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All States: Temporary Expressions

In addition to levels and lines there are also various kinds of states associated with each quadrant. States are temporary occurrences of aspects of reality (lasting anywhere from a few seconds to days, and in some cases even months or years). They also tend to be incompatible with each other. For example, you cannot be drunk and sober at the same time, a town cannot experience a blizzard and a heat wave on the same day. Below are a few examples of the kinds of states associated with each quadrant (Fig. 10). Thus, to continue with our hiking metaphor, states can be likened to the momentary glimpses of nature you get as you walk along the trail. For example, how a breathtaking vista keeps “popping” through the trees as you hike or a bird that grabs your attention as it makes a unique click-clack-clack sound and then is gone. Before you know it, these attention-grabbing experiences recede into the background and you are back on the trail pounding dirt with your hiking boots.


Figure 10. Some states in the four quadrants.


In the UL quadrant there are phenomenal states such as elevated and depressed emotional states, insights, intuitions, and moment-to-moment feeling states. There are also the natural states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep as well as the Witness (the pure observing awareness of all the other states) and even non-duality, where the Witness dissolves into everything that is witnessed. Various religious traditions provide us with rich and sophisticated descriptions of these states. In addition, there are altered states of consciousness that can be either externally induced (e.g., through the use of drugs, trauma, or a near-death experience) or internally induced or trained (e.g., meditative, holotropic, flow, lucid dreaming, peak experiences). When states are trained they often unfold and even stabilize in a sequential pattern, moving from gross to subtle to very subtle forms of experience and are thus referred to as state-stages. This is contrasted with the structure-stages of psychological development (discussed above in the levels and lines sections). Both states and structures of consciousness can occur in stages, with state-stages expanding horizontally and structure-stages growing vertically.

In the UR quadrant there are brain states (alpha, beta, theta, and delta) and hormonal states associated with the cycles of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. There are also behavioral states such as crying and smiling. In fact, states are often used to describe the ways natural phenomena morph from one thing into another (e.g., HO turning from solid ice to liquid water to gaseous steam).

In the LL quadrant we find group states such as mob mentality or mass hysteria, crowd excitement, and group-think. There are also intersubjective states such as the somatic states that occur between infants and their mothers or shared resonance between two people in an engaging dialogue. Similar to altered states in individuals, there are religious states within groups such as shared ecstasy and bliss or a communal experience of the divine.

In the LR quadrant there are weather states (heat waves, blizzard, torrential rain) and fluctuating room temperature indoors. Our financial markets go through a variety of economic states such as bear and bull markets, bubbles, recessions, and so forth. We also talk about old-growth forests representing a climax community—a steady-state of equilibrium. This notion of equilibrium is illustrative of various ecological states such as entropy (increased disorder) or eutrophy (being well-nourished).

The inclusion of states is useful for practitioners because our realities both internally and externally are always shifting—all kinds of state changes occur throughout our day within ourselves and our environments. Including states allows us to understand many of the ways these shifts occur and why. This in turns allows us to be attentive to these shifts and place them in service of our efforts instead of being knocked off center by their occurrence. For example, when we are aware of the many states a group of people go through in a full-day workshop, we can design our curriculum to honor these shifting “moods” and to even make use of them to facilitate learning.

As far as locating this element in our direct awareness, we only have to notice how many different emotions we experience in a short period of time. Most of us are aware of how quickly we can shift from feeling “on cloud nine” due to some really good news to getting frustrated because some jerk just cut us off on the freeway to feeling anxiety about having to speak in front of a group at work to getting hungry and wondering what are you going to have for dinner. . . And to think that all of these states can occur within five minutes.


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