It’s all life

 

It’s all life.

Any experience.

Even the sense of I and the absence of a sense of I.

It’s life creating an image of an I and me,

and temporarily identifying as it.

And then not, and then identifying as it again.

It’s the play of life.

And it’s quite beautiful.

When this is seen, there is a sense of transparency.

Even when there is identification, that too is recognized as the play of life.

There is no substantial, final or absolute truth in the appearance of being a me or an I.

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Appearance of an I

 

The appearance of an I comes and goes.

When it’s here, a story says…. It needs to be gone. If the appearance is here it’s not clear, something is wrong, this is not it. And if those stories are taken as true, they appear true.

Or there is a recognition there is no real I here even in the appearance. It’s OK whether the appearance is here or not, it’s just doing it’s job beautifully. And it’s not “my” business whether the appearance is here or not. This appearance of an I means there is an I here, is that true? 

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Invitation to let go of anchor points

 

During the nights now, there is a sense of all drifting. Of all being in flow. It pulls any sense of having a sense of solid ground to stand on with it, which makes it difficult to hold onto a sense of a separate “I” – a center located in space and anchored on particular sensations.

It may be because I still have a very low grade flu.

In any case, it is an invitation to notice that ground – or those anchor points – for a sense of a separate I. To explore the dynamics around it, and notice what happens when it – the image of a doer/observer and the sensations it is anchored on – is noticed as content of experience just like any other content of experience.

I also notice the slight fear that comes up , and how comfortable that sense of a center seems. It is familiar. Has been around for a long time. (With some vacations.) And there are stories saying that something terrible will happen if identification is released out of it, if I find myself as the mystery all content of experience is the play of.

I don’t notice it much during the day since attention then has many places to go. But during the night, the flow of content goes into the foreground, pulling – almost – anchors, ground and “I” out to sea with it.

When I resist, it is uncomfortable. When I find curiosity and allow it as it is, it is quite different.

And when attention goes to the murmurs of fear, allowing it as it is with kindness, the sense of the flow and pull as “other” softens and falls away.

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All awake to itself

 

I am attending an intensive for the type of bodywork I am doing. The bodywork itself is a laboratory for practice and exploration, for self-inquiry, and it is a wonderful practice in many ways. Deep, nourishing and soulful. 

But one thing is left out, and it is a crucial step – and also quite obvious when we see it. 

With its emphasis on mindfulness of the “me” only (the human self and its identities and dynamics), an identification as first the doer (shifting into observing) and then the observer may easily become “invisible”. If it is habitually there anyway, it may not be strengthened, but there is also not a direct invitation to bring it to attention and notice it. The sense of “I” may continue to lurk outside of attention. 

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World of images

 

Again, maybe 101 stuff, but good to notice….

When I explore my own world of images, the mental field overlay on the sense fields, it is quite helpful to notice the overlay on the wider world, and also on the me part – my human self. But what is really helpful is to notice the overlay of the wider world, the me and the I, the relationships among them, and how drama is entierly created from these relationships, within my own world of images.

If I don’t notice the overlay of a me, and also – and especially – the overlays of a doer, observer etc., there is easily still an identification with these, and I don’t notice how all drama is created in the relationships between the wider world and the me + I.

When I include the images of a me + I, in their many forms, the “trick” is seen through. I notice how it is all within my own world of images, and how any drama is created within my own world of images.

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My [anything]?

 

In a conventional way – and at the thought level – it is pretty obvious that none of us own anything. We don’t own this body. We don’t own these thoughts. We don’t own these emotions. We don’t own these insights. We don’t own delusion or awakening. We don’t own any thing. It all comes and goes as guests.

Yet, there is a lot more to explore here. 

For instance, what is this “I” that something appears to belong to? 

When I explore it for myself, I find a sense of an “I” here – created by images and sensations. There is an image of myself as a human being owning (or not) something. And there is an image of a doer associated with certain sensations in the head/neck area. 

And also, I find that what I am is that which all of this happens within and as. That is the “I” without an “other”, so not really any “I” at all. 

Also, how does it feel to stay with this realization. What happens when the body “gets” it?

As always, this inquiry is for myself and for my own sake. And whatever I find can easily coexist with the conventional ways of looking at ownership – although they tend to come up as needed, for a specific situation, and held lightly.

Homunculus

 

One view of how the mind/brain works imagines something like a little person inside the head looking at screens and pulling levels, as if in a control room or operating a space ship.

It may sound funny, but when I look at it for myself, I see where the idea comes from. It is a mirror of what is going on right here.

There is content of experience, awareness and then someone being aware of content of experience. There is doing, awareness, and a doer. Thinking, awareness, and a thinker. Choosing, awareness, and a chooser.

Something is happening within and as awareness, and then there is a sense of a middle man mediating between the two.

If I explore this from Big Mind, I see that the middle man – obviously – is part of content of awareness. There is no “I” inherent in the middle man, no more than in anything else.

And if I explore it through the sense fields, I get to see the dynamics of it more in detail. I notice how the middle man – the observer, doer, thinker, chooser – is a mental field creation. It comes from a mental field overlay on top of the other sense fields.

There is a thought arising within and as awareness, and then an imagined thinker placed on top of it. An action of this human self in the world – arising within and as awareness – and then a mental field overlay of a doer. (This mental field creation – for me at least – visual. Taking the form of an outline of this human self, center-periphery, and so on.)

So no wonder the control room analogy came up in our minds. It is a direct representation of what is really going on, here now. It reflects direct experience when this experience is filtered through this mental field overlay – and it is not recognized as just a mental field creation.

