What I see is what I am


What I see is what I am.

That is true in three ways:

What I see in the wider world – in others, culture, nature, fictional and real life stories, science, dreams – is a mirror of what is here now. It is a mirror of the characteristics and dynamics here now.

My world – the world I relate to and live within – is my own world of images. It is my own overlay of boundaries and interpretations on pure perception.

And it all happens within and as what I am and everything is.

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Ideologies as stepping stones


Any story is a temporary guide.

It helps us guide attention and organize our life in a certain way. It is a support. A stepping stone to something else.

That is where it gets tricky, because if the story is taken as true, it is more difficult to move on when the time is ripe.

And that is where a story can become an apparent hindrance rather than a support.

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Misdirection is one of the many wonderful analogies from the world of magic.

Any belief is misdirection.

I experience the world as if it is true. Any story filters the world and experience, and this experience – which naturally conforms with the belief – is taken as support for the belief. And since the filtering story is taken as true, I don’t even notice that and how it filters experience. I take the filtered experience as real, substantial, true and as support for my initial belief.

I believe the world is made up of objects. (Including however I see myself, as a human being, a doer, an observer). I filter experience as objects. I take that experience, those boundaries, as real, substantial and true. I experience myself as an object in a world full of objects. And that experience is taken as support for my initial belief. (Which most of the time is not even brought to awareness. It operates at the level of images, the first imaginary overlay on pure perception.)

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Origin stories and a sense of distance



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

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

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

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Flavors of fundamentalism


There are many ways of being fundamentalist. We can be religious fundamentalists, of course. We can be atheist fundamentalists, taking the no-God story as true and not acknowledging that it all depends on the images we have of God (if we see God and reality as interchangeable terms, then atheism makes less sense!), and that we really don’t know. And we can even be science fundamentalists, taking current models from science as the gospel truth, not recognizing that these too will be obsolete at some point in the future.

Also, we can be anti-fundamentalist fundamentalist which I am familiar with from myself. I sometimes notice a reaction to fundamentalism of different flavors, and that is of course another brand of fundamentalism. I am not receptive to the validity and gifts of fundamentalism, and not free to shift between a wider range of stories about fundamentalism and apply the one that seems most helpful in the situation.

Any time I take any story as true, even if it is as an underlying assumption such as stores about the world (life is….) and what I am (an object in the world, content of experience), I become a fundamentalist. I filter experience as if it is true. I act as if it is true. And I can’t help it, as long as I take those stories as true.

The most common form of fundamentalist isn’t of the religious type. It is the fundamentalism of taking ourselves as content of experience, as an object within content of experience – whether it is an image of a human self, or an image of a doer or observer or any other image.

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All of this may be obvious in general and for the stories we clearly recognize as stories, guides, pointers. Where it gets interesting and juicy is for the stories we still take as true, the ones creating friction and stress, the ones attention naturally is drawn to, the views we identify with, the basic assumptions we haven’t questions and explored yet.

Any story has a number of reversals, and each of these reversals also has validity. We can find specific examples of where each of those reversals are genuinely true for us. This is a reminder that no story has absolute validity, and it is also an invitation to explore ways to hold the limited validity of all reversals of any particular story. And then find the genuine validity in the reversals of those more embracing stories.

Any story also hinges on a number of assumptions, and each of these has valid reversals. The assumptions usually include the basic ones of space, time, objects, beings, a me, doer, observer and that these exists as real, separate, out there etc.

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If reality is inherently neutral, the play of appearances, then that should be reflected at the level of our stories as well. Revealed when I inquire into stories about a particular situation.

And it really seems to be reflected there.

I have a story about a situation being undesirable, unfortunate, harmful, bad. It is my familiar story and I am identified with its viewpoint and the identities it creates. I feel that it is true because I believe the story. I find evidence to support it. I filter the world through that story, so whatever happens seems to confirm it. I take it as true, so perceive and act as if it is true.

Taking a story as true creates a knot, and that knot is created by supporting stories, reactive emotions, and actions that inevitably follows, and it also creates and fuels a sense of a separate self – locating myself in time and space with a boundary around and the wider world beyond. I condense my experience of myself into an object in the world, with infinitely many other objects around.

Yet, as soon as I am more honest with myself, as soon as I investigate that story in a helpful way and with sincerity, the knot softens and starts to unravel. I may see that all of the reversals of the initial story also has validity, I can find the genuine truth in each of them. Identification with the initial viewpoint softens and may release out of it.

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Islands of density II


I wanted to explore these islands of density a little further.

What are they made up of? I find sensations and an overlay of images. And these images include images of a location in space, an outline of the islands – roughly defining their shape and size, and labels and interpretations of these islands. And also images of a me with certain identities and viewpoints, relating to these images in certain ways depending on how they fit with these identities and viewpoints. Images of a doer acting in certain ways. And an image of an observer observer all of this.

