Headless interview with Anne Seward

 

I was a yes, buter, I took a long time to accept it. Under pressure, I would admit it. I would often go over and there were lots of friends who were obviously high on this thing, and I couldn’t help thinking that what I saw couldn’t be it because it didn’t make me high, it was so banal, there was nothing to it. RL: So what happened? I was yes, buting yet again, and Douglas (Harding) said there is some resistance. And I said, or at least I thought, no, I am not resisting, I really want to see this, I really want to get this. And it was very shortly after that, maybe just a day or two, that I was hanging up the washing, and I noticed that between these two hands, there was no head, no face, no brain, nothing, except the washing and the world, so I just said to myself OK I see it, stop messing around, accept it. It was very low key. Then it had a chance to start sinking in.
– Anne Seward, 7:10 – 8:45.

See www.headless.org for more info and the experiments.

Happening inside

 

Here are some simple questions:

Where do I find a sense of me as this human self? Where are it’s boundaries? Are they fuzzy? Clear? Do they change? What’s inside? What’s outside?

Do these boundaries happen within me? Do they happen within this field of awareness?

Is it true that what’s outside of these boundaries is not inside of me? Is it true it’s not happening within this field of awareness?

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Freedom to be deluded

 

Say that reality awakens to itself, and there is identification as reality awake to itself….

Is that what I really am?

If reality is free to show up as delusion or awake to itself, is what I really am anything other (or less) than that freedom? What is already free to show up as either?

If delusion and reality awake to itself comes and goes, is what I really am either of those?

And when that freedom is lived through a human self, and it is lived in a sane, mature, wise and kind way, how does it look? Can I find what I really am as inherently free to show up as delusion and reality awake to itself, yet seeking clarity out of compassion?

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Flavors of allowing

 

I find it fascinating to explore the different flavors of allowing experience: Shifting into Big Mind or headlessness. Choiceless awareness. Asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Shifting into gently and quietly meeting experience as it is. Bringing in a sense of kindness and the heart. And so on.

When I shift into allowing experience, I see, feel and love it as it is, for its sake. And the emphasis on each shifts between and within each form of allowing.

In Big Mind, headlessness and choiceless awareness, it seems that the seeing of experience is in the foreground, with feeling it anywhere between background to foreground, and the possibility of loving it is there are well – coming and going.

When I intentionally bring in the heart, the love for experience as it is comes into the foreground.

And there is also a way of being with experience where the felt sense is in the foreground. The sensations are invited in center stage, and welcomed there as they are.

Each one has its own flavor, and each one can be a helpful and valuable exploration. What happens when experience is resisted? What happens when it is allowed and welcomed? What happens when the seeing of it is in the foreground? The felt sense? Love and kindness?

In each case, a shift from (being caught up in) resistance to allowing is a shift from a sense of separation to that field which holds it all. When the felt sense is brought in, I “get it” with the body. I feel the difference. When love comes in, there is a sense of appreciation and gratitude for experience, as it is and for its sake.

And in terms of healing and maturing as who I am, this human self, that seems to be invited in when the felt sense and kindness is in the foreground.

What am I koan & tools for exploration

 

When I was at the zen center, my teacher gave me the “what am I” koan. I worked on it the usual Rinzai way, repeating it to myself with great intensity and otherwise not knowing what to do with it. It does fuel motivation and intention, which is very helpful, but it was also an exercise in spinning my wheels.

Along with giving someone the “what am I” koan, it is helpful to offer a few tools and pointers on how to use them…! After all, that is how we do it in any other area of life.

If I ask someone to dig a ditch, I show him or her the tool shed and where the shovels are, I’ll point out where the ditch is going, and if needed, I’ll give enough instructions to get the person started.

In the case of the “what am I” koan, there are – at least – two focal points for inquiry.

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Exploring a sense of doer

 

One of my practices lately has been to explore the sense of doer.

How does it appear when I shift into Big Mind or headlessness? I find that even the sense of doer happens within and as what I am. There is a release of an exclusive identification with a sense of doer and into the field that allows and is whatever is happening.

