There’s this whole other side of awakening which isn’t just waking up from form, waking up from the body, waking up from the identifications of the mind, but it’s getting that awakening down in through all of that, and that’s like a clearinghouse. That’s the difference between someone who’s had an awakening and ultimately someone who has discovered their divine individuality.– Adyashanti in The Divine Individual
When your ‘yes’ becomes unlimited, there’s profound silence.– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol.62, Asilomar Dec 2017, Q&A
What does it mean that our YES is unlimited?
It means there is a yes in us to whatever is here, whatever our experience happens to be. There is always this yes, we are always this yes since our nature allows whatever experience is here. The yes Adya talks about is a yes that comes from this recognition.
Where does the silence come from?
When there is a no in us to our experience, there is struggle, and struggle feels noisy. So when the struggle rests, there is silence.
Also, when the struggle rests, it reveals the profound silence we already are and the profound silence all our experiences – including the apparently busy and noisy ones – happens within and as.
And how can our YES become unlimited?
One is to notice the yes already inherent in life and us. The nature of life, existence, consciousness, and what we are is to allow whatever experience is here. There is already a yes to it all. When we notice it, we can align with this yes more consciously.
The other is to reorient to our experiences through heart-centered practices, and also investigate any no in us and where it’s coming from – and invite in healing and resolution for it.
These two go hand-in-hand and mutually support each other.
As a child, and I remember this best at elementary school age, I had a longing. I would wake up in the morning, feel this longing, and not know what it was for. I had my favorite food – cornflakes or bread with strawberry jam, I read my favorite comics (Carl Barks’ Donald Duck stories), I read my favorite books (Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, Hardy Boys, Famous Five), I spent time with my parents, I played with friends, and nothing did it. Nothing helped alleviate the longing.
When the awakening happened age sixteen, I finally understood what the longing was for. The longing was for coming home – to all as the divine. To recognize all, without exception, as the divine and the play and unfolding and exploration of the divine.
I imagine the longing had a more human element as well. I longed for a deeper and more real relationship with my parents. But a large part of the longing, perhaps fueled by this more human longing, was for coming home.
This longing was fulfilled, and is being fulfilled. It’s a process. Returning home is something we don’t need to since we are always here. And it’s also an ongoing unfolding process and exploration.
There are two ways to talk about this. One is that the longing is to return home to what I am – as capacity for the world as it appears to me, as what all my experiences happen within and as. The other is that this is a longing for a return to the divine, a return to recognizing all – without exceptions – as the divine and the unfolding and play of the divine. The first is what I call the small or psychological interpretation of awakening, and the second the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. The awakening itself is the same, it’s just how we talk about it that’s different.
What is ho’oponopono?
Ho’oponopno comes from an ancient healing practice from Hawaii and other south Pacific islands. It’s a powerful practice that can transform and heal our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world.
In its modern version, it consists of four sentences:
I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
How can I explore it for myself?
Say the four sentences to anything or anyone you wish to heal your relationship with. Visualize them in front of you. Say it out loud or silently.
(This practice is for yourself so if you are doing it for someone in your life, you don’t need to mention to them that you are doing this.)
You can say it during a time set aside for this, before falling asleep or after waking up, or any time during the day. Repeat several times.
Over time, it can become a continuous and mostly wordless prayer.
You can do it for people in your life, both the ones you like and dislike. For yourself as a whole. For parts of you like physical issues, your body, emotions, emotional issues, or a repeating behavior. For challenging situations, whether they are personal or in the wider world. For Earth as a whole and all life. And for anyone suffering.
It may be easier to first do it for someone in your life you easily like and love, and when you are familiar with the process do it for yourself and anything and anyone else. It can be especially powerful and transformative to do it for anyone suffering and for whatever in your world you dislike or have trouble with.
If you wish, take it as an experiment. Try it and see what happens.
What do I do if I notice resistance?
We may notice some resistance when we do this for someone or something we have a troubled relationship with. It’s natural and part of the process. It shows us that healing is needed and – likely – happening as part of doing ho’o for it.
If the resistance is strong, you can shift and do ho’o for this resistance. When you notice your relationship to the resistance has healed a bit and feels softer, you can go back to what you initially did ho’o for.
What’s the effect?
In my experience, it helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for. It feels right. There is a sense of peace. It’s easier to have some understanding for myself and/or the other.
I can still take action when and as needed. I can still act to prevent harm. We don’t need to condone any harmful behavior. It’s about me finding more peace with what is and this helps me take more clear and decisive actions.
It helps me, and it also helps the world. I become less of a nuisance. I may show that there is another way of being. I may act in ways helpful to others.
Ho’o is something I do for myself and the world.
How does ho’oponopno work?
It’s mainly about trying it for ourselves and see what happens. So the question of how it works is perhaps less important but I’ll mention a few things.
It helps me shift into forgiveness and love. It opens that possibility. And that, in itself, is healing.
It helps me heal my relationship with whatever I do it for, and that feels right and healing.
As a human being, the world as it appears to me is a mirror of me. So it makes sense to take responsibility for it all and find healing in how I relate to it.
If I find healing for my relationship to someone or something in the wider world, it tends to heal my relationship to whatever is similar in myself. And the other way around.
As capacity for the world, the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. So it makes sense to ask for forgiveness when I see suffering and let these parts of my world know I love them.
How do you see ho’oponopno in relation to other practices?
Ho’oponopono is one of several heart-practices – similar to tonglen, metta, heart prayer, and more.
For me, these heart practices are central. They can be profoundly transforming, and they support healing, awakening, embodiment, and being a slightly more helpful part of the world.
How do you use it?
I have gone through periods where I use it a lot through the day and other periods where I use it now and then. When I use it a lot, it tends to become an ongoing and often silent prayer. These days, I tend to use it when I notice I have an unease relationship with someone or something.
It doesn’t mean all my relationships are healed. There is always more. And it certainly doesn’t mean I am perfect, whatever that means. But it does mean that I have a tool that can be very helpful in challenging situations. And it means I am working on a lot of what’s coming up in my life.
Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.– a quote from this dialog
This is one in a series of imagined dialogs with people who have lived for eons. This dialog is with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos and – through a glitch? – happens to remember it all.
First, I am curious about the several lives. Does it mean you remember the life between lives?
Yes, although it doesn’t matter so much here. If you don’t remember it yourself, what I say will just become ideas. And if you do, I don’t need to say much about it.
Okay. How is it to have lived many lives in many different places of the cosmos?
I am very grateful for having that experience. It’s enormously enriching to live lives through the filters of different beings – and their senses, bodies, perceptions, culture and more – and their world.
What have you learned that many with one life haven’t?
Mostly, to know that we all live from our own conditioning. Everything about us makes sense in the light of our conditioning – from our bodies, environment, culture, and individual experiences.
Because of all the lives I have had, I am less inclined to judge. The tendency to judge has worn off in me over time. I know how it is to live in so many different circumstances, and I know how so much in us flows from our conditioning.
I have a deep empathy with different beings. I know we all just want to live and be free from suffering – and love and be loved. There is something very beautiful in this. It’s also heartbreaking because I know how universal suffering is and how common it is for beings to not feel fully loved and to not fully love themselves.
These sounds like insights from spirituality?
Living for as many lives as I have, I have over time arrived at many of the same insights that many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about. For me, it’s through experience and living ordinary lives. I haven’t been terribly interested in spirituality in itself, except for at rare occasions. But I realize that a lot of what I know – in my fibers and bones and through my being – fits much of what spiritual traditions talk about.
You mentioned empathy with others. What about awakening?
Well, that’s a big word. For me, it’s more simple and down-to-earth.
Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.
If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.
What do most people not get?
Hm, from my perspective, many things.
They don’t get how precious and amazing life is. Even a troubled life, even a mundane life, is amazing and precious beyond words.
They don’t get that the way they treat others is the way they treat themselves. Love your neighbor for your own sake. It’s good for everyone.
They don’t get the importance of a long and big perspective. Of course, most people get by with a more narrow and shorter perspective. But a long and big perspective enriches life enormously. And for you folks today, it’s essential for your survival. It’s the only way humans can and will survive. And life is showing you just that.
They don’t get that all experiences enrich life. They are not your enemies. Trying to run away from your experiences only creates an added layer of suffering. In reality, it’s the only real suffering.
Of course, most don’t get that what we are is capacity for all and any of our experiences. We are the experiences which come and go. And we are capacity for all of it.
How can we mimic your process and discover this for ourselves?
Well, that’s not my speciality. But it does seem that some things helps people to find this for themselves. It’s definitely possible to people to find this for themselves, and many do – to some extent.
The main thing is curiosity and sincerity. Explore and see what you find. Don’t take your own or others assumptions for granted. Be willing to leave your most basic assumptions about yourself and life. Get close to your experience.
I feel like this is a trick question since a lot of what you write about on this website does exactly that! Is that what you want me to say? I see through you. And of course, yes, the tools you write about here can be very helpful for people, especially if used with curiosity and sincerity.
Yes, I guess that’s why I asked the question. Although I write about these things exactly because these tools can help us find what someone like you have discovered. It helps us discover what someone who has lived for eons tends to naturally discover through lived experience.
Yes, I agree. For me, it comes through lived experience and mostly free form ideology or pointers or shoulds or trying to live up to anything. And for many humans, it’s often more of a mix of genuine lived experience and insights – and some ideologies and shoulds.
What can we do to make it more from lived experience?
You are asking difficult questions. As I said, this is not my speciality.
Get close to your own experience. Be curious about it. Take it seriously. Make use of pointers and use them to discover for yourself. Set aside shoulds and how people say something is. Live your life and pay attention to what’s happening.
Do you have any advice for P. (this interviewer)?
Yes. You already know all this. You even trust it. But there is some hesitation in you. You can trust it even more. You can sink into it. Lean into it. Rest into and as it. It’s what you are. Live it. It can help you to remember me and lean into what I am.
Thank you! I appreciate this interview and especially your advice at the end.
Thank you. I enjoyed this conversation. I don’t think about these things so often so it was fun. And I wish you all the best in your life. As I said, you already know and are all of this. Lean into it a bit more and it will help you a lot. (And if you don’t, that’s completely fine too.)
I just (re)listened to the audiobook version of On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, mostly because it’s a relief to listen to someone taking such a simple, grounded, sane, and pragmatic approach to awakening (!)
Towards the end, he talks about actively wanting what’s here.
Why would we want what’s here?
We are capacity for what’s here – our human self and the wider world as it appears to us. It happens within and as what we are. It’s us in whatever form it happens to take here and now. So why not welcome it?
What’s here is here. It’s too late to do something about it. So why struggle with it? Struggle only creates suffering. It makes more sense to actively want what’s here. This also frees us up to be engaged and work on changing situations as needed.
The wanting-what’s-here pointer is a touchstone. It shows us how we relate to what’s coming up in us. Is it easy for us to genuinely welcome it? Or is there an impulse in us to avoid it or make it go away? And do we join in with that impulse or do we notice that it too happens within what we are capacity for? Having the pointer in the back of our mind can help us notice when suffering – unawake and unhealed – parts of us are triggered, and also whether we join in with it or notice ourselves as what it happens within and as – just like anything else.
How does it look in practice?
It’s a welcoming of what’s already here because we can’t do anything about it and struggling with it doesn’t help or make any sense. What’s coming up for our human self is already here. The situation our human self is in is already here. So why not join in with it and actively want it? Also, it’s what we already are so why not welcome it as another expression of the creativity of what we are?
It does not mean to be passive or resigned. We can still actively work to change the situation and circumstances we are in – or someone else is in. Often, wanting what’s here frees up our response. Instead of reacting we can respond a little more intentionally. There is access to more kindness, clarity, wisdom, and creativity.
How can we find this active welcoming?
When we notice ourselves as capacity for what’s here, including anything coming up in our human self, it’s easier to notice it all as happening within and as what we are and find a genuine and active welcoming and wanting of what’s here.
Said another way, the welcoming and actively wanting it is already here. It’s what we already are. So when we find ourselves as capacity for what’s here, we also find this welcoming and wanting.
Why don’t we always notice what we are?
Perhaps we haven’t noticed. Or we have noticed but don’t take it seriously. Or we don’t see any practical use of it.
