Ground of being as other vs what we are

 

We can see our ground of being as other, or find it as what we are. And that makes all the difference.

GROUND OF BEING

What is our ground of being?

What we more fundamentally are, in our own experience, is capacity for the world as it appears to us. We are what allows any and all experiences.

SEEN AS OTHER

If we don’t recognize that all our experiences happen within and as our sense fields, and within and as what we are, it’s very easy to see our ground of being as other. As something that belongs to the world out there. And as something we typically don’t even consciously notice or recognize as anything of importance.

It’s easier and feels more natural to focus on the content of our experience, not what allows it all. Our focus tends to be on objects, and this what allows our experience of objects.

There is nothing wrong here, but we are missing out of something that can be interesting, or turn our perception inside-out and up-side down, or even be profoundly transforming for our human self in the world.

FINDING IT AS WHAT WE ARE

If we look more closely, we may find something else.

Conceptually, we may find that to ourselves, we have to be consciousness and anything we experience happens within and as that consciousness. And there is some ground, or emptiness or capacity, here that allows all of these experiences.

And when we explore this through direct noticing of what’s here, perhaps aided by some guidance, we may find the same.

We find that our sense fields – sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental representations – contains our experience of everything, including this human self, the wider world, and anything else.

It’s all happening within our sense fields. It’s all happening within and as what we are.

There is a human self and a wider world, and yet none of it is really other. Any inside and outside happens within the same field of experience.

Here, we may also notice the ground of being which allows it all. And we may find that as our ground of being. This is what we are that allows any and all of our experiences.

It’s what allows and is and takes the form of anything we have ever known.

THE TRANSFORMATION THAT CAN HAPPEN

It may seem inconsequential. What if my nature, or ground of being, is this capacity allowing all my experiences? It’s literally nothing, so how can it matter?

It is what allows our experience. And noticing that it is our nature, and ground of being, can be profoundly transformative.

When we find ourselves as what our experiences happen within and as, we also find oneness. We find that oneness is our nature, in our own experience, and always was even when we didn’t notice.

Any sense of boundaries comes from our overlay of mental representations, and taking these as the final word without noticing what we more fundamentally are.

The question here is: How do I live from this? In this situation, and if I take what I notice seriously, how do I live from it?

And there is often a parallel process. Anyting in our human self not aligned with oneness and this noticing comes to the surface to more consciously be aligned with oneness. To the extent we support and join in with this process, it can be profoundly transforming and healing for our human self.

This transformation is partly a transformation in how we relate to our experiences, including our contractions. We are invited to find it all as happening within and as what we are, recognize that our contractions have the same nature as ourselves, and rest in this noticing.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

Knowing about this, and exploring it conceptually, can be interesting and – for some – a first step.

And knowing about it in itself doesn’t do anything. The transformation happens when we notice all of this directly.

How can we do that?

The most effective approaches I have found are the Headless Experiments and the Big Mind process. This can give us a taste within a relatively short time and without much if any preparation.

We can also explore this by exploring our sense fields, for instance through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern versions like the Living Inquiries.

And we can explore it through basic meditation: notice and allow what’s here in experience. Over time, we may discover several things. There is a big difference between noticing our thoughts, and getting caught up in their content and stories. All our content of experience comes and goes and lives its own life. Everything is part of our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, emotions, thoughts, states, and so on. We may find that our nature is what allows it all. It’s what all of this happens within and as. And we may find it’s already more than familiar to us, we just didn’t consciusly notice before.

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As what I am, all is subject and object

 

In one sense, I am this human self in the world.

And when I look more closely, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what all my experiences – including of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

And here, I find that all of my experiences are both subject and object.

Anything happening wihtin my sense fields – of this human self and the wider world – is an object. It’s all happening within me. It’s not what I more fundamentally am.

And anything happening within my sense fields is a subject. It’s what I am. What I am takes all these forms.

THE PRACTICAL USE OF THIS

Why is this important? In some ways, it isn’t. It’s just something to notice, and it can be a bit fun to notice.

At the same time, it is helpful to notice all the content of my sense fields as objects. That helps me find myself as capacity for it all, and as what it all happens within and as.

And it is helpful to notice all of it as subject, since that’s helps me find myself as oneness. As what takes the form of all of it, as it appears to me.

THOUGHTS CREATING A SENSE OF SUBJECT AND OBJECT

There is one thing here to clarify.

