When things are what I am

This quote describes what seems common when our nature starts recognizing itself.

The consciousness we are is used to taking itself to be something small within its own content and then starts to intuit or glimpse that it’s all happening within and as itself.

I haven’t heard this interview, so will just write a few things that come up for me.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As I often say, it’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. For most practical purposes, it’s true enough. In my experience, this human self is mostly here (apart from in some dreams and visions) so it makes sense to make that assumption. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life. It’s also an assumption that creates stress since it’s out of alignment with what’s more true.

More fundamentally, I find I am what the whole field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am what a thought may label consciousness, and any experience – of the wider world, of this human self –happens within and as the consciousness I am.

THE EXPERIENCE IN EACH CASE

The consciousness I am can create the temporary experience for itself of fundamentally being this human self. Here, “it” is not “me”. A tree is not me, it’s a tree over there.

This is true in a conventional sense no matter what, and it can feel deeply and obviously true if the consciousness we are is fundamentally identified as this human self.

The consciousness I am can also recognize itself, and that it forms itself into any experience. It’s all happening within and as what I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into (the experience of) a tree, this human self, stars, and anything else.

Here too, we can differentiate between a tree there and this human self here, and it’s all recognized as happening within and as what we are.

THE SHIFT

The shift itself can be gradual or sudden.

GRADUAL

The shift can be gradual, as it seems was the case for the person quoted.

The consciousness we are takes itself to fundamentally be this human self. There is a transition where there is a sense that something else may be more true. And then there is a more clear recognition of its nature and everything happening within itself.

In the middle phase, a lot of things can happen, including what’s described in the quote. There is a sense that the tree over there is me2. That it’s enveloped in love. That there is no difference. And so on.

It may happen in daily life, in meditation or during a spiritual retreat, it may happen in a psychedelic vision, it can happen in a dream, and in any other situation.

This transition can happen through intuitions, glimpses, having a sense of it, and more.

First, the center of gravity stays in the assumption of fundamentally being this human self while something else breaks through and in. Then, the center of gravity shifts into our nature recognizing itself. It happens through seeing it all as within itself. Finding love for it all within the context of oneness, a love independent of fleeting feelings and states. And our human self and psyche reorganizing itself within this context and getting it more viscerally.

SUDDEN

The shift can also be sudden, as it was for me. See below for more details.

When the shift is sudden, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily is as clear and thorough as it can be. It can always be more clear. More stable. More lived. More thorough in terms of the reorganization of the human self and the psyche. And so on.

MY EXPERIENCE

For me, this shift happened in my teens.

THE WORLD WENT DISTANT

On January 1st when I was fifteen, it was as if the world went very far away1. I still remember it. I was outside my parents’ house, talking with some friends. It happened over just some seconds or perhaps minutes. The world – wider world, this human self, thoughts, emotions – all seemed very distant.

This was profoundly disturbing to this human self, and the doctors couldn’t find an explanation. Later, I understood that this was a kind of observer-observed split. Identification went into the observer construct, and everything else seemed very distant. There was a disidentification with everything except the observer construct.

In a way, this is the reverse of what the quote above describes.

ALL AS THE DIVINE

One year later, there was another shift, this time into oneness. I walked along the dirt path to the house in the dark, with a big wind going through the landscape and the sky full of stars. This was between Christmas and New Year. I looked up at the stars and felt the extra expansiveness from the wind going through it all. Suddenly, there was a shift. All was revealed as God. Everything, without exception, is God. Nothing was left out.

This was home. This is home in the most profound sense. It’s more than familiar. At the same time, although very much secondary, it was a shock and surprise to this human self. He was an atheist, and then this? And it’s what always is here and just wasn’t noticed?

In my case, all was revealed as God, as the divine, as Spirit. There wasn’t so much the interpretation that “that is me”, although that is included in it. (The “that is me” idea still assumes that the idea of me and it has some substance and reality to it, which it doesn’t really.)

NOTES

(1) The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome started at the same time, somehow the two seem intertwined although I am not sure exactly how. My human self was under a lot of stress at the time, so it may be that the observer-observes split became a safety value, and the CFS may also have been a safety valve.

(2) For whatever reason, a lot of people use a tree as an example for this. Maybe that’s how it often starts for people? Is it because trees are quite noticeable, stand still, and are alive, and that makes the shift easier?

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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A shift in identity

I saw the thumbnail for a video from Adyashanti called The shift in identity1.

Is awakening a shift in identity?

As usual, the answer for me is yes and no and it depends.

SHIFT OUT OF IDENTITY

The simple answer is that awakening is a shift out of identity. It’s a shift from identifying with and as mental field representations (thoughts) and into our nature recognizing itself. The consciousness we are recognizes itself and shifts out of identification with and as ideas. It shifts out of identification with and as parts of its content, and into the field it already is which allows and is all of its changing content.

