Space as Analogy (and more than that)

Since I was a kid, I have had a deep facination with outer space and Earth-bound nature as well.

One of my first “awakenings” was watching the Cosmos series on TV as a kid, and experiencing not only the awe of the infinity and beauty of this universe, but also that I am seamlessly part of this universe. I, as a human being, is made of stardust and am intimately connected with the whole of the universe, including all the stars I see in the night sky.

We, who embody the local eyes and
ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos,
we have begun, at last, to wonder at our origins.

Starstuff contemplating the stars.

Organized collections of ten billion billion
billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of matter,
tracing that long path by which it arrived
at consciousness here on the planet Earth
and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

– Carl Sagan, in Cosmos

This was my first introduction to deep ecology, deep time and evolutionary spirituality, and one that gave me a taste of the profound shift that comes from taking this in, allowing myself to soak in it, allowing it to work in me, allowing me to experiencing this directly – and the deep sense of intimacy, connection of no separation that comes with it, of the sense of belonging to the Universe. Coming from a science oriented rational culture and family, where we and everything are all fragments with tenous connections at best, it was a profound revolution in how I experience the world.

Exploring space and mind

A few years later, as I started exploring these things in my mid and late teens, I also became aware of how outer space can be seen as an analogy for the mind and the explorations of the mind.

When we are identified only as frgaments of our human self, then it is similar to being on the surface of this planet and only knowing the local region.

Then, as we get to know ourselves as a whole beyond and including our psyche and body, it is similar to for the first time seeing the Earth from local space, as a whole. This centaur awakening may come about through various forms of body-oriented or -inclusive practices, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema and so on, maybe in combination with meditation practice. First, it comes through a taste, and is then more stable. (For me, now, the experience of my human self as a whole beyond and including psyche and body is so familiar that I usually don’t even notice, until I am reminded of the integral map and the centaur level, or talk with someone who experiences their human self differently.)

We can then venture beyond, into finding ourselves at the soul level, as essence, which may be similar to seeing the solar system as a whole. There is the human self, as the Earth, and there is the local area around it, the soul level, timeless, giving a sense of direction and guidance, of quiet bliss and joy, as the sun and the other planets.

Going further out, into (mostly) empty space, can be seen as similar to finding ourselves as pure awareness, as seeing, as Witness. Here, I am empty space and awareness, witnessing whatever happens, witnessing the distant stars and galaxies. If there is a relatively strong sense of I here, placed on pure seeing, it can be somewhat cold and detached, although that can be a useful exploration as well.

Then, going even further out to seeing – or rather being, the universe as a whole, it all shifts again. The Ground awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere, free of any beliefs in the idea of I, allowing everything to happen, embracing and including all polarities. This is the nondual. There is absolute intimacy with everything, yet no I anywhere.

Space as more than just an analogy

One of the surprises for me, when Ground awakened to its own nature (for a couple of months last fall), was how physical space awakened. The nature of this mind is really the physical space which allows anything and everything to manifest, from stars and galaxies to clouds, birds, cities and people, to sensations, emotions, thoughts and experiences. It is the same crystal clear space that allows all of these manifestations. It is this very ordinary space which awakens to its own nature. It is this space that everything arises within and as.

When Ground awakened to its own nature, still functionally connected to this particular human self, it was the Ground of everything that awoke to itself, the Ground of the universe that awoke to its own nature. And this is reflected in what Sakyamuni Buddha said upon his awakening, All sentient beings, the great earth, and I have awakened together. This is the literal realization, although it is the Ground of all sentient beings, the great earth and the whole of the universe that awakens to its own nature, functionally connected to this particular human self. It does not mean that this awakening is consciously reflected in or through the lives of all these sentient beings, because it is obviously not.

There was a quiet shock in seeing that it is this space, that we all know so well from everyday life, that awakens to its own nature – crystal clear, empty, allowing all manifestations to freely come and go as they do, with no I anywhere.

Saying that physical space awakens to its own nature is also just an analogy, an approximation. It may be more accurate to say that the Ground that awakens to itself has no space or time, it is space/timeless, yet allows for (the appearance of) space and time.

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