More on transition experiences

I wrote a long post on transition experiences, but decided to make it short and simple. Some details goes out, but the essence is maybe more clear.

Here are a couple of points from the longer post that may be interesting…

  • What we are, is a field of awake emptiness and form, absent of a separate I. This means that what is alive in each of ours awareness here and now, is realized to be nothing other than awake emptiness itself. This room, the cat, the sound of the cars, the lamp, computer, thoughts, sensations, it is all awake emptiness. An awake void, temporarily taking these forms. And it is all without a center, without any trace of a separate self.
  • When we take ourselves to be an object in the world, we filter awareness so it appears to be only here, associated with this human self, and not out there, in the wider world… with the exception of being there, in theory, in other people. We don’t notice emptiness much, everything seems quite substantial and real. And there is certainly a sense of a separate self here, in this human self.
  • So in the transition between the two, what we are breaks through within the context of what we take ourselves to be. There is a growing sense of no separation, glimpses of the wider world as somehow inherently alive and awake, a diminishing sense of the solidity of the boundary between I here and the rest of the world out there, and so on.

As Ken Wilber and others have pointed out, this transition mirrors what we find in nature mysticism (nature, all objects, as alive), deity mysticism (all as God), and finally realized selflessness (one field, absent of center and separate self.)

All of these transition experiences can be experienced and interpreted in different ways. I am sure there are many more than I wrote down here, and each of them will take on different flavors for different people at different times.

One experience I have heard recently, from a friend, is an experience of walking in nature, and everything suddenly appearing aware… the trees, stones, ground, landscape. Another, is of objects smiling back at you (having awareness, being somehow alive, able to make a connection.)

Of course, these are all just experiences and states. Nothing to be too caught up in. Just carrots, and sometimes distractions (!), within our process of exploring what we really are – in our own immediate awareness.

And that is the ground of awake void, and forms as no other than this awake void, all absent of a center and separate self. It is all emptiness dancing. A depth of awake emptiness with a thin surface of form.

Big Mind process and Kensho

~C4Chaos has some good initial responses to Brad Warner’s post Big Mind is a Big Load of Horseshit! (Read the comments to his post for more useful insights.)

Below is my comment on this topic:


Thanks for posting this!

In my experience, the Big Mind process does give almost everyone a clear and immediate realization of what Big Mind is about (the general terrain), which is similar to the headless experiments ( and other forms of inquiry.

When I try it with people who have almost no experience with Zen, meditation or anything else in that area, I often see the same result as when Genpo Roshi and others facilitate: even novices sound like Zen masters, and speak from what is alive in their immediate awareness.

But it is maybe not exactly the same as kensho. Kensho seems to have many other aspects to it (stronger, the realizations are more unquestionable, there is an energetic component, and so on.)

What seems to come out of the Big Mind process, and headless experiments, is the realization component of kensho, although the “volume” and clarity of it may be a little less than a real, full blown, kensho.

At the same time, I personally find the Big Mind process immensely helpful.

It helps clarify the view before the “real thing”, which can only be of benefit.


P.S. I guess Brad is not too familiar with shadow work…! “What we see is what we are.” So Brad is …? But then, of course, we all are.

Appearance of a chooser

It is pretty simple, but easily overlooked if we don’t explore it for ourselves:

There is a thought, a decision, and an action.

And when a belief in the idea of “I” is placed on top of it, it appears that “I think”, “I decided”, “I acted”. It all seems very logical and neat.

(Of course, if the identity built up around this idea of “I” does not fit with the thought, the decision or the action, then we say “it wasn’t me, it just happened”, or “I don’t know where that came from”.)

When this field of awake emptiness and form awakens to itself, it looks different. Now, there is just a thought, a decision, and an action, revealed as inherently absent of any I. There is doing, but no doer.

This is an immediate and very clear realization. No thinking or analysis is needed.

But it is also possible to taste this before such a clear awakening. For instance, for any thought, decision, or behavior, explore the many causes of it. You can always find one more, and one more. And then discover, bit by bit, how everything happening in the world of form, including anything associated with this particular human self, has literally infinite causes. It is the whole field acting locally.

It is the local manifestations of the whole field of form, always in flux, and the causes go all the way back to beginning of time, and all the way out to the extent of the universe.

The field first filtering itself through I and Other, then awakening to itself

There is always this field of awake emptiness and form, now reading this and also manifesting as the words themselves on the screen (and anything else).

First, it identifies with a segment of itself, for instance this human self, and there is a sense of I placed on this human self, a sense of I and Other, subject and object, of being finite in time and space, of a doer. And this sense of I is placed on anything this human self does, at least if it fits with the more elaborate identity made up for this human self.

Then, the field of awake emptiness and form awakens to itself, as this field, inherently absent of I anywhere, or as a whole as an I. And it realizes, immediately and very clearly, that there never was an I in this human self. There was the sense of an “I” placed on top of it, making the impression that “I think, decide and do”, but even then, there was never any inherent I in it. It was just a part of the field, just the local manifestations of the movements of the whole field of form. There was doing, but no doer.

Finding it here now

The nice thing is that we can taste this right now, just by looking. Just by exploring. Noticing what is happening, right here now.

There is a thought, but did “I” think it? It certainly arouse, but where is the “doer” in it? There is a decision, but did “I” decide? Didn’t it just happen on its own, just as the thought? There is an action, but did “I” act? Did that too just happen on its own? There is an apparent causality between all of these, a logical sequence, but is there an “I” there?

And we can also look for an “I” in the world of form in general. There are sensations, sounds, sights, tastes, smells, thoughts and so on, but is there an “I” there? They all come and go, while something does not seem to come and go. How can there be an I there, in the seen, when it all comes and goes?

What is it that does not change, that does not come and go? It is this awakeness that it all happens within and to. In this awakeness, there is a sense of timelessness. Of always presence. Yet, is this “I”?

If the awakeness is “I” then the changing forms must be “other”. But where is the boundary between the two? Where does the awakeness end and the forms begin?

Now, it appears as if the awakeness and the forms are made up of the same. It is as if the forms arise within, to and as this awakeness.

Now, the field of awake emptiness and form starts to get a sense of itself, without the overlay of a sense of I as only a segment of this field. It has a taste of itself as a field, without being filtered through the sense of I and Other. As a field with no center, with no I inherent anywhere.

A free fall

It can be dizzying at first, as a free fall. There is nothing to hold onto anymore. No fixed position. And also the realization that this is what allows all positions, what allows all forms, what allows anything and everything to be.

And that is what this field is, always and already.

It just didn’t notice before. It had temporary and partial amnesia. It was just a case of temporary and mistaken identity.

Engagement in realized selflessness

Within realized selflessness, there are two different forms of engagement.

The first is the form of engagement that is always here, before and after this awakening: it is the engagement of Spirit with itself – as Ground of seeing and the infinitely varied seen. In realized selflessness, this type of engagement is clearly noticed.

The second is the more conventional form of engagement: being engaged in the life of this human self, in its health, maturing, development, relationships, engagement and role in the world.

And as before awakening, this engagement can be present in different ways and to different extents following the awakening. It all depends on the infinite causes, the patterns and processes of the world of form as a whole of which this human self is an infinitely small part. Or we can say it all depends on the personality of this human self, and of the seeds of intention, interest, preferences and passion planted in it, and on how the wider world interplays with all of this.

Planting seeds in the world of form

Seeds are planted in the world of form, and as form, allowing the field of seeing and seen to awaken to its own nature, inherently absent of I anywhere.

And seeds are planted in the world of form inviting the human self to continue to actively heal, mature and develop, before and after this awakening.

The field remains the same in its formless aspect, as emptiness and awareness. It is timeless, untouched by form. Yet, as form, it is not only never the same, it evolves.

And planting a seed in the human self, inviting it to continue to develop even after it is released from any sense of I, allows it to more consciously take part in this evolution. It allows it to continue to play the game, even after the field of seeing and seen has awakened to its absence of I anywhere.

It allows it to be more actively engaged in its own unfolding as an infinitely small aspect of the evolution of the world of form as a whole.

Headlessness and radical subjectivity

The focus of the upper left quadrant of the aqal model, the individual and inner, is on what is alive in immediate awareness.

And the various practices here, such as meditation, prayer and especially self-inquiry, are all about radical subjectivity: what is alive right here and now, outside of any filters of thoughts – such as ideas, expectations, memories?


Headlessness is one way to explore this radical subjectivity. Is there really a head here in immediate experience?

All I can find are some sensations arising in space, coming and going, and a fuzzy pink blob where others see my nose, but there is no head here. The idea of a head is just that, an idea superimposed on an area of space. There is just space here, allowing anything and everything to arise, to come and go on their own: sensations, sounds, sights, thoughts, this body, arms, hands, desk, screen, window, a dog barking. There is capacity for the world, and the world arising.

Deepening familiarity

And as there is a deepening into this exploration, through meditation, prayer or self-inquiry, there is a deepening familiarity with what we find:

The seen, including this human self, is within space and time, come and go on its own, and there is no I to be found anywhere. How can there be an I there, if it is seen? If there is an I anywhere, it must be in the seeing itself.

The seeing transcends yet embraces time, space and the seen. It is free from the seen, from space and time. It is free from this human self. At the same time, is there really a separation here? Where do I as seeing end and Other as the seen begin? I cannot find that line anywhere.