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Offering tools for working with beliefs directly

 

Vince has a good post on ways teachers and traditions sometimes speak about enlightenment, and what types of dynamics it may set up in the group.

The verbal level is of course important, partly because it sets up maps people use to navigate by.

Yet, something else is as important: The tools we are given. First, to have an immediate taste of what we are. Then, to work with beliefs and stories directly, no matter what they are about.

The tools I am familiar with here are the ones I have written about many times before.

Some tools for inviting in a taste of enlightenment include headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These give a taste of what we are and ways to explore it for ourselves, although obviously not with the same clarity as a full blown awakening. Doing this can be helpful in letting go of some of the more exotic ideas about enlightenment. What we are is something that is quite simple, available to be noticed here now, and not really out there in others or the future.

And there are also good tools available to help us unravel beliefs and stories about enlightenment, teachers or anything else. The Work helps us explore the effects of beliefs, and find what is already more true for us. And exploring the sense fields helps us see thought as thought, and how an overlay of thought on each of the sense fields create gestalts. It also helps us find ourselves as what we are, outside of what any story tells us.

At least for me, having and using these tools – with some sincerity – is far more important than any models, mainly because they first help me explore the terrain for myself, and then because they help me unravel beliefs and attachments to any story and identity.

Also, any model can become a belief, an identification with a story. So it is helpful to work with any model we are presented with – or come up with on our own – in this way, no matter how accurate it appears to be. In a conventional sense, some models are more accurate, meaning they have more practical value. But really, all models are equally far away from what they appear to be about.

I also see that I personally prefer practices aligned with awakening, but with an emphasis on the practical and day to day aspects of it. So in that sense, I would be more in the “no need to talk about it too much” camp. (Although I obviously explore it quite a bit here, but that is on my own.)

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Two masters

 

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Matthew 6:22-24

This whole passage is interesting. From a conventional point of view, the two first paragraphs don’t make much sense, and the third is taken literally and maybe seen as overly harsh.

Yet when there is a shift into headlessness or Big Mind/Heart, it becomes clear and is revealed as a beautiful and true passage.

The single eye is awareness itself, that which all happens within, to and as. When it notices itself, all is revealed as luminous both metaphorically (clear insight into what we are) and literally (sense of luminosity in all there is).

If it doesn’t notice itself, there is darkness. We are confused about who and what we are, and also don’t notice the luminosity inherent in all form and experience. This confusion is the root of all that is conventionally seen as evil, including all suffering and unease.

We cannot serve two masters. We cannot be confused and identify with content of awareness, and at the same time notice what we are.

Or more accurately, we can – and inevitably do – for a large stretch of the awakening process. Both may be present simultaneously to some degree, with one shifting into the foreground and then the other. But there comes a time when we have to make a clear decision.

Am I going to continue to indulge in whatever comes out of this mistaken identity, even as I know it is a mistaken identity, or am I going to wholehearted give myself to what I already am?

And this shift may involve strong resolve which is reflected in the somewhat harsh language of the passage above.

Dimensions of allowing

 

Allowing experience, shikantaza, headless experiments and the Big Mind/Heart process are all flavors of a similar shift.

And they can all fall a little differently on several dimensions, often depending on intention, experience and more.

The shift into allowing experience, into headlessness, Big Mind, realized selflessness, can be more or less partial, more or less clear.

It can be done with an emphasis on Big Mind, seeing all as awareness itself.

It can be done with an emphasis on the heart, on kindness, Big Heart.

It can be done with an emphasis on the felt sense of the shift, how it feels in the body.

It can be done with an emphasis on our human self, on who we are.

It can be done with an emphasis on what is here now, as it is, or on what is here now unfolding over time, revealing a process and a journey within content of experience.

And it can be done as a combination of any of these, simultaneously or shifting attention over time.

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Not stage specific

 

There are of course stage specific tools, both teachings and practices, and these have practical value.

But at the same time, I can’t help noticing that the tools I am currently using are not stage specific. They can be used by anyone, from novices to people familiar with the terrain, from those firmly in grips of a great deal of beliefs to those verging on the border of selfless realization.