Or we do notice and we take it seriously, and yet sometimes get pulled into old beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas, and “forget” for a while.
How can we notice what we are?
To have an initial glimpse of what we are, and to keep noticing in daily life, it helps to have some pointers. For me, the most effective one has been the Headless Way, Big Mind process (based on Voice Dialog and Zen), and Living Inquiries (a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry).
How can we train this noticing even when emotional issues come up?
There are two elements that stands out to me.
One is how we relate to what’s coming up in this human self. Do we get caught in it or do we notice it as happening within and as what we are?
The other is inviting in healing and awakening for any suffering parts of us surfacing, the one still operating from separation consciousness.
These two mutually support each other.
Noticing what we are while bringing presence into the suffering parts helps them relax and feel seen and loved. They receive what they need and want.
And inviting these suffering parts of us to heal and awaken makes it easier to notice what we are even when they are triggered. Some or most of the charge goes out of them.
I have written a lot about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.
What if we notice the shift is close?
If we are in a situation where we notice that the shift into actively welcoming what’s here is close, then a small pointer or question may be helpful. For instance:
How would it be to want what’s here?
Even if there are things coming up in my human self, I can often find this shift. And I can still notice what’s coming up in me and later get to know it better and invite in healing and awakening for it.
How does the overall process look?
Douglas Harding talks about seven stages or phases. I’ll just mention a very simplified version here.
First, there is an initial glimpse or noticing. This is always spontaneous although it can come without any apparent preparation or through inquiry or other spiritual practices.
Then, there is taking this seriously and wishing to continue exploring it and how to live from it in our daily life.
A part of this exploration is to investigate what happens when the mind gets pulled into old separation consciousness. We get more experience in noticing ourselves as capacity through more and more experiences, states, and life situations. And we invite in healing and awakening for the parts of us still stuck in suffering and separation consciousness.
As we keep doing this, the noticing becomes more stable and continues more often even when emotional issues surface.
Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?
Not at all, it’s common for mystics from all times and traditions to talk about it. Christian mystics may talk about God’s and my will becoming one. Byron Katie talks about loving what is. And so on.Read More
You don’t have to be someone to be of infinite worth. To be bestows infinite worth upon you.– Adyashanti, The Inherent Meaning in Being
This can sound like a well-meaning platitude, but it’s far more than that.
One the one hand, the idea of value comes from culture and what’s seen as having value varies between culture and over time. Assigning value to something has a function, and it can be helpful to examine how we assign value and if there is another way of doing it that makes more sense.
At an ordinary human level, we all agree that babies have infinite worth. Growing up, many of us are taught that our value comes through our actions and that erodes our sense of having infinite value just by being. This is a means of control and it creates a lot of suffering and judgment of ourselves and others.
So why not recover the sense of infinite value of each human being? This can easily co-exist with accountability, responsibility for our own life and so on. Seeing the infinite value in each of us, independent of personal characteristics and roles, provides a sense of basic worth that allows for a more healthy life and a more healthy society.
In our western culture, we see nature as a commodity and having value from the value it has to us – and this is often limited to short-term commercial value. This leads to destruction of ecosystems, eradication of whole species, and systematic abuse of non-human beings. Not valuing all life threatens all life, including our own.
Why wouldn’t all life have infinite value? Why not see all life as having infinite value? This would lead to a more careful approach in how we relate to and make use of nature and non-human beings. We would be far more concerned about their welfare. It doesn’t mean we can’t eat or live or grow food but we would do it with more concern for the lives we are impacting and we would look for ways to make up for it and support a more thriving Earth.
When we take a big picture and deep time view, we see that the universe has unfolded from energy to matter to suns to solar systems to this living planet and all that’s currently part of this living planet. We are all expressions of the universe exploring itself and bringing itself into consciousness. We are all expressions of this living planet and ways for it to bring itself into consciousness. As this, we and all life has infinite worth just by being as we are.
In a more immediate sense, independent of assigning value to anything, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. This human self, all other beings, and everything happens within and as what I am. In this oneness, ideas of value is not needed in order to live with reverence for life.
How can we explore this in our own life? How can we deepen into this and live more from it? In a sense, this whole website is about just this. We can identify and examine beliefs. We can explore how our minds creates its experience of value and lack of it, and see through it. We can engage in Practices to Reconnect. We can use heart-centered practices to find a more loving relationship with ourselves, others, and all life. We can find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. We can discover that this human self, others, and the world happen within and as what we are. And we can explore how to live from that in our life.
As usual, the answer is yes and no.
It’s original in that we all explore slightly different landscapes and have our own perceptions and flavors in how we express it. For instance, I tend to differentiate between respectively who and what we are, and small and big interpretations of awakening, and although I am not aware of others talking about it that way, I assume there must be others who make the same differentiations with same, similar, or different words.
And it’s not original. Just about everything here are things others have discovered and talked about. It’s about reality so of course many will discover similar things. (Or have the same misunderstandings!) We are all exploring and learning about the same or a very similar landscape, so it’s natural if our experience is relatively similar and if the maps we create are similar.
Yes and no.
Yes, awakening is enough if what we want is to notice what we are, and for what we are notice itself as all there is. For a while, this may seem like all that’s needed, especially if we are in a temporary transcendent state – one where our center of gravity has, for a while, risen “above” our human stuff.
And no, because a transcendent state doesn’t last so we will eventually be plunged back into all the human messiness. That too is the divine. That too want to join in with the awakening. That too wants to heal and awaken.
If we want to live from the awakening in more and more situations and areas of life, we need healing. Healing opens up space for awakening to be lived more fully and in more situations and areas of life.
Also, as a human being in the world, which we also are, it’s generally a much better life if we are more healed. A lot of suffering, confusion, reactivity, and messiness is cleared up as we heal.
So why not focus on both? Why not find approaches that invite in both awakening and healing? Just about all of the tools I write about here do just that, especially if that’s our intention.
In this process of awakening, healing, and learning to live from the awakening, we will also over time develop skills and insights, we tend to mature as human beings, we tend to deeply humanize and become more human, and we may also go through some stages of adult development. All of this may happen mostly as a side-effect of working on ourselves and allowing the awakening to work on ourselves.
And it’s not really about choice or want. Sooner or later in the awakening process, we bump up against unhealed parts of us and we notice that these areas of us suffer. So why not invite in healing and awakening for these parts too? It’s a natural part of the process.
Although it’s not so important, this is also not about “us” choosing or wanting. It’s about life or existence choosing and wanting through and as “us”.
Some nondual folks like to say “there is no X” where X can be anything – self, human being, a cup of tea.
Is that true?
As so often, the answer is yes and no and it depends.
X – whatever it is – is an idea. It comes from a mental overlay. Also, the idea and what it refers to happens within and as consciousness and oneness. In both of those ways, we can say there is no X.
There is no cup because “cup” is a label and an idea and not the thing itself. And there is no cup because it’s part of existence as a whole.
That’s true, and it’s also just one side of it.
There is X because we – collectively – have decided it’s that way. It’s a way for us to function, orient, and communicate. It has an obviously practical function.
Also, even if all is part of existence some things are more or less distinct. A cup can be moved around. It functions, in a practical sense, as something separate from other things.
We can say that a cup doesn’t exist because “cup” is a label and not the thing itself, and the label and what it refers to happen within and as consciousness and oneness.
At the same time, we can say that the cup does exist because we can talk about it and use it. It exists for us in a practical and pragmatic sense.
It may not exist the way most people think of it. The label and our ideas about it are not the cup. And the cup in itself isn’t ultimately a cup. To us, its most basic nature is consciousness, not being a cup.
And that’s the same with anything we can think about and label, whether it’s me, I, an observer, a doer, a human being, the world, the universe, and even consciousness, Spirit, the Divine, Big Mind, God, and so on.
Why is this important?
For many, it’s not important and that’s more than OK. They live their lives and have other interests and things to focus on.
But for some of us, this is fascinating. It’s helps us recognize what we really are, which is capacity for the whole world as it appears to us.
For some of us, like me, it’s also about finding a way to express our immediate experience. The way the world appears to me seems a bit different than for many, so there is a natural interest in exploring it further and find ways to express it. (Even if the only way to get it is to find it in our own immediate experience.)
From a small interpretation of awakening, it’s easy to see how oneness and individuality fit together. To us, we are consciousness and all our experiences happen within and as this consciousness. It’s all one in that sense. And the content of our experience is all individual. Everything is unique. Including this human self that others take us to be.
From a big interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is consciousness – or Spirit, the Divine, God. And the divine expresses, explores, and experiences itself through and as everything in existence and all of it as unique expressions.
When what we are notices itself, this question of oneness and individuality falls away – apart from perhaps as a gentle curiosity. The answer is right here. Oneness takes all these forms and they happen within and as oneness.
How does this play out in real life? In awakening, there is an invitation for our human self to become more authentic, real, and genuine. To shed some of the pretense and trying to live up to images. And to be more as we are, naturally and without the extra effort. I say invitation since this depends, as so much, on intentionally joining in with this particular process.
Is there a big difference between awakening and non-awakening?
Yes and no.
What are some of the differences?
The main difference is that in one case, consciousness recognizes itself as all there is and all experiences as happening within and as consciousness.
In the other case, consciousness is identified with a number of thoughts which creates an experience of being a separate being in the world and of objects as being the fundamental reality.
Our life as human beings will, by necessity, be a little different in each case.
The conscious context for our life is different and that means that everything tends to stay the same while also being very different.
In what ways are they not so different?
Whether consciousness notices itself or not, that’s what we are. We are consciousness and all our experiences happens within and as consciousness. We already live as oneness. It’s even awake oneness in both cases, although it’s awake to itself in only one.
In both cases, it’s the play of consciousness, whether it notices itself – and all experiences as itself – or not. It’s consciousness expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself – as noticing itself or not.
Is it really so black and white?
No, it’s just a way to talk about it. In reality, it’s much more fluid and – if we want to fit into another too-narrow idea – a spectrum.
Even when consciousness notices itself as all there is, there is some fluidity. It can temporarily go back into separation consciousness, especially when triggered by old emotional issues and beliefs. Noticing oneness can be in the foreground or more in the background – for instance when a task has our attention. And the awakening itself tends to clarify and stabilize our time, perhaps to the extent it’s investigated.
Similarly, non-awakening is not just one thing or always caught in separation consciousness. This too is fluid. When caught in an emotional issue, the separation consciousness tends to get stronger. When we are absorbed in an activity, we may get in a “flow” state, forget separation consciousness, and experience some of the qualities of oneness. (Although it’s not as clear and consciousness typically does not notice itself as everything.) And we can have more conscious glimpses of what we are and oneness, for instance when we are in nature, from inquiry or meditation, or – although I don’t recommend it – some types of psychoactive plants and drugs.
I noticed you used awake in two ways?
Yes, that can be confusing.
In this context, it’s mostly used to point to consciousness awake to itself – and to all its experiences as consciousness and the oneness that comes with it.
It can also point to the awakeness that’s inherent in consciousness. Anyone who reads this does so because of this awakeness. It’s the very ordinary awakeness that we all experience and are familiar with. Consciousness is awake in a very ordinary way, and it may or may not be awake to itself as all there is – to all its experiences as itself.Read More
Nature spirituality is seeing – or experiencing – nature as divine. As an expression of the divine. The creation of the divine. Or as the divine.
This can be more of a thought or feeling. It can be a sense or intuition. Or it can be a direct and unmistakable experience and perception.
It can happen as a phase of the awakening process. Or it can happen within a more clear awakening.
It can happen outside or inside of traditional forms of religion or spirituality. Either way, it borrows language and ideas from the culture and tradition(s) we are familiar with.
A more nature oriented spirituality is perhaps especially important today since it helps us find love for and a wish to care for nature and Earth.
Some who are into nature spirituality may see humans as special and somehow apart from the rest of nature. Others see humans as an intrinsic part of the Earth community and all of nature as “us”.
Nature spirituality may focus on untouched nature or any nature. Or it can include humans and human culture and civilization. These too are – in a very real sense – nature and an expression of this living planet and of divinity. (Culture and civilization currently have an ecologically unsustainable form but that doesn’t make it less of an expression of Earth and divinity. It just happens to take this form right now and it can change.)
