Torments of unitive life, and open mind


I am reading Bernadette Robert‘s Path to No-Self, which is a beautiful and clear description of her own path to selfless realization, described in a Christian context.

Two things have stayed with me from the final few chapters…

The first is the inherent torments of the unitive life, the state of oneness with God, yet with still a vague sense of I and Other there.

There are the torments of (a) not being able to express clearly the beauty, clarity, insights, wisdom and compassion here, in one’s own life or words, and also (b) it often not being appreciated, or understood, by others. For myself, I can also add the torments of the intensity of that phase, of extremes of energies going through and massive amounts of reorganization needed of the human self (probably not everybody goes through this).

The beauty of these torments, which Bernadette Roberts describe so clearly, is how it prepares for a final release of a sense of I with an Other.

The remaining sense of a separate I is what gives birth to the torments in the first place. The identification with the particular identities of this separate I gives resistance to what arises in different ways. It is a resistance to what is, which ultimately is the Ground of awake emptiness & form inherently free of an I with an Other. This resistance is what creates the torments, and also what helps burn through the resistance itself, the sense of an I with an Other.

The other thing I found interesting is Phase V, the Open Mind, a practice of going outside of ones habitual perspectives and views, of finding fluidity among a range of perspectives which then tends to reveal the inherent neutrality of any situation (my words).

This is very much similar to the turnaround part of The Work. And, as BR mentions, it seems to be an essential (?) part of the shift from the unitive life, where there is still a sense of a separate I with a particular perspective, to selfless realization which is free from any fixed identifications and perspectives (so also able to play freely with them and make use of them as the situation calls for).

As she also mentions, the fear before entered into is that it will make us into zombies, doormats or nihilists, but what is really happening is just this freedom to play with and explore a range of perspectives and viewpoints, seeing them all as stories of only practical and limited value (not absolute truths). And the whole process is infused with heart and compassion, which gives a practical direction that thoughts alone cannot provide (she doesn’t talk about this explicitly, but it is there between the lines).

The heart (love, compassion, empathy) gives the direction and is the main guide for actions in the world, it tells us what, and the head (stories, views, perspectives, frameworks) tells us how.


Union, dissolution and no self


When we take ourselves to be a separate self, an I with an Other, then any talk of selflessness sounds mysterious, or even deluded, and maybe as a reference to some sort of annihilation or dissolution. (The best we can hope for is a union with the absolute, an I here in union with God as Other.)

But even a mild taste of selflessness, for instance through the Big Mind process or the headless experiments, shows this to not be the case. The only thing that is different is that the sense of a separate self, placed on this human self, is gone. What is left is what is always there… this wide open field of what is happening right now, as awake emptiness and form, yet with absolutely no center and no separate self anywhere.

As Meister Eckhart said (paraphrased): when I am gone, God is.

Apart from tasting it on our own, maybe the simplest way to look at it is that God is all there is. God is awake emptiness and form, an I with no Other anywhere.

This awake emptiness temporarily takes itself to be a small segment of form, most typically this individual at the human level, and sometimes even at the soul level. There is a belief in ideas, including the idea of a separate self and various identities defining who and what this separate self is. The seamless and centerless field is now split into an I here, located in the region of the perceptual center of this human self, and Other out there, as the rest of the world.

When it awakens to itself as this field of awake emptiness and form, absent of I and Other, then it sees that the whole sense of a separate self only came from taking an idea as true. It temporarily took a relative truth, the existence of a somewhat separate individual at human and soul levels, and tried to make it into an absolute truth, and in the process gave birth to a great deal of drama and excitement. The whole human drama, as we know it from our own lives, societies and cultures, all came from this temporary misidentification.

Nothing is annihilated or dissolved, apart from the taking of a relative truth as an absolute. This individual is certainly still around, at human and soul levels, with all its sensations, thoughts, relationships, actions in the world, and everything else. The content of all of this does not need to change. The only thing that changes is the sense of a separate self placed on this perceptual center, which, when released, reveals the wide open field of all of it.

The bottom drops out of it all, revealing only a field of awake emptiness and form, without a center, absent of an I with an Other.