It is a discredited theory in science. What happens when I explore it for myself, here now? What happens if I take the middle man as real? What happens if I see it as a mental field creation?

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No value beyond the practical

 

This is another of those topics that seem so simple and childish on the surface, but goes to the core of our life and who or what we take ourselves to be. (I seem to specialize in those…!)

Any story is a tool. One that helps our human self orient and function in the world, or as a guide to awakening. And as any other tool, it has no value beyond the practical.

It is easy to see when we look at physical tools, like a hammer, or nails. We see that they have a purely practical function. They help us in daily life. And they have no value beyond that. If they didn’t help us, we wouldn’t use them or even bring attention to them.

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Anchors and moods

 

I keep exploring how sensations provide an anchor for a sense of a separate I, and also how sets of sensations are used to create feelings and moods.

This morning, I noticed how sensations on the side of my face were used as an anchor for a sense of a separate self, because they were roughly in the right area of space (head area) and were prominent since I had been sleeping with that side on the pillow. As these sensations gradually faded, the anchor shifted to the more usual ones in the upper throat area, at the back of the upper palate, and even in the back of the nasal cavity. By amplifying (having the intention of strengthening) the sense of a separate I, I also noticed how muscles in these areas contracted, increasing the sensations, which then provide a better anchor, one that is more easily noticed and lends more of a sense of substance and solidity to the sense of a separate I.

It may seem a weird thing to explore, but I find it fascinating and it only takes a few seconds, or minutes at most, to take a look at.

I then explored moods and feelings in the same way, first looking at a mood from a dream I woke up from and finding the sensations it is anchored in. Then, amplifying the mood and noticing how the muscles in those areas tense up to make the sensations stronger. And then creating a series of other moods to explore the sensations used as anchors for these. I noticed how each mood draws on a particular set of sensations, sometimes from quite different areas of the body. And how these sensations are either brought out or strengthened by muscles tensing up in those areas, this time on the cue of thoughts inviting in certain moods.

With moods, these sensations serve as an anchor in space and lends a sense of substance to the mood, and they also provide the quality of the mood. Certain blissful moods are created from sensations in the roof of the nasal cavity when air pass by. Other, more dense moods, are created from contractions in the throat and belly areas.

And that is actually what happens with the anchors for a sense of a separate I too. These too provide a quality to it, a certain quality of density and sense of substance.

Precariousness

 

As long as we take ourselves to be a portion of the content of awareness, there will be a sense of precariousness. Partly because of a sense of a separate I, which is then vulnerable to the whims of the larger world. And partly because there is identification with something inherently transient.

There is a belief in a story, which creates a sense of I and Other. And this sense of a separate I is anchored on particular perceptions, such as sensations. Both of these steps are precarious. They need to be maintained, bolstered, protected, supported, actively fueled. And all of this takes a good deal of energy and attention, even if we are not consciously aware of it happening.

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Narcissism

 

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Narcissism has as its essence a belief in the “story of I”, which inevitably creates a fascination with this separate I.

There is a belief in stories, which creates a sense of I and Other, and we naturally wonder, and sometimes becomes obsessed with, what will happen to this separate self. Will I get what I want? Will I avoid what I don’t want? How can I improve myself? How do I appear to others? How do my actions, or this situation, compare to the identity I have made for myself? I am right, and I want it my way.

Said another way, there is an identification with this human self, and we don’t notice what we really are (awakeness and whatever happens), so everything is filtered as if we are this human self which typically means a certain absorption into and obsession with it.

From there, it can be filtered and expressed in many different ways. Mainly, it can be more or less obvious (usually to others!) and more or less mature.

It seems that in its more mature expressions, there is a recognition of it arising here now, which offer some perspective and disidentification with it. And here is a recognition of it as a universal pattern which makes it less personal and also helps release identification. There is more freedom from being in the grips of it. Our circle of care, concern and compassion is expanded which balances out our concern about ourselves. In general, there is less belief in stories and attachment to identities, so also less need for love, appreciation and approval.

So defined broadly, a sense of separate self naturally gives rise to narcissism, which can be expressed in more or less overt ways, and more or less mature ways. Defined more narrowly, we have the conventional definitions: the lose way it is used by most people in everyday language, and also the psychiatric diagnosis of narcissism.

And as with all of these things, when we see it out there in others, it is because we recognize it from right here, in our human selves. And if attention is glued to it in others through aversion or attraction, it means we don’t quite see it here. Obsession about it in others, one way or the other, is a pretty sure sign of blind projections.

Paying attention to what’s behind the curtain

 

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When I explore how a sense of I and Other is formed, I find three general zones:

First, a sense of subject, of an I as subject, experiencer, doer, and so on. This one is usually located in or around the head area, but can also be extended to other areas of this human self.

Then, a sense of self as object, as experienced. This is usually the rest of my human self and whatever thoughts filter as belonging to this human self, such as thoughts.

And finally, the rest of the world as object, which is made up of whatever is not a self as subject or object.

I also notice how the sense of subject and object are located in different areas of space so they can be differentiated from each other, which also means that when I bring attention to where the sense of subject seems to be located, it shifts to another location in space. Only the sensations it was placed on remains, but now as an object, as content of awareness, just like anything else, and free from a sense of subject.

For this sense of subject to appear real and substantial, it seems that it needs to be kept away from attention and awareness. Like the man behind in the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, it is kept hidden from view, and that is how its manifestations gets their appearance of reality and mystery.

But it is certainly possible to bring this sense of subject into attention and the field of awareness.

I can bring attention to the sensations the sense of subject is placed upon, and recognize them as just sensations. I can notice the thoughts placed on top of these sensations to create a sense of subject. I can notice how it shifts around when I bring attention to where it just was.