How does nature spirituality look in a oneness context?
It tends to happen as part of a more general awakening process, as I have hinted at above.
It can happen within separation consciousness with some glimmers of oneness. These glimmers can come as a sense or intuition of nature as the divine or an expression of the divine, and there can be an early sense or glimpses of oneness.
It can also happen within a more clear perception of oneness. Here, there is a recognition that all is the divine and nature is one expression of the divine. And one we chose to honor and emphasize, either from personal inclination or because we realize it’s important as part of the culture change we need in order to survive as a species.
Whether it plays out within mainly separation consciousness or oneness depends on the usual factors in awakening. For instance, a sense or glimmers of oneness and a gradual “thinning of the veils” and wearing out of identifications.
Since I have written several articles about the awakening process in general, I won’t go into it here.
How can we cultivate or open up for nature spirituality?
Several things may put us on a nature spirituality path. It may be an experience or glimpse of the divinity of nature. It may be a deep love for nature, perhaps from childhood experiences. It may be something we read or heard that sparked something in us.
We can cultivate it by being in nature. By finding a community of others exploring nature spirituality. By engaging in rituals and practices like the practices to reconnect by Joanna Macy. By investigating any beliefs and identities standing between where we are and a deeper connection with nature. By exploring and inviting in awakening in general.
My personal experience
After writing this, I realize I can add a few words about my own experience to put some flesh on the bones.
When I was little, I loved nature. My parents took me on many outings to fish, pick berries, hike, and ski. We spent many weekends and vacations at the cabin in the mountains or near Oslo. I often played and explored in nature, in the forest, and by and in lakes. When people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I often said zoologist.
In late childhood, perhaps around twelve years of age, I was mesmerized by Cosmos by Carl Sagan and would walk outside, look at the stars, know that I was starstuff looking at the stars and the universe locally bringing itself into consciousness, and feel a strong belonging to all of nature and the universe. Around the same time, I slept under the stars in the mountains in Norway and had a profound – and life changing – experience of belonging to the universe as a whole.
The spiritual opening happened in my mid-teens and this was an awakening to oneness. It happened when I walked along a gravel road under a dark starry sky with a strong wind blowing through the sky. It was as if the vastness of the universe – the infinitely deep darkness, the stars, and the big wind – opened up something in me. All was revealed as God, as consciousness, as Spirit, and nothing was not this. It was Spirit waking up to itself locally and through and as this human form. During this time – for the next many years – there was a profound sense of the divine as all there is – the stars, the wind, nature, humans, and human culture.
Eventually, all of this normalized. Now, all matter and nature and anything else is clearly consciousness – or the divine. There is an inherent sense of awe in it. But there are no bells and whistles. It’s familiar. It is, in a sense, ordinary. Something extraordinary and ordinary at the same time.
For the sake of transparency: During this time, I could see there were some identifications left and a slight sense of “I”. At the same time, I knew these didn’t point to anything ultimately true or real and I largely saw through it and saw it for what it was.
As I started writing this I got lost in describing the different elements of nature spirituality and more or less forgot about the oneness context. My brain is working less well today, probably as part of the usual brain fog and fluctuations that comes with chronic fatigue. I decided to just leave this article as is. Perhaps there is something of value in it anyway.Read More
This is one of the recurrent themes for me, but I like revisiting it to see if I can find other aspects to it and simpler and more clear ways to talk about it.
Oneness can be understood from a relatively ordinary psychological perspective.
In our own experience, we are consciousness. We are not a human being. We are not a brain. We are not the way others see us. All of that happens within consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and this human self and the world and all experiences are content of this consciousness.
Another way to say it, which is a little more accurate, is that all our experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as consciousness.
Perhaps even more accurately, all our experiences happens within and as what we are, and the mind can label this many things including consciousness, awakeness, or Big Mind.
This also means that to us, all is oneness. All is one in that it all happens within and as consciousness.
Looking a little closer, we may also notice that all happens within and as – what we can call – emptiness or void. Nothingness makes something – consciousness and all its experiences – possible. So in a more basic sense, we are this nothingness that something happens within and as.
Also, when we discover ourselves as consciousness and all – as it appears to us – as consciousness, then it makes sense that some would take a leap and assume all of existence inherently is consciousness and call it Spirit, the divine, Brahman, Allah, or God.
I find it helpful to think of what I describe here as the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We are consciousness to ourselves and all our experiences then happens within and as consciousness. This says something about how we are, but it doesn’t assume anything about how all of existence is.
The leap of faith, assuming all of existence is consciousness and calling it Spirit or the divine, is then the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.
From the small or psychological interpretation, the big or spiritual interpretation is understandable. It makes sense that people would interpret it that way, even if we ourselves may not go that far.
From a small interpretation, the big interpretation may be seen as a projection and a leap of faith. From a big interpretation, the small interpretation means swimming in a pond that’s a little too small.
And personally for me? I find it helpful to switch between both interpretations. The small interpretation allows our view to stay grounded and it may make a little more sense to more people. And I suspect, for a variety of reasons and personal experiences, that the spiritual interpretation is valid as well. It may say something accurate about all of existence.
The nice thing about this way of looking at it – using both a small and big interpretation – is that the essential experiences of mystics form all traditions makes sense from either one. We can understand it from a small or psychological interpretation, and we can understand it from the big or spiritual interpretation.
Oneness makes sense. The awakening process makes sense. The pitfalls and dark nights make sense. The transformation of the human self in the context of oneness recognizing itself makes sense. Early glimpses make sense. Nature spirituality makes sense. And so on. (I am very aware that I haven’t gone into these here so it’s a bit of a teaser. I have written about it elsewhere on this website, and I may explore it more in further articles.)
I typically don’t write a lot about this because it’s something we discover for ourselves and it’s not so important in itself – apart from perhaps as a sign of where we are in the process.
That said, a part of noticing what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – is to notice that as this, we are simultaneously infinitely rich and infinitely poor.
We are infinitely rich in that all our experiences – our experience of the world, others, our human self – happens within and as us. And we are infinitely poor in that we don’t “own” any of it. It all comes and goes on its own. We cannot hang onto any of it and none “belongs to us”.
The way we experience the world often seems ordinary and unremarkable to us. We may not pay much attention to it. Although when we are on an awakening path, this tends to change. The question of how we experience ourselves and the world comes more into the foreground.
What’s the context of my experience?
It’s relatively easy for awakeness to notice itself and that content of experience happens within and as what I am. (Another label for this is oneness.) In daily life, particular content of experience is often in the foreground for practical reasons but that it’s happening within and as awakeness is always here and easily noticed.
There is also a noticing of the void all happens within and as, including the awakeness all content of experience happens within and as (!).
Is there a sense of a me or I?
Yes and no. In daily life, it’s easy to know that this human self is “me” and the one other people take me to be.
I notice a slight tension in the forehead and the roof of the mouth that feels a bit like “I”. I recognize it for what it is, and there is probably more for me to explore and see through here.
When I get caught in emotional issues, there is a stronger sense of a me and an I, although there is also an awareness of what’s going on. This too is happening within and as awakeness, it’s a temporary and local appearance, and not any ultimate truth. (Although if it’s strong, I may feel, experience, and even act as if it is.) This is something I am aware of and keep exploring, and I typically work on the emotional issues that come up.
Is this awakening?
This isn’t awakening as a state or somewhere to arrive. But it’s a snapshot of a particular phase of an awakening process. The process is ongoing and it seems unlikely to have an arrival place. There is clearly a lot further to go in clarity, healing, and embodiment, and that’s more than OK.
How is the content of my experience these days?
It keeps changing as any content of experience does. My system has a lot of fatigue right now so I notice the fatigue and rest. Sometimes, contentment is more on the surface with some low-grade other things in the background. And sometimes, different emotions are more in the foreground. When that happens, I pay attention to what it seems to be about and often explore it through informal inquiry and do some basic Vortex Healing for it.
Do I always explore what comes up?
Yes and no. I explore it in the sense that I notice it and make a mental note that this is something to continue to explore and perhaps find healing for. Sometimes I go more in-depth right away or within a few days. Sometimes, it goes on the back-burner and I know I may address it more in-depth if or when it comes up again in the future.
In general, how is this different from how most people experience themselves and the world?
I assume the essence is the same. The awake space everything is happening within (and as) is here whether we consciously notice or not. And our content of experience always changes and includes all the usual human experiences.
What’s different between this and most people’s experience?
The main difference may be that here, the awakeness – what all experience happens within and as – notices itself a bit more than what seems average these days. (And that can change – both here and in the world.)
So there isn’t that much of a difference between awakening and no awakening?
Again, yes and no. The awakeness is here and all our content of experience happens within and as it. In some cases, this is noticed – or it notices itself, and in some cases, there is identification as a me and I within this content of experience.
It seems somewhat fluid. I assume everyone has moments where they live more from the oneness (flow states etc.) and then a thought comes in saying “this human self is who I am, try not to forget it too often”.
There is a spectrum from what we are noticing itself to being caught up in identifications, and we are probably not aware of how far the spectrum goes in each end.
There is also a spectrum to how this is reflected in our life. At one end is a human life thoroughly reorganized within oneness noticing itself as all there is. This typically involves a lot of healing of emotional issues. At the other end is the extreme of living from separation consciousness and emotional issues and traumas. Most of us are somewhere in-between and shift somewhat fluidly along the mid-range.
What’s the main difference between my teens and now?
It’s actually not terribly different from my teens, following the initial spiritual opening or awakening. (Age sixteen.) The main difference is that there is more peace with the whole process now. Back then, it was intense and at time overwhelming and confusing. Now, it’s more familiar and – in a sense – ordinary.Read More
I like to demystify what can be demystified – including awakening. Why not try to describe it in simple and ordinary ways that others can check out for themselves, and that doesn’t rely on references to what’s outside of most people’s experience?
So what is awakening?
Awakening is what we are awakening to itself.
Independent of our worldview, it makes sense that what we are – to ourselves – is consciousness. Even within a materialistic view, it’s hard to not admit that to ourselves, we are consciousness.
All our content of experience – including the world and ourselves as a human being – happens within and as consciousness.
Typically, we identify with a particular content of our experience. We identify with and as this human self, and as an observer, doer, and so on.
Awakening refers to noticing that we are consciousness that this content of experience happens within and as. The initial noticing can be called an initial opening or awakening.
Sometimes, that’s all it is. And sometimes, the process continues.
We notice. Identification releases somewhat out of content of experience. Consciousness wakes up to itself as all there is. (To itself it’s all there is.) This noticing becomes more ordinary and continues through more and more situations in daily life. Our human life reorients and transforms within this new noticing and context.
Why are not more people interested in it?
We may not have heard about it.
We may not have been exposed to it in a way that makes it seem possible or attractive to us.
It may seem too mysterious, obscure, and distant.
It may seem like it’s for other or special people, not us.
We may not see how it’s useful.
It may seem like something we already know, intellectually.
Why are some people really into it?
We may have had a glimpse or opening and wish to continue to explore it.
We may intuit that there is something and set out to explore it.
We may be drawn in by traditions or teachers speaking about awakening.
We may seek to avoid suffering and have heard it will help.
It may happen out of the blue and stay and we keep exploring this new context for our human life.
What are some of the effects of awakening?
Mainly, our human self reorients and reorganizes within this new context.
This involves a lot of different changes and processes and lasts a lifetime.
It typically involves healing of emotional issues and hangups. Examining old beliefs, assumptions, and identities. And changing how we relate to others, ourselves, and the world in general.
How do we live within oneness? That’s the question, and the transformation of our human self can be more or less thorough within this lifetime.
What about spirituality?
Isn’t awakening about spirituality?
Yes and no. Yes, spirituality is often about awakening. And no, awakening doesn’t requite religion or traditional spirituality.
At the same time, there is a lot of practical and valuable information in spiritual and religious traditions.
Small and big interpretation of awakening
This article is mostly about the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. We talk about it a way that (can!) make sense independent of whatever worldview we have.
There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. Here, we use the more familiar language of God, Spirit, the Divine, and so on.
We may say that awakening is God (Spirit, the Divine) awakening to itself locally through this human self.
Spirit temporarily and locally took itself to be an ultimately separate being (this human self), and then woke up to itself as all there is.
