The Evolution of Consciousness

by Steve Ryals

The future of Earth that is not in question; it's the future of the human race. If we continue to disrupt the ecosystem, Earth will become increasingly hostile to humans. It may seem obvious, but I think it's worth pointing out that any meaningful discussion of Earth's future must be in the context of the human race's place on it. There will unquestionably be many more extinctions, quite possibly leading to our own. According to a Science Daily article from January 10, 2002, half of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 or 300 years. The question is whether we will survive our own ignorance.

I think that no matter how great our folly, Gaia (Mother Earth) will eventually reach a new equilibrium. The biosphere will survive humans. The oceans may be hundreds of feet higher than today, and the polar ice caps a fading memory, but in the larger scheme of the things that's OK, because life will adapt. My guess is that at least some of us will adapt as well. I'm also confident that Gaia still has many millions of years still to drift in wonder through the cosmos.

In my experience, the main difference between an optimist and pessimist is that the optimist sees the possibility of solving problems. Even in the face of today's seemingly intractable series of crises, I remain optimistic that our species is capable of transcending our current state of affairs and moving into a sustainable future. Anyone who has seen Al Gore's brilliant movie, "An Inconvenient Truth',realizes the imperative of awakening as a global family and beginning to make very different choices regarding energy, pollution, food production, clean water, land use and the conflicts those issues engender.

Everyone wants a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. Isn't that what it's all about? Having children, enjoying each other and this splendid planet we call home, having some fun along the way, together creating a world where everyone feels safe, love and celebrated all seem to be worthy goals, even for a species as ambitious as we are. This means that we must soon learn how to care for each other's children, not just our own, or civilization will collapse. It's happened many times before. Human history is littered with failed and abandoned empires. Unless we decide to harness off-planet resources such as mining asteroids, or choose to live a far simpler lifestyle, there will continue to be a growing gap between the haves and have-nots. If we can't figure out how to play well together and share, eventually the have-nots will rise up and tear it all down.

Many people already understand that God chose to manifest as this universe, and in so doing set up the Great Passion Play. This play has evolved over time, to the moment we find ourselves inhabiting right here and right now. The entire history of life on this planet is a story of God-As-Us hiding from OurSelf so we can shout "Boo!" to each other. We explore just how far we can go feeling separate and alone, only to eventually, and quite inevitably, call the game on account of consciousness. When everyone wakes up to the truth of who we really are, the Great Passion Play, as we understand it today, will be over.

This evolution in consciousness in no way means that humans, or life in general, would suddenly vanish, or Ascend, or whatever. Life continues. Remember, in an infinite universe there are endless possibilities and permutations to explore. We can have all the fun and excitement of life without so much fear and suffering. It's our choice. Here's my hope-filled vision for the future:

Like many other people, including Ken Wilber, Peter Russell, Barbara Marx Hubbard and Gary Zukav, I'm suggesting that Gaia is growing a cerebral cortex, with each human the rough equivalent of a brain cell. As a species we're just at the toddler stage, beginning to learn about a larger world. And, as with any child, time and loving patience are vital to the process of teaching a baby not to mess itself. We have the power to stop plundering and destroying our Home while still enjoying lives filled with peace and extraordinary abundance.

For many of us, living our lives in love will be sufficient. Peacefully enjoying the miracle of life with family and friends and making a difference in the world can truly be the life of our dreams. For those who want more, well, we're still evolving. How about exploring the evolution of consciousness itself? Conscious awareness evolves out of self-awareness, sourcing its experience rather than imagining itself to be a victim. Imagine Gaia-As-Us, an awakened planet, wiring up a Galactic mind by making contact with other awakened planets, creating connections in ways we cannot begin to imagine. And, even as the evolution of consciousness accelerates, there is still a sense of self and other, all the way up to one Galactic Mind connecting with another.

Much closer to our home world and current time frame, the evolution of consciousness refers to the truth that as we Awaken, we make it easier for the next generation to Awaken. Imagine Awakening as a snowball, gathering speed as it gains mass. Simply put, Awakening no longer requires decades of dedicated meditation. Please see my book, Drunk with Wonder, Awakening to the God Within, for a much more complete discussion of this topic.