And I can also shift into Big Mind or headlessness, and immediately and directly see that what I previously took as subject – these sensations and this idea of a subject – itself is part of the content of awareness, just like anything else, and that a sense of identification with it can be released.

(There is a release of a identification with the with the sensations and thoughts making up the gestalt of a subject – even as they are still there, which is an interesting experience. The “I” goes out of the subject, the doer goes out of the doing, and so on.)

In each of these cases, I am looking directly at the man behind the curtain, and the reality of its manifestations falls apart. What initially seemed so real and substantial is now revealed as just appearances.

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Thoughts mirroring sensory world, and levels

 

I also had an opportunity to explore thoughts more… just noticing thoughts as thoughts, and leave it at that, without fueling them, without getting absorbed into their content.

And seeing all the many forms and levels of thoughts…

Seeing how thoughts mirror and mimic a sensory world... taking the form of each of the sense fields, such as sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and are really nothing beyond that. Yet, when attention goes to their content, and there is a fascination with the thoughts, they create a whole world without or independent of sensory input.

And also, the levels of thoughts.

There are the thoughts which we are most familiar with… clear, well defined, explicit

Then, the ones which are more subtle and transparent. For instance, there is a sound, and then a subtle image of a plane hovers for a while. Or a sound, and then a subtle image of a person walking on gravel. This normally happens outside of where attention goes, but is clear when attention is brought to it. It is the mind labeling experience, usually slightly outside of attention.

Then the level of thoughts where they are more like bubbles forming but not quite bursting. They are like the beginnings of burps that don’t go anywhere. A murmuring outside of what can be clearly resolved, even when attention is brought to it (this may change as it is explored further).

And then a level of thoughts and stories that form our most unquestioned, and unnoticed, beliefs. The belief in continuity, in space and time, in a separate self, and so on.

These beliefs can be mirrored at a more everyday thought level and explored there, and a great deal of valuable insights can come from it. But that, in itself, does not necessarily touch the deeper layer of stories.

As Fred, one of the teachers at the CSS retreat, said: our conscious thinking cannot create or prevent awakening. It has nothing to do with it.

There is a glimpse of this level when I do concentration/stabilization practice (for instance bringing attention to the breath). When an intention is added to it, there is sometimes a shift into a place “below” even many of the most basic stories, for instance that of continuity.

If music is playing it “falls into its own parts” and there is no sense of any continuity. There is a clear seeing of continuity of space and time as being created by a story of continuity. A story that pieces is all together creating the appearance of continuity.

(That is what Kant said too, but it is quite different – and startling at first – to directly, clearly, nakedly, see it.)

I assume this is the level where the story of I, as Joel calls it, sits as well. It is the realm of of most basic stories, the ones believed in at a level below what we usually take as beliefs. The ones our rational mind and conscious thinking cannot even touch. Our conscious thinking cannot create or prevent awakening. It has nothing to do with it.

The story of a separate self has to be released at that deep level… below the thoughts as clear and explicit, as subtle images, as little burps… 

Struggling with guests: seeing them as stepping stones and tools only

 

To continue the guests analogy, and combine it with my experiences with the group yesterday…

We can see experiences as guests, coming and going on their own, living their own life.

And we can explore how we relate to these guests.

The ultimate hospitality is that of Ground, which already and always allows any experience. It is the nature of awareness to allow any content, and it already and always does that. There is no way for it to do anything else. Awareness inherently allows any guests, and their coming and going on their own time.

But when this host takes itself to be a guest, it forgets about itself as the ultimate host. There is now a sense of a separate I, an I with an Other, and there is inevitably a struggle with some or all of the guests, in different ways and with different intensities. We try to invite some and discourage others. When they arrive, we try to encourage some to stay and others to leave.

And we can also try to manipulate guests in different ways.

We can see them as stepping stones to something else, a tool for achieving a particular goal, something to transform into something else, something to transcend, something to dress up to make appear as different than what it is. In short, we don’t appreciate them for what they are, as they are. We want them to be different, or to be a tool for us to achieve something.

In our external life, manipulating guests this way seems cynical and even neurotic. And it is no less cynical and neurotic when we relate to our experiences this way.

It is all being caught up in manipulating what is, being caught up in the apparent solidity of I and Other, of seeing as solid the wanting of things to be different.

A simple example is suffering (life + a belief that it shouldn’t be that way). We can try to discourage it from entering. When it is there, we try to ignore it or make it go away. Or, if we see ourselves as a little more sophisticated (although we are not really), we can try to manipulate it in different ways. We can use it to develop compassion, to find peace with it, to allow beliefs and identities to fall away, to deepen into our humanity. We may not (overtly) try to make it go away, but we may also not be quite happy with it as it is. There is still a lack of appreciation for it as it is, for its own sake.

That appreciation for it as it is, for its own sake, comes when Ground notices itself as Ground. There is a recognition that this appreciation for any guest, for any content of experience independent of its particulars, is already and always there. It is only clouded up by the surface drama sometimes, created by a mistaken identification and a sense of I and Other.

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Biology and beliefs

 

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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

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.

Resistance to Ground, etc.