How can we explore it for ourselves?
Mainly, we need to find one or more approaches that make sense to us. Perhaps they feel intuitively right. Or someone we trust recommends it. Or we happen to have a local awakening-coach and join for a while.
There are some approaches that within minutes can give us a glimpse or taste of what awakening is about. The two I enjoy the most is the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments.
Is there anything I need to be aware of?
Mainly, the usual guidelines for exploring and learning anything applies here too. It helps to have the guidance of someone you trust and who has experience. Trust yourself and what feels right to you. If the approach you use has little or no effect, consider trying something else.
When I said “consciousness” earlier, it was to make it more understandable. The mind may label what we are “consciousness” but that’s just a label. That label and all our ideas about it also happen within and as what we are.
The awakening process, and the approaches we may use on the path, tend to open our heart and mind, and that can open for whatever unprocessed psychological material is in us. If that happens, it can feel confusing, scary, disorienting, and overwhelming. So it’s good to find an awakening-coach who has experience with this, can take some precautions, and knows how to help you through it.
It can help to set aside what you think you know about awakening, especially the myths and ideas from religion and traditional spirituality. Make it simple for yourself. This is about noticing what you already are. There are ways to help you notice it. And there are people who can help you with it. It’s not so different from learning or exploring anything else in life.
Is awakening important?
Yes and no. If it happens, it may be the most important (no-thing) thing in your life since it becomes the context for everything. It can also help transform your human self.
And yet, most human beings live without having a (conscious) taste of this and that’s fine. You can have a very good life without conscious noticing of what you are.
If what you mostly want is a good life, and that’s the case for most of us, another strategy may be more direct. For instance, focus on self-compassion and healing the most obvious emotional issues. Nurture nurturing and important relationships in your life. And, in general, be a good steward of your life. And there is no problem with including this in an exploration of what we are. They work very well together.Read More
The awakening and healing path is – in my experience – both radical and a middle ground.
It’s radical in that to be thorough…. Our exploration needs to be independent of – and sometimes go against – old patterns and social norms and expectations. It needs to be dogged. We need to be radically honest with ourselves. And it needs to go all the way through even our most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world.
It’s a middle ground in that…. Our approach needs to be sane and grounded, flexible and undogmatic, and inclusive and wholeness oriented. In our healing, we include more and more of our parts as a human being. In the awakening, we find ourselves as that which our daily life experience happens within and as – as it is. Through both, we become thoroughly humanized and often live very ordinary lives.
Our healing and awakening process includes everything, including the radical and the very ordinary. Just like life itself.
What I write here reflects my own orientation and limited experience. I know it can look quite different for others. And that’s part of the richness of life and this particular process.Read More
Most people in the world obviously emphasize who we are. They live as if they mainly or exclusively are this human self and naturally focus on that.
A few, and especially nondual teachers, tend to emphasize what we are. They emphasize the awakeness we and everything is and everything happens within and as. They may even emphasize the void all of that happens within and as.
I understand why they do it. It’s a compensation for what the majority of people do. Most people emphasize who we are, so these nondual folks instead emphasize what we are.
And yet, both seem a little one-sided. For me, it’s the combination of the two that is most interesting.
When what I am notices itself, how does who I am live within this new context? What happens with who I am? How does it reorient? What happens with all the parts of who I am that were formed in the context of duality? What happens when what I am becomes more clear to itself? What happens as who I am gradually learns to live within this new (and timeless) context?
That’s what most of the articles here are about. Not exclusively who I am as this human self. Not exclusively what I am as the awakeness all experience happens within and as. But the combination and the interactions and how it all unfolds over time.
Of course, they are not really two and there is no interaction or combination. And at the same time, there is – in a sense.
In my everyday experience, there is a sense of interaction between the two. They are one, two, and neither.
And although I acknowledge and am interested in the one and neither, I am – for whatever reason – particularly interested in and fascinated by the (apparent!) interactions.
I should mention that it seems to be more the first generation nondual folks in the west who emphasize what we are. These days, most seems to acknowledge both and the interactions. I guess that’s a natural progression.
Nothing has ever been said about God that hasn’t already been said better by the wind in the pine trees.– Thomas Merton
Yes, this is the experience when there is a taste of oneness, or when oneness wakes up to itself more stably. It becomes very clear that all is the divine – including the divine’s temporary sense that it’s a separate self – and that no words can even touch it. They can, at most, point to it.
Words, in themselves, are abstractions and cannot capture anything very well apart from other abstractions.
When there is this taste or awakening, it’s obvious that all is the divine. It’s all consciousness, awakeness, clarity, and everything happens as this, and everything is also the void it all happens within and as. Any idea of being a separate self also happens within and as this and is a temporary expression of it all.
At the same time, it’s impossible to express in words. Words split up the world and this is the wholeness – and nothingness – of it all. What is – leaves, trees, the wind, the stars – expresses it much more directly, immediately, and beautifully.
Since we already are this, it’s closer to us than words. How do we notice it? How can we invite it to notice itself? When that happens, it’s a consequence of movements within the whole of existence. And that may express itself as a want, wish, glimpse, opening, a meeting with words or a guide, or something else that initiates and brings forward this process.
And from the “point of view” of the divine (which doesn’t really have a point of view but includes all points of view), the divine temporarily and locally taking itself as separate or the divine noticing itself are equal.
Using imperfect words, we can say that all the divine and equal in “value” but in experience and expression they are – obviously – different.
Why isn’t the divine always noticing itself as all there is? Most likely because it “wants” to experience itself as something else. The infinite “wants” to experience itself as finite. So it has created a divine play where it gets to temporarily and locally take itself as finite, as a separate being.
I should mention that although the content of words can only point to the divine, the words in themselves express it – just like everything expresses it. Everything is the divine.Read More
Most or all of the essentials of spirituality can be understood from a secular view, and there are some obvious benefits to this.
Awakening itself can be understood in a secular context. Awakening means that what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – notices and wakes up to itself. This may sound a bit nebulous but we can have a taste of it relatively quickly through some forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, and so on.
This can be understood within a secular context. Even if we assume a physical world and (relatively) separate beings, we are – by necessity – consciousness. We experience the world not only “through” consciousness but as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and the content of our experience happens within and as consciousness.
When we notice or wake up to ourselves as consciousness, we also wake up to and as oneness. The whole world – as it appears to us – happens within and as consciousness. Within and as what we are. Within and as oneness.
Awakening itself, the whole awakening process, and the process of reorienting (embodiment) within this new context can be understood within a secular context.
Spiritual pointers and practices can also be understood within a secular context. When done with sincerity, these practices transform us. And that’s something that can be understood and studied within a secular framework.
When I say spiritual pointers and practices, I mostly think about different forms of meditation, inquiry, body-centered practices, heart-centered practices, ethical guidelines, and even prayer. Each of these transform us when done with sincerity and over time, and the effects and mechanism can be understood and studied in a pragmatic and grounded way.
What’s the benefits of a secular understanding of spirituality? In the best case, it can help us be more pragmatic and grounded in our approach to it. It can help us find some of what’s essential to awakening and how the spiritual practices transform us. And it can – obviously – make it more understandable and accessible to people who already have a more secular orientation.
What’s the drawback? The drawback is that we may miss something essential if we focus solely on what we find when we use (what we understand by) a pragmatic and grounded approach. It may be too narrow.
A more fluid approach may make the most sense. I personally use both a more traditional spiritual approach and a more secular and pragmatic approach. They both have their strengths and value. They are two sides of the same coin.
What do I mean with the words secular, spiritual, and spirituality?
With secular, I mean a pragmatic and grounded approach, and an interpretation and understanding of awakening and spiritual practices that makes sense within a modern secular view and without referring to anything “spiritual”.
Spirituality means whatever spirituality traditionally has been focused on, including awakening and spiritual practices.
A spiritual approach is perhaps less easily defined. For me, it means a big interpretation of awakening (the divine wakes up to itself locally through this human self). It means a trust in the divine (all of existence) and divine intelligence and love. It means asking for and perhaps following divine guidance (including the quiet inner voice). It means acknowledging a whole range of things that are perhaps not so easily understood from a secular view, including synchronicities, seeing energies, sensing at a distance (without using physical senses), distance healing, and so on.Read More
In a family lunch yesterday, the topic turned to spirituality. A little out of the blue, one mentioned the materialistic worldview of Communism and that it’s incompatible with spirituality. I didn’t say anything at the time – perhaps because I didn’t know how to phrase it – but I don’t necessarily agree.
When I sat down to write something about this, the headline that fell into my mind was spiritual materialism – in the sense of spirituality within a materialistic worldview.
As I see it, most forms of genuine spirituality and awakening can happen within a materialistic view. The two are not opposed to each other.
Here are some examples:
Awakening can be understood within a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) view. In either case, it’s what we are – that which our experiences happen within and as – that wakes up to itself. We wake up to oneness, or – more accurately – oneness wakes up to itself as all there is. In the small interpretation of awakening, this happens locally and in this human self, and it can easily fit into a materialistic worldview. In essence, to us – as consciousness – everything happens within and as consciousness. Oneness wakes up to itself. And that can be interpreted to happen within a world that’s mostly or exclusively material. We can explore this through, for instance, the Big Mind process and have a direct taste of it for ourselves.
What about past lives? One side of this is research, and if they find that rebirth seems to happen (as researchers do), then that may create some troubles for a strict materialistic worldview. If we look at rebirth as it may come up in our own lives, for instance through apparent memories, the most pragmatic and useful approach may be to hold it lightly and explore it as a projection or as if it was a dream element. Whatever it is, it mirrors something in us here and now, and that’s useful. That’s something we can use to explore whatever it represents or mirror in ourselves. And that’s something we can easily do within a materialistic worldview.
What about spiritual practices, like prayer? Doesn’t that require a deity or some idea of divinity? Not at all. Prayer is transformative. It has an important psychological function, and if done with sincerity and receptivity and we allow it, it can profoundly transform us. It can open our heart and mind. It can help us find healing. It can even lead into a taste of oneness or a real shift into oneness.
When it comes to many other things associated with spirituality – heart-centered practices, forms of meditation, ethical guidelines, and so on – these help us in our own lives, makes us a little easier to be around for others, and fit into a materialistic worldview.
So we see that awakening can be interpreted within a materialistic worldview. And most or all pragmatic spiritual pointers, practices, and guidelines don’t require a “spiritual” worldview and are compatible with materialistic worldview.
How do I see this? I love that the essence of spirituality fits nicely into a strict materialistic view. Personally, I find both the small and big interpretations of awakening useful. And, for me, the big interpretation is – in a sense – a little more correct and closer to reality. (In another sense, reality is always more than and different from any words or world views.)
Note: Chögyam Trungpa initially coined – or popularized? – the term spiritual materialism and used it to describe something else: an attitude of wanting to accumulate signs of spiritual progress in order to feel better about ourselves.
Sometimes, it can seem like the world is a dream and that may be more accurate than we realize.
Dreams at our personal level
At our local and personal level, we can explore how the world is as a dream in a specific way.
In dreams, all the content of our experience – all that happens in the dream – happens within and as consciousness. It can’t really be any other way. It makes logical sense. And we can notice it when we do lucid dreaming.
In our waking life, it’s the same. All content of our experience – including our human self and the wider world and anything else – happens within and as consciousness. We can notice this through different forms of inquiry. In my case, I have found the Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and the Living Inquiries, to be especially good at revealing this.
From this, we see that what we are is consciousness, and what we often take ourselves to be – like this human self – happens within and as consciousness. In other words, who we are happens within and as what we are.
This can seem abstract at first, if it’s just an idea or something someone else points out. We can then get a taste of it for ourselves, perhaps through inquiry or spontaneous revelations. And we can then continue to explore it and get more familiar it and allow our life to be transformed within this noticing.
If the world sometimes seems like a dream to us, it may be because it’s more true than it first seems. Just as our dreams happen within and as consciousness, our waking life happens within and as consciousness.
The dream of the divine
Similarly, we can say that all of existence is the dream of the divine. It’s all consciousness and all of existence happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as the divine. And this consciousness – right here and now – is no different from this consciousness. It’s the same consciousness.
