Unraveling knots: processing at all levels of our being


Whenever there is a realization, there is also the invitation of allowing it to be processed at all levels of our being: physical body, energies, emotions, cognitive and soul, or at each of the chakras, or at all the levels or whatever other model we use.

This is true when it comes to the unraveling of any of our knots and hangups, whether at our human level or in the awakening to realized selflessness. (The two are not that different, just two aspects of the same process.)

There is a belief in the world as a dangerous place, and our whole being organizes around that belief – at all levels. This knot can be unraveled starting at any level, and allowing each of the other levels to be included as well.

In The Work, we use the cognitive level as a starting point, inviting all the other ones to join through sitting with whatever insights come up, allowing them to penetrate, allowing our being to steep in them. In Breema, we use the body as a starting point, allowing our whole being to participate. In diksha, the energy body is the starting point, allowing each of the other levels of our being to reorganize.

There is the core belief in the idea of I, and our whole being organizes around it. Our whole being reflects this belief, as it does with any other belief. It is organized as if it is true, to the extent it is able to.

And as with any other knot, the starting point for unraveling it can be at any level: It can be cognitive, as in the many forms of self-inquiry. It can be the body, as in Breema. It can be energetically, as in diksha. And from there, all the other levels of our being can be invited to reorganize as well. What starts in one place seeps through our whole being, inviting it to reorganize.


I see how this played itself out in the initial awakening in my teens. Spirit awakened to itself as Ground, seeing and seen, as everything and everyone. Spirit awakened to itself as beyond and including any and all polarities.

Yet, at the emotional level (and maybe energetic and physical levels) of this human self, the previous organization – coming from a sense of separation – remained to some extent. The emotional level behaved as if there was indeed separation and something to fear.

There was certainly some healing and reorganizing of these emotional patterns, but the old patterns – organized around the knot of separation and fear – were ingrained, and I didn’t quite know how to work with it effectively, so they did not reorganize and heal completely.

The clear realization at the levels of Spirit, soul/heart, and cognition did not completely extend into the emotional. There was a pocket there at the emotional level where the realization of all as Spirit did not reach.

So although there was a very clear realization of all as Spirit – including others and any emotion – the emotions of fear still came up in social situations.

How to

It is OK, of course, but for the human self to be a more effective and clear vehicle for Spirit, all levels need to reorganize, heal and mature.

It is a process, and one that can be helped along with some conscious work.

In of the ways to do this through the versatile Big Mind process where any of the voices can explore their relationship with each other and Big Mind/Big Heart, and can be explored from Big Mind/Big Heart. This allows them to reorganize to this new context of realized selflessness (even before it is fully realized!) .

Seeking and nonseeking


Adyashanti likes to talk about what happens when wanting falls away: We want something, get it, and experience the fullness and contentment that is there when the wanting goes into the background for a while.

Of course, his point is that the absence of wanting is what gives this sense of fullness and contentment, not getting what we (think we) want. What we think we want may be an object, but what we really want is to experience the fullness and contentment always here, and coming into the foreground when the wanting is in the background.

What do I really want?

One way to explore what we really want behind our surface wants is to make a list, and then for each want ask what do I hope to get out of this? And then the same question, until we arrive at something that is not reducible to something else.

A simple sequence may look something like this: I want money >> security, safety, freedom >> happiness, freedom from suffering, freedom from and not victim of circumstances.

Is it true it is not already here?

Having found this, we can ask ourselves is it true that what I seek is not already here?

Happiness: yes, I can find that right here. When there is a simple quiet being with whatever is experienced, there is a quiet happiness and bliss here, independent of whatever else is experienced. Freedom from suffering: yes, I can find that too here. There is something here always free from suffering and any other content. Something not touched by content. A wakefulness, clarity, capacity for everything to arise within. Seeing free from any of the particulars of the seen. Freedom from circumstances: yes, that too is right here, in the same stainless wakefulness and seeing.

Big Mind process

Through the Big Mind process, we discover the same but with more differentiation.

We see how seeking mind is immensely useful in many ways, including on a purely practical human everyday level. Yet, if seeking mind is typically in the foreground, there will be a chronic sense of dissatisfaction. There is always something to seek that is just around the corner, just over the next hill, just into the future or over there.

When nonseeking mind comes into the foreground, there is a sense of fullness, quiet, contentment. Here, we notice that what we seek is already here.

They both have their functions: Seeking mind on a practical relative level, and nonseeking mind as a reminder of the absolute.

In the relative, there may indeed be lack and something to gain. In the absolute, there is nothing missing. Both are needed.

The coin of ignorance: exploring both sides


In Buddhism, they talk about three (greed, anger, ignorance) or five (greed, anger, pride, envy, ignorance) poisons, or roots of suffering.

All of these can be collapsed into one: ignorance.

One side of the coin: ignorance of what we already are

And this ignorance can generally be seen as ignorance of what we really are, as Big Mind, Spirit, emptiness and form, Headless, absent of any I.

Other side of the coin: ignorance of the mechanisms of samsara

At the other side of the coin, this ignorance can be seen as ignorance of the mechanisms of Samsara. What, specifically, is it that happens when there is a mistaken identification. When Big Mind suddenly takes itself to be only a fragment of itself, as a part of the seen or as the seeing itself.

What is it that is really happening, and how can I explore that, over and over, in my own experience, so there is a gradually deepening familiarity with this process, eventually leading to a natural release from it.

Exploring the coin

There are many ways to explore either or both sides of this coin.

The Work: exploring both sides of the coin

Through The Work, we explore – in quite some detail, one way of looking at the mechanisms of samsara. What happens when there is a belief in a thought, when an abstraction is taken as truth itself? What are the consequences of this, in the many areas of my life? How does it unfold?

