Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Higher Awareness

Higher consciousness isn’t just an abstract theory, it’s a part of us, something that we experience from time to time as a little voice of wisdom. Usually it is hidden below our threshold of awareness. Those that are more attuned to it are sometimes labeled either mystics or madmen, though the distinction may say as much about the person making it as the one being judged.

The concept of levels of the mind is nothing new. It exists in most cultures, from ancient times right up into our present one. Whether we give obeisance in a house of worship or through pursuit of the grail of holistic health, the trinity of mind, body and spirit is such an embedded paradigm because it reflects the range of human experience.

Most of us only experience it directly at times of peak experience, which is part of the allure for climbing mountains or running marathons. It is more than endorphins, though that is certainly a manifestation at the physical level. We have bodies, we have minds. What affects one, affects the other. Books have been written about the rhythmic effects of running creating trance-like states similar to shamanic drumming, chanting or meditation.

Most people think of themselves just as their identity, but that is something we create as a way of adapting to experience, and many of those processes are operating on far too subtle levels for our minds to grasp. Freud popularized the notion of the unconscious mind, but perhaps his real innovation was the idea of defense mechanisms, which are often vital coping strategies rather than the pathologies most people imagine them to be. Defenses, however, are not the mind. They are merely edifices erected by the mind as a way of protecting the deeper self.

There’s a lot I could say about the subconscious, especially from a perspective of training the body through programming the mind. I come at it from a more spiritual angle rather than the psychological, but that will be for another blog. I’m diverging from my original intent, which was to tell a story that embodies a higher consciousness experience for me. I’m sure many of you will recognize this for yourselves.

The story itself would be unremarkable except for this element. It happened about twenty years ago, in the bar area of a friend’s restaurant in Berkeley which had some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area. It was the first place I ever had nachos; this past Christmas as a favor my friend made me some, and I almost weep because his are so good … but again I digress … I met my friend through two different connections. A lot of rock ‘n rollers I knew frequented the restaurant, then later I discovered he had been the California junior grand champion in Kajukenbo as well as a trained gymnast. Eventually we trained at the same Kenpo school, where he was one of the top fighters, second only to the head instructor.

So all this leads me to that day when I went there for a beer and nachos, and my buddy was at the bar with his two brothers and a waitress from a place next door, who used to come by to flirt with him. I remember she was a skinny young gal from Hong Kong who had a brash attitude. For some reason that day she started play fighting with me, which I thought was cool. We were just throwing light finger taps when suddenly for no reason (and I can hear Freud laughing) she dropped low and punched me in the groin as hard as she could.

I remember that I grabbed her and spun her around, pulling her into a bear hug to restrain her, and probably to help hold me up at that moment. I shouted at my friend “What the (expletive deleted) is wrong with her?” She then grabbed my arm and bit it! I pushed her away; she took a step and turned towards me, cocking her hand back in a fist to punch me, and that is when the magic happened.

As soon as I saw her right fist coming forward, my left hand began moving on its own with a jab towards her face. Everything was in slow motion, almost deliberate. Halfway through the punch I was startled when a voice whispered in my left ear: “Don’t hit the glasses!” My hand did a spontaneous loop up and over them, smacking her in the forehead. She staggered back and her friends caught her. That’s when time shifted back to a more normal perspective.

Now I certainly do not advocate hitting women. I dislike violence, and I don’t like the look of fear in someone’s eyes because I’m too empathetic and I feel it too. Nevertheless, there are circumstances where morality dictates action. I’ve hit women three other times. Two times I’ve stopped large women from assaulting a smaller one, and as a ten-year-old kid I was attacked by an adult. All four incidents ended with a single determined action to stop the violence.

Anyway, after this incident I was upset and left. I went back a couple of days later to apologize to everyone and see how she was doing. Apparently she had a headache for three days, and the upshot was we never spoke again. My friend, however, was excited to see me. How, he asked, did I throw that punch?

Now here was a guy who pretty much created his own style of monkey kung fu. He could nail you with a flying kick, roll on landing, then come up into a leap off the wall that would launch him horizontally across the room to punch you on the other side of your head while you were still figuring out where that first kick came from. He was a magician, and he’d been to enough Chinatown cinemas to have seen the best moves of the genre, yet he was asking me, a relative novice, how I’d done something of which I was barely aware.

“What do you mean?” I asked in innocence. According to his observation, the punch flicked out lightning-quick, yet somehow completely changed direction in mid-air. He was amazed anything moving so quick could do that. To me the punch had felt slow, as though time was standing still, and I felt as though I had been more a witness than a participant. I was also quite surprised to hear the effect it had, since it felt no harder than a skin-deep tap. Even the witnesses said it looked like a light pop.

What changed, though, was a complete shift of consciousness. While the play leading up to this had been in a daily mode of awareness, the escalation to violence shifted that paradigm. Training ingrains the subconscious mind with patterns of behavior, but it was a higher level of the psyche that was able to change the flow of time and interject the command to do less harm.

I’ve had this kind of time distortion a few other times, such as during a motorcycle accident where I somehow guided myself to a flat landing rather than into a wall that would have crushed me. I’ve heard that inner voice a few other times too, such as a warning not to buy a particular truck, and I’ve learned that ignoring the advice usually comes at a cost. My old Tai Chi teacher came from a Kahuna family, and he talked a lot about paying attention to these kinds of things. That inner guidance is always there; it is up to us to learn how to hear it.

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