Pure Consciousness Experience
What it is
A pure consciousness experience is to experience the world as a sensuous, glittering jewel that it is. It is to have the time of your life – and then some. Only ‘you’ are not there to experience it. When you are having the PCE you are experiencing the world as it is – the actual world – albeit with a faint ‘shadow’ cast by the Being that is now in abeyance.
Our normal experience of the world is through the grime tinted glasses of Being. We experience the world and then start to have feelings about it. Those feelings trigger off various trains of thought and various attempts to categorise what we are experiencing with the senses. We can walk around in a beautiful forest and find ourselves experiencing a mixture of feelings and thoughts e.g. trying to enjoy nature, feeling fearful about getting lost, occasionally marvelling at this or that flower, fears about global warming, wondering what is for dinner etc. There is no direct experience of this wonderful forest that one is walking in. For if we were to truly open our eyes and senses to this forest – and indeed to this world around us – we would be gobsmacked at the sheer pristine sensuosity of it. This direct sensuous appreciation of the world is called apperception.
Many people have remarked that ordinary grim reality seems to take on a different guise whilst on holiday. One is bathed in a sensuous appreciation of whatever beach, glade or quaint town one finds oneself in. Yet despite efforts to ‘bottle it’, this state of joy and sensuous aliveness seems to dissipate fairly quickly once one is back home and in the thick of the grind of the everyday work life.
Everyone or almost everyone has had a PCE in their lives. Young children experience them rather commonly – but adults too. Adults often experience them whilst on holiday, or in natural surrounds. Because they have no emotional tone to them they tend to be difficult to remember. However attempting to gather candidate reference memories of previous PCEs can be good start to experiencing PCE. Nearly everyone will be able to recall at least a fragmentary memory of a PCE with some guidance and reflection. You could use the below material – as well as that on the AFT webpage (see links further below) – as a guide to identify these memories.
What are the Qualities of a PCE?
Lack of any sense of self or Being
A magical and joyful ambience i.e. an earthly paradise or fairy-tale ambience
Utmost sensuous enjoyment and delight
Peacefulness or calm
Why are PCEs Important?
A PCE is a taste of what the actual world is like. It is a way to ‘try before you buy’ i.e. to decide whether you want to commit to self-immolation, which is by any measure a radical and irrevocable process. It is like a ‘trailer’ to the ‘movie’ that is actual freedom from the human condition. If there is no experience of PCEs then it is very possible for actualism to degenerate into a moral philosophy or even a spiritual teaching.
Also a PCE is just a buttload of fun. It is a wondrous, fascinating and delightful experience. Ultimately self-immolation is such a radical step, that the enticement needs to be proportionate – no, more than proportionate, it needs to blow the desirability of self-hood out of the water.
How Do I Have a PCE?
First its important to remember that PCEs can be a little tricky to have – or more properly speaking allow. There is art to it. It's a Goldilocks like thing. It needs to be just right. Any whiff of insincerity, effortfulness or forcing and they will rapidly evade you, or else you might find yourself in an altered state of consciousness i.e. an ASC rather than a PCE. Meditiative prowess won't help you and steely determination is for naught. This can make for a rather frustrating experience! With that said the delicate effort and persistence will eventually be rewarded and it is all well worth it! Leave the outcome focus behind a little and be prepared to happily fail.
Step 1: Building an intent to have them by reading about them. remembering and rememorating1
 Rememoration: While PCEs don’t lend themselves to being remembered in a lucid way, due to their lack of emotional content one can attune one’s mind towards them by trying to recollect them, while anticipating that one can have one right now. One’s antennae are thus on the look out for a PCE in the present. As you anticipate that you will have them , there is a striking sense of familiarity when you are on the verge of a PCE or EE happening . Like you’re going ’hold on …. I recognize this! Hence even if you don’t have an explicit memory as such, there is a hidden memory that will come to the fore when one makes contact with actuality in the present.
PCEs can very often occur spontaneously. As mentioned as young children we all have them quite commonly. Some lucky adults have them reasonably often without too much conscious effort. It seems like most adults experience them rarely though – and even if they do, can’t really recall them.
