Darwin’s complex loss of faith


In reality, Darwin’s loss of faith was, as he recognised, gradual and complex. The reasons were not new – suffering always has been and always will be most serious challenge to Christianity – but they were newly focused. Plenty of Darwin’s scientific contemporaries….. could accommodate their Christian beliefs with the new theory. Indeed, as historian James Moore has remarked “with but few exceptions the leading Christian thinkers in Great Britain and America came to terms quite readily with Darwinism and evolution.”

But Darwin, brought up on William Paley’s harmonious, self-satisfied vision of creation, could not.

From brief and good article from The Guardian.

Guided missile


A Zen teacher I once had used to talk about attention as a guided missile. It automatically goes to knots, hangups, perceived problems.

What he left out, but of course knew, is that this is an invitation to notice, to investigate, to find more clarity.

It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It helps us survive.

And it also makes sense within the context of growing and waking up.


Origin stories and a sense of distance



Although I don’t write about it much here, I often use an evolutionary view to explore dynamics in daily life. It is fun to imagine what evolutionary function something has, and it can even be helpful at times.

For instance, I noticed nervousness before giving a presentation to a group, and realized that it seems to make perfect sense in an evolutionary perspective. If I am careless about what I say or do in front of a large group of people, it can have serious consequences for me. In extreme cases, I could get killed. I could get thrown out of my community. I could get stigmatized and have to live with the consequences for the rest of my life. Of course, in the culture I live in, none of these are likely to happen, or if some of the less serious consequences did happen, I could just find another group or move another place. But my system still responds as if I lived in a small tribe in Africa and my life depended on that one small community.

Just having that explanation makes it a little easier. The nervousness seems a little less personal. It is not so much about me, but a shared human – probably mammalian – experience.


Glue for attention


Scientific American has an interesting article on depression’s evolutionary roots.

Depression brings attention to a particular topic while reducing distractions, allowing it to be examined and processed more thoroughly. And that investigation can help us function better in daily life.

The idea is of course not new, and it goes well beyond just depression.

When I explore for myself, I find that any hangups, any reactivity, is a glue for attention. It brings attention to the apparent topic of the hangup, and also to the hangup itself.

Whenever there is friction between shoulds and is/may be, there is a knot. A hangup. A tantrum, as Byron Katie calls it.


Caveman Logic



This book looks interesting:

Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in a Modern World.

(Via Integral Options Cafe.)

The press release makes some good points, and it is an interesting exploration. Why do we sometimes resist a more rational view? And what can be done about it when we notice it in ourselves, or encounter it in others?

It is also interesting to note that the author appears to mix in his own beliefs which muddles the logic slightly.

Davis laments a modern world in which more people believe in ESP, ghosts, and angels than in evolution. Superstition and religion get particularly critical treatment, although he argues that religion, itself, is not the problem but “an inevitable by-product of how our minds misperform.

It is not quite ESP, ghost and angels versus science and evolution. It is about how we relate, not what we relate to.

It is perfectly possible to be curious about ESP, ghost, UFOs and other mysterious phenomena, and take a pragmatic and scientific approach to it. We can study it through science and be quite receptive and open to whatever we may find.

And it is also perfectly possible to have a blind and irrational belief in atheism or particular scientific models, pretending those views and models are true when we know that atheism is just another unproven philosophy and any scientific model will be outdated and obsolete at some point in the future. (And that goes for our most basic worldview as well, and our most basic assumptions about life and existence.)

When we mix in our own beliefs as Davis does, it is also easy to be caught up in shadow projections. To get caught up in the “I am right, you are wrong” dynamics and all that comes with it.

And as always, this is a mirror for myself. I see Davis being caught up in his own beliefs, so how am I doing the same? How am I doing the same in relation to him right now? Can I find other specific examples from my own life?

In this case, it is perfectly possible – even likely – that I am horribly unfair and assign views to the author that he does not hold. I haven’t even read his book. I am just using it to make a point.


Thomas Berry (1916-2009)



(Photo: Drew Dellinger)

Both education and religion need to ground themselves within the story of the universe as we now understand this story through empirical knowledge. Within this functional cosmology, we can overcome our alienation and begin the renewal of life on a sustainable basis. This story is a numinous revelatory story that could evoke the vision and the energy required to bring not only ourselves but the entire planet into a new order of magnificence.

Thomas Berry. Catholic priest, author, geologican, and one of the foremost figures in ecospirituality and evolutionary spirituality, died this morning.

See a tribute from Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, his official website, and this website dedicated to this work. I highly recommend his books.

