These six major steps weave in and around each other, and there are many others, all revealing a transition between materiality consciousness and heightened consciousness, or between an outward emphasis (thinking, remembering, body and mind), and an inward emphasis (the replacing of thought and memory by a spiritual fullness devoid of body and mind).

Therefore, the materially minded, dependent upon thinking and memory, and believing strongly in body and mind, will not be able to relate, from an experiential standpoint, to the heightened mind. (What in the world would I be without my body and mind!) This should not prohibit an open minded inquiry into possibilities, because even without actual, personal experience in these heightened states of consciousness, there are strong historical, as well as contemporary arguments supporting the existence of heightened realms, which are the form that religion is evolving toward as our intelligence increases, opening the door for an eventual evolved being.

1. Body/Mind Balance

Here, the mind is beginning to see the relationship between body and mind, and therefore begins taking care of the body with proper diet and exercise. This means giving up some pleasures and establishing a discipline in order for the body and mind to be healthy, peaceful, and balanced. The practitioner has not yet seriously delved into the demise of the body, or really faced the fear of death, and therefore has not yet considered the spiritual realm but understands that the physical body is temporal, and wants it to keep going as long as possible. The development of mind in this case is usually limited to discipline. The practitioner still believes the body and mind to be a self - something that will continue after death in some form or an other.

2. Devotion

Not yet being able to see for themselves with insight and wisdom that a self only exists as a concoction of psycho/physical interaction with stimuli, but understanding that their life on earth will end soon, the practitioner, seeking security, simply falls in love with a divine personality, a dualistic love ( I am here and the divine is there) and uses the relationship, along with what they hear and read, as a guideline for his or her lives. Depending upon who or what the divine is, and what aspects of the divine the practitioner embraces among the numerous devotional religions, this can lead to either a peaceful, happy life, or a life filled with stress and violence, as the practitioner, still misunderstanding universal, selfless love, tries to influence others to their way of idealistic thinking. Unfortunately, because of the danger of blindness regarding devotion, violent acts can be committed by the practitioner while they are in a total state of denial of their emotions and the consequences of their actions, believing that what they are doing is right, (It's God's will!) and therefore thinking that they are happy even during insane, angry, suicidal acts.

3. Selfless service

Selfless service as a practice in itself or a supplement to a religious order can be based on the belief that service to humanity will somehow help the practitioner in this world or the next, so in that case it is not truly selfless yet because there is still an agenda for a present and future self concept. The practitioner remains caught in the materiality consciousness. Selfless service as a result of the practitioner's "self" disappearing and therefore only seeing the needs of others is a different story, and is very close to heightened consciousness.

4. Discipline

This is the religion of practices, training, order, and control of mind and body. Through a forced discipline, the practitioner becomes master of his or her mind and body, eventually becoming readjusted to the emphasis of the particular religion which can be either beneficial or destructive to society depending upon the religion's precepts and mission. The danger here is that, similar to devotion, acts by the practitioner can be violent or loving depending upon the mission of the religion. There is still the dualistic notion that a self is doing all of this for a purpose, with goals and ambitions cloaked as spiritual endeavors.

5. Wisdom and knowledge

Here, practitioners cultivate intelligence, and since they are cultivating intellect and knowledge instead of cultivating an ideology or specific religion, they investigate all religions and practices and view them as equal, as long as the practices and religions in some way add to the knowledge of the practitioner. There is still a concept of self, and a desire for that self to continue in one form or another after death, so therefore there will still be an agenda and goal seeking. The danger of violent acts, however are reduced dramatically because of the lack of idealistic fervor and lack of a belief that a supreme being is guiding them. They would not participate in any kinds of crusades or spiritual wars.

6. Beyond wisdom and knowledge

This is the culmination of heightened awareness and the end of experiencing as a human being, including wisdom and knowledge. No longer is there a belief that we are solid beings, which leads to the illusion of a separate self, egoism, or individuality, a major obstacle to heightened awareness.

No longer is there doubt about "Who am I? What am I? How am I? What have I been in the past? What shall I be in the future? From what state to what state shall I change in the future?

No longer does the practitioner adhere to robotic rituals and ceremonies in the mistaken belief that purification can be achieved simply by their performance. The practitioner understands that neither the repetition of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can effect true freedom.

All sensual lust falls away, as does hatred and ill will, and the practitioner has no compulsion toward surviving death in either a heavenly realm of form or in a heavenly formless realm.

Conceit (I am enlightened or a saint), arrogance (I know more than you know), self-assertion (listen to what I have to say because it is the truth), or pride (that I have come so far!) and all forms of measuring or evaluation are abandoned by the practitioner. Restlessness is also gone; that confused, distracted state of mind where there is no tranquility or peace, and instead there is only excitement, turmoil, disturbance and agitation of the heart.

And finally, the practitioner understands in his or her own heart, that all material existence involves human suffering because of impermanence, and because nothing stands behind what is obvious (no self, no soul) - only the continuance of the practitioner's karma, or actions, which are reborn as a life continuum consciousness into a new entity.

Author's Bio: 

Anagarika eddie is a meditation teacher at the Dhammabucha Rocksprings Meditation Retreat Sanctuary
www.dhammarocksprings.org and author of A Year to Enlightenment. His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Thervada Buddhist monk. He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.