Sincerity on the spiritual path

 

Professor Broom: In medieval stories, there is often a young knight who is inexperienced, but pure of heart.
John Myers: Oh, come on. I am not pure of heart.
Abe Sapien(who’s psychic) Yes, you are.
Professor Broom: Rasputin is back for him. What I’m asking of you is to have the courage to stand by him when I am gone. He was born a demon; we can’t change that. But you will help him, in essence, to become a man.

– from Hellboy (2004), quoted in Wikipedia

One of the most valuable qualities on a healing and spiritual path is sincerity, a pure heart. As Broom says, this is a recurrent theme in some of the traditional legends and perhaps most famously the grail legend (Perceval).

Sincerity allows us to be more honest with ourselves, and that’s essential for emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

Is also essential for having a meaningful and juicy relationship with ourselves and others, one that allows for authenticity, growth, and surprises.

If we have some sincerity, it doesn’t matter so much if we are young or inexperienced on the path we are on. Sincerity is gold, and we can always learn tools and we will gain experience.

Is sincerity something we can learn or develop? Perhaps not. But I can notice when I am not sincere and I can then shift into sincerity.

Sometimes, it’s not so easy. We may be caught in fear of a situation or something coming up in us and retreat into defensiveness to try to stay safe. That’s OK. Again, it helps to notice. I can be honest with myself about what happened. And that, in itself, is sincerity.

It also helps to notice what in me takes me away from sincerity. What is the fear about? What is the fearful story? What beliefs do I find? Identifications? And then explore it further, befriend it (find healing for my relationship to it), and perhaps find healing for the issue itself.

As I wrote the second paragraph (“Sincerity allows us….”), I noticed a synchronicity in the lyrics of the song I was listening to:

There are times when a man needs to brave his reflection,
And face what he sees without fear,
It takes a man to accept his mortality,
Or be surprised by the presence of a tear.

– Sting and Rob Mathes, I love her but she loves someone else

Image: The Achievement of the Grail by British Artist Sir Edward Burn-Jones design, William Morris execution and John Henry Dearle flowers and decorations, from the Holy Grail tapestries 1891-94, Museum and Art Gallery of Birmingham, wool and silk on cotton warp.

Adyashanti: Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal

 

Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal consciousness. The depth of our being is just astonishing.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 70

There are many definitions of spirituality, and the most basic one is perhaps Adya’s definition above. Spirituality suggests that we are going, or intend to go, beyond the personal human being and into something wider. Whether that is our human community, our Earth community (nature and Earth as a whole), the Universe as a whole, or Existence as a whole. And whether it is to connect with this larger whole, take it into account, live as if it matters, expand our sense of “us” to include all there is, or – ultimately – find ourselves as that, and this human being as an expression of it.

Life 101

 

Most of what I write about here is Life 101.

It’s simple, and – for me — essential.

And that’s why I write about it.

I wish to contribute, in a very small way, to a society where (some of) these things are seen as basic and essential.

It may be helpful to some of the people reading it. (For me, it’s always helpful to be reminded of the basics. And I know it’s helpful to me to find others with similar experiences and interests as myself.)

And, in the best case, it’s helpful to me when I write. It allows me to explore, clarify, and remind myself. The more sincere I am, and the closer to immediate experience, the more I benefit and the more likely I am to be surprised by what I discover.

All maps are projections

 

All maps are projections.

They are projections in a few different ways.

First, they are projections of our ideas. They are an overlay of ideas and thoughts that the mind puts on (it’s images of) the world. This helps us orient and function in the world, and is essential for our survival.

Often, they are also projections of our own characteristics and qualities. We can find in ourselves the characteristics we see in the wider world. It may not be as strong or explicit, but it’s here if we look.

And sometimes, our maps are expressions of our unresolved emotional issues. They express our hopes and fears, how we would like the world and ourselves to be, and what we fear it may be.

We have many different maps of ourselves, the world, and our place in the world – whether they are formal or informal; explicit or implicit; about the world, ourselves, or our relationship with the world; and whether we recognize them as maps or not.

Some maps are explicit and what we typically call maps. For instance, political and geographical maps.

Some maps may not be what we think of as maps. For instance, some ways we categorize people (politically, social status, friends or not etc.); our mental timeline of past-present-future; and our general world-view (materialistic, heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, planetary influences, gods, God, nondual), and so on.