Synchronicity at play: I posted a link to Facebook on Thomas Berry, and the first of the two security check/captcha words was – honest truth – lila.

Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute.

The link



This amazingly complete 47 million year old fossil was revealed to the public today. It was found in Germany in the 80s, wasy aquired by the University of Oslo two years ago, and is a link in the early evolution of primates. (See official site and BBC.) 

Exploring our evolutionary past helps us understand who we are today, and this has many practical benefits. Our evolutionary story informs a wide range of fields, including medicine, sociology and psychology. And through the epic of evolution, we can find and a deep sense of connection, belonging and meaning, which in turn influences our views and actions and may even help us survive as a species. 

There is also another side to our desire to fill in our past through genealogy, history, archaeology, evolutionary past, cosmology and more. We can use it to give ourselves a false sense that we understand and know who we are as a species and individuals. We can use it to get a sense of having ground under our feet, a base to stand on, stories that helps us solidify and flesh out our identities. 

These stories can be used as material to solidify our identity as a species, culture and individual, and also as an object in the world – a me, a doer and an observer. 

This is where inquiry can be very helpful. Do I know that any of these stories are really true? Do I know that they define who and what I really am? What happens when I take them as true? Who would I be  without those stories? What are the truth in their turnarounds? (The Work.) 

So while all of these stories from genealogy, history, evolution and cosmology can be very helpful in a practical sense, and may even help us survive as a species, it is good to notice how we hold these stories, what happens when take them as true, and find what is more true for us -including that we really don’t know. 


Seeing the Earth as a whole



Forty years ago this Christmas, something amazing happened: we visited the Earth’s moon for the first time.

It was the first time humans saw the Earth as a blue marble floating in space, and it gave us the first photo of an Earthrise. (Here is a recent interview with the three Apollo 8 astronauts.)

For the last forty years, we have been familiar with photos of Earth from space. And also the often  transformative experiences of astronauts and cosmonauts. (Especially the ones who left Earth orbit.)

It has nudged us to recognize the Earth as one whole. As a living system. And as tiny even in the context of our own small solar system.

In many ways, seeing the Earth from the outside is a recent step in our collective deprovincialization. It is an invitation for us to grow up a little more as a species and global culture.


Functions of gossip


What are some of the functions of gossip?

Whether gossip happens in our own minds, between people, or in the media, I can find at least two main functions of gossip.

In an evolutionary perspective, it seems that it makes sense for people to exchange information about others. When we do, and to the extent it is accurate, we have a better idea of what is going on, and that is often helpful. Even when it is not accurate, it serves to create a sense of intimacy among those who share gossip.

Gossip also serves an important function in terms of projections. We get familiar with a characteristic or dynamic in somebody else, and – if we are receptive to it – can then get familiar with it in ourselves.

There are also a couple of other projection-related functions of gossip.


Dream: Inseparability of ground and evolution


I am with a group of teachers, and they are all enthusiastically sharing how the world of form continues to deepen and evolve before and after awakening. It is a continuing process of exploration. They use a Buddhist term for this unfolding, and although I am familiar with the term I didn’t realize it referred to the inseparability of ground and evolution.

All of these teachers are people I know in waking life, either in person or through their teachings. They are teachers who tend to emphasize the awakening aspect and de-emphasize -or leave out – the development/evolution aspect. And this tends to bug me somewhat.

In the dream, all of them emphasize both aspects equally and with great enthusiasm, and use a term from traditional Buddhism which refers to the inseparability of the two. There is a deep sense of this equal emphasis being an integral part of all mystical traditions, although teachings tends to – for different reasons – emphasize one or the other.

Michael Dowd in Oregon!



Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow are back in Oregon, giving a string of presentations in early April.

They will be in Roseburg April 9, Eugene April 10, Portland April 12 and 13, and Salem on the 16th.

If you happen to live around here, it is well worth attending. They are both amazing speakers in the area of evolution and spirituality, and Michael often uses the aqal framework to organize his presentations.

If you live somewhere else in the US, you can find their schedule on the Thank God for Evolution website, where you will also find audio and video snippets.

Inside and outside of stories


In exploring anything, it is a good idea to notice how it appears from the inside and outside of stories.

Take evolution as an example. Lots of people are into evolution in different ways, including evolutionary spirituality.

Where do I find evolution? For me, I find it easily within stories.

But what about outside of stories? What about how it appears here now? What about how it appears in the sense fields? I cannot find it there at all. At most, I can find it as a thought overlaid on the other sense fields.

So this makes it clear to me, in a more real way, that evolution only appears within stories.

