Pearls on a string: infinite causes, nature and nurture, and beliefs

 

A practice I have found interesting (although it gets repetitive after a while!) is to explore the infinite causes to any simple activity I engage in, or even any belief or identity that comes up.

This morning, I did it on the belief that I need to be successful in the world, roughly as society defines it.

Following the trail of causality, I see that it comes from first an innocent thought (a question), which is then taken as true, which in turn may lead to certain behaviors. And this thought, and the tendency to take it as true, comes from my birth family and my upbringing, and that in turn comes from the larger society – which also whispers the same in my ear now, which in turn comes from our civilization, and going far enough back, I see that it (most likely) has to do with survival. To survive, as an individual and group, we need to be successful in specific ways, and the more successful, the better the chances to survive. And this in turn comes from the evolution of this planet, the universe as a whole, and the universe as it appears now – supporting everything happening locally.

This larger perspective helps me see how it is just a belief. It comes from a natural impulse for self-preservation, and is added onto it to support it.

Whatever I choose to explore in this way, and it can be in far more detail than this, reveals a similar pattern, going from thought, taking it as true and/or acting on it, my upbringing, to culture, to civilization, to survival and biology, to the evolution of Earth as a whole, and the evolution of the universe as a whole, and then the unfolding of the universe as a whole, and all of it as it is present now, supporting what is happening here locally.

This is of course just another story, but it does poke some holes in the sense of a separate self right here being in charge.

What it comes down to: seeing what is already more true

 

So when we start letting go of some of the identities that I described in previous posts, what is left? What, if anything, is revealed?

For me, it has to with simply seeing what is already more true for me, in immediate experience, without knowing in advance what I will find or am looking for, and doing it for its own sake.

If I think I know what I’ll find, I am creating another box for myself. I have an agenda. Receptivity to what is really there goes out the window.

If I do it for some other motive, to find release, to get rid of discomfort, to get somewhere, then I am creating yet another box. Again, there is an agenda there. And again, receptivity – or even interest – in what is really there, goes out.

Thinking I know what to find, and doing it for a particular result, is just another way for me to limit myself, to box myself, life, existence, and even God, into a far smaller space than where it already is. It may look safe for a while, but is in the long run nothing but a dead end.

I think I’ll get something or somewhere by doing it, but all I am doing is boxing myself in. Staying put.

What it all comes back to, and down to, is doing it for its own sake. I engage in inquiry, for the sake of doing inquiry. I engage in headlessness, for the sake of headlessness. I am with experiences, for the sake of being with experiences.

And seeing all the parts of me that is not doing it just for its own sake, is part of it as well. Allowing even that. Being with even that. Seeing even that, as what is, right here and now. For its own sake.

Being with and seeing, for its own sake

 

My main practice is to simply be with what is… to fully allow it, as it is. This automatically shifts identification out of content and more into the field of awareness and its content.

Resistance = suffering, being with = Big Mind

As long as there is identification with content, there is also resistance to other parts of content, and not an allowing of all there is. I am and want this, so resist what does not fit. An allowing shifts the center of gravity more towards headlessness and Big Mind.

A release

When this happens, there is also a sense of release… a release of grasping, of contraction, of being blindly caught up in the drama of being an object in an immensely large world with lots of very unpredictable other objects (who I need, or can harm me, or sometimes both.) There is a new freedom in this. A freedom to allow content to be as it is. A freedom to allow God’s, or reality’s, or life’s will be done, as it unfolds here and now.

A secret hidden in plain sight

When we discover this, one of life’s secrets hidden in plain view, right in front of our nose, there is almost inevitably also a thought that ha! now I know how to release suffering! I’ll use this as my practice to avoid suffering and find happiness.

Wanting to change it

But what is happening there? Exactly what is creating suffering in the first place: an identification with content, seeing myself as an object here wanting this and to avoid that. I’ll engage in being with what is, so I can change what is.

The solution is to be with even this. The impulse to avoid suffering and seek happiness, or at least contentment, is something arising as content, and I can be with even that. And this in turn releases some of the identification with it. It arises, as anything else, coming and going on its own.

Self-inquiry too

All of this also goes for the practice of self-inquiry. I may discover that certain practices of self-inquiry releases, or at least lessens, stress and suffering, so I use it as a way to manipulate the content of my experiences. I inquire to be free from suffering and find happiness.

But again, this is a trap. In this case, it adds a motivation to the inquiry which makes it less sincere and open-ended. I think I know what will bring about a release, so I try to direct the inquiry in that direction. I have a goal, created from memories of past experiences, and try to recreate what brought me there in the past, or try to manufacture something that brings me there.

Being with, for its own sake

The only real solution to all of this is to be with what is happening, just to be with it, just to experience it fully, without getting caught up in resistance and holding onto parts of the content. To find myself as the ground of awareness, which already and always allows it all. Just for its own sake.

Inquiry, to see what is already more true for us

And with inquiries, to use them as a tool to see what is. To find what is already more true for me than what I believe. To dive down below beliefs, to what is alive in immediate awareness.

A discovery of what already is

In both cases, it is a discovery of what already is, without knowing in advance what we will find, apart from that it will be different from any memory or expectation. It is always fresh, new and different.

A note: allowing activity, even more of it

And just for the sake of making it a little more complete: allowing our experiences more fully does not mean being passive in the world. If anything, it frees this human self up to be more active and engaged, free from any holding back coming from self-consciousness. Free from the burden of being taken as an I, it can function more freely, richly and fully.

Effects of beliefs and their shadow

 

From a previous post…

As soon as their is a belief in an idea… a thought, image, identity, perspective, view, framework… there is automatically a shadow. I want this to be true, not that. I want to be identified with this, not that.

My mind closes down, not interested in, or willing or able to, see the grain of truth in the other perspectives, or the limits to the truth and validity of my own. And my heart closes down, seeing them as Other, not able to recognize myself in them, not able to find our shared humanity, not seeing how we are in the same boat.

More specifically…

  • The mind closes (as above) and may appear irrational to detached observers
  • The heart closes (as above)
  • The emotions are reactive, overly sensitive, on guard, and easily in turmoil
  • The body is tense, rigid, armor, breath is often shallow
  • Behavior is more immature, reactive, irrational
  • Psychologically, there is a sense of separation, alienation, an identity to defend, precariousness, denial.

All of this becomes very clear when I explore my beliefs through The Work. And although each inquiry is new, fresh and surprising, there are also certain general patterns that emerge over time, outlined above.

Three relationships with the reversals of views

 

Related to the previous post, but also a little different…

I see how I cycle among three relationships with an awareness of the reversals of views.

One is happily oblivious, using or attaching to a view without much awareness of the grain of truth in their reversals.

The other is releasing views. Having seen how each view has innumerable reversals, and they all have limited and relative validity, I become more cautious. I release from them, as much as I can. There may even be ambivalence here, because I see that I cannot continue in my certainty of particular views anymore, but I am also not quite able to play freely with them either. So I hold back. And I investigate.

The third is a free play with views, first using one, then another, then a third, the a view that includes some of them all, being able to find the truth and validity in each of them, and also seeing the limitations of each. This comes from a more thorough investigation of particular views and each of their reversals. There is a more finely grained familiarity with the terrain, so also more freedom.

Examples and flavors

There are many flavors to this.

One is in terms of views in general.

Another is with shadow projections, where I am first blindly caught up in it, then learn to recognize the symptoms and become more cautions, and then more free around it as we become more familiar with the process.