These experiences – that we may take to be “ours” – are the experiences of the divine. These experiences of sights, sounds, sensations, taste, smell, movements, and thoughts are the experiences of the divine. These thoughts saying these experiences belong to “me” as this limited and local human self are the thoughts of the divine.
Alan Watts’ thought experiment
I love a thought experiment from Alan Watts.
Say you can decide what you’ll dream about. First, we may chose to dream very pleasant dreams. After a while, that may get boring and we throw in some challenges, and perhaps some that seem very serious and a matter of life-and-death. If we know we are dreaming while we dream, we won’t experience the full effect of it. So we may also decide to forget that we are dreaming while we are dreaming so the dream feels more real to us.
By following this process, we see that what we end up with is the life we have now. There are perhaps a lot of good and pleasant experiences. It’s mixed in with challenges – big and small – that makes it more rich, juicy, and interesting. And we – as the divine – have temporarily forgotten we are dreaming in order to make it seem more real and make us more invested in the dreams.
The play of the divine – lila
Why is this happening? Perhaps for the divine to express, explore, and experience itself. For the divine to explore and experience its own potential infinite richness made a little more manifest.
The world can be seen as the play of the divine. And this is not a new discovery or noticing or speculation. In the Indian traditions they call this lila.
The world is real… and a dream
Our world is real in a certain way and also a dream in a certain way. That’s why I said “a little more manifest” in the previous segment.
Although there is validity to all our conventional ideas about the world and our lives, it’s all happening within a larger context that changes how we see it when this context is more alive to us in our immediate noticing and experience.
Even what we tend to experience as most physical is still happening within and as consciousness. The physical is real in that we experience it as physical and this seems to be a shared collective experience. At the same time, it’s our own mind – through combining thoughts and sensations – that gives it a sense of solidity and physicality. (How the mind creates its own experience through combining sensations and thoughts can be explored through inquiry, for instance Buddhist inquiries or a modern version of these such as the Living Inquiries.)
As we explore all of this, we may find that the world is simultaneously kind of real and kind of a dream.
Alice Longbaugh: I never had his certainties. I suppose it is a defect.
Billy Knapp: I don’t think it’s a defect at all. Oh, no. Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.
Alice Longbaugh: Yes.
Billy Knapp: I believe certainty regarding that which we can see and touch, it is seldom justified, if ever. Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones. Wanting their comfort. Certainty, is the easy path. Just as you said.– from Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Cohen brothers
I found this exchange between Billy and Alice beautiful in its simplicity and honesty.
Uncertainty is appropriate for any idea we have. For anything we think we know, whether it’s the big picture questions or our everyday life. Any thought comes with a question mark, whether we notice or not.
Telling ourselves we have certainty about something is a way to seek comfort. In a sense, it’s the “easy” path since we can pretend to know and we don’t need to question it or explore it further. And yet, it’s not so easy because somewhere we know we are deceiving ourselves. And it’s out of alignment with reality and life may, at any moment, show that to us. Life may present us with a situation showing us that one of our most cherished ideas was not true, or not as true as we wanted it to be.
This is also why we get the preaching pattern (or lecturing or proselytizing pattern). We hold onto a thought or idea in order to find comfort or safety. Somewhere, we know we cannot know for certain if the thought or idea is true. And we probably know, somewhere that we hold onto it to find comfort. And we may, secretly, fear that life – at any time – will show us it’s not as true as we wanted it to be. If we are not honest with ourselves about this, then one way to deal with the inevitable tension inherent in these dynamics is to preach to others. We lecture and try to convince others the initial thought or idea is true so we can feel better about holding onto it for ourselves. At least, others are in the same boat. In an even more basic sense, we lecture others so we can hear it ourselves. We lecture ourselves about the importance of believing the initial thought or idea. We try to remove our own doubt, which is impossible. Doubt is sanity. Doubt is being aligned with reality. We can never completely deceive ourselves.
Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.
Uncertainty is appropriate for matters of this world. It’s appropriate for any thought and anything that has to do with the content of our experience. We cannot know or say anything for certain about this.
Only about the “next” world can we say anything for certain. Perhaps not the way Billy may have thought about it, but in another way. The only thing we know for certain is that we are – what the mind may label – consciousness.
We cannot say anything for certain about the content of consciousness. But we can say for certain that there is consciousness. That’s not only what we are but all we are, in our own immediate experience. The whole world, as it appears to us, and whatever we take ourselves to be as a human being, happens within and as consciousness.
It happens within and as what we are. And we can label that consciousness, awakeness, or whatever else we like. (Of course, the label and any ideas we have about it happens within and as content of consciousness!)
Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive?
And that’s how it is today as well. The certainties we have today – collectively – will not survive. Future generations will have other certainties, and these also won’t survive.Read More
There are many ways to find peace. Here are some approaches I have found helpful.
We can create a certain life. A life that feels right, nurturing, and meaningful. A life where we have nurturing relationships. Meaningful work and activities. A life aligned with our values and what’s important to us. A part of this is to heal and mend – as far as possible – any challenging relationships.
We can invite in healing. We can invite in healing for parts of us not in peace. We can invite in healing for trauma and emotional issues.
We can reorient. We can learn to befriend our experience as it is, including the experience of lack of peace (!). In this process, we also learn to befriend (more of) the world as it is.
We can find ourselves (more) as our human wholeness. As we find ourselves as the wholeness of who we are as a human being, there is a sense of groundedness and peace even as life and thoughts and emotions goes on. This is an ongoing process, perhaps including body-centered mindfulness and projection work, and the peace is of a different kind.
We can explore our need for peace. If we feel a neediness around peace, what’s going on? Do we have stressful beliefs about living without peace? Do we have identities rubbing up against the reality of sometimes lack of peace? Is there a trauma or emotional issue telling us we need peace? Examining this and find some resolution for whatever may be behind a need for peace can, in itself, help us find more peace.
It’s stressful to feel we need peace and fight with a world that doesn’t always give us the conditions we may think we need for peace. And it is, perhaps ironically, more peaceful to find peace with life as it is.
We can live with (more) integrity. Living with integrity gives us a sense of peace, even when life is challenging. Living with integrity means to clarify and follow what’s important to us, and to live with some sincerity and honesty – especially towards ourselves.
We can follow our own inner guidance. Following our inner guidance – in smaller and bigger things – connects us with an inner quiet and peace, even when life is stormy. We can learn to follow our inner guidance through experience. And it’s also helpful to notice when we connect with our inner guidance and don’t follow it, and examine what fears and stressful beliefs in us made it difficult for us to follow it.
We can connect with the larger whole. This larger whole comes in three related forms. One is the larger whole of who we are as a human being (mentioned above). Another is the larger whole of the Earth and the universe. We can connect with this through Earth-centered practices, the Universe Story, and more. The third is what we are.
We can explore and get to know what we are. What we are is what our experience happens within and as. As we learn to find ourselves as that, there is a different kind of peace. The peace of being like the sky that clouds, storms, clear weather and anything else passes through.
Each of these is an ongoing process and exploration. It’s not a place we arrive at for good and don’t have to pay attention to again.
The kind of peace we find in each of these ways is somewhat different. In a sense, they complement each other.
As for how to find these types of peace, there are many approaches and I’ll mention a few here.
To heal, I have found parts (subpersonality) work, inquiry, heart-centered practices, TRE, Vortex Healing and more to be helpful. To reorient, I have found ho’oponopno, tonglen, and all-inclusive gratitude practice to be helpful. To find myself as my human wholeness, I have found body-centered mindfulness (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema) and projection work (inquiry, shadow work) helpful. To explore any neediness around peace, I have found inquiry to be helpful. To live more with integrity, it’s helpful to explore what in me (usually a fear, stressful belief, trauma) takes me away from living with integrity in any specific situation. To follow my inner guidance, it’s helpful to practice in smaller situations and likewise explore what in me (fears etc.) takes me away from it. To connect with the larger whole of the Earth and Universe, it’s helpful to use the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), Universe Story, and similar approaches. To explore what we are, I have found Headless experiments, Living Inquiries, and the Big Mind process to be helpful.
Photo: Flowers from Zürich ca. 2013.
Some folks in the New Age circles say we create our own reality.
Is that true?
As usual, to me the answer seems to be yes, no, it depends, and don’t know.
Yes, we do create our own reality in the conventional sense and in two distinct although related ways.
Our perception and interpretations determines how the world appears to us – from the most basic to the most elaborate. The mind creates sensory impressions based on input from the senses. And our mind makes sense of these impressions through an overlay of mental images and words. We – quite literally – construct our own reality.
Most of this is shared by most humans and are determined by biology and culture, and some of it is more culturally dependent and individual. We can explore and work with both categories to create other ways to perceive and interpret the world that works better for us. (The second category is more the realm of psychology and the first category involves deeper inquiry and even spirituality.)
Our perceptions and interpretations obviously influence and determine our choices, actions, and responses, and this shape the situations we find ourselves in.
In another way, we do not create our reality. Everything that happens is not a direct expression of our wishes, hangups, hidden desires, or whatever it may be.
What’s happening locally is an expression of the movements within existence as a whole. Everything has innumerable causes stretching back to beginning of time and out to the widest extent of space. It’s dependent on far more than just what’s going on in our own psyche.
At the same time, we can make use of whatever happens. We can use it to notice what’s triggered in us and befriend it and invite in healing for it. We can make use of what’s happening to heal, mature, wake up, and live more authentically and more aligned with our values.
We can even ask ourselves “what if I created this, what would be the reason and what would I like to learn from it?” and use that as a gentle exploration, hold the question very gently, and use the answers as a temporary guide.
As what we are – that which our experience happens within and as – it depends. We can answer the question in a few different ways.
We can say that everything – every experience and the whole world as it appears to us – happens within and as we are.
And from here we could say that “we” – as what our experience happens within and as – creates our experience. That’s true in the most basic sense that we construct our own experience of the world.
I am careful with saying that “we” create our own reality in this context. It makes more sense to say that it’s just happening and it is life or existence itself creating our world and reality and our experience of it.
As what we are, it’s most reasonable to say that everything happens. “We” – as this human self – do not create it.
And really, it’s a mystery. We don’t know anything for certain. We can have ideas about our experiences in the world – whether the ideas are about genetics, culture, psychology or anything else – and some of those ideas can be useful for a while. The only thing we know is that no ideas can capture reality. They are, at most, helpful as a temporary and pragmatic guideline to help us orient and function in the world.
So as who we are – as this human self – we create our reality in a conventional and well-known sense. We do not create our reality in the simplistic and naive sense that whatever happens is a direct reflection of our own desires or hangups. We can also say that our reality is created within and as what we are, although it happens more on its own. And ultimately it’s all – every single bit of it – a mystery that cannot be captured by our understanding and even less by our words.Read More
Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)
So what is the role of states in the awakening process?
Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.
These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)
Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.
And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.
So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.
What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)
It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.
Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.
Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.
Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.
The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.Read More
Our minds aren’t conditioned to recognize the clearly obvious.– Adyashanti
What are some of the obvious things Adya may refer to?
One is what we are. We are that which our experience happens within and as. It’s obvious. It can’t be any other way. It’s part of our daily experience. And yet, for most of us, our mind doesn’t recognize it. Or if it does, it dismisses it as not important – as something weird, outside of how society tells us it is, and perhaps not practical. (It may be a bit weird and outside of how others tells us it is, but recognizing it and taking it seriously can profoundly transform our perception, life, and how we relate to ourselves and the world.)
Another obvious thing is that our thoughts don’t tell us the truth. They are questions about the world. They may be practically useful as a guide. And yet, they do not hold any final or absolute or complete truth. Reality is always different from and more than our thoughts about it. And that goes for our “big” thoughts about who we are and how the world is (“I am ultimately a human being in the world”), and the “smaller” thoughts in daily life (“she doesn’t like me”, “he shouldn’t have cut me off in traffic”).
There is nothing in the world so damaged that it cannot be repaired by the hand of the almighty God.– Agatha Christie, spoken by Hercule Poirot in Appointment with Death
This is a beautiful and unusually personal and heartfelt statement from Poirot. It’s not beautiful primarily because it’s hopeful. It’s beautiful because there is a lot of truth to it.