Towards the end of the inquiry, in question four and the turnarounds, we get to see who or what we are without this belief.

By doing this, over and over, on whatever beliefs remain and come up, we learn not only about the mechanisms of samsara but also what we are without beliefs. Gradually, there is more and more of a taste of and emerging into Big Mind.

Other approaches

The Big Mind process is another way to explore both sides of the coin, to almost infinite detail.

Headless experiments may not guide us through the terrain in the same detail as The Work and the Big Mind process, but they certainly set the stage for it by allowing us a taste of what we really are. From here, we are free to explore on our own, in as much detail as we want.

Headless Way


There has been some interesting comments and messages after I helped post the Headless experiment videos at YouTube.

Different responses: hooked, not hooked, and upset

As with so much else, some get it right away and are hooked (like me). Others get it and move on to something else. Some are interested, but don’t quite get it. And others again don’t get it and are upset that somebody can be so stupid. (The second and third seem to be quite common when I show the videos to people, and I got the third response from someone through YouTube.)

It seems that people who have some experience with what the headless experiments point to are more likely to get it. And why some who get it are hooked and others not must have to do with how we are individually put together, it is our unique flavor that shines through.

Here is one way to talk about the headless experiments…

Conventional view

There is of course a head here, attached to this body. And as long as the center of gravity is in this human self, there will be an identification with this head. It will appear as the center, as I as opposed to the rest of the world.

Headless shifts

The headless experiments invites us to shift our center of identification out of this body, this head, and this human self. It invites us to find ourselves as what the world of form appears within.

I as awake space, capacity for the world

In the beginning, it may be helpful to see this as space, awareness, capacity for the world, and so on. I am the awake space the world of form arises within. This human self is just one small part of the tapestry of this world of form as it arises right now, and there is no more identification with this human self than with anything else. It is all just happening, living its own life. There is doing but no doer.

Headless = Big Mind, realized selflessness

And then, there may be another shift into realizing that even this seeing, this awareness, this space, has no I in it. There is no I in the seen, as this human self and the rest of the world of form, and there is no I in the seeing. It is all just happening, with no I anywhere.

This is Big Mind, already right here, even as there is a sense of I placed in the seen or the seeing. Through the headless experiments, or the Big Mind process, or other forms of inquiry, Big Mind can notice its own nature – as a seamless field of seen and seeing, absent of I anywhere.

Movie analogy

One way to talk about this is to use a movie analogy.

The content of awareness stays the same: it is the sensations, smells, tastes, sights and sounds conveyed through this human body, reflecting this human self and its surroundings.

Yet the context shifts from a sense of I, typically placed on this human self, to realized selflessness. None of this, the seeing or the seen, has any I in it.

It all becomes a field, a terrain, a tapestry, absent of any I anywhere.

And it is similar to a movie screen with characters and their surroundings, yet with no I anywhere, not as the seen up on the screen and not as the seeing of it. It is all just happening on its own.

Relative and absolute

So there is this field of emptiness and form, of capacity and world, of seeing and seen, realizing itself as absent of I anywhere. At the same time, it is somehow functionally connected with this particular human self. It is all absent of any I, yet within the world of form – and for purely practical purposes, this human self is me and the rest of the world is other. And this human self has a head, so if there is a low doorway it will bend down.

I am headless, since this I is either awake space for the world of form, or absent. But this human self very much has a head, and will take care of it as needed.

They burnt me at the stake: stories as mirrors mainly


I read a news article about a psychologist in Norway getting in hot water for using regression therapy, using stories of apparent past lives to get at what is alive right now.

According to the news article, he had told his client that she had been burnt at the stake in a past life, which would explain some of her problems in this life.

Problems with seeing the story as real

Of course, the problem here comes if the therapist and/or the client actually see these stories as somehow real, if they add another story saying that this is what really happened.

At the very least, it can be a sidetrack and distraction, taking focus away from the story as a reflection of what is very much alive right now.

The client may get weirded out in believing it is really a story about a past life, or that the therapist thinks so. This can possibly get the client in trouble, amplifying the initial problem and the apparent solidity of the stories around it. And it can also, for good reasons, get the therapist in trouble. This is apparently what happened in this case.

Any story as a mirror

Any story is a reflection of what is very much alive right now, they are mirrors. And this is independent of their apparent source: waking life, dreams, daydreaming, fantasies, active imagination, regression therapy, movies, books, religions, science.

They reflect what is alive in us right now, especially if they have a charge for us, small or big or any flavor.

And there are many ways to explore these mirrors.

Ways to using stories as a starting point for inquiry

In The Work, I identify a stressful belief triggered by the story and inquire into it. They shouldn’t have burnt me at the stake. What is the turnaround? I shouldn’t burn me at the stake. Yes, that feels more true. I am the one doing it, daily, over and over. I burn myself at the stake.

In the Big Mind process, I explore dynamics among some of the voices related to the story. I was burnt at the stake. I can explore the voice of the body, of self-preservation, the protector, vulnerability, victim, perpetrator, helplessness, impermanence, and then look at it all from some of the transcendent voices such as Big Heart and Big Mind.

In Process Work, I can unfold the process behind the initial images and story and see where it goes, following the bread crumbs back home to wholeness.

In active imagination, I interact with whatever characters are there, asking them what their role is, responding differently to the situations and see where the story goes now.

In all of these ways, the initial story becomes an access point into exploring what is alive right now, bringing it into awareness, allowing the knots to unravel.