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Stories and phenomena fall apart


This post started as a play with the different theist labels (atheist, non-theist, theist, pantheist, panentheist etc.) and how they all describe aspects of how I relate to the world. They all fit, in their own way.

Playing with stories in that way can be instructive. I can find how they each have validity for me so I don’t get (too) stuck in any one of them, and then do the same with the many possible stories holding them all. I can notice some of the dynamics going on around these stories and the ways I apply and live from them. I can explore how and when each of these stories seem helpful as a guide for attention and action. I can notice how I tend to play with stories in un-conventional ways, finding the truth in them for me in that way, and also am free to use them in conventional ways – and usually do – when I talk with others.

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Although eating honey is a very good thing to do



“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
~A.A. Milne

Even a simple Pooh quote is a question and invitation for investigation.

When anticipating eating honey, it is easy to see that the joy of sweet anticipation is all in the mind. If we like honey, that is.

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Truth or Buddhism


Awakening is an awakening out of stories, and that includes whatever guidelines (if any) used to invite in the awakening. As Gautama Buddha said, the teachings are a boat designed to get you over to the other side. No need to carry it with you after you land.

This is good advice at any phase of the process, whether it is before or within awakening.

And it is also good advice when the veils are thinning, since attachment to teachings as true may be among the last identifications. There may be an identification with the viewpoint of these teachings and all that comes with it, including dentification as content of experience, and as an I with an other.

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Live up to your attainment with care


Live up to your attainment with care.
Sixth Patriarch

In this koan (see the full text below), Myo awakened. (Reality awakened to itself, awakened from temporarily taking itself to be Myo.)

And after awakening, there is the process of living from it with care. It can easily be obscured, and that happens as soon as we take any story as true or identify with any viewpoint.

As Byron Katie says, we are awakened – or not – to a thought. The thought that is here now.

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Liberation is retroactive


Joel sometimes says that enlightenment is retroactive.

One of the many ways of noticing that is through inquiry. Especially when it is done in a wholehearted and heartfelt way.

I take a story as true, and it colors my past. It may even bring up sadness, grief, anger, regret and so on.

I inquire into the story, finding what is more true for me, and the story is liberated from being taken as true.

And here, I find that my images of the past has changed as well. Instead of – for instance – regret over a particular situation, there is now a gentle and heartfelt appreciation.

Often, it is bitter-sweet. I can see how I acted in beliefs back then, creating suffering for myself and others. It is bitter. And yet, in realizing that I was confused and acted on a belief, and now have a little more clarity around it, there is a sweetness, a sincere appreciation of the whole process.

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Notice when identify with a viewpoint



I listened to a Zen talk about how difficult it is to notice when we are caught up in the ego. It is true, of course, but also not.

The word ego in a spiritual context points to identification with a viewpoint. Or more accurately, with a story and its viewpoint and corresponding identity, and the role in the world that goes with it.

Even clarifying that makes it easier. When we talk about ego, it can sound a little vague and abstract. But identifying with a viewpoint is a little more concrete and familiar. It is something we are more likely to notice as it happens.

And as we get familiar with the symptoms of identifying with a viewpoint, there is even more of a possibility of recognizing it as it happens. We may not be able to shift out of it completely, right there and then, but we can at least recognize that we are caught up in identification with a viewpoint, and do ourselves and others a favor and not blindly act on it.

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Maps as statistics, truth, refuge, temporary guide etc.



Some 101 stuff about maps…..

What we call truth in any story or map comes from how it works as a practical guide for attention, exploration or action. If it works well and it fits with our individual or shared stories about how the world works in general, we call it true. But there is no truth inherent in any story or map.

Stories and maps are tools. Practical guides for attention, exploration and action. There is no more “truth” in them than in any other tool such as a hammer or saw.

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Maps as questions



Again, pretty basic but a good reminder….

Any story is a question, and that includes maps. They are questions and starting points for inquiry.

For instance, what happens if I take the map as true? What happens if I experience and live as if it is true? How do I limit myself and the world? Who would I be if I didn’t take it as true? What are the truths in its reversals?

What happens if I take it as a tool? A tool of limited and practical value only, with no truth to it apart from in a very limited and temporary sense? How and when may it be useful? How and when is it not?

As with any story, God (life, existence) is not bound or limited by any map.

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Having all the answers


Fundamentalists of any stripes tend to think they have the answers. And they do, in their own mind.

Fundamentalism is not only found in religion, politics and at times science, but also in the apparently small things in life: My wife shouldn’t leave dishes around the house. The neighbor’s dog shouldn’t chase our cat. They shouldn’t use noisy leaf blowers. And fundamentalism is also found in our more basic beliefs: I need to live up to an image. There is a doer and observer here.

