Understanding awakening independent of spirituality and most worldviews

How do we understand awakening?

Do we tie it to spirituality or a particular approach to spirituality?

Do we tie it to a particular worldview that’s incompatible with other common worldviews?

Or do we find the lowest common denominator in understanding awakening? Do we choose an understanding that’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews?

Personally, I prefer an understanding that’s honest, simple, has the fewest assumptions within it, and is compatible with the widest range of worldviews. (Including those free of spirituality.)

A SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

So what is this simple understanding of awakening?

We can approach it in two ways.

NOTICING: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can approach it through direct noticing.

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. But when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for all of it.

We can quite easily get at least a glimpse of this through different forms of inquiry, including the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

LOGIC: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can also approach this through logic.

In our culture, people often say that we “have” consciousness. That makes it sound as if consciousness is a kind of appendix, and that we are a kind of object somehow receiving info from this consciousness. That’s one take on a third-person view, which is fine, but here I am more interested in our first-person experience.

So what’s a first-person view?

If I “have” consciousness, then to myself, I have to BE consciousness.

Said another way: Any experience has to happen within consciousness. It’s consciousness forming itself into that experience. And what’s experiencing has to similarly be consciousness. None of it would be experienced if it all didn’t happen within and as consciousness.

What’s experiencing and what’s experienced are aspects of the same. All of it is consciousness.

Here, we may also find that…

If we ARE consciousness, then to us, the world – the whole field of experience – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Consciousness is seamless. It doesn’t have borders or divisions or even an outer boundary. To us, the world happens within and as the oneness we are. (“The world” here means any content of experience, including anything associated with this human self – sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas of identities, ideas of being a doer, an observer, and so on.)

Understanding this logically can be interesting in itself, and it can be an invitation to explore it through direct noticing.

THE WORLD APPEARS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If the world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am, then – to me – the world appears AS consciousness.

If the world appears as consciousness, then it appears alive and conscious, and it’s very easy to call that the divine, Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on.

SHARED WITH MYSTICS ACROSS TIME AND TRADITIONS

Through logic and direct noticing, we arrive at what mystics through time and across traditions have described.

The essence is: I am consciousness. The world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. The world, to me, happens within and as the oneness I am. The world, to me, appears as consciousness (AKA the divine, Spirit, God, etc.) since it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

Of course, the mystics use language that reflects their tradition, culture, and time, and they often interpret their direct noticing using a certain understanding and worldview. But the essence is the same.

FREE OF SPIRITUALITY AND INDEPENDENT OF MOST WORLDVIEWS

I like this approach.

It’s logical. It’s something we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s free of spirituality and spiritual traditions.

It’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews.

It’s a kind of lowest common denominator in understanding awakening.

That means it can be used by people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of worldviews. It can be used as a simple form of communication across traditions. It can be used by academics and researchers.

We are personally free to add whatever we want to it. We can add a wide range of worldviews and traditions if we want. And it can help us hold all of that more lightly. We see that they are add-ons and essentially questions about the world.

A FEW NOTES

SMALL AND BIG UNDERSTANDINGS OF AWAKENING

When I have written about this in the past, I have often talked about a small and big understanding of awakening.

What I outlined above is the small approach. It’s simple, stays close to our experience, doesn’t philosophize too much, and is compatible with a range of worldviews. We explore our own nature, and don’t assume that’s also the nature of all of existence. The downside of this one is that it can seem a bit boring. (Although it’s anything but.) The upside is that it’s a kind of lowest common denominator. It can be used as a universal language.

The big understanding of awakening is the more traditional one. Here, we assume that our nature is the nature of all of existence. All of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on. The downside here is that we may go into assumptions and fantasies beyond what we can check for ourselves. The upside is that it can be more familiar to many and it can seem more inspiring.

The small understanding is more accurate in the sense that’s it’s more sober, grounded, and honest. And I suspect the big understanding is more accurate in the big picture.

WHO IS USING THIS APPROACH?

If we mean a first-person exploration without too much philosophizing, it’s similar to the Headless Way, Zen, and Adveita.

If we mean using both a small (psychological) and big (spiritual) understanding of awakening, depending on what makes most sense in the situation, then I am not sure. I haven’t seen it myself, although I have also been out of the loop for 10-15 years due to my illness.

WHY ISN’T THIS APPROACH USED MORE COMMONLY?

As with so many things, I wonder why more people don’t use this approach. It seems simple, fits our modern views, and has many benefits.

We may be wedded to a spiritual tradition, and we may be used to a more spiritual language. We may prefer it, for whatever reason, even if it’s more exclusive and some of it goes beyond what we can check out for ourselves.

We may also want the comfort that certain ideas from spirituality give us. When I explore this, I find it doesn’t really give me comfort since I know – somewhere – what’s happening. I am indulging in a fantasy. One that’s possibly reasonably accurate, and one I cannot easily check out for myself or know for certain. Even if I have certain experiences, I know they can be interpreted and understood in many ways and they can fit into many different worldviews in different ways.