And yet another is in the belief of a separate self. Initially, we take it for granted. Then, when we see that too as just another idea with relative truth, we may get a little stunned and hold back for a while while investigating further. And finally, there is a freedom around it, a free play, allowing it to be there when it is, yet also seeing the insubstantiality of it.

The three relationships play themselves out in each of these situations, and many more than involves views and beliefs.

Three relationships with beliefs

 

I see how I cycle among three relationships with beliefs.

One is happily oblivious, until the world comes up against my beliefs and there is stress (nigredo in alchemy.)

The other is noticing that there is a belief there, and the stress it causes, but not being willing or apparently able to do anything about it. Maybe I am too much in the grips of it. Or it doesn’t seem to be the right circumstances. Or I can’t identity the belief. Or I investigate it but am still not quite ready to allow it to go. (Still nigredo.)

And the third is exploring it from the emptiness and form sides. From emptiness, I can find myself as awake emptiness (headless, Big Mind) and be OK with it, even embrace it as it is. From the form side, I can explore the belief in different ways, such as The Work… Do I know it is true? What happens when I hold onto the belief, and the world comes up against it? Who or What would I be without it, in the same situation? What are the grains of truth in the many reversals of the initial belief? (Albedo in alchemy, the work, the differentiation, sorting out, clarifying.)

Examining conglomerates

 

A conglomerate of thoughts anchored in sensations, and the accompanying emotional patterns, seems very real when not examined closely. There is obviously a separate I there.

But when examined, it falls apart.

Finite in time and space

I notice sights coming and going. Sounds coming and going. Smells and tastes coming and going. Sensations coming and going. Thoughts coming and going.

They are all finite in time and space.

Awareness… timeless and spaceless

Am I any of those? No. Something does not come and go. This awareness, that all of these happen within, does not come and go. If there is an “I” here, it is more this awareness than its content.

Content as awake emptiness itself

If so, where is the dividing line between I as awareness and this content, which somehow is less “I”? Can I find a dividing line anywhere?

Now, it seems that the content of awareness is no other than awareness itself.

There is this awake void, and forms happening within, to and as this awake void.

Sense of separate I as awake emptiness

And there is no separate I to be found anywhere. When I look for a separate I within form, I find thoughts associated with particular sensations, and a sense of a separate I in turn associated with those two. But in the very seeing of that, the whole sense of a separate I weakens. The air goes out of the balloon. It becomes transparent. That too is revealed as no other than awake emptiness.

Awake emptiness takes myriads of forms… all these sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts. And yes, even a sense of a separate I placed on thoughts associated with particular sensations. That too, is no other than awake emptiness. It has no substance. That too, is awake emptiness.

Seeing this, over and over, there is more familiarity with it. It comes more into the foreground. the sense of a separate I has less and less hold. The identification with it has no substantial anchor anymore.

Innocent curiosity

Of course, writing this is mostly useless, other than as a report of what is alive in immediate awareness here and now. If I am looking for anything in particular, if I think I know what I am looking for and what I will find, it is boxed in.

To be free, receptive to what is really there, to really be a genuine exploration, there has to be an innocent curiosity…

What will i find? What is new this time? What surprises will there be? What is really alive, here and now?

Thoughts reflecting the past II (effects)

 

What are the effects of noticing, through careful examination, that our thoughts always reflect the past?

Well, when it is seen, over and over, in our own life, and is felt in our bones, it allows relative truths to be seen as relative truths, and the release that follows.

Holding our stories more lightly

It is another nudge in the direction of holding any thoughts, ideas, stories, assumptions and shoulds a little more lightly. Seeing that, yes, they are only relative truths at best. Only questions about the world.

And it is a reminder to look a little closer when something appears to myself as an absolute truth or a statement. Maybe it is really just a relative truth and a question.

This goes for the grand scale theories and views, such as our general world view, religion, political faith, and so on, and maybe especially for the smaller and apparently more innocent ones in my daily life such as she should do her dishes, people shouldn’t lie, I should have more money, I shouldn’t be sick, and life should be fair.

The shift

When these are taken as absolute truths and statements, they bring stress because life does not conform (my individual will is at odds with life’s will.) When they are examined, and revealed as just relative truths and innocent questions, there is a sense of release, spaciousness, ease and simplicity.

Reactivity gives way to receptivity. Contraction to spaciousness. Struggle to ease. Confusion to clarity. Compulsiveness or paralysis to natural engagement. A sense of separation to intimacy. Alienation to a sense of belonging. Defending against any view, to finding the truth in it.

Thoughts reflecting the past

 

Many teachers (and teachings) talk about how thoughts reflect the past, and only reflect the past.

Is it true? When I heard this again as a quote from Byron Katie, there wasn’t an immediate and whole-hearted recognition, so I decided to explore it again for myself. It is true in my own experience?

Thoughts arising here and now, with content about past, present and future

Thoughts, as anything else, arise here and now. But their content appear, on the surface, to be about the past, present and future.

Thoughts about the present, about what that just left

When I look at thoughts about the present, I see that they always reflect what has already gone. They cannot keep up with the continuous stream of content, they are always a little slow, always about what just left.

Thoughts about the future, reflecting the past

Thoughts about the future are maybe a little different, but even here, they actually reflect the past. They are projections into the future, into what may be, based on experiences from the past. I hit my toe on the leg of the table a while ago, and it hurt, so I assume it will hurt if I do it again. I enjoyed a vacation up in the mountains last year, so assume I will enjoy it again. I resolved a stressful issue last night by doing inquiry into it, so assume inquiry may work again on future stressful situations.

These are all reasonable assumptions, and are very helpful in daily life. They have a clear practical value in our everyday human life, and without them we probably wouldn’t last very long.

But as helpful as they are, these thoughts are still reflecting the past, taking past experiences and lessons from past experiences and projecting them into an imagined future.

Thoughts about the past, present and future, all reflecting the past

So thoughts about the past are obviously reflecting the past, thoughts about the present are really about what just left, and thoughts about the future reflect past experiences – projected into the future.

And the interpretation of any of this also, obviously, reflects the past. Past experiences, and my stories about them, color how I interpret anything in the past, present or future.

Humbling realization

So, yes, when I look at my own thoughts, I see over and over that they not only reflect the past, but 100% reflect the past.

It is a humbling realization.

More about the effects of realizing this in the following post(s).

Sensations as anchor for beliefs II

 

Before falling asleep last night, I explored further how sensations are used as anchors.

  • I noticed how a sense of searching and looking was associated with slight movements of the eyes (even when they are closed.) Combined with a sense of a separate self, it creates a sense of “I am searching” or “I am looking”. Belief in idea of separate self + searching/looking + slight eye movements = “I am searching.”
  • The same seems to happen with thoughts. Thoughts were associated with slight movements of the throat (as if speaking) and combined with a sense of a separate self it becomes “I am thinking”. Belief in the idea of a separate self + thoughts + sensations in throat area subtly mimicking speaking = “I am thinking.”
  • A sense of a sweet atmosphere was associated with the sensation of air coming in and passing over the roof of the mouth.
  • A sense of a separate self was placed on various sensations in the throat, neck and (inner) mouth area. Whenever I looked at the sensation it was currently placed on, the sense of a separate I was disengaged from that sensation, and automatically placed on another sensation in a slightly different area of space.

In all of these cases, the conglomerates seem very real and substantial when they are not explored. But as soon there is the noticing of them being simply sensations used as anchors for thoughts, searching, a particular atmosphere, or a sense of a separate I, the illusion falls away. It is similar to seeing how a magic trick is performed – the spell goes out of it.