When we normally experience something as subject (what we are) or object (other), it’s really a thought telling us this, and a thought we hold as true.

The conventional sense of subject (me as this human self with all these identities and roles) and other (the rest of the world, and the parts of me that don’t fit my desired image) comes from holding a thought as true. It comes from identifying with a thought.

A thought says: I am this human self with these identities. My mind holds that thought as true, and identifies with the viewpoint of this thought. In my own experience, I become the viewpoint of this thought.

Another thought says: I am not this table, or phone, or this room, or what’s outside the window, or these other people. And my mind identifies with the viewpoint of that thought, and that becomes my experience. All of this then is “other” to me.

This is our conventional experience of ourselves and the world. We take ourselves as this human self (roughly since we exclude some things we don’t like), and we are not the rest of the world.

That’s not wrong. But it’s not what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience. To ourselves, we more fundamentally are capacity for it all, and what it all happens within and as.

This human self and the wider world happens within my sense fields, and I am what these sense fields – what this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

And we can find this for ourselves. We can notice it, and it can become something we live from – and as.

And here, all my experiences – including my thoughts – become objects. They happen within me. They are not what I more fundamentally are.

And they all become subject. They are all what I am. What I am takes all these forms.

NOT QUITE AS CLEAR CUT

There are some wrinkles here. It’s not quite as clear cut in practice.

Yes, I may notice what I am. And at the same time, I may still be partially identified with certain thoughts – mental images and words.

Both can co-exist. The task here is to notice where there is identification, and find that too as what I am capacity for, and what happens within and as what I am.

I can find it as having the same nature as myself – capacity for itself, stillness & silence, and so on, and invite it to find itself as that and relax in that noticing.

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Awakening & reversals: figure-ground and subject-object reversals

 

When we notice what we are, it’s – in many ways – a reversal of perception. And we can talk about this reversal in a couple of ways.

FIGURE-GROUND REVERSAL

It’s a kind of figure-ground reversal.

We thought we most fundamentally were this human self, or at least a separate self. And the rest of the world is a kind of background for this separate self.

And we find that all – this human self and the wider world – happens within our sense fields, which is a seamless whole, and which is what we are. We are what all of it, all our experiences including of this human self and the wider world, happens within and as.

We are what previously was the context.

Also, we find ourselves as what previously was so much in the background that we may not even have consciously noticed it. We find ourselves as capacity for it all.

SUBJECT-OBJECT REVERSALS

When we notice what we are, and this becomes more familiar and our new habit, there is also a reversal of subject and object.

What we previously took as a subject is now an object.

We toook ourselves to be this human self with all sorts of identities and roles. More specifically, we took ourselves to be what certain thoughts told us we were. We identified with the viewpoint of these stories.

When we notice what we are, all of these become objects. We see all of it as happening within and as what we are. We find ourselves as capacity for all of it. We recognize these thoughts as thoughts, and not who or what we are.

Similarly, what we previously took as an object now becomes a subject.

Previously, we identified as this human self, and really just aspects or ideal identities for this human self. Anything else – the wider world and anything in this human self we didn’t recognize as ourself – was other, it was an object to us.

When we notice what we are, we find ourselves as what our whole field of perception happens within and as. To us, all of this human self and all of the wider world happens within and as what we are.

It’s all an object in that we notice it’s happening within us and it all comes and goes and lives its own life. And it’s all a subject since it’s happening as what we are.

When we take ourselves as most fundamentally this human self, and a separate being, we also tend to take this ordinary awakeness, and consciousness, as other. That too becomes an object to us. We have consciousness. This ordinary and familiar awakeness comes and goes. In our mind, we are here when we are in deep sleep, and the awakeness has temporarily gone.

And when we notice what we are, this also reverses. We find ourselves as this ordinary awakeness. When we are in deep sleep, the world goes away. And we find ourselves as what we can label consciousness. To us, all experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as what we are, which we can call consciousness.

And, again, we find ourselves as capacity for all of it. We find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else, including all of these words and labels. If we noticed this capacity previously, it would be as a concept and other, as something somehow inherent in the world and existence. Now, we find ourselves as it.

REVERSALS

When we notice what we are, and especially if its sudden, we can feel that everything is turned upside-down and inside-out. And these reversals of perception is a big part of the reason.

It can be disorienting, and also very familiar at the same time. We are noticing what we are, and we have always been familiar with that even if we haven’t consciously noticed.