Some maps are mostly outside of our conscious awareness – and may even be contrary to our conscious ideas about the world, although they still have a major impact on how we experience the world and ourselves. These are often (somewhat charged) ideas about other people, ourselves, and the world as a whole.

Most of our maps are shared with others in our family, subculture, and culture. Some may be shared with most of humanity. And even the ones that may seem unique to us are probably shared with many others.

It’s often useful to recognize our explicit and implicit maps as maps. It helps us hold them more lightly and not invest so much identity and fears and hopes into them. At least at a conscious level, we know they are used by our mind to make sense of the world. They are questions about the world, leave a lot out, and are not in any way the final word.

Also, recognizing our maps as projections can help us get to know and understand ourselves better. We can use them as pointers for healing for ourselves as individuals and even for us as a society.

Here are some examples.

I have a mental map of past-present-future. And yet, it’s created by my mind and is an idea, and it happens here and now. My map and what I place on the map all happens here and now. This helps me hold my ideas of past, future, and present – and what happened or may happen –more lightly.

I may have mental maps inherited from my culture that rank people based on (relatively superficial) characteristics like gender, ethnicity, politics, religion and so on. It’s helpful to recognize this, question its validity, and find all of it in myself.

I may have religious maps – of heaven and hell, afterlife, reincarnation, divine beings and so on, and myself in relation to it. Again, it helps to see that these are maps. They are projection of ideas into (my image of) the world. This helps me hold it all more lightly. And here too, I can use these maps to find it all already in me and my experience, and perhaps to point to some unresolved issues (fears, hopes) in me.

I may have esoteric maps of planetary influences, divine beings, energies, energy systems and so on. The same goes here for holding it more lightly and finding it all – the images and anything charged about it – in myself.

A map can even be of a situation. I may have a mental map of a situation where I see myself as wronged or a victim, and that map is part of what holds the pain or trauma in place. These are the types of maps is helpful to identify and investigate in a healing process.

I can still use all of these maps. We need maps to orient and function in the world. And yet, it’s helpful to recognize them as maps and sometimes explore them as projections. It helps us hold them more lightly. It helps us question their validity and perhaps replace them with other maps that are more helpful. It helps us find it all – what we see in the world – in ourselves. And it may point to something unresolved in us we can find healing for.

God is primary

 

I personally find it helpful and interesting to sometimes explore my connection with aspects of the divine like angels (frequently), saints (St. Francis and others), avatars (Amma) and so on.

And yet, God is always primary. God is what I always return to, including in my prayers and my gratitude.

Whether we see God as Source, the wholeness of existence, that which allows and is all, as Mother and/or Father, or something else, God is primary.

Even if emphasizing aspects of the divine can be instructional, helpful, and interesting, and sometimes easier, I remember (through grace) that God is primary and I keep returning to God in my prayers and gratitude.

This is another very simple and basic topic, and yet it’s good to remember since the basics are important.

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.

What I write are pointers for myself

 

We teach what we need to learn.

That’s very clear for me with these articles. The pointers I share here are for me.

If I finish and article without taking time to intentionally apply it for myself, it feels incomplete. And when I do, it completes it.

Of course, what I write does come from my own immediate experience. And I do go into it before writing to make sure it’s alive and I can discover more about the topic, or at least remind myself about it. And yet, it makes a difference when I take the main pointer from the article and intentionally apply it after the article is written.

In The Work of Byron Katie, this is what they call Living Turnarounds. I take the most juicy pointer from the inquiry and apply it in my life. That’s how the work comes alive in me and my life. That’s how my insights ground in real life. That’s how I get to see what’s left.

I sometimes tell myself that if just one person benefits from what I write here, it’s worth it. By applying my own pointers after writing a post, I make sure at least one person benefits from it – and that’s me. And if one other person benefits as well, that’s wonderful. That’s icing on the cake.

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Therapeutic tremoring is not enough in itself

 

I love therapeutic tremoring. It’s as natural as it can be. It reminds me that I am a mammal and am part of nature. It allows the inherent wisdom in my system to take over and I (the conscious me) can take the back seat. It allows deep tension to release out of my body. It tones and relaxes the tissues of my body. It frees up energy from being bound up in contracting muscles.