The conglomerate, which looked so convincing as a whole, falls into its separate parts. They are recognized as distinct from each other.

Sometimes when I do this, the conglomerate creating the appearance of a separate self falls away. It pops, revealing Big Mind, headlessness, awake emptiness and form clearly absent of any separate self anywhere. Last night (and for the last few days) it remains, just shifting to similar sensations nearby. Both are of course fine – equally interesting to explore in their own way.

Exploring a sense of a separate I in three general ways

 

When I explore this sense of a separate I, I notice that I tend to do it in three general ways.

The main one is to be with the experience of a separate I, to fully allow it – including any resistance to this sense of a separate I, any hopes for it to change, any struggles around it. Fully be with it, allow it, embrace it, as it is. To see it and feel it as it is, here and now (which allows loving it, as it is, to come in as well.)

The second one is to amplify the experience of a separate self. How can I make the sense of a separate self stronger? I find that I do it by tensing up muscles, by strengthening an image of a split between me here and the rest of the world out there, and also by emotions such as anger, fear, desire, and so on. This helps me see how the sense of a separate self is created, and how I do it in my daily life.

The third is to inquire into what is already more true in immediate experience, such as exploring if I am content of awareness, if I am awareness itself, and if the content is anything else than awareness. (Am I any of this content? These sounds? Sights? Sensations? Thoughts? They all come and go, but something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? It is awareness itself. Am I this awareness? If I find myself as awareness, I notice that its content arises as a seamless field. What appeared as inside and outside, when I took myself to be a part of the content, is now all a seamless field of no real inside or outside. Where is the boundary between awareness and its content? Does the content appear as anything else than this awareness? The content of this awake emptiness arises as nothing other than awake emptiness itself.)

Together, there is the full allowing of a sense of a separate self, including any associated resistance. There is an active exploration of how the sense of a separate I is created. And there is an exploration of what is already more true in immediate awareness.

The path of untying knots: guided by daily life

 

One thing I forgot to mention about the path of untying knots is that it is guided by daily life.

Something comes up that is stressful, revealing the knot that life invites us to become more familiar with, here and now, by being with the experience (feelings) and by inquiring into it (view.)

Daily life is our guru, in a very real way, showing us the next knot to explore, to befriend, to become so intimately familiar with that it on its own is untied.

This is especially clear in The Work, where we after a while start looking forward to stressful situations, because we know they reveal more knots – and what has been obscured by these knots (the sense of freedom, clarity, connection, intimacy and so on that surfaces when the knots are intimately explored, and untie on their own.)

The path of untying knots

 

Broadly speaking, there seems to be two paths of awakening to who (individual) and what (Spirit) we are. One is of focusing on – and noticing or invoking – what we are seeking, the other is of focusing – and working – on what is blocking what we are seeking. And most paths of course include both, in different ways, and with different emphasis.

Only noticing or invoking who and what we are

If we only do the first – going for noticing or invoking what we are seeking – the pitfalls seems to include missing out of, or ignoring, some knots that needs to be untied and some healing that needs to occur. It can for instance lead to a (partial or more full) awakening to what we are (awake emptiness and form absent of a separate I), functioning through an individual that still has a lot to work through, and who may not be aware of everything that needs to be worked through.

Some forms of self-inquiry fall into this category, such as noticing that we are not the content of awareness but awareness itself (and that the content is no other than awareness), and also the headless experiments.

Only untying knots

If we only do the second – untying knots – we may miss out of noticing who we are at a soul level, and what we are at a Spirit level. We may pass right through it, because we don’t know what we are looking for.

Together

Using both together, we reap the benefits of working through knots and stuck places, which naturally reveal who and what we are, and also noticing who and what we are when it is revealed, and then deepening into it.

The Work is a great example of an approach that includes both the untying of knots (the whole process), and noticing who and what we are behind the clouds created by the knots (question #4 and turnarounds.) And the same is the case with the Big Mind process, allowing knots to unravel at our human level, revealing what we are as Spirit (Big Mind.)

Untying knots works at all levels

One of the great benefits of the second approach, of working with knots, is that it helps us at all levels. It unties knots at our individual human level, allowing for a healing and maturing there, and for less stress and discomfort. And it reveals (more of) who we are, in our evolving wholeness as a human individual, who we are as soul (alive presence), and what we are as Spirit (this field of awake emptiness and form absent of center.)

We don’t have to choose among developing as individuals or awakening as Spirit, and we don’t need to deny the importance or validity of either. Both are an integral part of the process, and the path benefits and works on both areas equally.

Source of tension and how we deal with it

 

I went to our local The Work group Monday evening, for the first time for several weeks, and was reminded of the tension that arises when we hold onto stories of how it should be, how it is, and how they two should align. (Of course, without the third it would be fine, but the third is there as long as the first is there, and even as long as the second is there.)

It is the basic tension in our life, showing up as physical and psychological tension, and also as tension between ourselves and others and the wider world.

Ways of dealing with the tension of what is and what should be

In general, there seems to be four broad ways we deal with the tension.

The first is by trying to not notice, by ignoring it, denying it, distracting ourselves.

The second is by changing our stories, or adding stories that modify the initial ones. We can change our stories about what is, about how it should be, and about the meaning of what is.

The third is to change the situation. (This is also another strategy for changing our story of what is, by changing the situation, we then can tell ourselves a story about it that conforms more with the story of how it should be.)

And the fourth is to inquire into the stories themselves. Are they true? Can I know for sure they are true? What are the consequences of holding onto these stories? Who or what would I be, in the same situation, without them? What are the grain of truth in the reversals of the stories?

When we act in the world, and are still caught up in our stories about how it is and should be and the tension between the two, we often act from reactivity and lack of clarity. When we bring the stories into awareness and inquire into them, finding what is already more true for us, there is naturally access to more clarity, receptivity and responsiveness, which comes out in our actions.

The tension between what already is more true and the beliefs

This reminds of another level of tension, besides the one between stories of how it is and should be: the tension between what is already more true for us, and what we tell ourselves through the stories.

The simplest aspect of what is already more true for us, is the grain of truth in all the reverse stories. (To believe the initial stories we deny the truth in the reverse stories, so the reversal truths naturally tends to be obscured. There is a sense of rigidity, of a fixed view and identity, and of tension between “my” position and the other positions, and between what is already more true for me and the story I hold onto as the one truth. When these other truths are brought into awareness, there is a sense of more fluidity and release of tension.)

Another aspect of what is already more true for me, is the difference between the contracted state of believing in stories (or working hard at believing them), and of who/what I am without those beliefs.

When this is clear, and without the stories, I find myself as Big Mind awakened to itself. And when it is somewhat clear, I find in myself, or myself as, some of the qualities of Big Mind awakened to itself, such as peace, ease, clarity, receptiveness, being home, sense of less or no separation. It is a foretaste of a more clear awakening, a whisper of something still slightly over the horizon. Just enough of a carrot to keep me going.

The nigredo, albedo and rubedo of no defense

 

Any framework (model, theory, map, perspective) is a filter for exploring the world, and each one brings certain aspects out (and is blind to other aspects.)

So here is a basic alchemical take on defense and no defense, of that feeling of having to defend (or not) a particular identity.

Nigredo: the misery

Whenever there is this sense of having to defend a particular identity, role, belief, view, perspective, there is also a certain amount of misery. Will do they attack me? What types of attacks can I expect in this situation? What if they are right? How can I fight back most effectively? How can I shoot down their perspective? It is endless.