 

Just a quick summary of what I am exploring these days, as it happens in immediate awareness. What came out below is not very well organized…

  • The Ground, here now, is the field of awakeness, of awake emptiness and whatever arises. It is inherently free from any center and any separate self. It is just one field, beyond and embracing seeing and seen, awareness and its content, this human self and the wider world of form.
  • This Ground is is what is here now, for each of us, only absent of a sense of I and Other. Imagine the content of your awareness, and the awareness itself, as it is, only with a sense of I and Other subtracted from it.
  • When there is resistance to Ground as this field, there is an appearance of I and Other.
  • This happens when there is a belief in a story, when thoughts are taken as anything more than innocent questions, when they are seen as absolutely true.
  • A story becomes a belief when another story is added to it, saying it is true.
  • A story becomes a belief, also when it combines with a sensation. Sensation+story=belief.
  • When a sensation is combined with a story, it gives a sense of a center located at a particular place in space, specifically at the sensation, somewhere within the physical boundary of this human self.
  • This center also allows for a split of space, and a sense of I here and Other out there.
  • This split allows for placing one end of any polarity here, somewhere in this physical body, and the other end somewhere out there in the wider world.
  • This placing of ends of a polarity here and out there, is also how projections work. If, according to how I place a polarity (which in turn is decided by beliefs and identities), one end of a polarity should be out there, then when it arises, it is interpreted as out there. For instance, if I believe I shouldn’t be angry, and have an identity as someone who is not angry, then when anger arises, I have now choice but to filter it so it appears out there in the wider world, placed on appropriate targets (the ones I place it on may indeed experience and act from anger, which only makes them better projection objects).
  • Any belief automatically creates resistance… to the truths in its reversals, and what doesn’t fit the identity that goes with it.
  • The split of space allows for resistance to what is. It filters the appearance of what is allowed and not allowed into different locations of space… what is allowed appears to be in the region where there is a sense of I, and what is not allowed appears as if in another region of space. (What is allowed/not allowed is determined by beliefs.)
  • The sensation a story is combined with serves as a base for a split of space into I and Other (providing a fixed point in space to define the boundary), and also for resistance to parts of what is arising.
  • The sense of density, substance and reality of a sensation provides a sense of the same, of density, substance and reality, to the story it is associated with.
  • If a belief needs to be amplified, it can be amplified in two ways. One is to amplify the sensation it is placed on, which in turn allows for a stronger belief, a sense of more substance to the belief, and a stronger sense of split between I here and Other out there. Another is to engage in and develop supporting beliefs.
  • If a story needs to be combined with a sensation (to create a belief and a split in space), and an appropriate sensation is not available, muscles tense up to create appropriate sensations.
  • A belief also amplifies tension, because it creates a sense of I and Other, and something to protect (a truth or an identity), which in turn creates mental and physical tension.
  • Any belief creates a split in space, of something that is true here and false somewhere else, so also a sense of I and Other.

Reversals and the Middle Way

 

When I read Ordinary Extraordinary’s excellent post on emptiness, I was reminded of how well reversals fit in with the Buddhist Middle Way. They both reflect the same insight, so it is not surprising: any story is only a relative truth, and each of its reversals have truths to it as well. And, when they all cancel each other out, we can taste the inherent neutrality of any situation… emptiness dancing, God’s will, God expressing, exploring and experiencing itself.

There is a self: Yes. (a) There is indeed the appearance of an individual human self and soul, as a holon in a much larger holarcy. Through an overlay of stories, we can differentiate within the world of form, split it up freely in any size and shape, and individuals are one of the things we can differentiate out. And (b) there is a Self… as Big Mind, Brahman, Tao… The Self absent of an Other, not any more or less identified with any aspect of the field of awake emptiness and form.

There is no self: Yes. (a1) Within the seamless world of form, there is no separate self. We can differentiate out an individual human self and soul within this seamless world, but there are no absolute boundaries there. Any boundaries come from stories alone. And (a2) all forms are no other than the brilliantly clear and awake emptiness itself, which is inherently absent of any separate self… no boundaries, no beginning, no end, timeless, spaceless, allowing any and all forms… And finally, (b) there is no Self. Any self requires an Other, an in the absence of an Other there is no Self either.

There is an I: Yes. (a) When there is an identification with one region of form, the sense of I is placed there, making the rest of the world of form (and the rest of Existence) appear as Other. This creates the appearance of a separate I. (b) There is an I, as the awake emptiness and form itself, as Big Mind, Brahman, Tao… This is the I without an Other. It is the same I as under (a), but now clearly realized to have no Other, and not more or less identified with any aspect of the field (of awake emptiness and form) than any other.

There is no I: Yes. (a) There is no separate I anywhere, no I with an Other. Only the appearance of it, when there is a belief in the story of a separate I (self), and the field is split into the appearance of I and Other. (b) There is no I even as the I without an Other, because without an Other, no I either. There is only what is… the field of awake emptiness and form, already and inherently absent of any center and any separate self or I.

None of these stories are absolutely true, yet they are all relative truths… each with a grain of truth in them. Together, they fill out the picture within the realm of stories, and they also point to that which is inherently free from (and prior to) stories.

The human self not trusting it can function well without being identified with

 

When the Ground of emptiness awakens to itself, it can be very odd for our human self. It is used to being identified with, and no it is suddenly not identified with anymore.

It realizes that it is just happening, just as everything else is just happening.

There are still sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts, choices, actions, relationships and everything else, but it is just happening on its own. It is all living its own life. There is lots of doing, but no doer anywhere. There is just a field of what is happening… this room, the sound of the dehumidifier, the cat walking up to connect, the chill on the fingers, tapping of the keys, thoughts arising reflected in words on the screen, getting up to get a glass of water… one field, with no part being more or less identified than anything else.

It can be disconcerting for the human self at first. Will it get by without being identified with? Isn’t being identified with, taken as an I, necessary for it to function in the world?

The rug is pulled out from under its feet, the bottom fell out, it is suspended in thin air…

But if it stays with this, it sees that not only can the human self function well without being identified with, it can even function better in relative terms. There is an absence of drama, so just clarity and simplicity… even the most engaged activities happens within a context of utter clarity and simplicity.