PERSONAL STORY

I wrote about this from a third-person view, but this is also my story. When I was sixteen, this reversal happened suddenly and dramatically.

I did feel that everything had turned upside-down and inside-out. This human self, that I had taken as most fundamentally who and what I was, suddenly happened as part of the whole of existence. And all was God. Even this human self, and the play of (temporarily and locally) taking itself as this human self, was God. There was/is nothing but God.

And it was all also profoundly familiar. This was home. All as God is home.

When I write about this, I use the big or spiritual view on awakening. I talk about God since that was the language I had at the time. These days, I prefer to explore the small view on awakening, use a more ordinary and secular language, and point to something we all can find here and now without any big shifts or dramatic awakenings.

From subject to object

 

Our conventional experience is that there are objects – out there in the world – and a subject somewhere here.

When I look for myself, I see that the boundary is fuzzy and changing. For instance, my body is – in some instances – an object for me, and other times more of a subject, something I am. Fear may be an object to me, and it may also be a subject, what I am. I am afraid.

I also see how everything that appears as a subject is really an object. It’s all happening within content of experience. And when I notice that it’s happening within content of experience, it becomes an object to me. For instance, I may take certain sensations in my throat, inner mouth and head area as me, as a subject. And when I look, I see they are sensations – combined with words and images. These sensations goes from appearing as a subject, to being recognized as objects.

Through this process of looking, more and more of what appeared as subjects are revealed as objects. I took myself to be certain words, images and sensations, and when I look, I see they are words, images and sensations, and there is a softening or release of identification with – or as – them.

Said another way, something appears as a subject as long as it’s unexamined. When it’s examined, it’s revealed as – typically – a collection of words, images and sensations. It’s revealed as a collection of objects.

It’s not what I am, in the sense of taking some collections of words, images and sensations as a subject in contrast to other words, images and sensations that are taken as an object. And at the same time, the whole field of experience – including any words, images and sensations, are revealed as what “I” am.

So as there is an exploration of this, there is a shift from some collections of words, images and sensations appearing as objects and some as subjects (identified with or as) to more and more of the collections appearing as subjects being revealed as objects. Eventually, all is revealed as objects – happening within and as experience, and all is revealed as subjects – as what I am.

Another thing I see is that this is what many mystics and teachers from a wide range of spiritual traditions talks about, and since it’s difficult to put into words, it often appears as mystical or airy fairy. It can also be very practical and down to earth, and we have tools to explore this in a very pragmatic and practical way, for instance through the Living Inquiries. Perhaps that is a gift of this age, making what may appear mystical and elusive very practical and pragmatic. (I know that many traditions do have very pragmatic ways of exploring this, and yet, now, it’s at least more widely available. And it’s in a language and form that fits better the modern western mentality and mind.)

Waking up out of the me, and as the me

 

As many say, one aspect of the awakening process involves waking up out of the me.

One way to wake up out of the me is to recognize it as experience, as any other experience, and meet it as a friend.

You are welcome here. Thank you for being here for me.

Thank you – the me, and taking the me as what I am – for being here for me. Thank you for your devotion for me. Thank you for your love for me.

I am sorry for having pushed you away. I am sorry for having made you – identification as a me – into an enemy.

Please forgive me.

I love you. I love you.

And if there is a distinction between the me and the I for me, as there is, then I can do the same for the sense of I – the observer, doer, chooser.

You are welcome here. Thank you for being here for me.

Thank you – the I and taking the I as what I am – for being here for me. Thank you for your devotion for me. Thank you for your love for me.

I am sorry for having pushed you away. I am sorry for having made you – identification as an I – into an enemy.

Please forgive me.

I love you. I love you.

As soon as I meet it – the image of a me as a human self, the image of an I as a doer/observer, and the identification as a me and an I – then something shifts. I notice more easily that it’s all happening within my world of images. I find more easily that it’s all happening as awakeness.

Through this, I may also notice that as there is a release of identification as the me and I, the me and I – and the tendency to identify as it – happens as what I am. It happens within my world of images, it happens as awakeness. The love found for it is Spirit finding love for itself. Love finding love for itself.

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The Subject Becomes an Object

 

Through inquiry – and perhaps through natural maturing – what appears as subjects are recognized as objects.

As soon as I believe a story, there is identification with the viewpoint and identity created by that story. The story is taken as who or what I am, as real and true, as something it may seem ridiculous to even think of questioning.

