This is another topic I feel drawn to revisit.
What are we in our own first-person experience? What are we to ourselves? What is the world to us?
We can explore this in our own direct experience, and that can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and our human self.
And we can also explore it logically, which can lead to and possibly support a more immediate exploration.
When I explore it logically, arriving at what we are – our nature – seems inevitable. And perhaps it looks that way since I have explored it in my immediate noticing since my teens. I shape the steps to fit what I notice in immediacy.
THE INEVITABILITY OF WHAT WE ARE
What are these logical steps apparently arriving at the inevitability of what we are?
Here is one version:
- There is consciousness.
- This is indisputable, as far as I can tell.
- This consciousness has content.
- We label this content this human self, others, the wider world, and so on.
- All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – are content of consciousness.
- To ourselves, we are consciousness.
- All the content of our experience comes and goes. Nothing stays.
- This also applies to our human self and any ideas we have about our human self.
- This human self is more ephemeral than we may tell ourselves. This human self comes and goes. For instance, in a dream we may be someone else or not present at all. Our experience of this human self, including our ideas about it, is always changing.
- To ourselves, we are more fundamentally consciousness.
- The world, to us, happens within and as what we are.
- To us, the world happens within and as consciousness, what we are to ourselves.
- Our nature forms itself into the world as we experience it here and now.
- We are capacity.
- One characteristic of consciousness is capacity.
- Consciousness is capacity for any and all of the content of its experience.
- We are capacity for the world, as it appears to us.
- We are oneness.
- Any content of experience happens within and as consciousness.
- This consciousness forms itself into any and all content of experience, including this human self, others, the world, and so on.
- Consciousness is one, no matter what experience it forms itself into.
- To ourselves, we are oneness.
- Separation consciousness
- Consciousness can take itself to primarily be one particular part of its content.
- Consciousness can take itself to be this human self, a doer, an observer, and any concept.
- This is how separation consciousness is created.
- Consciousness can notice itself as consciousness.
- This is what some spiritual traditions call awakening.
- It can happen through intention, practice, or without any conscious work or desire.
- The noticing happens here and now, and learning to keep noticing, clarifying, deepening, and living from it is a process.
- This process is ongoing and has no finishing line.
- The essence of this has been described by people across time and cultures, it seems universal.
- Mystics from all the major spiritual traditions, and outside of any tradition, talk about finding themselves as capacity (“God-head”), oneness, and so on. And they speak in very similar ways about the process leading up to noticing, and the process of living from this noticing.
- A psychological understanding of awakening
- This is a more psychological understanding of awakening.
- It doesn’t rely on spirituality or spiritual terminology, although what it describes is the same.
- It says something about what we are in our own first-person experience.
- It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality. It doesn’t rely or depend on words like Spirit, God, or Brahman.
- That makes it more accessible to people independent on their existing worldviews.
- And it can also provide common ground for people who are exploring and finding this, independent on whatever spiritual tradition or religion – if any – they belong to.
I realize that some may have arguments with some or all of these steps. That’s the job of the mind.
For instance, someone may agree that to ourselves, we are consciousness, oneness, etc. And yet, they may not see it as possible for consciousness to “wake up” to itself in this way because it’s outside of their current experience and the worldview they are familiar with.
I also realize that this can seem abstract and intellectual if we haven’t tasted it for ourselves, in our immediate noticing. (In my case, the noticing came before finding this apparent logic.)
And I am sure there are other ways of phrasing this that are more to the point and make more sense.
SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS AND AWAKENING
I thought I would say a few more words about separation consciousness and awakening since that’s of particular interest to me.
For me, the essence of how separation consciousness and awakening plays itself out also has a logic in it. Although there is a wild diversity in how each is expressed and lived out, there is also an apparent inevitability in its essence.
The oneness we are can take itself as fundamentally something in particular within the content of experience. Typically, this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.
This happens, at least partially, through social learning. We are taught to take ourselves to be, most fundamentally, this human self. So we are good boys and girls and play the game so well we overlook our nature.
The specific ways separation consciousness unfolds is individual and always different.
And yet, there are some universals that inevitably come with separation consciousness.
This game of separation consciousness comes with inherent struggle and stress. Seeing ourselves as most fundamentally an object in the world, at the mercy of innumerable other objects, creates struggle and is stressful. And operating from a view out of alignment with reality does the same.
We also tend to operate from several blind projections. We see characteristics in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. This comes from and reinforces a sense of fundamentally being an I with an Other.
THE AWAKENING PROCESS
We don’t completely forget. Our nature is, inevitably, what’s most familiar to us. It’s all we ever know.
Here are some typical phases of the awakening process, and with the benefit of hindsight, the process looks relatively logical.
We may have a longing for finding ourselves again as oneness. At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. For me, it was a profound longing for coming home.
We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.
We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under an open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)
We may engage in spiritual practice and explore maps from others more familiar with the terrain.
In the best case, this helps reorient us so it’s easier to notice our nature and live from this noticing.
We then notice our nature. Oneness notices itself.
If it’s without bells and whistles, it’s possible we’ll tell ourselves it’s too simple and obvious and keep looking for something else.
If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.
We then realize this is about keeping noticing our nature. We can learn to notice it independent of and through changing states and experiences. Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.
Living from it
Here, we explore how to live from this noticing. How do I live from a conscious noticing of oneness in this situation?
This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.
Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.
An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.
Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.
We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.
This process is always individual. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.
This is just an idealized and generalized outline. For instance, I have gone through or lived each of these steps or aspects, but not in the order outlined here.
- The inevitability of what we are and how it plays itself out
- to ourselves, are consciousness
- Capacity, oneness, love
- Separation consciousness
- Mistaken identity
- Projections, see there and not here and the other way round
- Stress, longing, struggle
- Awakening and awakening process, learning to notice and live from it
- Interest, intuition, longing, resonance
- Glimpse, keep noticing, shift
- Dark nights, wearing off parts of separation consciousness
- to ourselves, are consciousness
In a certain sense, what we are in our own first-person experience is inevitable from a logical point of view.
And there is also a kind of inevitability in how it plays itself out when there is separation consciousness, and in general how the awakening process unfolds. There is a logic in the essence of it.
In our own first-person experience, our nature is inevitable from a certain logical point of view.
- This is a psychological understanding of awakening
- Spirituality – at least in the sense of religions or spiritual traditions – is not required to understand this.
Here are a few logical steps that, to me, arrive at the inevitability of our nature – what we are to ourselves and how the world appears to us.
BIG MIND DIALOGUE
Big Mind, what do you have to say about this?
Yes, it’s not wrong.