A map: Some phases and facets of the path

 

The self-disclosure of God never repeats itself
– Ibn Arabi

God never repeats itself, and that seems true for how it awakens to itself as well. It’s an adventure. Always unique and different in each case.

At the same time, there are some common themes, and many of these are outlined in maps from different traditions and teachers. When reading any of these types of maps, it’s good to remember that these are maps of possibilities, not of limitations. They say something about what’s possible, what may happen, but not what’s necessary or what will happen.

What I am going to describe here is influenced by some of these maps, although it is mostly from my own experience – which is of course limited. I came up with five themes, and each of these can be seen as (a) a phase, and (b) a facet we can find at most or all phases of the path.

So here they are, as a rough draft.

1. Interest – an initial interest, curiosity, spark, glimpse, awakening

(a) as phase: Our conscious start on the path may happens in many different ways. It can be an initial interest or curiosity. A growing or sudden love of love, truth or God. A glimpse. Or even a more stable awakening out of the blue.

(b) as facet: As a facet, this is an ongoing curiosity and receptivity, sometimes stronger and more in the foreground, other times more in the background.

(c) for me: For me, it started with a sudden and surprising shift into God recognizing all as itself. It was a selfless shift for a while, as far as I can remember, and it then stabilized into a oneness or unity state that lasted for about ten years. Before all this, I was a hard-core atheist, and the sudden opening happened after a year of illness. The surprise and curiosity is still here, and is perhaps my main motivation for exploring this. What happened back then? How is the world put together? What are the different facets of Big Mind? How would it be to recognize that I am reality, and not only an observer of reality or God.

2. Realigning – unification of self, reorienting, healing, maturing, dark night of the senses, centaur

(a) as phase: This is the realignment of our human self towards love, truth, reality and God. As a phase, this may happen as a dark night of the senses, a process that is far beyond and deeper than our conscious “will”. We are thrown in a river and it takes us where it goes, whether we want to or not. And it is not always a pleasant experience, especially if we resist. This process (i) realigns our human self, and (ii) softens identification with and as our human self. There is a clarification of intentions, perhaps discovering that our surface wants and desires are really about something else. And there may also be a sense of wholeness for our human self, recognizing the wholeness beyond and including body and mind.

(b) as facet: As a facet, this is an ongoing realigning and reorganizing of our human self, a continuous process of healing, maturing, clarifying, learning.

(c) for me: For me, this reorganization of the human self – the dark night of the senses – happened within a oneness state, which made it much easier. It was intense, it lasted for several years, and it felt like being pulled apart and put together again differently, but it happened within and as Spirit, so it was OK. There was an open welcoming of it. One facet of this was a shift into an immediate experience of body-mind wholeness, of who I am as the wholeness that body and psyche are just aspects of (centaur in Ken Wilber’s terminology).

3. Honeymoon – glimpses, guidance, thinning veils, early bliss, oneness, unity

(a) as phase: Early on, there is often a honeymoon phase. Things seem to go well. We may have glimpses, the veils may get thinner, there is a sense of guidance, we have insights, we may shift into a love of everyone and everything, things fall into place, there is some bliss. We may even shift into a oneness or unity state where everything is revealed as God, and yet happening to an I.

(b) as facet: All of these may happen throughout our path, and they are usually experiences our personality likes and have no problem with. (Until they go away, which is the next point!)

(c) for me: This honeymoon phase lasted for about ten years. I lived in a oneness state where “everything” seemed to fall into place, in a quiet bliss, with an open heart, a wide range of insights, a sense of clear and strong guidance, and a great deal of energy and zest. Everything seemed to go well.

4. Sobering – shadow work, maturing, apparent setbacks, dark night of the soul, wearing off remaining identifications as a me and I

(a) as phase: Following a honeymoon phase, we may go into a dark night of the soul. This is a more thorough reorganization of our human self, and also a wearing off of identifications as a me and I. Our previous connection with God, insights, bliss, guidance and so on may all seem to go away. Our life in the world may run into difficulties. Things may seem to go wrong in all areas of life. At first, we may resist this. But as it goes on, we may find genuine appreciation and gratitude for what’s happening. We recognize that it helps us wear off what’s left of identifications.

