The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

 

There are many ideas about spirituality in our culture. Some see it as a refuge or something that will save them. Some see it as escapism, fantasies, and avoidance. Some see reaching the “goals” of spirituality as only for special people. In some situations, and in some ways, there is some truth to each of these.

And yet, the core of spirituality is pragmatic and secular. We don’t need to take anyones word for it. We don’t need to assume anything about the nature of existence. We don’t need to leave it to someone else. We can try it out for ourselves.

So what is this secular and pragmatic core of spirituality?

It takes two forms. One is the many effects of spiritual practices on our human life. The other is finding what we already are.

I have written articles about both so I’ll just give a brief summary here.

Finding what we are

This isn’t dependent on any philosophy or particular worldview. It’s just dependent on noticing what we already are to ourselves.

Even logically, we see that – to ourselves – we must be consciousness.

Consciousness is what’s aware of any experience at all, so that’s what we are to ourselves. Any sense of being something happens within and as this consciousness, any experience of anything at all happens within and as this consciousness. Even the idea of consciousness, the mental images and associations we have about it, happens within and as consciousness.

And we can find this for ourselves. Consciousness can notice itself as, to itself, all there is. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can find ourselves as what the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as.

Our habitual identification is typically with this human self which appears within and as what we are. This is a kind of “trance” as many have pointed out, and is self-perpetuating unless something comes in to help us notice what we already are, or – more accurately – help what we are notice itself.

The most effective approach to notice what we are may be inquiry (headless experiments, Big Mind process). The most effective approach to stabilize this may be a combination of inquiry and basic meditation (notice + allow). The most effective approach to live from this includes heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopno) and regular emotional healing work. And training a more stable attention helps all of this and our life in general.

Is this the awakening spiritual traditions talks about? Yes, as far as I can tell it is. It’s what we are noticing itself, and noticing itself as all its experiences. It’s oneness. It’s a waking up from the trance of being this one separate self happening within and as what we are. It’s a noticing that what we are is love. After all, oneness noticing itself is expressed as love.

Helping who we are

Traditional spiritual practices, and modern versions of these, can also help us at a human level.

Training a more stable attention supports just about any activity in our life and our general well-being.

Basic meditation – notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed – helps us release out of struggling with what’s here, our experience as it is.

Basic inquiry – finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us – also helps release us out of struggling with what is. It brings a lighter touch. It creates a space for us to act a little more from clarity and kindness.

Heart-centered practices helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and life in general. It helps shift us out of a struggle orientation to befriending what’s here. And this, in turn, helps our well being and allows us to act more from clarity.

The essence of spirituality doesn’t require anything esoteric

To me, this is the essence of spirituality, and it doesn’t require anything esoteric. It doesn’t require us to believe anything or go outside of our own experience. On the contrary, if we want to take it as far as it goes, it requires us to be ruthlessly honest about our own experience and find what’s already here.

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Noticing our issues as who and what we are, and a flavor of the divine

 

During the third phase of the awakening phase mention in the previous article, the parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface to join in with the awakening.

Said that way, it perhaps sounds gentle and simple, but it can experienced as anything but. These parts of us often have a lot of pain in them, and when they surface that pain can fill our consciousness for a while.

The essence is to notice, see, feel, listen to, get to know, befriend, and find love for these suffering parts of us. To notice them as part of who we are as a human being. To notice them as what we are – as happening within and as us along with any other experience.

To see that they were created to protect us, often early in life, and came from an impulse to take care of us. To see that they, in that sense, come from and are an expression of love.

One of the pointers I find especially helpful for me right now is to notice it as a flavor of the divine.

There are also many more structured approaches that can help us in this process. They function as training wheels until we get a better hang of it on our own, and they can also help us discover new things at any point in the process.

Tonglen, Ho’oponopono, metta and more help us reorient towards these bubbles of suffering in us.

Living Inquiry and The Work of Byron Katie can help us identify and question painful beliefs and identities, including the more basic ones we may not have been aware of.

The Big Mind process and Voice Dialog can help us dialog with these parts of us, see how they function in relation to us and other parts, and get to know them better.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can help us recognize that they too are what we are, and they happen within and as what we are – and even that they are love.

Energy work – like Vortex healing – can help heal our relationship with these parts of us, and invite these parts of us themselves to heal.

And so on.

In addition, it helps to nurture what’s nurturing in our life – a good diet, good sleep, good friendships, nature, being gentle and kind with ourselves and these parts of us, finding others in the same process, finding support from others who have gone through it themselves, and so on.

The phases of awakening: healing and embodiment

 

A very general map of the awakening process goes through four phases.

I’ll focus on the third one here – the healing and embodiment phase – since it’s the one most relevant to me and the one I find it most interesting these days.

ONE

First, we live and operate within and from separation consciousness. We take ourselves to be inherently separate and an individual, and may be curious about something more or have glimpses of it but that’s about it.

TWO

Then, there is a more clear noticing of what we are. What we are notices itself. We find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what our experiences – all of them – happen within and as.

THREE

Within this awakening, parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface to join in with the awakening. They come with an invitation for us – the awakeness – to notice these too as awakeness and the divine.

I’ll say more about this below.

FOUR

This is a more stable awakening where issues surfacing are more readily notices as who and what we are, and a flavor of the divine.

We have a more intentional relationship with them, and have more skills and experience in how to create a fruitful relationship and invite them to notice themselves as the divine, wake up, and find healing.

PHASE THREE IN MORE DETAIL

I’ll write a few more words about phase three here since it’s the phase that currently interests me the most.

As usual, there is a lot to say about this.

In some cases, it’s as if the “lid” is taken off our unresolved issues and trauma and a huge amount of them surface at once or in rapid succession. This can be experienced as a particular form of dark night. I tend to think of it as a dark night of trauma. 

If this happens, we can feel completely overwhelmed, desperate, and brought to our knees, and it really helps to have someone help us through this phase. Just knowing that others have gone through it can be of great help. For me, that’s what helped me more than any techniques or particular insights. 

Other times, the unresolved issues and traumas come up in a more “normal” fashion and more as a result of triggers in daily life. 

We are invited to shift our relationship to what surfaces. Our habitual response may be to avoid it one way or another – through distractions, pretending it’s not there, compulsively trying to fix it, attempting to transcend it, and so on. 

The invitation is to reorient to meet what comes up, get to know it, and listen to what it has to say and how it experiences me and the world. 

See it comes from an impulse to protect this separate self, and that it’s innocent and comes from love. Find love for it. 

See it’s part of me as a human being and it makes more sense to get to know it and embrace it than pretend it’s not here. Find the genuine gifts in partnering it with it. 

Recognize it as what I am. As happening within and as what I am. As – if I resonate with any of those labels – consciousness, or the divine, or a flavor of the divine. 

From here, these parts of us have a better chance to heal. They have better conditions for resolving themselves, healing, and aligning with oneness. 

Why does this “phase three” process happen? 

It’s part of the overall process of aligning more consciously with reality. We may notice generally how all happens within and as what we are, so the next step is to notice specifically that each of these parts of us – still operating from within separation consciousness – also are who and what we are, and expressions of love. They are, if we want to see it that way, a flavor of the divine. 

It’s an important part of the awakening itself. And it’s also an important part of embodiment, of living from the awakening. 

When we still have parts of us operating form separation consciousness, we tend to be hijacked by them when they are triggered and we – as a human being in the world – tend to operate from them, or perhaps in reaction to them. 

So reorienting towards them, and perhaps inviting in some healing for them, helps us live from the awakening in more situations in life. In the situations that previously would have triggered these issues and, to some extent, hijacked us, we can now relate to the situation and what they trigger in us, if anything, in a more conscious way. 

Why do we have these bubbles of separation consciousness in our system? 

They are emotional issues formed when we operated from separation consciousness, so they reflect and live within separation consciousness. 

Some or many of them are in our system even within a general awakening. 

One way to look at it is that these parts of us are beings. Suffering beings still caught in delusion, painful stories, and separation consciousness. They come up because they want to be liberated from their suffering. They come to us as devotees seeking a guru. 

And that’s our opportunity to support them, guide them, be a good friend or guru to them, and invite them to wake up and align more consciously with reality.

MORE MESSY THAN THIS

When it comes to these phases, reality is often more messy. It looks a little different for each of us, and sometimes a lot different. The phases get mixed up. The sequence may be a little different. We may not be distinguish the phases until we have been through it.

The idea of phases is just an overlay of thought over the complexity and mystery of life. It’s not by any means inherent in life or the processes we go through.

And what I call phase three here is equally an aspect or facet of the process and it’s a part of our process from the beginning of noticing what we are.

HOW WAS & IS ALL THIS FOR ME?

I won’t go through the whole story since I have written about it elsewhere. I am currently mostly in the third phase, and have been for a few years now, which is why this is the one most interesting to me.

In the beginning, I had the “lid taken off” experience which was the most difficult thing I have every experienced. I felt completely overwhelmed, desperate, could hardly sleep, and couldn’t find much solace or ability to deal with it in any constructive fashion.

I did know someone (BMS) who had gone through it himself, and talking to him gave me some comfort and sense that I could get through it. (Although it felt like it would go on forever and that there was no way out or through.) I also went for long walks in the forests, and listened to Adyashanti.

I am still mostly in phase three – with some elements of phase one and perhaps four – but it’s mostly more calm. Things come up in a slightly more normal way, although it’s still a parade of one thing after another coming up to be seen, felt, listened to, loved, and so on.

I am not always so good at it. But I do have the intention, and I ask for help with some of the more challenging bubbles of separation / old emotional issues.

I also find that it’s difficult to have a good sense of to what extent these bubbles are resolved. I can test it out through triggering myself, as far as that’s possible. And channeling Vortex Healing for it gives me a sense of what’s left.

And yet, I don’t know for certain and I don’t really need to know. Life will show me.

I mostly just need to pay attention to what life brings up for me.

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The banality of what we are

 

Awakening and enlightenment is sometimes seen as mysterious, from another time or culture, for special people, or a fantasy.

And yet, there is a banality to it.

It’s about what we already are noticing itself. Noticing that all content of experience happens within and as what we are. And living from it.

From a conventional view, we can say we are a body, a human being, and so on. And that’s valid enough.

And yet, what we are to ourselves is consciousness.

Consciousness is what experiences or is aware of anything. To consciousness, everything – all experiences – happens within and as itself. And that’s what we are.

What we are is what all our experiences happens within and as. Including our human self, any sense of a me or I or observer or doer, and any ideas about who and what we are – including any ideas about consciousness.

The world as it appears to us – with all its content – happens within and as what we are.

It’s logical. It’s inevitable. It’s something we can notice and explore for ourselves.

And it’s quite banal.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world as it appears to us happens within and as consciousness. All content of experience happens within and as what we are.

And it’s all about noticing what we already are and what’s already here.

It’s so ordinary that it’s sometimes easy to overlook.

On the one hand, I understand that we humans are used to taking ourselves to be this body, a human being, and so on.

And yet, it seems so obvious that to ourselves we are consciousness and all our experiences happen within and as what we are. It’s inevitable. It’s logical. It’s not something we can get around.

So why isn’t it acknowledged more often? Why isn’t it the basics of psychology 101? Why isn’t it something that more people – including people in research and academia – explore and study?

If we allow our civilization to continue, I imagine there will be a time when this is more commonly acknowledged and explored, including through research and in academia. It’s already happening, to some extent.

So why isn’t this more commonly noticed and acknowledged?

I assume it’s because our mind is typically conditioned to think of itself as an object in the world, as a human being, as someone with identities and roles, and so on. I

It tends to get fixated on its own content. As many say, it’s a kind of trance.

And as we can discover through inquiry, it’s because our mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensations give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts.

That’s how the mind can tell itself that it fundamentally is an object in the world – a human, man, woman etc. – and overlook what it actually and more fundamentally is.

This is how what we are can overlook what it is. Capacity for the world. What all its experiences happen within and as.

What happens when this noticing happens? Does it have any practical value?

Yes and no. It doesn’t change the reality of our life – our circumstances and challenges.

But it does change how we see and understand it all. It changes the context for our life and experiences. And that, in a sense, changes everything.

Is this what the different spiritual traditions talk about?

I assume so.

For instance, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us, and this is the void that Buddhism talks about. We are nothing full of everything. And we can say that this is clarity, awakeness, consciousness.

It’s also oneness since all happens within and as what we are, and any ideas of an I or me happens within and as what we are – as anything else does. And it’s all love since oneness is also love. Not sentimental love, but the love that comes from oneness noticing itself as all there is.

If this is banal in some ways, is it also not banal?

Yes, it’s banal in that it’s what we already are noticing itself, and our life – in terms of its challenges and problems – doesn’t neccesarily change even if our conscious context for this life changes.

When this noticing is happening, our life goes on much as before. And as we mature in it, our life often tends to look very ordinary, and perhaps more and more ordinary, to others.

It’s also not banal. It’s the most dramatic change in our conscious context for our life possible. We go from taking ourselves to be an object in the world to that which the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as. We may experience it as magical, amazing, and even baffling.