And this, in turn, makes it clear that evolution is a story of only practical value. There is nothing inherently valuable or true in it, but it may still have a practical function in the world, and even in the spiritual practice of some folks.

These simple explorations helps put things in perspective. It helps us become more real about it. And it helps release identification out of these stories, so they are revealed as practical tools with no value beyond that.

It takes the drama out of it. There is nothing to defend. No inherent truth in the stories that we need to defend, and no truth in the reversals that we need to defend against. We don’t need to defend the story any more than we need to defend any other practical tool, like a hammer. The only question is when and how is it useful, in a purely practical way.

With evolution, we see that it obviously fits all the data we have collected from biology, so it seems quite useful there. It has some explanation power. And it does add another dimension to how we understand our psychology, so it has practical value there too. It may even add some richness to how we see ourselves spiritually, from within the realm of stories, so it may have some practical value there too, for those drawn to it.

Again, it is simple. Almost childishly simple, as so much else here. Yet, to fully see this, to fully see, feel and love it, and bring it into daily life in a variety of situations, takes some exploration and practice.

Counterintuitive ideas and evolution



Since I started being interested in those things, I have thought the idea of human evolution slowing down being counterintuitive. Why should it? It seems more reasonable that it continues about the same as before, or even speeds up.

After all, there are more of us, much more diversity in the circumstances we encounter, and biological predispositions that may appear subtle at our individual human level may have a major impact in an evolutionary perspective.

For instance, if we have a biological predisposition for a disease that only breaks out later in life, it will impact our ability to help our grandchildren, and this may appear of little consequence in individual cases, but over time and over large groups of people, it most certainly will have an evolutionary impact.

And that is the case with innumerable traits. They may appear of little evolutionary significance when we look at individual cases, but it all adds up over time and in larger groups. And this goes for biological predispositions for any trait we can think of, physiological and psychological alike.

So I am glad that some recent research have found just that: human evolution appears to not only continue at a brisk pace, but may even have speeded up over the last few thousands of years. And, it seems to me, most likely will continue to do so.

Inquiry: The Work is blind to the myth of the given


I found these beautiful inquiries by someone who, like me, appreciate the work of Ken Wilber and The Work by Byron Katie.

Here are a few excerpts:

Belief: The Work ignores intersubjectivity. I can turn this around right away.


  1. The Work considers intersubjectivity. I do the Work with my partner. I listen to her Judge your Neighbor worksheet on me and facilitate her doing the Work on me while I listen with an open heart. She does the same thing for me. I couldn’t ask for a better mirror and if that isn’t intersubjectivity what is? The Work can be done with family, friends, colleagues, enemies, anybody. I learn an enormous amount when I facilitate another – about them and me.
  2. I ignore intersubjectivity. When I defend myself against criticism as a knee jerk reaction. As Katie often says, Defense is the first act of War. When I believe my thoughts about others without enquiry. When I do not question my thoughts about me (my multiple selves – parent, child, adult).


Turnarounds to “The Work does not take into consideration the evolution of consciousness”:

  1. The Work does take into consideration the evolution of consciousness. The Work questions the lies/pathologies that surface at every structure stage of consciousness. In the process, the untrue beliefs are left behind and I am freed to evolve or not. As Katie says, there are only 3 kinds of business; my business, your business and God’s business. Eros is God’s business.
  2. I do not take into consideration the evolution of others’ consciousness. I believe that others can’t evolve, that they are blocked or stuck believing their myths. I believe this about my partner, my friends and work colleagues. I tend to believe the worst about them. And yes, I believe that of some of the Greens in this forum! Sorry guys, my bad.
  3. I do not take into consideration the evolution of my consciousness. I often consider my problem to be hopeless. My understanding won’t get better. My fear won’t get better. My relationship won’t get better.


Turnarounds for “The Work is limited by the Myth of the Given”.

  1. The Work in not limited by the Myth of the Given. The Work (4 questions) investigates any myth (beliefs) that I take as given (true). For example I believe the myth that my father is dead when his genes are alive in me, his memory is alive in me, his image is alive in me. By investigating every story, the Work leaves me as what I am (truth) in the moment. As Katie says, the Work takes nothing away and gives nothing. It’s only 4 questions.
  2. I limit myself by the Myth (lies) that I take to be Given. There is no question in my mind that I was suffering from the myths that I believed. The energy that I use in holding on to beliefs that conflict with reality limits my creativity and action.
  3. I believe the myth of the other/(s) to be given. I project my thoughts (myths) on to others and think that my image of them is real (given). Who is an Other without my story?

