It should be obvious that not all people will get the same results from these practices. The reason is simple: we are not all at the same level of evolution. Some of us are more highly evolved than others. All people, all species, are evolving and, while this involves physical changes, it is largely a spiritual matter. Actually, the spiritual can’t be separated from the physical vehicle through which we experience. For every spiritual change there is a change in the physical. Some of us are at a stage where we can be more receptive than others. Yet in Essence we are the same, so we all follow the same road. All life is evolving. Some feel that this evolution is toward a pre-determined goal.

Many do not like it when we speak of species evolving. The truth is that nature is completely impersonal, not worrying about the individual but anxious to preserve the species and allow it to evolve. We do not say, “save Minnie the whale;” we say, “save the whales.” Deep inside we understand this impersonal outlook, but it affronts the ego: after all, doesn’t each one feel he is the center of the universe?

A wonderful man from Kashmir, Gopi Krishna, has written that Kundalini is the means by which we evolve. Kundalini is a form of universal energy, certainly part of our sex energy, and the name is derived from the Sanskrit Kundali, which means serpent.

Gopi Krishna does not write from empty theory but from the remarkable evolutionary experience he underwent for forty or fifty years after the Kundalini (stimulated by years of intense concentration as he practiced a form of meditation) exploded into activity, filling him with liquid light that he felt knew exactly the task it was to perform – as it accelerated his snail’s pace personal evolution until he felt he was progressing a thousand years in each day. Many individuals rush on ahead of mankind, reaching a high level of evolution that points the way to where the entire race will be one day. Gautama Buddha was a good example, reaching levels 2500 years ago that possibly have not been matched since then.

This same evolution is going on within all of us, but at a pace we can’t recognize, much like the slow, inexorable toll that age takes on us, impossible to tell on a day-to-day basis, but plainly apparent to one who hasn’t seen us for a long period of time.

Actually, as we grow older, we preserve a fictitious identity. Our hair grows and is cut off – the same with our nails. Even the cells die and are replaced. The makeup of our bodies has a complete renewal and our appearance constantly changes; yet we feel we have maintained the same identity. This is probably because of our accumulating memory, which records these events from one viewpoint. Also, we build habits and gradually bind ourselves to them, even as we change. In truth, our habit energies (vasanas in Sanskrit) are what shape us as we grow older. If we are to have a new body in the future, these habit energies will bring it into being.

In a higher state of consciousness, this feeling of narrow, isolated individuality expands and develops into a closer identification with the Universal. At times such a one may feel his awareness going far beyond the walls of his room or the shell of his body and covering vast areas of consciousness. One Chinese Zen master of recent times describes how, standing in the enclosed latrine, he could plainly see boats on a neighboring river. He says that while voiding, he had the feeling that nothing was moving. To see all things “as they have always been,” seemingly motionless in movement, is common to much mystic experience. There is no limit to which consciousness can expand, understandable when you realize that it is not “our” consciousness. Sentience is everywhere.

My Indian teacher once said that he could see the approach of thought. This would mean, in effect, that thoughts have lives of their own. In some of the practices suggested in this book one will be able to just observe the thoughts without becoming involved in them or perpetrating them through a stream-of-consciousness pattern of thinking. We remember by connecting, and our thought patterns tend to wander out of control, as we are swept along by association, seemingly powerless to break the chain because we are unaware of it. Mindfulness, the key link in heightened awareness, means observing and knowing each action we take and each thought we have. This is entirely out of question for the undisciplined mind.

Reading while eating, even carrying on a conversation, dulls our awareness of the act and of the taste of the food. Often, some time after shaving, a man will have to look in the mirror to determine whether he has taken care of his beard that day. Have I fed the cat? Did I close the garage door? Such common questions we ask of ourselves are indicative of weak, wandering minds. Men have played entire football games with broken legs, unaware of the pain because of intense concentration on the play. In a sense this is Pratyahara, withdrawing the senses from the field of the senses. The pain simply does not register on the one-pointed mind. It is there, but it is not recognized.

Awareness, of course, does not include only sensory awareness, but that is part of it. As general awareness (and mindfulness) grows and steadies, many things are experienced in a sensory way – things that would not have formerly been evident at all. This writer remembers driving back from a six-day T’ai Chi Chih teachers’ training course with a student and having both utter exclamations of astonishment at the blue of the sky, the beauty of the clouds, the green of the trees and the feeling of the vibrant life in the hills. Since we had both been circulating the Chi (Vital Force) extensively through the six days of movement, there was a feeling of being high – and this is a high that is not followed by a low. The surging of this life energy through one enhances the sensory awareness.