The third eye: transcend and embrace, and how to develop it


The third eye (ajna chakra) has to do with seeing auras, seeing into the future, seeing past lives, and such. Right?

Holding polarities: transcend and embrace

Well, maybe, but more simply, it has to do with holding polarities. It is the third eye that transcends and embraces the views from the two conventional eyes.

It transcends in that it sees and holds both, yet is inherently free from and is not identified with either.

It embraces, in that it includes and is informed by the conventional views.

So how can we develop or connect with the third eye?

How to develop the third eye: Big Mind process

One way is the Big Mind process. We explore the different voices at the personal level, and see that while all of them are very useful in our human life, none of them holds any absolute truth.

More specifically, we can explore polar opposite or complementary voices. We see see that they each have an important function, they each serve our human self in a very real way. Yet, they also hold apparently opposite views of the world.

So we can move beyond these two into the voice that sees both.

This voice is inherently free from and not identified with either.

Yet it embraces both. It can freely engage with either. It can bring either forth as needed in a situation. It can draw on information from both, integrating it into a fuller picture. It is the voice that holds and engages with the polarity.

How to develop the third eye: The Work

Another way to develop these aspects of the third eye is The Work.

We take a belief in a thought. Explore the consequences of holding onto this belief. Explore who or what we would be without attaching to the thought and seeing it as inherently true. And turn it around to its many opposite versions, and explore the grain of truth in each of these.

In this way, we see that any statement – any story, idea, thought, map, model, interpretation, is inherently free from any absolute truth.

They are all relative truths.

They can be very useful as practical guidelines, for helping our human self orient and function in the world.

Yet if there is an attachment to them, if they are seen as absolutely true, if there is a belief in them, it creates no end of drama, suffering and discomfort.

Through this form of inquiry, we find the space that is free from yet embraces all of the relative truths, in this case the initial statement and all of its turnarounds.

True Meditation & Meditative Self-Inquiry


I am listening to Adyashanti’s True Meditation and Spontaneous Awakening, and find a deep appreciation for the wonderful simplicity, freshness and clarity of his teachings. I also see how the practices he talks about come from a Buddhist tradition, which is not surprising since he studied with a student of Maezumi Roshi, as I did/do as well (in my case, Genpo Roshi).

What Adyashanti describes as true meditation, just allowing anything arising to be as it is, is a description of shikantaza, or what is sometimes called just sitting. And the practice of meditative self-inquiry is similar to koan studies, and even more similar to the Big Mind process developed by Genpo Roshi.

The meditation allows awareness to notice itself as aware of content, and also as no different from its content. Said another way, it shifts the center of gravity from the content to the seeing of the content, allowing the content to live its own life.

The inquiry allows for a clearer seeing of this process, and also for a clearer seeing of what we really are. Am I the changing content? Am I that which does not change? Am I the seen? Am I the seeing? Is there a separation between the changing content and that which does not change? Am I the seeing and the seen?

Voice Dialogue :: Voice of Beliefs


In doing voice dialogue – or the Big Mind process, I notice that there is always a few different ways I can go with each voice, and also that what comes out – not surprisingly – often tends to reflect my conscious worldview. Although sometimes, there are certainly surprises and more illuminating revelations.

In this case, what came out is certainly close to my conscious view right now. And I also know that since this is my current conscious view, it is exactly where I am stuck…! But that is OK. We need some time at the current edge of our insights to familiarize ourselves with it, before it moves on.

Can I speak with the voice of beliefs?


What do you do?

I help the self navigate the world. I make things simpler for him. I help him feel more confident in his opinions and choices.

Does he appreciate that?

Sometimes. He does listen to me quite frequently.

But he also tries to get rid of me in various ways. He does not fully appreciate the ways I help him. Not that it changes much – I still do my job.

Is there anything you would like to say to him?

Yes. I would like him to look at a different way of relating to me. I am OK with taking on a somewhat different role, although I am not OK with him taking a dismissive attitude of me. I have an important function, and he needs to acknowledge that. If he tries to dismiss me, I’ll just be louder and more persistent.

You said you could take on a different role. Can you say more about that?

Well, one way I function is as a strong belief – when something appears absolutely right and wrong. I see that this can be detrimental to him, it narrows things too much down for him, it blinds him in a certain way.

Yet, I can also function more as a guideline – as a help for him to navigate in the world. In this way, I function more as just plain thoughts and ideas. He knows that each of them are just for navigation, and do not reflect any absolute truth.

I see that as the voice of beliefs, I am really made up of a combination of thoughts or ideas and attachment to these thoughts and ideas. Without the attachment, I become just plain thoughts and ideas again, and that is OK for me. I can still serve my function of helping him navigate in the world.

From Content to Context


In many practices, we use content (the world of phenomena) as a springboard into context (a sense of I or realization of selflessness). We explore content, which leads us into exploring context.

This seems to be the case for…

  • Process Work
    Typically with an emphasis of content, but within a – yet slightly fuzzy – context of selflessness (it seems that the selflessness part is more coming into focus).

  • The Big Mind Process
    This approach uses explorations of content (personal voices) to see that they are inherently without any I. And we also go directly to an exploration of selflessness (Big Mind) to familiarize ourselves with that, and have a taste of it.

  • The Work
    Byron Katie’s inquiry process is content focused (examining our beliefs, the effects of their presence and absence, and turning it around), yet brings us into a taste and then realization of selflessness. It seems that from exploring typical surface beliefs – such as she should …, I need … and so on, we move to exploring the more core beliefs – the initial stories spawning all the other stressful ones – such as I am a human being and I am.

Using content to bring us into explorations of context only makes sense. It is after all where most of us start from, what we are already familiar with, and journeys typically starts from where we are at (!)