I see the entire life cycle of the universe, from the Big Bang to planetary awakening and beyond, as God creating a vast holodeck in which to play the game of hide and seek. All of us are sparks of God. We start out feeling lost and alone, filled with fear, and over the ages of the universe gradually reconnect until, at the end, there is once again only One of us here. The evolution of consciousness is the spiritual equivalent of life evolving from single cells to our present circumstances. Eons ago, our bodies began by connecting disparate, separate cells into larger, more sophisticated structures. Though humans have only been around for a few hundred thousand years, distant ancestors had developed a bipedal structure, with eyes, ears, a mouth and so forth several hundred million years ago.

Now, with these bodies, these hands, hearts, minds and spirits, we are already well along towards creating heaven right here on Gaia. In fact, from an enlightened perspective, we already have. For many thousands of years, awakening to the God within took incredible dedication and immense courage, and was an extremely rare phenomenon. Wisdom teachings from Awakened Masters, including Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Ramana Maharshi and others, still form the core structure and process of Awakening for many people. My vision is that it's time to acknowledge and make full use of the evolution of consciousness, or at least of the methodology by which we can become conscious.

As each Awakening occurs, increased wisdom and awareness ripple out into the pool of planetary consciousness, making it a bit less onerous for the next Awakening. And so it goes. What was once available only to the initiate who had spent a lifetime in solitary reflection is now far more accessible. Of course, from my perspective, awakening to the God within is only the first step. The Awakened state allows us to live our lives in love, but it, in and of itself, does not get the laundry done. Jack Kornfield thoroughly discusses this subject in his excellent book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

The essence of this perennial wisdom is simply that ecstatic states of profound spiritual bliss, where we float serenely in the ocean of joy, is our birthright. Staying in this state of blissful awareness can even seem effortless, particularly during meditation within a spiritual community or in deep communion with nature. The trick is learning to maintain this peaceful state of loving-kindness while doing the laundry, the dishes, taking out the trash or driving on the freeway. The truth is that God manifests in the seemingly mundane as much as anywhere.

Awakening into Conscious Awareness is a crucial step in the evolution of consciousness. Staying Awake through all the drama, apparent chaos and casual brutality in the world is quite another. While opening to states of Bliss is enormously valuable, learning to stay Awake, no matter what, is the game of mastery. You see, each moment presents us with another opportunity to choose love or fear. Choosing love makes it more available to everyone, everywhere. Choosing fear, well, we're well acquainted with where that leads, aren't we?

When we're able to see fear as a choice, we're able to see that there are other choices available, particularly love. And as more and more of us choose love, we become part of the transformation of our entire world. Our Awakening inevitably leads to seeking out others who understand. Communities coalesce around wisdom teachings much as flowers bloom around up-welling springs. Once healthy communities become established, they begin to connect with one another. Using a combination of tools, many of which I discuss in my book Drunk with Wonder, we can explore questions such as, "What legacy do we wish to pass on to our children, our grandchildren and on to generations yet unborn?"

The entire planet could choose to Awaken "in the twinkling of an eye," and we'd still have countless adventures to share. Nursing our forests, rivers, air and oceans back to health; putting an end to disease, war, hunger and separation; in short, creating a world where everyone wins; it's all well within our grasp. Not only that, we can create all that our hearts desire while, in the process, having more fun than we would ever have imagined possible. I say again: part of Awakening is the profound realization that it's all perfect just the way it is, while at the same moment passionately choosing love and service. The deepest joy we can know is that which comes when we allow our broken-open hearts to pour forth the limitless, sublime, ever available nectar of loving-kindness. Truly, as Don Henley sings on "Everything is Different Now," from his superb album Inside Job, "We get the love that we allow" .

Steve Ryals, author of Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within went from homeless and shooting drugs in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district at 17 to graduating from UC Berkeley on the Dean's List six years later.

Drunk with Wonder was written, edited and designed with almost no help from fossil fuels. Steve is proud to say that Drunk with Wonder is printed on 60# Thor Offset acid-free, recycled paper with soy-based ink. Drunk with Wonder is the culmination of years of research and decades of personal experience.It's been hailed as where "Conversations with God meets What the Bleep Do we Know?"

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