In that way, it’s not really a shift in identity, it’s a shift out of identity.

A KIND OF SHIFT IN IDENTITY

Of course, you can say that it’s a shift in identity, in a more loose and approximate sense. It’s just that the identity it shifts into is of a different kind. It’s not an identity that’s created by the mental field. It’s more a visceral conscious being of what we already are.

Of course, this can be reflected in ideas in the mental field, which makes it possible for us to communicate with ourselves and others about it. (A side note: The consciousness we are can then take another step and identify with that idea. It can make it into a mental identity for itself, a kind of head on top of the head as they say in Zen.)

For me, this is more of a shift in our center of gravity. I wouldn’t really say it’s a shift in identity since it can easily be misunderstood.

YES & NO & IT DEPENDS

So, yes, in a loose sense OR if you take consciously being what we already are as a kind of visceral identity independent of ideas.

No, since it’s a shift out of identifications.

And as with most things, it depends on how you want to talk about it.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

In the oneness shift in my teens, this was all in the foreground, and recognizing it was unavoidable. What I am what any content of experience – this human self, the world, any ideas about any of it, any identification with any of it – happens within and as.

That continued. At the same time, this psyche and system has some of its old dynamics and habits. Parts of my psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts identify with ideas and identities. And that will color perception, choices, and the life of this human self in the world. It seems inevitable.

That’s why I have continued to explore all of this through meditation and different forms of structured and organic inquiry. It’s a process of inviting more parts of me more deeply and viscerally onboard with the general and “global” recognition of this.

CAVEAT

I haven’t watched Adya’s video so don’t know how he talks about it. From what I know about him, I suspect the essence is similar although a lot more clear and insightful than this! As I have mentioned in other articles, I haven’t been able to take in much in terms of teachings for about fifteen years now. That’s partly because I was full, similar to having eaten too much food. Mainly, it’s because CFS and brain fog make it difficult to take in any information that requires more than minimum processing. The upside is that I am brought more fully back to myself, my own noticing, and what’s live for me here and now.

NOTES

(1) Sorry, embedding of that video is disabled from YouTube’s side.

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Daily life decision-making

It’s Wednesday morning. In Norway, they have movies at half price in the early afternoon on Wednesdays1, and I did consider going today. It’s only a five-minute walk.

How do I decide whether to go or not?

If there is a movie I really want to see and I have the schedule open, I usually go. An easy decision was, for instance, Asteroid City last summer.

This time, I checked the movies with the pendulum last night. (I just use my fingers as if I hold a pendulum.) The five movies all got between six and seven out of ten. Usually, I don’t do something unless it’s eight or higher.

This morning, I still wasn’t quite sure so I used another test. I tell myself: I can do it if I want, and I want to do it. And then: I can do it if I want and I don’t want to do it. For each of these, I check in with the response in my body. My body felt alive and excited with the second, and less so with the first.

The combined pendulum and the “I can do it if I want” test made the decision easy. I decided not to go. So far, I am content with the decision. The upside is that I get to do a few more things at home and my body gets more rest so it can recharge more.

Of course, this is a trivial example. It likely doesn’t matter much whether I go or not. But it is an example of decision-making, and that’s important.

NOTES

(1) It’s mainly for retired people although it’s open to anyone. It’s the only time I go to see movies in the movie theater since most of the people going are older and quiet. Other times, there is often too much talking and noisy eating of popcorn and sweets. The distractions make it not worth it.

The image is from Asteroid City

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Dream: I am a young black man at university

I am a young black student at a university in the US. I get the sense it’s the 1950s. In a math class in the first semester, I do far better on the exams than the white teachers expect. They are convinced I cheated but can’t prove it, so they make me take the class again. Again, I do very well and they assume I cheated. They consider their options, which is to make me take it for the third time or expel me from the university. I beg them to sit down to me, ask me to explain how I would solve the different types of math questions, and see me work it out. That way, they can easily see that I can do it. It will give them peace of mind, and it will allow me to move on.

I seem to be able to remember dreams again.

SHIFTING SURFACE IDENTITIES

In this dream, I am someone different from my identity in waking life. That, in itself, is a reminder of my more fundamental nature. To myself, I am not fundamentally this particular human self with these particular identities. The surface identities are more fluid than that, and I can be any number of other people and beings in my dreams, and during visions. (In this dream, and in some visions, my waking life identity is completely gone.) More fundamentally, I am something else. I am what it all happens within and as.

