Adyashanti: Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal

 

Spirituality is simply a way of indicating that we’re plunging beyond the personal consciousness. The depth of our being is just astonishing.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 70

There are many definitions of spirituality, and the most basic one is perhaps Adya’s definition above. Spirituality suggests that we are going, or intend to go, beyond the personal human being and into something wider. Whether that is our human community, our Earth community (nature and Earth as a whole), the Universe as a whole, or Existence as a whole. And whether it is to connect with this larger whole, take it into account, live as if it matters, expand our sense of “us” to include all there is, or – ultimately – find ourselves as that, and this human being as an expression of it.

The importance of space exploration from human, Gaia, and Spirit views

 

I have always loved outer space, astronomy, space exploration, and science fiction. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ll write a few words about it at the end.

The moon landing happened 50 years ago on July 20. So here are some ways the moon landing and space exploration, in general, is important from the view of humans, Gaia, and the Universe, and also in the context of Spirit.

Human view

At the time, the moon landing was important for US politicians to show the superiority of their own technology over the Soviets. And, by extension, the superiority of their political and economic system. (The Soviets had reached earlier space-exploration milestones before the US.)

The space program was and is important in order to develop technology and understand our near neighborhood in space, and it was a good way of employing a large number of people (some say 400,000).

The moon landing inspired many young people and brought some of them into science and technology. It showed that technology and science can be cool and glamorous.

Space exploration is an expression of our need for adventure and exploration, built into us through our evolution.

The space program allowed us to, for the first time, see photos of the Earth as a whole and from the outside. This, along with testimonials from astronauts, helped us get a more visceral sense of the Earth as a seamless whole and a fragile living system we need to take care of. (This is part of the Overview Effect.)

As Carl Sagan and others said, the moon landing and early space exploration is a necessary step in humanity becoming a multi-planetary species. And this is essential for our long term survival. (Elon Musk is talking about this today as a motivation for his space technology business.)

Gaia view

The view from Gaia – Earth as a seamless living system – gives space exploration a different context.

Human space exploration is Earth’s space exploration. Earth has developed itself into ecosystems, the human species, human technology and science, and human sense of adventure. And it has done so over time, within itself, and as part of itself. It’s all part of the evolution of Earth.

Space exploration is the living Earth exploring beyond its borders. It’s beginning to explore its neighborhood.

Through space exploration, Earth is seeing itself from the outside and as a whole for the first time.

And through humans, Earth may eventually reproduce. Humans may terraform planets, making them into Earth’s offspring. They won’t be identical to Earth, but they come from the living Earth. (In this sense, humans may function as the reproductive organs of Earth.)

Gaia means Earth as a seamless living system. It doesn’t mean that Earth is conscious in the way we think of it. And it doesn’t mean that space exploration or anything else was intentionally planned at the level of Earth as a whole. It’s more something that naturally and organically grew and continue to grow out of Earth as a living system.

Universe view

As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Spirit view

All of this is Spirit – the divine, God, Brahman – expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

The evolving Earth. Ecosystem evolution. Species evolution. Human evolution. Cultural evolution. Development of science and technology. Human sense of adventure (and wanting to be better than the other tribe). Human space exploration. It’s all part of Spirit and Spirit exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways.

Some background…

I’ll add a few words about my own interest in this.

Early on in my childhood, I had a deep love for exploration and adventure, anything having to do with the future, and anything to do with deep space and deep time.

I also had an early sense of belonging to all of existence including the universe as a whole. I remember going out into the yard after watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan when I was about ten. Looking up at the infinite space and the stars. And experiencing profound awe, gratitude, and sense of not only belonging to the universe but being the universe in awe of itself.

Later, through the spiritual opening or early awakening when I was sixteen, it became clear that all of it happens within and as consciousness. It all happens within and what I am, and everything is. It all happens within and as Spirit.

And in my mid-to-late teens and early twenties, this evolved into a deep interest in systems views (Fritjof Capra), Deep Ecology (Arne Næss), the Gaia view (James Lovelock), the Overview Effect (Frank White), ecospirituality, ecopsychology, the Universe Story, and similar approaches.

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Who and what we are, oneness, awakening

 

When I write what and who we are here, I mean something quite specific.