More people awakening today?


A good post from Vince:

A friend of mine recently posed the question, “Is it just me, or are there a lot of people waking up these days?” It’s a really interesting question, one that I’ve thought about from time to time. And so talking it over with my partner I came up with at least six different possibilities (I’m sure there are more) that one might consider with regards to the question:

  1. It is possible that with the dawn of the information age we are simply much more aware of that then we were before of how many people are waking up.
  2. On the journey toward awakening and with a more realistic model of awakening, the amount of people we see who are awake or waking up increases due to our not having far-fetched models and because we’ve simply had more time to meet them.
  3. It’s difficult to compare how many people are awake today versus in the past because we don’t have much reliable empirical data.
  4. From the purely statistical perspective, the steady rise in the world’s population would mean there are more awakened people, if we assume a similar awakening per capita.
  5. One argument is that as the speed of the world increases the ability to wake up to what is always already there, simply via the higher contrast, becomes easier.
  6. Humans may be evolving in mental, emotional, and spiritual complexity over time (Ken Wilber’s evolutionary spirituality perspective), with one major outcome being that more people are waking up.

And some additional points that comes to mind:

  1. Longer lifespan, as Duff mentions in a comment to the original post.
  2. The filter of time. Most of us know only a handful of painters from the renaissance, but people at the time knew about many more. Just as time filters who among painters are remembered by later generations, the same happens with mystics.
  3. Increased access & opportunity
    • Easier access to simple, effective practices from a range of traditions, and new variations such as headlessness, the Big Mind process and The Work. Also, a quicker and wider dissemination of simple/effective practices through old and new media.
    • Easier access to teachers, in person and through books, audio, video, internet.
    • For some, more leisure time so more time for practice.
  4. There are more people today who get to taste most or all of their material desires. This means that more get to see, through own experience, that it doesn’t quite do it, and some of these (a small fraction) will then shift onto a path of spiritual practices. (On the other hand, we live in a global culture that promotes the idea of happiness through getting what we want in the material world, and this idea may have been less prominent – and tempered by other views – in previous times and other cultures.)
  5. More inclusive definitions of awakening. If we take a broad (or vague) definition to awakening, as many do, then many has indeed awakened… but this may include people who have a soul level awakening (alive presence), a oneness awakening (a self here one with God and everything else), receptivity to or glimpses/intuitions of soul/oneness/nondual awakenings, and also a more stable nondual awakening (free from an I with an Other). Even among many so called “awakened” teachers today, we see people who express these different forms of awakening. If we lump it all together, it includes quite a lot of people. The Translucent Revolution by Arjuna Ardagh is one of many examples of this lumping together, where he mostly seems to talk about people who have a receptivity to and intuition/glimpses of soul/oneness/nondual awakenings.

The most simple and down-to-earth explanations seem sufficient to explain why it seems that more people are waking up today.

We hear about it more. We often use a very broad and vague definition of awakening which by necessity includes a lot of people.

More and more people have a sense, taste and glimpse of different forms of awakening through different practices such as the Big Mind process, so they and others may see that as an awakening. (It is an awakening, in that it awakens them to what is beyond a perception filtered through I and Other. But it is not an awakening in terms of – for instance – a stable nondual awakening where the whole sense of I and Other falls away.) We hear about awakenings more readily through modern communication.

And finally, more people may indeed awaken because there are more of us, and easier access to practices and teachers.

Thank God for evolution!



Michael Dowd’s new book, Thank God for Evolution, is available for pre-order. Also check out the book’s website which has articles as well as audio and video samples.

He does a great job of providing bridges from the traditionalist/fundamentalist to the rational/scientific perspectives, and between science and spirituality, all within an integrally informed framework.

(Not sure how much the book goes into the integral maps, but his talks often do.)

Attention going to knots


Another revisited theme: attention going to knots.

Knots are made up of beliefs and their corresponding emotions and habitual patterns, including behavioral ones. There is a belief in a story, a friction between the story of what is (or was, or may be) and this story, corresponding emotions, and certain behaviors.

And attention tends to go to these knots, which makes it more difficult for awareness to notice itself, and its content as awareness too. We notice it in everyday life, and also during sitting practice.

Why does attention go to knots?

There may be several ways of talking about it…

First, there is discomfort in several ways.

  • Whenever there is a belief, there is a discrepancy between what we are (awake void and form) and what we take ourselves to be (as defined by the belief and its corresponding identity), which brings a sense of uneasiness.
  • Whenever there is friction between our stories of what is and what should be, there is discomfort.
  • Whenever there is a belief, there is resistance to experience, which gives discomfort.