The Big Mind process can be helpful at any stage of the path, inviting our human self to function better in the world, refining our insights into dynamics, finding ourselves as Big Mind/Heart, and bringing it more fully into the life of this human self.

The Work can be used by anyone, including children, those with few beliefs apart from a subtle one of being a separate I, and also those from whom awakeness is awake to itself, helping them gain a more detailed insight into the dynamics of stories and their effects.

Allowing experience can be used by anyone, at any time. Can I be with what I am experiencing right now? Can I fully allow it, wholeheartedly, in a heartfelt way, as if it would never go away? Can I allow it all, including resistance and what is resisted? This invites a release of identification with resistance, and a release of identification out of content of experience in general. It also helps us notice how content of experience appears one way when resisted, and often a quite different way when allowed.

Headless experiments can be used by anyone, and most of them can be used any time and any situation. We find ourselves as headless, as the no-thing that things arise within, to and as. And we explore how this is lived through our human self.

Exploring the sense fields can be done by anyone, at least after a short period of inviting in a more stable attention. It helps us explore impermanence, notice thoughts as just thoughts, noticing the difference between attention absorbed into the inside of thoughts and not, exploring how thoughts form gestalts with the other sense fields that may seem very substantial and real, and much more.

Each of these are tools available to anyone, with just some basic pointers. Most of them are largely self-regulating, having built-in feedback mechanisms to guide us. All of them can be used by novices and those more familiar with the terrain, up to selfless realization and beyond.

Forms of inquiry

 

Initial draft…

Some forms of inquiry…

First we have the ones focusing on awakeness itself, on awakeness noticing itself, such as the Big Mind part of the Big Mind process, the headless experiments, other forms of pointing out instructions, and – to some extent – question number four in The Work. We can also explore the content of awareness, see that it is all content, coming and going on its own time, yet something is not coming and going? What is it?

Then, on explorations of the sense fields, differentiating sensations, sounds, smells, taste and thought, how thoughts combine with the other sense fields to create gestalts that in themselves may look very real and substantial, and seeing thoughts as just thoughts.

Then, all the ones that invite us to investigate the nature of thoughts, such as investigations of sense fields, headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and The Work. Through these, we get to see the nature of thoughts as mimicking the other sense fields, as ephemeral, insubstantial, as just tools of practical value for this human self. And we get to see what happens when these thoughts are taken as more than just thoughts, when they are believed in, forms unquestioned gestalts with the other sense fields, and their content appears substantial and real.

Then, the ones that focuses on the content of thought, such as The Work, investigating beliefs in detail.

And one that is involved in most forms in inquiry, and also in how these writings come about: Allowing a question to sink in, as a seed, and an answer to surface later on its own time. A question comes up, is allowed to sink in, and something then surfaces seconds, minutes, hours, days or weeks later.

Inquiries can be structured, such as the Big Mind process and The Work, and also the headless experiments and exploring the sense fields, where the outcome is – to some extent – known in advance, if not by us then by others who have done it for themselves.

Or they can be more open, where attention just follows what happens with quiet interest and curiosity, allowing it to unfold, reveal itself, lead us along its own path, to something different, new, unexpected. We can do this with whatever arises, either informally in this way, or using specific techniques such as in Process Work.

And then there are some general pointers and orientations that are shared by many of these forms of inquiry, such as interest, curiosity, sincerity, receptivity, a stable attention, willingness to discover something unexpected, taking time and allow the questions and what comes up to sink in, inviting in the heart and a felt-sense of what is happening, allowing our human self to reorganize within the process, and so on.

There are also a group of inquiries I am not sure where fit in, for instance asking ourselves Adyashanti’s question what do I hope to get out of this? and is it true that this is not already here? This is a structured investigation, helping us to see what is already here. (Which they all do, by the way.)