MY NATURE VS NATURE OF ALL OF EXISTENCE

Behind this approach – the small understanding of awakening – is a basic assumption: I can find and explore my own nature, and that doesn’t mean that the nature of all existence is the same as my nature. I cannot know for certain what the nature of all of existence is. I can assume it’s all the divine, Spirit, God, and so on, and there may be hints suggesting it’s like that, but I cannot know for certain. If I am honest with myself, I know I cannot know for certain.

For me, it’s more peaceful than trying to create, hold onto, and defend a certain worldview saying all of existence is a certain way.

ABOUT THE LOGIC

I wanted to add a few more words about the logical approach to understanding our first-person nature. I know that some will disagree with this logic, and I made almost no effort to make this particular presentation solid and tight. I just informally hit on some of the highlights.

I also know very well that this logic, in my case, comes from and reflects direct noticing. The noticing came first, and then the logic. It may be more difficult to go the other way, especially if we are already invested in another way of looking at it.

Also, I imagine some will say: Yes, it may be logical. To ourselves, we must be consciousness. But that’s not my experience, and I don’t think it’s possible to experience it. My brain won’t allow it.

That’s fair. And I would invite that person to check it out for themselves. The most effective way to explore it is likely to be facilitated by someone experienced in the Big Mind process. It may take just five minutes to get a real taste of it.

WHY AM I DRAWN TO THIS APPROACH?

I am not sure. Differentiating between a small and big understanding seems more honest. Using a small understanding is more inclusive. I like the fluidity in choosing a small or big interpretation depending on what makes more sense in the situation.

In general, I don’t like being wedded to just one way of looking at something since there is always validity in a range of views and they together give a slightly fuller and richer picture.

Image by me and Midjourney


INITIAL DRAFT FRAGMENTS

Why do so many associate awakening with spirituality or even religion?

Why do so many, even in a much more secular world, still present it this way?

Why not choose to understand awakening in a much simpler way that fits a much wider range of worldviews?

…..

If we say that a being “has” consciousness, what does that mean? It makes it sound as if consciousness is some kind of appendix and they are more fundamentally something else.

…..

(Said another way, in our first-person view, we are not some object that somehow receives info from consciousness as an appendix. We ARE that consciousness.)

…..

That seems like simple and even inevitable logic. We arrive at an understanding of our more fundamental nature, as it appears to ourselves, that’s similar to the essence of what mystics through time and across traditions have described. (When we leave aside the religious and spiritual language and interpretations.)

…..

In the first case, it’s an intellectual understanding created by playing around with ideas. In the second, it’s an immediate noticing.

…..

How do we understand awakening?

Do we tie it to spirituality? Or a particular approach to spirituality? (Excluding those with no interest in spirituality or affiliated with other forms of spirituality.)

Do we tie it to a particular worldview that’s incompatible with other common worldviews? (Excluding those with incompatible worldviews.)

Or do we find the lowest common denominator in understanding awakening? Do we choose an understanding that’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews?

To me, the answer is simple. I would choose the simplest understanding any day, the one that has the fewest assumptions in it, and the one compatible with the widest range of worldviews. (Including those free of spirituality.)

…..

LOGIC: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can approach it through logic.

If we say that a being “has” consciousness, it means that to itself, it IS consciousness.

Saying we “have” consciousness makes it sound as if consciousness is some kind of appendix and we are more fundamentally something else. That’s the outside third-person view which we can leave aside.

The first-person view is different. Here, we see that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we ARE consciousness. Perception happens within consciousness, not outside it, so to ourselves, we have to BE consciousness.

If we ARE consciousness, and perception happens within consciousness, then our perception happens within and as the consciousness we are. The world – the whole field of experience – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Consciousness is seamless. It doesn’t have borders or divisions or even an outer boundary. To us, the world happens with and as the oneness we are. (“The world” here means any content of experience, including anything associated with this human self – sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas of identities, ideas of being a doer, an observer, and so on.)

That seems like simple and even inevitable logic.

…..

Any experience has to happen within consciousness. (Otherwise, it’s not an experience!) The content of experience has to happen within consciousness. Also, it’s consciousness forming itself into the experience. The world, to us, has to happen within and as consciousness.

….

  • our culture, we “have” consciousness
  • first-person view
  • the essence,

…..

A MORE DETAILED LOGIC

As mentioned, the logic section above was a bit cursory, so how can we present the logic in a clearer way?

In our culture, people often say that we “have” consciousness. That makes it sound as if consciousness is a kind of appendix, and that we are a kind of object somehow receiving info from this consciousness. That’s one take on a third-person view, which is fine, but we are more interested in our first-person experience.

So what’s a first-person view?

The essence is, as mentioned above, that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves, we ARE consciousness. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Any experience has to happen within consciousness. It’s consciousness forming itself into that experience. What’s experiencing has to similarly be consciousness.

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