12 Stages of Human Consciousness - a map to growth and evolution

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We all like to think of ourselves as conscious. As knowing what we do and why we do it. We are wired to be conscious after all.

I have found through years of self-study and working with clients, that we are capable of being so much more conscious that we think, and the missing link for many people is the body. We tend to think of consciousness as something that comes through the mind, through meditation and self-exploration. I agree that these are great tools, but if your body doesn’t support your mind, you will regularly find yourself dropping to lower levels of thought, emotion, behaviour and yes, consciousness.

In his book, The !2 Stages of Healing, Donny Epstein introduces his thoughts on human consciousness. The book is great, but written 30 years ago, I find that the language doesn’t always meet our current experiences… and humanity is evolving and changing.

So I’m going to summarise, in my words, how I experience the 12 Stages and how connecting to each of these stages can benefit each and everyone of us to grow and heal.

Stage 1: Suffering and Disconnection

We don’t feel our bodies unless they hurt. We do everything to disconnect. We feel numb. Suffering comes because we have lost the ability to listen to the subtle messages and rely on loud messages like pain.

Through Stage 1 exercises we start to reconnect to our body, to find ease, to find resources we had forgotten we had. This starts our journey of healing.

Stage 2: Polarity

Although we are healthier than in Stage 1, we are still not fully connecting to our body. We tend to look for solutions or things to blame outside of us. Things can be very black and white, wrong or right. It supports a blame culture, where we don’t really take responsibility for our body, but instead look for someone else to fix us, or something to blame for our problems.

We need to start to recognise that we have different parts, with different needs and emotions. In Stage 2 we start to connect to the parts of us we like and the ones we don’t. This brings us more into our body and less dependent on what happens outside of us. It starts to move us forwards towards wholeness. It is often the parts of us that we have disconnected from that contain the seeds that will heal us, if only we would listen.

Stage 3: Stuck in Perspective

Here we feel like we have done everything, seen every therapist, tried every diet, done all different exercise plans, yet we are still not where we want to. We are running out of idea. We are stuck in a repeating pattern.

Here we need to really connect to our body and observe how “we” hold ourselves in a pattern. The common factor in every thing we have tried is us. Maybe we have something to do with it. But we are frustrated and often angry.

Stage 4: Reclaiming your Power

Enough of this. I take back my power. Because I deserve so much more than this.

This is actually about taking responsibility, personal power is about taking action and owning the consequences and learning from them. It’s about thinking for yourself, not relying on external forces to tell you what to do.

Stage 5: Merging with the Illusion

We are products of society. We have learnt rules, created beliefs and ways of being from those who love us and all around us. Some of the rules work for us, many don’t. Many of these beliefs limit our progress and keep us small and dismpowered.

Here we merge with all the parts of us we have disowned, we embrace the energy we have used to keep us separate from our wholeness. It is an important step towards authenticity.

Stage 6: I’m Ready

I’m so ready for change. I’m so ready to step up. I’m so ready to resolve this.

The energy is building, we can see the finish line. We know that we have done the work. Now we must go deeper again and prepare to clear out the patterns and beliefs that no longer serve us, so we can step into ourselves.

Stage 7: Resolution

We release our patterns. It could be through sound, emotions, some people even throw up. Whatever is necessary it feels healthy and our bodies clear out what no longer serves.

Stage 8: Emptiness in Connection

Peaceful waiting.

There are no voices telling us what we must do, what we should do. We no longer feel obligated to meet everyone elses needs. We are peaceful. There is space, space to wait and observe and see what unfolds. Space for opportunity to fill, when the time is ready. Be still, wait, experience the peace. Emotions of this stage include grace, peace, expansion, love.

Stage 9: Light beyond the Form

We become aware that we are more than our physical bodies and that there is an energy that surrounds and connects us all.

Our hearts open. We feel so much more than we thought possible. We feel connected beyond ourself. We can often read the energy in others and in situations. We experience love, gratitude, hope, so much more.

Stage 10: Being the Light / Receiving your Gifts

We are not separate. We have unique gifts that contribute to the collective.

Here we connect to our own uniqueness and potential whilst experiencing that we are not separate from others but part of something so much bigger than us.

Stage 11: Sharing your Gifts

I have gifts to give and to share. I give these gifts because I can, not to make me feel special or better than, but because that is what I do. Serendipity becomes part of are daily experience. We experience joy and gratitude

Stage 12: Community

Our smallest community it the cells that make up our body. We then expand this to our family, friends, colleagues, then our village, our county, our country, the world, the universe? How big your community is depends on your consciousness.