In a way, it is a matter of trust. Of the human self trusting it can function OK without being taken as a separate I. Sometimes, emptiness awakens to itself so clearly that all questions are blown away and the awakening is stable. Other times, and maybe more commonly, emptiness awakens to itself many times, each time followed by the human self not quite trusting the shift and going back into safe and familiar ground, and each time becoming a little more familiar with living without being identified with. Each time trusting a little more, until the shift happens in a more stable way.

There never was a separate self in the first place… only awakeness, emptiness and whatever is happening in form… the only difference is that now, this awake emptiness notices itself… and when it does, any exclusive identification with any part of this field goes out the window.

It is seen as simply a belief in the idea of a separate self, as placing a sense of I within a segment of this field and making the rest into Other. Emptiness awakening to itself cleans it all out.

Sensations as anchor

 

I keep coming back to this throughout the day, and especially as I fall asleep in the evening… The exploration of the sense of a separate self placed on sensations, and combined with certain thoughts.

It can sound abstract when I try to put it into words, but it is very alive in immediate experience.

I see how there is a vast of rich landscape of combinations happening… shifting anchor from one sensation to another, and attaching thoughts and stories to each one… richly, fluidly.

It is amazing to see how a whole world is created in this way, or rather a rich and changing interpretation of this world.

Some sensations, typically in the throat and calf areas, are used as anchor for stories that trigger stress and a sense of resistance. Other sensations, especially in the nostril area, are used as anchor for a sense of an atmosphere (often a sweet one.) And there is also more stable background stream of a sense of a separate self, placed on sensations in the center of the upper throat/lower head area.

It even seems that if there isn’t an appropriate sensation ready as a requested anchor, then it is made through muscle contractions. Tension in certain muscles create particular sensations, used as anchor for certain stories or even a sense of a particular atmosphere.

It is strange to observe, but also clear… all happening in an differentiated way, right here, within the wide open space of awake emptiness and form.

Examining conglomerates

 

A conglomerate of thoughts anchored in sensations, and the accompanying emotional patterns, seems very real when not examined closely. There is obviously a separate I there.

But when examined, it falls apart.

Finite in time and space

I notice sights coming and going. Sounds coming and going. Smells and tastes coming and going. Sensations coming and going. Thoughts coming and going.

They are all finite in time and space.

Awareness… timeless and spaceless

Am I any of those? No. Something does not come and go. This awareness, that all of these happen within, does not come and go. If there is an “I” here, it is more this awareness than its content.

Content as awake emptiness itself

If so, where is the dividing line between I as awareness and this content, which somehow is less “I”? Can I find a dividing line anywhere?

Now, it seems that the content of awareness is no other than awareness itself.

There is this awake void, and forms happening within, to and as this awake void.

Sense of separate I as awake emptiness

And there is no separate I to be found anywhere. When I look for a separate I within form, I find thoughts associated with particular sensations, and a sense of a separate I in turn associated with those two. But in the very seeing of that, the whole sense of a separate I weakens. The air goes out of the balloon. It becomes transparent. That too is revealed as no other than awake emptiness.

Awake emptiness takes myriads of forms… all these sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts. And yes, even a sense of a separate I placed on thoughts associated with particular sensations. That too, is no other than awake emptiness. It has no substance. That too, is awake emptiness.

Seeing this, over and over, there is more familiarity with it. It comes more into the foreground. the sense of a separate I has less and less hold. The identification with it has no substantial anchor anymore.

Innocent curiosity

Of course, writing this is mostly useless, other than as a report of what is alive in immediate awareness here and now. If I am looking for anything in particular, if I think I know what I am looking for and what I will find, it is boxed in.

To be free, receptive to what is really there, to really be a genuine exploration, there has to be an innocent curiosity…

What will i find? What is new this time? What surprises will there be? What is really alive, here and now?

Sensations as anchor for beliefs II

 

Before falling asleep last night, I explored further how sensations are used as anchors.

  • I noticed how a sense of searching and looking was associated with slight movements of the eyes (even when they are closed.) Combined with a sense of a separate self, it creates a sense of “I am searching” or “I am looking”. Belief in idea of separate self + searching/looking + slight eye movements = “I am searching.”
  • The same seems to happen with thoughts. Thoughts were associated with slight movements of the throat (as if speaking) and combined with a sense of a separate self it becomes “I am thinking”. Belief in the idea of a separate self + thoughts + sensations in throat area subtly mimicking speaking = “I am thinking.”
  • A sense of a sweet atmosphere was associated with the sensation of air coming in and passing over the roof of the mouth.
  • A sense of a separate self was placed on various sensations in the throat, neck and (inner) mouth area. Whenever I looked at the sensation it was currently placed on, the sense of a separate I was disengaged from that sensation, and automatically placed on another sensation in a slightly different area of space.

In all of these cases, the conglomerates seem very real and substantial when they are not explored. But as soon there is the noticing of them being simply sensations used as anchors for thoughts, searching, a particular atmosphere, or a sense of a separate I, the illusion falls away. It is similar to seeing how a magic trick is performed – the spell goes out of it.

The conglomerate, which looked so convincing as a whole, falls into its separate parts. They are recognized as distinct from each other.

Sometimes when I do this, the conglomerate creating the appearance of a separate self falls away. It pops, revealing Big Mind, headlessness, awake emptiness and form clearly absent of any separate self anywhere. Last night (and for the last few days) it remains, just shifting to similar sensations nearby. Both are of course fine – equally interesting to explore in their own way.