And yet, it’s not sufficient in itself. For mammals in the wild, it may be and probably often is sufficient. But it doesn’t seem sufficient for us mammals called humans who live in a (often pretty screwed up) culture and were not taught or encouraged to naturally use therapeutic tremoring from early childhood on.

We need to also approach it from the mind side. Tension is created by stressful beliefs and identifications. Releasing tension out of the body certainly improves our well being and how our body functions, and it can even lessen the stress connected with these beliefs and identifications. But it doesn’t resolve the causes of the tension and underlying stress in our life and body.

To do that, we need to bring the stressful stories we have about ourselves, the world, and certain situations into awareness. We need to find them, investigate them, and through that allow them to find a resolution. We can do this on our own, with friends or confidantes, with a therapist, and through a range of different modalities.

How do we (re)learn therapeutic tremoring? The approach I am most familiar with, and find very helpful, is Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE).

And what modalities can we use to help resolve the causes of stress and tension? We have to find one or more that works for us (that we like, resonate with, and get results from), and it helps to have a good guide, at least at first. Again, for me, inquiry complements therapeutic tremoring very well. As do energy healing (Vortex Healing) and heart-centered practices.

Note: Some call this neurogenic tremoring, and that’s accurate although a little too broad. There are many types of neurogenic tremors (for instance shivering to warm up our tissue and body). Therapeutic tremoring is the tremoring built into our body through evolution specifically to release tension and stress, including tension and stress from traumatic experiences.

Conversely, tremoring is a little too specific! When the body releases tension in this way, it can do a lot more than just tremble. We may stretch (often on one side of the body, and then symmetrically on the other side), make sounds, cry, laugh, and so on.

A common-sense approach to awakening

 

Here is what I see as a common-sense approach to awakening. One that may even work for people who have a relatively conventional wordview but also curiosity and an interest in what’s true in their immediate experience.

In our immediate experience, we are consciousness and any experience we have happens within and as this consciousness.

This is the case whether we notice it or not. (If we don’t notice it, we tend to take ourselves to be this human being that happens within our content of experience, but that’s only until we have investigated it.)

And this is the case independent of what wordview we tell ourselves we have, whether it’s a religious or spiritual one, or atheist, or materialistic, or whatever it may be.

When we notice this, we have a choice. Should I still keep it uninvestigated and take myself to primarily be this human self that happens within my experience, or do I want to investigate it and see what happens? Do I want to see for myself what I find, and what transformations it may bring?

Either choice is perfectly OK. The second option is – at least so far in our culture – mostly just for especially interested people. Those who have an inexplicable draw or calling to investigate it.

If we wish to explore it, we again have a choice. Do I want to follow a more traditional spiritual path and take it as a spiritual adventure, or do I wish to explore it more as a scientist without the extras (the spiritual add-ons)?

Again, either one is perfectly OK. And we can also combine both, as I have. Use insights, pointers, and practices from a range of spiritual traditions, and approaching it more as a scientist.

When we chose to explore it, it’s all about what we find in our own immediate experience, what’s true for us in our immediate experience. It’s typically a process of….

  • Noticing what we are. (Aka consciousness.)
  • Notice that any content of experience happens within and as what we are.
  • Inviting our “center of gravity” to shift (a) out of taking ourselves to primarily be something within content of experience and (b) into that which allows and is all of it. (This tends to happen in glimpses at first, and then gradually more stably over time.)
  • Inviting all our human parts to align with this new context. This typically involves healing of these parts of us and how we relate to them. (Healing, maturing, embodiment.)
  • Live from this new context. (Embodiment.)

All of this is a process. It’s an ongoing exploration, clarification, healing, maturing, and embodiment.

I won’t go into how we can do this since most of my articles are on aspects of that topic.

But I will say that there are two ways of seeing this process.

The essence is the same in either case: Notice what we already are, notice all experience happens within and as this, invite the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be to shift into this, invite our human parts to realign with this new context, and bring it into daily life and explore how to live from it.