As we connect to this stage we start to see where we sit in relation to humanity. We see how our actions, thoughts, emotions affect more and more people. And depending on our capacity to connect to a bigger and bigger community this will change how we act, think and feel so that we can positively influence the biggest possible community.

There is so much more depth to each stage than I have shared here. But we all need a starting point and a flavour to work with. I find as I work through the stages over and over, each time I visit I get more depth, more insight. I discover where I naturally connect and where my body does not support this consciousness. Any stage that cannot be fully experienced can limit my capacity to grow and contribute. I see the 12 stages as a spiral and as Stage 12 ends, I realise that I am still not fully integrated, I am separate. Yet each time I visit Stage 1 I do so with more insight and more knowing, because of the journey I have taken up to this point.

Ask yourself:

  • which stages do I recognise in myself?

  • where do I feel challenged?

  • where are my natural gifts?

  • which stages do I want to avoid?

We all have a choice as to how much work we do on our own bodymind. The associated exercises with the Stages provide powerful tools to connect to your body, transform how you act and awaken to so much more of yourself.

Stage 4: How do you Give Your Power Away?

You’ve probably already read the article on Taking Back My Power, but in case you haven’t check it out as there is some useful stuff there.

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What does being in My Power look like?

For me, this is one of the first steps to authenticity. It’s saying Yes when you mean Yes, and saying No when you mean No. It’s knowing your own value system, your ethics, your tolerations and being prepared to stand by them. Sometimes it’s easier to look at what it’s not first though.

How do I give away My Power?

A common example I see on a regular basis is people will say “but my Dr said this….” like their Dr is God. Yes, Dr’s are very well qualified but they are experts in disease and in the pharmaceutical or surgical solutions to those disease. They are not experts in nutrition, in fact most Drs have never studied nutrition, and they are certainly not experts in alternative approaches.

But let’s look at some more day to day examples, because these are often so habitual we don’t even notice that we do them.

If you are in the habit of “people pleasing”, which is a very common way of giving away your power, you will probably have at least one close friend like this. This friend will always want to dictate where you meet, what you do together and it will be very much on their timescale. They may regularly let you down and expect that to be totally acceptable. And you will find yourself making excuses for them, rather than raising your standards and saying “no, I’m worth more than this”.

Another common situation is the friend or partner who constantly puts you down. Often in very subtle ways, almost so subtle that it would take someone else to notice, but it chips away at your self-confidence and you start to believe that you are nothing, that you are not enough, that you are less than worthy. As long as you allow it, you are not in your personal power. You are not being true to yourself.

An example that is more pertinent to women than men is regarding salary. One of my female friends recently discovered that a male colleague who was not performing as well as her was being paid 25% more than she was. Her male boss had made a big thing of how grateful she should be for the salary she was getting a few weeks before this discovery. How she is choosing to deal with this is not something I can share here. The point is, this happens a lot, and many women feel totally powerless to deal with it because it’s “normal” in the workplace and they often can’t afford the risk of losing their job or being branded a trouble maker. Societal norms often make us feel that there is no way through situations like this, so we suffer in silence.

Another example of giving away your power is to always let someone else decide for you. I once dated a man who would not make a decision as to what we did in our free time. He always wanted me to decide. Not only is that very frustrating to be on the receiving end of, it made him far less attractive and was a big reason as to why I ended the relationship. It was like dating a little boy, who needed his hand holding all the time. Had he not been so physically attractive and so much fun to be with, I doubt he would have lasted at all. The question is - do you defer decisions that you should make to other people. And when you do, how does it leave you feeling?

What makes us Give Our Power Away?

I think there are only a few fundamental reasons why we do it. The emotion is often fear, though sometimes it can be shame. Many people are fearful of speaking their truth in case they lose face, lose money, lose friends or lose social standing. We do a lot to maintain the status quo.

It is definitely a case of “pick your battles”. You may decide in certain circumstances that it is acceptable and you will continue to do it. But this often leads to a build up of resentment which often results in a bigger, more uncontrolled outburst (see Stage 2) than is necessary if things were clarified and owned at an earlier date.

Be observant. See where you give away your power, and evaluate the cost to you. And if the cost is unacceptable it’s time to step into your power and speak your truth.

When is Honesty not appropriate?

This seems to have been a theme for me recently, so it feels good to share. Because innately we all want to speak the truth, yet when the truth might hurt someone else? What do we do, how do we handle it?

So what does this have to do with body awakening anyway?

Does it hurt me if I don’t tell the truth?

