Shifting refuge

 

A shifting refuge….

First, we take ourselves to be a me. This human self and its body, identities and roles in the world. There is an inside and outside, and it all seems real and substantial.

Then, we may notice that the me is content of experience, it comes and goes as any other content of experience, and it is not what I am. There is a softening or release of identification with the me. This process can appear as a dark night of the senses, called so since there is a release of identification with the senses. The temporary outcome is an absence of a sense of inside and outside, a recognition of all as awakeness itself or God, and possibly insights, clarity, bliss, a clear inner direction and so on.

The remaining refuge here is the separate I and the spiritual joys mentioned above.

Finally, we may notice that the separate I is content of experience as well. The doer, thinker, chooser, owner, observer – all of those – are content of experience just as anything else. That too comes and goes. That too is not what I really am. As I keep noticing this, maybe first in formal practice and then in daily life, there is the possibility of a softening and release of identification out of these. This process is called the dark night of the soul, experienced as a death of the core of what we take ourselves to be.

When identification is released out of the separate I, what is left is doing without doer, thinking without thinker, observing without observer and so on. Everything is as before, although now all content of experience – including the doer and observer – is recognized as living its own life. The center falls out, and the bottom or ground falls out.

Is this true? Of course not, and there are no absolute rules for these things. Reality is not confined to our stories, no matter how refined these stories may be, how well other stories support them, how much it feels true, or who agrees. I am not even very familiar with how this is described in the different traditions, so even at that level, this is not to be taken too seriously. All I know is that it seems to describe my process in a nutshell, and that there is still – always – further to go. As for my own process, I don’t even know if it will resolve itself into a release of identification out of the separate I, and that is OK too.

Footnote: When identification released out of the me + I, it can happen as an “internal” process where the outer life remains much the same. But it can also happen through a “loss” of roles and identities in the world, and also a loss of all the spiritual joys. What is identified with is taken away so we have a chance to notice what we really are, which is not any (particular) content of experience at all.

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outline…

  • shifting refuge
    • me to I
      • me: inside/outside, real, substantial
        • release identification with: no inside/outside, all as awakeness/God, oneness
        • process: dark night of the senses (release identification out of senses)
        • remaining refuge: separate I + spiritual joys (bliss, insight, clarity, love etc.)
      • I: center-periphery
        • notice as gestalts, possibility of ground waking up to itself
        • process: dark night of the soul (release identification out of the core of what we take ourselves to be)
        • release identification with: no center-periphery, gestalts recognized as gestalts/content of awareness, all living its own life

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A shifting refuge of what we take ourselves to be…

(Slightly convoluted and as it appears in my own process)

First, there is identification as the me. As this human self with a body, identities, roles and so on. There is identification with the whole of this human self, more or less since it will always shift and is filtered through our conscious identities. There is a clear sense of inside (this human self) and outside (the wider world), of me being substantial and real, and the wider world the same.

Then, identification may be released out of the me gestalts, the gestalts of me created by images and stories overlaid on each of the sense fields. Since this includes a release of identification out of senses, and it is experienced as a death process, this is sometimes called the dark night of the senses. After this release of identification, which is always just partial, there is little or no sense of inside or outside. All is happening within the same field, and it is recognized as made up of awakeness itself and as no thing appearing as something.

Finally, identification may be released out of the gestalt of a separate I. This gestalt may be made up of sensations in the head/neck area and image overlays, creating a sense of a doer (thinker, chooser, owner) and observer. Attention is brought to these gestalts of a separate I, they are recognized as content of awareness, coming and going as anything else, as gestalts as any other gestalts. And this makes it possible for identification to release out of it, sometimes quickly and sometimes after quite some time of thorough and repeated inquiry and exploration. As this sense of being a separate I is the core of what we (mistakenly) take ourselves to be, there is a sense of a death of the core of what we are, maybe even a sense of death of our soul, so this process is sometimes called the dark night of the soul.

What is left when identification is released out of me + I gestalts is so simple it is difficult to put into words. This human self is still here, as before, doing its own things, living its own life as anything else. There is doing and no doer. Thinking and no thinker. Choosing and no chooser. Observing and no observer. The field of whatever is happening awakens to itself as a field, as awakeness itself, as no thing appearing as something, inherently free of an I with an other, of center and periphery.

So the refuge for what we take ourselves to be is first this human self, then a doer and observer. It is a ground within content of experience, located in a particular place in space, and shrinking from a me with an inside and outside to a doer and observer that is more of a point, a center with a periphery. And then no refuge, just the field awakening to itself, no thing appearing as something.