One very advanced woman I know sometimes telephones me when she experiences a period of what she calls unusual clarity. She is a highly evolved, joyous, creative person who is not handicapped by the thought that she is doing anything. She long ago negated self-clinging and tunes in very well to the universal. It is not surprising that she has periods of unusual clarity, almost like small Satori experiences (from the Japanese verb satori, meaning to realize). Satori is the aim of the intense Zen Buddhist practice, and it is often translated by the word enlightenment. There are varying degrees of intensity to Satori experience, sometimes referred to as a great Satori or a minor Satori. When a veteran monk has such experience, it is usually preceded by profuse sweating, and then accompanied by tears of joy. There isn’t much he can describe, however. This is not experience in the ordinary sense. Much overwhelming mystic experience is like that.

Invariably, a good Zen master knows when a disciple or student has experienced Satori (without being told); it doesn’t happen that often. In fact, there are sincere monks with twenty years of practice who have never had such an experience. On the other hand, Hakuin Zenji, the great Japanese Zen master, reports numerous great joys and almost innumerable little joys – all after he made his real breakthrough. At the time of the latter, which happened suddenly after an irate woman broke a broom over his head (he had been begging food at the woman’s door and did not hear her admonition to “go away” because of his intense concentration on his koan), he ran back to the old temple where he stayed and saw his master come running out to greet him at the same time, shouting, “You have broken through” – all before Hakuin could stammer a word.

One time the author was with his friend Paul Reps, the Zen writer, in a foreign land. While eating a simple dinner, Reps looked over at a Chinese man playing an instrument something like a marimba. “That man has an inner life,” he suddenly exclaimed and quickly got up to walk over and talk to him. How could he know this by looking at him from a table? Reps was an extraordinary, highly evolved man. How did the Zen master know (without words) that Hakuin had broken through? Actually, a highly aware person knows a good deal about another when first seeing him.

So, in doing the exercises in this book, the reader is not in competition with anybody else and should not be compared to anyone else. He is developing his own potential. As awareness grows, so does joy. The apathetic, slovenly man is not a joyous one. Continued work on this expedient means can bring great rewards to the person of inner integrity.

All sentience consists of awareness. In Indian philosophy it is felt that there are three characteristics of life – the sattvic, the rajasic and the tamasic. Tamas, or lethargy, is characteristic of things without much awareness, such as plants or even rocks. Applied to human beings it refers to the heavy sleeper who finds it hard to wake up and to the dull and apathetic. This is a person with relatively low awareness, intense self-involvement and some degree of apathy – certainly not a self-starter.

The rajasic person has a higher level of awareness and great energy. He is the doer, the conqueror, the compulsive success seeker, the over-achiever and the hyperactive. His level of awareness is good, but it has not progressed spiritually. He is still totally self-involved, asking, “Is it good for me?”

The sattvic is the one who has emerged to a higher, more universal consciousness. White, representing purity, would be the color of the purely sattvic person. Mahatma Gandhi insisted that his followers eat sattvic food, that which did not stimulate the lower emotions (such as what meat and alcohol do). Sattvic people are rare in this world.

Of course, no one is entirely tamasic, rajasic or sattvic. Rather, these three qualities are mixed in all things and creatures, the balance of the mix determining the makeup. Evolution works toward developing a more sattvic being, a more godly creature. There is the possibility that in creation, and yet not visible to us, there are creatures that have progressed much farther along the path to a higher consciousness. The difference would be in the rate of vibration.

Since all sentience consists of awareness, our goal of developing heightened awareness is probably as lofty a one as we could have. Sitting in church listening to sermons, or arbitrarily professing faith in a religious doctrine, is not the same as developing heightened awareness. It is saying, “I have the answer and don’t have to do anything but rest smugly in that answer.” Churchianity is not the way to greater awareness. It is ignoring the evolutionary trend of life. Those who sincerely practice such disciplines as T’ai Chi Chih are hastening evolution, and those who cultivate higher awareness are likewise doing so. Not only do we personally profit by such practice – all mankind benefits from our efforts. When the time comes that all people have progressed significantly along these lines, perhaps war and cruelty will be largely things of the past. Such a goal, though, seems light years away.

This article is published in Heightened Awareness.