Ways To Expand Consciousness
This is probably my favorite subject to explore. First off, I think the BP diet or any well balanced diet in general is a good way to expand consciousness. So far it has done a lot of good for me. There are also many others practices that I utilize to go even further, and I'm sure that many of you could make valuable contributions to this discussion or maybe learn something from it.
First of all, some of the things I'm going to talk about could be considered "psuedo-science" or "hippie pyschobabble". You've been warned. If you don't agree with some of things you read in this thread or become offended by them (I don't know why people would) then please try to realize that this isn't a thread for arguing. It's for like minded people to share ideas and evolve.
That said, first and foremost the most important thing for me has been meditation. I believe this is the cornerstone of all ways to explore consciousness. I started doing this several years ago. I expected instant results from it but what I got was something different. Meditating did help alleviate some anxiety and depression and it does help center you for the day, but the major benefits, at least for me, are experienced in the long run. Because of meditation, I slowly started to explore more ways to evolve myself. I started reading, eating healthier, exercising, practicing yoga, became more compassionate and self aware, etc etc. And all of this was happening without me realizing why. Then I looked back and asked myself "what changed?" What was the variable that catapulted me into this direction. Then of course I realized it was the meditation. I would be a very different person if it weren't for this practice.
I've dabbled with a lot of practices over time and finally settled on the technique described by Yogani in his short-yet-effective 100 page book called "Deep Meditation". You can probably find the PDF online. In your mind you recite the mantra "I AM" over and over. Don't think about what the words mean, just recite them, as if you're saying "AYE AUM". I focus on the "I" during my inhalation and the "Am" on the exhale, though this is just what works best for me and he never says that that is how it should be done. One of the most crucial things to keep in mind is to be calm about it. Every time you catch yourself thinking about something else besides the mantra, calmly bring yourself back. Calmly recite it. Calmly disregard any anxieties. Even if you are unable to stay on the mantra for long, remain calm about it and do your best. If you only focus on the mantra for 2 minutes out of a 10 minute session, that is OK. That is still progress and will do you good. Forcing yourself back to the mantra or to stay focused isn't the best way to go about it. Be calm. You will get better with time, but it takes dedication and for most it takes years (possible decades) of practice. I suggest reading more into it if you are interested. There are many practices and this might not be the best for you. I've had some success with "Guided Meditations", which can be found on various podcast sites and youtube, though I don't think they are necessarily for me.
Yoga and Pranayama are also two other important techniques that expand consciousness and are very natural. I've felt quite euphoric after doing these, though that euphoria isn't necessarily consistent. I still heavily recommend them regardless. My body is becoming more lucid and these, combined with meditation, pack a good punch on my anxiety. There are many different forms. My yoga sessions are mostly based on a 30 minute Hatha session that I found on youtube. It has been quite effective. Pranayama is the art of conscious breath control. There are many different ways to do it. My two favorites are spinal breathing and the breath of fire. Spinal Breathing is simple. Take long, deep breaths. Take them as slowly as you possibly can while still remaining comfortable for the most part. I do this for 7 minutes. I also precede this with 3 minutes of deep breathing except I will do it through one nostril at a time, alternating with each breath. This centers your prana. The breath of fire (a form of holotropic breathwork, something Dave has recommended) consists of taking deep, fast breaths filling only the top of your longs, as if you were hyperventilating. I do this for 3 minutes but I started with 1. It helps to oxidize your blood and releases cerebral fluids from your spin into your brain.There are lots of videos and information available out there so be sure to check it all out before you begin if you haven't already. Yogani has also written books on these subjects and they too are short and effective.
Lucid Dreaming is also quite fascinating. I have had a wide variety of experience with this. It can be used to flex the capabilities of your mind and to interact directly with your subconscious. To flex your mind, slowly explore all the possibilities of lucid dreaming. Start small, by telekinetically moving simple objects or flying. Then work your way up from there. Literally anything is possible. You can talk to someone who has died, change the scene on a dime, induce a DMT trip, become two different people at once, have 360 vision, etc etc. I plan on visiting the Giza Pyramid in my next lucid dream and summoning Horus. Then I want to visit the star Sirius A. You can also ask dream characters questions about yourself or what they represent and you will receive interesting answers.Usually, dream characters don't like to admit that they are dream characters, so you have to prove that it is a dream to them with reality checks.
Reality checks are a great way to become lucid. Throughout the day, perform reality checks every now and then to see if you're dreaming. Even though you know you're awake, if you do them enough you'll start doing them in your dreams. My three favorites are: checking clocks to see if they work correctly and are consistent, flipping light switches and reading small text. These three things don't work very well in a dream, so when you notice that they aren't working, BAM, you'll become lucid. It's always best to do more than one.
