There is a logical inevitability to what we are.
There is a logic to what we are in our own first-person experience.
There is a logic to what we find when we are guided, and when we set aside thoughts telling us what we are.
THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW & WHAT I FIND
The conventional view is that we are this human self in the world. I am a human being in the world that has consciousness. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.
But is this what I find when we take a closer look in my own immediate experience? Here, I find I more fundamentally am something else.
I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experience. I find am what any experience happens within and as. And I find there is a logical inevitability to this.
THE LOGIC OF OUR WHAT WE ARE: THE SIMPLE VERSION
Why is there a logical inevitability to what we are?
The simple version is that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.
The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.
And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.
THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE ARE IN MORE DETAIL
I’ll go into this in a little more detail.
(1) If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.
Consciousness is not some appendix we happen to have. (The only way it can look that way is if we: (a) Assume we most fundamentally are an object in the world with consciousness somehow attached to it. And (b) don’t examine it very closely.)
If we “have” consciousness, it means that we perceive “through” that consciousness. It means that all our experiences happen within and as that consciousness. It means that what receives any and all experiences is that consciousness. And that means that, to ourselves, we have to BE that consciousness. There is no other option.
(2) The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.
The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. We are that consciousness.
That means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.
And by “the world” I mean any and all content of experience including the wider, this human self, thoughts, feelings, states, and so on.
Anything that appears in any sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought – happens within and as the consciousness we are.
(3) And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.
Here are some of these characteristics:
Oneness. The consciousness we are is one. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as the oneness we are. Our experience of anything and everything inevitably happens within the oneness we are. (If our system is invested in a perception of separation, we may not notice that oneness, but that’s another matter.)
Timeless. To ourselves, our nature is timeless. It just is. And since the world happens within and as what we are, that too is timeless to us. Time happens within and as what we are. It’s not fundamental to what we are.
Spaceless. Similarly, to ourselves, our nature is spaceless and the world appears spaceless. Any sense of space happens within and as what we are, it’s not fundamental to our nature.
Love. We can also say that our nature is love. Love is a natural expression of the oneness we are recognizing itself. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. (It’s always here but it’s dependent on not being too obscured by our separation-consciousness hangups to be expressed.)
Not a thing. As consciousness, we are not a thing. And since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – is not a thing. It’s all happening more like a dream, within and as consciousness, than anything else. (Again, being caught up in separation consciousness can make the world appear very much as a thing, and there is some truth to that too.)
Ephemeral. Any and all experience is ephemeral. It’s gone before we consciously realize we have noticed it. In this way too, everything is dreamlike. (Any sense of permanence is created by the overlay of our mental field.)
Capacity. As consciousness, our more fundamental nature is capacity. We are capacity for any and all experiences. We are what allows it all. We are what all happens within and as.
Always here. Our nature is, inevitably, always here. It may not recognize itself, but it’s here. It’s what we already are.
NO IDEOLOGY OR SPIRITUALITY REQUIRED
No ideology or spirituality is required to explore this. It’s just what we find (or not) when we look.
What we find is what mystics throughout history and from any tradition have described. And yet, it’s not dependent on any religion, spirituality, or ideology.
If anything, it reveals that any religion, spirituality, and ideology is human-created, it’s created by our mental field. At most, and in this context, it reflects a direct noticing and can offer some pointers for how to explore it for ourselves.
HOW CAN WE EXAMINE IT FOR OURSELVES?
So how can we examine it for ourselves?
I’ll mention a few approaches I have found especially helpful.
Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are two of the most simple, direct, and effective approaches I have found so far.
Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Over time, we realize that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including what we may take ourselves to be. So what are we more fundamentally? Are we what it all comes and goes within and as? How is it to notice that? How is it to explore living from that noticing?
And there are also many approaches that support this noticing or support living from it, including other forms of inquiry (sense field explorations, Kiloby inquiries), heart-centered practices (prayer, tonglen, ho’oponpono, metta), training more stable attention (including body-centered practices), and ethical guidelines (reduces distractions, highlights what in us operates from separation consciousness).
WHY IS IT COVERED UP?
If this is our nature, why don’t we notice? Why is it covered up?
The simple answer is that as we grow up, we do as others do. We see others operate from separation consciousness, assuming they most fundamentally are an object in the world, so we do the same. And we don’t find a good reason to question or examine it. Or we don’t have access to good tools and guidance to examine it.
HOW IS IT COVERED UP?
How is it covered up? What are some of the mechanisms?
In short, it’s covered up when our mind holds onto mental representations – mental images and words – as accurately reflecting reality.
As soon as consciousness holds a story as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of that story. It becomes an “I” with an “other”. To itself, it becomes something within the content of experience. (1)
It temporarily takes itself to be one part within itself, and everything else as “other”.
That’s how separation consciousness is created, and it can seem very real.
If we grow up with separation consciousness, as most of us do, then many parts of our psyche are formed and operate from separation consciousness. That’s how emotional issues, traumas, hangups, ideologies, and so on are created.
