Filtering out awakeness, and leaving emptiness far in background

I have written several posts on this topic, as with so many other recurrent topics, but it still comes up for me…

Awake emptiness when identified with content: in the background

When I identify with the content of awareness, this sense of a separate self is usually placed on this human individual, and its thoughts, sensations, views of itself, tastes, and behaviors.

The ground of awake emptiness typically goes far in the background, if it is noticed at all. And its two aspects of awakeness and emptiness seems to be filtered in two different ways.

Awakeness, in its direct experience of it, is filtered to only belong to this individual. But even here, it is partly within and outside of the regions of the separate self, coming and going on its own. (I am this individual, this human being, and awareness comes and goes, sometimes stronger and sometimes less strong, sometimes here – when I am awake, and sometimes not – when I am asleep.)

And the emptiness aspect is usually not noticed at all. It is at most intuited, and then often associated with fear and discomfort. (If I am an object in the world, then emptiness – nonexistence – is not something I want to be connected with.)

Awake emptiness when absence of identification with content: in foreground

When the identification goes out of the content of awareness, and back into the ground of awake emptiness, the content of awareness – including this individual – arises as the awake emptiness itself.

The awake emptiness goes into the foreground, and form arises as nothing other than the awake emptiness itself. There is a field of awake emptiness arising as form, as this individual and the wider world, and there is no center and no separate self inherent anywhere.

The awakeness is no more or less associated with this individual than with the wider world. It belongs to the field of awake emptiness that everything – the thin surface of form – arises within, to and as.

And the emptiness is the void all forms arises from, as, and goes back into. Within the timeless present, all forms arises as the void. Within time, all forms comes out of and goes back into the void. It is a continuous stream of form emerging from and going into void, a stream with a hidden source and destination.

A lot of work

A lot of work goes into filtering all this through a sense of a separate self. The emptiness has to be ignored. The awakeness has to be placed on this individual human being. The world of form has to be split into I here and Other there, and from this split comes a great deal of struggle and friction (which is essential for exploring the world of form, but also takes a lot of work.)

No wonder it is experienced as such a relief when identification goes out of the content of awareness, and there is just the resting as the ground of awake emptiness – within, to and as all content and form arises. It is much easier.

It is what already and always is, even if it sometimes filters itself through a sense of a separate self and appears – to itself – differently.

Context and content

In my late teens, I got into Jung and read a good portion of the Bollingen series (his works translated into English.)

I noticed early on that as I got more into Jung’s world view… is insights, views, experiences and examples of work with clients, the more my own dreams resembled the dreams, archetypes and dynamics he described and wrote about. My dreams became, in some cases, textbook Jungian dreams. And why not?

The whole of us wants to communicate with that which we take ourselves to be, and it will use whatever language is most readily understood. It is as if it is saying: if the guy is attuned to a Jungian language of archetypes, let’s use that to reach him.

During my time at the Zen center, I did some regression therapy sessions, and as I was immersed in a group focused on the whole human/Big Mind dynamic, that was the main themes coming up in the sessions, along with the more usual rt material (which seemed peripheral.) The strongest session was one where I saw the innumerable cycles of incarnation of my individual self, the shifts and swings between being incarnated and disincarnate.

As I got into Process Work, the themes in my PW sessions where typical PW material and dynamics, weaving into the small me (my conscious view of myself) more pieces of Big me (the whole of who I am, and can be, as an individual).

Then there was a period of more outward focus, working with sustainability on a community level, and my dreams were more free ranging, less conforming to any particular approach (since I was not consciously focused on much inward related at the time.)

Nowadays, being into the two (closely related) streams of working with the three centers and the essence, and realized selflessness, the shifts in my waking life and my dreams tend to reflect these themes, and use a language available to me from Barry and Karen (the local diksha givers) and now also Almaas (since I have started reading some of his books.)

The whole of what/who we are, using a language familiar to us

One way to look at this is that the whole of who (individual soul/human) and what (Spirit, Big Mind, Brahman) we are wants us to…

(a) awaken to what we are (realized selflessness),

(b) embrace all of who we are (the fullness of who we are, as individuals, right now), and

(c) unfold as who and what we can be (heal, mature, develop as individuals.)

And it is using whatever language (a) is available to it (dreams, inner images, synchronicities, and even sensations and feelings), and (b) is most easily understood by who we take ourselves to be (our conscious world view, what we are consciously familiar with.)


The other level here is interpretation. Whatever arises will naturally be interpreted through whatever filters we have, from the basic makeup of this universe to the astronomical context of our planet, our ecology, our biology, culture, family, subcultures, conscious world view, and other influences.

Familiar language, and interpretation

So if we live in a Hindu culture, the symbols and themes in for instance our dreams (or visions, or Process Work processes, or journeying) may take a Hindu themed form. And even if they do not take an explicitly Hindu form, they may still be interpreted in that context.

Instead of Hindu, it may be any other worldspace or combinations of worldspaces, such as Freudian, Christian, pagan, socialist, Sufi, cognitive psychology, evolution, sci-fi, classic literature, or whatever else we are into – consciously or subconsciously.


There seems to be a dialog between the fullness of what and who we are (and can be) and what we take ourselves to be. The fullness seems to be using a language as available to us as possible, and our conscious view tends to aligned more with the direction our fullness takes us, if we allow it.

Some effects of the filters

This filter… of the basic makeup of the universe, the astronomical context of our planet, the ecology of our planet, evolutionary history, biology, culture, individual history, current situation, and so on… seems to have many different influences.