I find I sometimes am a fundamentalist. I feel I have the answers, and if I don’t I can come up with some. I take myself as a doer and observer, and act as if it is true. 

When I go into fundamentalism, I am in trouble. I take a lie as truth and I am in opposition to reality. 

And when I take them as questions, with receptivity and curiosity, there is a more open landscape again. There is more room for natural intelligence to work, to recognize stories as tools only of temporary and practical value, and use the stories that seem most helpful in the current situation. 

And this applies to the topic of this post as well…. Do I take this as true? Do I take (see, feel, live) it as a question? What happens when I do one or the other, or a mix of both?

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Seeking refuge in stories


A simple process, and it has a profound impact to the extent it is recognized – as it happens.

I tell myself certain stories are true, so I can feel more safe. Whenever I take a story as true, there is fear, so I take more stories as true to feel more safe.

Taking a story as true creates fear because it is a lie (no story is true), and the world can at any moment remind me it is a lie.

It is a precarious situation. I have do defend the story and its viewpoint and the identity that goes with it, and somewhere I know I can’t since it is a lie. And for the same reason, I mislead myself when I take a story as true, including in onventional and very practical ways. 

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As Byron Katie says, nobody can insult me, that is my job.

From a conventional view, I see that I interpret something a certain way, and then create a sense of being insulted. The interpretation may look sound or not, but it is still my interpretation that creates my own reaction.

Looking a little closer, I find that it is all happening within my own world of images. The me that is insulted (or not), the other person, what they say, how it is interpreted, all of that is happening within my own world of images.

As a belief, this is not very helpful. It may even become another should clashing with my stories of what is. (I should be able to receive or see it differently, but can’t.)

But as a question and pointer for inquiry, it may be very helpful. Do I insult myself? In what way is it true? Can I notice it after the fact? Can I notice it as it is happening? Is this true for more than insults? (For instance attraction, aversion, joy, sadness, satisfaction, sense of lack – is it all something I create for myself?)

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Why do bad things happen to good people?


I listened to the episode called  This I Used To Believe from This American Life, and the following question came up in act two:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

My cultural background is such that this question hasn’t come up much for me, but it can still be helpful to explore it….

The world does not conform to our shoulds. I may label people and events good and bad, and have a story that bad things shouldn’t happen to good people, but the world is not going to conform to my stories, and that is probably a very good thing. (It would be crazy otherwise, partly since we all have different shoulds and our shoulds change over time.)

Our ideas of good and bad are just that, ideas. Opinions. Stories created by mortal creatures of flesh and blood that see “good” as that which (appears) to support the life of me + us, and “bad” as that which does not support, or harm, the life of me + us. It is a very limited perspective. Hardly something to expect life to align itself with.

For each part of that initial statement – why do bad things happen to good people – the truth is that we don’t know. Our view is very limited, and formed through innumerable filters from physics, biology, culture and personal experience. We don’t truly know what is good or bad, or any whys.

There is the story of the Chinese farmer and his horse with its repeated reversals of what appears as fortunate and unfortunate. It all shifts with circumstances and viewpoints.

Grief, sadness, anger and so on are all another expression of love. I love someone, and that love takes those forms when I tell myself something bad happened to that person. It can be helpful to notice.

It is an invitation for recognizing our shared humanity, that we are all in the same boat. And for compassion and action as an opportunity to serve ourselves and others.

(From a practice view, it is an opportunity to notice and inquire into beliefs, to allow and be with experience as is and with kindness, to open our heart to ourselves and others, and to live from all of that.)

And finally something that is only helpful if it is recognized directly, it is all lila, the play of God. There are no separate selves to be hurt anywhere. (This is not very helpful if it remains just a story.)

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The article on rebirth agnosticism, and clarifying it for myself, made me think about agnosticism in a more general sense. What does it really mean? Are there more helpful ways to sort it?

Agnosticism (Greek: a-, without + gnosis, knowledge; after Gnosticism) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims — particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of deities, ghosts, or even ultimate reality — is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently impossible to prove or disprove. It is often put forth as a middle ground between theism and atheism, though it is not a religious declaration in itself. [Wikipedia]

Or more simply, holding the view that we cannot know whether God (etc.) exists or not.

This is a good start, but it seems helpful to explore some of the possible functions of the God story separately.

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The mistake


There is a core mistake in most of our lives: We take stories as true, including the basic story of a separate I in whatever form it takes, for instance as a doer and observer.

And yet, that mistake is not a mistake. It has infinite causes. And it is part of the play of God, another way for God to explore and experience itself. How else would God experience itself as finite? How else would God experience drama, and being completely caught up in drama? How else would God experience the drama of seeking and eventually “finding” itself?

The initial mistake only appears as a real mistake when stories are taken as true….