Even when there is a certain enjoyment in the battle, of maybe feeling more alive, of the possibility of winning or the appearance of winning, of strengthening and supporting a habitual or desired identity, even then, there is a certain amount of misery there.

A lot of energy goes into preparing for battle, strategizing, fighting the battle, and licking the wounds afterwards. There is reactivity, which a part of us is not comfortable with. We may feel stuck in old and sometimes unwanted patterns. And there is a basic sense of a split here between myself and others, which is only reinforced by the battle, and this too gives a sense of misery.

In alchemical terms, this is the nigredo, the misery that nudges us to look for a resolution, and this time not (only) by changing the rest of the world, but changing something in ourselves.

Albedo: the work

The albedo, the whitening, the clarification, is the work we do on ourselves.

In terms of having an identity to defend, we can work on it in many different ways. The Work is one, allowing us to release our grip on a particular belief, view and identity. The 3-2-1 Shadow Process is another, where we also find in ourselves what we initially only saw in the other. We can simply be with our experiences, which similarly tends to loosen any grip we have on anything arising, including our beliefs, fixed views, and identities. We can use active imagination, other forms of self-inquiry, or anything else. And we can use any combinations of whatever is available to us.

This is a process of bringing attention to our habitual patterns (calcinatio), of differentiation (separatio), of dissolution of rigid and habitual patterns and views (solutio), and of shifting into and becoming familiar with new patterns (coagulatio), which together and over time brings a clarification (sublimatio.)

Rubedo: the resolution

Eventually, after some work, there may be a release of defensiveness in certain areas, and then other areas, and ultimately, if we keep going, in all areas and situations in our life. Instead of feeling that we need to defend certain identities, we welcome whatever comes our way as a reminder that yes, I am that too, and that, and that.

Somebody tells me, one way or another, that I am stupid, and yes, I can find that in myself. That is part of my identity. Or that I am wrong, and yes, that too is there. Or that I am arrogant, yes, that too. Or insensitive, yes. Or boring, yes, absolutely. Or fun, yes, that too. Or a bad friend, yes. Or a good friend, yes… Or smart, yes. Or right, yes. Or sincere, yes.

It is all there. I am familiar with all of this, and it is all right here. And if someone says something that I haven’t explored yet, then I can find that too.

There is nothing to defend. Just ease, clarity, simplicity.

Woven together and in cycles

Over time, we may be able to see this general pattern, from nigredo (that was the time I didn’t see this at all, and also all the times I fall into defense in general), to albedo (that was when I started becoming conscious of all of this and started working on it), and rubedo (that is the general sense of ease that came out of all the work, and also all the glimpses of release and peace throughout the process.)

But they are all also woven together, especially clearly so in the middle of the overall process. There is defensiveness and misery, then some work on it, then some release, then back to defensiveness, work, release, over and over, within the same issue, and across different issues.

Nothing to defend, yet also taking care of myself and others

Eventually there is a general sense of nothing to defend, of ease, peace, even in the midst of daily life and interactions with others. There is no particular identity, or viewpoint, or belief to defend. Only a fluidity among numerous views, perspectives, identities, theories, maps. Whatever works in the situation is what comes up and is used, without any need to hold onto it.

At the same time, there is the ordinary taking care of myself and others. If a cougar attacks me, I’ll try to defend myself. And I’ll take care of my own health and well being. And I’ll defend others if they are in need of it, including defending their identity if it is attacked and they feel hurt.

There is no fixed identity to defend, and also the ordinary taking care of myself and others. And the fluidity of identities, views and perspectives is what allows me to take care of myself and others with more ease, and in more effective and effortless ways.

Self-guided missile

 

One of my Zen teachers once talked about the mind as a self-guided missile, seeking out things to protect against even in situations that are the way our personality wants it to be. Yesterday, I went to have my teeth cleaned and my blood pressure (which they always check) was 91 over 60, which she said was very good. Not being very familiar with the blood pressure range, I looked it up after coming home, and found that it was at the very low end of the “normal” range. And, that a low blood pressure could mean all sorts of medical problems. So naturally, from feeling good about it, all sorts of concerns crept in for a few seconds, until I saw the humor in it.

Our mind, when functioning from a sense of separate I, does indeed function as a self-guided missile, seeking out not only things to protect against, but also things to acquire. There is a separate I here, placed on this human self, a small vulnerable animal in a much larger and unpredictable world. So it goes into survival mode, looking for dangers and resources to keep this vulnerable animal alive, well fed, safe, healthy, reproducing, happy.

There is a clear survival advantage here (evolutionary for the species, and developmentally for the individual), but if there is a blind identification with the separate self, if this vulnerable animal is taken as (the only) I, if there is a belief in all the stories we tell ourselves, then there is also stress and sometimes misery.

And the stress is an invitation and a reminder to take a look at what is going on.

What stories is there a belief in? Can I know they are true? What happens when I take them as real? What would happen if there wasn’t a belief in the stories? What are the grain of truth in the turnarounds (the reverse stories)? (The Work.)

What do I need to let go of to find peace with this situation?

What identities is there an identification with here? If there is a fear for disease, is it because there is an identification as someone who is healthy and wants to stay healthy? All of these identifications limits how we can experience ourselves and life.

And going beyond this, is there really a separate I here? There is some sort of an I here, but what exactly is it? Is this vulnerable animal all that this I is? Is it only this one segment of the content of experience? A part of this world of form that is always changing, everything coming and going? Or is it awareness itself? This timeless awakeness? If so, where is the boundary between this awakeness and form, the seeing and seen? Is form any different from awakeness itself?

Voices disowned in the self-inquiry process

 

The voice of resistance is one of the voices battered by my approach to self-inquiry… Put down, tried set aside, ignored, not wanted, resisted, disowned, placed in the shadow.

It is a subtle disowning compared to what is possible when there is a strong sense of a separate I and a particular identity, but also a crass disowning compared to how it can be when all is allowed.

Other voices pushed away in this process may be the sense of I, hangups, contractions, and duality. And the voices identified with when these are pushed away, are the voice of self-inquiry, of seeking (seeking to realize selflessness.), and maybe even the voice of seeing selflessness.

The irony is of course that in the process of attempting to allow all, some are pushed away and resisted.

Compassion for what is disowned

As I write this, I notice a good deal of compassion coming up for these disowned voices.

And this compassion is similar to the compassion that has come up lately for the vulnerable animal, this human self as a vulnerable animal, sometimes confused, scared, contracted, reactive, blindly wanting, trying to protect a particular identity, loving and hating, trying to survive, find its way in the world for the short time it is around. This vulnerable animal is a voice in itself, and it is also the reason all the personal voices are around, it is what the personal voices serve, guide and protect.

Voices to dialog with

So some voices to explore for me right now may be…

Voice of resistance – voice of allowing, sense of I – Big Mind, contractions, hangups, duality – nonduality, self-inquiry, seeking mind – nonseeking mind, seeing selflessness, the vulnerable animal, and maybe even Big Belly (the voice of endarkenment.)

How do they each serve the self? How do they function right now? Are they appreciated? How are they treated? How can they serve the self better? How can the self serve them better?

What is alive in pushing away

As I write this, the quality that comes up when certain things are pushed away, such as resistance, is very much alive.