And as we live from it, our life does transform. In a sense, we become more thoroughly and ordinarily human. We deepen into an ordinary humanness, kindness, and – perhaps – a bit of wisdom.

In another sense, living from this new noticing is extraordinary. It helps transform our human self. It helps the human parts of us still living within separation consciousness to join in with the oneness, and this gives a deep healing of old wounds and traumas. It’s not an easy process, it can be confusing and even overwhelming, and yet it’s more than worth it.

It’s also anything but banal to experience all of existence – as it appears to us – as consciousness, AKA love, AKA Spirit, AKA the divine.

Are there stages to this noticing?

Yes and no.

In one sense, the noticing itself is the same. It’s what we are noticing itself. We find ourselves as capacity for our world and all content of experience.

At the same time, there is a deepening of clarity, healing, maturity, and living from it.

Center of gravity shifts into Big Mind & fear comes up

 

I talked with someone whose center of gravity spontaneously shifted into Big Mind yesterday, and she noticed how something in her human self was terrified of it.

Both are natural and the fear is not so unusual in a certain phase of the process.

How can we best relate to this fear?

Notice that it’s just a part of our human self that’s afraid of it. It’s not all of us and it’s something we can relate to more intentionally.

Notice that this fearful part of us already is what it’s afraid of. It is Big Mind. It is what we are. It’s afraid of its own nature, and there is a sweet innocence in that.

Listen to what this fearful part of us has to say. What is it afraid of? What is its story? What happens when we believe this? What’s more true?

Notice the sensation aspect of the fear. Notice the body sensations. Allow them to be as they are. Rest with them. Set aside any thoughts for a little while.

Identify and examine any beliefs (as mentioned above) and emotional issues behind this fear. Use whatever approach works for you.

Dialog with this fearful part and Big Mind, and perhaps even allow the two to dialog together.

Find more structured and intentional ways to shift into and explore Big Mind. This can give a sense of predictability and control – in a limited but important sense, and it can help us explore the terrain in a way that feels more safe.

For examining beliefs, I often use The Work of Byron Katie. For exploring emotional issues, Living Inquiries and Vortex Healing are both great. For dialog, Voice Dialog or the Big Mind process works well. And for shifting into Big Mind in a more intentional way, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are both relatively simple and often effective.

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What we look at looks back at us

 

I experienced that what I looked at looked back at me.

I have heard this from a few people on the awakening path.

Most likely, it’s a middle stage between identifying as a separate being in a world of objects and all of it waking up to itself as consciousness.

Somewhere in that middle ground, we look at something, and experience that it’s looking back at us. We intuit consciousness over there, even in inanimate objects.

In reality, we are consciousness and the world as it appears to us happens within and as this consciousness. What we look at is consciousness, and if we don’t notice this clearly but intuit or sense it, it may seem as if the object is conscious and looking back at us.

I don’t think this is an inevitable phase in the awakening process, but it seems it may happen if the awakening is more gradual and happens over time. I imagine it’s intriguing and can be one of the carrots on the path.

Adyashanti: “Ready” means you are ready to come as close to the insane asylum as you will ever come

 

I remember reading Nisargadatta talking about two types of karma. Someone was asking, is it true that all the karma of a sage is burnt up? Nisargardatta said “There are two kinds of karma. There is the karma that’s dispelled with spiritual insight, and is dispelled by awakening and spiritual maturity. There is the other kind of karma that’s not dispelled and you have to live it out and reap the benefits or detriments thereof.”

That was the end of the conversation. That sounds clean until it comes to your life. Living through pieces of your karma is not as clean as it may sound. Often, people will have it at some point after their shift, especially when it seems that life is pretty easy, when there is not a whole lot of inner disturbance.

About that time, strangely enough, is often when a huge chunk of subterranean conditioning breaks off and raises into your conscious level. It’s almost like, “OK, now you have enough light, now you have enough stability, now you have enough presence, now you can deal with this. We hid this from you because it would have completely put you under water before, but now you are ready for it.” But “ready for it” doesn’t mean it’s purified and transformed and let go.

“Ready” means you are ready to come as close to the insane asylum as you will ever come as this piece of darkness comes through your system. You can now be tormented in a way that you never imagined you could withstand.

– Adyashanti

I am not sure what Nisargaradatta referred to when he spoke about the two types of karma. At first, it sounds like the first is the karma of conditioning, and the second is the – to us – more mysterious karma of events.

Adya seems to understand this in a slightly different way.

I wonder if what he means is that some conditioning and issues are seen through and resolve relatively easily as part of the awakening process. They fall away almost without us noticing.

With other conditioning, it’s not so easily. This is the one we, to some extent, have to live out. This may be deeper emotional issues, trauma, and conditioning that needs to come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as the divine, and so on. It be a far more tumultuous, confusing, overwhelming, and painful process.

I see them more as parts of the same spectrum than two different things.

In our healing and awakening journey, things in us needs to come up to be met, seen, felt, loved, and recognized as who and what we are. Sometimes, this is relatively easy and even enjoyable. Other times, it can be extreme and beyond anything we thought we would ever experience.

And as Adya suggests, the more extreme version of this seems to often follow a deepening in the awakening. A more open heart and mind means it’s also more open to all the things in us that has been exiled. It’s open to what it previously was closed to.

When that surfaces, it can feel overwhelming and terrifying and it can seem as if it will never end and there is no light on the other side of the tunnel.

This is one of the dark nights we can go through on a healing and awakening journey. I have come to think of it as a dark night of trauma, a period of processing deep individual, ancestral, cultural, and universal trauma.

It’s a necessary part of the healing and awakening process. It clears out parts of us still operating from separation consciousness so they can operate more from reality and oneness.

And it’s a part of the process I have been intimately familiar with over the last several years. It’s been far more challenging than anything I thought I would ever experience. It’s deeply humbling, in a good – and often painful – way. It’s a deeply human process. Since the parts of us surfacing live within separation consciousness and are, in a sense, insane, it can feel like we are going insane.

And, in the bigger picture, it’s an amazing blessing.

Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

 

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

– a quote from this dialog

This is one in a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived for eons. This dialog is with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos and – through a glitch? – happens to remember it all.

THE DIALOG

First, I am curious about the several lives. Does it mean you remember the life between lives?

Yes, although it doesn’t matter so much here. If you don’t remember it yourself, what I say will just become ideas. And if you do, I don’t need to say much about it.

Okay. How is it to have lived many lives in many different places of the cosmos?

I am very grateful for having that experience. It’s enormously enriching to live lives through the filters of different beings – and their senses, bodies, perceptions, culture and more – and their world.

What have you learned that many with one life haven’t?

Mostly, to know that we all live from our own conditioning. Everything about us makes sense in the light of our conditioning – from our bodies, environment, culture, and individual experiences.

Because of all the lives I have had, I am less inclined to judge. The tendency to judge has worn off in me over time. I know how it is to live in so many different circumstances, and I know how so much in us flows from our conditioning.

I have a deep empathy with different beings. I know we all just want to live and be free from suffering – and love and be loved. There is something very beautiful in this. It’s also heartbreaking because I know how universal suffering is and how common it is for beings to not feel fully loved and to not fully love themselves.

These sounds like insights from spirituality?

Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.

You mentioned empathy with others. What about awakening?

Well, that’s a big word. For me, it’s more simple and down-to-earth.

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

What do most people not get?

Hm, from my perspective, many things.

They don’t get how precious and amazing life is. Even a troubled life, even a mundane life, is amazing and precious beyond words.

They don’t get that the way they treat others is the way they treat themselves. Love your neighbor for your own sake. It’s good for everyone.

They don’t get the importance of a long and big perspective. Of course, most people get by with a more narrow and shorter perspective. But a long and big perspective enriches life enormously. And for you folks today, it’s essential for your survival. It’s the only way humans can and will survive. And life is showing you just that.

They don’t get that all experiences enrich life. They are not your enemies. Trying to run away from your experiences only creates an added layer of suffering. In reality, it’s the only real suffering.

Of course, most don’t get that what we are is capacity for all and any of our experiences. We are the experiences which come and go. And we are capacity for all of it.

How can we mimic your process and discover this for ourselves?

Well, that’s not my speciality. But it does seem that some things helps people to find this for themselves. It’s definitely possible to people to find this for themselves, and many do – to some extent.

The main thing is curiosity and sincerity. Explore and see what you find. Don’t take your own or others assumptions for granted. Be willing to leave your most basic assumptions about yourself and life. Get close to your experience.

I feel like this is a trick question since a lot of what you write about on this website does exactly that! Is that what you want me to say? I see through you. And of course, yes, the tools you write about here can be very helpful for people, especially if used with curiosity and sincerity.

Yes, I guess that’s why I asked the question. Although I write about these things exactly because these tools can help us find what someone like you have discovered. It helps us discover what someone who has lived for eons tends to naturally discover through lived experience.

Yes, I agree. For me, it comes through lived experience and mostly free form ideology or pointers or shoulds or trying to live up to anything. And for many humans, it’s often more of a mix of genuine lived experience and insights – and some ideologies and shoulds.

What can we do to make it more from lived experience?

You are asking difficult questions. As I said, this is not my speciality.

Get close to your own experience. Be curious about it. Take it seriously. Make use of pointers and use them to discover for yourself. Set aside shoulds and how people say something is. Live your life and pay attention to what’s happening.

Do you have any advice for P. (this interviewer)?

Yes. You already know all this. You even trust it. But there is some hesitation in you. You can trust it even more. You can sink into it. Lean into it. Rest into and as it. It’s what you are. Live it. It can help you to remember me and lean into what I am.

Thank you! I appreciate this interview and especially your advice at the end.

Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation. I don’t think about these things so often so it was fun. And I wish you all the best in your life. As I said, you already know and are all of this. Lean into it a bit more and it will help you a lot. (And if you don’t, that’s completely fine too.)

Wanting what’s here

 

I just (re)listened to the audiobook version of On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, mostly because it’s a relief to listen to someone taking such a simple, grounded, sane, and pragmatic approach to awakening (!)

Towards the end, he talks about actively wanting what’s here.

Why would we want what’s here?

We are capacity for what’s here – our human self and the wider world as it appears to us. It happens within and as what we are. It’s us in whatever form it happens to take here and now. So why not welcome it?

What’s here is here. It’s too late to do something about it. So why struggle with it? Struggle only creates suffering. It makes more sense to actively want what’s here. This also frees us up to be engaged and work on changing situations as needed.

The wanting-what’s-here pointer is a touchstone. It shows us how we relate to what’s coming up in us. Is it easy for us to genuinely welcome it? Or is there an impulse in us to avoid it or make it go away? And do we join in with that impulse or do we notice that it too happens within what we are capacity for? Having the pointer in the back of our mind can help us notice when suffering – unawake and unhealed – parts of us are triggered, and also whether we join in with it or notice ourselves as what it happens within and as – just like anything else.

How does it look in practice?

It’s a welcoming of what’s already here because we can’t do anything about it and struggling with it doesn’t help or make any sense. What’s coming up for our human self is already here. The situation our human self is in is already here. So why not join in with it and actively want it? Also, it’s what we already are so why not welcome it as another expression of the creativity of what we are?

It does not mean to be passive or resigned. We can still actively work to change the situation and circumstances we are in – or someone else is in. Often, wanting what’s here frees up our response. Instead of reacting we can respond a little more intentionally. There is access to more kindness, clarity, wisdom, and creativity.

How can we find this active welcoming?

When we notice ourselves as capacity for what’s here, including anything coming up in our human self, it’s easier to notice it all as happening within and as what we are and find a genuine and active welcoming and wanting of what’s here.

Said another way, the welcoming and actively wanting it is already here. It’s what we already are. So when we find ourselves as capacity for what’s here, we also find this welcoming and wanting.

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

Perhaps we haven’t noticed. Or we have noticed but don’t take it seriously. Or we don’t see any practical use of it.

Or we do notice and we take it seriously, and yet sometimes get pulled into old beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas, and “forget” for a while.

How can we notice what we are?

To have an initial glimpse of what we are, and to keep noticing in daily life, it helps to have some pointers. For me, the most effective one has been the Headless Way, Big Mind process (based on Voice Dialog and Zen), and Living Inquiries (a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we train this noticing even when emotional issues come up?

There are two elements that stands out to me.

One is how we relate to what’s coming up in this human self. Do we get caught in it or do we notice it as happening within and as what we are?

The other is inviting in healing and awakening for any suffering parts of us surfacing, the one still operating from separation consciousness.

These two mutually support each other.

Noticing what we are while bringing presence into the suffering parts helps them relax and feel seen and loved. They receive what they need and want.

And inviting these suffering parts of us to heal and awaken makes it easier to notice what we are even when they are triggered. Some or most of the charge goes out of them.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.

What if we notice the shift is close?

If we are in a situation where we notice that the shift into actively welcoming what’s here is close, then a small pointer or question may be helpful. For instance:

How would it be to want what’s here?

Even if there are things coming up in my human self, I can often find this shift. And I can still notice what’s coming up in me and later get to know it better and invite in healing and awakening for it.

How does the overall process look?

Douglas Harding talks about seven stages or phases. I’ll just mention a very simplified version here.