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Living our history


We live our history, before and even within awakening. We can’t help it since that is all our human self has to go by.

And when others live from a conditioning that is quite different from my own, it is easy to notice that we all live from our own history.

Here is a good example for me:

Two spiritual teachers appear to sometimes live from the story they should have told me. In one case, they should have told me about no-self. (That it can be recognized.) In the other case, they should have told me about the dark night. (How stark it can be.)

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Truth will set you free


…. and the truth will set you free.
John 8:32

There are many ways of looking at this. One is to notice that when I take a story as true, perceptions and actions are confined by it. And when it is recognized as a tool only, there is freedom to perceive and act on either side of it – aligned with the story or aligned with its reversals, or independent of them all. 

In this, there is a freedom at the level of who I am, as this human self in the world. I can find in myself what the story points to, what its reversals point to, and as someone not confined by either. And releasing identification with those stories also makes it easier for what I am to notice itself. 

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Taboo and inquiry


Taking a story as true creates discomfort, and this discomfort may prevent us from taking a closer and more sincere look at that story. 

One of the ways this shows up is in the form of taboos. We create a taboo around a story, maybe even telling ourselves that I shouldn’t think or talk about it, because it may come true. 

There is of course something to it. When I take a story as true, I interpret through that story and act as if it is true, and that may lead it to come true, at least sometimes and to some extent. But that happens whether I bring attention to that story or not, and may even be more likely to happen if the belief remains unquesitoned. 

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You have too much fun breaking all the rules


Ohhh you have too much fun breaking all the rules
Ohhh maybe so much fun I just might break them too
You’re trouble
Oooh just trouble
Oooh you’re trouble
Mmm just trouble
Bitter:Sweet, Trouble

One of the synchronicities life is so full of: 

My wife picked up the copy of Astronomy I am reading, looked at an article called Is there something we don’t know about gravity? and read out loud…

Spacecraft flybys and the moon’s orbit aren’t following predictions. Whatever is causing this could usher in a new theory of gravity.

As a punchline, the lyrics of the music we are listening followed with Ohhh you have too much fun breaking all the rules. 

This is another reminder of how life is full of pointers and questions for practice. We create stories about the world, including through science, and life show up differently. It is not limited by our stories or rules. And that is beautiful, there is no problem there. But if we take those stories – any story – as true, we are in trouble. Or rather, we perceive life as trouble. 

You’re trouble
Oooh just trouble
Oooh you’re trouble
Mmm just trouble

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How one form of love becomes another


When what we are is awake to itself, and a human self functions within this context, the way this human self functions in the world will often look like love. And it is as natural, effortless and independent of states and emotions as when the right hand removes a sliver from the left. 

When this love is filtered through beliefs, as it is for most of us, it becomes another form of love. It is a love for what we take as a separate I and its circle of us. It is a love of protection, defense, accumulation. It is a love that is expressed through any of our beliefs and emotional attachments, and any reactivity that comes from these beliefs and attachments. It is really a love for a story, a story taken as true. And it can look as anything but love. 

Again, it is good to notice…. It is all an expression of love.

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Again, maybe quite basic, but what my interest is drawn to….

Intelligence is always here. Wordless. Awake. Responsive. 

When it functions within the context of stories taken as true, it is limited by these stories. It is bound by stories taken as true. 

And when there is a recognition of the nature of stories – that they are mental field overlays, none of them having any real truth to them, the grain of truth in any story and its reversals, stories having practical and temporary value only – then intelligence is free to use these stories as tools. It is free to hold them lightly, as tools and guidelines for actions depending on what seems most helpful in any particular situation. With receptivity. Within the context of don’t know. Curiosity. 

The same intelligence is there. In one case, it is hemmed in by stories taken as true, and acted upon as if they are true. In the other case, it is free to use and recognize stories as tools.

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Enlightened or not to a thought, and never know in advance


As Byron Katie says, we are either enlightened to a thought ot not. And we never know in advance.

When I am not enlightened to a thought, I take it as true and act as if it is true.

When I am enlightened to a thought, I see it as a story with limited truth, I recognize the truth in its reversals, I see it as a tool of temporary and practical use only, and I recognize that it doesn’t even begin to touch what is really going on – whether in a conventional sense (the world is always more than and different from any story) or in the context of what I am and everything is (the play of Ground, God).

And I never know in advance if I am going to be enlightened to a thought or not. I may have been in the past, but not now. I may be now, but not in the future.

That is OK, and more than OK. Whenever I notice the signs of taking a story as true, I can take it as a reminder for inquiry, for finding what is more true for me than the initial belief.

And this goes whether I am “generally enlightened” or not. My center of gravity may be as a separate I, a doer or observer. My center of gravity may be in what I am, that which all experience happens within and as. And in either case, I may be enlightened or not to any particular thought that comes up.

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