Chronos: being devoured by, or itself food

 

A while back, I wrote a post about eating time.

Slow as I am, I didn’t remember at first that this is the Chronos myth, the Greek god of time eating his children.

Eaten by time

First, there is an identification with the seen, with our human self. We find ourselves as an object in the world, within time and space. There is a sense of precariousness, of being at the mercy of the whims of other objects and the relentless stream of change and time. I am clearly subject to birth and death, and there is a sadly limited span in between. I am being eaten by time, day by day.

Release from being eaten by time

But am I the seen? Am I really a segment of this content of awareness?

The seen, no matter what it is – sensations, sights, tastes, smells, feelings, emotions, thoughts, they all come and go. But something does not come and go. What it is that does not come and go?

The more I look, the more I find what does not come and go is this seeing itself, this clear awake space that the seen unfolds within and to.

Gradually, I may find myself as the seeing itself, as pure awareness, the witness of the seen, of this content always coming and going.

I also notice that time is part of the seen. It is the always changing content, and arises to the seeing. The seeing itself seem inherently absent of time. It seems timeless.

In this, there is a release from being eaten by time.

The seen is revealed as absent of any I, and I gradually become more familiar and comfortable with this. Gradually, there is more and more of a living from this realization. The seen appears to be absent of any I, and the I appears to be this seeing itself.

Eating time

Time, as the always changing seen, arises to me as the seeing. It is different from me. There is a release from being identified with it.

But where does the seen end, and I – as the seeing of it, begin? Can I find the line that separates the two?

The more I look, the less certain I am that I can find it. It is elusive. It seems to be just another idea, with no real referent in immediate awareness.

The more there is the looking for this demarcation line, the more it seems that the seen is not that different from the seeing itself. The seen really appears as awareness itself.

The seen and the seeing seem to both arise as this clear awake space.

And, surprisingly, there seem to be no I even in the seeing.

There is no I in the seen, because it comes and goes while something else does not.

And there appears to be no I in the seeing either, because the seen and the seeing are not inherently different from each other. They both arise from and as the same Ground.

Here, there is an eating of time of sorts. There is an absence of any I and Other. An absence of I in seeing or seen, so an absence of any separation.

Reversals

So there is a series of shifts.

First, there is an identification as the seen, as a segment of content of awareness, as this human self. An object within time and space, and at the mercy of time and space. I am eaten by time.

Then, there is a release from identification with the seen, and a finding of oneself as the seeing. There is a release from the drama of being at the mercy of time and space. I am released from being eaten by time.

Finally, there is the realization that even the seeing is inherently absent of any I. The seen and the seeing arises within and as Ground, as empty awakeness.

The seen, the seeing, the identification with the seen or the seeing, it is all Ground, inherently absent of any I. Even the identification itself is absent of any I. There is no drama there, even in the midst of the appearance of much drama.

The other side of the coin: exploring common myths about awakening

 

Anything expressed – statements, ideas, guidelines, frameworks, insights – are relative truths. They each have limited, temporary and conditional validity, and the same is the case for each of their turnarounds.

Here are some common views related to awakening, how they may appear true, and their reversals.

I, I am

I am… something. There is an I placed on a segment of what is – my human self, my soul, myself as the seeing aspect of pure awareness.

As long as there is a belief in the idea of I, or of I am, everything gets filtered through this belief. The whole world will appear as I and Other, creating a sense of separation, alienation, something lacking, precariousness.

This is the big one, and some spiritual traditions seem to operate on this assumption. It allows for an awakening to deity mysticism and witness levels. If it goes further, into realized selflessness, it is more in spite of than aided by this assumption.

How it is true: When there is a belief in the idea of I, there certainly appears to be an I. It is the job of the mind to make our beliefs appear true, in any way possible. It is also true that there is this human self, and this awareness it happens within, but that does not mean there is an I anywhere there.

There is no I: Well, is there really an I anywhere in all of this? Where is it?

Is it anywhere within awareness, any content of awareness, any object of awareness? No, this is all seen, so I must be what is seeing it. I must be this clear awakeness that it arises within.

This still leaves a separation, an I as seeing and Other as seen. Where is the demarcation line between the two? Where does Other end and I begin? I cannot find that boundary. It now appears as the seen and the seeing is not separate. The seen does not seem different from the seeing. The content of awareness does not seem different from awareness itself.

In seeing this clearly, the whole sense of I falls away. There is no I to be found anywhere, not in the seeing and not in the seen.

I am a human being

This creates an appearance of I and Other where I am my human self, and everything else – including awareness, soul, God, Spirit, is Other.

How it is true: Well, there is certainly a human self here, and a functional connection to it with input and output. To that extent it is true, but is there an I anywhere in this human self?