Go through the experiences described in the AFT website here and try and remember if you have ever had something like a PCE. The operative worlds are: magical, delightful, simple, clear, fresh, naive, innocent. You may not remember if ‘you’ were absent, but definitely a sense that this wasn’t a ‘normal’ and everyday state will usually be recalled. Sometimes people have PCE-like experiences on psychedelics, during hypnagogic or lucid dreams and even during open-eyed meditative practices. These are trickier to use as referents, but they all grist for the mill, given that our goal here is to simply think of candidate PCE past experiences. Eventually you will want to have an absolutely incontrovertible experience that leaves you in no doubt.
Step 2: Setting aside regular times to have PCEs. Locations
It is vital that you set aside time, ideally a few times a week for an hour or two. However whatever you can manage is good. Think of these as fun breaks rather than something akin to a serious meditation practise; a chance to get away from yourself and to take a break from your problems.
Being in nature helps, but really anywhere that you feel comfortable. PCEs can occur in apartments, toilets, at bus-stops, in national parks, on mountains, beaches –literally anywhere. You’ll need to experiment a bit to see where you feel your having the most luck.
Step 3: Having the right orientation, attitude, intention
You want to make yourself a bit like a child, soft and relaxed. Tell yourself you are going to have a mini-holiday for a short time. Believe that it can happen, rather than thinking of it as some kind of ‘advanced’ thing that happens only to others. Adopt an attitude of openness and curiosity, of an intention to delight in your senses. See if you can notice any pleasurable feelings, if so relish and savour them. Do it in a really loose playful way. Whatever catches your interest go for that. Look at things with ‘the surface of your eyeballs’. Like your eyes are caressing, drinking, tasting the surfaces of whatever you encounter. You might start to notice a change in the atmosphere around you, notice this if so and see if you can enjoy it. If there is a feeling that you want to laugh, squeal or make noises then just allow yourself to do that like a kid would – might be hard if there are people around!
The idea is that you want to gradually delight more and more in sensuousness, this corresponds with a ‘thinning’ out of the self – of ‘you’ until ‘you’ eventually go into abeyance and you are in a fairy tale wonderland of the actual world.
I found the quiet of the morning conducive - or night-time. I would set aside an hour or two, read some of that good stuff on the AFT - then walk around my room delighting in things there. Then I would take a walk to a nearby park, all the time enjoying and appreciating this moment. Then I would come back home esp. if there were too many people. Any feelings that come up you don’t suppress, but acknowledge gently and see if you can set them aside for a bit. See if you can still your mind a bit. Stop the urge to have a stream of thoughts or commentary running in your mind. I found it helpful to relax by jaw and my tongue to stop any ‘sub-vocalisations’ but that might just be particular to me
Step 4: Progressing gradually from feeling good to feeling perfect. Inducing a PCE proper.
Okay so let’s get down to actually having (or more correctly allowing) a PCE.
One taps into one’s naivete, one’s intention to delight and gradually ups one’s baseline mood until there is an experience of swimming in sensuous delight. It might take several goes, before you have a PCE, so don’t be frustrated. Try and set aside the expectation of an outcome as this will just take you away from enjoying this moment.
You want to get into your senses and to relish and savour whatever sensory experience is on offer. Most often it is easiest to start with the eyes, let your eyes fall gently on whatever is in your purview. Have them ‘caress’ whatever is around you that is appealing. It might be a the blue sky, a tree, a pebble on the ground, a bowl on your desk. See with the very ‘surface of the eyeballs as it were’. Initially there may be only or two things that produce a sensuous pleasure. See if you can gradually take pleasure in seeing other things. Bring the other senses into it hearing, touch, taste, smell. Hearing and touch especially. You want your whole body to be caught up with the pleasure of the senses. If you get any worries or anxieties, see if you can set them aside. If they are persistent you may need to spend a little time examining them before you dispatch them, but do so without too much effort. The idea is to get back to sensuosity.