When it comes down to it, I want to be the best version of me possible. If I’m not true to me, there is always going to be a cost.

So one situation I’ve been in for a while now is about 2 years ago I made the decision to stop eating gluten. There is a growing body of research that shows that gluten is inflammatory, and different people respond to a differing degree to it. Well I’m not coeliac, but I seem to be pretty sensitive. I swell slightly when I eat gluten, my joints feel still and sometimes painful and it affects my energy and my mood. So pretty good reasons not to eat it.

How does that make me feel? Well on one level it makes me feel ashamed, ashamed that I’m different, ashamed that my body is letting me down and some fear comes up around being ill if I eat it and being outcast if I don’t. I have a need to fit in. So I play it down, don’t make a fuss, go pretty British - I’m fine.

But my body pays for that. I know I’m not being true to myself, I don’t like that in myself. I lose a bit of respect for myself, for being weak, for not being strong enough to say what I need. And I find my posture collapses when I do that. I feel smaller than I want to. I feel bad. My body contracts a bit. I don’t like these feelings.

So it’s always a good question to ask - when I’m not totally true to myself, what happens in my body? How do I feel? Or even more important - how do I check out and dissociate from these feelings (often we eat sugar or we drink alcohol as a distraction….).

So for me the first thing I need to do is check back in with my body (stage 1 is a great starting point or just some simple deep breathing if you don’t know the exercise). And I own it. I own the fact I’m not being true to myself. Because hurting me is not great.

But how do I avoid hurting the other person?

Well firstly, if it’s someone who loves me, they are potentially going to be more angry if I don’t tell them what I need, than if I just try and fit in. Because they care about me - yes?

And if it’s someone I don’t know so well, well maybe I just need to get over myself. Being honest about something like this is no big deal. Gluten free is so easy nowadays - for example potatoes, meat and vegetables are all gluten free naturally, as is rice. It’s not a hard diet to follow, so why get so worried about it?

So I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m hurting myself, honesty is the only option. And as a Brit, I am trained to be nice, to be polite, to not rock the boat, yet not doing costs me.

You may say - but this is about you, but there must be situations when you should stay quiet?

You know, I’m sure there are. Only you can evaluate what happens in your own body when you either withhold information or truth, or when you consciously tell and untruth? It’s your choice.

I recently felt compelled to tell a fellow therapist why I didn’t want to be treated by her. For me that was quite a big thing to do, because I hold so much respect for anyone who is committed to a healing profession and helping others. But frankly her ego was way bigger than her ability. She assured me that there was no one local good enough to treat her, and then proceded to deliver what I would describe as a beginner level treatment. So what did I do? Well initially I was set to do nothing, just never book another appointment with her and leave her to it. But after conversation with a colleague I thought - you know, if everyone votes with their feet, she will never grow, she wont reach her potential - because her potential was great - so i very gently explained why I wasn’t going to return because my needs were not being met by her expertise at this point in time. Sadly she didn’t take it well, was very cold and shut down emotionally. Whilst I’m sad about that, I also know that standing in my truth served both me and her. No one likes to be told that they are not giving the service they think they are. If I sound arrogant here, it’s not my intention. My intention is to say that we all need feedback, and I know professionally getting feedback can be really hard because most therapists are doing everything they can to be the best they can.

So how do you feel when you don’t speak your truth?

I find I can explore this through so many different stages of SRI.

Stage 1 when I disconnect

Stage 2 when I’m more concerned about how people perceive me and how they will respond me

Stage 3 when I’m stuck in the pattern of being nice, of not saying what I need

Stage 4 when I don’t stand in my power

Stage 5 when I let the voices around me tell me what to do, when I don’t own parts of me that are playing small

Stage 11 when I need to share my gifts

Stage 12 when I need to be in community, in line with what serves the collective….

We all have choices, what serves you?



Christmas is a time for Forgiveness

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I was struck by post that talked about apologizing and what it really meant. Because it’s easy to say I’m sorry, but to go deep and ask “why did I hurt that person” is a different question.

The first thing to do is check your own body. Is there somewhere that feels tight, or you want to avoid? Or do you feel numb? That’s not uncommon and it that’s the case, I suggest you check in with the three positions of Stage One (Upper Chest, Mid Chest and Navel).

What happens when you check in with your body? How can you become more embodied, so that your body can help you solve why you have to hurt others, rather than connect to your own pain. People don’t do hurtful things to the people they love because they want to hurt them. We often operate from a place of shame and hurt, and we are only trying to protect ourselves from feeling more pain and hurt.