Mechanisms of samsara

 

Some of the ways to explore the mechanisms of samsara…

The main mechanism of samsara is a belief in thoughts. We take thoughts as somehow inherently true, or as reflecting something inherently true in the world. We put all or most truth into one story, and take out the truth of its reversals. In this way, a sense of I and Other is created, and this sense of a separate I is usually anchored in this human self (although it could also be this alive presence, the soul level, or witnessing itself, the causal level). And from here, the whole human drama we are so familiar with unfolds… with all its excitement and also sense of something being off.

Through The Work, we can explore these beliefs directly. We notice stress, find the belief behind it, investigate it, find the truth in its reversals, and through all this, the attachment to the story tends to release.

Through the Big Mind process, we explore each voice, and see that there is no separate I inherent in any of them. We release identification with those we have been identified with, and embrace those that have been disowned, excluded through the attachment to those same beliefs and identities. They are all there, each one with its own purpose and function for this human self and its life in the world, and yet, there is no “I” inherent in any of them.

We can shift into headlessness through the headless experiments, and see that all content of awareness is just that, content of awareness. Sounds, sights, thoughts, all just content of awareness. Trees, cars, people, sensations, thoughts, all content of awareness. They are all part of the same field. It is only thoughts that say that some are “I” and others are “Other”, and these thoughts are content of awareness as well. If “I” am anything, it is what this content arises within, to and as. All content comes and goes, but what they all arise within, to and as does not. It is what time & space and all content, including that which we previously identified with, arise within, to and as.

We can use labeling practice, temporarily differentiating the field of content into sensation, sound, smell/taste, sight, and thought, which helps us see thought as just thought, and how it combines with the other portions of the field to create gestalts that seem very real and substantial when taken only at the level of gestalts.

And lots more practices as well. These are just the ones I happen to be familiar with and use right now.

Headlessness and identity

 

Whenever there is a clash between our stories about what is and what should be, or life and our beliefs, or circumstances and identity, what happens can be interpreted in two main ways.

First, from headlessness (Big Mind, awake void awake to itself), we are what arises, yet there is an identification with a story and an identity which does not fit what we find ourselves as. Of course, as soon as there is this identification, we don’t realize that we inevitable are what arises, but filter it through a sense of I here with a particular belief and identity, and Other out there which clashes with I in here. What arises is split into an inside and outside, and the two appears to not get along very well.

It is a comical situation, especially when we see this directly.

We have no choice but to become and be what arises, because that is what we are. We are this awareness and its contents, this wide open space full of the world as it arises here and now. Yet when this is split into a sense of I and Other, we are sometimes shocked by it and struggle with it, resist it in every way we are able, because it does not fit with who we take ourselves to be.

The other way to look at this, is through a more conventional view, taking who we take ourselves to be – a separate self, an object in the world, a small region of content of awareness – as real and substantial.

Here, we can also say that life shows up in a particular way that does not fit with our beliefs and identities, or rather the stories and identities we are identified with. But now, life reminds us of something in our human self that does not fit these beliefs and identities.

Our beliefs and identities has shadows, which is the truth in the reversals of the beliefs and ourselves as also what is outside of our conscious identities. And life reminds us of these shadows, which brings up discomfort, and a filtering of anything in our shadows as only out there and not (also) in here, in our human self.

Either way, a sense of resistance to what is is an invitation to find in ourselves what we see out there.

When there is resistance, or rather, identification with resistance, a taking of it as I, it is a reminder to find ourselves as headless and Big Mind. And it is also an invitation to find in our human self what we see out there.

The first invites Ground to notice itself.  The second allows this human self to become a little more part of humanity, to find our shared humanity right here in ourselves, and see that we are all in the same boat.

Both opens for some wisdom and a more open heart.

There is a seeing all as phenomena arising, inherently free from an I and Other, which in turn opens for natural love and compassion. And a finding in this human self any quality and characteristic I see out there, in others and the wider world, which opens for seeing myself in others and, again, a natural empathy and compassion.

Differentiating 3rd and 1st person identities

 

I went to a headless workshop in Portland a couple of weeks ago. It was led by Richard Lang, who did an excellent job – making it simple, accessible, very clear, and doing it all in a very personable and heart-centered way.

One of the things that became clearer to me is how the headless experiments help us differentiate between our 3rd and 1st person identities.