There may very well be processes and dynamics deeper than for instance any cultural, and even biological, and maybe even physical differences. And for each of us, they appear to us filtered through all of these layers. So I may have a glimpse of what I really am, and it takes the form of an encounter with Christ or Krishna, or finding myself as Big Mind, or something else. If I am an individual somewhere else in the universe, with an entirely different planetary context, biology and culture, I may still have this glimpse, but filtered in a quite different way.

A full blown awakening may have the same basic features, such as the field of awake emptiness and form awakening to itself, inherently centerless and selfless, but even this one will be heavily filtered in how it is expressed and lived.

At the same time, these filters may determine – to a lesser or larger degree – which processes and dynamics are available to us, and how. For instance, if we are deeply entrenched in a view that upholds the ultimate reality of a separate self (for instance theistic traditions), we may not so easily drop into realized selflessness. Or if our view is strongly materialistic, we may not so easily notice ourselves as pure wakefulness, and the content of this wakefulness as no other than wakefulness itself. Or if our orientation is strongly transcendent, we may not so easily drop into endarkenment and the belly awakening.

And these filters certainly influence our interpretation of whatever happens. They are our interpretation of whatever happens.

So they filter how deeper and more universal processes arise in our individual life, to some extent they filter which processes are available, and they determine our experience and interpretation of these as well.

All the way up and down, it is all filtered by the makeup of this universe as a whole, including its very local characteristics of planet, ecology, biology, culture, individual history, and current situation.

Intermediary filters

These two quotes from John Wren-Lewis is an example of how an early awakening can be filtered…

I feel as if the back of my head has been sawn off so that it is no longer the 60-year-old John who looks out at the world, but the shining dark infinite void that in some extraordinary way is also “I.” […]

Thus, in one sense, I feel as if I am infinitely far back in sensing the world, yet at the same time I feel the very opposite, as if my consciousness is no longer inside my head at all, but out there in the things I am experiencing . . .

What is happening is that Big Mind awakens to itself, but can’t quite believe it. So as an intermediary step, it filters itself in a different way, as a stepping stone into a more full and clear awakening.

What is always and already here, for all of us, is the field of seeing & seen which is inherently absent of I. And for most of us, it is filtered through a sense of I and Other. The seeing is interpreted as right here, in or around this human self, and the seen is outside and inside of this human self.

When there is an early awakening into Big Mind, when this field catches a glimpse of itself as a field, it may be too radical, too different from what it is used to. It cannot find itself comfortable with the field of awake emptiness and form, as a field with no center, with no separate I anywhere, with no I and Other.

So it filters its experience of itself in a slightly different way, for instance as the back of the head sawn off, or as a sense of I somewhere behind the human self, or as a sense of I infinitely far back and also out there in the seen, or as a subtle I here not separate from anything, or a subtle I here yet also out there.

Eventually, as it gets more comfortable with this, and catches more glimpses of itself in a more unfiltered way, it may be ready to let go of even these filters, and awaken to itself as a field with no center and no I anywhere.

This can initially be experienced as a free fall, as having no anchors anywhere, no fixed identity and nowhere to anchor any identity. And then this too becomes familiar.

Unfamiliar and familiar

In my experience, there is an experience of unfamiliarity and familiarity at each of these shifts. It is radically unfamiliar, new, completely different from how any previous identity, and can be scary in that way. At the same time, what opens up is strangely familiar, nothing new, known at some level.

And this is really what we would expect. For each shift, there is a stepping outside of old identities and into something that seems unfamiliar and maybe even frightening. And for each shift, what we already and always are awakens a little more to itself, with a few less filters.

Most unfamiliar, and most familiar

There is an irony in this, and especially in the final shedding of filters.

Shedding filters into the field awakening to itself as a centerless and selfless field, is often perceived as most frightening, as loosing all ground, any fixed identity, anything familiar.

Yet at the same time, it is the most profound homecoming, a relaxation into what we always and already are. A letting go of all the filters of I and Other and any fixed identity, which it takes so much energy to uphold.

We find ourselves as the Ground of everything, of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form. There is nothing to resist anymore. No need to filter through a sense of I and Other. All as the I that has no Other. It is the home free from, behind and within any more conventional sense of home and homelessness.

In terms of our old identity, as a separate I with a (more or less) fixed identity, it is the most unfamiliar. And in terms of what we already are, it is the most familiar.

Gathering awareness

A friend of mine wrote me an email of a shift into all as alive awareness…

There was just this strong sense of awakeness, without any apparent location or identifiable characteristics. At the same time, there was a sense of this same awakeness being the forest and landscape I was walking through, being my body and its sensations, being […] with his thoughts, energies, and feelings, all the contents of experiencing.

And it reminded me of how we gather awareness into a bunch sometimes.

We are this awakeness, everywhere, in and as everything. Yet, when we believe that we are a separate I, and place it on this human self, then we have to work very hard to not notice that we already are this awareness, which is formless, timeless, spaceless, and also arises as form, time and space. We have to, figuratively speaking, pick up any trace of awake emptiness “out there”, in the wider world, and place it “in here” on our human self. We have to diligently gather it up, and pile it all up here in this poor self. It is hard work to filter existence in this way, to make it appear so different to ourselves than what it already and always is.

Which is why there is often such a sense of release, joy and even bliss, when this awakeness awakens to itself. When the filter of I and Other is released, and the awakeness again and consciously notices itself as selfless, formless, timeless and spaceless, and also as all the selves, all the forms, and time and space.