First, there is an initial glimpse or noticing. This is always spontaneous although it can come without any apparent preparation or through inquiry or other spiritual practices.

Then, there is taking this seriously and wishing to continue exploring it and how to live from it in our daily life.

A part of this exploration is to investigate what happens when the mind gets pulled into old separation consciousness. We get more experience in noticing ourselves as capacity through more and more experiences, states, and life situations. And we invite in healing and awakening for the parts of us still stuck in suffering and separation consciousness.

As we keep doing this, the noticing becomes more stable and continues more often even when emotional issues surface.

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

Not at all, it’s common for mystics from all times and traditions to talk about it. Christian mystics may talk about God’s and my will becoming one. Byron Katie talks about loving what is. And so on.

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Jane Goodall: Lost in awe at the beauty around me

 

Lost in awe at the beauty around me, I must have slipped into a state of heightened awareness. It is hard – impossible really – to put into words the moment of truth that suddenly came upon me then. […]

It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, the self was utterly absent: I and the chimpanzees, the earth and trees and air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself. [….]

And I knew that the revelation would be with me for the rest of my life, imperfectly remembered yet always within. A source of strength on which I could draw when life seemed harsh or cruel or desperate.

– Jane Goodall in Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey

Jane Goodall describes a mystical experience. I imagine many have had similar experiences at some point in their lives, whether spontaneous or induced by psychoactive plants or something else.

It’s a taste of oneness, and a sense of self can still be present or apparently gone as she describes.

Often, it seems more vivid and real than our apparently more mundane everyday experience. It seems more real because, in a sense, it is. This is what we are and the trance of being caught in our stories and thoughts temporarily obscures it.

It’s also very common that these experiences stay with us and feed us for the rest of our life. It may also inform how we are in the world, and I assume it has fueled her passion for preserving and protecting the natural world.

Where does the sense of oneness and absence of self come from?

We can say it’s just a noticing of what we already are.

To ourselves, we are consciousness and all our experiences – of ourselves and the wider world – happen within and as this consciousness. Any sense of being something particular within the content of experience – a separate self – is created through a combination of thoughts and sensations.

Thoughts tell us that’s what we are and the mind associates these thoughts with particular sensations in the body, often from a slight and mostly chronic muscle contraction, and these sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to these thoughts.

When we have these type of mystical experiences, the trance is temporarily lifted and we notice what we are and that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. There is a taste or experience of oneness.

Sometimes, the trance returns and what remains is a memory. It’s an experience that came and went and becomes something to remember.

Other times, this lifting of the trance is more stable. It lasts and clarifies over time, often through an apparently messy process. It’s revealed as what we are and what all our experiences happen within and as.

Why do I talk about healing, isn’t awakening enough?

 

Yes and no.

Yes, awakening is enough if what we want is to notice what we are, and for what we are notice itself as all there is. For a while, this may seem like all that’s needed, especially if we are in a temporary transcendent state – one where our center of gravity has, for a while, risen “above” our human stuff.

And no, because a transcendent state doesn’t last so we will eventually be plunged back into all the human messiness. That too is the divine. That too want to join in with the awakening. That too wants to heal and awaken.

If we want to live from the awakening in more and more situations and areas of life, we need healing. Healing opens up space for awakening to be lived more fully and in more situations and areas of life.

Also, as a human being in the world, which we also are, it’s generally a much better life if we are more healed. A lot of suffering, confusion, reactivity, and messiness is cleared up as we heal.

So why not focus on both? Why not find approaches that invite in both awakening and healing? Just about all of the tools I write about here do just that, especially if that’s our intention.

In this process of awakening, healing, and learning to live from the awakening, we will also over time develop skills and insights, we tend to mature as human beings, we tend to deeply humanize and become more human, and we may also go through some stages of adult development. All of this may happen mostly as a side-effect of working on ourselves and allowing the awakening to work on ourselves.

And it’s not really about choice or want. Sooner or later in the awakening process, we bump up against unhealed parts of us and we notice that these areas of us suffer. So why not invite in healing and awakening for these parts too? It’s a natural part of the process.

Although it’s not so important, this is also not about “us” choosing or wanting. It’s about life or existence choosing and wanting through and as “us”.

My own story: Before and after initial awakening, and the awakening itself

 

I thought I would write a few words about the initial opening or awakening that happened relatively early on in me – aka this human being’s – life. For context, I have added some short notes on what went on before and after.

First, some background

Before school age, I had flashbacks to the time between lives. It would often happen when sunshine was filtered through moving leaves. It was a memory of a formless world made up of consciousness and golden light and love, and an infinite sense of being home. I had not labels for this. And although this was alive here and now during these moments, I had a longing in my heart through my childhood.

In elementary school, we had one class on Friday about Christianity. This quickly made me into an atheist although I didn’t know anyone else who were. (My parents were and are open-minded agnostics.) I thought Christianity – as presented in those classes – seemed stupid. Why would you believe what other people told you to believe? Why would you believe something you can’t check out for yourself?

During elementary and middle school, I was very interested in parapsychology – ghosts, ESP, UFOs and so on.

Age fifteen, something happened that was deeply puzzling to myself and others. It felt like “I” was removed far from all content of experience, from my human self and the wider world. Later, I realized that the center of gravity of what I seemed to be had moved into observering. This lasted for about a year. Before this happened, I had experienced the not uncommon teenage angst and stress, and also social anxiety.

Then the awakening

Age sixteen, I walked up the dark gravel road to the house under a dark sky full of stars and a wind blowing through it. From one moment to the next, everything opened up. Everything without exception was revealed as God. Any sense of me or I was seen as a local and temporary appearance of God.

Everything – the stars, sky, wind, gravel road, houses, this human self, thoughts, feelings – is awakeness, love, and consciousness. Everything is the play of God. Everything is God even if it looks like something else to most humans.

On the one hand, this was shocking and completely surprising. After all, at my human level I had very little interest in religions or spirituality. On the other hand, this was more familiar to me than anything else. It was like finally coming home after several years of having forgotten it.

Why did it happen at that moment?

Who knows. I suspect the previous year – of having been absorbed into or as the “I” or observer – prepared the ground. And the night sky, the stars, and the wind reminded me of the infinite and that’s what woke up to itself in that moment.

This didn’t go away. It lasted. And in the years since, I have learned to be more familiar with it.

For the next few years, several things happened.

There was a sense of huge energies running through my system. It felt like high voltage running through regular housing wires.

I started seeing energies – first around leaves on a tree against the blue sky and later around everything. I also discovered I could sense what was going on in the system of others and invite in healing for it.

I had a huge amount of insights, often non-stop during the day and when waking up during the night. I filled several notebooks. (Similar to this blog.)

I had a lot of inspiration for music and art. Compositions and art came to me ready-made and I did my best to translate it into something physical.

Since I had nobody in my life even remotely interested in this, I kept it to myself. I wrote. And I looked for others who had discovered the same. I read a lot of books, and saw that some Christian mystics and others seemed to write from the same discovery although often slightly obscured by tradition and perhaps other things.

I did find two who recognized it in me right away – my friend BH and the then-wife of Jes Bertelsen HB. (I just noticed that their initials are reversals of each other.) They recognized it by looking at my energy system, as I tend to recognize it in others.

The intensity mellowed out over the next ten years or so and it all became more familiar and normal.

And then what went on after, what some call the life within God

From age 24 and on, I lived at a Zen center for a few years, then moved and worked with sustainability, and I had some years without much involvement with spirituality (apart from passion for sustainability). Then, the interest came back and along with it a more clear and peaceful shift in the awakening.

This was followed by several challenging years – aka a dark night of the soul – with loss of health, loss of ability to work, loss of marriage (which was very good), loss of house and money, loss of (some) friends, and a lot of old trauma surfacing.

And no, the awakening didn’t clear out all human hangups and emotional issues, and it also didn’t clear out all identifications. I still had and have hangups, emotional issues, and trauma, although I suspect a lot of charge in much of it has been released. There are still identifications here. And yet, all of this is recognized as the divine and expressions of the divine.

The awakening itself as an awakening out of taking ourselves as an I or me or human being, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot left to be cleared up. It’s an ongoing process of clarification, healing, maturing, learning to life from it, and supporting the different parts of me still living from separation consciousness to align with reality.

Am I special to have had this happen? Since it’s the divine waking up to itself as all there is, it’s just what we are and what everything is waking up to itself. It “forgot” itself locally and temporarily and then noticed again. That’s not really special at all. Also, it’s not the human self waking up. It’s reality waking up out of taking itself as exclusively that human self. At the same time, it’s true that it doesn’t happen through all humans but that’s also of the play of the divine. As someone said, it’s the divine playing hide-and-seek with itself. Nothing is wrong. One is not inherently better or worse than the other.

What’s the most baffling thing in all of this? That anything exists at all. That there is an existence – a divine – that can play this game with and within itself.

I rarely talk about the initial awakening so it feels good to finally write it here.

And yes, I still remember the spot I stood on on the gravel road when the initial awakening happened, and the date give or take a few days. (It happened between Christmas and New Year.)

A note on perspective: I chose to write this mostly from the perspective of my human self. I could have written it more from the view of the divine or Big Mind and may do that later.

And a synchronicity: I had written “view” in the previous sentence with quotation marks around it since Big Mind doesn’t really have a view. It has all and no views. I decided to remove the quotation marks to not confuse the reader unnecessarily, and thought to myself “Big Mind doesn’t really have a view”. As I did this, the lyrics of the song I was listening to said:

You know well what I’ve been through
Living there without a view

– from Moonshine by Caravan Palace

How to live in an insane world?

 

If we hadn’t noticed earlier, in some point in the awakening process we realize that we are living in an insane world. Not the natural world, which is beautiful although in many ways merciless, but the human world.

A world where what we are doesn’t notice itself and take itself to be a separate human being. A world where people actually believe their thoughts. A world where people create a great deal of suffering for themselves and others only because they happen to believe crazy thoughts.

So what do we do? How do we live within this insane world?

For me, the answer is the usual one. Go further. Look more closely. Use it as a mirror for yourself.

Examine your thoughts about this insane world. Identify your beliefs about it. See what’s more true for you.

Identify emotional issues triggered by this. Invite in healing for these.

Reorient. See how it is to find love for what is triggered in you around this. See how it is to find love for these people and the suffering they create for themselves.

Learn more about the mechanisms behind this suffering and learn more about trauma and trauma behavior by exploring it in yourself.

Instead of feeling like a victim (which comes from a belief and emotional issues), why not do what you would like to see more of in the world? Why not do something, even if it’s small and local, to support life?

When we see insanity in the world, we see our own insanity. It’s an invitation to go further in our own healing and awakening and bring a little more into the world of what we would like to see in it.

Note: I intentionally wrote the two first paragraphs from the view of someone seeing the world as insane. It’s not so difficult for me since I went through that experience during the first few years after the awakening, and still connect with it now and then.

Being a guru to the parts of us living within separation consciousness

 

At some point in the awakening process – and perhaps for a long time – what we are notices itself in a “global” sense but there are still many parts of us living in separation consciousness. These are formed from and still live within separation consciousness.

It’s then our job to function as a friend – and, in a sense, a guru and therapist – for these parts of us.

They surface. They live in pain. Our habitual response may be to recoil from them or want them to go away. And the invitation is for us to be a friend to these parts of us. And – in a gentle way – be a guru and therapist for them.

To be in their presence. Help them feel seen, felt, loved, understood. Help them heal. Help them awaken to all as love. Help them recognize themselves as love.

They were formed in an attempt to help us as a human being in the world. They are an expression of consciousness and love. And the invitation is for us to help them recognize that.

As Pamela Wilson says, these parts of us are our devotees. They want us to be their friend. They want to be liberated. They – in a very real sense – need us.

This is a part of the awakening process. It’s a process of inviting all the different parts of us to awaken. And it has a nice side-effect. We learn to be a good friend to these parts of us – to be in their presence in patience, listening, recognizing them as love. And that tends to color how we are with other people and the wider world.

Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things II

 

This is a post with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles, some may be a little rant-ish, and some of them may be made into a regular article in time.

Adorable Ludvig as drawn by Kjell Aukrust

Writing from a voice

If I am honest, I get a little bored writing from my regular persona. Or writing from my MoE blog persona. It gets predictable and the writing is careful and not so juicy.

So why not write from other sides of myself? Why not write from Big Mind, Or Big Heart, or as I imagine a specific person from history or fiction would write?

That’s how I can surprise myself and keep it more alive and juicy.

Recently, two stories caught my attention.

Kjell Aukrust, a beloved Norwegian artist and author, would write letters as one of his well-known imaginary characters. He even wrote business letters that way. I am sure he did it partly from playfulness. But he also had dyslexia so if he wrote as one of his characters, spelling and grammar wasn’t so important.

Mr. Rogers did something similar. When he needed to tell his children something difficult, for instance something he was angry with them about, he would do it in character as one of his puppets. The puppet could say some things that he – as their dad – found difficult.

The reason I was fascinated by these stories is probably that I need or want to do something similar right here, in this blog. I need to do it to liven it up and make it more fresh, interesting, and juicy.

Click READ MORE for the rest of the notes….

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Trauma and awakening

 

These days, there seems to more awareness of the different connections between trauma and awakening.