WAKING LIFE

In terms of waking life, it reflects a recurrent theme: Someone assumes something (wrong) about me, and whatever I say or do doesn’t help. It happened several times in school when other kids would tell the teachers I did something I hadn’t done, I got called into the principal’s office, and I didn’t even know what he was talking about. My brother did the same with my parents, who believed him and not me. And it has happened several times since then too, with other people.

In some cases, I contribute to the situation by not telling people something relevant about me in advance, and also not doing much if anything to clear up the misunderstanding. If someone misunderstands something about me, I typically – at least in the past – don’t say much if anything to correct it. (For instance, when I joined a nondual spiritual group in Oregon, I didn’t tell them anything about my background. They assumed I was a novice, and kept assuming it while I was active with them. When I shared a link to this blog with a teacher I met with regularly, he seemed upset and assumed I had taken the content from somewhere else.)

Why haven’t I spoken up? A few things come up. There is a part of me that enjoys seeing how the minds of others work, and they seem invested in a certain story for whatever reason. I also don’t like to appear to want to present myself in a good light, even if it involves correcting a misconception. In my childhood, it happened several times people had strong ideas about me based on what someone else had said, and whatever I said to correct it didn’t work. (My brother and his friends would blame me, much younger than them, for what they had done, and my parents believed them and not me. Students at school would blame something on me, and I got called into the principal’s office for something I hadn’t even heard about.) My experience is that it doesn’t work.

More to the point, all of this is in me. These dynamics happen in me. How do I not listen to myself? When don’t I trust and believe in myself? I can find many examples of that. I remember several times when my inner guidance was clear, and I chose to do something else – usually out of fear of losing the love and approval of others. I didn’t listen to myself and lived the consequences. (Some examples: Moving to Wisconsin after my initial marriage and leaving my graduate studies, my Zen community, my friends, and a place I deeply loved and felt at home. Not telling my partner I have studied architecture at a graduate level so she dismissed my design proposal for our tiny house.)

In the dream, I do speak up. I am standing up to myself, eventually. I propose a solution that may work for everyone.

ALL PARTS OF THE DREAM MIRROR SOMETHING IN ME

All parts of the dream mirror something in me. It all comes out of and happens within and as the consciousness I am. Also, everything in the world in general mirrors something in me.

The young black man faces discrimination, just like my system (it’s more than just my psyche) discriminates against parts of me. He represents parts of my shadow, and he is brilliant and goes to university. By not including that part of me, and other parts in the shadow, I miss out on a lot of brilliance. More to the point, I miss out on being more real, authentic, and human, and on the rich diversity in me. I miss out on experiencing the fullness of me. I miss out on perspectives that can help me understand myself and others.

I am spending time with my birth family these days, and there are dynamics there I assume are partly in my shadow. There are things my personality doesn’t particularly like, I see it more in them than in myself, and there is a richness there if I can embrace it more in myself. If I can find more peace with it, and also acknowledge it in myself.

What does he represent, more specifically? I am not quite sure. He is someone who is brilliant, and his brilliance is not recognized because it’s not in the form that’s expected and approved by mainstream white society. My mainstream orientation doesn’t approve of or recognize the brilliance of something in me because it’s not in the expected or desired form. I’ll have to be with that for a while to see what comes up.

THE ESSENCE

What’s the essence here? I can find a few:

One is to speak up for myself. In what situations do I not do it? How can I do it more?

Another is to listen to and believe in myself, which in this case means my inner guidance.

And yet another is to keep an eye out for parts of me I disown, dismiss, and overlook, and see how it is to include it more fully. What do I see in others, that’s not in the package my personality prefers, that’s secretly brilliant and I can find in myself? Right now, what do I see in my birth family?

Stand up for myself. Listen to my inner guidance. What’s brilliant in others, in a form I don’t like, and how can I embrace it in myself and them?

The two first are ongoing for me, so I may spend more time with the third right now.

EXPLORING DREAMS

When I explore my dreams, I usually do it in a few different ways.

I look at what it mirrors in my waking life. I look at all elements of the dream as reflecting parts of me. I look for any other insights or dynamics that can be interesting. (In this case, a different surface identity points to what I more fundamentally am.)

I sense into it. I look at what I felt as I woke up and what associations I had. I may dialog with elements or beings in the dream. I may take on their role and see what comes up.

I find the essence of it for me, expressed in a simple sentence as a reminder, and see how it is to bring that into daily life.

In general, I like to sense and feel into it and approach it viscerally although it’s obviously interpreted and expressed in words here.

UPDATE: THE BRILLIANCE IN TRAUMA

I have spent some time with: What’s brilliant in my birth family that my personality doesn’t particularly like? And how can I embrace it in myself and them?