At a personal level, there is nothing in our world that’s so damaged it cannot be repaired by the almighty hand of God. When oneness – AKA God – finds itself, that in itself is profound. We realize that what we are was never harmed. It was never damaged. No matter how damaged our human self is, what we are – that which our experience and the apparent damage happens within and as – is never damaged.
There is another side to this. When what we are notices itself – and especially when it happens more clearly and through situations and experiences – it provides a new context for who we are which allows this to reorient and heal within oneness. Some of this can happen in the initial awakening process, and much of it happens over time, gradually, and through intentional explorations and work.
From a larger view, and using a Spiritual interpretation of awakening, we can say that everything – all of existence – happens within and as the divine, Spirit, God. No matter how much destruction and apparent damage happens within the world or the universe, it all happens within and as Oneness.
Although we as humans may be called to do what we can to prevent and repair damage to people and the world – and this is vitally important – nothing is fundamentally in need of repair because it’s all already the divine.
Enlightenment is being able to simultaneously experience unity and individuality without experiencing any conflict.– Adyashanti, Mt. Madonna Silent Retreat February 2019
Yes, this fits my experience as well. I notice I balk a bit at the word enlightenment because of it’s baggage and the associations some have about it. But it is appropriate in some situations and it’s also appropriate in that there is a sense of illumination – metaphorically because reality is illuminated and literally since the energy system tends to light up within an awakening and experiencing light may be a side-effect of the initial awakening.
And there are many ways to talk about the unity and individuality. When oneness notices itself, it also notices itself as this unique individual human being functioning in the world. It notices this human self as local and temporary part of itself.
When there is no experience of conflict between oneness and who we are, it’s because there are – generally speaking – no identifications as one or the other preventing the mind from fluidly noticing itself as both and both as one. It may be that there actually are identifications here but they are more in the background or dormant, or it may be that they have been seen through or have worn out.
I suspect I know why Adya felt he needed to address this topic. Sometimes, we can experience a conflict between the two, between who and what we are. And that always comes from identifications as one or the other, and ideas that they are somehow separate or in conflict with each other. That too can be part of the process. The wrestling helps us get more familiar with the dynamics of being both oneness and a human being in the world.
Although I have rarely experienced a conflict between what and who I am, I have gone through a few phases in this dynamic of being oneness and a human being in the world.
In the initial awakening phase – which didn’t feel like an awakening at all – “I” was absorbed into a witness. I was fifteen and what I experienced myself to be was absorbed into witnessing – witnessing all content of experience equally, whether it was the outer world or this human self or what happened within this human self. This happened without any forewarning and felt like something had gone terribly wrong. I visited several doctors and specialists to try to figure out what was going on. The whole world, including this human self, felt very far away.
After a year in this weird state, a more full blown oneness revealed itself. Again, it happened suddenly and without any forewarning. All without exception was revealed as God. This human self was revealed as a local part of God and any identification as this human self was revealed as the play of God. The ultimate and real identity of everything, including this guy here, was the divine. Everything is part of the oneness.
There was a long honeymoon phase, followed by a phase where my attention went mostly to sustainability and social justice work (informed by oneness), and the last several years have been a process of deeper work for aligning more parts of my human self more consciously with the oneness. Parts of me that were still living in separation consciousness have come to the surface so they can realign, wake up in their own way, and be included in my human self and the oneness more consciously.
When I look back, I see that each of these phases have lasted about a decade. I sometimes feel my process is very slow, but it’s all not only guided by the divine, but it is part of the divine, and it is the divine.
Note: It’s sometimes fun to write about something from different angles. When I say “it’s guided by the divine” it’s the divine as second or third person. When I say it’s “part of the divine” it’s closer to oneness and it highlights that the divine is far more than this speck of a human self. And when I say it IS the divine, that’s accurate as well. Each one gives a slightly different angle to it and together they create a more rich and full image.
How do projections look in the context of awakening?
On a spiritual or awakening path, projections are important for awakening and healing in the usual way – with perhaps a couple of extra layers to them to explore.
Specific to the spiritual path may be projections onto spiritual teachers, teachings, and concepts related to awakening. The process of projecting itself is the usual one. We see something out there – in teachers, teachings, awakening, etc. – that’s already in here, in us. And it’s projected in two ways. One is that the qualities and dynamics we see out there is also in here. The other is that what we see out there is an overlay of imagination from our own mind. (What we see out there may fit consensus reality and what others agree is there, or not, that doesn’t matter so much here.)
So we see something that’s in ourselves – as a potential or already here more strongly – out in the world. We get familiar with it there. In the best case, that helps us find it in ourselves and what we are. And it’s the role of spiritual teachers and teachings to help us recognize what’s happening and find it in ourselves. (Of course, they don’t always do it for whatever reason – they may not recognize what’s happening or they have a vested interest in not helping students recognize and find in themselves what they project out.)
Layers of the projections
There are different aspects and layers of the projections.
We have what most people think of when they hear the word. We can call these “blind” projections. We see something in the world – in other people, situations, anything at all – that’s in ourselves, but we are mostly or only aware of it out there. These projections are mostly of qualities, characteristics, and dynamics. And the reason they are “blind” – that we only see it in others and not in ourselves, at least in the moment – has to do with emotional issues, beliefs, and identifications.
Then we have more conscious projections. We see something out in the world and are aware of it also in ourselves. This awareness can be a general awareness or more finely grained. We can always find more examples of what we see out there also in ourselves – in our own thoughts, actions, and how we live our life.
We can also be aware of the more basic dynamics and elements of the projections. We can notice the overlay of thought – of mental images and words – our mind puts on the world. With some experience, we can notice it as it happens. This helps us to recognize the projections, and it also helps us hold our mental overlay more lightly. (And not automatically assume it’s “true”.)
There is yet another layer. Projections – blind, conscious, and the mental overlay – happen within and as what we are. They are part of the creativity of the mind. If we are so inclined, we can even say it’s part of Lila, the play of life, the Universe, and the divine.
In general, projections can be a temporary apparent hindrance – or detour or distraction or pitfall – if they are blind. And they can be a great support for awakening and healing if we work with them more consciously and with some skills and sincerity. It’s helpful before awakening and within awakening.
This is all distilled and abstract so I’ll go into a few more details and give some examples.
A regular blind projection happens anytime I see something in someone else that I don’t acknowledge in myself. It’s often accompanied by emotional charge, defensiveness, righteousness, blame, and so on. And it can also be accompanied by admiration, longing, and a wish to have what we project it out onto in our life. Whether it’s one or the other or a mix depends on how our mind judges what we project.
Trump is an example for me. For a while after he was elected, my mind dehumanized him. I saw him as a liar, bigot, con man, and so on, and I felt upset and angry that people could elect someone like him. I was aware that this was a projection but I hadn’t taken the time to explore it as a projection. It functioned more like a “blind” projection, at least at an emotional level.
As I took time to explore it more, I could find the qualities I saw in him also in myself. I could – and can – find it in how I see him and his followers. (I am bigoted, a liar, a con man, etc. in how I see him and his followers, especially when I don’t acknowledge I have those qualities too.) And I can find examples in my life when I have done all of those things. I may not have done it in exactly the same way he does it, or to the same extent, but I can find examples – even if some are smaller and apparently more “innocent”.
Going through this process, I am more at peace with Trump and his followers. I see myself in them. We are in the same boat, in that sense. I don’t agree with most of his policies. I still think he operates mostly as a con man. I still see many of his followers as ill-informed and acting on misinformation. If I was in a position where it was reasonable for me to actively speak up about it and promote other solutions, I would do that. (Right now, I live in Europe and my energy goes to finding healing for myself.) And yet, the emotional charge around it for me is much less. I have more empathy and understanding. I am seeing the situation less as us vs. them and more as a larger us.
I have also experienced the other form of blind projections many times in my life. I admire and am fascinated by a woman (usually a partner). I see some people as awake – or perhaps unusually mature, insightful, and kind – and admire them and wish the same for myself. And so on. Again, it’s a process of allowing the projection, notice it, and find the qualities and characteristics I see in the other also in myself. Phrasing the projection and finding specific examples help a lot.
Conscious projections also happen all the time. I see someone as kind, and find it in myself. I see beautiful nature, and find that in myself. I see (imagine) the boundless nature of outer space and find that as what I am.
There is some fluidity between blind and conscious projections. It’s rare a projection is completely blind. And in daily life, we are often aware of a quality more in others or more in ourselves, depending on where our attention is. Bringing awareness to projections, and finding in ourselves what we see out in the world, is also an ongoing process. We can always find more examples. We can always expand our conscious identity to include more.
How do we get more aware of the basic dynamics and elements of projections? Working with projections in a conventional way brings some awareness into this. And we can also explore it more explicitly through some forms of inquiry, like traditional Buddhist inquiry or their modern versions. We typically need to explore this over and over – and bring it into daily life – before this noticing becomes a habit and second nature.
If I used Living Inquiries to explore how I see Trump (which I haven’t, at least not as a longer and formal inquiry), I would probably find some clues to why my relationship to him is charged (emotional issues) and how my mind creates its experience of him in general. I may find how my mind creates an image of Trump and this image is associated with sensations (tension) in my body. I may find that my mind has a lot of associations with this image and the connected sensations, going back to specific (traumatic) situations in my life and childhood. I may find how my mind creates beliefs and identifications in order to protect itself against him, people like him, and what he stands for. And so on. I get to see the emotional component and how it connects to my own experiences. I get to see how my mind creates blind projections in order to protect itself. I get to see how beliefs and identities are part of this projection. I get to meet and get to know the fears behind all of it.
When it comes to noticing how all of this happens within and as what I am, there are some modern forms of inquiry that can give us a taste. Big Mind process and Headless experiments may be most direct, and Living Inquiries gives us a taste through most regular inquiries into more emotional issues.
As usual, each of these points can be elaborated almost endlessly so I have given just give a few pointers here based on my own experience.Read More
Awakening solves a problem we didn’t know we had, and not the ones we know we have.
It’s a bit facetious but there is some truth to it.
The problem awakening solves is misidentification. We take ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being) and don’t notice what we are and always have been. When we set out on a spiritual path, we may think that our problem is suffering and we imagine that awakening allows us to still take ourselves to be this separate being, only now free of suffering. In reality, the awakening solves the misidentification problem and not the problems we imagine we have.
Is it true we didn’t know we had the misidentification problem? Perhaps in a literal sense. But many of us on a spiritual path know something is off even if we don’t consciously know exactly what it is.
And while it is true that awakening in itself doesn’t solve our regular human problems, it does provide some support – and a new context – for solving these problems. Mainly, it helps us reorient in how we relate to ourselves and the world (befriend). And it helps us invite in healing for our wounds and traumas. Most if not all of our suffering is created from struggling with ourselves and the world, and from unhealed wounds, hangups, and traumas in ourselves.
How does awakening support healing? The awakening process can bring up unhealed issues in us so they can be seen, examined, befriended, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking that form). It can also help us meet the issues since we know it’s all happening within and as what we are. And it helps us invite these parts of us to shift out of their painful separation consciousness and into more close alignment with reality (Oneness).
Awakening can make it a bit easier, but working with core emotional issues and trauma is always challenging and require skills, patience, sincerity, and recognizing that the emotional issues and trauma are here to protect us (the mind creates them in order to protect us), and they are – as anything else – expressions of what we are or the divine.
What are some of the typical aspects and phases of the awakening process?
I’ll mention a few things here based on my own experience. Not everything is sequential in this process, nor does it all happen or happen within one lifetime. There is also some overlap in this list, and I’ll just briefly touch on each point since other articles here have addressed most of them in more detail.
The following are some of the milestones that may happen in the awakening process.
Relationship with the divine
Our conscious orientation towards or relationship with the divine changes through the awakening process. In general, it goes from perceiving the divine as Other, to a sense of oneness with the divine, to the divine (or what we are) waking up to itself – and out of taking itself as fundamentally a separate being – and realizing it was what it was looking for through it all.
Divine as other
The pre- or early awakening phase often involves viewing and experiencing the divine as Other.
It may start as an interest. Or an intuition or knowing.
There may be glimpses – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine.
There may even be an early awakening of the divine as all, of oneness with the divine as all.
In all of these cases, the divine is Other even when the apparent division seems more subtle. The divine is beginning to wake up to itself as all there is while retaining some of the identification as a separate being.