Then, an impulse to change the situation to relieve the discomfort.

  • We can narrow the gap between the story of what is and what should be, by changing what is or what should be.
  • We can change our relationship to the stories themselves, for instance by inquiring into them allowing a release of identification from them.
  • Or we can ignore the discomfort and the impulse to change one or both of the above, in which case the misery is likely to deepen. Also, if we only work on the first one, we are caught in the ongoing drama of what is and what should be, which is fine but also somewhat stressful.

And to change it, attention needs to go there.

Right here now, I can see these patterns play themselves out.

In one sense, it is all an invitation for awakening, for beliefs to be examined and unravel and Ground to notice itself. It is how Big Mind first “loses itself” by identifying with just an aspect of itself, how it gives itself an impulse and motivation for awakening, and also guides itself to awakening – back to noticing itself as Big Mind. These dynamics are three in one: forgetting, motivation for change, and a guide for awakening.

And in anther sense, it is an evolutionary mechanism which increases the chances of survival for the individual and the species. There is a discrepancy between what is (circumstances) and what should be (health and well-being of this individual and its group, so then an impulse to reduce this discrepancy, which in many cases – and appropriately so – means to change things in the world to create more favorable circumstances for this human self and its group.

So this simple dynamic has a beautiful complexity to it all around. Here and now, there is an infinite number of aspects and processes to explore. And in the bigger picture, we see how it is Big Mind forgetting about itself, seeking itself, and guiding itself to notice itself again. And also how it is a mechanism that increases the chances of survival for the individual and the species.

And exploring the two last ones, we also see that the survival aspect has (mostly) to do with changing circumstances, and the awakening aspect has to do with examining these dynamics themselves and also beliefs.

Both are essential in their own way, also in our own life.

Deep time & Big Mind


I have been reminded of deep time this last week, from attending the archeology film festival, reading an article about the life and death of the solar system, to watching some snippets from Cosmos online. It is a revisiting of an interest I have had since childhood in these themes which are, in some ways, next door to Big Mind.

Deep time, the long now, infinite causes and effects, evolutionary spirituality, the universe story, the epic of evolution, the great story… all of these are in many ways one step away from Big Mind, they can lead us into it from the form and emptiness sides.

From the form side, contemplating the evolution of the universe and our place in it, almost requires shifting into Big Mind to hold it all… And from the emptiness side, realizing the utter impermanence of it all is an invitation to a shift into emptiness, the void, which is what is left when everything else is gone.

To really grasp for instance the universe story requires a shift into Big Mind, and to really grasp the impermanence of it all requires finding ourselves as the void. At least to some extent. It requires dipping into it, tasting it. And is an invitation to explore it further.

I am actually surprised not more Buddhist teachers use the universe story (and deep time, the long now, etc.) in that way… as a nudge, an invitation into Big Mind and finding ourselves as the void. It seems like a perfect teaching vehicle.

I would have jumped on it right away if I was in their position, and I guess many will in the future… maybe through a combination of multimedia and experiential activities such as the practices to reconnect and the Big Mind process.


Three reasons for practice


At another level, the retreat helped clarify three reasons of practice for me…

  • Awakening to what we are… the void awakening to itself, as wakeful, as form, inherently absent of any separate self.
  • Making it easier to be who we take ourself to be, allowing for some release from suffering, an opening for appreciation for life as it is, and so on.
  • Assisting development and evolution… the development of this individual at human and soul levels, as part of the evolution of the larger world of form.

The first is at the absolute level, the absolute awakening to itself even while still functionally connected with a human self.

The second is at the relative level, offering some (apparent) benefits of the practice even in those cases where there is not (yet) a full awakening of Big Mind.

And the third is also at the relative, form, level, allowing for a the human self to heal, mature and deepen into the evolving fullness of itself, and the soul level to deepen into its own evolving fullness. (I like to leave out the conscious evolution part as it is a great hook for inflation…!)


Biology and beliefs



Another exploratory and less organized post…

From the previous post:

How are beliefs ties up with biology? From a conventional view, we don’t quite see the connection. Biology is biology, with its drives and impulses and neurotransmitters and whatever else. But if we look a little closer, we find that beliefs are essential also here. Mainly, biology is destiny only as far as there is an identification with this human self. If there is a belief in a separate self, and it is placed on this human self, there is a sense of I in this human self, including its biological aspect. I am caught up in it, have little or no distance form it, I am at the mercy of it. So when there is a biological drive or impulse, it is experienced as an I, which means it is acted on without much thought or sense of choice. (It goes the other way as well, beliefs create what is conventionally interpreted as only biological impulses.)

