The field of awake emptiness and form, of the seeing and seen, is already and always absent of an I, there is just a sense of I there sometimes, usually placed on this human self, and it takes a lot of work and energy to uphold this sense of I and its associated identities.
So whenever there is a distraction from this process of manufacturing and maintaining the sense of I, or there is not enough energy available to engage in it, then the field can sometimes pop into awareness of itself as a field.
It can happen in nature, during rituals, dance, drumming or chanting, through drugs, sex, and rock’n roll, through prayer and meditation, through physical efforts such as the athlete’s high, and also through physical, emotional or mental fatigue and illness.
And most of the time when it happens, we enjoy it and may even seek it again, while also not quite recognize it for what it is. It seems too unlikely that there is not really any I here, but when it slips in, it is certainly enjoyable – a relief from the usual drama and struggle that a sense of I brings with it.
For me, it happened last summer when I had heat exhaustion. My human self did not do very well at all, yet the field of awake emptiness and form did as well as always, and recognized and rested in itself, released from identification with the human self. The same tends to happen whenever I am physically sick, although not quite as dramatically as then.
It is as if the field says well, enough of that, I’ll stop pretending to be limited to this human self for now and can always come back to it later when it is doing a little better. There is a safety valve there, when it gets too intense.
I was reminded of this through Ken Wilber’s descriptions of his recent health crisis, which he – fortunately for him and all of us – seems to be able to recover well from.
During the three days and nights that I was unconscious, there actually was quite a bit of conscious activity going on in me — half of which was quite familiar, and half of which was just plain weird. On the one hand, there was ever-present Big Mind and an awareness of one’s True Nature. On the other hand, I kept dreaming that I was in this really strange room of blue and pink pastels done up in a rather wretched aesthetic.
Of course, it helps to have a solid meditation practice and a familiarity with the terrain of Big Mind, as Ken Wilber certainly has. It creates grooves and habits which makes it easier for the whole field to fall into, and recognize and rest in, itself as a field.
Btw: it is interesting how his personality was still in the picture in his description, with its identification as someone who has a particular sense of aesthetics, and someone for whom that particular sense of aesthetics is important. I don’t know how much that happened at the time, and how much is added afterwards for effect.