Looking at knots from the emptiness and form sides

Knots are the whole complex of a belief in a story (as absolutely true), and the accompanying emotional and behavioral patterns. It brings identification into the content of awareness, and comes from and props up a sense of a separate self.

To see what is already more true for us, we can explore these knots from the emptiness side and the form side.

Exploring from the emptiness side

From the emptiness side, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and see that all of it – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – are nothing other than this awake emptiness. We can explore and become more familiar with this through the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or other forms of inquiry.

Exploring from the form side

From the form side, we can look at the effects of holding onto a particular story as absolutely true, what would happen if it was not attached to in this way, and finding the grains of truth in the reversals of the initial story. Through this, we discover that what we held as an absolute truth is really only a relative truth, which allows the grip on it to relax and identification go out of form and back into the field of awake emptiness (often just experienced as more spaciousness and a sense of peace.) The Work and different (other) forms of shadow work are good ways to explore the form side.

Differentiating the relative and the absolute

Another way to put it is that knots come from taking the relative (stories) as absolute (absolutely true), and the resolution is to differentiate the relative and absolute, seeing the stories as only relative truths, and finding ourselves as the absolute – as awake emptiness, and form as no other than awake emptiness itself.

The experience of the absolute changing over time

In real life, it doesn’t always look exactly like this of course. The exploration of the form side of the knots may not change so much over time, although it may become more clear and differentiated over time. But the experience of ourselves as the awake emptiness and form may change over time. Initially, just as a sense of release, spaciousness, ease and peace. As we go along, more as a clear noticing of the awake void that all forms dances within, to and as – a field inherently absent of any separate self anywhere.

Working at three levels of being, and their mutual influences

Working on our three levels of being, we notice that they influence each other in different ways. An opening or clarification at one level tends to invite an opening and clarification at the other two levels.

There is also an important shared pattern among all of the levels: releasing identification with form makes it easier to allow any content of awareness, which in turn allows for a deepening into the fullness of who we are as soul and human, and a noticing of what we are as Spirit – awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of a separate self.

Spirit level

Noticing ourselves as awake emptiness reduces (an exclusive) identification with form, which means a more full allowing of any content of awareness, which in turn means a deepening into who we are at soul and human levels.

When there is a reduced or no belief in a separate self, and all the identities that comes with it, there is an easier embrace of whatever emerges at our individual level.

Soul level

Finding ourselves as the alive presence, or fertile darkness, or luminous blackness, or even the indwelling God, gives a sense of coming home and of nurturing which also allows us to relax our grip on identities. This in turn makes it easier to find ourselves as awake emptiness, and also to deepen into who we are as a human being (and soul.)

Human level

At our human level, there is the same pattern of releasing identification with identities and beliefs. Our hangups, drama, struggle and reactiveness all comes from identification with form, including a belief in stories and ideas, taking what has only a relative and limited truth as an absolute truth, and living as if it was so.

Releasing our grip on these stories, and seeing the relative truth in a wide range of stories including the reversals of the initial one, is also a release of a blind identification with particular identities, and with form in general.

And this allows for a wider embrace of our fullness as a human being and as soul, and for noticing ourselves also as awake emptiness.

Each level contributing

Any system is a whole, and changes in a system can occur through many access points.

Working on ourselves exclusively at either one of our three levels may be sufficient to shift the whole system – allowing for an awakening to what we are (awake emptiness and form, with no separate self) and a deepening into the fullness of who we are, as soul and human beings.

But a more comprehensive approach is easier in many ways.

All (?) knots are at our human level, coming from an identification with form and a belief in stories and ideas. These are the ones that limit who we find ourselves as, on human and soul levels, and distracts us from noticing what we are at the Spirit level.

Some of these knots are more easily untied when we work with our human level, others by bringing in the soul level, and other again by noticing ourselves as awake emptiness.

The path of untying knots: guided by daily life

One thing I forgot to mention about the path of untying knots is that it is guided by daily life.

Something comes up that is stressful, revealing the knot that life invites us to become more familiar with, here and now, by being with the experience (feelings) and by inquiring into it (view.)

Daily life is our guru, in a very real way, showing us the next knot to explore, to befriend, to become so intimately familiar with that it on its own is untied.

This is especially clear in The Work, where we after a while start looking forward to stressful situations, because we know they reveal more knots – and what has been obscured by these knots (the sense of freedom, clarity, connection, intimacy and so on that surfaces when the knots are intimately explored, and untie on their own.)

The path of untying knots

Broadly speaking, there seems to be two paths of awakening to who (individual) and what (Spirit) we are. One is of focusing on – and noticing or invoking – what we are seeking, the other is of focusing – and working – on what is blocking what we are seeking. And most paths of course include both, in different ways, and with different emphasis.

Only noticing or invoking who and what we are

If we only do the first – going for noticing or invoking what we are seeking – the pitfalls seems to include missing out of, or ignoring, some knots that needs to be untied and some healing that needs to occur. It can for instance lead to a (partial or more full) awakening to what we are (awake emptiness and form absent of a separate I), functioning through an individual that still has a lot to work through, and who may not be aware of everything that needs to be worked through.

Some forms of self-inquiry fall into this category, such as noticing that we are not the content of awareness but awareness itself (and that the content is no other than awareness), and also the headless experiments.

Only untying knots

If we only do the second – untying knots – we may miss out of noticing who we are at a soul level, and what we are at a Spirit level. We may pass right through it, because we don’t know what we are looking for.


Using both together, we reap the benefits of working through knots and stuck places, which naturally reveal who and what we are, and also noticing who and what we are when it is revealed, and then deepening into it.

The Work is a great example of an approach that includes both the untying of knots (the whole process), and noticing who and what we are behind the clouds created by the knots (question #4 and turnarounds.) And the same is the case with the Big Mind process, allowing knots to unravel at our human level, revealing what we are as Spirit (Big Mind.)

Untying knots works at all levels

One of the great benefits of the second approach, of working with knots, is that it helps us at all levels. It unties knots at our individual human level, allowing for a healing and maturing there, and for less stress and discomfort. And it reveals (more of) who we are, in our evolving wholeness as a human individual, who we are as soul (alive presence), and what we are as Spirit (this field of awake emptiness and form absent of center.)

We don’t have to choose among developing as individuals or awakening as Spirit, and we don’t need to deny the importance or validity of either. Both are an integral part of the process, and the path benefits and works on both areas equally.