Both sides of the street?

 

Sometimes, someone will talk about both sides of the street and the importance of including both. 

I imagine that they are talking about emptiness and form. Or, said another way, who (our human self) and what (that which experience happens within and as) we are. 

So what do I find if I explore this for myself? 

First, form and emptiness are always here, so that part is easy. And in daily life, my human self and what I am is here too. (I am not going into this much here.) 

When I explore it through the sense fields, I find that what happens in each (and as gestalts) is awakeness itself appearing as form. Whatever happens is empty-awake-form. Empty as in insubstantial, nothing appearing as something. Already awake. Appearing temporarily as form. 

Also, before and within awakening it is possible to temporarily emphasize one, the other, neither or both, and these are all ways God manifests, experiences and explores itself. 

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Freedom through form

 

When I look at freedom through form, I find that it happens in many different ways.

Existence finds freedom to explore itself through taking on various forms. Or more accurately, when I notice what I am (that which content of experience happens within and as), I find that this content of experience is the play of what I am. It is how it explores and experiences itself as and through form. Always new. Fresh. Different. Said yet another way, it is how the infinite can experience itself as finite, or at least an appearance of it which is as good as it gets.

In a growing/waking up context, I also find that there is freedom through form. There is an invitation to grow and wake up within the world of form, a freedom to grow and wake up through the friction of form. For instance, I hold onto a story as true (fixed perspective/role), the rest of the world of form doesn’t agree, there is friction (stress), which in turn invites me to notice and inquire into my belief. Or more immediately, I may notice resistance, allow that resistance and anything else happening, and notice it all as awakeness itself.

In a practice context, there is also freedom through form. I go to retreat, and the form creates a container for practice. I don’t have to think about what to do next, and – again – the friction between the form and my beliefs creates opportunities to grow and wake up. The same is the case for yoga, tai chi, chi gong and other practices that has a set form. There is also a freedom from having the personality run the show here, at least in those few areas. And the form itself may be designed to work on me in specific ways, so I give it that freedom to work on me when I follow the form.

There is also freedom through form in a social context, especially in the forms of roles. For instance, since I am married I don’t have to consider (very seriously) if someone else can be a potential partner. I have the freedom to spend my attention somewhere else.

The first one, the freedom of existence to explore itself as form, just happens. The second, the invitation to grow and wake up through the friction of form, requires some participation. The third and fourth are obviously more optional, and require more of a discernment and conscious decision on our part. Which forms do I chose to follow? What are the practical outcomes of following them?
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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.

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Inherent neutrality

 

We can explore the inherent neutrality of anything happening from its emptiness and its form sides.

From the emptiness side, it is emptiness dancing. It is awake emptiness itself taking various forms, in an unending stream. There is nothing inherently good or bad, or desirable or undesirable, in it. Just the play of the void.

From the form side, we can explore the many stories about it and their reversals and find the grain of truth in each of them. This reveals that they are all only relative truths. In a sense, they all cancel each other out, revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

Together, there is a more thorough exploration of the inherent neutrality of anything happening, gradually allowing us to release identification with more and more stories, including our core ones. Which, over time, allows Ground to start noticing itself, more and more, in our daily lives.

Hierarchy of no-thing and things

 

This is another thing that keeps coming up for me, especially as I am exploring the soul level more actively these days…

  • Ultimately, there is void. Emptiness. Nothingness. And awakeness and form all show up from, within, and as this emptiness. For a while, it sounds abstract, but then becomes a living reality (even obvious).
  • Then, there is awakeness, as nothing other than emptiness itself. It is awake emptiness. In itself, this awakeness takes the form of pure seeing, pure awareness, pure witness.
  • Then, the soul level, alive presence, which can be filtered in innumerable ways… as alive luminosity, alive presence in the heart area (indwelling god), fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and so on. All of these too arise as emptiness, void, as emptiness dancing. The void is right there in it, and they can exist only because of and as this void.
  • Finally, the world of form as we typically think of it. All the contents of awareness, from physical objects to energies to sensations to thoughts. These come and go and live their own life, and these too are no other than emptiness. Their ground and essence is the void.

More about each

So we have the void, which is the ground of all there is. It is the one thing that does not come and go, because it is no thing. It is just pure emptiness. It is what allows anything else to be, to come and go.

Then, awakeness… timeless, spaceless. This too, a no-thing.

Then, the soul level… also timeless and spaceless… Sometimes as a field without center and any particular location, but also sometimes with a particular location, as the indwelling god. The soul level comes and goes in different ways, and especially in our awareness. We may notice it, or not. It is present, or not, to us. And it seems that it can be present or not, in different ways, beyond that as well.

Finally, the form level… obviously in time and space, and actually that which creates any experience of time and space. Very much coming and going, as a stream of form.

And all of it arises as emptiness, as insubstantial, transparent, as awake emptiness itself.

Identities

Needless to say, what we take ourselves to be within all of this hugely influences our experience.