(b) as facet: More generally, setbacks of all kinds are an invitation to sober up. Reality is revealed and then covered up again. Bliss is here and then gone. We find it easy to love everyone and everything, and then not so easy. Our meditation goes great, and is then difficult. Life goes another direction than we had planned and expected. In each of these cases, we get to see that (a) life is always changing, (b) it doesn’t always follow our shoulds or expectations,  and (c) when we hold onto beliefs about how the world is or should be, and life goes another direction, it can be painful. We may also find that reality, and what’s more true for us than any belief, is always kind. Setbacks helps us realign our views so they are closer to reality, and also recognize that no stories are absolutely true and that beliefs are not only misguiding but painful. Eventually, we may recognize that these are not setbacks at all, just invitations to find more clarity.

(c) for me: After about ten years of oneness, things started going (apparently) wrong. I started “losing” the oneness state, the guidance, the insights, even my ability to do any form of practice, and this deepened and became more complete as time went on. I lost most of what was important to me in life, including my health and friendships. And I see how this has helped wear off beliefs and identifications, although there is certainly more left. It is a humbling process, in a good way. The more I resist it, the more I create suffering for myself. And the more I find clarity and genuine appreciation, and take responsibility for my own choices and how I relate to what’s happening, the more there is a sense of peace and grace.

5. Selflessness – big mind/heart/belly, opening, unfolding

(a) as phase: At some point, perhaps following a dark night of the soul, there may be a more clear and stable recognition of selflessness. Big Mind recognize itself and shifts out of the dream of identifying itself as an I. And Big Mind has many facets. It’s reality awake to itself, recognizing all as as awake and empty of an I (Big Mind, head center). It’s God as love, and God’s love of all as itself (Big Heart, heart center). It is God in its feminine aspect, as the smooth velvety luminous blackness, and through a human self, feeling all as itself (Big Belly, belly center).

(b) as facet: Throughout the path, Big Mind reveals itself to itself. Before a more clear and stable recognition of selflessness, there may be an “I” here that glimpse Big Mind or sense it behind thinning veils. Or Big Mind may temporarily shift into recognizing itself and out of the dream. Even within a more stable selfless awakening, there is an ongoing opening and unfolding of reality. New facets may reveal themselves. And there is an ongoing exploration for this human self of how to live within this new context, perhaps in a deeper and fuller way.

(c) for me: There have been periods of Big Mind awakening to itself and out of the dream, and periods where the veil seems very thin. During the initial phase, Big Mind and Big Heart were in the foreground, and during this more recent dark night phase, there has been more curiosity around the third facet of Big Mind, Big Belly. This has included a gradual shift into an alive recognition of the nurturing darkness, and also periods where Big Belly – the luminous black – recognizes itself more clearly. That’s all I can say for now.

Finally, there is an ongoing unfolding – opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing

(b) as facet throughout: Before and within selflessness, there is an ongoing healing, reorganizing and maturing of our human self. And there is also an ongoing revealing and self-discovery of Big Mind in all its many facets – Big Mind (seeing all as God, luminosity), Big Heart (loving all as God), Big Belly (feeling all as God, luminous blackness) and more. The show goes on.

Updates:

A note about the dark night of the soul: The dark night of the soul is what prepares us for a more clear and stable recognition of selflessness. For me, it has also included the feminine aspect of God gradually revealing itself. For others, this feminine aspect of God may be there from birth, or come in more gradually or more suddenly during any of the other phases.

I also recognize that different teachers are familiar with the feminine aspect of God to different degrees. The ones who have a depth of feeling, a sense of fullness, a soft embracing earthy quality to them, tend to be more familiar with this. And it is reflected in the aura as well. It tends to have a clear, soft almost liquid quality to it when the feminine aspect of God recognizes itself. Not surprisingly, the feminine aspect of God seem to recognize itself more fully among teachers from more earthy traditions, such as shamanistic traditions or Taoism, but it is obviously not limited to these traditions – or any tradition.

When it comes to the second point, reorganization, it seems to have two aspects: (i) A reorientation and realignment, and getting more “parts” of the self (subpersonalities, voices, perspectives) on board. This can be done through inquiry and clarification of desires and intentions. And (ii) finding the wholeness beyond and including body and mind as immediate experience, and deepen into this. This can be done through working with projections and the shadow, working with relationships, and through body-mind practices such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong and Breema.