The hardness of it. The sense of pushing away. Of a split. The aggression of it. A sense of something to protect and defend. A sense of the possibility of the wall breaking down and being invaded by what I am trying to push away and defend against. The precariousness of the situation. The paranoia that comes with it.

Always looking for signs of the wall breaking down. The ambivalence towards life and other people, not knowing what they may say or do that can threaten the identity built up around this. The energy that goes into building up a particular identity, and holding what is on the other side of the wall at bay… at all cost, in any situation. It is terrible, but also seems so desperately necessary.

Until it isn’t. When the wall falls, it is OK. But that is certainly not how it seems when the wall is up, when all energy is used to keep it up, to defend against what is on the other side… whether it is certain experiences, disowned voices, human qualities not included in our self-identity.

Aspects of resolution

 

For all of us, at least until awakening to realized selflessness, there are times when old patterns come up, there is a definite identification with them, and there is a deep wish for some sort of resolution.

This happened for me yesterday, and by the end of the day I found myself in a coffee shop writing down what I know, from experience, about resolution, and how to relate to these recurrent patterns. Looking over the list, I found two broad categories which (it so happens…!) correspond to the two broad categories of Buddhist meditation practice: samata and vipassana, or calm abiding and insight, or natural meditation and inquiry.

Dropping resistance (Samata)

This is about dropping resistance to experience, including resistance itself. To allow the field of seeing and seen, the whole tapestry, to arise and rest in itself as it is here and now.

This allows the field to recognize itself as a field, and the sense of I and Other within the field becomes more transparent, fades, and may even fall away in a more complete way.

There is a release from being blindly caught up in ideas and interpretations, of the whole story we weave around I as a separate entity, and so a release from much of the suffering created by this.

This field may even recognize itself as awake emptiness and form, and everything arising as awake emptiness and form, which takes even more of the charge out of whatever arises. It becomes less substantial, more of a dream, passing images.

This is the transcending of any issues in our human life, by seeing them as expressions of the field, which is inherently absent of I and Other, and as no other than awake emptiness and form.

It is the ultimate yang approach to dealing with irresolvable problems: transcend, and include. Transcend, find yourself as Big Mind instead of just this human self, realize that there is no separate I anywhere in all of it. And then include all form as Big Mind, include your human life, life your human life within this new context, now with a sense of ease and released from identification.

In a way, it is an escape, but it is an escape from a temporary misidentification to an immediate recognition of what we always and already are: the field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form. This field of everything arising, which is inherently absent of an I anywhere, absent of I and Other, and where the only I is as the field as a whole, as an I without an Other.

Learning from (Vipassana)

Then there are the many ways of learning from problems…

I can find the gifts in the situation. What are the gifts of loss, failure, pain, disease? I can find a deeper empathy with others, a deepening compassion for all beings, seeing that we are all in the same boat. I can become more familiar with surrender. I can become more familiar with impermanence. I can discover my own beliefs and identities, and explore ways to surrender these beliefs and identities. I can find a deeper motivation for self-inquiry in its many forms, including those that lead to realized selflessness.

I can open my heart to what arises, including to myself and others who suffer from a similar situation, or any suffering at all. We are all in the same boat here. As long as there is a misidentification, we suffer. And through my own suffering, to seeing and feeling into it, I can open my heart and deepen my compassion, understanding and empathy for others. The more intense my own suffering, the more it can break open my heart, if I only allow it (or can’t resist it anymore.)

I can use it to find myself in the other. To see and feel, becoming more deeply and intimately familiar with in myself what I see in the other (if another person is involved.) And through this, to awaken love for it (hold it in love), in myself and the other.

I can allow the symptoms and experiences to unfold, following the trail of crumbs, allowing it to unfold and harvesting the nutrients in it through for instance Process Work, some variation of active imagination, or similar approaches.

I can learn about impermanence, become more familiar and intimate with it, and with the (freeing) consequences of seeing and feeling into impermanence.

Everything in the world of form is in flux, always fresh, new and different. Seasons, this , youth and health, success and failure, fame and infamy, art, science, nations, cultures, civilizations, the Earth itself, this solar system, this galaxy, the universe itself, it is all in flux, it all comes and goes, it is all impermanent.

Seeing and feeling that all is impermanent places my own life in a different and wider context. It means that we are all in the same boat, it is the great equalizer.

Impermanence also means that any fixed beliefs, any fixed and limited identities, any holding on to anything, brings suffering. And if everything in the world of form, including this human self, is flux, then who or what am I? I seem to not come and go in that way. What is it that does not come and go?

Impermanence allows me to explore surrender in all its many forms. Surrender of beliefs, identities, wants and wishes, who I take myself to be, anything I (think I) know.

The gifts of impermanence then includes seeing that we are all in the same boat, loosening my grip on beliefs and identities, and nudging me towards awakening – finding myself as that which does not come and go, and that which comes and goes.

I can use it to explore the many aspects of emptiness. As mentioned above, I can explore the transitory nature of anything finite in space and time. Is anything fixed?

I can try to find the boundary between seeing and seen. Where is this boundary? Is the content of awareness anything other than awareness itself? Is form anything other than awake emptiness? (See below.)

Who or what is experiencing? Is there a separate I here? (See below.)

I can use it as material for self-inquiry. First and simplest, and related to the dropping of resistance: Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? And then…

What do I need to let go of to find peace with this? Which beliefs and identities do I need to let go of to find peace with this situation? Who or what do I need to be to find peace with it? What do I need to let go of to find peace with it, even if it would never change?

What are my beliefs around this situations? Are they true? What are their consequences? Who or what would I be without them? What are the grains of truth in their reversals? (The Work.)

Who or what is experiencing? To whom or what is this happening? Am I the always changing content of experience? These sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts? What is not changing? Am I what is not changing, this awareness, the seeing of it? If so, where is the boundary of I as seeing and Other as seen?

Aligned in the depth, and also at the surface

 

One of the simple inquiries Adyashanti suggests is to (a) identify wants (needs, wishes, motivations) and (b) explore what we hope to get out of it, continuing until we find what appears to be the seed motivation, the one that is a goal in itself.

Finding the seed motivation

For me, it seems that no matter what I start with, from the most mundane to the embarrasing to the elevated motivations and wishes, I see that their seed motivation is to be free from suffering, and find happiness.

And seeing the many manifestations of the seed

The layer just outside of this seed includes (a) being free from pain, a sense of separation, having what I don’t want and not having what I want, a sense of not being in the right place, a sense of loss and lack, of being finite in time so subject to birth and death, of being finite in space so subject to the whims of the myriad other objects, and (b) wanting a sense of belonging, of being home, of safety, of contentment.

Already aligned, and also aligned in conscious experience

Exploring surface motivations in this way, one by one, I find that they are always aligned in their depths. They all come from the same seed motivation. And through this exploration, through bringing this into awareness in a genuine way, through a sincere exploration, they also become aligned in my surface awareness. Awareness is brought to the seed, so they are aligned also at surface awareness.

Ease and simplicity

There is a sense of ease and simplicity around this as well. Finding the seed motivation behind each of the many surface motivations gives a sense of simplicity. And seeing that they all are already aligned gives a sense of ease.

There may is still the deliberation between choices in daily life, but now knowing that they are already aligned, they all are from the same seed motivation, and this allows a good deal of the drama to fall away. The appearance of internal war and struggle goes.

Seeing it here, and also there

So there is not only an immediate sense of the same seed motivation behind all the many and varied motivations surfacing in my daily life, but there is also a sense of the same with others. I see others having many different motivations and acting on them, and there is a felt sense of how they too want freedom from suffering, and happiness. This too takes a great deal of the drama out of it.