And when it’s recognized as a story – with a certain identity and viewpoint – it is recognized as an object. It’s a story, and when it’s identified with (taken as a subject, believed in), it has certain consequences. When it’s recognized as a story (seen as an object), it can be a practical tool which may seem useful in some circumstances.

That’s true whether the story is she should do the dishes, more basic ones such as I am a man, and even more basic ones such as I am a being, an object in the world, or I am the doer, the observer, the witness, and I am.

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Sensations as anchors for subject and object

 

Sensations serve as anchors for a sense of subject and object.

For instance, if I bring attention to sensations in my belly, these become an anchor for a sense of object, and sensations in my head area (upper/back of mouth cavity, neck, sensations on the skin of the head) become an anchor for a sense of subject.

If I see this, and bring attention to the sensations serving as anchor for a sense of subject, there is a shift. Now, some of the same sensations still serve as an anchor for a sense of subject, but they are displaced in space to an area just outside of the head.

In this way, the sensations previously serving as an anchor for a sense of subject now become an anchor for a sense of object, and some of them still serve as a (slightly different) anchor for a sense of subject. Now, the subject appears more above or around the head rather than inside of the head, but still anchored in sensations.

And if I see this, there is a chance that there is a release of identification with sensations altogether. I see all sensations as happening within space and awakeness, and none of them are an “I” anymore.

I see the sensations that served as a sense of object, and the ones that served as a sense of subject, and identification is released out of all of it.

Paying attention to what’s behind the curtain

 

oz_curtain.JPG

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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Feldenkrais and body image

 

I am getting back into the Feldenkrais lessons/explorations again through a friend studying to become a Feldenkrais practitioner and also classes just down the street.

These sessions are great opportunities to explore body image and how this mind creates an image of the body and uses it in different ways.

Some of the things I notice…

  • Thoughts create a visual image of the body. This one is most easily noticeable when the eyes are closed, but can also be noticed as an overlay over the visual perceptions when the eyes are open.
  • This image provides mapping for sensations
  • It is used for anticipating or remembering movements, visualizing what can be or was
  • It serves as a guide for attention, for instance when we are instructed to bring attention to our left foot
  • And it also serves as a map for a sense of subject and object. Each of these are located in different areas of space and the body, creating a sense of distance between the two, which also makes it possible to differentiate the two. Without a sense of distance between them, no subject or object.
  • When I explore the sense of subject and object, I notice the visualization of a fuzzy boundary around the head area serving as a location for a subject, seer, and doer. And the rest, such as other locations of the body and also the wider world, then becomes object and seen. If attention is brought to this sense of subject, the boundary shifts (usually to slightly in front of and above the head) and what previously appeared as subject now becomes an object. The specifics of how this works is probably different for different people, and changes over time as well.
  • All of this happens on top of basic visual thoughts of extent or space, which allows us to experience perception as spread out in space and located in different areas of space. These are basically visualizations of space, which allows us to map perceptions on top of it.

Tracing subject and object

 

Here are three ways subject and object may appear…

Subject and object: this human self and the wider world of form

When there is an exclusive identification with this human self, this human self appears as a subject and the wider world of form appears as an object.

There is the field of seeing and seen, absent of I. It believes in the idea of I, and this human self seems to be the most likely candidate. After all, there is a functional connection with this particular human self, and the perceptual inputs comes through it.

If there is an I anywhere, it is most natural to first put it on this human self.

Subject and object: seeing and the whole world of form as object

Then, we may notice that the seen is always changing, so how can there be an I there? How can this human self be an I, when it just consists of fleeting components such as sights, sounds, sensations and thoughts? They all come and go, but something does not come and go, and that is the seeing itself.

So then the sense of I is placed on the seeing itself.

The seeing appears as a subject, and the whole world of form becomes the object.

As a side effect, the whole world of form is revealed as a seamless field. There is no longer any inside or outside. It is all just one field. This human self and the wider world of form is a seamless field, with no absolute boundaries anywhere. There is a disidentification with this human self, and thoughts, sensations, choices, behaviors and anything else arises just as clouds, mountains, rain, sunshine. It all comes and goes on its own, living its own life.

Whole field of seeing and seen as absent of subject and object, and as a whole as subject and object

Finally, when the field awakens to itself as the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere, the whole sense subject and object falls away.

When there is no sense of I and Other, there is no sense of subject or object.

Or we can say that the field as a whole becomes subject and object. It is, as a whole, its own subject and object.