I do have to say, I don't buy into any "enlightenment" models of consciousness, at all.
I think there's a lot of baggage around the term Enlightenment, so let me unpack it a little bit so we don't get snagged.
I think that there are moments when we're more "awake" (to use a nebulous Gurdjieff term). But they don't last, we will always get distracted and lose it. You can spend your life meditating on a mountain, and have some holy experience, but as soon as you come down into the city and smell food, it's gone. There are no "enlightened" people. There are enlightened moments.
With a lot of work, you might be able to stay in that moment for a minute or two, but that's the best you can hope for.
There are experiences, though, which will alter your perception, perhaps forever. Like, if you experience a real moment of ego-death... in that moment, all the information inside of you gets reorganized. You process things differently. The self has changed. There are a few kinds of meditative experiences that work like this (and non-meditative experiences too - take childbirth). In this thread I'm trying to explore paths to one of them.
I don't think there is a higher state of consciousness, nor do I believe that most of us live our lives in a suboptimal state.
I can observe in myself that my level of consciousness crests and troughs throughout the day. And that when it's in the higher state, I'm better at dealing with .. well, basically everything.
I get in an argument with somebody, I spend most of the day pacing around and stewing, mentally replaying it, fantasizing about what I could have said. We'd call this a low level of consciousness because I'm wrapped up IN the emotion, I'm not able to think ABOUT it. I'm "out of balance". When I calm down, when the emotional poison has run its course, I feel different (physically), and I'm able to process the experience from a different angle. When I was pissed off, I couldn't see how I was wrong. When I am mindful, it's like I'm looking down on that battlefield from above, instead of fighting on the front line.
We could call this a "different" state. The gist of this thread is about trying to increase that capacity within oneself, to expand ones ability to operate their minds - so we're making a value judgment here, that it's a higher, more desirable state.
I think that most of us don't spend enough time thinking rationally or methodically during the perfectly whole aware times we already experience.
The aim I'm discussing in this thread is different than just being more rational or methodical. The rational mind is one part of the self, but if we just focus on that, we will end up unbalanced. Speaking for myself, my problem is that I ignore my body, and I ignore my emotions. I will go entire days forgetting to eat, and then I get cranky and don't understand why. Or I will ignore my emotions in favor of a rational choice, and will ultimately become miserable. From a "mindful" state of being, it's obvious. But when I'm in the mix, it's invisible. I can only see the carrot 4 inches in front of my face.
But, I may be getting hung up on the layers of mystical obfuscation. It's possible that what you mean by "awareness" is vastly less occluded than it seems.
We're talking about internal states which we can't show to each other, so we're forced to use shitty language
For my part, I am aiming to understand what Gurdjieff meant by "consciousness" - it is not quite what we mean in the field of neuroscience. But it's worth exploring nonetheless. I recognize that discussing this topic in an esoteric context rather than a modern material one is not everybody's cup of tea.
That said, it seems to me that the real challenge for most people is not accomplishing a higher state of awareness or attaining conscious performance of tasks that have long since been relegated to automatic control, but rather, learning to be comfortable just existing in one's own skin. Attaining a state of contentment with being alone with the self. Becoming at home existing with the memories and thoughts that flow through constantly as a side-effect of multiple network emergent property of consciousness.
Being comfortable with the self, being peaceful and still, is a fine aim.
We all know somebody, however, who is perfectly comfortable being a piece of shit. They actually need to be less comfortable, more critical and reflective, more connected to the people around them.
There's a state of being where you're able to observe which is correct for you - being able to enter that space is MY aim.