I want to explore this a little further, to clarify it for myself.

Biology taken as an I

Biological impulses are taken as an I only when there is a belief in a separate self, and this is placed on our human self. When they arise, they appear as I, so there is little or no distance from them. Sometimes, we act blindly one them. And at best, there is a sense of a struggle. I (body) wants this, but I (mind) shouldn’t or can’t.

The most dramatic example of this for me happened in one of my first sesshins. There was excruciating pain in the legs, so the biological impulse (or so it seemed) was to get up or at least change position. But since it was a sesshin, my mind said “sit still”. What I took myself to be was (a) in pain and (b) opposed to change the circumstances so it would go away. So there was also a sense of drama and conflict. I was at war with myself.

At some point, when the pain got so intense I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, there was a dramatic shift. The pain was still there, but there was also complete freedom from it. The pain just happened as anything else happened… the sounds from the streets, the sight of my own body and others in the room. It was there but without identification, without seeing it as an I with an Other.

Effects of beliefs interpreted as biology

Looking a little further, I see that the effects of beliefs are often interpreted as biology. In particular, a lot of it comes from the belief in a separate self. This belief in a separate self, placed on this human self, automatically creates fear, desire, longing, a desire for self-preservation, and so on. And all of this is typically interpreted as coming from evolution and biology.

If there is a belief in a separate self, and it is placed on the napkin on the table (unlikely, but it could happen), there would still be fears, desires, a sense of a need for self-preservation and so on, only now, it would obviously not be coming from evolution or biology. Maybe we instead would think that is is inherent in the particular fabric the napkin is made out of.


Together, we get a fuller picture.

Evolution does select for organisms that know how to take care of itself and produce offspring. This is embedded in the biology of individuals, showing up as what we call drives, impulses, traits and whatever other terms we have for it. Drives are real, in that sense.

When there is a sense of a separate self, and it is placed on this human self, then these drives are taken as “I”, which sometimes creates a sense of tension and drama. I (as body) want this, but I (as mind) want something else. I want to be free from pain, but I shouldn’t move. I want to eat, but I have taken a vow to fast.

And also, from that same sense of a separate self comes lots of things conventionally interpreted as having to do with biology: fears, desires, impulse for self-preservation, wanting to eat when hungry, sleep when tired, wanting to avoid pain, wanting pleasure, wanting release from tension, and much more.

With a belief in a separate self, placed on this human self, there is (a) a caught-upness in whatever biological impulses arise, and (b) an active production of impulses that may appear as coming from biology.

Absent of a sense of a separate self, there is (a) freedom from whatever biological impulses arise, and (b) an absence of a production of impulses that may appear as coming from biology.

The joy of figuring things out


I have always enjoyed figuring things out. (I was one of those kids who would take things apart and put them together again, with varying degrees of success, to see how they work.)

So, in the spirit of figuring things out, I am wondering why I enjoy figuring things out…

No matter what the area of exploration, the enjoyment is still there… unless it is temporarily clouded over by stress from deadlines or dire consequences of not figuring it out.

It can be making this WordPress blog work, exploring what works in relationships in general and with a particular person or group, exploring how the mind works, thinking through what is needed for winter camping, exploring how to train a specific cat using clicker training, or whatever else.

Here are some things that come to mind…

  • Evolution
    There is a clear evolutionary advantage in enjoying exploring and figuring things out. It helps us solve problems when they arise, find new strategies to reach certain goals, and move beyond where we are in general. It is to great benefit to individuals to have this to some extent. On a group level, only some need to have this joy of exploration as a passion, and that is exactly what we see.
  • Release
    Whenever we are faced with (something we define) as a problem, there is a certain tension there. Life is one way, and we would like it to be a different way. This tension is often experienced as unpleasant (which actually comes from a belief), so we are motivated to resolve the situation, which means to either change life itself, or our stories about it, or a combination. In either case, figuring out how to resolve it gives a sense of release, which we experience as pleasant (which actually comes from another belief).
  • Socially
    There are also social aspects to the joy in exploring. It is a shared belief, at least in our culture, that exploring it a desirable thing… for its own sake, and also for what it produces. So when we explore, we are aligned with our own beliefs about what is desirable and good. It also means that explorers, in just about any area of life, are often admired (or at least approved of) by society.
  • For its own sake
    Then there is the joy in exploring itself. What I find (and what I hear from others to who look into it) is that there is a quiet joy in experiencing itself, independent of the content of the experience. There also seems to be a joy inherent in exploration itself, although that may really come from what is described in the previous posts (and whatever is left out).

