fit easily on these two basic continua.
In this session you will learn a valuable exercise: identifying in your own recent experience four different moods which correspond to these four types of states.
Session 6 - Expanded, Contracted and Dissociated States
Wednesday, March 29
The field of our potential awareness of self-in-the-world is spherical –we can sense events and objects all around us. We can visualize a 360 degree two-dimensional circle and then visualize the normal baseline state of attentive awareness like a 30 degree segment of that circle. An expansion of consciousness would then increase the arc of awareness to 60 or more degrees, and concentration would narrow it to 15 degrees or less.
Experiences of consciousness expansion, whether triggered by psychedelics or occurring naturally, expand the scope and range of external and internal perceptions, with accompanying emotional responses – triggering healing, therapeutic and even mystical experiences, according to the set and setting. Experiences of contracted awareness occur when we are functioning with intention and focus in our home and professional activities. Undirected and unintentional expansions of consciousness lead to unproductive scattering of awareness. Attention and awareness can also be captured into the narrow-minded focus states of obsessions and addictions. This the reason why psychedelic drugs can be used in the treatment of obsessive states and repetitive addictive behavior like alcoholism. Besides expansions and contractions of the field of awareness, there is a third possibility – a shift of focus to a different area, internal or external. This is a normal functional capability when exercised with intention and purpose and becomes a difficult and dangerous pathology known as PTSD, when the shift occurs unconsciously and is associated with pre-conditioned reactions of violence and destruction.
ABOUT RALPH METZNER, Ph.D.
Ralph Metzner is a recognized pioneer, teacher and workshop leader in the study of consciousness and its transformations. He is a psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he was also the Academic Dean for ten years in the 1980s. He collaborated with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert in the studies of psychedelic drugs at Harvard in the 1960s and co-authored The Psychedelic Experience. His books include Allies for Awakening, The Unfolding Self, The Well of Remembrance, Green Psychology and Birth of a Psychedelic Culture (with Ram Dass and Gary Bravo). He is also the editor of the anthologies The Ayahuasca Experience and Sacred Mushroom of Visions. He is founder and president of the Green Earth Foundation, dedicated to healing and harmonizing the relationships of human beings with the Earth. ()
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By participating in this online course, you will receive:
Unlimited online access to recordings of all sessions
30 minutes of question and answer time following each seminar
Six 60-minute live video seminars with Ralph Metzner on Wednesdays February 22, March 1, March 8, March 15, March 22, and March 29 at 8:00 p.m. EST