So there is an early noticing of the Oneness of seeing and seen. They distinct from each other, yet not quite two.

When the sense of I was placed on the seen, there was a sense of I and Other within the seen, within form. Now, when the sense of I is placed on the seeing, there is a sense of I and Other as seeing and seen. Yet, the boundary between the two is not to be found anywhere. Maybe the whole sense of I is superimposed on the seeing and seen? Maybe it comes from the belief in the idea of I, which then the seeing and the seen is filtered through in different ways?

As this is explored, and it becomes more clear how the mechanisms of samsara (a sense of I and Other, of duality) functions and that there is no I to be found anywhere in seeing or seen, it sets the stage for a Ground awakening.

The Ground awakens to itself, as the Ground of seeing and seen, as emptiness and form, as emptiness dancing, absent of I anywhere. The whole sense of an I and a center falls away, and there is only the totality – without center anywhere, so with a center everywhere.

Always already

The irony is that this is what was alive in immediate awareness all the time. It was never not alive to itself.

Yet, since it was not taken seriously, since what was alive in radical subjectivity was not trusted, it remained in the background, overshadowed and (apparently) blocked out by a sense of I and Other, created by the belief in the idea of I, formed by what was being taught by society and those around us.

What is always already here, in immediate awareness, in radical subjectivity, was not trusted, so could not emerge into the foreground. Until it had been explored so thoroughly that the sense and filter of I fell away.

Radical subjectivity

In this sense, spiritual practice is all about radical subjectivity.

What is alive in immediate awareness? What is already alive here now, free from expectations, beliefs, ideas, memories, stories? How does it look when I gradually learn to differentiate what already is from how it is colored by ideas? How does it look, when thoughts arise as just thoughts, along with everything else?

The many forms of oneness

I have talked with a couple of people lately who have mentioned oneness, and it reminded me of how this too looks differently depending on the center of gravity of identification and the whole aqal context as well.

Identification with a segment of the seen: oneness as emotional merging or a taste

When there is an exclusive identification with our human self, the idea of oneness typically remains just an idea. We may try some form of emotional merging, or feeling into the oneness, but that is about it. It does not go very far, and typically includes effort and fantasy.

Sometimes, there can also be a taste of oneness when I is temporarily forgotten (or more precisely when the idea of I is forgotten – and there is not the attachment to or building up of the idea of I). The sense of I goes into the background or falls away for a while, revealing all there is as a seamless whole. This can happen through sex, drugs (food, alcohol, recreational drugs), rock’n roll (entertainment) and relaxation (meditation, receiving Breema).

Identification with the seeing: the world of form as a seamless whole

When the center of gravity shifts out of the seen and into the seeing, when we find ourselves as pure awareness, as Witness, as that which the seen arises to and within, oneness takes a different form.

Now, the seen is revealed as an always a seamless whole, as one if you like.

This human self appeared as inner and the rest of the world as outer, and now, inner and outer is revealed as created by the exclusive identification with our human self. It is not inherent in the world of form.

The whole world of form arises within and to awareness, as a seamless always changing whole. It is one.

Noticing that seeing and seen are not two: a taste of oneness of seeing and seen

After a while (or sometimes right away) there is the noticing of the seen as arising to, within and now also as awareness. The seeing and the seen are both awareness. The seen are not so different from the seeing. They are not two.

The boundary between first I as seen and Other as seeing, and then I as seeing and Other as seen, now starts to erode. It is the early realization of the absence of I anywhere. The sense of I is merely created by an attachment to the idea of I as a segment of what is. I and other are not inherent in neither the seeing nor the seen.

Here, there is a taste of the oneness of seeing and seen.

Absent of I: absent of oneness and manyness, yet including both

The next shift is into realized selflessness.

Here, the inherent absence of I in seeing and seen is fully realized.

The Ground of seeing and seen is inherently absent of oneness or manyness, yet also allows and includes both.

That is why the whole game of hide and seek could play itself out in the first place: from exclusive identification with the seen, with the human self, to include – or shift to – the seeing itself, to a hunch of the absence of I anywhere, to realized selflessness.

Enlightenment and Self-Realization II

Using the distinction between what Ken Wilber calls horizontal and vertical Enlightenment, or Enlightenment and Self-Realization, it is interesting to see where different approaches and teachings fall.


Horizontal Enlightenment, or just old-fashioned Enlightenment, is realized selflessness, Big Mind waking up to its own nature. It is independent of the particulars of the content: whatever arises is recognized as Spirit, as emptiness dancing, absent of any I.

This awakening is the final release from the suffering of the story of I, it is the final coming home, the Ground of the seeing and the seen awakening to itself.


Vertical Enlightenment, or Self-Realization, has everything to do with the particulars of the content, specifically where the universe is in its evolution, and where this individual soul and human self are in their development.

It especially has to do with the healing, maturing and development of this soul and human self, this individual Being which in this particular case is the vehicle for Big Mind awakening to its own nature.

This being which arises as everything else, and as everything else is inherently absent of any I, yet also functions as a vehicle for Big Mind in the world of form, and is an aspect of the evolution of the world of form.

Self-Realization is never complete. It is a work in progress. It evolves with and as the world of form.

What we miss out of if there is one, and not the other

If there is only, or even mainly, a focus on Enlightenment, the healing, maturing and development of our human self may freeze to some extent, or at least not unfold as much as it is invited to within this new context of realized selflessness.

And although working on Self-Realization alone can certainly be rewarding, it never gives the same sense of completeness and finality as horizontal Enlightenment. There will always be a sense of something missing, which is true: realized selflessness.

Some examples

So where do some of the many approaches fit in this framework?

Of the ones that work mainly on Enlightenment, we find traditional Advaita and Zen, and the Center for Sacred Sciences.

Of the ones working mainly on Self-Realization, we find western psychology (at its best), self-help approaches, shadow work, energy work, body-centered practices, various forms of yoga, and so on.

And of the ones including both, we find the Big Mind process, The Work, Adyashanti, Ken Wilber, and most of the folks associated with the integral institute (they are at least interested in or moving towards addressing both).

The Big Mind process helps with integration, healing, maturing and development at our human level, and also with Big Mind awakening to its own nature.

The Work allows beliefs to unravel, allowing our human self to heal, mature and flower, and also, eventually, and if we take it that far, revealing Big Mind and the Ground.

Adyashanti, while mainly focusing on realized selflessness, certainly also addresses and encourages the flowering of Spirit in our human life.

The curse and the blessing of impermanence

Impermanence can be a curse or a blessing.

The curse of impermanence: when identified with the seen

It is a curse if there is an identification with the seen, typically our human self. Then, we are at the mercy of birth and death, illness and loss, getting what we don’t want and don’t getting what we want. Identified as our human self our happiness is precarious at best.

The blessing of impermanence: as a guide to find ourselves as that which does not change

And it is also a blessing, as a reminder to find ourselves as that which does not change. We can notice sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts come and go. All of this which makes up our human self, which we have been so closely identified, comes and goes, constantly, in our own immediate experience.

Yet, something does not change. What is it that does not change? It is this awake space that all of this comes and goes within, it is the awareness it happens to and as.

Here, impermanence becomes a blessing. It helps us shift out of a blind identification with the seen and find ourselves as the seeing itself. It helps the center of gravity shift our of our human self and into and as the witness.

And here, there is first an intuition and feeling of no separation between the seen and the seeing, both seem to have the same flavor, to be aspects of a larger whole, be born from the same Ground.

Shifting into realized selflessness

Then, there is the noticing of both the seeing and the seen as inherently absent of any I. They are Ground in its seeing and seen aspects, yet with no I anywhere.

The sense of center falls away. The sense of I and Other falls away. The seeing and the seen arises as a field absent of center, absent of I anywhere.

Relative and absolute

Impermanence as a curse or blessing is a relative truth.

The absolute shows us that impermanence is inherently absent of either, so allows both. It allows any relative truth about impermanence, including any and all stories about impermanence that comes up in us, including this one.

The coin of awakening: exploring both sides

(Somewhat long and rambling…)

There is a coin of ignorance and a coin of awakening.

Coin of ignorance: what we are and mechanisms of samsara

One face of the coin of ignorance is ignorance of what we are, and the other face is ignorance of the mechanisms of samsara.

Coin of awakening: emptiness and form

And one face of the coin of awakening is emptiness, and the other form. Or we can, more loosely, say context and content, Ground and phenomena, absolute and relative, and more specifically – in our case, Big Mind and human self.

When Big Mind awakens to its own nature, when there is realized selflessness, both are naturally present, inseparable, revealed as two sides of the same coin. One is not more or less real or present than the other.

At the same time, there can definitely be a difference in emphasis, and this has to do with how our particular human self is put together, and also the culture and traditions it functions within and is influenced by.

Emphasizing the absolute

So for instance Joel, at the Center for Sacred Sciences, tends to emphasize awakening as a release from our human self, which is completely valid. There is a release from blind identification with our human self, and the drama that comes with that identification.

In general, he tends to emphasize emptiness, Ground, the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, Big Mind. And he tends to de-emphasize form, phenomena, the content of this universe and the human self, and our particular human self. He certainly acknowledges this face of the coin, but it is not emphasized. He also tends to leave out the evolution aspect of the world of form, including the interpersonal and the healing, maturing and development – along the many lines and their levels, of our human self.