So all around, from biology, psychology, socially, and practically, there are benefits to exploring which all (can) trigger a sense of joy.


The absolute & relative of meaning of life


As with anything else, we can look at the meaning of life from the emptiness and form sides.

From the emptiness side, there is an absence of even the question.

When we include form, and form is recognized as no other than emptiness, then what is, as it is, is the meaning of life. Put another way, it is God’s will. It is God manifesting and exploring itself. It is perfect as is, or rather, not touched by ideas of imperfection and perfection. It is emptiness dancing.

And from the form side, in the context of all form as God exploring itself, then we see that one of the many relative meanings of life is evolution and development, since this allows God to explore and experience itself in always new ways.

So meaning of life can take on many different flavors… Finding ourselves as emptiness, as awake void, there is an absence of the question. Finding ourselves as awake emptiness and form, the meaning of life is what is, as it is. What is, here and now, is God’s will. It is what comes out of and is made of the void. It is the local manifestations of the movements of the whole. And as form, evolution and development takes on meaning as well, as it allows God to explore and experience itself in always new and more complex ways. And finally, the meaning of life is what we make it to be, through our stories. When we believe a story about the meaning of life, either in general or for our own life, then that becomes our living reality. And that too, is God exploring and experiencing itself in just another way, another flavor.

Absolute and relative of any story


This is getting choppy, but that’s ok.

Here is yet another, slightly wider, framework for many of the popular evolutionary views today (and any other story).

In an absolute sense, it is all just stories. Form itself is a thin surface on the vastness of awake emptiness, and stories just a way of interpreting the world of form.

In a relative sense, each story has a grain of truth to them, and all their reversals do as well (together revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation).

If we take a story as an absolute truth, we set ourselves up for misery. If we take it as only a relative truth, of temporary, limited and purely utilitarian value, it can be very useful in our human life. But that is about it.

The value of evolutionary stories, whether from conventional science or from integral frameworks or new age, is that it sets our life – and our daily experiences – in a wider context within form. Personally, I find that the insights from biological evolution can be very helpful as a context for much in my daily life… it sets my emotions, reactions, impulses and much more into a far wider context. The integral evolutionary frameworks can be helpful in understanding where people are at, and where we personally came from and may be going. The Universe Story can give people a real sense of belonging to the larger whole, and of meaning.

And even the more new agey views, which rings of wishful thinking and triggered the initial post on this topic, may have value I suppose. It may give people temporary comfort (although tinged with stress). It may have some value as a self-fulfilling prophesy (probably in a very limited way). It may have entertainment value. There may be a grain of truth in it, and encourage some people to explore it in a more grounded and serious way. The inherent stress in believing it may help people question beliefs in general. And I am sure there are more gifts in it as well.

The drama of awakening


Over the last few days, I have been reminded of the drama of awakening, and how the sense of drama is connected with the sense of I. There is an I here that wants to be awakened, is not yet, and goes through all sorts of adventures in the process. The drama of awakening is part of the drama of a sense of I.

At the same time, there is a real drama of awakening, in a different sense. In the sense that the unfolding of Existence in all its many ways is a drama. The drama of the birth of the universe, organizing itself into atoms, molecules, clouds, galaxies, solar systems, planets, life, humans, culture, everything in our daily lives. It is the drama of the unfolding, evolution and development of the form aspect of Spirit.

And when the drama of a sense of I falls away and Spirit awakens to itself, it can appreciate this as a drama of unfolding, absent of the filter of the drama of I and Other.

The coin of awakening: exploring both sides


(Somewhat long and rambling…)

There is a coin of ignorance and a coin of awakening.

Coin of ignorance: what we are and mechanisms of samsara

One face of the coin of ignorance is ignorance of what we are, and the other face is ignorance of the mechanisms of samsara.

Coin of awakening: emptiness and form

And one face of the coin of awakening is emptiness, and the other form. Or we can, more loosely, say context and content, Ground and phenomena, absolute and relative, and more specifically – in our case, Big Mind and human self.

When Big Mind awakens to its own nature, when there is realized selflessness, both are naturally present, inseparable, revealed as two sides of the same coin. One is not more or less real or present than the other.

At the same time, there can definitely be a difference in emphasis, and this has to do with how our particular human self is put together, and also the culture and traditions it functions within and is influenced by.

Emphasizing the absolute

So for instance Joel, at the Center for Sacred Sciences, tends to emphasize awakening as a release from our human self, which is completely valid. There is a release from blind identification with our human self, and the drama that comes with that identification.