Even when the oneness we are recognizes itself, it can still have many parts operating from separation consciousness, and it can take time to get all of these onboard with a more conscious noticing of oneness.
WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THIS?
Why don’t more people talk about this?
Well, some do. Many Asian spiritual traditions talk about this. Mystics from all traditions and times talk about it. Many spiritual coaches and teachers talk about it. Some psychologists and philosophers talk about it.
And yet, most psychologists and philosophers don’t talk about it, and few in academia explore it in any serious way.
Why do they ignore it even if it has logic to it? Why do they ignore it even if this has profound practical implications? Even if it can be profoundly transforming for anyone engaging in these kinds of explorations?
I am not sure.
Perhaps some lack curiosity or interest? (Which is fine. Our fascination is our calling, and there is no lack of things to be fascinated by.) Perhaps they haven’t investigated the conventional “have consciousness as an appendix” idea? Perhaps they are concerned to get lumped in with mystics, spiritual people, and weirdos?
I assume it’s not because this is not an important topic, because it is. It’s not for lack of information or guidance, because that can be found. It’s not because they cannot explore it for themselves, because they can. And it’s not because there is no logic to it, because there is.
IS OUR NATURE THE SAME AS THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE?
Is our nature the same as the nature of all of existence?
If we find our own more fundamental nature, it’s natural to assume that the nature of existence is the same. After all, the world to us happens within and as what we are, so it will appear that way.
And yet, do we know? Not really.
I cannot know for certain. I can find what appears as my more fundamental nature, I can explore how to live from that noticing, and so on. And yet, I cannot honestly say I know for certain that’s the nature of everything.
THE SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING
This is where I differentiate between the small and big interpretations of awakening.
This article is written from the small interpretation of awakening. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It’s about what we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.
It’s about our own nature, in our own first-person experience, not the nature of reality or existence.
From here, we can go one step further and say that our nature IS the nature of existence and reality. Reality IS consciousness. It is what we traditionally think of as the divine, as Spirit, as God.
Each of these interpretations has its place and value.
The small interpretation is more accessible to more people, it points more directly to what we can find for ourselves, and it goes to the heart of what mystics from different times and traditions describe. As I see it, it’s also more intellectually honest. And it may appear a bit dry and boring.
The big interpretation fits more what the main religions and spiritual traditions describe, it can be more inspiring, and it can open us up more. In some cases, it’s also a bit intellectually dishonest (presenting fantasy or speculation as reality), fanciful, and misleading. And there are several hints that the essence of it is more accurate in the bigger picture.
LILA – THE PLAY OF REALITY
All of this can be seen as play.
We can see it as the play of consciousness, reality, or even of the divine.
In the big interpretation of awakening…
It’s the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.
It’s the one experiencing itself as many. It’s oneness experiencing itself as separate. It’s love experiencing itself as what looks like anything but love. It’s consciousnes experiencing itself as an object in the world. And so on.
It’s the dance of reality or Spirit.
In the small interpretation of awakening…
It’s much the same. It’s the oneness we are experiencing itself as separate. It’s the love we are experiencing itself as anything but love. It’s consciousness taking itself to be an object in the world.
And here, we can see it as play or something that’s just happening.
In either case, we can see it as the dance of consciousness, reality, or the divine.
And any ideas of purpose or meaning are ideas and not inherent in reality itself.
(1) Said another way, the consciousness we are creates a lot of identities for itself and identifies with these. It takes itself as a human, a gender, an age, someone with certain characteristics, and so on. None of this is necessarily wrong, but it is limiting and it’s not accurate in a more real sense.
If we look more closely we may find another mechanism. The consciousness we are associates certain thoughts with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And the consciousness we are may create chronic tension in the physical body in order to have ready access to sensations lending substance to certain thoughts.
If we have chronic beliefs, about anything, it’s a good bet that these are connected with chronic tension somewhere in the physical body.
FROM A PREVIOUS ARTICLE
Why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often? It’s not even because it’s illogical. Based on logic, we find that in our own experience, we have to be consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, we inevitably and most fundamentally have to BE consciousness in our own experience. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.
We have all of the characteristics of consciousness, and since the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – have those characteristics.
We are what’s inherently free of time and space and that our experience of time and space happens within and as. We are the oneness any sense of distinction and separation happens within and as. And so on.
This just says something about our own nature in our own first-person experience, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence or the universe. And that’s more than enough. If we are led – by existence – to take it seriously, that’s profoundly transforming.
I have written about this before but thought I would revisit it.
A quiet joy. My experience is also that there is a quiet joy inherent in my nature.
In the small interpretation of awakening…
It’s consciousness expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.
It’s the oneness we are exploring itself as if it was something within itself, and then sometimes recognizing itself as oneness again.
Why? Maybe the play itself is the purpose? Maybe it’s just something that’s happening? I don’t know.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY NATURE?
What do I mean by our nature?
For me, it’s what we are to ourselves.
It’s what we find we are when we explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience, and set aside for a while what others or our own thoughts tell us we are.