What I am is that which my whole field of experience – as it is here and now – happens within and as. It’s what I sometimes call awareness, or love, or even Spirit. It’s all there is, in experience, here and now. It’s always here, since it’s what I am. It’s very obvious. It’s very mundane. It’s easily overlooked that that’s what I am. And when that awakens to, or notices, itself it’s sometimes called awakening. That can seem quite extraordinary at first, and then that too becomes quite ordinary in a good way. (That’s why I tend to not use words like Spirit, or Brahman, or other fanciful words, since it often appears much simpler than that. Those words can be a little misleading.)

Who I am is part of content of experience. It’s this human self. It’s the emotions, thoughts, body, life of this human self. It’s the idea of a me or an I. It’s the idea of an observer, or doer. It doesn’t really have fixed boundaries, since it’s what a thought says is me, or I, or who I am. The boundary is somewhat flexible and fluid.

The wider world is the rest of content of experience. It’s what a thought says is “other” in a conventional sense. This boundary is also somewhat flexible and fluid, and can be experienced as more or less solid, more or less real. (It isn’t really real, since it’s created by thought as a way to navigate in the world.)

Who I am, and the wider world, is what makes up content of experience. And that happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as awareness. Within and as love. Within and as Spirit.

These can be seen as two, or three, or one. It all depends on how we decide to talk about it, and where we decide to draw imagined boundaries.

And the boundaries can be experienced as solid and real, or ephemeral, or just a thought with no substance beyond that. That depends on how clearly it’s seen, and even felt. It depends on how much “velcro” is stuck to those ideas. How much associated sensations seem “stuck” onto the words and images creating the boundaries.

When the associated sensations seem stuck onto the boundary images and words, the boundaries can seem quite real. When the sensations are felt as sensations, the images recognized as images, and the words recognized as words, the boundary images and words are recognized as just an imagined overlay, which has a practical function only. It’s not “real” beyond that, but it does help us navigate in the world, and communicate.

Oneness can also be understood in different ways.

One is the very immediate and practical oneness, where this field of awareness-experience is recognized as one. (Any ideas or even experiences of being a separate self is recognized as happening within this field, as any other content of experience.) The world is one, since it’s all recognized as happening within this field of awareness.

Another is the oneness of the world as a whole “out there”. (I realize that this distinction may seem subtle, or even unnecessary, but I find it helpful to differentiate this from the first one.) The world is one, and Spirit, or God, and I see that partly because of immediate experience, and partly through synchronicities, ESP, and more.

A third, which can be part of the previous one, is the oneness of the world as described by science. The universe was one field of energy at the Big Bang, and this field of energy partly condensed down into simple particles, which then condensed into heavier elements. We – and everything – has the same origin. We are quite literally star dust, as is the Earth as a whole. The Earth and the Universe is one seamless system.

Awakening is when what I am notices itself. This is an initial awakening, and it can also happen regularly and on a more ongoing basis. This noticing and recognition can clarify and become more stable. And who I am, this human self, can – and will? – reorganize within this recognition. It’s invited to heal and mature within this recognition, and align with it. That’s an ongoing process, and it doesn’t “end” as long as this human self is around.

Awakening then has three aspects. One is the initial recognition. Another is an ongoing clarification and “stabilization” of this recognition. And the third is the reorganization of our human self within this recognition.

All of them are ongoing. The awakening is here and now. The recognition and noticing is here and now. The reorganization within it is here and now.

There is no “end point”. Any idea of an end point happens here and now, within this.

This awakening doesn’t exclude or eliminate the full range of human experience. It doesn’t preclude sadness, grief, pain, anger, joy, hangups, wounds, trauma, or anything else that’s part of the human experience. What we are already allows the full range of human experience, although it often happens without us being conscious of it, and we may be in conscious opposition to it.

Awakening also allows the full range of human experience (since nothing else is possible), but there is now a conscious recognition of it, and often a more conscious alignment with it.

We are still very much human. We experience the full range of human emotions and experiences. We make mistakes. We have a limited understanding and perspective. We have our preferences and likes and dislikes. We make assumptions. We give bad advice. We don’t know how to do any number of things. Our understanding is faulty.