I am not a human being: My human being is an object in awareness, it is a part of the content, not inherently different from any other part of the content – the sky, clouds, birds, cars. Content comes and goes, it is limited in time and space. But something does not come and go. Something is not limited in time and space. Something is free of any of the characteristics of content. What is that? Isn’t that more who I am?

It is difficult to awaken

Is it difficult to awaken? I guess it depends on how we look at it, but it seems that a sincere wish to awaken leads to (or at least precedes) awakening.

How it is true: Many people spend lots of time and energy trying to awaken, with little effect. That certainly appears to be true.

It is difficult to not awaken: Yes, it takes lots of energy and attention to believe in ideas and filter the world through them, creating and appearance of I and Other and everything else we are familiar with.

It takes work to awaken

How it is true: Sometimes a lot of practice seems to precede awakening, and we typically assign causality there, so it appears true in that way.

It takes work to not awaken: Yes, same as the previous one. It takes a lot of work to stay deluded, to believe ideas, to hold onto them, to prop them up, to find evidence for them, to reject contradictory ideas, to hold what is already real for us in immediate experience at bay, and so on.

Ego resists awakening

How it is true: Well, there certainly appears to be resistance to awakening, but this can also be seen as mere confusion and (apparently) not knowing the way out.

The ego does not resist awakening: That seems more true. There is just innocent habits and confusion there, and it may appear to resist awakening.

It is possible to be attached to objects

It is possible to be attached to objects – to material things, people, situations, and so on.

How it is true: Again, it appears true. It seems that lots of people are attached to objects. In fact, it seems to be the norm.

It is not possible to be attached objects: Exploring it a little more closely, this appears to be more true. I find that any attachment here is to ideas, and when I believe these ideas I may act as if I am attached to objects, but that is all. There is only the appearance of being attached to objects.

Thoughts are a problem

Thoughts are a problem. They make us all confused. They create suffering for us. It would be better without them.

How it is true: Thoughts appear to sometimes create problems for us. There is obsessive thinking, circular thinking, self-defeating thinking, and so on, and these thoughts themselves seem to be a problem.

Thoughts are not a problem: Again, this seems more true. It is only when there is an attachment to and belief in ideas that there is a problem, if then. Attaching to ideas, my view is stuck and narrow, and I am not receptive to the insights and truths in other – apparently opposing – views. I become inflexible. Whenever the world does not conform to my beliefs, there is stress.

The human self, or anything about the human self, is a problem

How it is true: Our human self certainly appear to be a burden sometimes. It is not the way I think it should be, and it is I or me, so I take it personally. My human self seem to be a problem.

This human self is not a problem: That seems more true. It is just living its own life. Everything about this human self, from its appearance to choices and behaviors, has infinite causes – reaching back to the beginnings of time and out to the extent of space. It is just innocently living its own life, living out what it has to due to these infinite causes. It is just a puppet with a million strings attached.

Something about the human self needs to change for awakening to occur

How it is true: Well, the human self has typically reorganized quite a bit, through various forms of practices, prior to an awakening. There appear to be causality there.

Nothing in this human self needs to change for awakening to occur: No, this human self is just content of awareness, and the awakening is in the context: from a sense of I to a realization of selflessness, of no I anywhere.

The Sting & Reversals

 

I watched The Sting again last night, and was reminded of how much I enjoy well-crafted stories with surprising reversals. In The Sting, the audience is repeatedly led to believe certain stories about what they are seeing. Later on, the audience is given new information and insights which completely reverses what they see as going on.

For us humans, there seems to be a built-in delight in these forms of reversals, especially when they appear in what is clearly just entertainment. In my own life, I see that I either appreciate the reversals as they happen, or at least learn to appreciate them later on.

Reversals in awakening

In the various forms of awakenings, there are also numerous reversals. Here are some variations of just one reversal…

  • The reversal from identification as a human being, an object in the world, to that clear space and awareness within which these objects, and this human self, arises within and as.
  • The related reversal from seeing myself as an object, as finite in space and time, subject to birth and death, to that clear space and awareness these objects, space and time, and birth and death arises within and as. The clear awake space inherently free from any of these, from any characteristic, which allows any of them to arise.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as finite in space and time, to that which space and time happens within and as.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as identified by certain characteristics, to inherently being free from characteristics and thus allowing any to come and go on their own.
  • The reversal of identification as an I, to realizing that everything is inherently absent of any I.

Dance of emptiness

Seeing existence as lila, as the play of God, as God playing hide-and-seek with itself, we could see this delight in reversals as reflected in both human and divine life. And that seems accurate in a certain way.

Yet, the Ground, the clear awakeness everything arises within and as, is inherently free from any wants, any desires, any delights, any suffering, any polarities. It is free of these, so it allows any and all of them to arise within and as Ground.

