Every level of consciousness outlined in the previous post is actually a trap.

When you make the leap to a new level, initially everything feels wonderful. You’ve discovered the secret that’s been eluding you all these years. And for a while, your new mindset seems to work just fine. You operate at a whole new level. Problems that seemed like insurmountable obstacles are now nothing but minor bumps in the road.

But eventually something screwy starts happening. The same mindset that worked so well for you in the past gradually stops working. The more you try harder and harder to make it work, the worse it fails.

As soon as you figure out that your current level of thinking is actually a trap, this realization is what springs your consciousness up to the next highest level.

Consider the level of pride, for example. The trap of pride is that your self-esteem is very fragile — it’s based on your external reality being a certain way. You end up spending more and more time defending that reality. And eventually it cracks. When you realize that defending your fragile pride is a hopeless and pointless battle, you pop up to the level of courage and begin facing your fears for real instead of pretending you’ve already conquered them.

But courage is also a trap. Initially it works well, but after a while it gets you into trouble. You become too controlling, spending more and more time trying to control what you cannot. Your frustration mounts. As soon as you realize that trying to control everything is hopeless, you pop up to the level of neutrality.

With neutrality you adopt the belief of “live and let live.” You become more mellow and accepting of people as they are. Life at this level is initially very comfortable. But eventually the trap springs. Your life becomes gradually burdened by things that start to bug you. You complain about them instead of doing something about them, and nothing happens. Things get worse instead of better. You may gain weight, have financial problems, or encounter other frustrations. Procrastination is your way of life. But you can’t solve these problems by hoping and complaining. As soon as you realize that nothing will change unless you get yourself to take action, you raise your consciousness to the level of willingness.

And willingness is itself a trap. You’re taking action and developing self-discipline. That works great for a while, but then you start to realize you’re like a mouse on a treadmill. You’re working hard, but you aren’t really getting anywhere. People take advantage of you. You start feeling bitter about investing so much effort for so little reward. And as soon as you see the trap, you rise to the level of acceptance.

Now you accept responsibility for directing your own life instead of working so hard to achieve others’ goals for you. You set your own goals, make plans, and start achieving them. You learn to focus your energy. This works great at first, but then you start failing. And failing. And failing. You’re setting goals and working hard, but you don’t really know what you’re doing. You don’t understand the natural laws that are operating in your world. You become frustrated that even less “worthy” people are passing you up. Eventually you recognize the trap here — that if you don’t understand the rules of how the world really works, you’ll never be able to succeed at achieving your goals. You rise to the level of reason.

Now at the level of reason, you take the time to learn the rules. You become very interested in absorbing new knowledge. You begin thinking analytically and strategically. You figure out the rules you need to follow in order to succeed, and they work. But the level of reason is also a trap. The more you think, the more you realize that the mind alone, no matter how intelligent and knowledgeable you become, cannot provide the context for your life. It can’t provide purpose or meaning. You can think and think and analyze and analyze, but no amount of data or information can tell you why you’re here and what to live for. You start to feel empty and ask questions like, Is this all there is? Your reasoning starts to run you in circles, and you finally see that it’s a trap too.

And so the cycle continues. The only constants are growth and change. The more you resist learning the lessons that will raise your awareness, the more pain and frustration you create for yourself.