I’m not saying Stage 1 is the solution, I’m saying it’s a starting point. You can explore your body from so many different perspectives. If you are more experienced at bodywork and SRI, I’d checkout Stages 2 and 3, and maybe ask the bigger questions - What did I get from doing that? How come I thought it was OK? Did you feel helpless (stage 1) or did you feel angry (maybe stage 2 or 3)? What triggered you?

Enjoy the exploration. You may be surprised by what you find out about yourself.

Happy Christmas, and may your journey towards deeper connection and authenticity be a rewarding one.



Stage 3 - Stuck in a Pattern

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Have ever been at the point when you feel like you’ve tried EVERYTHING and you still haven’t got the results you wanted?

You feel like you’ve been working away at a problem or challenge, yet nothing is coming together. You may have changed your diet, increased your exercise, consulted numerous experts, yet you are still not where you want to be?

You feel stuck and it sucks. It’s just so frustrating and you don’t know what to do about it.

Your Choices

Most people at this point dissolve back into a state of helplessness (Stage 1) or go deeper into Stage 2 (polarity) and keep searching for the answer somewhere out there.

However there comes a moment when you know that both the problem and the solution lie within you. And that’s the recognition point to stage 3. You know that you are stuck and you start to own it. Because “stuck” shows up in the body, just like polarity (Stage 2) and helplessness (Stage 1) do.

Usually it’s the mind that is contributing to the stuck. It can limit how we approach a problem and our beliefs can keep us in a holding pattern that goes around and around. The over riding emotion is frustration, though some people express it more as “yeuch”!

When you can truly connect to the embodied experience of Stage 3 and feel how your body is also stuck in a pattern, you get to the point where you are ready to reclaim your power, reclaim the part of you that knows the answer and knows how to move forwards.

Experiment with the Stage 3 exercise. How many areas of your body feel stuck? Where do you feel stuck? How does it feel to connect into it.

You may need to revisit Stages 1 and 2 again before you are ready to resolve Stage 3.

Stage 2 - Polarity

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Do you ever feel like you have a problem in your life, it could be a health challenge, a difficult person, a situation at work and it drives you crazy because you can’t change it? You almost have a charge on the situation or get revved up and emotional about it. And it doesn’t matter how hard you try, nothing seems to work.

Let’s take a real example….

You may be in a challenging relationship, but everyone is telling you to be happy about what you have, the house, the car, the job, whatever. But you are still regularly wound up by what your partner does or doesn’t do. And your words become along the lines of…. “if only he were like that then everything would be ok and I’d be great”. You put your happiness, your sense of self and make it totally dependent on someone else.

Or it could be you have an injury, you’ve hurt your neck for example. You’ve tried massage, you’ve tried phyio, you’ve tried chiropractic, you’ve been to the shamanic healer, and nothing works. They are all useless and it’s their fault you’re not better.

Equally, you may have an injury and you’ve found the most amazing chiropractor (this was me 20 years ago by the way), and he can fix anything. So every time you do something stupid or injure yourself, he puts you back together and you carry on with your life. No impact on you, other than the time and money you part with.

So what is going on?

I could give countless examples, but there is a common thread here. There is a problem, it’s affecting you at a physical or emotional/mental level, and you are searching for a solution outside of yourself. Whether you are blaming someone else for how you are, or are searching for a solution outside of you be it a healer, money (which rarely solves anything by the way, just amplifies the situation), a person or a change of circumstance, the solution is always dependent on something outside of you.

What happens without, happens within…

I still hear people who don’t believe this, they don’t believe that your outer world reflects your inner world. And I must confess I wasn’t a believer for many years. Yet I’ve come to see that our internal state is almost always mirrored around us and vice versa.

Stages of Healing

So in Stage 1 we are pretty helpless and not much is going to change. In Stage 2, we know we need to heal but we are not yet resourced enough to do it ourselves. Whilst I believe that much healing and/or does require outside input, we also have to play a role in it. If you are in this stage you are usually putting almost or all of your focus outside of you and giving the responsibility for your wellbeing and your state to an outside force.

One of the personal benefits of this is it’s much easier to put the onus on someone else to change, because then it’s not our fault. We don’t have to take responsibility. The problem with that, is often the person we are putting it all upon either doesn’t want to change, can’t change or doesn’t know that you’re relying on them to do someone. Or in the case of a healthcare professional, they may be brilliant at what they do, but it’s still you that has to heal and change.

So it’s quite a skill to recognize when you are not taking responsibility, because it’s not something we like admitting to.