You move incrementally and gradually through these stages below. You are gradually ‘turning up’ the level of enjoyment and wonder as you do so:
Feeling Good: You incline your mind towards naivete, towards openness, towards sensuousness. You start to savour sense experience. This is not a ‘dry’ experience like insight meditation. You are trying to have fun, to play, to enjoy and relish. You notice that you are feeling good and enjoy this feeling. Any anxieties and peeves are and gently dispatched, without focussing on them. You can always come back to them again after your PCE attempt. Start to believe that it is possible for you to have a PCE.
Feeling Great: You are having a real ball now. You try and suffuse the senses with enjoyment. There is a real sense of delighting and having a good time. You will still have a sense of ‘you’ as being, but notice that it is a joyful version of ‘you’. Sometimes this manifests as a sense of a pleasing undulating in the lower abdomen as opposed to more anxious feelings in the centre of the chest. You want to naturally delight and be amazed by your level of enjoyment and of sensuous pleasure. Towards the end of this stage you want to start ‘unifying’ the sense of sensuous enjoyment so that everything is starting to get bathed in delight. Make sure that what you are experiencing feels natural and is not forced. It should feel sincere. If that feeling is not there, then stay awhile, rather than trying to gallop ahead and make progress.
Feeling Excellent: Everything you experience is experienced as soft, charming and worthy of delighting in. Whatever you see, touch and feel has an exquisitely sensuous quality. Your thoughts will be sparse and thinned out as your affective energy is occupied almost wholly in sensuous engagement and delight. Your sense of Being at this this stage very ‘subtle’ and gossamer. Towards the end of this stage you can turn on wide-eyed wonder and tap into the thrill outside yourself that will carry you into apperception. See if you can identity a particular quality in the PCE, a particular flavour, a particular sweetness – it is quite subtle and delicious. Tune into that sweetness and engage wonder without trying too hard to go anywhere.
Perfection: If ‘you’ are able to let go and allow the purity of actual world to ‘take you’ you will find that the world has changed into a miraculous spectacle. Everything that was there before has taken on a crystalline clarity that is delicious to behold. ‘You’ have melted away. There is no ‘you’ felt in any part of your body. You feel light realising what a load has been lifted off your shoulders with Being going into abeyance. You simply enjoy this, until it eventually and inevitably ends.
Components of a PCE
Its useful to restate once again that you need to have the following bits to make the PCE happen:
Attentiveness: Being aware of ‘you’ as a feeling being and to the world around you
Naivete: Child-like curiosity, openness, willingness to delight. No seriousness, no stuffy sense of authority
Delight: An intention to enjoy yourself, to have fun
Sensuousness: Deriving an aesthetic pleasure from the senses
Current time awareness: Focussing on the past and future will not make a PCE happen. Now is all that matters. Now is all there is. None of that ‘be in moment’ stuff either. Being is what creates ordinary ‘time’. Just follow your nose, focus on the sensuosity – not on past remembrances and future fantasies – and current time awareness will become apparent
Wonder: The final step really. Once you are delighting in the senses, you want to really knock things out of the park by bringing the wonder to what you are experiencing
Srinath’s Experiential Step-by-Step Guide to a PCE
This guide below, roughly maps onto the stages we talked about above, and is an on-the-fly account of a PCE practise as it progresses from ‘normal’ to apperception.
Stage 1 - The intention, having fun, delighting, sensuosity
It all begins with an intention - an intention to take a break from myself for a while - I could say. To have fun, and to delight in the pleasures of being alive right now. Momentarily I leave all of my cares and troubles behind. I look around this room. I notice that it is a sumptuous room. I look at it with curiosity and interest. Looking out the window there is a large, magnificent fig tree outside with its billowing canopy of foliage. The languorous branches cob-web into the sky forming an intricate filigree that soothes me just to look at it. I slowly, silently amuse myself with the shapes, textures, colours and sounds all around me, both in the room and outside. Seriousness ebbs away.