In general, he tends to emphasize emptiness, Ground, the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, Big Mind. And he tends to de-emphasize form, phenomena, the content of this universe and the human self, and our particular human self. He certainly acknowledges this face of the coin, but it is not emphasized. He also tends to leave out the evolution aspect of the world of form, including the interpersonal and the healing, maturing and development – along the many lines and their levels, of our human self.

Since Big Mind is emphasized, it can appear somewhat detached and impersonal. It can even appear as an escape more than anything else, although it is an escape from misidentification into what we already really are.

Since the particulars of our human self is somewhat in the background, the healing, maturing and development of our human self is also in the background. As Ken Wilber points out in his dramatic language, an awakening – and the practice up to it, can even “cement” the human self in place to some extent, including its dysfunctions and current levels of development.

Including the relative

Others, such as Genpo Roshi, Saniel Bonder, the other teachers associated with Ken Wilber, and I am sure many others, emphasize more strongly an inclusion of the relative.

For Genpo Roshi, it means to become more fully human. For Saniel Bonder, the many forms of mutuality and embodiment.

Here, the evolution of form, and the development of this particular human self, is emphasized as much as the awakening itself. And the awakening of realized selflessness is just one step in this process. It is not by any means an end point. It may be “final” as it is a Ground awakening, yet it is not final at all in terms of the continuing unfolding, evolution and development of the world of form in general, and of this human self in particular.

One aspect of the awakening can still be seen as an “escape” from blind identification with this human self and the suffering that comes with it. But as much as an escape, it is an opportunity and invitation to allow this human self to heal, mature and continue to develop in a richer, fuller, deeper, wider way.

Development within two contexts: a sense of I and realized selflessness

The world of form is change and continues to evolve, and this human self too continues to change and develop.

When this human self changes and develops within the context of a sense of I, there is an identification with some aspects of this human self and a disowning of other aspects. It is a house divided against itself. There are varying degrees of drama and struggle in this process, which in itself brings various dysfunctions, lopsided developments, and so on.

On the other hand, when this human self changes and develops within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a much fuller, richer, deeper, wider, more balanced and integral healing, maturing, and development.

This human self naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this process can be aided and greased. And the relationships that this human self has to others and the wider world also naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this too can be encouraged and helped along.

Nothing new, yet a difference in emphasis

Most (or all?) mature traditions and teachers acknowledge this. But there is certainly a difference in emphasis. As many suggests today, it seems that our current phase in human evolution, and the way awakening is expressed, is one of emphasizing the inclusion of the relative, including the healing, maturing and development of our human self and its many relationships to the wider world.

Why settle for just a Ground awakening when there is so much more to explore within this new context of realized selflessness. When there is an opportunity for this human self to engage more actively in the evolution of the world of form, particularly through its own healing, maturing and development.

Realized selflessness changes the context only: this human self continues to be part of an evolving universe and continues its own development. So it may as well actively engage in that process.

Evolution is, after all, one of the faces of God. It is what God appears to do in its form aspect.

Leave that out and there is still realized selflessness, which is of course fine. But it also leaves out the fun that this human self can have by more consciously engage with and grease its own process of unfolding and reorganizing, and that of the larger whole.

Big Mind doesn’t care either way. But engaging in this way can certainly be more fun for this human self. At least for this human self.

Self as seeing (or absent), me as this human self, and other as the rest of form


Another pretty obvious thing for those following KWs work:

I as seeing, me as human self, other as the rest of the world

When the sense of self shifts from the seen to the seeing, what is seen is divided up in two parts: me – as this human self, and other – as the rest of the world of form.

I am the seeing. Me is this human self. And other is the rest of the world.

Pretty simple.

And at the same time, the me and other is clearly seen as segments of the seamless fluid world of form. The dividing line between me and other is just for convenience’s sake, for practical reasons, as an aid for this human self to function and orient in the world of form. There is a demarcation line, for practical reasons, but it is just an abstract overlay.

I am the seeing that the world of form happens within.

Realized selflessness, and still me as human self and other as the rest of the world

Then, there is the realization that I am the Ground the seeing and the seen happens within and as, and there is no I inherent in any of it.

Even here, in realized selflessness, this human self is still me and the rest of the world other.

And here, it is even more clear that there is no inherent difference among any of these. It is all Ground in its many forms, Spirit playing, emptiness dancing.

The only difference is a practical one: there is still a functional connection with this particular human self. So, for purely practical reasons, it is labeled me.

And as the rest of the world of form continues to evolve, this human self continues to develop.