And in that way, the delight in reversals found in human life, is indeed God’s delight in reversals. Although it is only a delight at the relative level, temporary, not absolute in any way, not an inherent characteristic of what is. And it exists side-by-side with the resistance to reversals, which is also found in human lives. That too arises within and as Ground, within and as clear awakeness.

Ground forms itself into delights in and resistance to reversals, and is inherently free from either. It sheds both as a teflon pan.

And that Ground is that which reads this.

Figure-Ground Reversal

 

A rambling draft…

It is interesting to explore the flow between the appearance of I and Other and the (near) realization of selflessness, of what is with no I inherent anywhere.

It seems very close to a figure ground reversal in the visual realm. The content stays the same, yet that which is perceived as figure and ground switches.

In one case, there is a sense of I and Other, and I is placed on temporary forms. So the flow of the innumerable temporary forms and appearances is now in the foreground. This human self, sensations, emotions, feelings, thoughts, other human selves, houses, trees, stars, music – all of these are in the foreground. The Ground of space, awareness and clarity is seen as Other and in the background. We may notice the ground of space, awareness and clarity, yet it is all somehow an Other – coming in and out of focus and attention.

In the other case, this Ground of space, awareness and clarity comes to the foreground, revealed as inherently absent of any I and Other. The flow of temporary forms and appearances arises within this context of Ground. The forms now becomes more of a background, as just the dance of this emptiness. As it is sometimes expressed, it is all God appearing in various forms and God is in the foreground.

Reversal as drama

It is very simple. Yet, for understandable reasons, we are used to seeing the forms in the foreground. It becomes a habit.

And as there is the appearance of I and Other as an absolute and final reality, we make the figure-ground reversal of realizing Ground in the foreground as an Other. We distance ourselves from it for this simple reason, and bring also this into our sense of struggle and drama.

When the reversal happens, it may not be complete at first and may clarify over time. And the switch may go back and forth many times before it stabilizes more in the realization of everything absent of any I.

The consequences of each

Each of these reversals have their own natural consequences.

When there is a sense of I and Other, and I is placed on temporary forms, these forms are in the foreground. As space, awareness and clarity appear as background and Other, they appear to be more or less present – although it is really only the noticing of them which comes and goes. And as I is typically placed on this human self, “I” become finite, limited, temporary, within space and time, wanting this and not that. A sense of struggle and drama arises. There is an exclusive identification with our human self, and “I and Other” appear as final and absolute.

When the Ground is in the foreground, there is a sense of ease, flow, of timelessness, of space & time unfolding within this timeless now. There is still I and Other in a conventional sense, although revealed as just conventions with no inherent or absolute reality to them – both revealed as Ground.

Sequence

  1. :: The Origin ::

    There is the Ground (space, awareness, clarity) and the play of the Ground (the flow of infinite forms and appearances of the Ground).

    :: Appearance of I and Other ::

  2. A sense of I as separate from Other arises. It arises as Ground and as one of the appearances of Ground. It is Ground appearing to itself in the form of I and Other, subject and object, seer and seen.
  3. The sense of “I” is typically placed on temporary forms. In our case, on a human self.
  4. Since “I” is placed on temporary forms, these now appear in the foreground and the Ground in the background as “Other”.
  5. As Ground can appear as Spirit, God, Buddha Mind, timelessness and so on, these now also appear as “Other”. There is the appearance of “I” connecting with God as “Other”, and this connection appears to be more or less strong, more or less present, to come and go.
  6. The qualities of the Ground – timelessness, space, awareness, ease, clarity and so on, are now brought into and out of attention. They appear to come and go.
  7. As “I” is placed on something temporary and finite, what it is placed on now takes on a more permanent and solid appearance.
  8. Placing “I” on something temporary and seeing everything else as Other, there is a sense of drama and struggle.
  9. This sense of struggle and drama solidifies the sense of I and Other, it makes the distinction seem even more real, more absolute, more final.
  10. We now either see the reversal of Ground into the foreground as (a) a fantasy, nonexistent, impossible, irrelevant or (b) as a desirable Other. In both cases, this reversal is brought into the drama.
  11. It is possible to still be caught up in the drama of I and Other, and place “I” on some (limited) qualities of the Ground. The fluid and infinite appearances of the Ground may now be seen as “Other”. This is another form of the struggle.
  12. Being caught up in the drama of I and Other, it is also possible to see the timeless and formless aspects of Ground as real and the time and form appearances as less real or illusionary. This is yet another form of the struggle.
  13. And being caught up in the drama of I and Other, it is possible to make what is without abstractions and stories as real and desirable and abstractions and stories as false and undesirable. This is yet another form of the struggle, not much different from any other.
  14. Being caught up in the drama of I and Other, we can make the reversal of I and Other in the foreground as false and undesirable and the reversal of Ground in the foreground as true and desirable. And we are still caught up in the struggle as much as in any other way, although it tends to be the final form of the struggle.
  15. When the struggle is exhausted, the reversal to Ground in the foreground is allowed to happen with more ease.

