The Entry to Expanded Consciousness: Access Concentration
The gateway to both the Realms of Absorption and the Realms of Dissolution is a stabilization of heart and mind called access concentration. Access concentration is the first strong level of presentness and steadiness that arises in prayer or meditation. When we attain access concentration, our spiritual practice for a time becomes unwavering and focused, undisturbed by inner hindrances or the mundane vicissitudes of our life. In access concentration we become merged and attentive in our meditation, so that a powerful shift of consciousness occurs, and clarity, ease, and concentration all begin to flow into our practice
Attaining access concentration requires a natural ability to concentrate, combined with perseverance and discipline. For certain students in intensive training with a skillful teacher, the level of access concentration can arise in a matter of months or weeks of training. The meditative principles for attaining it are always the same: repetition, concentration, and surrender. One focuses on a prayer or a mantra, on a colored light or visualization, on the breath or the body, or on a feeling such as lovingkindness or compassion, refocusing on it or repeating it over and over and over again, through all the stages of resistance and difficulty, until the heart and mind begin to become still, unified, and virtually absorbed in the experience.
When we initially attain access concentration, we may feel shaky. We may feel strongly focused but, like a novice bicycle rider, still be occasionally unsteady and distracted by things in the background. Through continued repetition and patience we can gain balance in this state. Through repeated surrender to this experience, we can learn how to nurture and sustain a focused level of concentrated attention.
Access concentration was so named by the Elders because in it we develop enough steadiness of heart and mind to give us meditative entry to the higher realms. From access concentration we can then expand the self, level by level, refining consciousness to attain the eight levels of absorption, oneness with extraordinary states of luminous consciousness. Expanding the self into refined realms of absorption allows us to enter visionary states, including the six realms of existence, states of celestial lights and feelings, and rarefied states of consciousness even beyond these.
From access concentration we can also enter a whole other dimension of consciousness, the Realms of the Dissolution of Self. Here we do not expand and refine the self, but instead we look very deeply into the nature of self and consciousness, until even the most refined and highest sense of self and separateness is dissolved.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path With Heart”