There are people more experienced with this than me. But I have some experience in working with people with trauma and from exploring the connections between trauma and awakening in my own life, so I’ll say a few words about it here.

What are some types of trauma?

Trauma comes in different forms. Acute trauma is what most of us think of when we hear the word – from violence, catastrophes, war, loss. There is trauma from witnessing others experience and living with trauma. There is developmental trauma which comes from being in an ongoing challenging situation, often in childhood.

We can also expand the definition and say that any emotional issue is a form of trauma, and any belief and identification is a form of trauma. It comes from and – depending on how we relate to it – may create more trauma.

What is trauma?

It’s often explained as how our system deals with a scary and overwhelming experience we feel we cannot deal with. The basic elements of trauma are strong stressful beliefs and identities and corresponding muscle contractions (to hold the beliefs and identities in place). And trauma behavior span a wide range including anger, anxiety, hopelessness, and compulsions and addictions.

What role does trauma play before awakening?

Trauma can be part of our drive for healing and awakening. We may wish for healing and/or awakening to find relief from the pain of trauma. Whether we chose mainly a healing or awakening path, or a combination, depends on our inclinations and what we have available.

If we already are on an awakening path, it can be very helpful to include an emphasis on emotional healing.

If we are on an exclusive healing path and are happy with it, there is not really any need to include an emphasis on awakening. Although some of the tools for awakening can help deepen the healing, and glimpses and tastes of awakening can certainly help with the healing.

What about trauma following – or within – awakening?

Awakening involves an opening of our heart and mind – and even the body. And at some point, this can include an opening to whatever unprocessed emotional material is in us.

This often happens in smaller doses and over time. We have emotional issues triggered, are unable to ignore it as before, and have to find a way to relate to what comes up that’s healing in itself and allows what surfaces to find healing.

Sometimes – and perhaps especially if there is stronger trauma in the system – it happens in a more dramatic way. When this happens, it can feel confusing, overwhelming, and unbearable. (We can see this as a certain type of dark night in the awakening process.)

How do we deal with overwhelming trauma?

The best is to get help from someone experienced in working with trauma. Find someone you trust, are comfortable with, and respect where you are and don’t push you. If the person also understands awakening, then it’s even better.

The main guideline is patience, kindness, working with the body, and using nature.

I have written other articles on this topic so won’t go into it too much here.

How do healing and awakening go together?

Emotional healing helps living from the awakening. The fewer and lighter emotional issues, the less likely we are to be hijacked back into separation consciousness when they are triggered. (Although if it happens, it shows us what’s left in us to explore and find healing for.)

Awakening gives a new context for healing emotional issues. The healing can go deeper and the process may be a little easier.

What are some tools that invite in both healing and awakening?

There are several. Some of the ones I have found helpful – and that I keep mentioning here – are different forms of inquiry like The Work, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE). Heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono, tonglen, and Metta. And energy work like Vortex Healing.

Note: As usual, take anything you read – anywhere – with a pinch of salt. It may be different for you.

Photo by Adrien Aletti on Unsplash

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Moby Dick as metaphor for awakening?

 

Some years ago, I heard someone using Moby Dick as metaphor for awakening. I understand why. It can describe some folks experience with awakening – if it involves dogged persistence, aggressively pursuing it, drama, struggle and so on. But that’s just one of many flavors. It’s not always that way.

Awakening can come out of the blue and most involve adjusting to it and finding healing for all of the unprocessed emotional material surfacing following the awakening. (Generally how it happened in my case.)

Awakening can come gently and gradually. It can be undramatic.

Awakening can happen through self-kindness, heart, and gentle but precise inquiry.

Awakening can happen in many different ways and with many different flavors.

To me, it seems that the Moby Dick metaphor comes from a masculine approach to spirituality and awakening, and perhaps a macho approach to awakening and life. (More specifically, it feels like something that could come out of a macho subculture within the male US culture.)

There is nothing wrong with that. It’s one of the many flavors of awakening. It’s one way the divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself and its awakening to itself as all there is. And it’s good to know it’s just one flavor. It doesn’t have to look like that at all.

What’s the difference between awakening and non-awakening?

 

Is there a big difference between awakening and non-awakening?

Yes and no.

What are some of the differences?

The main difference is that in one case, consciousness recognizes itself as all there is and all experiences as happening within and as consciousness.

In the other case, consciousness is identified with a number of thoughts which creates an experience of being a separate being in the world and of objects as being the fundamental reality.

Our life as human beings will, by necessity, be a little different in each case.

The conscious context for our life is different and that means that everything tends to stay the same while also being very different.

In what ways are they not so different?

Whether consciousness notices itself or not, that’s what we are. We are consciousness and all our experiences happens within and as consciousness. We already live as oneness. It’s even awake oneness in both cases, although it’s awake to itself in only one.

In both cases, it’s the play of consciousness, whether it notices itself – and all experiences as itself – or not. It’s consciousness expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself – as noticing itself or not.

Is it really so black and white?

No, it’s just a way to talk about it. In reality, it’s much more fluid and – if we want to fit into another too-narrow idea – a spectrum.

Even when consciousness notices itself as all there is, there is some fluidity. It can temporarily go back into separation consciousness, especially when triggered by old emotional issues and beliefs. Noticing oneness can be in the foreground or more in the background – for instance when a task has our attention. And the awakening itself tends to clarify and stabilize our time, perhaps to the extent it’s investigated.

Similarly, non-awakening is not just one thing or always caught in separation consciousness. This too is fluid. When caught in an emotional issue, the separation consciousness tends to get stronger. When we are absorbed in an activity, we may get in a “flow” state, forget separation consciousness, and experience some of the qualities of oneness. (Although it’s not as clear and consciousness typically does not notice itself as everything.) And we can have more conscious glimpses of what we are and oneness, for instance when we are in nature, from inquiry or meditation, or – although I don’t recommend it – some types of psychoactive plants and drugs.

I noticed you used awake in two ways?

Yes, that can be confusing.

In this context, it’s mostly used to point to consciousness awake to itself – and to all its experiences as consciousness and the oneness that comes with it.

It can also point to the awakeness that’s inherent in consciousness. Anyone who reads this does so because of this awakeness. It’s the very ordinary awakeness that we all experience and are familiar with. Consciousness is awake in a very ordinary way, and it may or may not be awake to itself as all there is – to all its experiences as itself.

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Reality vs spiritual traditions

 

Reality is always more than and different from what any spiritual tradition can capture. That’s why any sincere exploration has to go beyond the confines of any one tradition, and even all of them combined.

That doesn’t mean that traditions are useless. They can be very helpful.

They can be a good place to start and – for some – can be a good support throughout the process.

They can give us pointers and practices helpful in our own exploration. Some of these may be helpful at certain phases of the process and some – the more basic ones – throughout.

They give us a community of fellow explorers. In the best case, we feel less alone, can share experiences, and find support.

They have guides who can give us practical support in our own exploration.

As for myself, I didn’t belong to any religion or spiritual tradition as a kid. So when the awakening happened in my teens I was free to explore any and all traditions to find fellow travelers, pointers, and guides.

I did naturally seek out traditions at first. I found glimmers of real wisdom from mystics and teachers in the past, and especially from Taoism and Christian mystics. But as for what I found in person, it was mostly disappointing. Mostly, I found people without any real experience or awakening repeating what someone else had said.

The real insights and personal experience was something I found in people outside of the traditions. I found it in a dear friend (BH) who has remained a close friend. And I found Jes and Hanne Bertelsen from Denmark who clearly spoke from experience and awakening and draw from the wisdom of several different traditions.

Later, I found it in Adyashanti who was trained in Zen but does his own thing. I belonged to Center of Sacred Sciences in Oregon for a while and they draw from all the different traditions. And when I earlier – in my twenties – lived at a Zen center, there was a mix of traditional practice and a more innovative approach – specifically the Big Mind process developed by my teacher there.

I am profoundly grateful for the traditions. They pass on wisdom and experiences by innumerable awake and clear people. (And sometimes things less from clarity!) They offer people a place to learn and practice. They offer a community. They offer guides. I have gotten a lot out of practices, pointers, guides and more from traditions. And I admire people who are happy within a tradition and stick with it for the long term.

At the same time, it doesn’t seem to be for me. For me, it makes more sense to draw from whatever I find and delve deeply into one thing at a time and then keep exploring. Reality is more important than any tradition and I also know that traditions offer valuable support in this exploration.

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Nature spirituality in a oneness context

 

Nature spirituality is seeing – or experiencing – nature as divine. As an expression of the divine. The creation of the divine. Or as the divine.

This can be more of a thought or feeling. It can be a sense or intuition. Or it can be a direct and unmistakable experience and perception.

It can happen as a phase of the awakening process. Or it can happen within a more clear awakening.

It can happen outside or inside of traditional forms of religion or spirituality. Either way, it borrows language and ideas from the culture and tradition(s) we are familiar with.

A more nature oriented spirituality is perhaps especially important today since it helps us find love for and a wish to care for nature and Earth.

Some who are into nature spirituality may see humans as special and somehow apart from the rest of nature. Others see humans as an intrinsic part of the Earth community and all of nature as “us”.

Nature spirituality may focus on untouched nature or any nature. Or it can include humans and human culture and civilization. These too are – in a very real sense – nature and an expression of this living planet and of divinity. (Culture and civilization currently have an ecologically unsustainable form but that doesn’t make it less of an expression of Earth and divinity. It just happens to take this form right now and it can change.)

How does nature spirituality look in a oneness context?

It tends to happen as part of a more general awakening process, as I have hinted at above.

It can happen within separation consciousness with some glimmers of oneness. These glimmers can come as a sense or intuition of nature as the divine or an expression of the divine, and there can be an early sense or glimpses of oneness.

It can also happen within a more clear perception of oneness. Here, there is a recognition that all is the divine and nature is one expression of the divine. And one we chose to honor and emphasize, either from personal inclination or because we realize it’s important as part of the culture change we need in order to survive as a species.

Whether it plays out within mainly separation consciousness or oneness depends on the usual factors in awakening. For instance, a sense or glimmers of oneness and a gradual “thinning of the veils” and wearing out of identifications.

Since I have written several articles about the awakening process in general, I won’t go into it here.

How can we cultivate or open up for nature spirituality?

Several things may put us on a nature spirituality path. It may be an experience or glimpse of the divinity of nature. It may be a deep love for nature, perhaps from childhood experiences. It may be something we read or heard that sparked something in us.

We can cultivate it by being in nature. By finding a community of others exploring nature spirituality. By engaging in rituals and practices like the practices to reconnect by Joanna Macy. By investigating any beliefs and identities standing between where we are and a deeper connection with nature. By exploring and inviting in awakening in general.

My personal experience

After writing this, I realize I can add a few words about my own experience to put some flesh on the bones.

When I was little, I loved nature. My parents took me on many outings to fish, pick berries, hike, and ski. We spent many weekends and vacations at the cabin in the mountains or near Oslo. I often played and explored in nature, in the forest, and by and in lakes. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I often said zoologist.

In late childhood, perhaps around twelve years of age, I was mesmerized by Cosmos by Carl Sagan and would walk outside, look at the stars, know that I was starstuff looking at the stars and the universe locally bringing itself into consciousness, and feel a strong belonging to all of nature and the universe. Around the same time, I slept under the stars in the mountains in Norway and had a profound – and life changing – experience of belonging to the universe as a whole.

The spiritual opening happened in my mid-teens and this was an awakening to oneness. It happened when I walked along a gravel road under a dark starry sky with a strong wind blowing through the sky. It was as if the vastness of the universe – the infinitely deep darkness, the stars, and the big wind – opened up something in me. All was revealed as God, as consciousness, as Spirit, and nothing was not this. It was Spirit waking up to itself locally and through and as this human form. During this time – for the next many years – there was a profound sense of the divine as all there is – the stars, the wind, nature, humans, and human culture.

Eventually, all of this normalized. Now, all matter and nature and anything else is clearly consciousness – or the divine. There is an inherent sense of awe in it. But there are no bells and whistles. It’s familiar. It is, in a sense, ordinary. Something extraordinary and ordinary at the same time.

For the sake of transparency: During this time, I could see there were some identifications left and a slight sense of “I”. At the same time, I knew these didn’t point to anything ultimately true or real and I largely saw through it and saw it for what it was.

A confession

As I started writing this I got lost in describing the different elements of nature spirituality and more or less forgot about the oneness context. My brain is working less well today, probably as part of the usual brain fog and fluctuations that comes with chronic fatigue. I decided to just leave this article as is. Perhaps there is something of value in it anyway.

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Awakening is differentiation

 

Awakening is not just oneness. It’s also differentiation.

Without differentiation, there is no awakening. At least, if we start out from separation consciousness and wish to see what awakening is about. And if we wish to actively support clarification, deepening, and embodiment of the awakening.

So what is it we need to differentiate?

Mainly, the difference between thoughts and reality. Obviously, a thought is as real – or unreal – as anything else. But what it says about reality has varying degrees of truth to it, and even the most accurate thought has no final or ultimate truth to it.