  • If my center of identification is in the world of form, I am at the mercy of the world of form.
  • If my center of gravity is in the soul level, I find myself as the fullness here, deeply nurtured, guided, and at home. (Breema)
  • If my center of gravity is in the awakeness, I am the witness, the seeing of it all, detached yet also (apparently) free from the comings and goings of everything else. (Sitting practice)
  • If the center of gravity is in emptiness, then there is only the Ground allowing all of it to exist and come and go on its own… allowing awakeness, the infinite realms of soul, and the infinite richness of the world of form. (Headless experiments)

As form, I am at a particular location and the rest of the world is out there. As soul, I am formless, timeless, spaceless. Something, yet nothing. As awakeness, I am seeing itself, with the seen as slightly Other.

As Ground, it is all revealed as, always and already, absent of any separate self. The seeing and the seen has one ground, one nature, they are not two… only a field of seeing-seen.

Looking at knots from the emptiness and form sides

 

Knots are the whole complex of a belief in a story (as absolutely true), and the accompanying emotional and behavioral patterns. It brings identification into the content of awareness, and comes from and props up a sense of a separate self.

To see what is already more true for us, we can explore these knots from the emptiness side and the form side.

Exploring from the emptiness side

From the emptiness side, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and see that all of it – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – are nothing other than this awake emptiness. We can explore and become more familiar with this through the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or other forms of inquiry.

Exploring from the form side

From the form side, we can look at the effects of holding onto a particular story as absolutely true, what would happen if it was not attached to in this way, and finding the grains of truth in the reversals of the initial story. Through this, we discover that what we held as an absolute truth is really only a relative truth, which allows the grip on it to relax and identification go out of form and back into the field of awake emptiness (often just experienced as more spaciousness and a sense of peace.) The Work and different (other) forms of shadow work are good ways to explore the form side.

Differentiating the relative and the absolute

Another way to put it is that knots come from taking the relative (stories) as absolute (absolutely true), and the resolution is to differentiate the relative and absolute, seeing the stories as only relative truths, and finding ourselves as the absolute – as awake emptiness, and form as no other than awake emptiness itself.

The experience of the absolute changing over time

In real life, it doesn’t always look exactly like this of course. The exploration of the form side of the knots may not change so much over time, although it may become more clear and differentiated over time. But the experience of ourselves as the awake emptiness and form may change over time. Initially, just as a sense of release, spaciousness, ease and peace. As we go along, more as a clear noticing of the awake void that all forms dances within, to and as – a field inherently absent of any separate self anywhere.

What I take myself as, is how I experience Existence in general

 

It seems that whatever I take myself to be, is how I experience Existence as a whole as well.

If I take myself as a thing, everything else also appears as things. Specifically, if I take myself as this solid object called my human self, then all other form also appears as solid, real, substantial.

Similarly, if I find myself as awake void full of the world, then this world appears as nothing other than this awake void. Forms appear as less solid, less substantial, as emptiness itself, or maybe even (for me now) as a thin insubstantial surface of form on the vast awake emptiness.

Clarifying the dimensions of being with whatever comes up

 

I realize that when I am with whatever comes up, in a simple, quiet way, there is more going on than what initially came to mind.

Awake emptiness

There is the awake emptiness aspect, allowing whatever comes up to unfold within and as awake emptiness, revealing themselves as nothing other than awake emptiness.

Form

And then there is the form aspect, the dynamic unfolding within form, which in itself has several dimensions.

Being with experiences in itself tends to allow knots to unravel, and this is the simplest one.

Then, there are the insights into the dynamics of form, or more accurately the mind, similar to what happens in insight meditation.

And then there are several variations of following the process unfolding, from traditional Process Work and active imagination, to following the dynamics of the essence, of the soul, of the subtle energies.

Allowing each other

And one allows the other.

Seeing form as nothing other than awake emptiness takes the charge out of it, allowing for a deeper exploration of the form aspect itself.

And gaining insight into the processes of the mind also takes some of the charge and drama out of it, allowing for an easier recognition of whatever arises as nothing other than awake emptiness.

The emptiness and form dimensions of being with whatever comes up

 

Writing the previous post, I was reminded of the two aspects of being with whatever unfolds.

Whatever arises as awake emptiness

There is the emptiness aspect of being with it, of allowing it all to be as it is, including any resistance and stories about it, allowing it to arise and unfold within and as awake emptiness, revealing themselves as nothing other than awake emptiness.

Insight into the dynamics within form

And then there is the form aspect of the process, the content itself, morphing, unfolding, revealing connections, allowing for insights into the dynamics within the form. This can be similar to insight meditation, allowing for insights into the dynamics of the mind, seeing how identities are used to guide resistance, how resistance splits the field in its own experience of itself, and so on. And it can also be similar to Process Work, or active imagination, allowing sequences unfold as a story, allowing insights into more specific dynamics, such as seeing how a sense of separation in childhood brought about the impulse to develop specific identities, and how they were used to give a sense of limited safety. Or it can be more like a dream, unfolding through symbolic images. Or it can function on a subtle energy level, following the same or similar processes unfold there.