So there is a full allowing of any experience, as it always is, although now recognized more clearly, and perhaps aligned with more consciously. We experience the full range of human emotions and experiences. And there is an invitation for a healing, maturing, and reorganization within this. Things do change for our human self when awareness recognizes itself, and itself as this field of experience.

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13.8 billion years old

 

When someone asks me how old I am, I sometimes say 13.8 billion years old.

It’s as true as whatever my passport says. Perhaps even more true. And it’s something we all share. It’s something we all share, whether we are galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, ecosystems, plants, animals, emotions, thoughts, experiences of all sorts, molecules, atoms, quarks. We were all born 13.8 billion years ago.

We have evolved. Changed. We look quite different from back then.

But we are all the universe in it’s local expression. We are all how the universe has evolved, and is currently expressing itself.

As humans, and living beings, we are how the universe is currently expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. We are a 13.8 billion year old universe experiencing itself.

We are, as Carl Sagan said, the local eyes, ears, emotions and thoughts of the universe bringing itself into awareness.

And that’s no joke. It’s as real as saying there was a certain number of years since I, as a human individual, was born. I have changed greatly as a human being since then. The universe has changed greatly as a universe since then. Everything physical in me is part of that 13.8 billion year old universe. And every pattern, dynamic and process in me is the result of 13.8 billion years of evolution.

This literally changes everything. When I take this in, feel it, find real examples of how it’s true, everything changes. My whole perspective changes. The context for my life changes.

Mars

 

There are two Mars related stories in the news these days: The quite exciting landing of Curiosity on Mars a few days ago, and Elon Musk’s plan to bring people to Mars within 10-15 years.

I have been interested in astronomy and space exploration since I was a little boy, and this interest was fueled even more when I saw Cosmos by Carl Sagan at age ten or eleven. It brought me directly into a profound sense of awe of the universe and life itself, of us all – quite literally – made of star dust, the product of 13.4 billions years of evolution, and that these eyes, these ears, these thoughts, these feelings are the eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. In the words of Carl Sagan:

And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

In my teens, I became interested in systems views and the Gaia theory, and it was quite clear that the Earth as a whole can be seen as a seamless living organism, where we as humans have specific roles and functions, as any other species and ecosystem does. What is our role? We are, clearly, an awareness organ for the Earth and the universe. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to bring itself into awareness. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to experience itself. Through us, the Earth and the universe develops technologies which allows for it to explore itself even further, in even smaller details (microscopes), even further out in space (telescopes, space travel). Through us, Earth is able to see itself from the outside, as one seamless whole, and that feeds back into and even transforms our human society and culture.

Perhaps most importantly in the long run – we may be a way for the Earth to reproduce. The Earth has already taken the first steps in this direction, through our space travel and ideas of Mars colonization and terraforming. It’s an universal impulse for life to wish to (a) survive and (b) reproduce, so why wouldn’t this also be the case for Earth as a whole? There are several mechanisms which may make this happen. It’s a natural consequence of our combination of (a) curiosity and passion for exploration, and (b) our current and future levels of technology. It makes sense. Having two – or more – planets with human colonies and Earth life (plants, animals, ecosystems) makes humanity and Earth life far more resilient. A large space object may crash into the Earth, wiping out civilization and large portions of life, or we may do it ourselves. So if we have a “backup” civilization and Earth life somewhere else, life can continue there and perhaps even support or re-seed life on Earth. In a longer perspective, we know that the sun will eventually engulf the Earth.

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Universe fascinated by itself

 

The universe is fascinated by itself.

And in our case, the universe is fascinated by itself as an individual, a culture and a civilization, in all the ways we are fascinated by anything at all. At this level, there is no reason for it and it doesn’t need a reason.

In an evolutionary perspective, there is of course a reason. It makes good sense to be fascinated, to explore, experience, learn and so on. It aids survival to be interested in life, in our surroundings, in each other, in ourselves, in anything at all.

Today, this fascination is perhaps most obvious in our fascination in all forms of media – TV, internet, movies, podcast, music, performances, newspapers, magazines and so on. It’s an endless fascination where we absorb, experience, learn about ourselves, each other, the world,  and life.

It’s the fascination of the universe of itself, in all of these ways. It’s the universe evolved into a planet, and into a species for whom it makes evolutionary sense to be curious and interested in the world.

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