We may know this at a superficial conscious level. We may hear it and tell ourselves I know that. But the reality is often different. At some level, we – our system – takes several thoughts as true even if we consciously may know it isn’t. It requires a much deeper exploration to see this and see through it so the “glue” making these thoughts seem real weakens. (Our mind’s magical truth-glue that makes something that’s not completely true seem true.)

How is this connected to awakening?

When we – at any level – hold a thought as true, there is automatically identification with the thought’s viewpoint. We experience ourselves as the viewpoint of the thought. And that creates a sense of being something within the content of experience – within the world, and an I with the rest of existence as Other.

What the thought is about doesn’t really matter. Taking any thought as ultimately true – somewhere in our system – creates this dynamic. Although some of the core ones are thoughts saying we are a human being, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, and so on.

How can I explore this differentiation?

Through inquiry, whether natural, organic, and unstructured or more structured.

Structured inquiry can be a good way to start, and can help us go deeper wherever we are in the process. And the more natural and unstructured inquiry helps us trust our own wisdom and guidance. (Especially when we already are somewhat familiar with the terrain, perhaps with the help of structured inquiry.)

For me, a combination of Headless experiments (Douglas Harding), the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi), The Work of Byron Katie, and Living Inquiries (modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry) has been helpful. But there are many other approaches out there.

What about other forms of differentiation?

Yes, there is the conventional form of differentiation and discernment we need in daily life, to function in the world.

The differentiation I wrote about above is helpful for awakening and also healing for our human self. The daily life differentiation and discernment is essential for us to function in the world.

Just as what and who we are – oneness and this human self – these two forms of differentiation are two sides of the same coin.

My experience of myself and the world

 

The way we experience the world often seems ordinary and unremarkable to us. We may not pay much attention to it. Although when we are on an awakening path, this tends to change. The question of how we experience ourselves and the world comes more into the foreground.

What’s the context of my experience?

It’s relatively easy for awakeness to notice itself and that content of experience happens within and as what I am. (Another label for this is oneness.) In daily life, particular content of experience is often in the foreground for practical reasons but that it’s happening within and as awakeness is always here and easily noticed.

There is also a noticing of the void all happens within and as, including the awakeness all content of experience happens within and as (!).

Is there a sense of a me or I?

Yes and no. In daily life, it’s easy to know that this human self is “me” and the one other people take me to be.

I notice a slight tension in the forehead and the roof of the mouth that feels a bit like “I”. I recognize it for what it is, and there is probably more for me to explore and see through here.

When I get caught in emotional issues, there is a stronger sense of a me and an I, although there is also an awareness of what’s going on. This too is happening within and as awakeness, it’s a temporary and local appearance, and not any ultimate truth. (Although if it’s strong, I may feel, experience, and even act as if it is.) This is something I am aware of and keep exploring, and I typically work on the emotional issues that come up.

Is this awakening?

This isn’t awakening as a state or somewhere to arrive. But it’s a snapshot of a particular phase of an awakening process. The process is ongoing and it seems unlikely to have an arrival place. There is clearly a lot further to go in clarity, healing, and embodiment, and that’s more than OK.

How is the content of my experience these days?

It keeps changing as any content of experience does. My system has a lot of fatigue right now so I notice the fatigue and rest. Sometimes, contentment is more on the surface with some low-grade other things in the background. And sometimes, different emotions are more in the foreground. When that happens, I pay attention to what it seems to be about and often explore it through informal inquiry and do some basic Vortex Healing for it.

Do I always explore what comes up?

Yes and no. I explore it in the sense that I notice it and make a mental note that this is something to continue to explore and perhaps find healing for. Sometimes I go more in-depth right away or within a few days. Sometimes, it goes on the back-burner and I know I may address it more in-depth if or when it comes up again in the future.

In general, how is this different from how most people experience themselves and the world?

I assume the essence is the same. The awake space everything is happening within (and as) is here whether we consciously notice or not. And our content of experience always changes and includes all the usual human experiences.

What’s different between this and most people’s experience?

The main difference may be that here, the awakeness – what all experience happens within and as – notices itself a bit more than what seems average these days. (And that can change – both here and in the world.)

So there isn’t that much of a difference between awakening and no awakening?

Again, yes and no. The awakeness is here and all our content of experience happens within and as it. In some cases, this is noticed – or it notices itself, and in some cases, there is identification as a me and I within this content of experience.

It seems somewhat fluid. I assume everyone has moments where they live more from the oneness (flow states etc.) and then a thought comes in saying “this human self is who I am, try not to forget it too often”.

There is a spectrum from what we are noticing itself to being caught up in identifications, and we are probably not aware of how far the spectrum goes in each end.

There is also a spectrum to how this is reflected in our life. At one end is a human life thoroughly reorganized within oneness noticing itself as all there is. This typically involves a lot of healing of emotional issues. At the other end is the extreme of living from separation consciousness and emotional issues and traumas. Most of us are somewhere in-between and shift somewhat fluidly along the mid-range.

What’s the main difference between my teens and now?

It’s actually not terribly different from my teens, following the initial spiritual opening or awakening. (Age sixteen.) The main difference is that there is more peace with the whole process now. Back then, it was intense and at time overwhelming and confusing. Now, it’s more familiar and – in a sense – ordinary.

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Describing awakening in a simple and grounded way

 

I like to demystify what can be demystified – including awakening. Why not try to describe it in simple and ordinary ways that others can check out for themselves, and that doesn’t rely on references to what’s outside of most people’s experience?

So what is awakening?

Awakening is what we are awakening to itself.

Independent of our worldview, it makes sense that what we are – to ourselves – is consciousness. Even within a materialistic view, it’s hard to not admit that to ourselves, we are consciousness.

All our content of experience – including the world and ourselves as a human being – happens within and as consciousness.

Typically, we identify with a particular content of our experience. We identify with and as this human self, and as an observer, doer, and so on.

Awakening refers to noticing that we are consciousness that this content of experience happens within and as. The initial noticing can be called an initial opening or awakening.

Sometimes, that’s all it is. And sometimes, the process continues.

We notice. Identification releases somewhat out of content of experience. Consciousness wakes up to itself as all there is. (To itself it’s all there is.) This noticing becomes more ordinary and continues through more and more situations in daily life. Our human life reorients and transforms within this new noticing and context.

Why are not more people interested in it?

We may not have heard about it.

We may not have been exposed to it in a way that makes it seem possible or attractive to us.

It may seem too mysterious, obscure, and distant.

It may seem like it’s for other or special people, not us.

We may not see how it’s useful.

It may seem like something we already know, intellectually.

Why are some people really into it?

We may have had a glimpse or opening and wish to continue to explore it.

We may intuit that there is something and set out to explore it.

We may be drawn in by traditions or teachers speaking about awakening.

We may seek to avoid suffering and have heard it will help.

It may happen out of the blue and stay and we keep exploring this new context for our human life.

What are some of the effects of awakening?

Mainly, our human self reorients and reorganizes within this new context.

This involves a lot of different changes and processes and lasts a lifetime.

It typically involves healing of emotional issues and hangups. Examining old beliefs, assumptions, and identities. And changing how we relate to others, ourselves, and the world in general.

How do we live within oneness? That’s the question, and the transformation of our human self can be more or less thorough within this lifetime.

What about spirituality?

Isn’t awakening about spirituality?

Yes and no. Yes, spirituality is often about awakening. And no, awakening doesn’t requite religion or traditional spirituality.

At the same time, there is a lot of practical and valuable information in spiritual and religious traditions.

Small and big interpretation of awakening

This article is mostly about the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We talk about it a way that (can!) make sense independent of whatever worldview we have.

There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we use the more familiar language of God, Spirit, the Divine, and so on.

We may say that awakening is God (Spirit, the Divine) awakening to itself locally through this human self.

Spirit temporarily and locally took itself to be an ultimately separate being (this human self), and then woke up to itself as all there is.

How can we explore it for ourselves?

Mainly, we need to find one or more approaches that make sense to us. Perhaps they feel intuitively right. Or someone we trust recommends it. Or we happen to have a local awakening-coach and join for a while.

There are some approaches that within minutes can give us a glimpse or taste of what awakening is about. The two I enjoy the most is the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments.

Is there anything I need to be aware of?

Mainly, the usual guidelines for exploring and learning anything applies here too. It helps to have the guidance of someone you trust and who has experience. Trust yourself and what feels right to you. If the approach you use has little or no effect, consider trying something else.

When I said “consciousness” earlier, it was to make it more understandable. The mind may label what we are “consciousness” but that’s just a label. That label and all our ideas about it also happen within and as what we are.

The awakening process, and the approaches we may use on the path, tend to open our heart and mind, and that can open for whatever unprocessed psychological material is in us. If that happens, it can feel confusing, scary, disorienting, and overwhelming. So it’s good to find an awakening-coach who has experience with this, can take some precautions, and knows how to help you through it.

It can help to set aside what you think you know about awakening, especially the myths and ideas from religion and traditional spirituality. Make it simple for yourself. This is about noticing what you already are. There are ways to help you notice it. And there are people who can help you with it. It’s not so different from learning or exploring anything else in life.

Is awakening important?

Yes and no. If it happens, it may be the most important (no-thing) thing in your life since it becomes the context for everything. It can also help transform your human self.

And yet, most human beings live without having a (conscious) taste of this and that’s fine. You can have a very good life without conscious noticing of what you are.

If what you mostly want is a good life, and that’s the case for most of us, another strategy may be more direct. For instance, focus on self-compassion and healing the most obvious emotional issues. Nurture nurturing and important relationships in your life. And, in general, be a good steward of your life. And there is no problem with including this in an exploration of what we are. They work very well together.

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Initial awakening phase: strong energies and lots of noticing

 

For a few years after the initial awakening (age 16 to mid-twenties), there was an experience of huge amounts of energy running through my system combined with an equal amount of insights and noticing. The essence of just about anything I write about here, and more, was first noticed and brought into awareness back then.

People sometimes talk about “downloads” as part of an awakening process. I understand why. In some ways, it feels like a download. The combination of huge energies and an enormous amount of insights can make it feel like something is downloaded. But that’s the mind’s interpretation.

It seems far more likely that there is a huge amount of noticing – and insights coming out of this noticing.

In terms of the energies running through my system, I thought of it back then as high voltage running through regular housing wires. It felt overwhelming in many ways. And it went along with seeing energies, ability to sense and heal at a distance, inspiration for art and music (I would see and hear it ready-made), and more. I also sensed my physical body – and anything physical – as space and light.

In terms of the noticing and insights, it would come so fast that I sometimes wasn’t able to write it all down. I would try to write down one or two sentences for each one throughout the day and also sometimes during the night.

Supporting the natural healing and awakening process

 

Most approaches to healing and awakening support the natural processes of healing and awakening that seem inherent to us and life.

What are some of the characteristics of the natural healing and awakening process?

For healing emotional issues, one essential is to be brutally honest about our stressful and emotional-issue creating thoughts. Is it really true? What’s the grain of truth in it? What’s more true than the initial thought? Another is to meet the feelings, allow them, perhaps befriend them, perhaps notice them as physical sensations.

For awakening, the essence is perhaps to notice that all content of experience comes and goes, and yet something doesn’t come and go. What experiences happens within and as doesn’t come and go. Perhaps that’s more what we are than any content of experience – like this human self, or any me or I?

These processes often happen organically, although it can take time and the process can get stuck for a while. That’s why some people have developed more structured ways to support these processes.

If the structured approaches are done with sincerity and under guidance of someone with experience, skills, insights, and experience in working through things on their own, then they often work. (If we try to “push” our system to conform to whatever ideas we have about healing or awakening, it can – in the worst case – create more emotional issues and stronger separation consciousness.)

In general, structural approaches to emotional healing mimic the natural processes of a mind that’s already relatively healed – and one that operates from some sincerity, clarity, insight, and experience – when it relates to and invites in healing for parts of itself.

For awakening, they mimic the processes of an already mostly awake mind to awaken less awake parts of itself.

Here are a few examples:

Emotional healing often involves a shift in how we relate to ourselves and the world. It involves coming to terms with, find peace with, and befriending different aspects of reality. Inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries) helps us see through stressful beliefs and consciously be a little more aligned with reality. Heart-centered practices like all-inclusive gratitude practices helps us reorient and befriend. Therapeutic tremoring (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises) releases tension out of the body which makes befriending a little easier. Inquiry practices (Big Mind process, Headless experiments) that gives us a glimpse of what we are also invites a shift and reorientation in how we relate to the different aspects of reality.

Emotional healing also involves finding healing for specific emotional issues, and much of what I wrote in the previous section also applies here. Emotional issues are held in place by – among other things – beliefs and identifications, and inquiry can help us see through these. Heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono) can help us shift out of the fear-based core of many emotional issues. Therapeutic tremoring helps release the tension out of the body that otherwise fuels emotional issues and stress. Noticing what we are (Big Mind, Headless experiments) can support emotional issues in resolving within this new context.

Awakening is a natural process, although one that doesn’t come to conscious fruition in most people’s lives. It’s supported by most of the traditional spiritual practices. Basic meditation (notice + allow) helps us notice what we are, and helps what we are notice itself. Heart-centered approaches helps us reorient in the way we naturally do in the context of awakening. Inquiry helps us see what’s already more true for us and align more consciously with reality. Inquiry practices like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments gives us a taste of what we are, helps what we are notice itself, and help us explore how to live from this context.