Our 3rd person identity is how other see us. It is our appearance at different distances, our name, our age, occupation, and so on. It is our identity in the world, as a human being. It is ourselves, as a he, she or it.

Our 1st person identity is our immediate experience of ourselves, which is as no thing allowing all things, no form allowing all forms, emptiness allowing fullness, no color allowing all colors, no identity allowing all identities… or in other words as headless, as capacity for the world, as awake emptiness and its content (which is no other than this awake emptiness). It is ourselves as awake void and all forms as this same awake void.

When our 3rd and 1st person identities are confused, it leads to suffering. When they are seen as distinct from each other, there is clarity and a sense of ease.

When they are mixed up with each other, my first person identity tends to go in the background, and is sometimes not noticed at all. I take on the third person identity and become a thing in the world, up against innumerable other things. I am completely caught up in a world of desire, fear, longing, anger, sadness, loss, and much more.

When they are differentiated, I am awake void full of the world… I am free from anything happening, allowing it all, and everything happening is revealed as this awake void. And there is full freedom for the little one, this human self, to use the 3rd person identity to function in the world as well. Nothing is left out.

Perceptual center as anchor for a sense of a separate self

 

I keep noticing how this perceptual center – this physical body and especially this head with its eyes, ears, nose and mouth – is made into a center for a sense of a separate I.

There is a sense of a separate I, as a belief in an idea of a separate self, almost as a weird cardboard cutout in the mind. Then there is a looking for a good place to put this sense of a separate I, a good anchor for it. And then the – very understandable – decision to place it on this body, especially this head, and in particular on sensations in the head area, and even more specifically on sensations of tension, contraction and density in the head area.

It is really quite funny… although it sometimes has quite tragic consequences.

And this process of making a perceptual center into a center for a separate-self sense is of course why the headless experiments can be so effective. They bring our attention directly to the physical center of a sense of I, and reveal that there is nothing there. No thing, allowing all the things of the world, including those sensations previously used as an anchor for a sense of a separate I.

Brilliantly awake emptiness, a spaceless, timeless, crystal clear void, allowing all the forms of the world (as perceived by this body) to arise within and to it, and as nothing other than awake emptiness itself.

Headless and fullness of being

 

I paid attention to the slight shifts between headlessness and being with experiences today. They are very similar, although in being with the form is slightly more in the foreground, and in headlessness the awake emptiness is slightly more in the foreground. And of course, within each, there are also shifts in which of the two are more in the foreground.

I also noticed a curiosity about how it is when both are more fully present, and had that answered a few minutes later when I walked into the public library and listened to a surprisingly good live performance of baroque chamber music (Bach, Corelli etc.). The sound, which was full, rich and clear as water, evoked a similar sense of fullness of being at human and soul levels, and also brought into the foreground the awake emptiness.

So at once, there was a deep and rich sense of fullness of being, as an individual, and also the awake emptiness within which and as all form arises. A fullness of being as individual, and also the field arising absent of a separate self.

Shifting of who and what in foreground

 

I am noticing how who and what I am shift in being in the foreground.

When who I am (individual) is in the foreground, the what (Spirit/Ground) is either less noticed, or comes up as a context, a sense of time/spacelessness. The personal arises within and as the universal.

When what I am is in the foreground, the individual arises within the field, as a grain of sand in the Sahara, or one thread in a vast tapestry. There is a sense of the impersonal and universal even in the individual.

The shifts are usually quite gentle and happen throughout the day, especially if I sometimes remind myself of headlessness – as capacity for the world. Then the personal is in the foreground as I am engaged in different tasks, shifting into the impersonal in the foreground as I notice my headlessness.

Soul retrieval

 

After exploring headlessness again today, I see how so many explorations are really soul retrieval, if we use that word in a wide sense. It is about retrieving – in the sense of allowing, noticing, owning – who we are at an individual level, and what we are at the headless/Spirit level.

Working with projections, we find here in this individual life what we see out there in the wider world. As long as we only see it out there (or only in here), there is a split, not only between this self and the wider world, but within this self.