Since Big Mind is emphasized, it can appear somewhat detached and impersonal. It can even appear as an escape more than anything else, although it is an escape from misidentification into what we already really are.

Since the particulars of our human self is somewhat in the background, the healing, maturing and development of our human self is also in the background. As Ken Wilber points out in his dramatic language, an awakening – and the practice up to it, can even “cement” the human self in place to some extent, including its dysfunctions and current levels of development.

Including the relative

Others, such as Genpo Roshi, Saniel Bonder, the other teachers associated with Ken Wilber, and I am sure many others, emphasize more strongly an inclusion of the relative.

For Genpo Roshi, it means to become more fully human. For Saniel Bonder, the many forms of mutuality and embodiment.

Here, the evolution of form, and the development of this particular human self, is emphasized as much as the awakening itself. And the awakening of realized selflessness is just one step in this process. It is not by any means an end point. It may be “final” as it is a Ground awakening, yet it is not final at all in terms of the continuing unfolding, evolution and development of the world of form in general, and of this human self in particular.

One aspect of the awakening can still be seen as an “escape” from blind identification with this human self and the suffering that comes with it. But as much as an escape, it is an opportunity and invitation to allow this human self to heal, mature and continue to develop in a richer, fuller, deeper, wider way.

Development within two contexts: a sense of I and realized selflessness

The world of form is change and continues to evolve, and this human self too continues to change and develop.

When this human self changes and develops within the context of a sense of I, there is an identification with some aspects of this human self and a disowning of other aspects. It is a house divided against itself. There are varying degrees of drama and struggle in this process, which in itself brings various dysfunctions, lopsided developments, and so on.

On the other hand, when this human self changes and develops within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a much fuller, richer, deeper, wider, more balanced and integral healing, maturing, and development.

This human self naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this process can be aided and greased. And the relationships that this human self has to others and the wider world also naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this too can be encouraged and helped along.

Nothing new, yet a difference in emphasis

Most (or all?) mature traditions and teachers acknowledge this. But there is certainly a difference in emphasis. As many suggests today, it seems that our current phase in human evolution, and the way awakening is expressed, is one of emphasizing the inclusion of the relative, including the healing, maturing and development of our human self and its many relationships to the wider world.

Why settle for just a Ground awakening when there is so much more to explore within this new context of realized selflessness. When there is an opportunity for this human self to engage more actively in the evolution of the world of form, particularly through its own healing, maturing and development.

Realized selflessness changes the context only: this human self continues to be part of an evolving universe and continues its own development. So it may as well actively engage in that process.

Evolution is, after all, one of the faces of God. It is what God appears to do in its form aspect.

Leave that out and there is still realized selflessness, which is of course fine. But it also leaves out the fun that this human self can have by more consciously engage with and grease its own process of unfolding and reorganizing, and that of the larger whole.

Big Mind doesn’t care either way. But engaging in this way can certainly be more fun for this human self. At least for this human self.

One with? Yes and no.

An awakening to selflessness is a shift in context from a sense of I to realized selflessness. The content can stay the same, and the context shifts.

This is similar to what Ken Wilber says on p. 115 in Integral Spirituality:

Enlightenment is becoming one with all states and all stages at any given time.

Context and content

The Ground of it all, of the seeing and the seen, context and content, emptiness and form, is inherently absent of any I, and this is what awakens to its own nature.

(Even the temporary sense of an I is inherently absent of any I. It may appear very real and substantial as long as it is there, but even in the midst of all that – and the drama that goes with it, it is inherently absent of any I.)

And the content includes the current unfolding of this universe and this particular human self. In other words, it includes the current evolutionary stage of the Universe and the human species, and the current developmental stage of this human self, just as KW points out in that quote.

Any expression is relative truth

Any expression of this is naturally in the realm of relative truths, and there is nothing absolute in any of the many ways to talk about or communicate this.

Words split the world, and what they point to is effortlessly beyond and includes all polarities.

Any map is different from the actual terrain. Even in its reflection of the terrain, it highlights some features and deemphasize and leave out other.

One with? Sort of.

So when Ken Wilber talks about this, that too is a relative – and incomplete, truth. Sometimes, there is more detail and accuracy in the way he talks about Big Mind awakening to itself. Other times, such as here, it is more casual and more inaccuracies creep in.

He says one with, but this indicates that there is something that is one with something else.

Here, Ground awakens to its own nature, absent of I anywhere. It is not one, not two, not not one, not not two. It is all of those and none of those. It is actually much simpler and more ordinary than what any words can reflect.

For practical purposes, speaking casually about it, one with is perfectly fine. At the same time, it does not quite capture it.

One with, not yet Ground awakening

It can even give a false impression of Ground awakening when there is none.

At some point, the center of gravity, our identity, shifts from a part of the seen (our human self) to the seeing itself. And there may then be the realization that the seen and the seeing are not so different from each other, not really two.

There is an intuition that they are aspects of a whole, expressions of the same Ground. And there is a sense of no separation, of being one with everything. But there is still a sense of I here, placed in the seeing.

This may appear to be close to Ground awakening, but it is not Ground awakening.

It is really as far from Ground awakening as an identification with the seen is from an identification with the seeing. Each of these three shifts are clear, unmistaken, and significant.

Ground awakening, simpler and more ordinary than words can capture

In Ground awakening, all of this – the seen and the seeing, emptiness and form, is revealed to be inherently absent of any I. There is not one, not two, not both, not neither.

Just what is, absent of any I. Simpler, and really more ordinary, than what any words or models can capture.

Self as seeing (or absent), me as this human self, and other as the rest of form

Another pretty obvious thing for those following KWs work:

I as seeing, me as human self, other as the rest of the world

When the sense of self shifts from the seen to the seeing, what is seen is divided up in two parts: me – as this human self, and other – as the rest of the world of form.

I am the seeing. Me is this human self. And other is the rest of the world.

Pretty simple.

And at the same time, the me and other is clearly seen as segments of the seamless fluid world of form. The dividing line between me and other is just for convenience’s sake, for practical reasons, as an aid for this human self to function and orient in the world of form. There is a demarcation line, for practical reasons, but it is just an abstract overlay.

I am the seeing that the world of form happens within.

Realized selflessness, and still me as human self and other as the rest of the world

Then, there is the realization that I am the Ground the seeing and the seen happens within and as, and there is no I inherent in any of it.

Even here, in realized selflessness, this human self is still me and the rest of the world other.

And here, it is even more clear that there is no inherent difference among any of these. It is all Ground in its many forms, Spirit playing, emptiness dancing.

The only difference is a practical one: there is still a functional connection with this particular human self. So, for purely practical reasons, it is labeled me.

And as the rest of the world of form continues to evolve, this human self continues to develop.

Content Changing to Allow for Recognition of Ground

I don’t know if there is a typical pattern here, but it seems that…

Initial awakening and amazing experiences

During initial awakenings, to soul levels and nature/deity mysticism, there is typically a large amount of amazing experiences, including deep insights out of the blue, strong energy experiences, causeless bliss and joy, seeing of auras, new abilities in any area of life, and so on.

Attachments as a carrot

So naturally, there can be an attachment to this particular content. This can be very helpful for a while, it is the carrot that keeps it moving.

Fall from grace

After a while, the process is ready to move on beyond attachment to this particular content. If there is still a stubborn attachment to this content (as was the case with me), then the rug may be pulled from under one’s feet, as an invitation to see this attachment and allow it to burn through.

Dark night

After a while of despair, a sense of dryness and weariness may surface, a clearer seeing of the futility and confusion in attaching to any particular content, even that content which seems most appealing and attractive to this human self.

Realized selflessness

And in this dryness, this setting of all dials to zero, the Ground may surface more, it may shift more into the foreground, this Ground of all content, of all phenomena, of all experiences. There may be a taste of real selflessness here, and eventually a clearer realization of selflessness – maybe first in glimpses and then more stable and clearly.

Now, the Ground awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere, naturally allowing any content to come and go, to live its own life, within and as Ground itself. Bliss and pain, joy and sadness, dryness and ecstasy, it is all recognized as nothing other than Ground itself.

Ground is primary and in the foreground. The particularities of the content is all recognized as Ground itself, and important only in a relative context.

Preferences of this human self – within context of I and realized selflessness

The preferences of this human self are still there, yet now within a different context.

First, there was the context of a sense of I, so the preferences of this human self naturally came into the foreground. There was an attachment to some experiences, to some content, and an aversion to other content. All this is perfectly natural and innocent.

Then, in a context of realized selflessness, there is still the preferences of this human self, as before. But now, these too unfold as Ground. These preferences, as any other phenomena, unfold as emptiness. The nature of these preferences as Ground, as emptiness, as Spirit, is in the foreground, is primary, is clear, inherent in what is happening.

They are not identified with. They are not seen as I. The center of gravity is no longer in these preferences. They just happen as anything else. They live their own life, as anything else. They happen with no doer there. They arise with no I to be found anywhere in it.

Inseperability of Ground and Phenomena

When there is a realization of selflessness, there is also the realization of the inseparability of Ground and phenomena. Any and all forms are Ground themselves. Ground temporarily taking a particular form.