The inner mirroring the outer

As long as I am not familiar with the seed motivations of my many surface motivations, I’ll experience a struggle among them. And I will also experience a struggle between my own surface motivations and those of others.

Being familiar with my own seed motivations, it becomes effortless to also see them in others (or something similar), and see that we are all in the same boat.

The sense of struggle and drama goes out of it, internally and in relationship with others, although there are still choices made, still negotiations and explorations, still deliberations and sometimes not the apparently ideal options and resolutions.

Partial and deepening resolution

Of course, as long as there is a sense of I and Other, there will also be a sense of struggle and drama, but it is at least diminished, sometimes greatly diminished, through clarifying the seed motivations.

And the more the seed motivation is not only clearly seen, but also deeply felt, in our whole being, the more thorough this resolution is. We see and feel the seed motivation behind the varied surface motivations, and the trails leading from the surface ones to the seed.

Full resolution

The only full resolution is to realize that there is no I here in this human self, no I anywhere in all of form or anywhere else. There is just the field of awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of I anywhere, and now awake to itself as a field. There is no center. There is no doer, only the doing.

This human self, as anything else in the world of form, just happens. Arising here now in always fresh, new, different ways. Always new and fresh expressions of Spirit, absent of I anywhere.

Ways of working with identity in real time

 

Another practice coming up these days…

I notice a contraction and a sense of I and Other, something to defend against or gain.

Then I ask what identity is coming up?

And how would it be without that identity?

This is of course a variation of (i) identifying the belief, (ii) noticing the effects of that belief, and (iii) exploring how it would be without the belief from The Work. It is a slightly different way of accessing the same.

Using it in real life

For instance, in the Breema class last night, I noticed a contraction while giving a sequence, and saw that the identity was of wanting to do “good Breema”. Without that identity, I was just there, allowing the movements to happen. No trying, no contraction.

And then the usual situation for me, sitting in a coffee shop before class reading, and noticing a tendency stirring of wanting it to be more quiet (espresso machines etc.) The identity there is of being someone who wants it to be quiet. Without that identity, there is just the field of everything happening. No resistance, no discomfort.

I mentioned this to Jen a couple of days ago, and she explored it with pain she experiences after having three wisdom teeth pulled. And the same thing. There is a contraction and sense of discomfort. The noticing of an identity of someone wanting to be free from pain. And the sense of ease and simplicity, and freedom from suffering, when that identity is relaxed and goes away.

Identity is resistance, which is discomfort

Identity is resistance is suffering. Noticing this identity allows it to relax. And the field to arise as it is, filtered less through a sense of a center, of I and Other, and the sense of resistance and discomfort that comes with it.

Fear

And yes, it can (will?) bring up fear and even terror. What is happening? How can I function without a sense of a center, sense of I and Other, and my familiar identity? What will happen? Who or what am I without this? I am nothing, and everything arising.

It is a whole new territory. A whole new way of functioning. Yet also, strangely familiar. It is what already and always is. Nothing has really changed, apart from the relaxation of a sense of center and holding onto a particular identity.

Reinforcing cycles

 

I went to a coffee shop this morning for breakfast, and had lots of opportunity exploring the dynamics of the field, as I wrote about in the previous posts. I also see how the words are probably very similar to what I have written in the past, but as it arises in the present, the experience of it is of being completely fresh and new. (From the inside perspective, it is fresh and new, for others who may read it, just the same old 🙂 )

Another thing I explored…

The field (a) filters itself through a sense of I and Other, and with this, there is (b) a sense of something, more specifically an exclusive identity, to protect and defend. There is a belief in the idea of a separate I, and an elaborate and exclusive identity of this I. (c) When something arises that is outside of this identity, defense kicks in – either passively waiting to be engaged, or actively. (d) Along with the impulse to defend comes a set of sensations. (e) A story or set of stories are added to these sensations, interpreting them (as tension, contraction, anger, fear) and the wider situation (he is…). (f) These stories reinforce the sensations, make them seem more solid and stable, they reinforce the initial story of I and Other, and they reinforce the exclusive identity and of having to defend this identity against something else arising in the field.

So there are several reinforcing cycles here. The first between the sense of I and Other, and the trigger and reaction (the situation may be interpreted to justify the reaction, reinforcing the sense of I and Other, and of something to defend). And then also between the consequences of the reaction and the trigger (he did… so I get angry, uncomfortable, afraid), and the sense of I and Other (he did… so I…).

It is the job of the mind to make our beliefs seem real, and it does the job well. But it also means that when we see through it, even at one point of this chain of events, it all tends to unravel. And as we allow it to unravel, over and over, the habitual patterns gradually change.

A moving cardboard cutout and a sense of I

 

It seems that practices do themselves in me, more than the other way around. Both are of course important and there is an interplay between the two, but now, the practices that do themselves in me are definitely in the foreground.

One of the practices that do themselves is an exploration of what is taken as an “I”. I notice sensations, thoughts, and so on, and then also the idea of “I” which is placed on a particular sensation, one that is more stable and typically in the neck/head area (which one seems to change over time.)

It is as if there is a cardboard cut-out there representing “I”, a subject, the seer and doer, and it is anchored onto a relatively stable sensation. Most of the time it is in the background, just giving a reassuring sense of having an anchor for a point of view, a perspective, and giving a familiar sense of “I” here.

When attention is brought to it, it is clearly revealed as just this cardboard cut-out placed on a sensation. And then I notice how another cardboard cutout is placed further up and back in space, creating the sense of an observer of this. Pretty interesting.

It seems that there wants to be a sense of “I” here, and even when it is noticed, it recreates itself in a slightly different form, placing itself even a little further into the background, hidden among the stage props further back on the stage.

So even when it seems obvious that there is no “I” here, when it is seen that the idea of I is just as a cardboard cutout placed on top of sensations, and these sensations are finite in time and space, arising within wakeful emptiness, even then, there is a vague sense of I here floating around. Seen, then recreating itself somewhere else. Anything for a sense of an anchor, stability, a point of view, a perspective, I guess, even if it is not really there.

The quest for immortality

 

I read about the new movie The Fountain, which has the quest for immortality as one of its themes. This has also come up recently for me in reading about alchemy.

A quest for what we already are

In alchemy, the quest for immortality has to do with finding ourselves as (a) awake emptiness, timeless, that which time and space unfolds within, and (b) as Spirit, awake emptiness and form, absent of I anywhere, beyond and including all polarities.

This is what we already are, this field of awake emptiness and form, so even if there is an attachment to an idea of “I” as a segment of this field, there will be an intuition about already being timeless. Timelessness is here, but since the “I” is placed on form, and on just the small part of form that makes up this human self, timelessness takes the appearance of “Other”.

The field of awake emptiness and form experiences itself through the filter of I and Other, making this human self into I and awake emptiness, or timelessness, into Other.

And this is where the quest for immortality begins. It is a quest for what we already are, in our awake emptiness aspect.

An escape from what we take ourselves to be

The other side of this is that the quest for immortality is an escape from what we take ourselves to be. This side of the coin is more closely aligned with conventional views.

We take ourselves to be a human being, exclusively, find ourselves as finite in time and space, vulnerable to the wider world and the passage of time, so naturally want to escape this – and one way to escape it is immortality.