Directly to context

Of course, we are already at the context of selflessness as well, although we don’t notice it. So some practices focus on this as well, such as Headlessness and some Dzogchen practices. Here, we just notice what is already there – the absence of any I anywhere. We notice, gradually become more familiar with it, gradually learn to trust it, gradually allow the realization to dawn.

Current Symptoms


It is tempting to go to ideas of what to work on, in for instance the Big Mind process, The Work, and Process Work. We have an idea of a “big” issue for us, and want to dive into it. And that is fine.

But it also seems that the alive symptoms are an easier gateway into what the universe invites us to explore and see. It may be a back ache, the neighbor’s dog barking, rain when we wanted to go to a picknick, a project falling through and so on. Anything in everyday life that bugs us, that shows up as a disturbance, as an unvanted Other.

Following these everyday alive symptoms, we may even find that they lead us right into the “big” issues in our life. Although in a much more alive, dynamic and easy way than going to our ideas for guidance.

When something wants to be seen, it comes up in a myriad forms in our daily life. Any one of them can serve as a portal.

Process Work, Big Mind Process, Dreams & Mirrors


During the dreamwork class at the Process Work center today, I was reminded of the many connections between PW, my own experiences and worldview, and the many other approached I am interested in – including the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s inquiry, in addition to Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, shamanism, and so on.

Process Work & Big Mind process

Arny Mindell talked about the small me and big me several times, which has a close correspondence to Big Mind and the human self in the Big Mind process. I can see how he is on the edge of radical nonduality in his views, radical selflessness, radical absence of any fixed identity, playing at the edge of it before taking the plunge.

World as a mirror

I was also reminded of how I – since my teens – have seen the world and dreams: Both are there as mirrors for myself. Every quality I see “out there” – in the world, in others, in the universe, in stories, in dreams and so on – are also “in here”. As a human being, I can find in myself everything I see out there. And as Big Mind, there is no separate “I” – there is just one field, all I.

Every situation, be it in waking life or in dreams, are there to help me see this. To first expand my conscious identity, and then see how any identity is limited, limiting and just a belief in an abstraction. Every situation is here, inviting me to realize what already is – the absence of any separate I.

As my identity expands, my repertoire expands as well and I become more fluid in my life. But it is still limited, there is still a belief in abstractions, there is still I and Other, there is still the belief in the idea of “I”. There is still a resistance to what is, although it may appear subtle. There is still a delusion, still a mistaken identity. Still stuckness. Still suffering.

When the belief in the idea of “I” falls away, in the realization of selflessness and Ground awakening, the last bit of resistance falls away with it. Everything happens, revealed as without any inherent I anywhere.



The Byron Katie inquiries overlaps in many ways with approaches I have used in the past, and also many other approaches out there.

A brief overview of how the Byron Katie inquiries seem to correspond with other approaches.

Question number…

  1. Is it true?
    Awareness of the discrepancy between opinions and reality.

  2. Can you absolutely know it is true?
    Awareness of how abstractions are always only relative truth, unable to touch any absolute truth. Awareness of the limits of knowledge.

  3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
    Psychotherapy (exploring how we are apparently screwed up).

  4. Who would you be without the thought?
    Shikantaza. Big Mind process (Big Mind/Heart, nonseeking mind). Headlessness. Atma Vichara. Mindfulness based psychotherapy.

  5. Turnarounds
    Projections. Shadow work. Everything and everybody are mirrors for myself. Awareness of abstractions as only relative truth, unable to touch any absolute truth.

Harvesting the Nutrients


In any stressful experience, there is a gift – there are nutrients there, ready to nurture our life if we are available to them.

In my experience, if I just use a regular mindfulness practice – coming to my breath or the movements of the body when I notice getting caught up in a hangup – it works in the short term, giving me some relief and reminding me of who I would be without the story. But it also seems to miss something in the longer run. Until the nutrients are harvested, until the gift is received, it seems to just come up again – over and over. Something wants to be seen, and until it is – it will return.

I am sure there are innumerable very effective ways of harvesting these nutrients. Some that work for me are…

  • The Big Mind process
    Exploring in detail the dynamic behind what is happening, including the polarities (complementary/opposite) voices at a personal level and the transcendent voices.

  • Byron Katie’s inquiries
    Exploring in detail what the belief is behind the stress, what happens when I believe that thought, who I would be without it, and integrating projections and loosening up the belief through exploring the various turnarounds.

  • Process Work
    Allowing the process behind the symptom (in this case stress) to unfold, revealing its message and gift, and absorbing this.

  • Shikantaza (sitting practice)
    Allowing it all to unfold within awareness, living its own life as it does anyway. Allowing resistance to even resistance to fall away. Allowing even the fueling of thoughts to unfold within space as everything else.

  • Can I be with what I am experiencing? (daily life)
    Again, allowing it all to unfold within awareness, living its own life.

Psychology & Spirituality


No new insights here either, but it is interesting to see the natural convergence of psychology and spirituality. Of course, in Buddhism and other traditions there was never any split. But there has been a split in the western culture, for the last couple of hundred years, and this is now seen as not needed anymore.

One way of integrating is to acknowledge both realms as legitimate and using different techniques for each. Another is to use approaches which in themselves span both the realm of traditional psychology (the psyche, the body/psyche whole, the human self) and spirituality (transcendent).

The Big Mind process is a good example, allowing for untying knots on a personal level and becoming more familiar with the transcendent realm, all in one process. The Byron Katie inquiries is another, again untying knots at the personal realm, allowing the nature of mind to gradually be unveiled. And then there are forms of contemplative psychotherapy, and for instance the Raphael Cushnir approach of being with what is – getting out of the way for the knots to naturally untie themselves and reveal the nature of mind.