One of these phenomena is of course our human self, so our human self – along with anything else – arises within and as Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman.

The Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman is naturally in the foreground. Anything arising is inherently and primarily this. The particulars of the form itself, and especially its names and associations, are secondary although easily available.

Nothing needs to change in content. Ground allows anything to arise as and within our human self. Yet, an awakening to selflessness also allows our human self to reorganize and realign to this new context.

There is a sense of infinite distance to this human self, of absence of any identification, of any sense of I there. It arises as everything else arises. Sensations and thoughts comes and goes as everything else comes and goes. It lives its own life, as everything lives its own life. It does, but there is no doer there. It chooses, but there is no chooser there. This human self, its experiences, its actions, just happens, as everything else just happens.

At the same time, there is a sense of intimacy – even more intimate than any intimacy since there is an absence of I and of Other. This human self arises as Ground. There is an absence of separation. An absence of I. An absence of Other. An absence of distance. It is more intimate than the most intimate. It is on the other side of intimacy, since there is an absence of all of this.

Radical Impartiality

As with tastes of Big Mind in general, radical impartiality can show up in two ways.

Within belief in I

One is while there is still a belief in the idea of I. Here, we can have a taste of it through just noticing that this awareness – here now – is already radically impartial.

It already allows any experience to come and go, to live its own life. It allows any experience, any content, including resistance to certain experiences and content! It inherently allows all of this, and it is untouched by all of this. The particular content leaves no trace in pure awareness, it only leaves apparent trace in other content.

This space and awareness, here now, allows any content to come and go, including resistance to any content, which itself is content.

Within the context of a belief in I, this appears as an individual awareness. But even this apparently individual awareness is already radically impartial.

Within realized selflessness

When there is an awakening to selflessness, to what is with no I anywhere, to content staying the same but context shifting to realized selflessness, this radical impartiality takes a slightly different form.

This space and awareness that initially appeared as individual, as somehow a property of this human self, is now revealed to be radically non-individual. It is really the Ground of all phenomena, including any and all beings (although it is also – mysteriously and temporarily – functionally connected with this particular human self).

This Ground of radical impartiality is this physical space which everything arises within. Trees, butterflies, galxies, oceans, culture, cities, emotions, thoughts, sensations, cars, an eagle, a cloud, delusion, awakening, Buddha, Pol Pot, nebulae, solar systems, universes. It all arises within and as Ground, within and as Spirit, within and as Big Mind, Buddha Mind.

And when it is functionally connected with a particular being, for instance a human self, then it often (mistakenly) exclusively identifies with this self, and awareness is taken as individual, as a property of the human self.

Always available

The beauty of radical impartiality is that it is available in either case. It is available within a context of a sense of I, now taken as a characteristic of personal and individual awareness. And it is available in realized selflessness, now revealed as a characteristic of Ground, Spirit, Buddha Mind, Brahman.

Trust in this Human Self Functioning Without a Doer

In writing the previous post, I see more clearly that there is a fear around retracting a sense of a doer from this human self. Can it function without it? Will it be OK?

This is of course only a temporary concern. Even in the midst of it, there is the realization that this human self has done very well without a doer, all the way back to its conception. There has never been a doer there in the first place. It has always lived its own life. There has only been the sense of a doer there, superimposed onto it. The does was manufactured in the first place. A figment of nobodys(!) imagination.

And after a while, there is a familiarity with this terrain in the context of selflessness. There is no doer there, yet it does function much as before. There is no I there, yet it still moves, talks, interacts, gets out of bed, brushes its teeth, functions in the world.

So gradually, there is a growing trust. A growing willingness to let the idea of doer go. To allow this human self to function on its own, with no doer, with no I, as it has functioned from the beginning.

Human Self Living its Own Life

Just about any form of self-inquiry, and many forms of mediation, gives a taste of it: this human self lives its own life.

In shikantaza meditation, I allow anything arising to live its own life. Thoughts come and go. Sensations come and go. Sights come and go. Tastes and smells come and go. Movements come and go.

In headlessness, I find myself as capacity for the world, as that which allows anything to arise, to come and go, to live its own life.

As Big Mind, I am that which is beyond and includes all polarities.

In the self-inquiry of differentiating that which comes and goes from that which does not, I first see that I am not that which comes and goes, then that I am that which does not come and go, and finally that the two are not separate.

Seamless field

Each of these allows for a taste of all phenomena as coming and going, living their own life. And the world of phenomena is a field with no boundaries anywhere, it is a seamless whole. There is no inside nor outside in this field of phenomena. This human self is just part of the landscape.

This human self living its own life

Each of these practices also allows for a taste of this human self as living its own life. There is doing there, but no doer. The thoughts, sensations, sights, tastes, smells and movements of this human self comes and goes as anything else. They live their own life, as anything else.

There is a thought, then a movement. It may appear as if the thought somehow initiated the movement, but that too is just another thought, a story about a connection not directly experienced (as Hume and others have noted).

Taste of selflessness

In finding ourselves as either (a) the witness of the world of phenomena, the seeing, pure awareness, or (b) as the Ground of anything happening, there is a taste of selflessness.

In the first case, finding myself as the seeing, there is a taste of selflessness in the world of phenomena. This human self is not separate from anything else, and there is no doer in or as that human self.

In the second case, finding ourselves as Ground, it becomes clear that there is no I even as the seeing. Even that is a superimposed story. The seen and the seeing is revealed as inseparable, as somehow differentiable but not two.

Transcend and include

So first, there is a transcending of the world of phenomena, tasting and then realizing that there is no I anywhere there. It all comes and goes, so I cannot be any of those things coming and going.

Then, I find myself as that which does not come and go. As awareness, consciousness, as room for and awareness of everything coming and going.

Then, there is an inclusion of that which comes and goes. That which arises as a particular form within awareness is awareness itself. The two are not separate, and not two. The seen and the seeing is not two.


There has been many tastes of this lately, including many times today (more as a thread throughout the day). This human self is doing something, and there is just the seeing of it and realization of it happening on its own.

Thoughts come and go. Sensations come and go. Sounds come and go. Tastes and smells come and go. Movements come and go. And it is all living its own life.

Maybe more remarkably: it is all perfectly capable of living its own life. It does anyway. It always has lived its own life.

And it is perfectly capable of doing so, even without the appearance of an I or a doer there.

There are many forms of liberation here. First, it is the liberation of anything arising from a superimposed I, a doer. In Zen language, we can say that the head on top of the head falls away. Thoughts are liberated from a sense of I. Sensations are liberated from a sense of I. The movements are liberated from a sense of I. The doing is liberated from a sense of a doer.

Then, there is the liberation of differentiating the seen from the seeing, that which changes from that which does not change. Each fall into place in awareness and realization of this difference.

And finally, not so different, Ground awakens to its own nature as having no I anywhere. It is liberated from being temporarily deluded about its own nature.

Cravings, Addictions & The Hole

I talked with a friend yesterday about cravings and addictions, and what we are trying to get out of those addictions.

Working within the relative

On a relative level, and when there is a sense of I, addictions can be seen as a strategy to meet a need, and if that need is clarified, it may be possible to find other strategies that can meet it in a more effective and fulfilling way.

Process Work is one way to explore this. Sometimes, what is uncovered makes good sense. Other times, it may not make much sense but still work. For instance, I explored my sugar craving a while back, ended up with a movement that filled the same need as the sugar, and the sugar craving fell away (mostly). The movement is a jump up and down, similar to the dance of the Masai warriors. On the surface, there seems to be no connection to eating sugar. But from the inside, in my experience, it gives the same effects as eating sugar does, in an even more fulfilling way.

Working within the relative can be very helpful. Yet, we are still only shuffling around the content. Moving the pieces so they find a relationship to each other that seems to work a little better. It is a temporary and incomplete fix, at best.


From a more ultimate view, it seems that any craving, any addiction, any sense of need, any sense of lack, comes from a mistaken identity. And it will not be resolved until what is awakens to its own nature, with no I anywhere.

What is is the context and content of awareness here now. And the context can be a sense of I, placed on something in the content, or it can be realized selflessness.

When there is a sense of I, placed on a segment of the content, there is immediately a sense of I and Other, of lack, of needs, of something missing. And we try to fill this hole through rearranging the content to the best of our ability, through partners, food, substances, music, entertainment, status, money. Or, if we are more sophisticated, through working on ourselves, our human self, but still just rearranging content.

It may work to some extent, it may work for a while. But ultimately, it does not resolve the sense of lack, of something missing, of something not being complete.

The only release from this discontent is through awakening. Through what is awakening to its own nature, of no I anywhere.

Needs as an attempt to find home

From this perspective, any sense of need is an attempt to find home. Any craving, addiction, need, want, is a sincere attempt to escape the confines of seeing oneself as separate, and find home in realized selflessness. It is a sincere and innocent attempt, although ultimately futile.

The only way to find home is for what is to realize that there is no I anywhere, and the way for this to happen is to set the stage for it to happen, to prepare the ground, for instance through meditation, prayer and inquiry.

Deity Mysticism, Witness & Fall from Grace

Even as the center of gravity moves to nature and deity mysticism and/or the Witness, there is still an identification with a segment of what is.