When I use the word “divine” here, it can be exchanged with consciousness, awakeness, love, Big Mind, what we are, or other similar labels.
What we are noticing itself
Eventually, what we are – that which all content of our experience happens within and as – wakes up to itself. It wakes up out of the dream of ultimately being a separate being. The human self and anything else happens within and as what we are.
What we are living more consciously from and as itself
I hinted about this in the previous segment.
In the very early phases of the awakening, the divine may seem like an idea, something others talk about, and something we don’t have any experience with. Although we may have an intuition or knowing or experience a draw towards it.
Then, there may be glimpses of the divine – perhaps of divine beings or all as the divine. These may be infrequent.
The next phase seems to take many different forms. We may gradually sense the divine everywhere, or all as the divine. Or there may be more sudden and stronger glimpses. And this may get more stable either right away or over time.
At some, we may realize that what we are – fundamentally – is the divine, and what we took ourselves to be – this human self – happens within and as the divine, or within and as what we are.
Again, this may first be an intuition or knowing or come through glimpses, and suddenly or over time it becomes more clear. Over time, it continues to clarify and become more stable – including throughout more and more situations in our daily life.
Global to local
An awakening is generally “global”. It happens in a general sense for or as all of what we are. (It may even seem as if all of existence awakened, but that’s largely a projection and another topic.) And it may seem as if it’s inevitably stable.
After a while, we may notice that things in life trigger something in us that takes the system back into separation consciousness. One way to talk about it is to say that parts of our human self (subpersonalities) are still caught up in emotional wounds, trauma, the past, and separation consciousness. They are reliving traumatic past experiences and the separation consciousness they were created from. They are not yet aligned with the reality of all as the divine. They are not yet awake. Life situations – or our response to them – trigger these issues so they can be seen, felt, explored, and eventually awaken, align with reality, and bring the global awakening into more of these still unawake parts of our human self.
In our life, this may take the form of first assuming the awakening is stable. We then notice that life situations trigger old issues in us, and if the issues are strong enough and core enough to who we take ourselves to be, we may get caught up in them and go into and act from separation consciousness. To the extent we acknowledge and own this, and take it seriously, we can intentionally work on how we relate to these unawake parts in us, and even invite them to heal and align more closely to reality – the reality of Oneness.
Maturing in the awakening
There are many aspects to maturing within the awakening.
One is that the awakening – gradually and over time – becomes ordinary. It is both ordinary and extraordinary. We get used to it. Other things become more interesting to us, like how to befriend unawake parts of us, how to help these different parts of our human self to heal and awaken, how to live from the awakening in more and more situations, how to live so we benefit the larger whole, and so on.
During an initial awakening phase, we may emphasize what we are over who we are. This is natural since we are used to who we are and what we are seems more interesting and perhaps fascinating. As we mature within the awakening, this is balanced out and the two are seen more clearly as aspects of the same – or labels highlighting different sides of this lived Oneness.
Maturing may also mean that we simultaneously become more who we are and more ordinary. We live more from authenticity and we realize more deeply how what’s in this human self is universally human.
Early in the awakening process, we may get on a missionary kick and think others “need” awakening or need to hear about it or do meditation, etc. We may also think that more people need to awaken in order for humanity to be saved. Later on, this tends to calm down. We are obviously open to share when others are interested, but the “shoulds” tend to fall away.
As we mature in the awakening, other things tend to happen that I’ll mention elsewhere in this article. For instance, we may realize it’s an ongoing process and there is not a final or end point.
An initial glimpse or awakening may indeed come with certain states – of bliss, ease, joy, being untouched by old hangups, and so on – but these are byproducts of the initial awakening and like all states they come and go. As we mature in it, we realize it’s not about achieving a state but what we are is here through any and all states and experiences, and the noticing gradually becomes more stable through these states and experiences.
We also realize that although the awakening “solves” the most core “problem” of taking ourselves to be something we are not (a separate being), it doesn’t by itself solve any of our human challenges and problems. We still have to deal with them as any other human being, although from within a different context. In a sense, it solves a problem we didn’t even know we had, and it doesn’t really solve anything else or the problems we know we have!
Embodiment means to live more consciously from what we are in more and more situations in daily life. It happens through the global-to-local process of inviting unawake parts of us to heal and align more closely with reality. And it happens as part of the maturing process. As anything else related to awakening – and being a human being in the world – it’s an ongoing process.
An awakening process is a shift of what we most fundamentally take ourselves to be. So it naturally comes with some challenges. As you’d expect, these can be experienced as mild or severe, can last for shorter or longer periods of time, and any struggle we experience is our own struggle with what’s happening.
Challenges, crises, and dark nights
Here are a few examples of the challenges, crises, and dark nights we can experience in an awakening process.
We can be disoriented, frightened, or feel overwhelmed. This can happen anytime the process enters a new phase, and it really helps to have a general understanding of the process and the guidance of someone who has gone through it and is familiar with the terrain. (Some that you’d expect to be familiar with it – like official spiritual teachers – may not be, and someone you’d not expect to be familiar with it – like an unassuming regular gal or guy – may be.)
Our energy system can go a bit haywire in an awakening process. It helps with nature, physical activity, reducing mental activity, and perhaps energy work like acupuncture or Vortex Healing. (For the first few years for me, it felt like enormous energies went through my system – as if sending high voltage through regular housing wires.)
As mentioned earlier, anything in our human self that’s not aligned with the awakening will eventually surface to be seen, felt, examined, understood, loved, and eventually recognized as the divine (temporarily taking the form of an emotional issue, hangup, trauma). If we have a good amount of trauma in our system (often developmental trauma), this can be an intense, confusing, overwhelming, and challenging process. Again, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who has gone through this process and – in this case – understand trauma. And it helps to understand that unawake parts of us surface to join the global awakeness.
Another form of spiritual crisis comes in the form of loss. An apparent loss of the divine or the awakening. (This helps us meet our neediness around it and ideas that what we are looking for is somewhere else.) A loss of motivation and drive. (Because it came from separation consciousness and needs to come back within more of a oneness context.) Perhaps a loss of status, relationships, health, or more. (Again, helps us meet whatever in us still holds onto ideas about how it should or must be.)
Some things are common for these challenges. For instance, struggle makes them more difficult and painful. And yet, struggle is also part of the process. We struggle until we learn, at a deep level, that the struggle itself is painful and – eventually – not needed.
These challenges also highlight what in us – in our human self – is not yet aligned with reality (the reality of Oneness). It’s an essential part of the awakening and embodiment process. What surfaces and how we deal with it is universal in that it’s shared by many going through this process. And since the unawake parts of us are somewhat unique to us, what surfaces and how we deal with it also takes on a personal flavor.
There are many common pitfalls in the awakening process. I’ll highlight a few without going into them in too much detail.
Relationship with teachers: Unquestioned adoration of teachers and gurus. (Upside: Wholehearted devotion. Downside: Being misled, disappointed, give away our authority. Remedy: See them as temporary guides and coaches.)
Relationship with teachings: See them as set in stone, infallible, and final. (Upside: Temporary honeymoon. Downside: Misled, apply guidelines that don’t work for us, disappointed. Remedy: See them as human-made, guidelines, each one medicine for a particular person and condition.)
Relationship with awakening: Assuming it’s a state. (Upside: Carrot. Downside: Chasing a state. Remedy: Recognize that what we are is always here and notice that.) Thinking there is an end, something final. (Upside: Can temporarily function as a carrot. Downside: Chasing an imagined end. Remedy: Recognize it as an ongoing process.)
Relationship with students (if have students): Encourage projections. (Upside: Learn from the consequences. Downside: Misleading the students. Remedy: Make the projections and their problems explicit, actively discourage them.) Take advantage of student’s projections, fears, hopes, and trust. (Upside: Crash and burn and learn from it. Downside: Harms the students in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Be aware of the dynamic, make it explicit, address the wounds and neediness in us it comes from.)
Relationship with our human self: Assuming the awakening will take care of all our human difficulties and challenges. (Upside: Carrot. Downfall: Disappointment. Remedy: Recognize it won’t and address our human challenges more directly.) Emphasizing what we are over our human self and…. (a) Not addressing our human needs and wounds. (Upside: Temporary imagined relief. Downside: Ignore what needs to be taken care of. Remedy: Realize the wounds and needs are here and address them more directly.) (b) Justify unethical and harmful behavior. (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Harms ourselves and others in an ordinary human way. Remedy: Notice what’s happening, take it seriously, and address it.)
Relationship with others and the world: Using awakening to fuel a particular image and a sense of separation (e.g. tell ourselves we are better than others, more awake, in order to feel better about ourselves and try to fill a very human hole of not feeling good enough, feeling unloved, etc.). (Upside: Crash, burn, and learn from it. Downside: Is out of alignment with reality, act from instead of taking care of own wounds. Remedy: Recognize what’s happening, address our wounds, hangups, and traumas more directly.)
These pitfalls come from believing stories, and they come from acting on our wounds instead of addressing them more directly. We act on unhealed and unawake parts of us, life responds and rubs up against them, and we get a chance to meet these parts of us and invite in healing, clarity, and a closer alignment with reality and oneness. How long this process is and how much pain it entails depends on our sincerity, receptivity, and willingness to look at what’s going on.
These pitfalls are not inherently wrong. They become part of – and fuel for – the awakening and maturing process. At the same time, it’s important to acknowledge the problems and pain that may come from them, for oneself and others, and speak up with firm kindness as appropriate. That’s part of the process as well.
How we view the process
As mentioned before, all of this – the awakening, maturing, healing of our human self, embodiment – is an ongoing process.
If we are caught up in unloved and unexamined fearful thoughts, we may want it to finish and we may have ideas about a final endpoint. But, as Adya says, that’s the “dream of the ego”. I find it’s easier and a relief to instead gently assume all of it is an ongoing process. It also makes it more interesting.
Small or big interpretation
As mentioned in other articles, we can use a small or big interpretation of awakening.
In both, awakening is what we are noticing itself. And what we are is what all our content of experience happens within and as. (We can call this consciousness, or Big Mind, or something else, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.)
In the small or psychological interpretation, we acknowledge that this may happen within a world as it is described by current mainstream science. It may be that the awakening “only” happens within the mind of an actual separate physical human being. The benefit of this interpretation is that it may be more acceptable to people coming from a (currently) mainstream view and understanding of the world.
The big or spiritual interpretation is the more traditional one as described by mystics from and outside of all the main spiritual traditions. Here, we take our immediate experience more at face value. Everything is the divine. Everything – all of existence – is as it appears, it is love and consciousness.
Either way, it doesn’t change anything about the awakening itself. It’s still experienced and described in the same way, it goes through the same phases, and it has the same consequences.
I had the idea of including my own personal experiences more explicitly for each point, but it would make for a longer article and I have addressed much of it in other articles tagged “autobiography”.Read More
When I sometimes write that what I am is not ultimately a separate being, what do I mean?
As who I am, this human self, I am a being that’s not separate from anything. I am both a somewhat autonomous whole in myself and an intrinsic part of a larger whole. I am a part of the seamless living system called Earth and the even larger seamless system of the universe.
As what I am, I am ultimately not a being and not separate. What I am is what the content of my experience – here and now – happen within and as. (We can call this all sorts of things, and those labels also happen within and as what we are.) This human self happens within and as what I am. Any ideas of separation happen within and as what I am.
So it can be understood in at least two different ways.
As who I am, as this human being, I am a being that is not separate from anything. And as what I am, I am ultimately not a being nor separate… although both of those happen within and as what I am.Read More
What’s the purpose of trauma?
There are several answers to this question, partly because meaning is something we create and add to life.
Creation & Maintenance of Trauma
What’s the purpose of the creation and maintenance of trauma?
At an individual level, the main purpose of trauma may be protection. The pain of trauma is an incentive to avoid situations similar to the one initially creating the trauma.
At a collective human level, it’s probably the same. Traumas serve a survival function for our species. When a situation is overwhelming and we feel we can’t cope with it, we create trauma and the pain of the trauma helps us avoid similar situations.
Healing from Trauma
What’s the purpose we find through healing from trauma?
