Obstacles to Self Mastery
A trip to heaven through hell
The practice usually involves a virtual roller coaster through hell and purgatory, sometimes over and over again. Various traditions have described this process, usually in a metaphorical way. The traditions of Christianity, Buddhism, Zen, Sufism, Shamanism, Yoga and Psychosynthesis to name just a few all have accounts that describe this process. The Tibetan Book of The Dead describes it, Dante's Divine Comedy describes it, Egyptian, Lapp, Celtic, Eskimo and Icelandic shamanic initiation rituals describe it, and the Jivaro of the Amazon, the Sioux of North Dakota, and Tibetan Bon lamas.
The little bubble of light
Try to imagine consciousness as a little bubble of light within the vast dark sea of unconsciousness. This whole sea is filled with information and you are only conscious of the information within this little bubble of light. When the bubble starts to expand it's boundaries start to touch new previously unconscious information, neurons that were in the dark so to speak. As consciousness touches them the information contained in those neurons becomes conscious, as when you remember a happy incident that happened in childhood.
Short circuiting unconsciousness
The brain contains over ten billion brain cells, each one a link or gate in an incredibly vast and complicated network of neural networks containing so much information we can't even begin to comprehend it. Consciousness is to a neural network as RAM memory is to a computer. Consciousness is your immediate access and control of the information contained in the millions of brain cells within its boundaries. As it expands the increased amount of thoughts, associations, sensations, rationalizations and emotions that get activated, all at the same time creates a lot of neurological traffic, not only in your brain but through your whole central nervous system.
The left-sided rational hemisphere and the right-sided emotional hemisphere are perpetuated by constant activity, doing something purposeful and meaningful. When you do something that has no rational or emotional purpose or meaning, you identify with the qualities of the whole hemisphere conscious mind, where the words "why" or "because" don't exist. There is no cause and effect, you have a first hand experience of the illusion of duality. So by not-doing your habitual, routine way of doing things you expand your consciousness. But you are locked within your mental and emotional prison. And by not-doing, you are in effect sticking an iron pole into the cogwheels of your mind and emotions, disrupting and eventually stopping the routine turning of the "wheels" in your head. When that happens the mind will send out a red alert error signal, thrusting the disrupted belief with all its force and accompanying thoughts and emotions into your conscious awareness. Demanding that you fix it, to remove the iron pole, or else.
A lot of thoughts and emotions grab your attention, making you think there is something very seriously wrong going on. It's a bit like activating a live volcano. Thousands of thoughts will erupt from your unconscious flying into your conscious mind and the frozen emotions will melt and turn into burning molten lava that will start to flow into your body. Some of the emotions will have a little charge and you will be able to discharge them easily, others will have a high charge and it can take you many attempts to totally discharge them. When you activate a thought you release the emotional charge and some of these emotions will be so powerful that you will be surprised at their intensity.
Three types of obstacles
There are three types of reactions; physical, mental and emotional. Your body will tense up, you'll experience all kinds of strange images and you'll feel intense emotions. The obstacles can be both positive and negative in the sense that a positive quality can be just as much of an obstacle as a negative quality. A negative obstacle such as fear, greed, ignorance, anger, blame or resentment is an obstacle because they restrict and prevent the expansion. When a practitioner is occupied by an emotion he is not occupied with the expansion. You are either doing it or not, there is no in between. A positive obstacle such as pride, self reliance and confidence can also be an obstacle because you can become so over confident, over proud and over self reliant that you'll think your God's gift to man, the classic example of falling from grace.
During the expansion you'll experience your minds ability to create metaphoric representations of all this neurological activity. You'll meet lions, dragons, ghosts and angels that are metaphoric representations of your unconscious rationalizations, emotions and beliefs. All your unconscious desires, wants and needs, your rationalizations and emotions contained in your unconscious will be activated. You'll feel like the mind is trying to convince you, sell you, prove to you, bore you, make you impatient, confuse you, convince you that you can't do it and you'll desire food or entertainment intensely. You'll have to go up against your pride, expectancy and self-gratification. If you get through all these you'll become lazy, sleepy and depleted of energy so you'll think you can't continue. You'll think your going insane or crazy. You'll start hallucinating and seeing spirits, ghosts and demons in the shadows.
A journey through your unconscious
When you start the process at first you'll notice that your attention is totally out of control. You can't focus your attention for more than a few seconds at a time. You'll start out focusing on one thing and end up somewhere else altogether without knowing how the mind got you there. Once your attention is under reasonable control your body will start to tense up, muscles getting stiff and even burning sensations as your muscles resist the increase of energy and letting go of emotional attachments. As your consciousness grows more thoughts and emotions come into your consciousness and you'll go through the three levels of memory, imagination and creativity. At first all kinds of lost memories pop up into your awareness, then your imagination will go wild and at last your creativity will provide you with all kinds of solutions and ideas about your day to day activities and problems. You'll get extraordinary realizations and revelations about life and existence and you'll want to write them down immediately, but don't do it. It's very tempting to quit the practice thinking it's only going to take a moment, but that's exactly what will stop the expansion, and delay the whole process.
But remember that these reactions are a natural response of the mind and body because the practice stirs up highly emotionally charged thoughts that have been lying dormant and unconscious in your mind and body.