Writing your dreams down is also a good idea. I record my dreams with a voice recorder at night then write them down when I wake up. I also from time to time write down what my dream goals are. The stop drop and roll technique is also a good method for inducing a lucid dream, but I feel like there is too much information involved to touch on here. There is a good lucid dreaming series on youtube called lucidology 101 ( note that some parts are missing, but if you search the internet for them you can find them). It covers both lucid dreams and OBE's, which are very similar. There are other methods discussed as well. Websites such as www.lucidity.com and www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com are pretty useful too, as is a basic google search. I read a book called "The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep" which helped a lot and I highly recommend it if it sounds like your cup of tea. I also highly enjoy the movie "Waking Life" which is an animated fictional story about lucid dreaming and philosophy.
Psychedelic Drugs are a favorite among seekers. My personal favorite is Salvia Divinorum, which is legal in most states. I am also among the 5% of people that I've met who actually enjoy it. But in my opinion most people do it wrong. Just look at any of the videos on youtube. People freak out and do the weirdest shit, and I'm not going to lie, it is a very strange drug. But it can also be captivating. I always smoke it after doing some of my other practices like yoga and meditation. I lie down in my bed, usually in dim lighting, close my eyes and listen to some psychedelic music. Then I go with the ride, which never lasts for more than 15 minutes when smoked. If you use incense as your weapon of choice then the effects are longer but not as noticeable.
Theoretically, this is how most psychedelics should be approached, like DMT (dimethyltryptamine) which is two steps away from being tryptophan. Tryptophan, to my understanding, is found in all organisms, so theoretically all organsims have the potential to synthesis DMT, and most have done so. The two main methods of taking DMT are smoking DMT crystals or drinking Ayahuasca. Both are illegal in the US but can be done legally in other regions like Canada or South America. I've only smoked DMT twice and didn't have a full blown "breakthrough" experience, but the experiences were still interesting none the less. A typical breakthrough experience usually consists of crossing into other dimensions, being visited by extradimensional beings and becoming one with the universe. DMT is a fascinating compound to me and I suggest people read up on it if they haven't already. One great source is Rick Strassman's "DMT The Spirit Molecule" available both in book and documentary form.
Some drugs don't need such a serious approach, like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms, though they should usually be done with a sober "baby sitter" at a comfortable location, at least until you've done it enough and have your sea legs. Partying is not a good idea until that point, and I personally would never use it to party. That's a waste of valuable exploration time imo, but some may disagree. These drugs last anywhere from 4 to 12 hours or more depending on dosage, and aren't necessarily as intense as Salvia or DMT but still interesting. Personally I like the short-yet-oh-so-sweet effect DMT and Salvia have on me. Marijuana is another interesting psychedelic that a lot of people abuse. For me it has done more harm than good and I got pretty addicted after a while. The other drugs I've mentioned are less harmful. And even though I had terrible, life altering experiences on shrooms and LSD, I still think they are more productive than MJ, but that's just my opinion and I don't look down on people who use it.
A word of caution to first time users: these drugs can be very scary. I know people who have never been the same since having a "bad trip", including myself. But I believe this is because people use them wrong and are not properly informed. If you look at indigenous cultures who utilize these things you'll find that nobody ever goes crazy and jumps off a building (I know somebody who did this). That is because their society does not demonize them and they properly inform their pupils how to use them, which often involves a ritual/ceremonial approach. This is an approach that I recommend as well. A good book on using psychedelics for proper inner exploration is called "The Psychedelic Experience" by Timothy Leary. Then of course there is the cornerstone of all information on drugs, www.erowid.com. "Supernatural", a book by archeologist Graham Hancock is another interesting read if you want to learn more about the symbiotic relationship mankind has had with these drugs over the course of it's time on earth.
Researching philosophy, physics, metaphysics, psychology, etc ect is a good idea when looking for ways to expand your consciousness. I've learned a lot from my research and believe this a crucial element, almost as crucial as meditation. When I have the time, I might include some of my favorite books, movies, etc about these subjects.
Both deciphering and creating Art has aided me a lot. There is nothing like coming to a realization or feeling something unexplainable when analyzing art (music, movies, paintings, literature, etc etc etc). It's like discovering the meaning behind a Buddhist koan, and it is a journey that must, for the most part, be accomplished on your own. Experience with art is very subjective and can be used to positively mold your life if used properly. Creating art is just as shamanic. Using it to express yourself is an intense experiment that you can learn from no matter what the results are. Perhaps I will go more into this later. Alex Grey has a book called "The Mission of Art" which explores the shamanic abilities of art. I haven't read it but I own it and plan on reading it someday. I've also heard him discuss said things on random youtube videos.
Technology is evolving to a point of singularity. Once we hit that point, theoretically, all of mankind will become one with the universe. Until then, there are many other technological devices that can alter and expand consciousness. First of all, neurofeedback and sensory deprivation tanks are very popular on this board and I'm sure most of you know about them. Nuerofeedback is quite expensive and as such not as accessible. Sensory Deprivation Tanks are more accessible and way cheaper. I'll hit one up for the first time tomorrow. SDT's and the devices that Dave has recommended (emwave, zeo) are the only technological devices that seem accessible to the masses. Even they are quite expensive, though many people who have used them recommend them. I haven't gone far enough into this yet to adequately discuss it, so I'll leave that to others. Other technologies include youtube videos that are said to induce altered states of consciousness, like binaural beats. I've had some success with these, but don't know much about the science.
