Awakening & reversals: figure-ground and subject-object reversals

When we notice what we are, it’s – in many ways – a reversal of perception. And we can talk about this reversal in a couple of ways.

FIGURE-GROUND REVERSAL

It’s a kind of figure-ground reversal.

We thought we most fundamentally were this human self, or at least a separate self. And the rest of the world is a kind of background for this separate self.

And we find that all – this human self and the wider world – happens within our sense fields, which is a seamless whole, and which is what we are. We are what all of it, all our experiences including of this human self and the wider world, happens within and as.

We are what previously was the context.

Also, we find ourselves as what previously was so much in the background that we may not even have consciously noticed it. We find ourselves as capacity for it all.

SUBJECT-OBJECT REVERSALS

When we notice what we are, and this becomes more familiar and our new habit, there is also a reversal of subject and object.

What we previously took as a subject is now an object.

We toook ourselves to be this human self with all sorts of identities and roles. More specifically, we took ourselves to be what certain thoughts told us we were. We identified with the viewpoint of these stories.

When we notice what we are, all of these become objects. We see all of it as happening within and as what we are. We find ourselves as capacity for all of it. We recognize these thoughts as thoughts, and not who or what we are.

Similarly, what we previously took as an object now becomes a subject.

Previously, we identified as this human self, and really just aspects or ideal identities for this human self. Anything else – the wider world and anything in this human self we didn’t recognize as ourself – was other, it was an object to us.

When we notice what we are, we find ourselves as what our whole field of perception happens within and as. To us, all of this human self and all of the wider world happens within and as what we are.

It’s all an object in that we notice it’s happening within us and it all comes and goes and lives its own life. And it’s all a subject since it’s happening as what we are.

When we take ourselves as most fundamentally this human self, and a separate being, we also tend to take this ordinary awakeness, and consciousness, as other. That too becomes an object to us. We have consciousness. This ordinary and familiar awakeness comes and goes. In our mind, we are here when we are in deep sleep, and the awakeness has temporarily gone.

And when we notice what we are, this also reverses. We find ourselves as this ordinary awakeness. When we are in deep sleep, the world goes away. And we find ourselves as what we can label consciousness. To us, all experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as what we are, which we can call consciousness.

And, again, we find ourselves as capacity for all of it. We find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else, including all of these words and labels. If we noticed this capacity previously, it would be as a concept and other, as something somehow inherent in the world and existence. Now, we find ourselves as it.

REVERSALS

When we notice what we are, and especially if its sudden, we can feel that everything is turned upside-down and inside-out. And these reversals of perception is a big part of the reason.

It can be disorienting, and also very familiar at the same time. We are noticing what we are, and we have always been familiar with that even if we haven’t consciously noticed.

PERSONAL STORY

I wrote about this from a third-person view, but this is also my story. When I was sixteen, this reversal happened suddenly and dramatically.

I did feel that everything had turned upside-down and inside-out. This human self, that I had taken as most fundamentally who and what I was, suddenly happened as part of the whole of existence. And all was God. Even this human self, and the play of (temporarily and locally) taking itself as this human self, was God. There was/is nothing but God.

And it was all also profoundly familiar. This was home. All as God is home.

When I write about this, I use the big or spiritual view on awakening. I talk about God since that was the language I had at the time. These days, I prefer to explore the small view on awakening, use a more ordinary and secular language, and point to something we all can find here and now without any big shifts or dramatic awakenings.

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