I relax and bring my awareness to the very ‘surface of my eyeballs’. Its as if my eyes themselves are sensuously caressing the surface of everything I encounter - pleasurably drinking in its colour, texture, shine and hardness or softness. This becomes easier and more natural with time. It becomes a fun and playful thing, this savouring of sensory experience. I stop needlessly querying and commenting on things - or making little stories about what I am sensing. I simply relish and delight. This is the only moment that I am alive after-all. I even drop the exertion of ‘trying to have a PCE’, deciding to simply play, enjoy and wonder instead. I decide to activate delight in other words, to activate naivete - and by the same token to appreciate increasingly, the soft gathered sensuosity all around me.
Gradually, tantalisingly, deliciously - the world around starts to catch my eye in a pleasing way. The hint of soft yellow light on the monitor, the rhythmic arrangement of the pine cones positioned in various ways on the table, the soft audible clack-clacking of the keys as I type. The very atmosphere in the air seems to be suffused with pure intent radiating its way benignly into my awareness. Gradually this sweet and gentle pleasantness pervades everything. There is a smorgasbord of other sensations - smoky smells of distant fires burning, cascades of sound - from the tweets of birds to the ocean-like whooshing of traffic and pleasurable muscular ripples of the body. The niceness of things and of people is noticed. This is encouraging and I consciously encourage myself, patting myself on the back for valuing every morsel of delight.
Stage 2 - Moving into being naivete, into wide-eyed wonderment, awareness that there is only this moment
It feels good to feel good! There is a sense of excitement now, a bit of a tingle in the air and in my body. I can feel my lower belly undulating. Who I am, has moved from those louder and prouder locations in my head and chest, into the softness of my lower-most belly, where I am more gentle. Here I am liking and likeable. It seems to accord with the pleasantness I sense all around me. Living from here feels more child-like and natural. I feel softer, with less pretence and fight. No wonder I don’t live from here all the time, I feel so naked! And more is the shame, because it feels so freeing and easy here. It is a very subtle feeling - it seems like ‘I’ am barely there.
As the pleasant sensuosity starts to become more riveting, past cares and future concerns melt away and this moment is getting all my attention. Imagination is less vital and interesting now. I notice smidgens of resistance and dismantle gently the little emotional objections that are like ballast preventing me from launching into wide-eyed wonder. A fear here, a small peeve there - one by one they are seen and dispatched with a keen attentiveness. There is an increasing wonder, an alertness to the shimmering material world all around me. There is a fascination in the simplest things, the smallest things - and yes, the biggest things too. I turn my attention inwards. There is a similar sensitivity to the subtle eddies of joy and even of little vortices of anxiety. It is all commensurate, like anything I can see in the room, experienced openly without shame or reaction. It is curious and interesting in itself who ‘I’ am. So very curious, this being comprised of emotions, who I feel myself to be.
‘I’ am not anything very substantial anymore. What was previously considered rock solid, has turned ephemeral when compared to the solidity of the world around me. I check to see if ‘I’ am even there. Perhaps I am not! I turn my attention back outwards and then inwards again. It becomes a wonderful game. I drop any efforts to still my mind even. Mind becomes aware of its self being aware is beginning to happen.
Stage 3 - Apperception, Entry into wonderland
At this point there is a more pronounced sweetness and stillness. It usually comes from a direction I least anticipate, and - funnily enough - always catches me by surprise, but I recognise it instantly! In a thrilling split split second, I decide to go with it and before I know it everything has changed. Its apparent that ‘I’ am not there anymore. Everything is magical and still. I don’t even want to whisper - so delicate and perfect is this world I find myself in.
The world has become a wonderland. I walk around the room. At this stage the pine cones on the table have transformed into a dizzying transection of angles, an enchanted forest of shapes. The glint on my coffee mug is a dazzling cascade of lights pouring down its side. The atmosphere of my room has changed. It is the atmosphere of magic and delight, as I often experienced as a child. Body is completely unburdened, blithesome, light.
I look outside and the air is crystal clear and crisp. The fig-tree seems so magnificently alive. I feel so very close and intimate with it. In-fact it literally seems closer even though the distance to the balcony has not changed, of course. Its droopy palatial canopy seems to be that very expression of the benevolence of this universe. I sigh and take it all in. That’s all there is to do.