I realize that these five themes are similar to – or perhaps the same as – the five Evelyn Underhill outlines in Mysticism: 1. Awakening. 2. Purgation of the self (dark night of the senses). 3. Illumination (oneness). 4. Dark night of the soul. 5. Unitive life (selfless). They are also very similar to the seven stages outlined by Joel Morwood: 1. Awakening of faith. 2. Investigation of teachings. 3. Unification of self. 4. Purification of mind. 5. Illumination of heart. 6. Exhaustion of will (Kenosis). 7. Sacrifice of Ignorance (Gnosis). Evelyn Underhill combined Joel’s first and second stages (awakening), and the third and fourth (purgation).

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draft intro….

God never repeats itself, and that seems true for how it awakens to itself as well. It’s an adventure. Always unique and different in each case.

At the same time, there are some common themes, outlined in the many maps from different traditions.

What I am going to describe here is influenced by some of these maps, although it is mostly from my own – always limited – experience.

I came up with five themes, and each of these can be seen as (a) a phase, and (b) a facet we can find at most or all phases of the path.

So here they are, as a rough draft.

When reading any of these types of maps, it’s good to remember that these are maps of possibilities, not of limitations. They say something about what’s possible, but not what’s necessary.

………..
………..
………..

God – aka existence, reality, life, Buddha Mind, Divine Mind, Brahman – wants to experience itself in always new and different ways. And also in how it awakens to itself. It seems to happen in a wide variety of ways, always new and different in each case. Sometimes obviously so, and sometimes in the details and flavors.

And yet, there seems to be some common themes, some common phases and facets of the process.

Here is a rough draft for now:

  1. Initial interest – interest, spark, glimpse, awakening
    1. as phase: how we consciously start on the path
    2. as facet: ongoing curiosity, receptivity
  2. Realigning – unification of self, reorienting, healing, maturing, dark night of the senses
    1. as phase:  dark night of the senses, realigning towards love, truth, reality, God
    2. as facet: ongoing realigning, reorganizing
  3. Honeymoon – glimpses, thinning veils, early bliss, oneness, unity
    1. as phase: initial honeymoon, bliss, guidance, thinning veils, oneness, unity – things our personality likes, that seem good to our personality
    2. as facet: whatever happens that our personality likes, is aligned with
  4. Sobering – shadow work, maturing, apparent setbacks, dark night of the soul
    1. as phase: (a) sobering in general, more down to earth, clarifying stories, less wishful thinking, and (b) dark night of the soul, wearing off identifications as me + I
    2. as facet: ongoing sobering process, releasing beliefs
  5. Selflessness – big mind/heart/belly
    1. as phase:  (a) noticing Big Mind, heart and/or belly, seeing it recognizing it, and then (b) being it, finding oneself as it
    2. as facet: noticing, being it, ongoing unfolding/opening
  6. And ongoing unfolding – opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing
    1. as facet throughout: ongoing opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing, reorganizing and maturing of our human self before and within selflessness

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Draft…..

God seems to want to explore itself in all possible ways, also when it comes to how it awakens to itself. It’s an adventure, always different in each case.

Still, here are some phases and facets that seem pretty common:

Initial phase. An interest, spark, initial glimpse, or even initial awakening – whether it is of the oneness or selflessness flavor. For some, it is curiosity or interest. For others, an initial glimpse showing that reality may be different from how they thought it was. For others again, it may be an awakening, for instance to oneness or selflessness.

Realigning. A realigning of the human self, reorientation towards truth, love and Reality. This may be a dark night of the senses where identities of this human self change and realign, and identification with the me – with this human self and its roles – is softened. This process is ongoing.

Honeymoon. Anything that happens – usually in the form of experiences – that our personality likes, and is associated with God or our practice. We may have glimpses. Experience bliss. The veils may get thinner. This may also be a shift into a shorter or longer lasting oneness state, where all is revealed as God and yet it’s happening to an I.

