Living Consciously

What we think, we become.

– Buddha

When it comes to self-awareness, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees. When we’re in the grip of stress or anxiety, we often feel confused about where our intense emotions and thoughts are coming from.

To avoid dealing with pain and discomfort, we can start to project our fears and fantasies onto other people, without understanding the boundaries where our personal responsibilities begin and end. This is a defence mechanism; rather than consciously address and flow with our feelings, we may start to shut down, push people away, or make unreasonable demands.

The only way to free ourselves from our conditioned patterns is through a full, conscious experience of them. Learning to ride the waves of our feelings rather than becoming submerged in them. Then we can clearly see how they affect us and how to resolve them.

Seven Levels of Personal Consciousness Model

The Seven Levels of Personal Consciousness Model is a tool developed by Richard Barrett, founder of the Barrett Academy for the Advancement of Human Values. My thanks to Richard for his permission to include it in my book Practice Makes Happy: A Guide to Conscious Living.

He worked on simplifying and expanding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – a theory of human motivation. Based on two decades of real-world experience, the model identifies the seven most important areas of human motivation. They range from basic survival at one end of the scale, to societal contribution and future generations at the other end. 

Richard Barrett concluded that when people or groups operate from the first three levels of consciousness, their sense of well-being will always be linked to the gratification of their deficiency needs. Only when they have learned how to satisfy and master these needs, are their minds free to focus on the gratification of their transformation and growth needs.

Bridging the gap between our deficiency needs and our growth needs is the transformation level of consciousness. This is where we begin to release the limiting fear-based beliefs we learned during our formative years and start to align our ego motivations with our soul motivations.

– Richard Barrett

This useful visual representation helps to develop a better understanding of consciousness (our awareness and perceptions). It highlights how our basic needs drive our reactions to life conditions. This knowledge can help identify the level relevant to us currently. It can then be used to reflect on what changes are required to get to the next level of consciousness, progressively making our way from Level 1 to Level 7.


Bob is financially stable, physically and mentally fit, and has satisfied his basic needs (Level 1, Survival – Building Stability). However, because he felt neglected by his parents as a child, he has grown up with the fear of being un-lovable. Bob’s adult relationships have been perfectly adequate, but no matter how much love someone gives him, he is unable to let himself be open to receiving it for fear of being hurt. Bob’s subconscious fear keeps him focussed on satisfying Level 2, Relationships – Sense of Belonging. He finds it difficult to widen his perspective and is therefore unable to progress beyond this need. Only when he is able to fulfil this need, will he have the capacity and motivation to focus on his personal growth to Level 3, Self-Esteem – Focus on Achievement.

That’s the power of our subconscious – it can keep us stuck!

Therefore, if we wish to change ourselves on a fundamental level and improve our life experience, then finding ways to raise our consciousness, commune with our soul, and develop who we really are is not only logical, but also the most healing and loving choice we can make.

Lightbulb moment: It’s safe to look within.

Useful resource: Practice Makes Happy: A Guide to Conscious Living by Helen Edwards

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