We can stay close to our experience and leave it at that. In immediacy, I am what all my experience happens within and as. I am capacity for it all. Since this is what I can call consciousness, it seems that all – the whole world, all beings, the universe – is consciousness. I can even call it love, or bliss, since that’s as true as the word consciousness. (A quiet love and bliss – through and as all of what we are – is a natural side-effect of noticing what we are.)

And yet, if I am honest I know it seems that way because of what I am. I am what we can call consciousness, so everything seems like consciousness to me. That’s about all I can say. And, of course, any ideas of an I in a world, and projections and anything else, happens within and as what I am.

If we are so inclined, we can take it one step further and say that all of existence IS consciousness (and love, bliss, Spirit, the divine). This is the more poetic approach and the approach of most traditional mystics. The benefit is that it has a rich tradition, and it does fit our immediate experience. The drawback may be that it can seem less attractive to many in the modern world.

Personally, I switch between these two since both have value and richness to them. The first is a little more honest. The second a bit more juicy.

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Where is the final “I”?

 

Where is the final or ultimate “I”?

Where do I think it is? Where have I glimpsed it is? And where is it, in my immediate experience?

Is it in this human self? Is this apparently separate self the final word on what I really am?

Or is it in life itself? As this Earth? As the universe? As all of existence? As all as consciousness? As that which is capacity for it all?

There are several layers to this as well as ways of noticing.

I can have an intellectual understanding, either through western science and philosophy (Universe Story, Epic of Evolution, Ecospirituality) or from mysticism and maps from different spiritual traditions.

I can have glimpses, either without anything apparently bringing it about or through certain practices (inquiry, Big Mind process, basic meditation, practices to reconnect etc.).

And my center of gravity can shift. Perhaps it’s first as this human being in the world. Then, as the wholeness of what I am as human and soul. Or as the wholeness of existence. Or as consciousness somehow separate from the content of existence. Or as consciousness that all experience happens within and as. Or as that which is capacity for it all. Or as this capacity and all it is capacity for (consciousness and all content of experience happens within and as consciousness).

This is one aspect of what spirituality is about. Being curious about where the final “I” is. Exploring it. Noticing new layers of “I” in glimpses. And gradually, and sometimes suddenly, having shifts in the center of gravity of what I experience as “I”.

And really, it’s life exploring itself. It’s life temporarily and locally taking itself as a local “I” and not questioning whether this is the final or most basic “I”. And then being curious about it, either through spontaneous glimpses opening up to something more, or through intuition or a knowing, or perhaps through a crisis that makes it question basic assumptions. It’s life gradually gaining an intellectual understanding and seeing that it must be life itself not this apparently separate self. And it’s life gradually inviting the center of gravity of what it takes itself to be out from the local and to the whole, to all as consciousness, and to what’s capacity for it all.

I want to add a few words about using (structured) inquiry to explore what we are. We can use forms of inquiry that explicitly helps us shift into what we already are, like the Big Mind process and the headless experiments. And we can use inquiry that helps us see what we are not, and helps us see how our mind creates a certain experience for itself of what it is (through images, words, and sensations), and how it holds onto it as true in order to find a sense of safety. Both are equally helpful and they feed into each other.

Shifting into what we are highlights our old (an incomplete and ultimately false) ideas of who or what we are. And shifting out of our old ideas of who or what we are invites in a noticing of (more of) what we really are. And it’s good, and eventually essential, to question absolutely all our experiences or ideas of who or what we are, even the most “spiritual” or “enlightened” ones, and perhaps especially those. They may still be roughly accurate and serve as helpful pointers, but if we hold onto those ideas as true and our identity, we’ll eventually need to question and see through them.

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Awakening: small vs big interpretation

 

This is something I have found interesting since the initial opening or awakening, and I have written about it a few times before. 

The experience of awakening is, in itself, quite simple. And yet, there are different ways to interpret it.

What do we mean by awakening?  I have found a simple way of talking about it that seems relatively accurate. What we are, which is what any experience happens within and as, wakes up to itself. We can label this consciousness, or love, or Big Mind, or the divine, or many other things, but each of these labels makes it seem that we have pinned it down more than words really are able to. What we are wakes up out of identifications with anything created by words, with any identity.

Thoughts – mental images and words – describe what happens within content of experience. And identities are created by thoughts so also happen within content of experience. They cannot easily point to anything outside of the world of experience. They cannot very easily point to what we are, what awakens to itself. 