Filtering out awakeness, and leaving emptiness far in background

 

I have written several posts on this topic, as with so many other recurrent topics, but it still comes up for me…

Awake emptiness when identified with content: in the background

When I identify with the content of awareness, this sense of a separate self is usually placed on this human individual, and its thoughts, sensations, views of itself, tastes, and behaviors.

The ground of awake emptiness typically goes far in the background, if it is noticed at all. And its two aspects of awakeness and emptiness seems to be filtered in two different ways.

Awakeness, in its direct experience of it, is filtered to only belong to this individual. But even here, it is partly within and outside of the regions of the separate self, coming and going on its own. (I am this individual, this human being, and awareness comes and goes, sometimes stronger and sometimes less strong, sometimes here – when I am awake, and sometimes not – when I am asleep.)

And the emptiness aspect is usually not noticed at all. It is at most intuited, and then often associated with fear and discomfort. (If I am an object in the world, then emptiness – nonexistence – is not something I want to be connected with.)

Awake emptiness when absence of identification with content: in foreground

When the identification goes out of the content of awareness, and back into the ground of awake emptiness, the content of awareness – including this individual – arises as the awake emptiness itself.

The awake emptiness goes into the foreground, and form arises as nothing other than the awake emptiness itself. There is a field of awake emptiness arising as form, as this individual and the wider world, and there is no center and no separate self inherent anywhere.

The awakeness is no more or less associated with this individual than with the wider world. It belongs to the field of awake emptiness that everything – the thin surface of form – arises within, to and as.

And the emptiness is the void all forms arises from, as, and goes back into. Within the timeless present, all forms arises as the void. Within time, all forms comes out of and goes back into the void. It is a continuous stream of form emerging from and going into void, a stream with a hidden source and destination.

A lot of work

A lot of work goes into filtering all this through a sense of a separate self. The emptiness has to be ignored. The awakeness has to be placed on this individual human being. The world of form has to be split into I here and Other there, and from this split comes a great deal of struggle and friction (which is essential for exploring the world of form, but also takes a lot of work.)

No wonder it is experienced as such a relief when identification goes out of the content of awareness, and there is just the resting as the ground of awake emptiness – within, to and as all content and form arises. It is much easier.

It is what already and always is, even if it sometimes filters itself through a sense of a separate self and appears – to itself – differently.

Fully allowing a sense of a separate self

 

Any sense of a separate self comes from resistance to experience.

Through resistance to experience, we identify with an aspect of the content of awareness, and we split the content into I and Other, which in turns creates a sense of struggle, drama, and wanting something else than what is.

When we realize this, it is easy to start resist the sense of a separate self, of wanting that one to go away, of hoping for something better just on the other side of this. And this is just another way to identify with an aspect of content of awareness and pitting it against other aspects of the content. There is an identification with wanting the content to be different from what it is.

(In this case, an identification with wanting of this sense of a separate self to go away, an identification with the corresponding belief that it would be better if it wasn’t there, and an identification as someone who wants it to go away – all of which places our identification firmly within one part of the content of awareness, pitted against other parts of the content.)

The trick here is to allow it all: the sense of a separate self, any resistance to it, any wanting of it to be different, any strategies to change it, and anything else. To allow it, embrace, see it, feel it, and then to love it, as it is. This shifts the identification out of content and into its ground of awake emptiness.

In this, there is indeed a release from being caught up in any sense of a separate self – even when it is there.

We find ourselves as the ground allowing it all, as it already does.

As long as there is identification with particular content of awareness, there is a split and we don’t notice this ground, or ourselves as this ground. We find ourselves as a region of the content, pitted against other regions of the content, and in the ensuing drama the ground is not noticed. As soon as there is a being with what arises, a full allowing of it, identification goes out of content and we find this ground of awake emptiness allowing it all.

Exploring a sense of a separate I in three general ways

 

When I explore this sense of a separate I, I notice that I tend to do it in three general ways.

The main one is to be with the experience of a separate I, to fully allow it – including any resistance to this sense of a separate I, any hopes for it to change, any struggles around it. Fully be with it, allow it, embrace it, as it is. To see it and feel it as it is, here and now (which allows loving it, as it is, to come in as well.)

The second one is to amplify the experience of a separate self. How can I make the sense of a separate self stronger? I find that I do it by tensing up muscles, by strengthening an image of a split between me here and the rest of the world out there, and also by emotions such as anger, fear, desire, and so on. This helps me see how the sense of a separate self is created, and how I do it in my daily life.

The third is to inquire into what is already more true in immediate experience, such as exploring if I am content of awareness, if I am awareness itself, and if the content is anything else than awareness. (Am I any of this content? These sounds? Sights? Sensations? Thoughts? They all come and go, but something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? It is awareness itself. Am I this awareness? If I find myself as awareness, I notice that its content arises as a seamless field. What appeared as inside and outside, when I took myself to be a part of the content, is now all a seamless field of no real inside or outside. Where is the boundary between awareness and its content? Does the content appear as anything else than this awareness? The content of this awake emptiness arises as nothing other than awake emptiness itself.)

Together, there is the full allowing of a sense of a separate self, including any associated resistance. There is an active exploration of how the sense of a separate I is created. And there is an exploration of what is already more true in immediate awareness.

The final leap

 

The final leap into realizing – or discovering, noticing – what we are is a momentous one. It is a shift more radical than anything that has gone before, or that is at least often the experience of it. Up until then, there has always been a sense of a separate I, however (apparently) subtle. And now, that one is gone. There is just the field of awareness and its content, where the content is revealed as nothing other than awareness itself, and with no sense of a center or a separate I anywhere.