Rough Unedited Forum Posts about PCEs
I had a PCE yesterday, after writing here about not having PCEs anymore lol. All it took was being open to the possibility. Say: “I might have a PCE today, why not?“ (if an answer comes about why you might not have one, as feint and silly-looking as it might be, there is something for you to examine there). The day was sunny, I didn’t have anything special to do. So I went to the beach on the estuary (location of many of my PCEs - association is always helpful). It took something like an hour before the PCE came. I was totally open to it, but I knew there would be no disappointment if it didn’t happen. No sense of failure. There was also no excitation at the prospect of a PCE maybe happening. I was just totally cool. I took a (cold) swim, shivered a bit, and went for a walk on the shore, away from ‘civilisation’ (from people, houses, etc.) It usually helps to physically do what you’re trying to psychically do, if that makes sense.
On a side note I’ve always had more success going ‘away’ than going ‘back’ (to my car, my house, my room, etc.) But don’t sweat it, this is all about making it easier, in the end it makes no difference. Srinath apparently does it in his room, so… Walking is the easiest for me. There is a pace I’ve learned to associate with PCEs. A very slow pace. “Naively traipsing” is the official name for it I guess. I’ve found that walking too fast distracts me from enjoying the world around, like I’m going somewhere, or exercising. Having good posture while walking, open chest etc., helps me too.
It is also important for me trying not to make any ‘decisions’, like “I’m gonna go this way, I’ll sit there and look at this, etc.” but to allow my feet to guide me (or the ‘universe’, or my ‘native intelligence’…). Same for what I look at. It doesn’t have to be something awesome, or scenic, it doesn’t have to be anything. I just allow my eyes to look at whatever they may. The most amazing sights might be available and I might find myself looking at the ground, random rocks, or an abandoned beer bottle. It is all the same matter, it is all the universe. I am open to the senses, the breeze, the sounds, but I don’t try to enjoy those (“I should enjoy this breeze!“), I let the senses sense, and quickly find out this is enjoyable on its own. When I find myself delighting in something sensuous, I do not think “ho ho, PCE coming!“, I just delight. And I don’t forcefully ‘stay’ on that thing I’m delighting into (a bird flying, a rock, a tree, a sound, a breeze, a smell), it is not about the ‘thing’, it is about delighting. If my attention is being called somewhere else, it is being called somewhere else, which is just as worthy of delight (everything is). I usually notice then that my official-time awareness is gone. What time is it? Don’t know, don’t care.
Things I happen to look at start taking a fascinating aspect: colors, contrast… sounds are layered and deeper… the breeze on my skin is so detailed… A sense of wonder soon takes over. How marvellous this all is. When I sense like some kind of a ‘shift’ might be happening, I stay still (psychically), I allow the shift to happen without my intervention (any intervention kills it, be it trying to ‘help’ it, as it is the ‘identity’ reasserting control). And… I’m in a PCE. I don’t jump left and right all exited “Yeaaaah PCE!!!” (not anymore at least haha), I keep cool, and only once it feels stable (after a few seconds), I do whatever I want (just delight, A/B, examine something, prudently look for ‘myself’, contemplate, etc.) All in all, it is about allowing it to happen. Any ‘effort’ you make, any ‘control’ you assert, even if you’re trying to help it, is actually preventing it.
Another delightful PCE this morning that has left an EE glow. I awoke early to a dazzling sunrise. I decided that now would need to be the time to allow it to happen, as I have a pretty packed work-day. I felt some pressure on myself. A slight twinge of anxiety - ‘what if I couldn’t have one again?’. I decided to take it slow and just enjoy everything sensuously. I made a quick mental note of C’s main PCE bits i.e. naivete, current time awareness, sensuousness, wide-eyed wonder and any blockers. Things started to get interesting - but not quite PCE yet. While I was making coffee, I walked around asking myself silently if ‘I’ was really there, whether being and feeling were there. I wasn’t quite sure, so I took that as a positive sign. I started reading the AFT. Richard’s ornamental language is one of those things that really gets things going for me and it didn’t fail this time! I got more into the enjoying, tasting, delighting - rather than ‘having a PCE’. I was controlling my thoughts a bit before, but now I gave them free rein. Mind becoming aware of itself started to ensue. There was a wine glass on my table that was looking just amazing. Like a jewel. My desk was populated by a coterie of pencils, paints, boxes - which now seemed rather like a little village! The orange morning light was streaming in. I began to be fascinated by my skin. Its weird how I’m the sense blanket of soft skin which undulates and depresses into recesses where yet stranger skin senses lie in wait - the wet skin of tongue with its taste buds, the smell sensing ‘skin’ within the nose and the eye ‘skin’ with its optical properties. Its so strange and wonderful. I’m this limbed monkey-like skin covered creature, birthed by the universe, looking back at it!