Since divine or energy healing is the approach I mostly explore these days, I’ll say a few words about it separately, and focusing on Vortex Healing which I am most familiar with:

Vortex Healing (VH) also supports the natural healing and awakening processes. Although it’s one of the approaches I have found that’s the most versatile and powerful, and I know very well it works from many experiences channeling for others and receiving, I still don’t have a clear sense of exactly how it works apart from the basics. It uses divine energy and consciousness to invite the body and mind to heal, and to remove energetic structures that allows the divine to temporarily and locally take itself to be separate – and this opens for awakening.

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The radical and the middle ground in our healing and awakening process

 

The awakening and healing path is – in my experience – both radical and a middle ground.

It’s radical in that to be thorough…. Our exploration needs to be independent of – and sometimes go against – old patterns and social norms and expectations. It needs to be dogged. We need to be radically honest with ourselves. And it needs to go all the way through even our most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world.

It’s a middle ground in that…. Our approach needs to be sane and grounded, flexible and undogmatic, and inclusive and wholeness oriented. In our healing, we include more and more of our parts as a human being. In the awakening, we find ourselves as that which our daily life experience happens within and as – as it is. Through both, we become thoroughly humanized and often live very ordinary lives.

Our healing and awakening process includes everything, including the radical and the very ordinary. Just like life itself.

What I write here reflects my own orientation and limited experience. I know it can look quite different for others. And that’s part of the richness of life and this particular process.

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En-light-enment

 

What does enlightenment refer to?

In spirituality, it’s often points to what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – waking up to itself. It also means waking up out of taking ourselves to be this human self.

When it’s more complete, it also means waking up out of taking ourselves as anything in particular within the content of our experience, or believing thoughts and any identifications that comes with taking thoughts as true.

Although the initial shift may happen suddenly, it’s an ongoing process in most (or all?) cases? It keeps deepening, clarifying, and become more thorough and lived.

En-light-enment as a metaphor

En-light-enment. It’s a metaphor that means light being shed on something. We see something more clearly that previously was hidden or – metaphorically – in the dark for us.

What is illuminated? As mentioned above, the essence is that what we are wakes up to itself and out of taking itself to (exclusively) be this human self or anything else within content of experience, including any thoughts or ideas.

Another thing that may be illuminated, especially if it’s more thorough, is the dynamics of the mind that creates the experience of (exclusively) being some part of the content of experience (e.g. this human self) and not the rest (e.g. the rest of the world as it appears to us).

En-light-enment in a more direct sense

There is also an en-light-enment in a more direct – and perhaps literal –sense. In an awakening, we may experience ourselves (our human self) and the rest of the world as light. It’s all revealed as what our minds may label consciousness, love, quiet bliss, and light.

Going beyond ideas of light and dark

And there is also a shift into holding all words and ideas more lightly, and seeing that reality – and the divine – includes both what our minds can label light and dark. It’s all the play of what the mind may label consciousness or the divine. All content of experience – including ideas of light and dark and what these refer to – is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. Our ideas about light and dark, in whatever form they take for us, have no final or absolute truth to them, and all of them refer to the divine and the play of the divine.

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The role of states in the awakening process

 

Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)

So what is the role of states in the awakening process?

Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.

These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)

Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.

And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.

So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.

What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)

It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.

Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.

Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.

Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.

The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.

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Accelerated awakening?

 

If we seek awakening, we can take the traditional slow and steady approach, or we can try to accelerate it or take shortcuts. The slow approach may be “safer” than the apparent shortcuts although one is not inherently better than the other. And in either case, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Ways to accelerate awakening

We can have glimpses of what we are. Sometimes, this happens spontaneously without any apparent preparation, intention, or wish. We can also invite in these glimpses as a way to give us a taste of what awakening is. Some forms of inquiry, like the Big Mind process and the Headless Experiments, can give us a glimpse in a relatively short time and usually in a grounded way without the bells and whistles, and this can also give us more time to explore the different facets and dynamics around it.

Some also use psychoactive drugs, ideally under supervision of someone familiar with how to do it. Since this can come with side-effects, depending on the drug, I can’t recommend it and haven’t been drawn to try it for myself.

These glimpses can give us a taste of awakening and what we are, they can serve as a temporary guide (although can also be a bit misleading, especially as we add ideas to it), and they can – in that sense – accelerate awakening. As we dip into tastes of awakening through inquiry, we also get more familiar with what we are and it’s easier to notice it in daily life. And some forms of inquiry, like Living Inquiries, can help remove identifications and beliefs that typically prevent us from noticing what we are.

There is also the classic slow and steady approach to awakening. Here, we spend time with spiritual practices, with others on the path, and under guidance of someone familiar with the process. We spend time in prayer, meditation, body-centered practiced, and whatever other practices are available to us, and this provides a steady and gentle nurturing to the awakening process.

This more traditional approach is often seen as safer as it provides a lot of support and preparation work for the awakening which, in theory, makes it easier to function within the awakening if or when it happens. If done right, it also gives us a lot of benefits on the way in terms of grounding, healing, support, community, and so on. Of course, this all depends on the tradition, the community, the guide, and our fit with it and the fit with where we are in the process.

There is also the transmission or shaktipat approach. This may give a temporary spiritual opening or glimpse of awakening. Adyashanti describes this happening with retreat participants when he first started holding retreats (he stopped doing it since he found it less useful). This approach may also force the process and come with serious side-effects and challenges – sometimes because it happened a little too fast, and sometimes as the energy bangs up against blocks in our system. In some cases, energy transmissions may accelerate the process in a more balanced and integrated way.

And there is personal energy work, for instance through different forms of yoga. This can be a good way to nurture awakening, especially if combined with meditation and inquiry. As with the other approaches, it’s important to have good and experienced guidance.

These are all traditional approaches to awakening. Some cultures use psychoactive plants to offer glimpses or reality or shifts into it. Some traditions – especially in Asia but also other places – use shaktipat, inquiry, and/or personal energy work. And just about all traditions emphasize the more slow and steady approach, either on its own or in combination with the other approaches.

Personally, I have experience with all of these approaches with the exception of drugs. I have been mostly drawn to inquiry and the slow and steady classic approach. When it comes to energy transmissions, I have so far found only one that seems to be effective, predictable, and balanced, and that’s the awakening path built into being a Vortex Healing student.

Accelerated awakening and spiritual crises

An awakening process comes with different forms of challenges and sometimes spiritual crises. It’s tempting to say that the more accelerated paths come with more risk although I don’t really know. Challenges and spiritual crises seem to happen no matter which approach we take and whether our approach is slow and steady or more accelerated.

What I can say is that an accelerated path may also accelerate the crises (they may happen sooner rather than later). And a more slow and steady approach may allow us to prepare – in our mind, body, and energy system – for the different phases of the awakening process, which may make it a slightly smoother ride.

Mainly, there are no guarantees and we do what we are drawn to anyway.

Our motivation in wanting to accelerate awakening

Whether we seek awakening in the more traditional, slow, and steady way, or we seek a more accelerated path or shortcuts, it’s good to look at our motivation.

Typically, some of our motivations come from a sense of neediness, lack, and wanting to avoid suffering. There is nothing inherently wrong in this type of motivation. It can give us a drive that can be helpful for a while. At the same time, this type of motivation is inherently stressful and can drive us to make compulsive choices we otherwise wouldn’t have made.

Addressing the issues behind this slightly compulsive surface motivation – often some variation of neediness or lack – can reveal a deeper layer of motivation.

It may reveal a deeper, quiet and steady motivation that comes from – somewhere – knowing what we are.

Assumptions and context

I should mention that this view on awakening and ways to accelerate the process is based on an assumption that awakening is a natural, organic, and built-in process in all of us and – in the bigger picture – all beings. Everyone is on this path. For some, it may be far in the future and for others, it may happen now.

When it happens, there is a gradual preparation and build-up to it. It follows a similar process to a seed growing into a sapling, maturing into a tree, growing flowers, the flowers turn into a fruit, the fruit matures and eventually ripes and falls off the tree. In this analogy, the flowers may be early spiritual interests and perhaps practices, and the fruit is the awakening that ripes and matures over time.

We can support the ripening through practices and embodying it as best we can. As mentioned above, there are also other ways to accelerate this process. If we wish to accelerate this natural and organic process, it may be good to ask ourselves where that wish comes from and examine it. And it’s good to be aware that trying to accelerate, or even force, the process comes with some risks.

Finally, I want to mention that the awakening process tends to spontaneously accelerate at different parts of the process. It seems to have natural cycles of apparently slow phases and accelerated phases.

The bigger picture

Awakening is a natural and organic process. It’s what we are seeking itself, finding itself, noticing itself as all there is, and learning to live from and as it through this human being in the world.

What this looks like is a process of exploration or even a play, and many have called it the play of life, existence, or the divine – Lila.

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Projections in the context of awakening

 

How do projections look in the context of awakening?

On a spiritual or awakening path, projections are important for awakening and healing in the usual way – with perhaps a couple of extra layers to them to explore.

Specific to the spiritual path may be projections onto spiritual teachers, teachings, and concepts related to awakening. The process of projecting itself is the usual one. We see something out there – in teachers, teachings, awakening, etc. – that’s already in here, in us. And it’s projected in two ways. One is that the qualities and dynamics we see out there is also in here. The other is that what we see out there is an overlay of imagination from our own mind. (What we see out there may fit consensus reality and what others agree is there, or not, that doesn’t matter so much here.)

So we see something that’s in ourselves – as a potential or already here more strongly – out in the world. We get familiar with it there. In the best case, that helps us find it in ourselves and what we are. And it’s the role of spiritual teachers and teachings to help us recognize what’s happening and find it in ourselves. (Of course, they don’t always do it for whatever reason – they may not recognize what’s happening or they have a vested interest in not helping students recognize and find in themselves what they project out.)

Layers of the projections

There are different aspects and layers of the projections.

We have what most people think of when they hear the word. We can call these “blind” projections. We see something in the world – in other people, situations, anything at all – that’s in ourselves, but we are mostly or only aware of it out there. These projections are mostly of qualities, characteristics, and dynamics. And the reason they are “blind” – that we only see it in others and not in ourselves, at least in the moment – has to do with emotional issues, beliefs, and identifications.

Then we have more conscious projections. We see something out in the world and are aware of it also in ourselves. This awareness can be a general awareness or more finely grained. We can always find more examples of what we see out there also in ourselves – in our own thoughts, actions, and how we live our life.

We can also be aware of the more basic dynamics and elements of the projections. We can notice the overlay of thought – of mental images and words – our mind puts on the world. With some experience, we can notice it as it happens. This helps us to recognize the projections, and it also helps us hold our mental overlay more lightly. (And not automatically assume it’s “true”.)

There is yet another layer. Projections – blind, conscious, and the mental overlay – happen within and as what we are. They are part of the creativity of the mind. If we are so inclined, we can even say it’s part of Lila, the play of life, the Universe, and the divine.

In general, projections can be a temporary apparent hindrance – or detour or distraction or pitfall – if they are blind. And they can be a great support for awakening and healing if we work with them more consciously and with some skills and sincerity. It’s helpful before awakening and within awakening.

Examples

This is all distilled and abstract so I’ll go into a few more details and give some examples.

A regular blind projection happens anytime I see something in someone else that I don’t acknowledge in myself. It’s often accompanied by emotional charge, defensiveness, righteousness, blame, and so on. And it can also be accompanied by admiration, longing, and a wish to have what we project it out onto in our life. Whether it’s one or the other or a mix depends on how our mind judges what we project.

Trump is an example for me. For a while after he was elected, my mind dehumanized him. I saw him as a liar, bigot, con man, and so on, and I felt upset and angry that people could elect someone like him. I was aware that this was a projection but I hadn’t taken the time to explore it as a projection. It functioned more like a “blind” projection, at least at an emotional level.

As I took time to explore it more, I could find the qualities I saw in him also in myself. I could – and can – find it in how I see him and his followers. (I am bigoted, a liar, a con man, etc. in how I see him and his followers, especially when I don’t acknowledge I have those qualities too.) And I can find examples in my life when I have done all of those things. I may not have done it in exactly the same way he does it, or to the same extent, but I can find examples – even if some are smaller and apparently more “innocent”.

Going through this process, I am more at peace with Trump and his followers. I see myself in them. We are in the same boat, in that sense. I don’t agree with most of his policies. I still think he operates mostly as a con man. I still see many of his followers as ill-informed and acting on misinformation. If I was in a position where it was reasonable for me to actively speak up about it and promote other solutions, I would do that. (Right now, I live in Europe and my energy goes to finding healing for myself.) And yet, the emotional charge around it for me is much less. I have more empathy and understanding. I am seeing the situation less as us vs. them and more as a larger us.

I have also experienced the other form of blind projections many times in my life. I admire and am fascinated by a woman (usually a partner). I see some people as awake – or perhaps unusually mature, insightful, and kind – and admire them and wish the same for myself. And so on. Again, it’s a process of allowing the projection, notice it, and find the qualities and characteristics I see in the other also in myself. Phrasing the projection and finding specific examples help a lot.

