Why is (what we discover through) awakening difficult to put into words?

What we find through awakening – our more fundamental nature – is notoriously difficult to put into words.

It’s not because it’s far removed. (Our nature is what’s most familiar to us and what we already are.) Or that it’s so amazing that words don’t do it justice. (It’s becomes very ordinary as we get more familiar with noticing it and living from it, although it’s also extraordinary.)

It’s because words have another function.

WHAT ARE WORDS?

Words are mental representations.

They are questions about the world. They are maps of the world.

They are made up of mental images and sounds. And when we hear or read the words of others, we have our own mental images and words that helps us make sense of them.

Words helps us communicate with ourselves and others. They even allow us to communicate with people we will never meet or people who live long after we are gone.

THE FUNCTION OF WORDS

Our experience is, whether we notice or not, as seamless whole. To us, the world – this human self, others, the wider world – is a seamless whole that happens within our sense fields.

To orient and function as human beings in the world, we need mental representations that splits this whole into parts. We mentally differentiate within this seamless whole in order to make sense of the world.

This helps us orient and function in the world, and also communicate with ourselves and others.

That’s the magic and amazing gift of words and mental representations in general.

THE LIMITS OF WORDS

At the same time, words and mental representations have their limits.

They cannot hold any final, full or fundamental truth for several reasons.

They are different in kind from what they point to. They are maps, and maps are not the terrain.

They are simplified representations. Reality is always more than and different from our ideas about it. And it’s also simpler.

And they are also guesses about the world. Sometimes educated guesses, and still guesses.

These are some of the limitations inherent in mental representations, including words.

There is another limitation of mental representations that is more to the point here. And that is that they differentiate within oneness. 

To ourselves, we are oneness, whether we notice or not. And the function of words is to split the world, not to represent oneness. 

That means they are not very good at describing what we are. They can point to it. They can orient us to notice it for ourselves. And they cannot describe oneness itself very successfully.

THE BEST WAY TO USE WORDS

The best way to use words is to recognize their function and limits. 

We can recognize they are questions about the world. They are provisional maps. 

They help us orient and function in the world. 

They cannot capture any final, full, or absolute truth. 

And when it comes to awakening, they can guide us to notice what we are. Either indirectly through various practices, or more directly through different forms of inquiry. 

UNDERSTANDING THE STORY VS NOTICING FOR OURSELVES

We can use words to – very inadequately – describe our nature

For instance, here is how I sometimes describe it:

My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. And the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am.

That’s the best I can do. These types of inadequate descriptions can be one of several pointers for others to find it for themselves, although more structured guided inquiry is far more effective and to the point.

There is also a drawback inherent in these types of descriptions. We can understand the words, at a conceptual level, and that’s different from finding it for ourselves.

A conceptual understanding doesn’t, in itself, lead to any transformation. And finding it for ourselves, and keeping noticing and exploring how to live from it, can be profoundly transforming – for our sense of fundamental identity, perception, how we live our life, and our human self and psyche.

At most, these types of descriptions are a good first step. They can wet the appetite for exploring it for ourselves.

And when we notice our nature for ourselves, we see that – or whether – the words fit.


INITIAL DRAFT

WHY IS AWAKENING DIFFICULT TO PUT INTO WORDS?

What we find through awakening – our more fundamental nature – is notoriously difficult to put into words.

Not because it’s far removed, or so amazing that words don’t do it justice. (Our nature is what’s most familiar to us and what we already are.) But because words have another function.

Words split the seamless whole of reality into parts. They help us differentiate within the seamless whole of reality. They are provisional guesses, guides, and maps about the world. And that helps us function and orient in the world.

And that also means they are not very good at describing oneness. They can point to it. They can provide guidance in noticing it for ourselves. And they cannot describe oneness itself very successfully.

Words and mental representations are very good at what they do, in providing provisional pointers and orientations for us to function in the world. They cannot hold any final or fundamental truth since they are different in kind from what they point to. (They are simplified representations).

And they are not very good at describing our nature since that’s not their function. They can point to it, and they can orient us to notice our own nature, and that’s about it.

How would I use words to describe my nature? My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. And the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am. That’s the best I can do. This can be one of several pointers for others to find it for themselves, often supported by more guided inquiry.

And there is also a drawback here since understanding the words is different from finding it for ourselves. At most, it’s a good first step.

In itself, it provides no transformation. Only noticing it for ourselves, and keeping noticing and exploring how to live from it, provides transformation.

DRAFT TWO

What we find through awakening – our more fundamental nature – is notoriously difficult to put into words.

It’s not because it’s far removed, or so amazing that words don’t do it justice. (Our nature is what’s most familiar to us and what we already are.)

It’s because words have another function.

THE FUNCTION OF WORDS

What’s the function of words and mental representations?

They help us orient and function in the world.

The magic of words is to split the seamless whole of reality into apparent parts. They help us differentiate within the seamless whole of reality. And that helps us function and orient in the world.

They are guesses about the world. They provide provisional pointers and maps. And they help us orient and function in the world.

Words are very good at what they do, as are mental representations in general.

The magic of words is to split the seamless whole of reality into apparent parts. They help us differentiate within the seamless whole of reality. And that helps us function and orient in the world.

They are excellent in providing provisional pointers and maps for us to function in the world.

THE LIMITS OF WORDS

At the same time, words and mental representations have their limits.

They cannot hold any final or fundamental truth since they are different in kind from what they point to. (They are simplified representations).

And that also means they are not very good at describing oneness. They can point to it. They can provide guidance for us to notice it for ourselves. And they cannot describe oneness itself very successfully.

And they are not very good at describing our nature since that’s not their function. They can point to it, and they can orient us to notice our own nature, and that’s about it.

UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES OF TRYING TO DESCRIBE IT

How would I use words to describe my nature?

My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. And the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am. That’s the best I can do. This can be one of several pointers for others to find it for themselves, often supported by more guided inquiry.

And there is also a drawback here since understanding the words is different from finding it for ourselves. At most, it’s a good first step.

UNDERSTANDING THE WORDS VS NOTICING FOR OURSELVES

Understanding the words doesn’t provide much if any transformation. And noticing our nature for ourselves, keeping noticing it, and exploring how to live from it, sets the stage for a profound transformation of our most fundamental identity, our perception, how we live our life, and of our human self and psyche.

DRAFT FRAGMENTS

They split the seamless whole inherent in the world and our experience into apparent parts, and this allows us to mentally differentiate within the seamless whole of reality. This helps us orient and function in the world, and also communicate with ourselves and others.

That’s the magic of words and mental representations in general.

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