All of this can be explored through the sense fields. How does the “me” show up in each of the sense fields and as a gestalt? What happens when there is identification with it? How would it be if this identification is softened or released? How does the separate I (doer, observer) show up in the sense fields? What happens when it is identified with? What happens if identification is released? What do I take as what I am? How does that show up in the sense fields? Is it content of experience, as anything else? Does it come and go, as any other content of experience? Is it what I really am? What color does it have? Texture? Form? Is it different from awakeness itself? Is it something? No thing?

This process can go quickly, in a flash. Or the process can be slow, happening gradually over time. Or – maybe most common – it can be both, with flashes and previews of how it is when complete, and then back to the gradual process of seeing through and/or wearing out identifications.

Put this way, the process can seem simple quite simple and straight forward. It is, but living through it can be quite messy and confusing as mystics of all traditions testify. It is a killing of what we take ourselves to be, first as the me and then as a separate I. And since we take ourselves as that which is killed, there is a sense of me & I being killed which is not always pretty, even if what is killed is just identification with those gestalts, those sensation-image conglomerates. The more resistance to the process, the more suffering. And the more wholehearted welcoming of it, the easier it may be. Maybe the easiest is when we shift – if we can – into a sincere and wholehearted Let Your will be done, not mine...

After all, it is what we are awakening to itself, so although it may follow certain patterns and may conform to stories of statistics and maps, it doesn’t have to. What we are awakening to itself, as anything else, is certainly not confined by our stories about it, no matter how sophisticated and accurate other stories say they are.

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Outline….

  • shifting refuge (of what we take as ourselves)
    • me (human self, body, identities, roles)
      • inside/outside
    • separate I (doer, observer)
      • center-periphery
      • when explored – shifting platform, look at the previous one from the next one
    • ground

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I am curious about this process….

First, there is the usual condition of taking a lot of stories as true and identifying as a me (human self with identities and roles) and an I (a doer, observer). There is a sense of an inside (me and I) and outside (wider world), and it all seems quite solid and real. I am a solid object in a world of solid objects.

Then, a release of identification out of the me gestalts (body, identities, roles). This leads to a sense of no inside or outside, just one seamless field of human self and wider world. The process of releasing identification with the me gestalts is experienced as a death, even if it is just the death of certain identifications, and may be what is referred to as the dark night of the senses. There is a release of identification with the body and its senses, and what remains is an identification as a doer and observer.

Finally, there may be the recognition that a sense of a separate I is also a gestalt, appearing as content of experience, coming and going as any other content of experience, and not what we really are. We may recognize, in immedicay, the gestalts of a doer, chooser, thinker, observer and so on, each made up of sensations and an overlay of images.

This invites that identification to release as well, and this process is the dark night of the soul, experienced as the death of the core of what we take ourselves to be. A death of our “soul”, even if it is just a release of identification out of the separate I gestalts. When identification is released out of these gestalts, there is a sense of the bottom falling out. No place to stand. Not being located in a particular place in time and space. No fixed viewpoints to identify with. No center and periphery. Just the field awakening to itself as a field.

So first, there is an identification with this human self with its body, identities and roles in the world. This creates a sense of being a solid and real object with an inside and outside, in a world of other solid and real objects. The “ground” we are standing on is this human self.

Then, a release of identification out of the human self, leaving identification as a separate I, a doer and observer. Here, there is no inside and outside, just the seamless field of this human self and the wider world, and all recognized as awakeness itself. It may all be recognized as insubstantial, ephemeral and awakeness itself, while there is still identification as a separate I and locating this separate I in time and space, with a particular and relatively fixed viewpoint. The “ground” we are standing on is smaller, confined to this sense of a doer, choser, thinker, observer.

And finally, a recognition of this separate I as content of experience and gestalts as well. That too ephemeral, insubstantial, awakeness itself, not what we really are. (Or are limited to.) When the identification with this separate I releases, there is no ground anymore. No fixed viewpoint. No separate I locatet somewhere in space. Only the field of no thing appearing as something, with no center and periphery, awakening to itself as a field.

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Initial outline…

  • release identification with me, then I
    • identification with me, inside/outside
      • release ident. with me (no inside/outside)
      • dark night of senses
        • more in the periphery of what we take ourselves to be
        • a sense of being taken apart and put together differently (at least for me)
        • release/weaken identification w. body, identities in the world, roles
    • still identification as separate I (doer, observer)
      • release identification as separate I (no center)
      • dark night of soul
        • core of what we take ourselves to be
        • experienced as a death b/c identified with it, but really only a release of identification with gestalts of a doer/observer
        • falling away of sense of center-periphery, and “ground” to stand on (a location in space/time, a particular viewpoint)

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