At an individual level, we may get a lot out of exploring and finding healing for our traumas. We obviously learn from the process, we learn how to heal from trauma and perhaps emotional issues in general. We may find we are more mature and humanized. We may be more raw and honest with ourselves and others. We may find ourselves as more real, authentic, and perhaps in integrity. We may have reprioritized and found what’s genuinely important in our life. We may discover the universality of human life and that – even with our individual differences – we are all in the same boat. We may have found a different and more meaningful life path. Our life, in general, may be more meaningful to us. We may have found a deep, raw, and real fellowship with others on a healing path. We may have learned to be more vulnerable with ourselves and others. We may have discovered how the path of healing from traumas fuels, leads into, and perhaps is an integral part of an awakening path. We may discover the deep capacity for healing inherent in ourselves, humans, and life in general.
At a collective level, it’s similar only scaled up and with the extra illumination and richness that comes from the interactions of people with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences. Collectively, we learn about and from healing from trauma. We realize the universality of it, and of our profound capacity for healing. We see that healing from trauma is something we do together and not just individually. We discover that much of what we thought were individual traumas are actually more universal and collective traumas. We discover that culture is not only what gives us much of what we love about human life, but the painful unquestioned assumptions inherent in our culture is what creates much if not most of our pain.
What’s the purpose of the experience of trauma in the bigger picture?
If we assume there is something like rebirth or reincarnation, then the experience of trauma provides food for our healing, maturing, and eventually awakening. It’s the One locally and temporarily taking itself to be a separate being going through a reincarnation process and through that healing, maturing, and eventually awakening to itself as the One. The One the adventure always happened within and as.
Traumas seems an important part of the dialectical evolutionary process of humanity as a species and – by extension – of Earth as a whole. The aspects mentioned above and much more go into this.
And it’s part of the play of life or the universe or the divine. It’s lila. It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. It’s part of the One temporarily and locally experiencing itself as separate.
When I use the word trauma, I mean the traditional one-time-dramatic-event trauma, and perhaps, more importantly, the developmental trauma that most of have from growing up in slightly – or very – dysfunctional families, communities, and cultures.
In a wider sense, any emotional issue, any painful belief, any identification, is a form of trauma and comes from and creates trauma. It’s the trauma inherent in the One temporarily and locally taking itself to fundamentally be a separate being.Read More
Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?
We cannot really know. Even if a Morpheus comes to rescue us, we cannot know that that world is the real one.
And we do know that our perception of the world is filtered through our very limited senses, is pieced together by our brain, and is strongly colored by and filtered through our conscious and less conscious assumptions about ourselves and the world. In a very real sense, we are – collectively and individually – living within our own virtual simulation.
In short, we cannot trust any of the content of our experience. We cannot trust our senses. We cannot trust our interpretations, thoughts, and views about it.
So is there anything we can know for certain? Yes, fortunately. We can trust what we are. We can trust what the content of our experience happens within and as.
We can have fun with how we phrase this:
The content of our experience is unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.
We can also say that who we are, and the world this character lives within, is notoriously unreliable and cannot be trusted. We can only trust what we are.
What is wholeness?
There are several forms of wholeness, all part of the main form of wholeness.
There is the wholeness of what we are. We are that which the content of our experience happens within and as, whether we call this awakeness, consciousness, or something else. This makes our experience into a seamless whole, whether we notice or not.
As soon as the mind believes its thoughts and latches onto the viewpoints of some of these thoughts, there is an experience of fragmentation and it’s more difficult to notice what we are.
The process of what we are noticing itself is called awakening. And the process of living from this in more situations in our life is called embodiment.
There is also a wholeness of who we are, as this human self. Again, the wholeness is already here. And yet, there is also a sense of fragmentation since we tend to identify with some of who we are and disown or ignore other parts of who we are. The process of finding our wholeness as who we are is what Jung called individuation.
There is also the wholeness of the world and the universe. The Earth is one seamless living and evolving system. The universe is also one seamless evolving system. And we – as human individuals and species with our culture – are an intrinsic part of those systems.
Finally, there is the wholeness of all of existence. Whether we use a small (psychological) or big (spiritual) interpretation of awakening, we can say that all of existence is one. We can also say that everything is existence exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself.
How do we explore these forms of wholeness? I have written many articles on each of them but I’ll say a few words here.
To explore the wholeness of what we are, we can use inquiry (Headless experiments, Big Mind Process, Living Inquiries, etc.), often combined with meditation (basic meditation, quiet prayer, training stable attention), and perhaps mindful movement (yoga, taichi, Breema, etc.).
To explore the wholeness of who we are, we can use psychology (parts work, shadow work, projection work), bodywork, relationship work, and more.
When we explore the wholeness of Earth and the universe, we can use systems views and integral (aqal) maps.
And what about the wholeness of all of existence? It includes all of the above, although we can most directly explore it as we explore what we are.
Note: The examples of approaches above are just the ones I have found useful. What works for you may be different, and what I use in the future will probably also change as I discover other approaches.Read More
There are (at least!) two general forms of prayer.
One is prayer asking for my life to change.
The other is prayer inviting the divine to change me.
The first type of prayer is perhaps what many think of first. It’s the “dear God, please do this for me” type of prayer.
The second is a form of prayer that can be profoundly transformative. In its most explicit form, we find it in the Jesus or Heart Prayer, and also in the Christ meditation. Any form of spiritual practice, when done with heart and sincerity, is an invitation for the divine to work on and change us as a human and divine being. So any type of spiritual practice can become this prayer. (Including basic meditation.)
We can do it from the view of me as a human being inviting and allowing the divine to transform me – all of me, through and through. (Including what seems the most essential in me, and what “I” may hold onto and cherish the most.) And it can also, if it happens on its own, be a resting as the divine recognizing itself as all there is.
Note: I gave a couple of examples from the Christian tradition since that’s what I have the most experience with, but this goes for all traditions and non-traditions. If I use a more theistic language, I would say that there is one God and many religions and spiritual traditions, and all of them have some good pointers.
What is oneness?
The most basic oneness is what’s here now. In immediate experience, for all of us, all our experience happens within and as what we are. The content of our experience happens within and as what we are.
We can call this consciousness or love, or awakeness, or the void all happens within and as, but those are labels. The labels tempt the mind into thinking it has got it while it’s not anything that can be gotten conceptually. It’s what we are.
Awakening means that what we are wakes up to itself. Glimpses itself. Notices itself. Notices itself more and more clearly as what any experience happens within and as, including as that which this personality and this conditioning like the very least.
Why is this not always noticed? Because mind likes to identify as parts of the content of its experience. Mind likes to take itself as a me (this human self) and an I (the observer, doer, etc.). It’s not wrong but it’s incomplete. It creates an experience of duality, of I here and the wider world out there, and that’s all there is to it.
That duality is valid in a functional or pragmatic sense. It’s helpful to take this human self as what I am, in a pragmatic sense. But it’s not the whole picture.
In immediate experience, “I” am what my whole field of experience happens within and as. That is, in a sense, a more fundamental identity. Although it’s not an “identity”, it’s just what we are.
We can see this in a couple of different ways. One is that the fundamental reality of the world is of me as a human self in the physical world, and it’s only in my experience all appears as consciousness. All appears as consciousness because that’s how it has to be in my experience since I am consciousness. This is the small or psychological interpretation and it’s a possible and valid interpretation.
The other is that reality is more directly as it appears. All is actually consciousness, all of reality is and happens within and as consciousness. We can say all is the divine or whatever name(s) we have for the divine (Spirit, the One, Brahman, Allah, Big Mind etc.). This is the big or spiritual interpretation and is also valid.
There is another form of oneness, or another oneness within the first oneness: the oneness of this universe. It’s one seamless whole, one seamless system. This system is what has formed itself into stars and planets, this living planet, and everything that’s part of this living planet (including us humans and all our experience). As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, feelings, and thoughts of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness.
I should mention that within the small interpretation of awakening, the physical world – including our own physical body – appears as consciousness because it happens within and as consciousness. (Which is what we are.) In the big interpretation of awakening, the physical world actually is as it appears to us, it is consciousness.
In either case, we can investigate, with guidance, how our mind creates its own experience of the physical world, and perhaps of this physical world as real in itself, as solid, as dense and material. As we investigate this – and as we find ourselves as that which all our experience happens within and as – what we call the physical world will appear less and less solid to us and more as consciousness. In that sense, it will appear more and more as a dream (happening within and as consciousness).
How can we notice oneness and live more from it? This is, in a way, the main question of spiritual practice so it’s too big to address here. I’ll just mention that the easiest way to have a glimpse of oneness may be through inquiry (Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, Headless experiments, etc.). And Practices to Reconnect is an excellent way to deepen into the second form of oneness.
To me, healing, maturing and awakening is partly about discernment, differentiation, and clarifying in what particular ways something is true.
In modern spirituality, we sometimes hear people say that we create our own reality. This can be understood in slightly naive (misguided and less helpful) ways, but there is also some truth to it.
So how is it true for me?
In general, I see that my perception of anything is filtered through and created by an overlay of stories – of images and words. And most these are often not even noticed, unless we have spent some time exploring and noticing them intentionally.
Also, as what we are – that which any experience happens within and as – we can say that we “create” our world. Our experience of anything is an expression of the creativity of the mind.
And if we are so inclined, we can say that what we are is the divine, everything is the divine, and the divine creates all these experiences for itself.
There is a related question: are we creating the situations we find ourselves in?
Sometimes, because we live from our limited experience and perception, and sometimes our hangups, wounds, and identifications, that creates situations for us. We sometimes sit in the nest we built ourselves. This is the conventional and ordinary way of looking at it.
I mostly find it helpful to look for how I can use my current situation to heal, mature, and awaken.
It can be helpful to assume that life “wants” me to heal, mature, and awaken. Life sets up situations for me where I can see what’s left, with an invitation for me to invite in healing, maturing, and awakening for whatever in me needs it.
From a bigger perspective, we can say that life creates situations for itself that invites in local healing, maturing, and awakening through this part of itself that’s this human me.
I don’t know if it’s true in any absolute or final sense, but I find it a helpful guide.
I can also do another what if exercise. What if something in me created this situation? Which emotional issue, belief, or identification in me would create it? (This is similar to the – somewhat naive – assumption that we are creating our own situations, but the what-if angle gives it a lighter and more playful touch.)
How has this played out in my own life? This topic is current for me now in a few difficult situations. One is my health (CFS and Lyme) and another is a recent process with the government which took longer than I expected (the wait had some ripple effects).
Some may say (and have said) that I am creating the situations for myself. For instance, I have created the illness. When I try that assumption on, I find it creates stress in me and weird thought patterns. It feels more helpful to see the situation in a more conventional way and use a couple of what-if thought experiments to harvest the value in the situation.
I can look at the situation in a more finely grained way, and in a way that’s more real and honest to me. For instance:
Have I created the CFS and Lyme disease for myself? Not really as they are caused by a virus (EB) and Lyme. And yet, it may be that stress and some stressful beliefs and identifications in me weakened my system and created the conditions for these to move into a full-blown disease. It’s good to address this. It’s very helpful for me to strengthen my system in any way I am able, including through reducing stress and clearing up any chronic stressful beliefs and identifications in me.
The illness has brought to light many areas of myself where I resist my life as it is (other stressful beliefs and identifications), and it’s helpful for me and my quality of life to address these. I can use the illness and the situations I find myself in due to the illness to identify and invite healing for these parts of me.
I can ask myself what if I created this illness, where in me was it created from? (I find a victim identity, overwhelmed by life, and perhaps a desire to hide from life.)
Did I create the delay with the government process? No, I found myself in the same situation as others in the same process. The delay was caused by many social factors, including restructuring and priorities. And yet, here too, I can find stressful beliefs and identifications triggered in me by this situation and invite in healing for these. If life placed me in that situation so I can find deeper healing, which parts of me need healing? Which wounded parts of me were triggered? (Victim, hopelessness.) What did the situation say about me? (I am a victim.) And what if something in me created it, which wounded parts of me would that be? (A victim expecting things to take longer than expected.)
In this way, I acknowledge the validity in conventional ways of looking at life. I benefit from assuming that life is conspiring on my behalf and places me in situations so I can heal, mature, and awaken and find healing and awakening for more parts of me. And I can even benefit from the angle (held lightly as a what-if question) that something in me created it.