There is a belief in the idea of I, and it is placed on the soul (nature/deity mysticism, F7/F8) and/or pure awareness (F9). There is still a sense of I and Other, no matter how apparently transparent and subtle.

It is an awakening still with the presence of a sense of I, and identification with a segment of what is, so it is naturally subject of change with changing content.

Nondual awakening

From here, it can move on to a nondual awakening, to Ground awakening to its own nature of no I anywhere, allowing any content to come and go as it naturally does. This is an awakening where the context is the only thing that needs to change, from a sense of I to an realization of no I anywhere. Content – states, experiences, phenomena, come and go freely and naturally, as they do anywhere, but no with no trace of attachment or resistance to them.

Fall from grace

If this does not happen, if there is a stuckness here even as there is a deeper readiness to move on, there will be a fall from grace, a dark night of the soul. And this fall from grace invites to a gradual wearing off of any sense of I, eventually revealing the Ground – absent of I anywhere.

It seems terrible as it happens. It seems that everything is lost. But it is just another phase in the process of Ground awakening to itself, of God remembering who it is, of Buddha Mind realizing its own nature, of emptiness dancing.


This is what apparently happened in my case.

The nature/deity mysticism awakening and the awakening as Witness initially came out of the blue, uninvited in any conscious sense (to somebody who saw himself as a die-hard materialist and atheist!). It deepened and stabilized over some years.

At some point, there may have been a deeper readiness to move on to a Ground awakening, yet there was also an attachment to and holding onto the belief in I and to the nature/deity awakening and the sense of Witness as I.

So there was a fall from grace, a dark night of the soul, also lasting for years, gradually wearing off attachments to a sense of I, to segments of what is, to any content. And it is still far from complete.

Forms of Compassion

There seems to be a few different forms of compassion.

Compassion from realized selflessness

One is what happens when Ground – Spirit, Buddha Mind, Big Mind, Divine Mind, Emptiness, What Is – awakens to its own nature. Here, everything arising is revealed as Ground (etc.), and there is no I anywhere.

There is still a functional connection with a particular human self, and when this human self encounters Ground functionally connected with another self, and is (apparently) confused about its identity, then compassion naturally arises. It is as simple as the left hand helping the right. Effortless. Natural. Spontaneous. Without drama.

Compassion in the context of an idea of I

The other form of compassion is what happens when there is still a belief in the idea of I, still an identification with a segment of what is, typically our human self. This compassion is usually mixed with a sense of drama, ambivalence, struggle, effort, precariousness, and so on.

A belief in the idea of I creates the whole sense of I and Other, and the sense of ambivalence, struggle and drama inherent in that experience. And when there is a belief in the idea of I, there are usually beliefs in lots of other ideas as well, which only complexifies and amplifies the sense of drama, struggle and ambivalence.

Even here, the natural and effortless compassion arising from realized selflessness can come through. It is, after all, what we already are, so it will come through at times.

Ground Awakening to Itself, and Functional Connections

Ground awakening to its own nature, of no I anywhere, can still be functionally connected to a human self. That is how there is the appearance of a human being awakening.

What I find very interesting is how this Ground is somehow separately functionally connected with innumerable sentient beings. It is the same Ground, yet functionally separated innumerable ways within itself, to a wide range of vehicles (beings) in the world of phenomena.

Typically, there is very little “leaking” of immediate information between these selves, with the exception of synchronicities, and possible esp and so on.

So this awakening of Ground to itself is an awakening to its own nature, expressed through one particular human self. Which means there may be, and most likely are, awakenings beyond this type. These are just speculations, but they could be awakenings expressed through groups of human selves, or through even wider and more diverse groups of beings or even inanimate matter. Who knows. At least here, that is still in the future.

Floating at the Edge

Another rambling post…

For a while now, there has been a floating at the edge of I-Other and absence of I-Other. It is quite interesting to explore this area.

I see that some times, there is an identification with parts of my human self – sensations, emotions, thoughts, and an appearance of an “I” being located somewhere in/around this human self. There is a sense of a center here, of a seer and seen, of I and Other. Of this human self being qualitatively different from any other part of what is happening.

Other times, everything becomes a seamless field – this human self, trees, desk, cat, the wind, sounds, sensations, emotions, thoughts, other people, and there is a disidentification with any part of it. It all just happens, seemingly on its own. No aspect of this field has an “I” in it. No aspect is particularly identified with to the exclusion of anything else. It is beyond intimate. There is “I” anywhere and nowhere in particular. Just one seamless field. Everything just happening within this field, including anything there was previously an exclusive identification with – any aspect of this human self.

Movie screen

It is really quite similar to a movie screen: a radical equality and neutrality to each aspect of the image. Every aspect is projected equally onto the screen, independent of what label we may put on it. It is a seamless image, independent and distinct from any labels put on any parts of it.

Every aspect of the image is distinct, there is differentiation, yet just one seamless image.

The whole field is there, the content is just as before. Yet everything is just happening as part of this field. There is a radical equality and neutrality to it all. This human self is no different from any other part of the field. It just happens, as the clouds happen, the trees, the cat, the computer, the sounds of a fan, people walking by and talking. It is all just Ground manifesting in all these forms.

A seamless field of radical equality and neutrality, of no identification with any part to the exclusion of anything else, of no “I” inherent anywhere. Of it all just happening within this field. Of everything just happening on its own. Of everything living its own life: this human self, sensations, emotions, thoughts, behavior, the clouds, trees, cats, computers, sounds, people.

Everything is just happening on its own, living its own life, within this seamless field.


Any resistance arises within this field, harmless, just happening along with anything else.

If there is an identification with resistance, then the sense of I and Other arise immediately. And with it, the sense of drama and struggle, of rather of being caught up in the sense of drama and struggle. There is a sense of I being somewhere within the content of what is happening, and other content becomes Other.

And if any resistance is recognized as simply arising within the field, along with everything else, then it is revealed as innocent and harmless. It arises within the radical equality and neutrality of everything else. The I is everywhere and nowhere in context and content.

Not yet popped

And there is also the recognition that this has not yet “popped” completely. It is almost there. It is swimming at the edge of recognizing radical selflessness, of no I anywhere. Although still with a vague sense of “I” there, even as the field goes towards noticing itself as radical equality and neutrality.

There is a transparency of I towards the Ground, yet not Ground coming into the foreground.

And the trick is of course to see that this sense of I too is just part of this seamless field. It arises within the radical equality of anything else.

Field of radical equality

This comes up quite frequently now, for instance on a walk Sunday, and also as Jen and I watched a video with Papaji last night. We both noticed how we went into a very silent space while watching, just from his presence even as conveyed through a movie. The diksha energy went wild. And I went into the field of radical equality noticing, beneath the layer of I and Other.

Ego Fighting?

I went to a talk by a guest speaker at the Center for Sacred Sciences Sunday. What is has clearly awakened to its own nature through him, and just listening allowed the vague sense of I to dissipate more.

Still, there were parts of the content that does not seem to align with my own experiences.

For instance, he talked a few times about the ego fighting its dissolution, fearing its death and so on. This is a quite common way of talking about it, but it seems clearly inaccurate as well. Really, this fighting seems to be an impression that only arises when there is still a belief in I there.

After the belief in I falls away, the whole process appears different. Now, we see that what appears to be “ego fighting” is just innocent habitual patterns. That is all. There was no ego in the first place, only the appearance of it from an overlay of the idea of I. It was a fiction all along. And the habitual patterns are only experienced as a problem to the extent there is identification with them.

And the belief in the idea of I is equally and completely innocent. It is just there as long as it has to, only as long as there has not been a clear seeing of the nature of what is being inherently absent of any I.

Figure-Ground Reversal

A rambling draft…

It is interesting to explore the flow between the appearance of I and Other and the (near) realization of selflessness, of what is with no I inherent anywhere.

It seems very close to a figure ground reversal in the visual realm. The content stays the same, yet that which is perceived as figure and ground switches.

In one case, there is a sense of I and Other, and I is placed on temporary forms. So the flow of the innumerable temporary forms and appearances is now in the foreground. This human self, sensations, emotions, feelings, thoughts, other human selves, houses, trees, stars, music – all of these are in the foreground. The Ground of space, awareness and clarity is seen as Other and in the background. We may notice the ground of space, awareness and clarity, yet it is all somehow an Other – coming in and out of focus and attention.

In the other case, this Ground of space, awareness and clarity comes to the foreground, revealed as inherently absent of any I and Other. The flow of temporary forms and appearances arises within this context of Ground. The forms now becomes more of a background, as just the dance of this emptiness. As it is sometimes expressed, it is all God appearing in various forms and God is in the foreground.

Reversal as drama

It is very simple. Yet, for understandable reasons, we are used to seeing the forms in the foreground. It becomes a habit.

And as there is the appearance of I and Other as an absolute and final reality, we make the figure-ground reversal of realizing Ground in the foreground as an Other. We distance ourselves from it for this simple reason, and bring also this into our sense of struggle and drama.

When the reversal happens, it may not be complete at first and may clarify over time. And the switch may go back and forth many times before it stabilizes more in the realization of everything absent of any I.

The consequences of each

Each of these reversals have their own natural consequences.