In theistic (Christian, Jewish, Islamic) cultures, immortality comes in the form of a soul. Our human shell falls away, yet our soul continues on. It is immortal. And the transition is still in the future, so the quest for immortality sometimes becomes a quest to be worthy enough for this immortal life, some time in the future.

In our more recent materialistic culture, the soul is a more questionable idea, so a quest for immortality then takes the form of medical advances, cryogenics and so on.

Right here now

In either case, whether we seek what we already are, or an escape from what we take ourselves to be, or both, we can find immortality right here now, closer than our own breath.

It is this awake emptiness within, to and as all this arises – the words, sensations, thoughts, sounds. This timeless, spaceless emptiness, allowing time and space to unfold within, to and as itself.

Appearance of a chooser

 

It is pretty simple, but easily overlooked if we don’t explore it for ourselves:

There is a thought, a decision, and an action.

And when a belief in the idea of “I” is placed on top of it, it appears that “I think”, “I decided”, “I acted”. It all seems very logical and neat.

(Of course, if the identity built up around this idea of “I” does not fit with the thought, the decision or the action, then we say “it wasn’t me, it just happened”, or “I don’t know where that came from”.)

When this field of awake emptiness and form awakens to itself, it looks different. Now, there is just a thought, a decision, and an action, revealed as inherently absent of any I. There is doing, but no doer.

This is an immediate and very clear realization. No thinking or analysis is needed.

But it is also possible to taste this before such a clear awakening. For instance, for any thought, decision, or behavior, explore the many causes of it. You can always find one more, and one more. And then discover, bit by bit, how everything happening in the world of form, including anything associated with this particular human self, has literally infinite causes. It is the whole field acting locally.

It is the local manifestations of the whole field of form, always in flux, and the causes go all the way back to beginning of time, and all the way out to the extent of the universe.

The field first filtering itself through I and Other, then awakening to itself

There is always this field of awake emptiness and form, now reading this and also manifesting as the words themselves on the screen (and anything else).

First, it identifies with a segment of itself, for instance this human self, and there is a sense of I placed on this human self, a sense of I and Other, subject and object, of being finite in time and space, of a doer. And this sense of I is placed on anything this human self does, at least if it fits with the more elaborate identity made up for this human self.

Then, the field of awake emptiness and form awakens to itself, as this field, inherently absent of I anywhere, or as a whole as an I. And it realizes, immediately and very clearly, that there never was an I in this human self. There was the sense of an “I” placed on top of it, making the impression that “I think, decide and do”, but even then, there was never any inherent I in it. It was just a part of the field, just the local manifestations of the movements of the whole field of form. There was doing, but no doer.

Finding it here now

The nice thing is that we can taste this right now, just by looking. Just by exploring. Noticing what is happening, right here now.

There is a thought, but did “I” think it? It certainly arouse, but where is the “doer” in it? There is a decision, but did “I” decide? Didn’t it just happen on its own, just as the thought? There is an action, but did “I” act? Did that too just happen on its own? There is an apparent causality between all of these, a logical sequence, but is there an “I” there?

And we can also look for an “I” in the world of form in general. There are sensations, sounds, sights, tastes, smells, thoughts and so on, but is there an “I” there? They all come and go, while something does not seem to come and go. How can there be an I there, in the seen, when it all comes and goes?

What is it that does not change, that does not come and go? It is this awakeness that it all happens within and to. In this awakeness, there is a sense of timelessness. Of always presence. Yet, is this “I”?

If the awakeness is “I” then the changing forms must be “other”. But where is the boundary between the two? Where does the awakeness end and the forms begin?

Now, it appears as if the awakeness and the forms are made up of the same. It is as if the forms arise within, to and as this awakeness.

Now, the field of awake emptiness and form starts to get a sense of itself, without the overlay of a sense of I as only a segment of this field. It has a taste of itself as a field, without being filtered through the sense of I and Other. As a field with no center, with no I inherent anywhere.

A free fall

It can be dizzying at first, as a free fall. There is nothing to hold onto anymore. No fixed position. And also the realization that this is what allows all positions, what allows all forms, what allows anything and everything to be.

And that is what this field is, always and already.

It just didn’t notice before. It had temporary and partial amnesia. It was just a case of temporary and mistaken identity.

Experiment: who am I without the story?

 

Here is a simple experiment that comes out of The Work and other similar forms of self-inquiry:

Whenever I notice a contraction, I ask myself who would I be without the story?

A few things that seem helpful…

  • Seeing it as an experiment, a game, or even role-playing
  • Allowing myself to do it for only a short period of time, maybe just a minute or two, and then go back to the familiar old patterns
  • Repeat now and then
  • Do it in daily situations, real-time
  • Allowing any longer-term shifts to happen on their own
  • Using a role-model, imagining somebody who function well and do not seem to have that particular story. How would it be if that was the case for me?
  • Seeing the familiar symptoms of attachment to a story as an invitation to experiment (the symptoms include a sense of contraction, a stuckness in a particular position, a sense of separation, a sense of I and Other, sense of being right, sense of urgency, a sense of conflict or drama.)

………………….

[Initial write-up]

This is an experiment that comes directly out of The Work and other similar forms of self-inquiry:

Who am I without … the story, these judgments, reactions, positions?

Say I easily am bothered by noise (as is sometimes the case for me), then I can ask myself, who would I be if I couldn’t have that reaction? How would it be if I am not bothered by noise at all? If I actually enjoy it?

I can take it as an experiment, a game, an exploration, even as role playing. If I, just for a minute, was not at all bothered by noise, how would that be?

If I think I have to let go of it forever, I may hesitate even tasting it. But if I see it as a short-term experiment, as a game, I may try it more whole-heartedly, just for a minute or two. Just to taste it.

And in tasting it, I may find that it is actually enjoyable, freeing, and I can still function as well as before, if not better. I try it on for size, and may find that it fits me even better than the old outfit, the old identity, the old patterns.

This is another of the many practices that can be seamlessly applied throughout our daily life.

I notice a contraction come up. I notice what the contraction seem to be about. I play a game for a short while, trying out how it would be without the contraction, without the judgments, without the usual identity.

I may even imagine somebody I know who do not seem to have these patterns, and function very well without them, and see how that would be for me – right here and now.

For me, I see that if I aim at trying the experiment for just a minute or two, and (this seems important) give myself full and honest permission to go back to the old patterns, it seems to work quite well. In most cases, I am able to shift and have a taste of how it would be without the story. And so I don’t push it too far, or try to trick myself, I allow myself fully to go back into the familiar patterns, also so I can see the contrast more clearly.

Then I leave it, and may find that I naturally gravitate towards the more spacious and new way of being, without clinging so much to the old story. It is more pleasant, and nothing is really lost, so why not?

Spirit as 1st and then 3rd person

 

This is something I have been curious about for a while…

I have seen, and hear about, settings where somebody talks about Spirit as 1st person, the listeners get confused, and then they continue to just talk about it – only making people even more confused and up in their heads.

Jen is taking the foundations course at Center for Sacred Sciences, and last time, they talked about the First Fundamental:

  1. Consciousness alone is absolutely real
    The appearance of an objective world distinguishable from a subjective self is but the imaginary form in which Consciousness Perfectly Realizes Itself.

If we don’t have an immediate taste of it, it won’t make sense. And then it just goes into the realm of ideas and spins around and around, as it apparently did in the discussion about this principle.

And something similar is happening at the Breema Center. The head teacher talks about the Ocean (Spirit, Big Mind) while people sit and listen. But it is difficult to see that it does much for the listeners. I know it does just about nothing for me, because it is just somebody talking about it, and in a relatively abstract and removed way, using words that does not invite it to come alive in immediate awareness.