The perceptual center, located in this human individual, is still there, but it is no longer a center for a sense of a separate I. The perceptual center just arises within the field of content, along with anything else coming and going.

So it is no wonder that most haven’t gone there yet, including most Jungians, or Process Workers, or even mystics. They may go to the threshold of it, where the sense of a separate I appears very transparent, subtle, vague, minuscule in the ocean of everything as God, Spirit, or awakeness and form.

But to take the final leap would mean to question our final and core identity, as an ultimately separate self, a separate I that may be “one with” everything and God, but is still a separate I. It means to question, and to thoroughly examine – leaving no stone unturned – the belief in the idea of a separate I.

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.

Anchor for sense of separate I

 

This comes up daily for me…

I notice how a sense of a separate I is placed on sensations in the center of the lower head and upper neck area, serving almost as an anchor for this sense of separate I.

The experience of the rest of the body is of space, with just a few sensations here and there appearing in space, but these particular sensations appear as more dense, more substantial, as a tension, a contraction. It is almost as if there is a tensing there to allow for a better anchor for the sense of I.

And when this sense of a separate I is anchored there, the sense of (separate) Other is placed at other locations in space… on certain sensations, thoughts, images, people, situations, land/cityscapes and so on.

It is very curious, and almost comical when it is noticed.

There is a contraction in some muscles in the upper neck/lower head area, making this area appear more dense than the rest of the body (which is just space). And these serve as an anchor for a sense of a separate I, allowing other things in the field to appear as Other.

And when this is noticed, and allowed fully, it all softens. The sensations become more transparent and as space. The sense of a separate I is not anchored anywhere in space and is relaxed, or falls away. And with it falls away the sense of a separate Other as well. Now, the field as it is, without any separate I or Other, arises more as it is. As a field without the sense of a center of a separate I (placed on sensations, tensions, somewhere in this physical body.)

The gifts of off-days

 

One of the things I appreciate, usually in hindsight, about off-days is how they help me notice things about myself I usually don’t notice, or don’t want to notice, or at least don’t want to explore in much detail.

These off-days are like the ghosts of Christmas showing Scrooge his life, and especially those parts he didn’t want to see. The parts he needed someone else to show him. It may not be comfortable to go through, but it can also lead to a shift, if we allow it to.

For me, seeing what I don’t want to see about myself especially happens when something is off physically. There is less energy to maintain a desired persona, and maybe even less energy to try to change it, mask it or disengage from it by using a technique or practice.

Yesterday

Yesterday, I certainly noticed some of these (often well hidden) patterns such as going into a state where everything feels utterly wrong (my life, my day, etc.), and some family patterns around a martyr role: the noble quiet suffering, silently blaming the world for my misery.

I guess that is very Norwegian…! The quiet noble suffering, bearing it without complaining too much, and then often not even consciously blaming the world for it being that way. Just bearing it… until it – and my life – is over(!). No wonder that is kept safely in my shadow.

Three effects of physical problems

I also see how physical problems usually have one of three effects for me…

With pain, or apparently heat exhaustion, I tend to find myself as awakeness, as crystal clear awareness. Not by trying, it just happens on its own. I guess the misery is too intense and sharp, so there is a shift out of (exclusive) identification with it and into awakeness, the crystal clear witness of whatever is happening.

Physical reactions to certain foods (food intolerance) or exertion brings out the shadow, in the ways described above. They tend to lead to contractions and reinforce a separate-self sense.

And sometimes, when I am in a phase where headlessness or Big Mind is more strongly in the foreground, then whatever happens to this body-mind just happens, as Big Mind.

A spectrum of what we can find ourselves as

Writing it up this way, I see how these three reflect the span of what or who we can find ourselves as.

At one end of the scale is pure awareness, awake emptiness, crystal clear awake space. The crystal clear awake space is in the foreground, and when form arises (as it often does), it arises within and as this awake space, but as distant, just a small speck within the vastness of awake space.

Then, we can find ourselves as Big Mind, as awake emptiness and form, the awake emptiness arising as form. Here, awake emptiness and form are equally pronounced. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

And at the other end of the spectrum, form is in the foreground, and the awake emptiness is in the background, sometimes so far distant that it is not even noticed. There is usually an exclusive identification with our human self here, a forgetting of everything else that we also are. It can be great – fun, ecstatic, an adventure, but it is also where we can feel trapped, confined, helpless, without control, in misery. We are at the mercy of an exclusively finite existence.

Cycling through, inviting greater familiarity

And for me, at least now, there is a cycling through of each of these. One after another, presenting themselves, inviting me to find myself as each of them, to become more familiar with each, more intimate, to know each of their landscapes in more detail.

Layers of identity

 

Our layers of identity goes all the way down, revealing nothingness, just like the layers of an onion.

The outermost layers are the lightly held preferences, the ones we are typically not much identified with, such as which sweater to wear today, which flavor ice cream, which movie to watch, and so on. There is an identity around these things, but it is not so tightly held. It is our superficial preferences about things not that important.

The roles we play in our life are a little more real and important to us, although there is usually some fluidity here: child, father, mother, husband, wife, lover, teacher, student, profession, and so on. It is possible to be strongly identified with some of these roles, but they are most of the time relatively fluid. We feel at home in several of them, and can shift among them as our situation changes.

We also have preferences that seem more real and more important than the flavor of our ice cream, such as ethics, norms, value systems, all our shoulds about people’s relations.

And our psychological identities, such as feminine or masculine, strong or weak, healthy or sick, outgoing or introvert, active or passive, and so on.

There are the identities we are born into, such as our culture, ethnic group, sometimes religion.

