Exploring what appears as most unenlightened

Here are two basic forms of inquiry:

Notice all as awareness.

And notice how appearances are created here now.

And as we get more familiar with these explorations, it is natural to take this exploration to what appears as most unenlightened.

What appears most unenlightened to me here and now?

A sense of density. Solidity where my feet meet the floor? Solidity in certain areas of the body, perhaps where there is tension?

A sense of dullness. Lack of clarity. Confusion?

Reactive emotions?

Stuck in a particular viewpoint? Rigid beliefs?

A sense of me as this human self in the world? A sense of I as a doer or observer?

Can I notice that too as awareness? The play of awake no thing? Insubstantial? Ephemeral?

How does it appear in the sense fields? How do these combine to create the appearance of solidity, dullness, reactive emotions, beliefs, a sense of me or I?

As I continue to explore this, even the apparently most “unenlightened” is revealed as what it is: The play of awareness itself, already and inherently empty of an I.

Even identification as an I is revealed this way. The appearance of identification is here, and at the same time a recognition of it as awareness itself, and also – to some extent – how this appearance of identification as an I is created (can always go further there).

How does it appear in the field of sensations? Sight? Sound? Smell? Taste?

How does it appear in the mental field? What images are there? What (often wordless) interpretations do I find in the mental field?

What happens when these images are taken as real, true and solid? What happens when they are recognized as images? As awareness itself?

This practice can be very helpful in daily life. I can start with the more easy things. For instance, when I close my eyes, can I notice my images of this body or room as images? What are these images made up of? Are they awareness itself? And as I get more familiar with these explorations, I can take them to the things that appear more solid, real, and – yes – “unenlightened”.

I can even use these apparently “unenlightened” things as reminders for this exploration, and explore as it happens.

These explorations are of particular interest to me, also because I realize that this is what “I” missed during the periods of awakening. There was a genuine and quite clear awakening. And also, somehow, still a belief that some appearances meant this awakening was “lost”. Dullness, reactivity, identification etc. was taken as a sign that the recognition was lost, it all snowballed, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So although this practice is all about here and now, the familiarity with these types of explorations may also be useful when there is an awakening. It sets an intention to notice whatever happening as (a) awareness itself, and (b) appearances created through the overlay of images on the other sense fields, and there is some familiarity with these explorations.

What practices may be most useful? For noticing all as awareness, I find the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, choiceless awareness/shikantaza, and exploring the sense fields as all very helpful. And for noticing the dynamics behind appearances, The Work and exploring the sense fields are both excellent in slightly different ways.

Hm. I notice writing about it this way feels quite formulaic. A little stiff, abstract, and predictable. And yet, it comes from an alive exploration. I’ll try to write it as if it is for a particular person next time.


– actively go after what appears as most unenlightened
– actively go after what appears least as awake, clear etc. (what appears most dense, real, solid, substantial, confused, unclear, unenlightened)


Notice all as awareness + the dynamics behind what appears

– notice
— (a)  all as awareness
— (b) the dynamics creating the appearance (e.g. in the sense fields)
– helpful
— (i) here now
— (ii) within awakening, helps clarify, stabilize, is a more familiar terrain

  • exploring what looks the least clear
    • examples
      • what appears the most as “I”
      • what appears least clear – confusion, reactive emotions, dullness, beliefs, identification etc.
      • what appears most solid, real, substantial
    • explore
      • explore how these appearances are created, the mechanisms, dynamics, notice as it happens
    • effects
      • appears less solid, real, substantial, recognize as mind made, recognize the dynamics behind it, how the appearances are created
      • when there is a more thorough shift, then have some experience and familiarity with exploring this
    • natural progression
      • start with the easy and in easy situations
      • then expand into the less obvious + more (apparently) difficult situations
      • for me, genuine awakenings, but didn’t recognize this – silly, understandable, innocent, and learn from it hopefully (took reactivity, identification etc. as a problem, didn’t recognize as the play of awareness as it happened, even if I knew it obviously was just that, attention went elsewhere, into stories about it, fear)

– common progression
— genuine recognition in glimpses/periods
— but when confusion, dullness, reactivity, identification returns, tell ourselves “it is lost”, believe that story, don’t recognize that too as the play of awareness, and that it can be recognized as awareness in the midst of dullness, reactivity, identification etc. (of course, by recognizing this, the expression of dullness etc. is changed too – sense of more space, of play)
— nothing is left out, whatever it is, however “unenlightened” we may tell ourselves it is, that too can be recognized as the play of awareness, can notice the dynamics, how these appearances are created

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