So why not use one of the many ways to help people find it for themselves, to notice that it is already alive in immediate awareness? There is no shortage of methods that really work out there, and also anyone for whom it is alive can without too much trouble find words that are fresh, alive, immediate, and invite a fresh, alive and immediate realization in the listener.

There are pointing out instructions in many traditions. And maybe even more helpful, there are many forms of inquiry which, in a step-by-step fashion, allows people to discover it for themselves right there and then.

We can ask when you close your eyes and try to find yourself, here in this moment, who or what do you discover yourself to be?

Or we can guide through an exploration of the seen, the seeing, and then both absent of any I. (Notice sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, thoughts. Notice how they all come and go. Can you find an “I” anywhere in this changing world of form? What is it that does not change? What is this awareness that all of this unfolds within and to? Is this awareness within time or is time within it? Is it within space, or is space within it? Can you find any color, form, extent, beginning, end to this awareness? Where does the seen end and the seeing begin? Can you find a boundary between the seen and the seeing? Can you find an I anywhere in all of this?)

Another, very similar and more systematized approach, is the Big Mind process which also allows it to come to the foreground of awareness within just a few minutes.

Instead of talking about it first, and then expect people to find it, why not allow people to have a taste first, and then explore it through language. First, going to Spirit as 1st person, then include Spirit as third person.

If we want people to know about apples, it makes sense to first allow them to have a taste, and then we can explore it through language as much as we want – exploring its texture, sweetness, crunchiness, biology, how to grow them, the history of apples in the human civilization, and so on.

To be fair, both CSS and the Breema Center do allow people the taste as well, in other settings. And that is actually their focus. But it just seems odd to me in the particular situations where it all goes to the head, and stays there, going around and around in the realm of ideas, when it could be grounded in a real taste right there and then.

Feeding awareness

 

During a brief Shikantaza practice tonight, I noticed again how it feeds awareness.

Of course, whatever happens, awareness is fed: content arises within awareness.

And this can happen in two quite different ways. One way is with drama, and this brings the drama itself into the foreground. (The muddy water is stirred.)

The other way is with an absence or reduction of drama, through for instance meditation and self-inquiry. (The mud falls to the bottom revealing the clarity of the water.)

It seems that the simplicity of this allows it to be processed in a different way, one that allows for both awakening and a healing and reorganization of our human self.

Headlessness and radical subjectivity

 

The focus of the upper left quadrant of the aqal model, the individual and inner, is on what is alive in immediate awareness.

And the various practices here, such as meditation, prayer and especially self-inquiry, are all about radical subjectivity: what is alive right here and now, outside of any filters of thoughts – such as ideas, expectations, memories?

Headlessness

Headlessness is one way to explore this radical subjectivity. Is there really a head here in immediate experience?

All I can find are some sensations arising in space, coming and going, and a fuzzy pink blob where others see my nose, but there is no head here. The idea of a head is just that, an idea superimposed on an area of space. There is just space here, allowing anything and everything to arise, to come and go on their own: sensations, sounds, sights, thoughts, this body, arms, hands, desk, screen, window, a dog barking. There is capacity for the world, and the world arising.

Deepening familiarity

And as there is a deepening into this exploration, through meditation, prayer or self-inquiry, there is a deepening familiarity with what we find:

The seen, including this human self, is within space and time, come and go on its own, and there is no I to be found anywhere. How can there be an I there, if it is seen? If there is an I anywhere, it must be in the seeing itself.

The seeing transcends yet embraces time, space and the seen. It is free from the seen, from space and time. It is free from this human self. At the same time, is there really a separation here? Where do I as seeing end and Other as the seen begin? I cannot find that line anywhere.

So there is an early noticing of the Oneness of seeing and seen. They distinct from each other, yet not quite two.

When the sense of I was placed on the seen, there was a sense of I and Other within the seen, within form. Now, when the sense of I is placed on the seeing, there is a sense of I and Other as seeing and seen. Yet, the boundary between the two is not to be found anywhere. Maybe the whole sense of I is superimposed on the seeing and seen? Maybe it comes from the belief in the idea of I, which then the seeing and the seen is filtered through in different ways?

As this is explored, and it becomes more clear how the mechanisms of samsara (a sense of I and Other, of duality) functions and that there is no I to be found anywhere in seeing or seen, it sets the stage for a Ground awakening.

The Ground awakens to itself, as the Ground of seeing and seen, as emptiness and form, as emptiness dancing, absent of I anywhere. The whole sense of an I and a center falls away, and there is only the totality – without center anywhere, so with a center everywhere.

Always already

The irony is that this is what was alive in immediate awareness all the time. It was never not alive to itself.

Yet, since it was not taken seriously, since what was alive in radical subjectivity was not trusted, it remained in the background, overshadowed and (apparently) blocked out by a sense of I and Other, created by the belief in the idea of I, formed by what was being taught by society and those around us.

What is always already here, in immediate awareness, in radical subjectivity, was not trusted, so could not emerge into the foreground. Until it had been explored so thoroughly that the sense and filter of I fell away.

Radical subjectivity

In this sense, spiritual practice is all about radical subjectivity.

What is alive in immediate awareness? What is already alive here now, free from expectations, beliefs, ideas, memories, stories? How does it look when I gradually learn to differentiate what already is from how it is colored by ideas? How does it look, when thoughts arise as just thoughts, along with everything else?

Getting what we want: excitement and falling away of desire

 

In writing seeking and nonseeking, I realize that I left out a component of what happens when we get what we want: excitement.

There is a chain of a desire or a want, getting what I want, contentment from desire falling into the background for a while, along with the excitement of getting what I wanted.

Getting what it sought after, seeking mind goes on vacation for a few seconds, or minutes, or maybe hours, or sometimes even days, allowing nonseeking mind to surface and come into the foreground, with its sense of fullness, completeness and contentment. In the absence of desire, there is fullness and contentment.

And the excitement can come in two ways: By getting what I want in a conventional sense, which is somewhat short lived and not always so certain. And by noticing that what I (really) want is already here, it was never anywhere else. Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here?

Jnana and bhakti as 1+3 and 1+2

 

Using the three perspectives of first (I, me, mine), second (you, we) and third (it, its) person, the relationship of jnana and bhakti becomes quite simple.

Jnana, or love of wisdom, can be seen as a combination of first and third person. It is Big Mind as first person, yet looking at and studying itself as third person.

Bhakti, or devotion, is a combination of first and second person. It is Spirit as first person, yet relating to itself as second person in devotion.

In both cases, there is love: of Spirit as it, an object of study, and Spirit as You, an object of love.

In both cases, there is knowledge: love of knowledge, and knowledge through love.

In both cases, Spirit is exploring itself through devotion and wisdom.

Both cases includes a first person perspective, I as that without an Other.

Jnana and bhakti: 1+2+3

And all are present simultaneously as well.

Spirit as first person, as I without an Other. As Big Mind awakened to its own nature. As the Ground of seeing and seen, inherently absent of any I.

Spirit as second person. Spirit relating to itself as Thou, as the whole of itself, an object of devotion. Spirit relating to itself as other, as a being of flesh and blood, an object of love and compassion. Spirit relating to itself as us, beings of flesh and blood, all divine and human, in it together.

Spirit as third person, as itself as an it, an object of exploration through study, inquiry and wisdom.

Together, there is infinite richness in how Spirit explores and experiences itself.