The last technology that I'm going to mention is a simulated out of body experience that I saw in a consciousness documentary. You would sit in a chair and wear a visor. There would be a camera behind you. The visor would project what the camera sees. It would look as if you are behind yourself. Then a scientist would secretly poke you (he'd stand so close to your body that his arm would be hidden), while simultaneously poking under the lens of the camera. This would confuse you even more. The person involved in the experiment was pretty baffled, and truly thought that he was behind his body for a moment. Again, this technology doesn't seem widely accessible.
Now for some more esoteric methods of self exploration that I've come across in my research. I warn you, this is where it gets bananas. The two main authors who I'd recommend for this kind of stuff are Robert Anton Wilson (my favorite author, I've read 12 of his books) and Aleister Crowly, the creator of Thelema and one of the most well known practicers of "Magick", which is "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will" according to Crowley. And, after all, I believe all experience boils down to two things: Karma and Perspective. But that is for another discussion.
First of all, there is the practice of removing the word "I" from your vocabulary, which I discovered while reading books by Robert Anton Wilson (at the moment I can't remember if the book was Cosmic Trigger or Prometheus Rising, but I'm pretty sure this method and the next one were both from Cosmic Trigger). This next method is both interesting and vague but still makeslogical sense to me. Every time you use the word "I" (or when you to refer to yourself in general, I imagine. He didn't go into too much detail about this and I haven't found any information since) inflict pain on yourself to remind yourself not to use it. He wrote of biting your thumb or cutting yourself, which is kind of extreme. I think I would simply pluck a hair from my head. At the end of a month you will be very sore but the word I will be gone, and you will supposedly be in a completely different state of consciousness.
The next experiment is even more interesting and easier to do imo. Astral project yourself into a room with a computer. Vividly imagine every aspect of this room as if it were real, then imagine and believe that the computer is 10 billion years more advanced than anything we have. Believe (and by believe I mean remove ALL doubt) that this computer can answer any question you ask it, save for anything metaphysical. Start off small and work your way up. I started by asking "what was the name of my second grade teacher", and before I could finish the question, the name came to me. Ms. Gaffni. I was blown away, and confirmed it by checking in with the school I went to. I haven't done the experiment since, and some might say that it only worked because the answer was in my subconscious, but I believe it works because every single atom contains all the information of all other atoms in the universe, and that if we truly put our minds to it, we can access this stuff. But that is just my psychotic, hippie opinion.
Aleister Crowley and the various cults that he's been apart of have made a lot of interesting Magickal rituals available for mainstream use. They can be quite profound if looked at with an open mind, and are very positive and usually based on Egyptian rituals. The Thelemic Middle Pillar, for example, is a meditation technique that, from what I understand, induces incredible euphoria and oneness with the universe. You can find information about it on youtube or google, and also in his books.
Back to Robert Anton Wilson: he is an avid practicer of constantly trying out new belief systems ("reality tunnels") and using them to evolve. Force yourself to believe and do things that you would never do. Become a vegetarian for a couple of months if you're not already, become an atheist for awhile if you're theist or vice versa, be an angry person if you're a kind one, etc. He has accomplished many great things by doing this, including summoning gods of different religions. He did this making himself believe in those deities and devoted more time to them than a priest would. Eventually, the deity would come to him, then he'd move on to the next deity. He believes this is possible because of how powerful our minds and their perspectives (reality tunnels) are. His book "Prometheus Rising" is an interesting read on this, and he includes tasks for the reader to experiment with at the end of each chapter. He also urges people to try them out before you decide to believe or disbelieve his experiments. He considers himself a "mystic agnostic" and has said that he "DOES NOT BELIEVE ANYTHING", because like Descartes said, "I Think, therefor I am", and that is the only thing he or anyone else can truly prove to themselves. I believe that is the goal of all methods of consciousness exploration. They slowly peel away the illusion of reality and open your eyes to the "truth", and through my research I have become profoundly changed by these ideas and they have truly improved my life. But, they are not for everyone, and I try not to pass them off as fact or preach to people. I am simply stating my believes and urge people to explore their own, using their own methods (or these if they tickle your fancy). If being a scientific atheist with no beliefs in the esoteric enlightens you then so be it. There is nothing wrong with that. Even though I am quite proud and have a hard time coming to terms with opposing opinions I still try to keep my pride at bay and accept them. To those people with drastically different views I say "Go for it and enjoy." As long as you positively influence the world and don't cause harm to anybody else then what you believe in shouldn't matter.
I think that is all I have for now and I hope you guys enjoyed it. I look forward to any contribution you guys can make (beliefs, ideas, book recommendations, etc). I will update this post in the future with more links and info when I get the time. Until then, namaste, amigos.