Small interpretation. There is a small interpretation of this, and we can also call this the psychological interpretations. I assume this is the interpretation that some within psychology or academia use or will use in the future. We can assume a world much like most people perceive it. There are separate beings. We have a physical world. And the awakening happens because we are, in our own immediate experience and whether we notice it or not, consciousness.

Since we are consciousness, or that’s where the identification “lands” in an awakening, everything appears as consciousness. All of content of experience – all our sense fields including thoughts – happens within and as consciousness. So, to us, the whole world appears as consciousness. It’s a projection. 

Awakening is real, and happens much as it’s described by mystics of all and no traditions. And yet, the world as the mainstream society and academia assumes it is, is just like that. Separate physical beings exist within a physical world, and that’s it. This interpretation makes awakening more palatable to the mainstream society and academia. And the essence of awakening is still as described by mystics from all times and around the world. 

Of course, any thought of the world existing as the mainstream sees it happens within and as what we are. So we just pretend that’s how it is. It’s a strategic choice. A guess. An assumption that makes sense because it makes awakening more understandable to more people. 

Big interpretation. There is also a big interpretation of awakening, and this is the one often found in spiritual traditions. Again, the essence of the awakening is the same as described above. But here, we assume it’s all about the divine. All of existence is the divine, and it wakes up to itself locally and sees through the thoughts of being separate, being a separate being, the world inherently being physical and so on.

In an awakening, the world appears as consciousness and love taking all the forms we see in the world, and that’s exactly how it is. It is all consciousness and love, and we can call it Spirit, Brahman, the divine, or whatever else the different spiritual traditions call it. 

Which one to choose? Which interpretation do we choose? It depends on our situation, background, and inclination. If we want to approach the mainstream world, or work in academia, the small interpretation may make more sense. If we are more free agents or come from a spiritual tradition, the big interpretation may make more sense. 

And there are also some hints that can help us choose. With an awakening, there is often a whole range of side-effects. We may see auras and energies. We may pick up information at a distance. We may experience a great deal of hard-to-dismiss synchronicities. We may sense what will or may happen in the future. All of this, in my view, points to and fits better with the big interpretation of awakening or reality. All happens within and as the divine. Within and as the One. Within and as the nothingness allowing it all. 

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Intellectual honesty on the spiritual path

 

For me, spirituality is about being consciously aligned with reality, and deepen in clarifying and living from it. 

That means that intellectual honesty is an important component. So how does that look? At least for me? 

Here are some examples: 

In immediacy, content of experience – input from all the sense fields including thought – happens within and as what I am. I can say that it’s all happening within and as consciousness, or awake space. The whole universe appears as happening within and as what I am.

It appears as consciousness (aka love, wisdom, the divine, Spirit, God). And I can go one step further and tell myself the whole universe and all of existence is consciousness. That fits how it all appears to me, but I also know it’s an assumption. It’s going one step further than what I can be more certain about. 

And the same goes for a whole range of other things. I may have direct experiences of something. Someone – great spiritual masters – tells me it is a certain way. It may fit some research. It may make complete sense to me. I may wish it to be true. All of these may align. And yet, I don’t know for certain. All I know is that some stories, some overlays of thoughts, make sense and seem helpful to me in orienting and functioning in the world. They are not the final word, and there is no absolute truth to them. 

That’s how it is with ideas about God, life beyond death, reincarnation, divine beings, angels, distance healing, awakening, ESP, and anything else. At best, they are ideas that seem to fit the data, make sense, and help us orient and function in the world. And that’s about it. That’s all I can say about it.

This is as honest as I can be about these things now. It’s as aligned with reality as I can make it for now. It’s as aligned with the divine – if I see reality as the divine – as I can make it. And there is a great freedom here. I don’t need to defend anything.

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Awakening from a psychological perspective

 

From a conventional view, there is this human being and consciousness is somehow connected with it.

And logically, since it’s the consciousness experiencing we must experience ourselves as this consciousness. Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness.

The next logical step is that we can notice ourselves as this consciousness, and any and all content of experience as happening within and as this consciousness. And that’s awakening. 

