Part 1: Awakening by point focus
In the next three articles I’ll describe powerful ways to expand your consciousness beyond the physical. What makes them unusual is that their starting point is the input of your physical senses. They engage the physical senses to transcend the physical senses. You might think of them as shamanic shortcuts to direct experience of the Universal.
These three techniques begin with being in nature. Then they use this setting to create a strong connection between you and the earth. That makes them especially beneficial for people who have a tendency to lose their groundedness.
This first technique involves a simple change of visual focus. The second involves combining all of the physical senses, and the third is about making a deliberate change in your perception of time.
I came to the first by accident. When I was in wild places, my inclination had generally been to look large – to see patterns in the growth and arrangement of plants, the movement of water and animals, and the conformations of the land. One day I noticed an ant at my feet, and realized I’d only rarely looked down except when I was tracking. I became curious about the world of those tiny ones. I decided to focus my attention at the other end of the spectrum of detail, to look at the minute rather than the magnificent. I found an easy way to focus my attention that had an element of randomness in it, to help me avoid the need or possibility of too much control over what I would be looking at.
Here’s how it works: you tie a blade of grass into a loop no bigger than a quarter and toss it on the ground. The smaller the loop, the better. Don’t look for the “best” or most interesting place. Choose instead a spot that looks somewhat boring, where nothing seems to be happening.
Leave the loop where it falls, or touch it only to flatten it. Then sit or crouch to get as close as you can to that tiny circle. For the next 20 minutes, focus your full attention on what is inside your small loop of grass.
Inevitably, your attention will stray outside the loop. From time to time it’s a good idea to take a moment to look around, to have a brief expansion of your visual attention and avoid becoming nauseated. Remember, though, the discipline of this exercise is to bring your attention back in. In fact, keeping your attention inside the loop is the most important element of the whole exercise.
The first time I did this, I tried to find ways to keep my attention only inside the circle. I looked for anything moving, anything unusual to attract the attention of my mind. I made an inventory: dead fir needles, green and brown blades of grass, an ant, fragments of dry leaves, pebbles and bits of soil. When I couldn’t identify anything new, I got bored. I wanted to tell myself that the exercise was over, but something inside said there was more. I got closer, right down on my elbows and knees. I stared at my little piece of wildness until finer details emerged — details so small they disappeared if I stood up. There were smudges on the needles, creases and holes in the leaves, kinks and twists in a blade of grass. An ant crossing the circle was an adventurer, every twitch of its antennae a source of curiosity. What did it see, or smell, or feel?
I became absorbed in this new level of seeing. Then, unexpectedly, I had a sudden sensation of becoming very small. Objects that appeared tiny to my ordinary perception looked huge. A fir needle seemed as large as a baseball bat. Every vein, every tiny mark on a blade of grass became visible.
When you do this, your will have your own experiences and observations. Here’s the key, often the first indication that your consciousness is expanding. Rather than seeing only the surface of what is there – leaves, pebbles, twigs, dust – you see into them. You see or feel their life force, their essence. You sense the movement of energies in and around objects.
This happened to me. I saw that energy, felt it flowing within the living grasses and my faithful ant.
Then I fell through the loop. It was as though the loop had become a portal, like Alice’s Looking Glass. I moved from a state of expanded physical awareness into a place of pure consciousness, beyond anything physical that was in the circle or around me. I lost contact with my physical body, in a vast place of no limitations of time or space. I was surrounded by softness, gratitude, and wisdom. I sensed that I was being observed, but by whom I could not tell. I took in what I could of this new experience, enjoying the wellbeing I felt there. How much time went by I don’t know –not more than a few minutes, possibly only a few seconds.
After a time, my attention shifted back to the physical. I stared dumbfounded at the ground, looking for the magical gateway, wondering how this had happened and how I could have it again. The answer, I discovered soon enough, was simply to repeat what I had just done: tie a loop, drop it, and focus inside it.
I never lost the ability to see that way. It was as though I had learned to see a color that I never knew existed or sing a note I’d never heard. Now, when I look at something with ordinary vision, I can repeat the experience of changing my perception just by imagining that I’m looking through a small looped blade of grass. That’s my trigger for the shift.
The distractions of the physical world and the necessities of life and love don’t allow for this experience to be continuous. I have learned to move into it from time to time and allow it to remind me of the connection. It imbues my life with richness and meaning that is unknowable in the world of three dimensions, linear time, and the five senses alone.
Published May 12 2022