In the awakening to selflessness, there is also a disidentification.

This process is also seen in many of the approaches I am exploring these days, including forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s The Work.

In each of these, there is a movement away from a sense of certain things being personal, private and about me, and towards the same things being impersonal, universal, and about just being human. There is a movement away from a general belief in ideas, taking them as true and accurate, and towards seeing what is true in my immediate experience, and abstractions as just maps of limited and temporary value.

From about me to universal

First, we believe in many ideas – including the idea of I, and it all seems very personal as well – as about me. I may not want to reveal it to others, or even to myself, because it seems to private.

Then, the beliefs erode and are seen through, and it all appears more and more impersonal – as just universally human.

Thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, roles, experiences, realizations, hangups – everything that seemed so personal, are now revealed as impersonal and universal. It is not really about me, although it comes up in my experience now.

In short, there is a disidentification with it. The same content may be there as before, but not identified with.


At the same time, there is a deepening sense of intimacy with whatever happens in the present.

As long as there is a belief in ideas – in a particular identity – I struggle with content, I try to hold onto some of it and push other things away. And this creates a sense of distance and separation to whatever happens in the present, to myself, others and life in general.

When these beliefs fall away – including any particular identity – the struggle also falls away. Everything is now allowed to live its own life, and this opens for a sense of intimacy with what is – with myself, others and life in general.



Another topic that keeps coming up for me…

We can be driven. In Voice Dialogue, Process Work and other approaches, this is seen as something in us pushing us. There is a voice or a figure pushing us. And there is an element of compulsion, obsessiveness, and lack of freedom in this. It is somewhat contracted.

There can be an apparent absence drive. From the Byron Katie inquiries, it can be seen as coming from beliefs holding us back, draining us of energy and passion. In a way, this too is a drive although towards lack of engagement. Or, it can probably also happen in an awakening process where the drive has dropped away and something else has not yet taken its place.

And there can be an absence of drive in a conventional sense, and the presence of engagement and passion. In the awakening process, this deepens as (a) the neurotic drives are seen through and erode and (b) there is a new passion and engagement from the realization of selflessness, of it all as Ground manifesting, and of rehumanizing and deepening compassion.

So when we are caught up in beliefs in ideas, including the idea of I, there can be drive or lack of drive – both with a lack of freedom and a sense of compulsiveness. When these beliefs are seen through, there is a renewed engagement and passion – free from compulsiveness, free from any sense of I and Other. It is just emptiness dancing, the divine mind naturally and effortlessly manifesting throgh and as our human life. There is a sense of ease and simplicity in this, far beyond any conventional ease and simplicity.

In real life, it is of course often more interwoven than this. Drives and awakening may well co-exist in different variations.

Piece of Hot Coal


In Buddhism (and probably other traditions) they sometimes use the analogy of hot coal.

Believing in the idea of I is similar to holding a piece of hot coal. Both bring suffering. And seeing through the belief, noticing what is really true for us in our immediate experience, is similar to noticing that we are holding the piece of hot coal. In both cases, it is dropped – naturally, immediately, without any trying.

Analogies break down at some point, but it may still be interesting to explore this one a little further. What approaches make sense through this analogy?

Say someone is holding a piece of hot coal. They are not noticing it, or at least not realizing that it brings pain. And in the struggle to get rid of the pain, there may be additional suffering as well.

So how would we help this person recognize that he or she is holding a piece of hot coal?

Ways to help people notice

We can give long talks about how he is holding a piece of hot coal, and how this brings the pain he is experiencing. But the listeners are more likely to listen to the words and try to figure it out than really look – going to their own immediate present experience.

We can use force, beating them up in various ways to make them realize it – or even to make them drop it (as if anyone can without the prior realization of holding it). Again, this would only bring their attention to the beating and the consequences of the beating, not the coal. Also, it is likely to bring up a good deal of (healthy and natural) resistance to the process. And it may just add guilt and shame to the situation.

We can help them with affirmations: I am not holding a piece of hot coal. I am not holding a piece of hot coal. Hot coal is cool and soothing. Hot coal is cool and soothing. These may appear to work for a while, but not for very long. And it is also too transparent: we know there is something there – temporarily covered up by the affirmations – which brings pain.

We may help them explore their past. When did you first experience the pain? When did you pick it up? And so on. It may be helpful, but it is also not as direct as it can be.

We may bring people to exhaustion, so – we hope – they cannot help but dropping the piece of coal. This may work, although the process itself is quite painful.

We can have people regularly sit silently and quietly, bringing their attention to what is already happening – allowing what is into awareness. This may work. It may very well help them notice the hot coal in their hand. But in itself, it may be a long and slow process.

We can have them inquire into their experiences. Where is the pain? What may be the source of it? What happens if you imagine not holding a piece of hot coal?

What works for each person is of course different, but for me – sitting practice combined with various forms of inquiry are most attractive right now.


The Big Mind process, headlessness and the Byron Katie inquiries are some of the many ways to explore how it is to hold a piece of coal, and also have a taste of not holding it.

For instance, in the Byron Katie process…

  • Questions 1 and 2 – is it true, can you really know it is true – asks us if we really do need to hold onto the coal, whether the coal is the belief in the idea of I or any other abstraction. The questions open for the possibility of not holding onto it.
  • Question number 3 – what happens when you hold onto that belief – gets at our experience of holding onto the piece of hot coal. We see the suffering we create for ourselves by holding onto it and how it plays itself out in our life, in detail.
  • Question number 4 – who or what are you without that belief – gives a taste of not holding onto the coal. We see the liberation and freedom in it. The possibility of not holding onto it becomes more real. We see that the consequences of not holding onto it are attractive. And we see beyond holding onto it, and that there is nothing to fear there.
  • The turnarounds helps us see that I am the one holding it. It is not making me hold it. Somebody else is not making me hold it. I am the one holding it.