Working with being with experiences, as they are, there is again a retrieval of what was divided and split off… through a sense of I and Other. We find ourselves as the space holding both sides of the dividing line, the division, and the content on both sides.

Doing the Byron Katie style inquiries, we also work with the split through releasing attachment to beliefs in thoughts, and we find ourselves as that which already is and allows it all.

And through the headless experiments, we find ourselves as capacity for the world, full of the whole world… as it appears one piece at a time to this human self.

In each case, there is a healing of the split, simply by finding ourselves as that which already is and allows it all. The Other, that which was split off, is finally allowed and owned, the sense of I and Other falls away, and this reveals the field always and already allowing it all.

It happens on our individual level when we work on projections, and it happens on a Spirit level when we find ourselves as headless.

In either case, there is a sense of retrieving a bit of our soul, of what we already are but didn’t notice or didn’t allow.

Infinite detachment, infinite intimacy

 

Also, in exploring headlessness, I find the sense of infinite detachment, and infinite intimacy.

Infinite detachment

Finding myself as capacity for the world, as awakeness and everything arising within and to awakeness, there is a freedom from whatever arises. There is no sense of an I anywhere in particular in the world of form. It is just one seamless field arising within and as awakeness.

More precisely, there is really just a disidentification with anything in particular arising.

The whole field is the I without an Other, and any sense of I and Other is clearly seen as a pure fabrication, what arises when the seamless field of awakeness and its forms is filtered through a belief in a separate I and a sense of I and Other.

Infinite intimacy

At the same time, there is a sense of infinite intimacy with everything arising. What is arising is no other than the wakefulness without a center and without an Other. It is all the I without an Other.

What arises is infinitely distant, in the sense of disidentified with, and it is infinitely close, in the sense of no separation.

Free from distance

And really, it is none of those. There is no distance because it is all the awakeness, the I without and Other. Distance depends on a sense of I and Other, and that is exactly what falls away, revealed as only a temporary fabrication, a temporary filter.

Selfless, timeless, spaceless

The field of awake emptiness and form is inherently absent of I and Other, of time and space. It is selfless, timeless, spaceless.

At the same time, it arises as an infinite diversity of forms unfolding in space and time, and it arises to itself as I & Other, and as time & space… and this is either taken as all there is, or just a practical way of orienting for our human self.

Headlessness and three centers

 

Since hearing about Douglas Harding’s death this morning, I have explored headlessness again as I go about my activities. I notice a slight difference in exploring headlessness, and it seems to has to do with the three centers. It is still quite new so I am sure more will unfold, but for now…

Capacity

Being capacity for the world, or the awakeness the world unfolds within and as, has a slightly different quality since the endarkenment shift. It is somehow softer, fuller, more yin, and has a sense of being a ground in a different way, more as something to just allow, relax into. The sense of crystal clarity is there, yet that too as somehow rounder, fuller, softer.

First and second person

And I also see how the second and first (zero) person views are there at the same time. The first person view is being the capacity for the world, the awake emptiness it arises within and as (although this is really a zero person view, as there is no Other, and it is not even a view, just the ground of everything arising, of the seeing and the seen.)

And the second person is everything arising as love, and as love for everything arising. First person is Big Mind, second person is Big Heart, where everything arising as love is a very subtle second person, and the love for everything arising is a more clear second person.

Three centers

These are also two of the centers. Being capacity for the world is Spirit filtered through the head center. And everything arising as love, and loved, is Spirit filtered through the heart center.

The third, belly, center, is including the body and emotions in this, allowing them to reorganize within Capacity and love. The belly center specifically includes our human self, allowing it to deepen and reorganize, at an emotional level, into the felt sense of this.

Headless movies

 

There are several headless movies at YouTube.

Here is a fragment of an interview with Douglas Harding, where he among other things says… I am absolutely, deeply convinced that Douglas is designed to let me down!

Our human self is finite, evolving, not living up to any ideals, so it is good thing to be let down by it, and be nudged to find ourselves as headless, Big Mind, as capacity full of the whole world.