Both there at the same time

And both can be there at the same time. They are two aspects of the same process, seeing whatever arises as nothing other than awake emptiness, and also allow the processes unfold allowing for insights into the dynamics within the world of form, maybe specifically the mind.

Sometimes, awake emptiness may be more in the foreground. Other times, the insights into the dynamics of form can be more in the foreground. But they are both there, as two faces of the same coin.

Mutuality

There is also a nice mutuality between the two.

Seeing whatever arises as awake emptiness takes some of the sting out of it, making it easier to simply be with it and also explore its dynamics within form. And exploring the dynamics within form allows knots to untie, which take some of the drama and charge out of it that way, making it easier to also recognize it as awake emptiness.

Both seem necessary, inform each other, invite each other, and allow for a continued deepening into the other.

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 mutuality of emptiness and form

 

This came up again when I read a quote by Jnaneshvar:

Unity becomes strengthened by the expansion of diversity.

The more emptiness is realized, the more we can wholeheartedly engage in form, and the more we wholeheartedly engage in form, the more we need and are invited to realize emptiness.

Emptiness is the awake emptiness that is here now, reading these words. Timeless. Unchangeable. Unstained. Always already. Distinct from form, yet also arising as form.

And form is the world of form, and in our case, specifically this human self and its wider world.

Identified as this human self, and resistance

When this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, takes itself as a segment of itself, there is immediately resistance.

It identifies as this human self, there is a sense of I and Other, there is a sense of an exclusive and comprehensive identity, and there is something to push away and something to hold onto.

There are experiences, people, places and situations to hold onto, and there are experiences, people, places and situations to push away. In short, there is resistance – to what is, to what may be.

There is drama, confusion, and resistance.

And with resistance, there is a holding back, or a pushing forward.

I hold back from engaging, from experiencing. I try to distract myself, change the situation, modify my experience. I am ambivalent. Half-hearted.

Or I push forward, I push into situation, into experiences, into the world. Which is just another way of resisting.

Field awakening to itself, realizing emptiness and allowing engagement in form

If this field of emptiness, awakeness and form awakens to itself as this field, absent of I anywhere, it all changes.

Now, there is a realization of being awake emptiness, inherently free from the world of form, unharmed by it. Always here, timeless.

There is also the realization of being form, not just this human self but all form, this whole seamless field of form. Anything arising is this field itself. It is just another expression of this same field.

And there is the realization that awake emptiness arises as this field of form. Form arises within, to and as this awake emptiness. They are not two, although they can be discerned as two.

So in that sense, there is full engagement in the world of form since the field realizies it is not separate from form. It is awake emptiness and form. It is beyond full engagement. It is it.

At the same time, and more interesting here, is what happens for this human self. It is realized as having no inherent I. It is just an aspect of this field of awake emptiness and form, which has no I in it anywhere (or we could say it as a whole is an I).

This means that there is no longer anything to resist. With the absence of I and Other, there is also absence of resistance. It falls away.

And this allows for a more wholehearted engagement in the world of form for this human self. It can more wholeheartedly engage with its experiences, and it can more wholeheartedly engage with the wider world.

With no resistance, a more full and wholehearted engagement, all around.

Mutuality of emptiness and form

So the more fully emptiness is realized, the more wholehearted our engagement in the world of form can be. And a more wholehearted engagement requires and invites a more full realization of emptiness.

Engagement without realizing emptiness is painful. The only solution is realizing emptiness, and when emptiness is first tasted, a more full engagement – and the tastes of pain that comes from not fully realizing form as also emptiness, invites and encourages us to more fully realize emptiness, and form as emptiness.

The two go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. They mutually invite and encourage each other.

Inseperability of Ground and Phenomena

 

When there is a realization of selflessness, there is also the realization of the inseparability of Ground and phenomena. Any and all forms are Ground themselves. Ground temporarily taking a particular form.

One of these phenomena is of course our human self, so our human self – along with anything else – arises within and as Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman.

The Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman is naturally in the foreground. Anything arising is inherently and primarily this. The particulars of the form itself, and especially its names and associations, are secondary although easily available.

Nothing needs to change in content. Ground allows anything to arise as and within our human self. Yet, an awakening to selflessness also allows our human self to reorganize and realign to this new context.

There is a sense of infinite distance to this human self, of absence of any identification, of any sense of I there. It arises as everything else arises. Sensations and thoughts comes and goes as everything else comes and goes. It lives its own life, as everything lives its own life. It does, but there is no doer there. It chooses, but there is no chooser there. This human self, its experiences, its actions, just happens, as everything else just happens.

At the same time, there is a sense of intimacy – even more intimate than any intimacy since there is an absence of I and of Other. This human self arises as Ground. There is an absence of separation. An absence of I. An absence of Other. An absence of distance. It is more intimate than the most intimate. It is on the other side of intimacy, since there is an absence of all of this.