Study the Self


This is probably the most often quoted phrase from the Zen tradition:

To study the Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things.
To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others.

Dogen Zenji


The first that comes up for me is the simplicity and clarity in it.

First, we study the apparent self – or rather our sense of self. And we can do this through for instance sitting practice, allowing the mind to bring itself into awareness, and/or inquiry – such as Big Mind, Byron Katie’s inquiries, Headlessness or Atma Vichara.

Then, we realize that the whole sense of self comes from something as simple as a belief in the idea of I. We have glimpses of selflessness, and then emerge more stably into a realization of selflessness. We forget the self by seeing what is really true in our own immediate experience, and this allows the belief in the idea of I to fall away.

The whole world is now revealed as the play of God. Everywhere and nowhere is I. It is Big Mind awakening to itself, while functionally connected with a human self.

And in this, there is no I and Other. No barriers.

Diving into self-centeredness

To do this, we need to fully dive into self-centeredness.

As long as there is a belief in the idea of I, there is a natural and unavoidable self-centeredness.

There is a belief in the idea of I, this is out of alignment with our own (unnoticed) immediate experience, so attention naturally goes to this sense of I. Whenever something is out of alignment, attention goes there to allow it into awareness and resolution.

Typically, this process takes the form of self-protection and functioning with a limited circle of care and concern.

If we dive into it more fully, with intention and some skills, it can unfold into realization of selflessness.

Studying the self

Studying the self can be seen in two ways in this context.

One is studying the sense of I, wherever it is applied. The belief in the idea of I, which creates the whole I – Other dynamic and the identification with a segment of what is. This is the one that leads to a realization of selflessness.

The other is the more conventional study of the self, in this case meaning our human self. How does it function? What are the processes? How can we allow it to heal and mature? How can we fine tune this instrument in the world of form? This is an exploration that takes place before and after realization of selflessness. Nothing changes except the context – first within the context of a sense of self, then within the context of realized selflessness.

Some approaches focus mainly on one of these. For instance, Headlessness and Atma Vichara emphasize mainly the exploration of selflessness.

And other approaches include both. For instance the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s inquiry process. Both of these allow us to study in finely tuned detail how our human self function, allowing knots to unravel and the human self to mature and function more effectively. And they also bring us to a realization of selflessness. Elegantly, through the same process. Two birds killed with one stone.

If we only focus on realizing selflessness, we may have Big Mind awakened to itself, but functioning through a relatively undeveloped and unhealthy human self.

If we only focus on the human self, we may have a relatively healthy and mature human self, but there is still the inherent dissatisfaction from a sense of separation.

With both, we can function within a context of selflessness, also also allow our human self to continue to mature, develop, heal and explore news ways of functioning in the world of form.

Voice of Stuckness


Can I speak with the voice of stuckness please?


Who are you?

I am the voice of stuckness.

What do you do?

I help the self get stuck, either completely or in areas. Or at least, I give the appearance of stuckness to the self. There is never real stuckness, only the appearance of it, and even that is only temporary. But to the self, it certainly seems like real stuckness and quite serious at times.

How does the self relate to you?

He doesn’t like me very much. Actually, he does not like me at all. He would like to get rid of me if he could.

Will you ever go away?

No, I will always be around – for as long as the self is. I am an integral part of being a human.

How do you show up in his life now?

I show up in a few different areas – mostly in terms of how he wants to function in the world in a professional way. He needs time to allow things to sink in, and I allow that time for him. He tends to push forward, and I am what holds him back – so it all can simmer for him for long enough for a new clarity to come about.

So you are helping the self?

Yes, that is my function. I help him by slowing him down. By drawing attention to areas where attention is needed – along with insights and clarifications. Areas where there are unexamined beliefs holding him back. Areas where he needs to explore his own truth and find more clarity through that.

Does he realize that?

No, not really. He may have a vague intellectual understanding of it, that it must be that way, but he does not experience it at any depth. He is alienated from me, and also from how I contribute, from the gifts I offer him.

Do you have any advice for him?

Yes. He needs to relax into whatever he experience as stuckness, in whatever areas I appear. That will offer him tremendous gifts, if he is open and receptive to it. And I don’t need to be around for that long either. It would make my job much easier.

So you carry information for the self?

Yes, I do. I am similar to fear in that way. I offer information, and brings his attention to it. Although he often does not see it that way. He is not looking for it. He only sees me as a problem. As something to get rid of. Instead of approaching me with curiosity, and receptivity for my gifts.

How does he try to get rid of you?

He tries all sorts of things. Willpower. Acupuncture. Inquiry. This process to some extent. Ignoring me. Trying to run me over with other voices. Trying to outwit me. And many other ways.

Does it work?

No, it does not work. It may appear to work for a short time, but it doesn’t really. If I need to be around, I am around, no matter what he does.

You said that you carry information, yet also mention inquiry as one of the ways he is trying to get rid of you. Can you say more about that?

Yes, there is a huge difference between doing inquiry – or similar explorations, with the aim of finding what is really true and with the aim of getting rid of me, or any other voice.

Doing it to find what is really true for him opens everything up, and it involves a willingness to go with whatever is revealed as true no matter how it looks, no matter how far it may be from his expectations. It is a partnership attitude, of working with what is. And it involves a great deal of trust, in particular in the wisdom and compassion within everything that is, no matter how much the self may dislike it, or cling to it, or try to make it go away.