When there is a sense of I and Other, and I is placed on temporary forms, these forms are in the foreground. As space, awareness and clarity appear as background and Other, they appear to be more or less present – although it is really only the noticing of them which comes and goes. And as I is typically placed on this human self, “I” become finite, limited, temporary, within space and time, wanting this and not that. A sense of struggle and drama arises. There is an exclusive identification with our human self, and “I and Other” appear as final and absolute.

When the Ground is in the foreground, there is a sense of ease, flow, of timelessness, of space & time unfolding within this timeless now. There is still I and Other in a conventional sense, although revealed as just conventions with no inherent or absolute reality to them – both revealed as Ground.


  1. :: The Origin ::

    There is the Ground (space, awareness, clarity) and the play of the Ground (the flow of infinite forms and appearances of the Ground).

    :: Appearance of I and Other ::

  2. A sense of I as separate from Other arises. It arises as Ground and as one of the appearances of Ground. It is Ground appearing to itself in the form of I and Other, subject and object, seer and seen.
  3. The sense of “I” is typically placed on temporary forms. In our case, on a human self.
  4. Since “I” is placed on temporary forms, these now appear in the foreground and the Ground in the background as “Other”.
  5. As Ground can appear as Spirit, God, Buddha Mind, timelessness and so on, these now also appear as “Other”. There is the appearance of “I” connecting with God as “Other”, and this connection appears to be more or less strong, more or less present, to come and go.
  6. The qualities of the Ground – timelessness, space, awareness, ease, clarity and so on, are now brought into and out of attention. They appear to come and go.
  7. As “I” is placed on something temporary and finite, what it is placed on now takes on a more permanent and solid appearance.
  8. Placing “I” on something temporary and seeing everything else as Other, there is a sense of drama and struggle.
  9. This sense of struggle and drama solidifies the sense of I and Other, it makes the distinction seem even more real, more absolute, more final.
  10. We now either see the reversal of Ground into the foreground as (a) a fantasy, nonexistent, impossible, irrelevant or (b) as a desirable Other. In both cases, this reversal is brought into the drama.
  11. It is possible to still be caught up in the drama of I and Other, and place “I” on some (limited) qualities of the Ground. The fluid and infinite appearances of the Ground may now be seen as “Other”. This is another form of the struggle.
  12. Being caught up in the drama of I and Other, it is also possible to see the timeless and formless aspects of Ground as real and the time and form appearances as less real or illusionary. This is yet another form of the struggle.
  13. And being caught up in the drama of I and Other, it is possible to make what is without abstractions and stories as real and desirable and abstractions and stories as false and undesirable. This is yet another form of the struggle, not much different from any other.
  14. Being caught up in the drama of I and Other, we can make the reversal of I and Other in the foreground as false and undesirable and the reversal of Ground in the foreground as true and desirable. And we are still caught up in the struggle as much as in any other way, although it tends to be the final form of the struggle.
  15. When the struggle is exhausted, the reversal to Ground in the foreground is allowed to happen with more ease.

    :: Reversal to Ground in the foreground ::

  16. The reversal to Ground in the foreground happens on its own, although we can practice and train in ways which makes it more likely to happen. It can happen suddenly, out of the blue without or with practice. Or it can happen gradually, over time. The reversal just happens. As a master of reversals said: the reversal it is an accident, and practice makes us accident prone.
  17. When the reversal happens, it seems obvious. It is all Ground. There is a sense of ease. There is still the conventional “I and Other” and the conventional “I” can be placed on our human self used to navigate in the world, but it is not taken as anything final or absolute, just as the play of Ground.
  18. When the reversal happens, there is still a functional connection to a particular human self. There is even the conventional “I” placed on this human self, although it is recognized as just another temporary form and appearance of Ground – no different from any other.
  19. When the reversal happens, there is the recognition of everything – of the flow of forms and appearances – as happening within the timeless and eternal Now and Present. Everything is always fresh, always new, always different. God never repeats itself.

    :: Both reversals the play of Ground ::

  20. And when the reversal happens, we see that it was all the play of Ground. Both reversals are the play of Ground, in one instance with the forms in the foreground and in the other instance with Ground in the foreground. And in one instance with the appearance of drama and struggle and the other with the appearance of ease. Both are fine. Both are Ground. None are inherently more preferable than the other.

Absolute & Relative

The Absolute is what is without or distinct from any stories about it. It is stories when they arise, but cannot be described by them. It is the essence of thoughts themselves – yet not what thoughts tell.

The Relative is what arises with stories – filtered through stories – it is distinctions and polarities, this and not that. It is essential for functioning as a human being in the world. And it is peaceful when stories are not attached to, and stressful when they are – when the stories are taken as an absolute, as a truth, as anything else than fictional.

When what is awakens to its own nature, of everything absent of any I, then the Absolute is revealed as well. It is all God. It is all beyond and including all polarities. It is all emptiness dancing. And that is all.

And when what is awakened to its own nature meets what is (apparently) not awakened to its own nature, the Relative arises as well. Emptiness dances as the Relative. I am you, and if you manifest the Relative, then that is what I am as well. Your wish for liberation is my wish for you, as me. And that is all.

The Absolute – what is awakened to its own nature, and the Relative – what is (apparently) not awakened to its own nature, are emptiness dancing as the Absolute and as the Relative. Both are Ground temporarily manifesting. Both are God exploring itself.

And this is a story too. As any story, it can appear to be an help for navigating the world or not. And as any story, it is peaceful when not attached to and stressful when attached to.

If this story is seen as true, then something else becomes not true – something to defend against. There is an attachment to this story, and an attachment to protecting against other stories. In being caught up in a battle of stories this way, there is stress. And stress is the signal of being caught up in a fictional battle, of taking a fictional battle as real, as all there is.

Enlightenment, God Realization & Maturing

There seems to be more and more interest for a combination of Enlightenment, God Realization and maturing.

Enlightenment – meaning realizing selflessness, what is realizing that everything is inherently absent of any “I”. This is Big Mind waking up to its own nature, and the nondual level in Ken Wilber’s framework.

God Realization – meaning the awakening and flowering of the heart. This is Big Heart awakening, with a subtle distinction of I and Other within a context of everything as God. This is what is awakened at F8 (deity mysticism) in KW’s framework.

Maturing – this is the level of our human self, which can continue to heal, mature and develop before and after the two flavors of awakenings. Within the context of Big Mind/Big Heart awakening, its healing, maturing and development is part of it being increasingly finely tuned as an instrument in the world, as a vehicle in the world of form and phenomena.

In today’s world, when there is so much availability to all three, why leave any one out?

And there are more and new frameworks and approaches being developed which includes these three as well.

In terms of frameworks, Ken Wilber’s AQAL one is probably the most well developed right now.

In terms of approaches, the Big Mind process is a great example of one that works at all three levels from the consciousness side. And diksha is an example of one that works at all three levels from the energy side.

And of course, in just years – and certainly decades – all of these will seem very outdated. Cutely quaint. The pioneering efforts of a more inclusive approach which may be taken mostly for granted in just some decades. Who knows.

Infinite Causes & Present

It is given, even from a conventional view, that the present is all there is. The present is all that is real. Any ideas of past and future are just that, ideas – abstractions, maps.

Believing in (stories about) past and future

But when we believe in our ideas, they seem real so past and future (or rather our stories of past and future) seem real as well. We may know intellectually that the present is all there is, but it certainly does not feel that way.

Realizing selflessness

It is only when we have a glimpse of – or or awaken to – a realization of selflessness that this becomes real and obvious. The belief in ideas fall away, including the belief in the idea of I, so now it is clear that the present is all there is. It is revealed as the Timeless Present, within which time and space unfolds in always new and fresh ways. It is the Present that always is. Ideas and stories about past and future are just ideas and stories, occuring right now along with everything else.


When we go to the past to explain the present, we are going to stories about the past – maps that highlight some features, leave other out, and are inherently quite different from the terrain. It may give a sense of order and understandable patterns, but that is about it. Anything in the present, seen from the perspective of past and future, has infinite causes. Any map will be woefully inadequate in accounting for even a fraction of these.

Past as mirroring the present

What our stories about the past (and future) do, quite accurately, is reflecting the present. Or rather, they are the present – one of the way the world of phenomena unfold in the present.

One way to say this is that they are projections of what is happening right now. They reflect and are what is happening now, but appear to say something about an abstract past or future.

It is pretty obvious, and also quite beautiful. Our stories say something about what is going on right now, and are valuable as that.


There is of course a consensus reality, one that we can more or less agree on in terms of our past, individually and collectively. This map of consensus reality help us navigate this world more effectively.

Pointing back to the present

But at the same time, the map of consensus reality is merely an abstraction – really only saying something about us right now. Other stories – dreams, those we label fiction, and so on – are as accurate in saying something about us right now, although they may be less helpful as guidelines for navigating the world.

The realization of infinite causes also brings us back to the present. Any map of the past is woefully inadequate, so the Present is all we really have.


When I look, I see that I have no option but to function in a self-centered way.

As long as there is a belief in the idea of I, that functions as a center in my world. Whatever this idea of I is placed on (my human self, family, nation, Earth, life, universe, witness) become the center of my experience and functioning in the world. Whatever I do, however selfish or altruistic it may seem from a conventional view, is for myself.

