The concept of a higher realm of human consciousness is a common foundation of many spiritual traditions, including Yoga, Hinduism, Sufism, Theosophy, and many others. Higher consciousness, akin to enlightenment, is regarded to be a spiritual evolution bringing about a more developed awareness and understanding of reality and the human experience.
In contrast to higher consciousness, within ordinary consciousness we experience life through a filter or fog of unconscious conditioning that limits our abilities to fully explore our reality. Many teachings compare ordinary consciousness to a “waking sleep” from which we fully awaken when we raise our consciousness towards enlightenment. Buddhist traditions call these lower, ordinary, obscured mental states kilesa, which translates to “defilement” or “poison” and is sometimes compared to clouds covering the sun.
Through the careful development of moral virtues such as patience, kindness, honesty, humility, forgiveness, and lucidity, we can begin to transcend ordinary consciousness and open ourselves to a higher consciousness. As we develop this moral self-discipline, we will also realize our ability to control our own life experiences and personal growth. Instead of projecting responsibility for our human suffering and joy onto the outside world, we will realize that the full power and potential of the human experience lies within our own minds and hearts.
The practice of yoga, specifically Raja Yoga, seeks to continually develop this awareness of our higher consciousness. As we bring our growing mindfulness into the physical practice of yoga, each pose and series of poses becomes a meditative journey; as we continue to open our bodies and mind, we continue to rise above the ordinary and (re)unite with the enlightened and divine within ourselves.