    :: Reversal to Ground in the foreground ::

  16. The reversal to Ground in the foreground happens on its own, although we can practice and train in ways which makes it more likely to happen. It can happen suddenly, out of the blue without or with practice. Or it can happen gradually, over time. The reversal just happens. As a master of reversals said: the reversal it is an accident, and practice makes us accident prone.
  17. When the reversal happens, it seems obvious. It is all Ground. There is a sense of ease. There is still the conventional “I and Other” and the conventional “I” can be placed on our human self used to navigate in the world, but it is not taken as anything final or absolute, just as the play of Ground.
  18. When the reversal happens, there is still a functional connection to a particular human self. There is even the conventional “I” placed on this human self, although it is recognized as just another temporary form and appearance of Ground – no different from any other.
  19. When the reversal happens, there is the recognition of everything – of the flow of forms and appearances – as happening within the timeless and eternal Now and Present. Everything is always fresh, always new, always different. God never repeats itself.

    :: Both reversals the play of Ground ::

  20. And when the reversal happens, we see that it was all the play of Ground. Both reversals are the play of Ground, in one instance with the forms in the foreground and in the other instance with Ground in the foreground. And in one instance with the appearance of drama and struggle and the other with the appearance of ease. Both are fine. Both are Ground. None are inherently more preferable than the other.

Figure-Ground

 

I went to a Sat Nam Rasayan practice group tonight, and found it very rewarding. The approach is very similar to the way I have done healing since my teens, and also quite similar to Big Mind and Breema.

I went into Big Mind quite easily, supported by the atmosphere there. And experienced again the clear figure-ground shifts that occur.

Opaque, transparent, and popping

First, there is an identification with something finite. In my case, a habitual identification with things that appear to occur in my head/throat area – sensations, emotions, thoughts, attention to these, and the awareness it all occurs within. At the same time, there is a transparency to all of this. If I look, I find that none of these have any “I” inherent in it. And there is also a sense of no separation to anything else. Even here, it is all transparent to the ground.

Then, there is a shift to this ground within and as which everything arises – the sounds of the cars going by, the room, the people in the room, the voice of the instructor, the sensations, emotions, thoughts, focus, and the awareness it all unfolds within. It is all revealed as a seamless field, with no “I” inherent in any of it. It all just happens.

Figure-ground

So it is a figure-ground shift in a quite literal sense. First, there is a vague sense of self habitually places on certain phenomena arising in the present. And all this occurs against the ground of space and everything else happening. Then, this ground pops out into the foreground and all the figures are revealed as just occurrences within, from and as this ground.

Continuum

It is also interesting to note the continuum here. There may be an opaque identification with something finite, not questioned at all. Then, there may be a glimpse of selflessness, and still a vague habitual sense of self placed on something finite, but transparent to the ground – especially when attention is brought to it. And finally, the ground may pop into the foreground and all the finite forms are revealed as the temporary forms within this ground, as emptiness dancing.

Fluctuation

In the shift from one to the next, there seems to usually be an extended period of fluctuation between the two, often starting with brief glimpses of the next one, then longer periods shifted into it, and then shifting the center of gravity into it in a more stable way.

This allows for an easing into it and gradual familiarity with the new way of experiencing the self – from opaque and unquestioned, through transparent and not really real, to not existing other than as a label of temporary, limited and practical use only.

Am I in it, or is it in me?

 

There are many forms of inquiry, and even many ways to inquiry into “who/what am I?”.

One that I find especially useful right now is (a) identifying something that appears as “I”, and (b) ask “am I in it, or is it in me?”. Invariably, when I stay with it, I find the latter to be more accurate in terms of my immediate experience.

There are sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, sense of “I” as a center somewhere in/around the upper body, sense of a perceptual center and an awareness center, sense of “I” as the seer, and so on. And all of these happens within what is, within this immense space and expanse.

Sincerity

One aspect I need to work more with is sincerity. I tend to brings something into attention, stay with it for a while, and expect to find it within what is – as happening within space, and I – not surprisingly – do find it that way. But this is not a sincere and open-ended inquiry, and it is just such a sincere inquiry that is needed.

When I “trick” myself into realization, it only works some of the way. A part of what is knows it is not from a sincere exploration, and is not convinced. It is similar to an adult habitually responding to a child’s artistic expressions with “that is wonderful!”, and the child is not tricked. Something is missing.