I act from a should. I act from a belief. I act from a sense of ethics. I act from my integrity. I act from a sense of compassion. I act from a realization of interconnections. And so on. It is all for me, although I am of course free to tell myself the story that I am doing it for others.

And when this belief in the idea of I falls away, when there is a realization of selflessness, we can say that the self-centeredness also falls away. But we can also say that it just changes from self-centeredness to Self-centeredness. The new center (of gravity) is in Big Mind, the realization of Ground. That which has center nowhere and everywhere, and yet is temporarily functionally centered on a particular human self.


In the awakening to selflessness, there is also a disidentification.

This process is also seen in many of the approaches I am exploring these days, including forms of inquiry such as the Big Mind process and Byron Katie’s The Work.

In each of these, there is a movement away from a sense of certain things being personal, private and about me, and towards the same things being impersonal, universal, and about just being human. There is a movement away from a general belief in ideas, taking them as true and accurate, and towards seeing what is true in my immediate experience, and abstractions as just maps of limited and temporary value.

From about me to universal

First, we believe in many ideas – including the idea of I, and it all seems very personal as well – as about me. I may not want to reveal it to others, or even to myself, because it seems to private.

Then, the beliefs erode and are seen through, and it all appears more and more impersonal – as just universally human.

Thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, roles, experiences, realizations, hangups – everything that seemed so personal, are now revealed as impersonal and universal. It is not really about me, although it comes up in my experience now.

In short, there is a disidentification with it. The same content may be there as before, but not identified with.


At the same time, there is a deepening sense of intimacy with whatever happens in the present.

As long as there is a belief in ideas – in a particular identity – I struggle with content, I try to hold onto some of it and push other things away. And this creates a sense of distance and separation to whatever happens in the present, to myself, others and life in general.

When these beliefs fall away – including any particular identity – the struggle also falls away. Everything is now allowed to live its own life, and this opens for a sense of intimacy with what is – with myself, others and life in general.

Talking About Selflessness

Talking about selflessness is one of the big conundrums.

If I have the idea that I would like to convey it to others, I quickly see that (a) those who have a taste of it for themselves – or are firmly living it – don’t need any words, and (b) for those who have not yet had a taste of it, no amount of words are sufficient. And this is of course a reminder that when I have an urge to try to convey it in words, it is for myself – it is for my own exploration of this terrain. If other benefits, that is fine, if not, that is fine too.

It is difficult to talk about because…

  • It is so simple. Simpler than any words can convey.

    Words split the world. In the taste of selflessness, it is all revealed as beyond and including any and all polarities. Words cannot touch it.

  • It is so close and so ordinary – made of the same fabric as our conventional I-Other experience.

    The content of our experiences remain the same, but the context changes – from a sense of I and Other to it all being one field, free from I and Other anywhere. The content remains the same, only revealed as free from any inherent I.

  • It is so completely and utterly astonishing, so far from conventional I-Other experience.

    In our conventional I-Other experience, we typically place the sense of I on our human self – or a part of our human self. In this, we experience ourselves as an object in the world. As finite. Limited. A small part of Existence. At the mercy of the larger whole.

    Realizing – or noticing – selflessness, it all turns upside-down. We now see that if there is any I, it is all there is. My human self is still just a tiny and finite aspect of what is, but it is no longer an I – separate from everything else. But really, there is no I anywhere – not even as the whole. It is all happening, absent of any I. It is all a field of what is, with no center anywhere.

  • It is so complex – so infinitely rich and textured.

    It is infinitely complex, in how it shows up as a sense of I and Other, in the process of realizing selflessness, and even in the realization of selflessness itself. Many traditions have developed a wide range of models and maps, yet are – even together – just scratching the surface. There is infinitely further to go in this map making.

Piece of Hot Coal

In Buddhism (and probably other traditions) they sometimes use the analogy of hot coal.

Believing in the idea of I is similar to holding a piece of hot coal. Both bring suffering. And seeing through the belief, noticing what is really true for us in our immediate experience, is similar to noticing that we are holding the piece of hot coal. In both cases, it is dropped – naturally, immediately, without any trying.

Analogies break down at some point, but it may still be interesting to explore this one a little further. What approaches make sense through this analogy?

Say someone is holding a piece of hot coal. They are not noticing it, or at least not realizing that it brings pain. And in the struggle to get rid of the pain, there may be additional suffering as well.

So how would we help this person recognize that he or she is holding a piece of hot coal?

Ways to help people notice

We can give long talks about how he is holding a piece of hot coal, and how this brings the pain he is experiencing. But the listeners are more likely to listen to the words and try to figure it out than really look – going to their own immediate present experience.

We can use force, beating them up in various ways to make them realize it – or even to make them drop it (as if anyone can without the prior realization of holding it). Again, this would only bring their attention to the beating and the consequences of the beating, not the coal. Also, it is likely to bring up a good deal of (healthy and natural) resistance to the process. And it may just add guilt and shame to the situation.

We can help them with affirmations: I am not holding a piece of hot coal. I am not holding a piece of hot coal. Hot coal is cool and soothing. Hot coal is cool and soothing. These may appear to work for a while, but not for very long. And it is also too transparent: we know there is something there – temporarily covered up by the affirmations – which brings pain.

We may help them explore their past. When did you first experience the pain? When did you pick it up? And so on. It may be helpful, but it is also not as direct as it can be.

We may bring people to exhaustion, so – we hope – they cannot help but dropping the piece of coal. This may work, although the process itself is quite painful.

We can have people regularly sit silently and quietly, bringing their attention to what is already happening – allowing what is into awareness. This may work. It may very well help them notice the hot coal in their hand. But in itself, it may be a long and slow process.

We can have them inquire into their experiences. Where is the pain? What may be the source of it? What happens if you imagine not holding a piece of hot coal?

What works for each person is of course different, but for me – sitting practice combined with various forms of inquiry are most attractive right now.


The Big Mind process, headlessness and the Byron Katie inquiries are some of the many ways to explore how it is to hold a piece of coal, and also have a taste of not holding it.

For instance, in the Byron Katie process…

  • Questions 1 and 2 – is it true, can you really know it is true – asks us if we really do need to hold onto the coal, whether the coal is the belief in the idea of I or any other abstraction. The questions open for the possibility of not holding onto it.
  • Question number 3 – what happens when you hold onto that belief – gets at our experience of holding onto the piece of hot coal. We see the suffering we create for ourselves by holding onto it and how it plays itself out in our life, in detail.
  • Question number 4 – who or what are you without that belief – gives a taste of not holding onto the coal. We see the liberation and freedom in it. The possibility of not holding onto it becomes more real. We see that the consequences of not holding onto it are attractive. And we see beyond holding onto it, and that there is nothing to fear there.
  • The turnarounds helps us see that I am the one holding it. It is not making me hold it. Somebody else is not making me hold it. I am the one holding it.


I am over and over struck by how the realization of selflessness – as it appears in my very limited experience of it – is just completely neutral. It is really a void. Empty of characteristics.

It is just the Ground from, within and as everything appears. It has no color, no sound, no texture, no qualities, no characteristics.

Just completely neutral.

And it has to be, to allow everything to unfold – it has to be independent and beyond any and all polarities, to allow for and manifest as any and all polarities. There is no other way, it seems.

There is a great beauty in this, in the simplicity and clarity of it. Yet, it is also a little puzzling and even disappointing. Is this really what they all talk about? Is it this that is the “goal” is so many traditions? It seems so simple. So obvious. So much like what has always been here. It is the eternal present – that which always is, that in which time and space unfolds. Simply.

And as we become more familiar with this complete neutrality, we also see more clearly that it allows everything – it really does allow everything, it is beyond and includes all polarities, all there is in the world of phenomena. Nothing is excluded. Not even the temporary identity as only a segment of all this. That too is allowed, as is the awakening to the Ground, as the Ground, as that in which this all unfolds, as everything unfolding in the present.

Nothing is lost. Nothing is left out.

Again, as we become more familiar with this, we see that it appeared initially that something was left out. In the awakening to and as the Ground and all phenomena unfolding as the Ground, it seemed that an exclusive identification is left out. I am this Ground, although there is not really any I here either, as there is no Other. There are no positions, no viewpoints, nothing fixed. Then, we see that even this is included. Even an exclusive identification is included, both in how this exclusive identification unfolds in others, and even in ourselves. We rehumanize, deepen into our humanity, into being no different from anyone else – not only as Ground but also as human, as a limited human being, flawed, stumbling, stuck, maturing, developing.

First, there is an exclusive identity with a segment of all that is – typically as a human being.

Then, an awakening as Ground.

Then, as Ground manifesting as the infinite world of phenomena, always unfolding within this eternal present.

Then, even as the limited, the deeply human. Coming back full circle, but now within the context of selflessness.

Trusting the Universe & Truth

When there is an identification with any segment of what is, there is the appearance of I and Other and the whole dynamic which emerges from that. And this dynamic includes, quite naturally, a certain lack of trust.

I am an object in a world of innumerable unpredictable objects, so I cannot fully trust the world.

Selflessness and trust

The only way to uncover a deep and unconditional trust is through tasting and ultimately realize selflessness, and deepen into that realization.

As Byron Katie – and mystics from any tradition – say, God is All and God is good. When there is no I there is no Other, and there is nothing to not trust.