It’s really super simple. Almost banal. It certainly doesn’t have to be very esoteric. And yet, I realize it can seem a bit mysterious since that’s often how it has been presented in the past, and if we don’t have a direct experience or taste of it ourselves it can seem a bit abstract.

But in reality, it’s very simple. It’s already our experience, whether we notice it or not. And there are simple ways for us to have an immediate taste of it. 

The essence of what the mystics and spiritual traditions have talked about is also true. It takes time to clarify this and make it our new conscious home. It takes time to get all the different parts of ourselves on board with it. It takes time to learn to live from it more consistently and in more and more situations in life.

And any and all of the different practices from different spiritual traditions can help us with this, whether it’s natural rest, training a more stable focus, prayer, heart-centered practices, inquiry, body-centered practices, a life of service, and so on. 

This is the psychological perspective on awakening. We can still imagine there is a physical body and world, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we notice that all of it – all of our current experience of this human self, others, and the world – happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as what we may call consciousness. In our immediate experience, all is one since all happens within and as what we are. 

The difference with the spiritual perspective is that here, we go a step further. We acknowledge all of this, but we may say that the world really is consciousness, and we may call it the divine, or God, or Spirit, or Brahman, or Big Mind. 

And if you are like me, then you’ll find both of those perspectives valid and useful. Which one we use just depends on what seems most helpful for ourselves or others in the situation. 

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Psychological and spiritual interpretations of awakening

 

This is something I have been curious about since the initial spiritual awakening: an awakening can be interpreted in a psychological or a spiritual way, and most of the data fit either explanation. Which one we chose depends on our inclination, which one seems most helpful to ourselves, and perhaps which one seems more helpful for the reciver if we point to it for someone else’s benefit.

In short, an awakening is typically experienced as a realization that all is awakeness or consciousness. Any apparently separate beings are expressions of this awakeness. They are local and temporary expressions of awakeness or consciousness, as is everything else including what appears as the physical world.

This can be interpreted in a psychological way. This awakeness or consciousness is connected to this human being, and since we are this awakeness we can awaken to ourselves as this awakeness. We – as observer, experiencer, doer, human self – and the world as it appears to us happens within and as this awakeness. This is an explanation that actually would fit within conventional psychology, although not that many talks about it this way. (Yet… I imagine more will in the future.)

This allows us to operate with our immediate experience on the one hand, where everything happens within and as awakeness, and the conventional world on the other hand, that exists and functions as before. Of course, in our immediate experience all of this, including this framework or map, happens within and as awakeness, as everything else does.

It can also be interpreted in a conventional spiritual way. The whole world is the divine, and it temporarily and locally takes itself to be a separate being, and then awakens to itself as awakeness and everything happening within and as this awakeness.

Both the psychological and spiritual interpretations fit most of the data. In the first case, we – naturally – project the awakeness onto the whole world. In the second, everything – the whole world – is this awakeness and awakens to itself as all of it.

So which one do we chose? It depends on our culture, background, and inclination. And it also depends on what is most helpful to ourselves and others. If we talk about this in a conventional psychology setting, we may choose the psychological approach. If we talk about it in a spiritual context, the spiritual interpretation makes more sense.

In either case, it’s good to be aware of these two ways of interpreting awakening, hold both lightly, and see that we can choose to use one or the other depending on what seems most helpful in the setting we are in.

I said that most data fits either interpretation, which means some data fits one better than the other. To me, what’s revealed through parapsychological research – ESP, near-death experiences, reincarnation cases and so on – fits the spiritual interpretation better. As does my own personal experiences of ESP, seeing energies and auras, distance healing, and more.

I also said, “This awakeness or consciousness is connected to this human being”. I use the word “connected” intentionally since it leaves room for both a materialistic interpretation (the mind arises from the brain) and the reverse (the mind and consciousness as primary and using the brain as radio waves uses a radio).

Why is most mainstream psychology is not yet on board with the psychological interpretation? Partly because they are not so interested in awakening, and may assume it’s just a fanciful idea and not something pragmatic and close at hand. Partly because they may not realize or have taken in that we, in our own experience, are awakeness or consciousness, and that all content of experience happens within and as this awakeness. It can’t be any other way. When this awakeness wakes up to itself, and to all its experiences as happening within and as itself, that’s what we call awakening. It’s close at hand and not very mystical or fanciful.

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