Doing it to get rid of me is not really inquiry. It is a mock inquiry. It is the preferences of the self imposing themselves on what is. Nothing real can come out of this, because the real is not what is sought. Only relief is sought, and that does not work. Although it may appear sincere on the surface, it really comes from an adversarial attitude to what is. It comes from distrust, from fear of what is.

Until he learns this, he will continue to be stuck – in many areas. And when he finally learns to inquiry through the love of inquiry and love of truth itself, then there is a release for him. Then, I can function in a more precise way. I can come up, he inquiries into me, and I don’t need to hang around anymore. It would make my job far easier, and make life far more fluid and pleasant for him as well.

Big Heart, Master, Integration, Stuckness


I facilitated another Big Mind session today, and there is always something new coming up – for me and the person being facilitated.

We mainly explored the transcendent voices and the master today. Again using the more process oriented approach I am becoming more comfortable with – following the bread crumbs, following the signals coming up in the current voice and explore that further, eventually leading into another voice (usually at the other end of the polarity, and sometimes a team member on the same end of the polarity).

Big Heart

One of the things coming up in Big Heart is that everything is complete as it is. There is no need to be anywhere else or to be different. And it is always like that. It is a big relief, and in this case – a good complement to the voice of seeking mind which we had explored early on in the session.

Seeking mind provides dynamism, movement, exploration, always going further and beyond what is currently know and familiar. Without it, we would not evolve or develop. And Big Heart and Big Mind allows us to see that it is all complete and perfect as it is. There is no need to be somewhere else, to be someone else. We can just rest and relax into what is, and allow Big Mind and Big Heart in that way.


We also spent time exploring the master, aka the conductor, captain, facilitator, coordinator, the one holding the space, and so on.

For me, I find it helpful to sometimes use the term captain and/or conductor.

Many people have trouble with the term master as we know very well the problems with authority and abuse of power (authority/rank), and often have few examples of healthy expressions of master. Also, the master is often associated with a blue level (spiral dynamics) and most people interested in the Big Mind process are green and sometimes orange or second tier. So the term captain or conductor is often more aligned with where they are at.

When I use the term captain, I often suggest Captain Picard (!) in Star Trek as an example of a healthy captain, one who is in charge yet is receptive, who operates from wisdom and compassion, and in the nested interests of humanity, the particular mission, and the crew.

Conductor is a relatively innocent term. Most of us don’t have strong unfavorable ideas about conductors.

For everyone, and especially second tier folks, it may be helpful to explore the master after getting familiar with the conductor or the captain. The master seems to bring a slightly different quality to it than the conductor.

In a way, the master, captain, conductor, facilitator, coordinator and the one holding the space are all various aspects of a more complete voice, or can be seen as members of the same master team. Each of them brings distinct and helpful qualities which together fills out the picture.

I also find it helpful to mention that the master is just another voice. As with all other voices, it is very helpful sometimes, but it does not need to be present all the time. It can be very helpful when the crew is disorganized and/or stuck, to help shore things up and move on. But other times, it could stay more in the background and wait for a while.


The way we use the word integration also came up for me during this session. It seems that integration occurs in a few different ways, and also not at all in another way.

:: Integration in our ideas ::

One form of integration is in terms of our ideas, our general worldview and our self-image.

Through the Big Mind process, we gradually become familiar with more and more voices, we know they are there.

We also explore how each of them serve the self, that is their function – and what they do when they are allowed to function the way they naturally do. So there is a growing appreciation of each voice. Our value judgment of certain voices goes from negative to neutral or – most often – positive. Our worldview is more welcoming of the various voices, so there is less need to push them away or disowning them. In this way, they also become included in our self-image. Our self-image gradually becomes more and more inclusive.

So in some cases, we include voices into our worldview which where not included previously. And we also change our value judgement of the various voices, allowing them place in our self-image and to unfold when they arise.

:: Integration in behavior ::

So the other type of integration is in our experience and behavior.

We allow the various voices to come up in our experience when they do, without trying to push them away or holding onto them as much. They are allowed to live their own life, to come and go as guests. They are integrated into our experiences.

At the same time, we become more familiar with a greater range of voices – and find ways to bring these into expression through our behaviors. Our repertoire expands. They are integrated into our spectrum of behavior.

:: No integration or lack of integration ::

In yet another way, there is no integration nor any lack of or need for integration. This is closer to the absolute level. Here, all the various voices just are – as potentials and coming alive. Fluidly.

There is no need for integration here, because – in a sense – everything is already perfectly integrated in Existence. It is all the play of God, the divine mind, Big Mind.


As we talked afterwards, stuckness came up as another voice to explore.

With each voice, the exploration involves (a) disidentifying or getting more distance from a voice where there is too much identification, (b) allowing recognition of and familiarity with disowned voices, (c) find appreciation for the voice through seeing how it serves the self, and (d) exploring the dynamics between the voice and that at the other end of the polarity (in this case fluidity, movement).

I assume that for many of us, there is initially a complex mix of relationships with the voice of stuckness. There may be a relatively close identification with stuckness, at least in certain areas of our lives. There may also be a disowning of the voice as mostly or completely “other” and foreign. And there is most likely not much appreciation for it.

Here are a couple of ways, for now, of looking at how stuckness helps us.

One is in terms of short-term goals, mostly at our personal level. We usually get something out of it, which seems beneficial in the short term and on the surface.