Seeing the truth about beliefs

To realize this, we need to see through the belief in the idea of I. This core belief which creates the I-Other appearance. We actually need to see through any and all beliefs. We need to see what is really true for us – in our own immediate experience – about the beliefs.

We can come to see thought and abstraction as what they are – innocent questions about the world. Not accurate or true representations.

As BK says, we come to see – gradually, one inquiry at a time – that reality is always kinder than our stories about it.

Trusting truth

A part of this process is to trust truth. Not any abstract and absolute truth, not any permanent truth, not any truth handed over from someone else, not any truth discovered in the future.

Simply what is true for me – first person singular – in the present.

As long as I am identified with any segment of what is, I won’t completely trust my own truth. That too becomes an Other, and something to be suspicious of. And this seems to be even more the case in our western culture, inherently suspicious of nature and the universe.

This is one of the beautiful aspects of Byron Katie’s inquiry process. I gradually, slowly, learn to trust my own truth – what is true for me in my immediate experience.

I see – over and over and in smaller and larger ways – that the truth does indeed set me free. It is the only thing that does. I come to want and seek my truth, because I know the liberation inherent in it. I find courage in the form of a desire for truth and liberation.

Truth vs. shoulds

I also see more clearly the relationship between truth and shoulds.

The various spiritual traditions are full of “shoulds” in the form of ethical guidelines and so on, and these can be very useful. They help us live with less conflict, and also help align us with a future realization of selflessness (they – at their best – reflect how we naturally tend to live when selflessness is realized).

At the same time, when I look into what is true for me in the present, I see that I don’t need any abstract guidelines. The same is found in my own already existing truth, when I only look. So instead of a should, imposed from the outside, it becomes a want emerging from myself.

Movies as Analogy

Since I read Yogananda’s analogy of a movie screen, I have been curious about it – mainly because it does not (yet?) fit my own experience.

But lately, there has been a shift here. Maybe not so much in my experience, but in how I see it.

Using the headlessness inquiries, I can see how – in Douglas Harding’s words – the whole world of phenomena is “out there”, always at a certain distance from me, and that “I” am here, at zero distance. Or, as he also says, I am capacity for the whole world of phenomena.

This is a somewhat clumsy way of putting it, setting up a seer-seen duality which is not really there. At the same time, it is an elegant way of easing people into the experience and realization of it. It helps people shift the center of gravity into the seeing, the witness, which is a step on the way to realizing selflessness.

As we awaken to ourselves as seeing, and then to realize selflessness, there is also a sense of everything becoming more intimate, more “two-dimensional” – with no distance. There is intimacy and distancelessness, yet also clearly the conventional distance we all are familiar with. This is most likely because it really is this way. It is all God, Spirit, Ground – so there really is no distance. Yet, in the world of form there also is distance.

And there is also a sense of disidentification with any particulars of what is happening. It all comes and goes, within and as Ground. None of it is really more “I” than anything else.

So from all of this – finding myself as the seeing within which all happens, through a sense of intimacy with everything happening, of no distance, of it all being “two-dimensional”, and through the disidentification with particular content – I can see how the movie screen analogy can match some of my own experiences.

There is really a sense of (a) it all being flat and “out there”, yet also (b) of intimacy, no distance and no separation, and also (c) a sense of disidentification with any particulars of what is happening. And this could be described using a movie screen analogy.


Some aspects…

  • All phenomena as a seamless field
  • No I inherent in any segment of it
  • A sense of intimacy with everything
  • And no distance to anything
  • Yet also conventional distance
  • A disidentification with everything happening, including everything associated with this human self

… which together could be described as a movie unfolding (light dancing) on a screen.

  • It is all a seamless field. On the screen because it is just that, on the screen. In the world of phenomena because there is no I anywhere.
  • It is all “equal” in the sense that there is no I inherent anywhere. Not on the screen, not in the world of phenomena.
  • It is all up front, right there, intimate and with no distance.
  • And there is a disidentification with it. With the movie because it is just a story, with the world of phenomena because there is no I anywhere – it is just happening.

Absence of Identity

Yet another way of talking about an awakening to selflessness:

The content is the same, yet absent of identification with any of it. In a way, the falling away of identity is the only real difference.

There is the same human self with its thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations. And there is the same rest of the world, the same people, animals, plants, sun, sky, clouds, houses, landscapes and stars. And there is no identification with any of it. None of it has any inherent “I”. It all just happens.

And through this, there is a deeper sense of intimacy with all there is – really beyond intimacy and lack of intimacy. There is absence of separation, yet also separation. There is oneness, and differentiation within this oneness. There is the engagement of this human self with the world – much as before, yet without any identification. There is the ground within and as this all unfolds. There is that which all polarities unfolds within, including that of existence and nonexistence.


It seems that any quality can be filtered through a sense of self or a realization of selflessness.

Emptiness is one of those.

Here is how it shows up for me now, when I look into it…

Filtered through sense of I

Filtered through a sense of self, I can see how it can show up in two distinct ways.

One is a sense of emptiness as empty of meaning, a sense of my own insignificance, my own lack. Here, I am aware of the weaknesses and limitations of my human self, and filter this through a strong sense of I and Other. I am weak and insiginficant here, the world is so much larger and more powerful out there, and the sense of disconnection betwee the two brings up dismay, hopelessness, meaninglessness and so on. This is what some of the western existentialists explore.

The other is also a recognition of my own insignificance in the big picture, that I – as a human being, is infinitely small in an infinitely much larger world. I alone am nothing. Everything I am and my whole existence is dependent on this larger whole. I am empty of any power on my own, and am alive and active only through the grace of the larger whole. This sense of emptiness on my human level is filtered through a sense of connection with the larger whole, so it opens up for gratitude, humility, compassion, sense of belonging, meaning and so on. This is what the Universe Story opens up for.

Filtered through realization of selflessness

Filtered through a realization (or even taste) of selflessness, the same emptiness takes on a very different quality. Or maybe more accurately qualities, as it depends on the clarity and depth of the realization of selflessness.

Here are a couple of ways of talking about it…

  • My human self, and anything I ever took as an “I”, is revealed as empty of any inherent “I”. It is not a doer. There is only the doing, but no doer. Or rather, the whole is doing through this local human self – and it appears as if it is all just happening on its own. My human self is a temporary vortex in the stream of the world of phenomena.
  • The groundless ground awakens to itself and the play of forms it temporarily takes on. This is emptiness dancing.


rSome of the ways of talking about selflessness…

  • The content is the same, but the context is different. The content of this human self and the rest of the world of phenomena remains. And the context goes from a belief in the idea of I, placed on something finite, to the absence of this belief.
  • Everything is revealed as a seamless field with no center anywhere. Believing in the idea of I, and placing it on something finite, there is a sense of center somewhere. Typically in aspects of our human self, or even as the witness. Without this belief, there is no center anywhere.
  • There is no doer, only the doing. Or rather, there is no sense of any separate and fixed doer, as for instance as this human self. There is only the whole temporarily acting through and as this human self.
  • Everything is as it is, and there is no I inherent anywhere. Everything remains as is, my human self and the rest of the world of phenomena, and it is all revealed as having no inherent I anywhere.

No I

Well, another post on this topic.

There is just space and cognition and the content, as a field. There is no center, no contraction into an “I”, no sense of “I” and “other”. It is a tapestry of human self and whatever else is there, but no part of the tapestry is scrunched up into an “I”.

The content may be exactly what it is otherwise, when there is a sense of an “I” there. Only the context has changed, from a contraction into an “I” to a wide open field w/out center.

It is so simple that it seems almost impossible to talk about. It is so close to our experience – even when there is a sense of “I” – that we tend to overlook it. It is so different that we for a while don’t take it seriously.


It seems that I am oscillating between a sense of “I” and realization of no “I” these days.

After Joel’s talk earlier today, and through applying some of Douglas Harding’s experiments, there was a shift into an immediate realization of “no I” again.

As Douglas Harding says, the difference is similar to that of a closed fist and an open hand. One is a contraction and blocks (and used to punch!), the other is open for the whole world.

Another way of describing it is as a field of consciousness and its manifestations – with the same content as before. There is everything arising from within this human self (sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts) and everything arising from outside this human self (other humans, the room, sounds and so on), and it is a seamless field with no center nor any contraction anywhere.

When there is the “story of I” as Joel calls it, there is a sense of contraction in this field – around this human self. When the story of I is revealed as just a story, the field is revealed as seamless, with no center, and with no contraction anywhere. It is wide open for the whole world.

I went to our interim deeksha meeting tonight, and experience the deeksha energy as a field as well. It arises everywhere in space, as a field.

Just Happening

When what is realizes itself with no “I” anywhere, there is an experience of everything just happening. There is no doer, only the doing. It is all the will of God, movements within God.

And as long there is an identity as a segment of what is, then there is struggle and suffering. There is a belief in the thought “I” and it is placed on something within what is, such as this human self or pure awareness, and this creates the whole sense of drama and suffering.

And that too is the will of God. That too is God manifesting and exploring itself perfectly, completely.

At the same time, before this realization dawns clearly (which is also the will of God), we tend to act as if there is free individual will. And this just adds to the richness of it all, it is another way God manifests.