We are also (most often) born into our biological roles, such as sex and (visible) genetic ethnicity.

And then the identities that goes along with being a biological organism, such as mammal, human, wanting to avoid pain, wanting shelter, food and water, seeking safety and procreation, and so on. The basic survival identifications and preferences.

There are also many others, such as a sense of belonging… to a species, family, subculture, culture, bioregion, nation, continent, Earth, universe.

And then the core one: an identification with a sense of a separate self, of an I that has an Other.

More or less identification with the identities

Each of these are identities, the biological and psychosocial ones, the small scale ones and the larger scale ones. And there is more or less identification with each of these identities at any one point in time.

Exploring identities

As we start exploring these, for instance through a form of self-inquiry, we may see that the ones that were tightly held, that seemed so real, so beyond anything that could be questioned, even those are just identities.

They can be identified with to a greater or lesser extent, and when they are more lightly held, it tends to give a sense of more freedom. More possibilities open up. We don’t box ourselves in so much when they are more loosely held, when we release some of our identification with them.

A sudden shift (and convincing demonstration)

I remember one of my first mediation retreats where the pain in my legs grew more and more intense (and I stubbornly refused to get a chair.) At one point, the pain grew so unbearable that a sudden shift happened…

The pain was still there, as much as before, but there was no identification with that pain anymore. It just happened in space as anything else, and there was no identification with is so also no resistance to it. It happened in space, just as the clouds moving through the sky or the sounds of the cars swooshing by the center.

It was a dramatic demonstration of the struggle and drama that is experienced when we closely identify with something (I was this body trying to push away this pain) to the sense of ease and clarity when there is a disidentification with is (the pain and this body just arising in space as anything else.)

Even the identities that seem most real are just identities

It was also a demonstration of how even the identities that seems most real, most beyond anything that can be questioned, are also just identities that we can be more or less closely identified with.

Even my biological identities, or wanting (needing!) this and that, is an identity. Even the core sense of a separate self is an identity. And they can be more or less tightly held, more or less identified with, taken as real, substantial, as defining who or what I really am.

What we really are

As we continue to explore this, we may find ourselves as what is without any center or separate self. Just what is, the seeing and the seen here and now, as a field, inherently centerless and selfless.

Not bound by any fixed identities, any beliefs, any mind-made boxes defining who or what we really are. Just this field, arising as it does right now, inherently free from any identifications, and also beyond and embracing them all. Inherently free from, so allowing, any identities to arise.

No identity, allowing the fluidity of any identities

We are this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, centerless and selfless, functionally connected with a particular individual human self. Our real identity is no identity, allowing any identity to come and go, fluidly, as it does anyway.

All the usual identities of our individual self is still there, all our preferences and the way our passport define us, but they are not taken as what we really are. They are identities used for purely functional and practical reason, for getting around and operating in the world, but they are not identified with.

We can say that in our deep, there is no identity. And this absence of identity allows any identity to arise, and it allows a fluidity of identities to come and go.

There is no core identity anymore telling us what other identities to allow or not. Nothing is excluded. Nothing is walled off. There is just the fluidity of what arises. And this is what always has been, we just didn’t see it when we were busy holding onto certain identities and fighting off other identities.

It is the freedom of the ocean which is formless in its depth, and manifests as form (waves) on its surface. From the formlessness of the depth, any form is allowed on the surface.

Felt sense of all as one.. or as (the transcendent) I?

 

Hm… When I look at the title of the previous post, I see that there is quite a difference between all as one, and all as (the transcendent) I. What I wanted to convey is all as the transcendent I, but I wrote “one” instead to avoid the misunderstanding of all as the ego-I, which of course is quite different.

Ego-I and transcendent-I

The ego-I is the sense of a separate I, placed on this individual.

And the transcendent-I is the I of Big Mind, of awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate I anywhere.

All as ego-I is massive inflation… insanity. But all as the transcendent-I is the supreme sanity…

In the dream, what was – and is – alive is all as a felt-sense of the transcendent I.

All as one

All as one is the soft version of it, as it allows a sense of a separate I which somehow is not separate from anything else. It is all a seamless field, but there is still a vague sense of I here placed on this individual soul and human self.

This is the safe ground, where we get the best of both worlds. I get to feel not separate from anything else, which is good, and then I also get to maintain a sense of I here placed on this individual. It feels good, without rocking the boat too much. It is still relatively familiar, and my identity doesn’t change that much.

All as transcendent I

And all as the transcendent I is very different. it is far more radical. It does away with the separate self-sense all together. It completely eradicates any sense of a separate I placed on this individual self. It is the I that transcends the formless and all form, it is the one I everywhere and always.

It wipes out anything familiar, any identity at all. Nothing is left. Just this one I, everywhere and always, no more present in this individual than in any other (although it is functionally connected with this particular individual, for the time being).

This is the complete death of any individual self-sense, of any fixed identity. This is what differentiates sticking the toes in the water, and taking the plunge. It is what separates a dabbling in awakening as Big Mind, and taking the full consequence of it.

Why one, and not transcendent I?

So why did I write “all as one” and not “transcendent I”, although that is what was – and is – alive for me? Partly to not confuse it with the inflation of the ego-I, but also partly because the fear of taking the plunge is real… It is a real fear, a terror… It is the ultimate death of any sense of separate I, of any continuous identity. A plunge into something beyond all of this, something unknown, and also very familiar.

I know, at several levels, that taking the plunge only leaves behind what has always been an illusion anyway, and that what is plunged into will be strangely and intimately familiar… Yet, there is also a hesitation here, a holding back… Am I ready? Willing? Will it happen even if I make myself more consciously available to it?