Conscious projections also happen all the time. I see someone as kind, and find it in myself. I see beautiful nature, and find that in myself. I see (imagine) the boundless nature of outer space and find that as what I am.

There is some fluidity between blind and conscious projections. It’s rare a projection is completely blind. And in daily life, we are often aware of a quality more in others or more in ourselves, depending on where our attention is. Bringing awareness to projections, and finding in ourselves what we see out in the world, is also an ongoing process. We can always find more examples. We can always expand our conscious identity to include more.

How do we get more aware of the basic dynamics and elements of projections? Working with projections in a conventional way brings some awareness into this. And we can also explore it more explicitly through some forms of inquiry, like traditional Buddhist inquiry or their modern versions. We typically need to explore this over and over – and bring it into daily life – before this noticing becomes a habit and second nature.

If I used Living Inquiries to explore how I see Trump (which I haven’t, at least not as a longer and formal inquiry), I would probably find some clues to why my relationship to him is charged (emotional issues) and how my mind creates its experience of him in general. I may find how my mind creates an image of Trump and this image is associated with sensations (tension) in my body. I may find that my mind has a lot of associations with this image and the connected sensations, going back to specific (traumatic) situations in my life and childhood. I may find how my mind creates beliefs and identifications in order to protect itself against him, people like him, and what he stands for. And so on. I get to see the emotional component and how it connects to my own experiences. I get to see how my mind creates blind projections in order to protect itself. I get to see how beliefs and identities are part of this projection. I get to meet and get to know the fears behind all of it.

When it comes to noticing how all of this happens within and as what I am, there are some modern forms of inquiry that can give us a taste. Big Mind process and Headless experiments may be most direct, and Living Inquiries gives us a taste through most regular inquiries into more emotional issues.

As usual, each of these points can be elaborated almost endlessly so I have given just give a few pointers here based on my own experience.

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Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have

 

Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have.

It’s a bit facetious but there is some truth to it.

The problem awakening solves is misidentification. We take ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being) and don’t notice what we are and always have been. When we set out on a spiritual path, we may think that our problem is suffering and we imagine that awakening allows us to still take ourselves to be this separate being, only now free of suffering. In reality, the awakening solves the misidentification problem and not the problems we imagine we have.

Is it true we didn’t know we had the misidentification problem? Perhaps in a literal sense. But many of us on a spiritual path know something is off even if we don’t consciously know exactly what it is.

And while it is true that awakening in itself doesn’t solve our regular human problems, it does provide some support – and a new context – for solving these problems. Mainly, it helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves and the world (befriend). And it helps us invite in healing for our wounds and traumas. Most if not all of our suffering is created from struggling with ourselves and the world, and from unhealed wounds, hangups, and traumas in ourselves.

How does awakening support healing? The awakening process can bring up unhealed issues in us so they can be seen, examined, befriended, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking that form). It can also help us meet the issues since we know it’s all happening within and as what we are. And it helps us invite these parts of us to shift out of their painful separation consciousness and into more close alignment with reality (Oneness).

Awakening can make it a bit easier, but working with core emotional issues and trauma is always challenging and require skills, patience, sincerity, and recognizing that the emotional issues and trauma are here to protect us (the mind creates them in order to protect us), and they are – as anything else – expressions of what we are or the divine.

Typical aspects and phases of the awakening process

 

What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?

I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.

The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.

Relationship with the divine

Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.

Divine as other

The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.

It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.

There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.

There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.

In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.

When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.

What we are noticing itself

Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.

What we are living more consciously from and as itself

Stability

I hinted about this in the previous segment.

In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.

Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.

The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.

At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.

Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.

Global to local

An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.

After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.

In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.

Maturing in the awakening

There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.

One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.

During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.

Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.

Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.

As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.

An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.

We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!

Embodiment

Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.

Challenges

An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.

Challenges, crises, and dark nights

Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.

We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)

Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)

As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.

Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)

Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.

These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.

Pitfalls

There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.

Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)

Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)

Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)

Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)

Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)

Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)

These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.

These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.

How we view the process

Ongoing process

As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.

If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.

Small or big interpretation

As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.

In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.

The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.

Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.

Notes

I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.

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How it works: Awakening

 

I know the title is a little presumptuous! Although it’s also good to demystify awakening to the extent it’s possible.

First, what is awakening?

It’s what we are noticing itself.

What we are is what our experience happens within and as. (We can put may labels on it, like consciousness or awakeness, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)

Usually, what we are does not notice itself. Our mind takes itself to be something within the content of its experience, and that something is generally this human self. How that happens can be described from different angles. At one level, it happens when the mind takes any story as true and identifies with the viewpoint of the story. That shifts our experience of being what we are and into something that happens within the content of our experience. We experience ourselves as an object in the world and a particular viewpoint. What this is shifts with the story our mind happens to engage with at the moment. And, as a general container, we take ourselves to be this human self. That’s not wrong, but it’s just a small part of what we are.

What’s the process of awakening?

What we are can notice itself in glimpses. More or less clearly. Out of the blue or from intentional exploration. And it can also notice itself more stably through different states and situations in daily life.

For most of us, what we are comes into the foreground in daily life without us really noticing. It can happen through flow experiences, or any time we “forget” or “lose” ourselves in what’s happening. Why don’t we notice? Perhaps because it’s so ordinary. Or not so strong. Or that we think we know what we are – this human self – and this is not that.

It can happen out of the blue without any obvious precursor. And it can also happen gradually or more suddenly as a(n apparent) consequence of intentional exploration. I’ll say more about this below.

Initially, what we are may more easily notice itself in certain situations (which is where the intentional exploration comes in). And over time, it can notice itself through changing states and also in more and more situations in daily life. It can clarify and become more stable, and this process of living from it in more situations in daily life is called embodiment.

Also initially, we may still take ourselves to fundamentally be a separate being although one that’s ONE with everything. This tends to clarify and we realize that we were never this apparently separate being. What we are just started noticing itself more clearly. In a popular phrase: it woke up of the dream of being a separate being.

What we are noticing itself is often a bit fluid and changing throughout the day. It can be more or less in the foreground and more or less obvious or clear. It’s often a gentle context for our daily life. After a while, it becomes ordinary while also somewhat extraordinary.

As a human being, we are much the same even when what we are notices itself. It doesn’t magically and all of a sudden transform us. (Although that can happen.) This means we tend to have the same emotional issues, hangups, and traumas before and within awakening.

When these emotional issues are triggered, it tends to hijack our attention and we temporarily take ourselves to be separate. What we are noticing itself goes into the background and is overshadowed by our old patterns. This is why healing of emotional issues is vital for embodiment, for living more from what we are in more daily life situations.

What’s the consequence of awakening?

The only certain one is that the context of our life changes. What we are notices itself and our human life happens within that. Our human life, in itself, doesn’t have to change that much.

In practice, our human life does tend to change. We tend to live more from the experience of oneness, which means a little more open mind and heart and from a bit more compassion and empathy and concern for the far-reaching and long-term consequences of our actions.

It also seems that awakening often starts a process of healing emotional issues. These may come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and more consciously included in the oneness. One way to talk about this is that the initial awakening is a global awakening, and this healing process allows more parts of us – the ones still stuck in painful separation consciousness – to awaken and align with the global awakening. As mentioned above, this is also vital for the embodiment process.

How can we understand awakening?

In my mind, there are two ways of understanding or interpreting awakening.

In the small or psychological interpretation, we can say that in our own experience, we are consciousness, and this is what wakes up to itself. Whether there is an actual human being here or an actual physical world, or whether we fundamentally are separate or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is what we are in our own immediate experience and the pragmatics of this noticing itself and what it does for our life.

In the big or spiritual interpretation, what we are is the same as what all of existence is. All is One, or Spirit, or God, or the Divine, or Brahman, or Big Mind, or Allah. The label is not important.

The small interpretation is helpful because it can make this more approachable for people within a more conventional mindset or setting. The big interpretation is perhaps more inspiring. And both seem to fit (most of!) the data of awakening equally well.

Why are there so many myths about awakening?

There are many myths about awakening: It’s reserved for special people. It’s something unusual. It’s something very different from our ordinary experience. It will solve all our problems. We become a saint. There is something we can call a final or full awakening.

I don’t know why there are so many myths about it. I suspect it’s because it used to be the domain of certain spiritual traditions and they partly obscured it based on misunderstandings and partly had vested interests in making it appear special.

Why is it important?

It’s not for most people and that’s OK. For some of us, it’s important because it’s part of human experience. It says something about who and what we are. It does help us live in a way that’s more conscious of the whole which can help society, humanity, and the Earth.

What are some methods for inviting what we are to notice itself?

These are the traditional spiritual practices and the newer variations on these.

It can help to know the words and the theory, but this is just a starting point and initial pointer. The words are, in themselves, not important.

Training a more stable attention supports this exploration – and anything we do in life – so it’s more than worthwhile to include in our daily life. Even just a few minutes makes a difference.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow. Notice what happens in the sense fields. Allow it all to be as is. This tends to shift identification out of the observed (content of experience) and it makes it easier for what we are to notice itself. (Initially, we may take ourselves to be the observer, and then notice that this too happens within the content of experience.)

Inquiry is a great support. We can get a glimpse of what we are through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, and also Living Inquiries. Through The Work, we may – over time – find how our thoughts are not true which allows space for what we are to notice itself. And through Living Inquiries, we explore how the mind creates its own experience – including taking itself to be a separate being, this body, the observer, consciousness, etc. This too tends to allow space for what we are to notice itself.

Guidelines for behavior is important to reduce drama and distractions in our life, and they tend to (roughly!) mimic how we naturally live when what we are notices itself and this is more embodied.

Prayer – at least the contemplative and heartfelt variety – helps shift our identification out of the content of our experience, it shifts our attention to a much larger whole, and it creates space for what we are to notice itself.

Heart-centered practices help us reorient. They help us shift from an us-vs-them orientation to befriending the world and our own experience. Again, this creates space for what we are to notice itself, and it mimics how we naturally live when what we are notices itself through daily life.

Body-centered practices can help us train more stable attention. It can also give us an experience of our body-mind wholeness which makes it easier for what we are to notice itself.

Some forms of energy work can also support awakening. I am most familiar with the awakening process supported when we go through the higher levels of Vortex Healing training.

As mentioned above, inviting in healing for emotional issues makes it easier to live from the noticing in more situations in daily life. It supports embodiment.

Note: Apologies for this slightly disorganized article. I chose to write this without outlining or editing too much, not because that’s better but because I felt a little overwhelmed by the thought of organizing and editing it!

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Not knowing which part of the field I am

 

Right now, as I am sitting here, I see two arms and hands, the screen on a phone, a table, a cup, flowers, a lake, and a few other things. And I notice a low-grade effort telling me that, for practical purposes, “I” am this body sitting here writing on the phone. (I am not all the other things in the sense fields.) It’s something that’s added to what’s happening and it helps me function in the world.

At times, this effort is even more obvious. For instance earlier today, there was a moment where “I” didn’t know which part of the sender fields I was supposed to be. The bucket of water? The cup? The arms moving? It lasted only a fraction of a second, but I could clearly see the mind working to place a pragmatic sense of I or me on something in the sense fields.

This is a common experience for me. There are things in my sense fields, it all happens within and as consciousness, and often there is no need to put the I or me labels on anything. It’s all just happening and functioning on its own.

“I” can pay attention to what this happens within and as, and notice that this never goes away. In that sense, it seems to be what “I” am. And for practical purposes, “I” sometimes places the I or me on this body and the one others see me as. In both cases. It’s clear that the I or me is just a label put on top of what’s here, in all the sense fields, which is living its own life.

I assume this is common in an awakening process. The mind has to work actively, for all of us, to create and assign and remember the I and me labels. And when there is more awakeness here, that process may become more transparent and visible. And sometimes, “we” notice the mind scrambling for å fraction of a second to assign the labels.

What is cosmic consciousness?

 

What does cosmic consciousness refer to?

I don’t really know. I assume people use it to mean slightly different things, and perhaps some use it without having a good sense of what it refers to.

When I was sixteen, what I am (and what everyone and everything is) woke up to itself locally and through this human being. It wasn’t as thorough as it can be, and certainly not as embodied as it can be. But it was a start, or at least a kind of milestone in the process.

The way it happened could be called cosmic consciousness. There was a very clear and strong sense – or realization – of the whole universe being one. It was the one waking up to itself as all of it. There was a very strong cosmic sense or flavor to it.

There was no omni-anything. No omniscience. No omnipresence. Just the one waking up to itself as it all, locally, through and as this human self, with the same sensory input and the same thoughts and conventional information as before.

Later, and after several more shifts and movements, this oneness became much more simple, quiet, and ordinary. There is still oneness but without the fireworks and the bells and whistles.

I am wondering if what we sometimes call cosmic consciousness refers to this early form of awakening, the one with fireworks and bells and whistles. The one that hasn’t yet settled and become more ordinary and unremarkable. (Although it is also completely remarkable.)