Apparent setbacks. We may have a glimpse or opening or insight or experience love for everyone and everything, and it goes away. Those experiences give us a guide, they prepare us for what’s to come. There is nothing wrong in them going away. We may make mistakes in life, especially when we act on beliefs and fears, and those are fine too. They help us learn and find what’s more true for us than our initial beliefs. We may go through periods where we are unable to do any form of spiritual practice, and where God seem to have abandoned us, and that’s fine too. It helps us release identification as a spiritual person, a good spiritual practitioner, and so on, and it brings us face to face with a range of beliefs around spirituality and awakening and what it means.

Sobering. A continuing reorganization of our human self (its intentions, goals, roles, needs), release of remaining identifications, and healing and maturing in an ordinary sense. This may involve work with projections, and especially the shadow, bodywork, and so on. This may also take the form of a dark night of the soul, releasing remaining identifications with the me and as an I.

Selflessness. Recognition of being Big Mind/Heart/Belly. This often comes in the form of a series of glimpses, a gradual thinning of the veils, and then a more clear and stable recognition. Our human self reorganizes within this new context, and there is also a continuing unfolding and deepening familiarity with being and living from Big Mind, Big Heart (love, compassion), and Big Belly (luminous blackness).

Ongoing unfolding. All of this is an ongoing process. Our human self continues to heal, mature, and gain experience. Even when there is a clear recognition of selflessness, it continues to open – new facets may continue to reveal themselves, and there is always an ongoing process in living from this, and mature in living from it.

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– initial phase
– realigning
– honeymoon
– sobering, apparent setbacks
– selflessness

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  1. Interest, spark
  2. Unification of self / dark night of senses – softening identification with the me + reorganizing/reorienting the me
  3. Oneness – honeymoon, early bliss, ease, peacock’s feathers, thinning of the veils, glimpses
  4. Dark night of soul – releasing remaining identifications + shadow work, body, relationships etc. – sobering, maturing
  5. Selflessness – big mind/heart/belly, three soul centers

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  • Initial phase
    • Interest, spark, initial glimpse, initial awakening
  • Realigning
    • Unification of the self, softening identification with me + reorganization/realignment of the me – dark night of the senses
    • Realigning, reorienting, finding what’s really important, following the chain back to essential wants/needs
    • Finding wholeness as human self, healing, maturing, body-mind wholeness
  • Honeymoon
    • glimpses, thinning veils, early bliss
    • oneness/unity
  • Sobering
    • Releasing of remaining identifications
    • sobering, maturing, shadow work
    • dark night of the soul
  • Selflessness
    • big mind/heart/belly, three soul centers
  • Ongoing unfolding
    • Ongoing opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing

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Beginning – interest, spark, glimpse, awakening

Realigning – unification of self, reorienting, healing, maturing, dark night of the senses

Honeymoon – glimpses, thinning veils, early bliss, oneness, unity

Sobering – shadow work, maturing, apparent setbacks, dark night of the soul

Selflessness – big mind/heart/belly

And ongoing unfolding – opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing

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After listening to Mysticism, I got curious about the different phases and facets of the path. I know there are many maps out there,

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  1. Initial interest – interest, spark, glimpse, awakening
    1. as phase: how we consciously started on the path
    2. as facet: ongoing curiosity, receptivity
  2. Realigning – unification of self, reorienting, healing, maturing, dark night of the senses
    1. as phase:  dark night of the senses, realigning towards love, truth, reality, God
    2. as facet: ongoing realigning, reorganizing
  3. Honeymoon – glimpses, thinning veils, early bliss, oneness, unity
    1. as phase: initial honeymoon, bliss, thinning veils, oneness, unity – things our personality likes, that seem good to our personality
    2. as facet: whatever happens that our personality likes, is aligned with
  4. Sobering – shadow work, maturing, apparent setbacks, dark night of the soul
    1. as phase: (a) sobering in general, more down to earth, not caught up in wishful thinking, and (b) dark night of the soul, wearing off identifications as me + I
    2. as facet: ongoing sobering process, releasing beliefs
  5. Selflessness – big mind/heart/belly
    1. as phase:  (a) noticing Big Mind, heart and/or belly, seeing it recognizing it, and then (b) being it, finding oneself as it
    2. as facet: noticing, being it, ongoing unfolding/opening
  6. And ongoing unfolding – opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing
    1. as facet throughout: ongoing opening, deepening, learning, healing, maturing, reorganizing and maturing of our human self before and within selflessness

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