Some tips to help you recognize this stage include:

·       You are charged emotionally about the situation

·       You are alternating between helpless and I’ve found the perfect solution

·       You are blaming a lot

·       You are over praising someone else

·       You are relying on circumstance to change and feel like you’re waiting and in limbo

·       It’s never your fault or it’s always your fault (absolutist language)

So What’s Actually Going on?

When we polarize outwardly, we are actually separating from a part of us. And these are usually the parts of our persona that we don’t like, don’t own or are ashamed of. It’s much easier to blame someone or something else, than to admit we feel scared, or inadequate or that we are angry, ungrateful or just nasty. But it’s not just the negative emotions and states we avoid, some people are just as challenged in admitting that they are talented, gifted or capable. Instead they play small, deferring to others.

Stage 2 is a great way of avoiding responsibility and our society runs on it. The media feeds it. I challenge anyone to watch the news and there not be at least one reference to who’s fault it was. Because it’s there in every aspect of our lives. If someone get’s sick, we look for why, if someone is not performing at work we blame them or someone else. There is so much in our culture, do be kind to yourself when you see it in you. And being British myself and knowing how to do the “stiff upper lip”, the Brits are expert at cutting themselves off from the parts of themselves that hurt and don’t feel good enough.

What to do about it

The first step of moving through stage 2 is to recognize that you are at least partly in this stage. So it’s good to observe when do you give your power away? When do you say “if only it were like this or if he did this, I’d be fine…” and to catch yourself blaming and ask – do I have a part in this? Is it really 100% their fault?

Once you’ve recognized it, I suggest doing a Stage 2 on your body and observing what changes

Stage 1 - Suffering and Disconnection

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Why would anyone want to do an exercise that connects you to suffering and/or disconnection? It’s an interesting concept. Don’t stop reading. This information is probably amongst the most important I have to share.

We can all benefit from more connection to our body. Why would I say that?

I, like most of you, skipped the lessons on how to listen to my body. I am British, I was brought up to pull myself together and get on with things. And before you think I have a beef with my parents over that I don’t. I know they have always done what they believed was best for me.

However, our culture supports ignoring the subtle signals, or even the less subtle signals from our body. And the problem with this is that it always ultimately leads to a state of suffering. Just some people are so disconnected they don’t even recognize that.

So what do I mean by subtle connection?

If you can listen to your body it’s a bit like listening the lion in the distance, before he attacks, whereas most of wait until the symptom - be it physical, emotional or mental - shouts so loudly it’s like the lion is on our shoulder and about to eat us.

Developing subtle awareness takes time. And each time you become more aware of your body, your potential unlocks just a bit.

How do you know you’re in Stage 1?

I rarely see people who are totally and wholly immersed in stage 1 because they are usually on the lounge floor or in bed, in a state of total helplessness because nothing works, there is no hope, nothing is ever going to change and no-one would understand if they spoke about it anyway. This is your friend who is totally isolating herself and not even able to ask for help. It’s a horrible state to be in, and one I have luckily only experienced fully a handful of times.

But most of us have some stage 1 consciousness most of the time. There are messages from our body we are not listening to and consequently we are not responding to until symptoms show up.

Symptoms can be anything from low back pain, neck pain, headaches or repressed emotions, difficulty expressing how we feel or destructive mental chatter, to name a few. Any message we are not listening to can have a component of stage 1.

For example, this morning I was tuning into my body and I became aware of tension in my left hip. It was uncomfortable and I wanted to get rid of it (classic stage 1 response). But cutting my hip off is not an option, so instead I used the stage 1 exercise to tune into my hip and listen to it. I was holding emotions in there and after a few minutes of listening to and feeling those emotions I was done. My hip relaxed and I felt more energy in my body.

Energy and Stage 1

When we are in a full or partial stage 1 we lack energy. We lack resources and resourcefulness. We need help and often don’t even have the energy to ask for it. Anything that raises your energy will help - for example going for a walk get’s your body moving, or some gentle stretching. The challenge is often finding the energy to start.

Increasing Our Internal Resources

When we are in a state of helplessness or don’t know what to do, this exercise helps you to find internal resources and increase your available energy. When we feel low or helpless, we need more energy to get out of the state. We all know that our energy levels massively impact on what we are able to do or achieve.

Personally I believe I can always be more resourceful, so Stage 1 is part of my daily routing. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t spend at least a few minutes using this exercise to improve my state.

Use the blog on how to do Stage 1 to learn the basics of this exercise. And if you’re lucky enough to either live near an SRI Practitioner, book in and do a workshop or personal session with them to refine your skills.

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