I would say read PCE reports and the AFT site daily - especially Richard’s words. Then give yourself some PCE play-time everyday with an intent to have one - a few hours a week should do. Try and recall some PCE-like magical times in childhood and see if you can remember them vividly. It shouldn’t be rushed or pressured. Of course aim to keep your baseline at good or better and to enjoy and appreciate each moment again - that makes the distance you need to traverse a lot smaller
One other thing I noticed was that during an EE or when one is transitioning to a PCE, there is a temptation to comment on it ‘whee I’m having a PCE!!’ - that seems to bring ‘me’ back in the picture. Rather than commenting or trying to emote what is going on it helps being still, notice the magical calm, notice the seamlessness of this moment blending into the ‘next’ endlessly. Also trying to discern if ‘I’ was still there - sometimes this backfires and ‘I’ come back. But a lot of the times knowing there is no feeling or no/minimal ‘I’ is great positive feedback that I’m on the right track
* I decided I was going to have a PCE this morning. It had been sometime since I had one and it just happened! A PCE seems to be kinda like riding a bicycle. Strange, awkward at first. Everything clicks and you suddenly get it one day. Then you wonder if you will get it again - but you do. I’m going to try and have one every day now. Or to allow one to be more precise. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before? Maybe I thought it would be too hard? I guess its one of those things that if you push too hard it won’t happen. But without the right intention, it happens far far less! It shows me the lightness, benevolence, magicality - that is ‘chalk and cheese’ different from ‘normal’. Too much ‘normal’ and one slowly drifts into the usual emotional vortices of ‘me’.
The trick is to forget about ‘getting to a PCE’ and instead make it about sensuous enjoyment. Try and savour sensuous experience repeatedly until you can spend a bit of time quite happily by yourself just drinking in everything around you. Nothing too heavily focussed or serious - sort of like enjoying an ice-cream on a hot summers day. Whatever seems interesting to you initially, take a good look at that. Slowly the delight in the looking becomes apparent. For me its often something visual e.g. a certain texture or positioning of objects in space. Or I notice the atmosphere in a place. Children do this easily. They can look at a puddle and to them it seems like a huge lake. They can see all sorts of layers in it. They want to take a stick and drag it along the bottom. They squeal with delight when they see plumes of mud particles making the water turbid. Its that level of enjoyment!
From the AFT Website
To get out of ‘stuckness’ one gets off one’s backside and does whatever one knows best to activate delight. Delight is what is humanly possible, given sufficient pure intent obtained from the felicity/ innocuity born of the pure consciousness experience, and from the position of delight, one can vitalise one’s joie de vivre by the amazement at the fun of it all … and then one can – with sufficient abandon – become over-joyed and move into marvelling at being here and doing this business called being alive now. Then one is no longer intuitively making sense of life … the delicious wonder of it all drives any such instinctive meaning away. Such luscious wonder fosters the innate condition of naiveté – the nourishing of which is essential if fascination in it all is to occur – and the charm of life itself easily engages dedication to peace-on-earth. Then, as one gazes intently at the world about by glancing lightly with sensuously caressing eyes, out of the corner of one’s eye comes – sweetly – the magical fairy-tale-like paradise that this verdant earth actually is … and one is the experiencing of what is happening. But refrain from possessing it and making it your own … or else ‘twill vanish as softly as it appeared - Richard