What were some of the bells and whistles in my case? Mainly, the intensity of it. It was very intense, and the cosmic feeling was very strong and in the forefront. There was also an experience of very strong energies going through my body. (I remember describing it as high voltage going through regular housing wires.) I could see energies around people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. (The “inanimate” objects were also revealed as the divine or consciousness so not really inanimate.) And I also discovered I could do (sometimes surprisingly effective) distance or energy healing.

There was also an experience of a constant “download” of insights and information, mostly of the perennial philosophy and psychology variety, but also art. I had little to no exposure to spirituality or what I later understood was called the perennial philosophy back then. And I was passionate about drawing and painting at the time.

These are what Adyashanti calls side-effects of awakening. They vary a bit from person to person, and some experience them more than others. They are not really important in themselves.

It’s natural for the mind to be fascinated by them, but that eventually — and sometimes with a bit of struggle – wears out.

What I exclude from oneness

 

I may generally notice and realize that all is the divine, and yet I sometimes exclude something from it.

That points to an unresolved issue in me, something in me that I can invite in healing and awakening for.

Not surprisingly, when it happens, it’s sometimes more visible to others than it is to myself. It sometimes takes someone to point it out to me before I take it seriously. (And I may, at first, feel a bit defensive when it’s pointed out to me. Although I secretly know it’s true and I am grateful.)

I exclude something from oneness in my view and in my behavior. I perceive or act as if something or someone is not part of oneness. As if it’s somehow excluded from the divine.

It’s very natural, it’s very ordinary, and it’s probably a part of any awakening process.

It reminds me to keep going with the awakening, healing, and embodiment. It’s a reminder to include more and more parts of me in the awakening and healing.

How does it look? Here are some examples:

I see someone inn the world my conditioning doesn’t like, reject and condemn them, and “forget” that this person is also an expression of the divine. (When I recognize the oneness also here, I can still condemn an behavior and take appropriate steps to prevent the person from harming others. But I don’t need to condemn or reject the person, and I don’t need to forget that this person too is the divine.)

I reject something in myself. I avoid feeling it. I may not (like to) acknowledge it’s here. I see it as a problem. I may ignore it or try to get rid of it. I ignore my knowing that this too is the divine, and (mostl likely) do so to avoid pain.

I made a bad decision at a crossroads in life. I even went against my clear inner guidance. And I tell myself I went against what life or the divine wanted me to do. I am caught in regret and self-blame. And I am unable to see that this too was and is the divine. That this too was, in a sense, divine will. I may also overlook that this experience can helps me to go deeper – in healing, humanizing, maturing, awakening, and embodiment.

When I remind myself that “this too is the divine”, notice it, and allow it to sink in, it’s the context that changes. And this shift allows me to relate to it differently. Often with less reactivity and with a little more sanity and kindness.

Recognizing these people, parts of me, and situations as the divine doesn’t rule out sane and decisive action. On the contrary, it helps me be more clear and grounded in how I relate to it and in my actions.

Awakening and experiencing the world as insubstantial

 

This is a common experience in the awakening process:

The world seems insubstantial. And this human self, that we perhaps previously took ourselves to exclusively be, seems insubstantial along with it.

It’s completely natural. It’s part of the process. It’s part of what we are waking up to itself. 

Here is my experience with it and some ways of looking at it.

The world seems insubstantial. All matter seems insubstantial as if I could put my hand through it. It’s as if it’s in a dream.

Why is it that way? Because it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as consciousness.

In a spiritual interpretation, I can say it’s all Spirit, it’s all the divine. In a smaller or psychological interpretation, I could say it’s all consciousness to me since I am – even if there is a separate being here – consciousness. To me, I am the consciousness it’s all happening within and as.

Why am I writing about this? Mostly to reassure others who may be on a spiritual path (with or without knowing it), experience this for themselves, and perhaps feel disturbed by it.

It’s normal. Nothing is wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s a part of waking up to reality, and reality waking up to itself.

For me, this shift happened when I was fifteen and found myself shifted into or as the “observer”. I found myself as what observes the world, including this human self. At the time, it was disturbing and I thought something was wrong. (It happened after the onset of CFS although I didn’t know about CFS either at the time.) A year later, this opened up into a more full-blown opening or early awakening. Here, everything without exception was revealed as the divine. Any sense of being a separate being was revealed as the divine temporarily and locally experiencing itself that way, as part of the play of the divine. The world still seemed insubstantial but it wasn’t disturbing anymore. And it’s still that way.

This experience of the world as insubstantial can happen spontaneously and out of the blue (as it did for me), it can happen from certain drugs or plants (I don’t recommend it), and it can (seem to) happen from spiritual practice. It can also happen suddenly (as in my case) or more gradually over time.

The easiest way of having a direct experience of it may be through inquiry, for instance, Living Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or Headless experiments. The Living Inquiries gives us the most detailed look of what’s happening “behind the curtain”, and we get to see how the mind creates its own experience of a substantial material world.

I’ll say a few words about what’s going on behind the curtains:

The mind creates its experience of the world through a mental overlay on the other sense fields. And this is enhanced when mental images and words are associated with sensations in the body. The sensations lend a sense of substance and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. When this happens “behind the curtain”, it all seems real, solid, and self-evidently so. When we take a closer look, it all starts to appear more as it is – and this includes experiencing the world, as it appears to us, as insubstantial. As consciousness. As awakeness.

For it to sink in, we typically need to discover it for ourselves, over and over again.

So, does this mean that nothing is “real”? Not really. In a sense, the world is real as it appears to us conventionally (with individuals, food to eat, bills to pay, people to treat with respect and so on), and the sane and kind approach is to live and function as if it’s real.

On the other hand, the word does appear a certain way to us because of this mental overlay, and we do well to investigate this overlay and how it creates a certain world for us.

When we see through it, it doesn’t mean that the conventional world goes away. We still operate and function within it. We just hold it all more lightly. We (more) know what we are.

In the words of a man who (possibly) lived a long time ago:

We are in the world but not of it.

Waking up issues and more

 

I’ll write more about this in other posts, but wanted to make a quick note of it here.

When there is some degree of awakening here, this awakeness can be used to wake up other things, including emotional issues.

In my case, I connect with the awakeness (bring it to awareness), I connect with the lack of awakeness in the emotional issue, and I intend for the emotional issue to wake up. To wake up from its painful dream (the reason it’s an emotional issue is that it still lives in separation consciousness) and to reality (all as the divine and One).

When we wake up emotional issues in this way, it’s deeply healing, and it also helps us to live our awakeness in more areas and situations in life (embodiment). Instead of certain situations triggering the emotional issue, there is now more space to live from awakeness.

We can also wake up parts of the physical body or objects in the same way. The divine becomes more awake to itself as and through these objects.

This is the direct way to wake up issues and other things. And there are also other ways, including through a whole range of healing modalities such as Vortex Healing (after Core Veil is gone), the Big Mind process (shifting into Big Mind/Heart, holding a part of us still not awake, and invite it to wake up and align with reality), and different other forms of inquiry (Living Inquiry, The Work, headless experiments etc.)

A few additional notes:

How, more specifically, do I go about waking up issues? In my case, I notice the awakeness of all of existence – as it appears to me and as it stretches out indefinitely. (Some connect to the awakening in their spiritual heart, a little above the physical heart.) I then bring attention to the emotional issue – where I notice a physical contraction (there is a bodily contraction with every emotional issue), and I get a sense of the (stressful, separation-consciousness created) stories connected with it. Then, I intend for the issue to wake up – for the awakeness that’s already here to infuse the issue so it can wake up to itself as the divine. (And also, so “I” can recognize it more clearly as the divine, temporarily confused, temporarily pretending to believe in stressful stories, temporarily creating a “hook” for identification and so on.) And I stay with it until I notice the shift, and a bit longer so it can deepen and settle.

There can be a “general” and “global” awakening, and yet when we have emotional issues, as we all (?) do, these parts of us still remain in separation consciousness. They were formed from separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And life “wants” these to awaken, so it’s common that at some point after the general awakening, these confused and unawake parts surface so they can join in the awakening. To the extent we struggle with it and don’t know how to deal with it in a constructive way, it can be distressing and painful, and yet it’s an essential part of awakening and embodiment. And most of us learn, over time, how to better and more consciously dance this dance.

As I sometimes do, I have written this in a more ordinary language. It’s more accurate to say that it’s the divine waking itself up. The divine is (somewhat) awake to itself here, and uses that awakeness to wake up other parts of itself (emotional issues, parts of the body, objects in the world).

I should also add that the dynamic behind waking up issues is also why it can help to be in the presence of someone awake. That local awakeness helps the divine nearby (in the form of other people) to ripen and eventually wake up to itself.

And I want to add a few words about why I am writing about this now. I have naturally done this since the initial awakening in my teens, but it has sometimes taken a back seat since many people recommend and speak about other approaches to healing and embodiment. I have re-found courage to use this more direct approach since it’s used (in a slightly different form) in Vortex Healing, and since new people in my life have spoken about it and use it themselves. Another reason is that I overcooked myself a few months ago from giving myself and receiving a lot of energy healing, and I am unable to do much conventional energy healing right now (Vortex Healing). So what’s left is this more direct approach of awakening the issues. It doesn’t tax or strain my system nearly as much.

Awakening the issues can be very helpful and can create a big transformation. It doesn’t necessarily remove the issue, but it becomes lighter and has less charge, and since it’s more awake to itself as the divine it’s easier to relate to it more intentionally and in a healthier way. And any other healing or inquiry approach can be very helpful in conjunction with waking up the issue.

I assume when we wake up issues in this way, they wake up to the extent the “global” consciousness is awake. At the very least, we can wake up issues to the truth that the person is currently aware of and experiencing.

Awakening = befriending life

 

What is awakening about? There are many ways to answer that question, and one way is to say it’s about befriending life.

Befriending life can be as simple (and difficult!) as befriending our experience as it is in immediacy. And especially the experiences that my human self doesn’t like and tend to recoil from. How is it to befriend it? What happens? What fears does it bring up in me? How does it feel to befriend it, or to make small steps towards befriending it?

We can also befriend parts of us (subpersonalities), for instance through dialogue. We listen to what it wants to tell us. Get to know it. Relate to it as a good friend, as much as we can. That, and other forms of inquiry, helps us befriend our experience.

Befriending life in this way is an aspect of awakening, and it can prepare the ground for awakening, but in itself it’s not really awakening.

Awakening is when what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices itself. It’s when the divine recognizes all – including that which our personality likes the least – as itself. This can happen all at once, but usually happens more gradually and in steps.

For instance, the divine may take itself to be a separate self while it intuitively senses what it is or experiences it in glimpses. And then it gradually recognizes that it is the divine recognizing itself as all there is. The “center of gravity” of what it takes itself to be shifts from a separate being and more into the wholeness of what it is. As part of this, it may also find itself as capacity for all there is. And it may keep on discovering and experiencing new aspects of itself.

We can say that this too is befriending life. It’s life befriending itself as all there is. It’s life noticing itself as life. It’s life shifting its identification from taking itself as a part of itself (this human self) and into itself as a whole, and as that which content of experience happens within and as.

There are also other sides to awakening. For instance, allowing our human self (psyche, subpersonalities) to heal and align within this “new” context of all as the divine. To live from what we are noticing itself, and explore and discover how to live from it. To mature within it. All of that is also life befriending itself.

So in all of these ways, we can say that awakening is life – or reality, or the divine, or the One – befriending itself.

See Why befriending life? for more on this topic, including why (perhaps) we life in a universe where this befriending isn’t the default for us.

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Interpreting ordinary human experiences as part of awakening process

 

Seems that constantly being challenged is part of the awakening process

Someone commenting in a Facebook group

Yes, and it’s also how humans in general experience life. It’s universal. It’s part of life.

It’s tempting to interpret anything as being part of my awakening process. It makes it feel more significant and special. It gives it an extra spark.

And yet, so often, what happens in our life is just ordinarily human. We get sick as all do. We have challenges as we all do. We experience synchronicities, as all humans do now and then.

It’s helpful to be honest about this. What happens in our life is mostly ordinarily human. Even the awakening process and everything part of it is ordinary and universal. It happens to a lot and – most likely – eventually all beings, and the content of process itself is quite universal.

There is an upside to seeing anything happening in our life as part of an awakening process. It may help us make use of it in a more constructive way and see it in a more constructive context.

There is also a downside to it. If we see it in contrast to how most people live their life, we use a story to make our own life seem more special and different. In our mind, we may set us aside from others while we, in reality, are not so different. And we may do it avoid feeling and encountering certain feelings and thoughts in ourselves. That’s OK for a while, but at some point it’s easier and more helpful to meet and befriend it, and recognize that too – the uncomfortable feelings and thoughts – as local expressions of the divine. It’s all happening within the One.

As the awakening process matures and becomes more ordinary, it’s all recognized as the divine. And it’s all recognized as a miracle and ordinary.

It’s a miracle that anything exists at all, and all the amazing ways it exists. It’s ordinary in that it’s all the divine. And it’s ordinary in that all our experiences are ordinarily human, and ordinary parts of an awakening process.

The miracle gives it all a spark. The ordinariness allows us to relax trying to be different, special, and better or worse than others.

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