The other one is in terms of our longer term development and maturing. Stuckness invites us to see what we don’t want to see – what is left out of our worldview and/or self-image. That which appears to frightening or painful for us to want to take a closer look at it. So stuckness faithfully invites us to see it, over and over, until we finally do.

It is not pleasant, and it can take a long time if we don’t pick up on the signal and the information in stuckness, but it does help us deepen and mature as human beings when we finally are ready to see it.

The Ways the Mind Can Function


Some of the aspects of the Big Mind process that I appreciate…

One of the beautiful aspects of the Big Mind process is that it shows – clearly and beyond a doubt – some of the ways this mind, here and now, can function. There is nothing in the future, nothing you are asked to believe in – just the direct experiences with this mind here and now.

We explore the ways the mind can function on a personal level – with anger, fear, vulnerability, desire, seeking, etc. – and how it can function on a transpersonal level – through Big Mind, Big Heart, non-seeking mind, the mind that sees impermanence etc.

Personal Voices

In going through the personal level voices, there is a process of clarifying the function of each of the voices, how they help the self, and the relationship of the self to the particular voice. This helps the participant to appreciate each voice – each of the ways the mind functions on a personal level – through clearly seeing that it is present to help the self. When we realize this, there is no longer any need to fight any of them – rather, we can welcome them and the information they each carry into our experience.

There is also a clarification process in seeing which of the voices the self may be too closely identified with, and which it is not able to access very easily. The imbalance in identification is usually supported by ideology, and specifically a fixed and limited/limiting self-image.

Bringing awareness into the voices and their relationship with the self (and each other) in itself brings about a healing and maturation process.

Transpersonal Voices

In accessing the transpersonal voices, there is an escape from the exclusive identification with the self – and an entering into a transdual view. From this perspective, everything looks different, and through the Big Mind process we can become more familiar with this landscape and bring it more into our everyday life.

Of course, it is only the view that is accessed this way, not the full blown experience. For that, it needs to deepen and clarify through sitting practice – allowing the mind to rest in itself and clarify and deepen its experience of itself.

Collective Talks

Another beautiful aspect is that the Big Mind process can be used instead of a regular dharma talk. Normally, there is the “guru” up on a podium speaking and everyone else listening. Now, there can be a facilitator (often the same teacher) who leads the participants into a particular view, and the participants collectively give the dharma talk.

Evolutionary Process?


Living here on the West Coast, it definitely seems that we are at the cusp of an evolutionary shift – more and more people seem to have different forms of life-transforming awakenings. They may not be full blown and stable awakenings into/as Big Mind, but a taste and an opening in that direction.

And there are so many techniques that really works…

Waking Down In Mutuality

Most people have their “second birth” within a year, from what I am told. For me, the shift happened only a couple of months after engaging in it more fully. There is an awakening to the Absolute, the nature of mind, and a rich, sensual, intimate sense of no separation with all phenomena. It seems permanent, and it is definitely unfolding. It is not anywhere near a full Enlightenment, but it is a taste – it is a little opening into it.

Byron Katie’s Inquiry Process

A simple process of inquiring into our beliefs, which makes it impossible to believe in them anymore. We are freed from thoughts and ideas and the confusion believing in them brings about, and can live from the nature of mind – from effortless spacious clarity, wisdom and compassion.

Big Mind Process

An exploration process of the different ways the mind can manifest, on personal and transpersonal levels. It leads us into the transpersonal – Big Mind – view, and helps us see that it is always available. A little shift is enough. The Big Mind process can be used in many different ways, from healing on a personal level to connecting with and exploring Existence from the view of the Buddha Mind.


A practice that takes the form of bodywork. It allows us to connect with Big Mind, in a very rich and full way.

And among the many other techniques and approaches, here is one that I just heard about….


This seems quite similar to Waking Down in Mutuality, especially in terms of the shift – and the speed and way it occurs.

This is definitely a cultural shift and transformation, and may even be an evolutionary shift for our species. Who knows. I am about to read Translucent Revolution which is about just this topic.

What this means is that the leading edge may consist of more people – at least in terms of the states they are dipped into if not the level they are consistently (yet) at – although the majority of humanity will still operate from red (egocentric), blue (absolutism) and orange (modernism) levels in Spiral Dynamics terms.

Big Mind & Body


I did a little experiment with using the Big Mind process on some voices typically left out of the standard Big Mind sessions.

Voice of the Body

What is your function?
I take care of the physical structure and processes of the self, including the movements. Without me, there would be no physical self. (Big Mind would say that I am the vehicle which allows Big Mind to become physical.)

How does Per relate to you?
He is mostly oblivious to me, although there are three ways he typically relates to me.

1. Oblivious, off in his own world of fantasies, ideas, past and future. 2. Trying to connect with me too much, and overshooting his goal. The more he tries, the further away he is. He may focus on one aspect of me, but leaves the rest out. 3. Real connection, which happens when he stops trying and just shifts into being present with me.

How can Per connect with you more easily?
He can spend more time in nature. More time just being quiet and present, without trying. More time being aware of the breath, facial expression, body posture, tone of voice, and allowing it to be just as it is here/now. More time doing this…!

How could he benefit from connecting with you more often?
He would be more present – here/now – in his attention. He could pick up signals I am sending him, with information on how to take care of me better. He would be more comfortable with me, more at home in his physical self. More at home in this world, with all these animal bodies. He would be more content and happy.

Do you have any advice for him?
Take some time every day to just be. To sink into the senses – the smells, sounds, touch, taste – of whatever situation you are in here/now. It doesn’t matter what it is, just sink into it – be with it, be it. Allow yourself to completely be a physical animal with awakened senses, even if it is for just a few breaths every day. This will have a deeply transformative effect on how he experiences the world.