The first step up the ladder of the Spectrum of Consciousness concerns waking up your stagnant view of the material world. The people and things in the world around you can initiate Aha moments big and small when you learn to see them differently. All it takes is to learn to look again…
My first visual Aha moment happened during a famous Gestalt psychology demonstration (outlined below). A picture is presented and you immediately see one aspect of the picture as the main subject or figure. The rest is seen only dimly as background, or simply ground. In any perception you always experience figure and ground but you lock into what you first perceive as figure, blinding yourself to any other view.
This is the Gestalt picture. Have a look at it — what do you see as figure and what do you see as ground?
Do you see a pretty young lady or an ugly old hag? Whichever you see first, let her go now and switch to the other image. Take a moment…
(If you need some help, the eye of the old woman is the ear of the young woman who is looking away. The old woman’s mouth is the young woman’s necklace).
Even when instructed to switch perception, there is always an impasse, a pregnant pause before the new picture smashes its way to the forefront of your consciousness. Your eyeballs swivel and then Aha! — the flip happens. What you saw a moment ago as subject becomes object and vice versa. If you first saw the pretty young woman you now see the ugly old hag.
The Aha moment is intrinsically satisfying, delivering a brief thrill of happiness. Since feeling thrilled and happy is the whole point of being alive, we must learn to cultivate Aha moments.
Aha moments have two elements — the impasse (or gap) and the insight. The more you consciously elongate the impasse, the more likelihood of your having a penetrating insight. It’s in the gap between stimulus and response that the magic of insight is to be found.
The learning from material Aha moments:
1. You are Unconscious
How you interacted with the picture is how you interact with everything. The Gestalt switch shows that our perception is distorted and partial, since there is always at least one other way to see something. When we fixate on seeing from only first impressions, we slam the door on choice. We don’t even consider the possibility that we can choose to see something else. This is an unnecessary habit-of-mind that deadens our senses and exalts our ego. The habit makes junkies of us all.
We are addicted to the thoughts in our head and the reactions in our body. This means we are 99% zombie because over 99% of our thoughts and actions are unconscious and ingrained. When it comes to habitual ego-driven responses we could put Pavlov’s dogs to shame with our stimulus-response, press-my-buttons, off-I -go performances. These robotic behaviours force us to live in the past, or the ego. The ego is the wall between you and your unique present experience. Being unconsciously caught up in the same old, same old, you dull your senses to the point of atrophy, freeze-framing them. You become deadened to the only event that makes any sense — this moment that is alive for you right now. Oh yes, we are classically conditioned my slavering friends.
2. Gestalt shows how we automatically fill in the gaps in any object we see.
Not only do we get fixated on only one way of seeing something but, when given only partial information, we fill in the gaps with our old habits of mind. When presented with anything in the outside world, subconscious and automatic processes impel us to see it as a whole in order for our world to seem coherent and logical. This organization of what we see happens in a nano second, with no reflection, mainly in the left-brain hemisphere. Our ego doesn’t like to be kept waiting and the left heel-clicking brain is its slave. This slave brain is all about rapidly classifying experience and pigeonholing it. It takes a glance at something — a thought, an object, another person, runs it through its databases, finds a vague facsimile of that thing and promptly files the thing away, telling you it’s understood it, before belting on to the next thing.
But you haven’t understood a thing because you’ve glossed over whatever is arising in your life. When you prematurely dismiss your experience by classifying it before it even lands in your consciousness, you’re not connected, you’re out of step with life itself. You might as well not be having your experience because you’re dead to it. You are not attending to direct, present interaction with whatever or whoever is before you. Your ego has won again by drawing a dark veil between you and your current experience of life. Instead of being free to act, all you do is unconsciously re-act, meaning you’re constantly ‘living’ in the past. Entirely under the radar of awareness, you perceive an outline of some thing or some one and fill in the blanks to suit yourself. You’ve projected what you want to see, what you’ve always seen, onto what’s not, in reality, there. You’ve reacted without the tiniest gap in time to look again at the situation.
The only hope is to wake up!
Waking Up Practices
Let it sink in that there are multiple ways of seeing things. You are simply stuck in “your” way and that’s okay. No judgment, just a gentle awareness of what’s going on within you. Throughout the day, take one deep conscious breathe, look again and consider whatever is in front of you from as many angles as possible. Let go of thinking and just look, with fresh eyes as if you’ve never seen it before.
Decide to consciously direct your attention to this practice throughout the day. Where sincere attention goes, energy flows. Practice this and the gaps in stimulus-response will get wider, beginning to break your little ego apart. So get on the first rung of the ladder and mind the gap!
If you want more Gestalt switch thrills, they’re available on many websites like this one:
The next rung of the ladder leads to the awareness of how brilliant the body is at delivering Aha moments.