What I see is that even their hangups – their issues and traumas – are brilliant. They were formed early in life to deal with a difficult life situation. They have kindness and intelligence in them. (Even if they now bring suffering.) How is it to viscerally get it?

That’s beautiful to notice. It’s beautiful because it’s true, and it heals something to recognize it. It shifts how I relate to it in myself and them.

I have seen and felt this when I have explored my own issues and traumas. They are here to protect me. Their essence is love and a kind of wisdom. They were the best my system could come up with at the time and in the situation when they were created. There is innocence and even beauty in it, even as they also create suffering. There is beauty and wisdom in the suffering too. It’s the motivation to later examine the issues, invite them to unwind, and find another way that works better now.

How is it to not only see and feel that with my own issues and traumas, but also theirs? How is it to stay with it, let it work on me, and transform something in me?

Image by me and Midjourney

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What gives me energy

Since I live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), I am on a journey to explore how to recover, maintain, and boost energy.

The most important is to regulate my activity level. As much as possible, I rest before, during, and after any activity, and also extra. (The extra rest gives the body energy for healing.) This helps me avoid crashes and it gives my body a chance to stabilize and heal.

Sun and warm temperatures help me a lot. As does eating fresh, seasonal, and ideally local food low on the food chain, and avoiding foods that don’t work well for me (dairy, sugar, processed food).

Receiving Vortex Healing energization helps me greatly. Right now, compressed chi and optimizing the mitochondria seem to work especially well. (I was also apparently able to get rid of a chronic low-grade Epstein-Barr infection with Vortex Healing. This chronic infection prevented my body from healing.)

I take capsules with Siberian ginseng (eleuther) and echinacea.

I drink Stangeland’s herbal tea (Stangelands urtete).

I make and drink bone broth. I cook it for around three days and then freeze it in portions.

I take some vitamin and mineral supplements. In the winter in cold climates, I take cod liver oil daily. I also take vitamin D and B12 and sometimes magnesium.

Electrolytes come from food, although I sometimes take them as a supplement, especially when it’s warm.

In periods, I take ginger powder, usually in a cup of hot water, sometimes with raw cacao powder. It helps my digestion (provides metaphorical fire for the digestion), which helps my energy. Cayenne helps me too, in food.

I seem to do the teas and herbs mainly when I am in colder climates, although often in warmer weather as well depending on what I feel I need. I tend to do each one in phases, and if I take more than one on the same day, I usually space them out.

There is a mind side to this too, of course. The more relaxed I am, the better my energy level is. (It takes energy to create stress.) The more I feel safe, at home, and nourished, and the more I experience a sense of meaning, the better it is.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Dreams: Japanese CEO & Chinese Herbalist

I start work with a small Japanese company. As I arrive, the owner greets me, introduces me to the others there, and tells everyone I will take his position and run the company from now on. I tell him I lack experience and he says that’s perfect – I am perfect for the job and he has full confidence in me.

– dream yesterday

I have known an old Chinese herbalist for a while. At some point, he gives me a tincture. It’s a kind of ceremony and a group of people who knows us both are watching. Most don’t like the tincture but it was fine for me. After I drink it, there is a big shift into a psychedelic experience. His face is suddenly close, he sings an intense song with a very strange voice. It’s the beginning of a healing journey to heal from the CFS and feeling so profoundly off track in life.

– dream this morning

Since the Amma experience in November, I have only remembered a handful of dreams which is very unusual for me. I had these two dreams in a row, so maybe something is shifting again there.

What’s the first dream about? What may it reflect in my waking life? I am in charge (co-charge) of the land in the Andes, and have people doing different types of projects there. In a way, I am the leader (co-leader) of that project. Similarly, in Norway, I am in charge of a project there. What may it reflect in my inner life? Maybe I am becoming slightly more comfortable taking the lead, including in my own life?

What’s the second dream about? I suspect that the CFS is related to feeling profoundly off track in life. It came when I was fifteen, after a period of feeling very lost. It returned several years into a marriage where I similarly felt very lost. I have tried many things to find healing for both and find a way to feel more on track again, as I did for several years. I had hoped I would feel more deeply on track again with the regeneration project in the Andes, which I do, but the situation is a little too unsettled so far. I am now back in Norway and have a taste of feeling on track here, although I will only be here for a few months. Was the dream triggered by being here and tasting feeling on track again? Does it reflect a deeper process in me, independent of Norway and perhaps even the project in the Andes?

These are things for me to continue to explore – being the daily leader of my life, finding a deeper healing for my health, and finding a way to feel more deeply on track.

Emptiness

I have written about the Buddhist emptiness before and thought I would see what comes up for me now.

EMPTY OF SUBSTANCE AND SOLIDITY

The world to me, appears as consciousness. All content of experience is similar to a night dream. It’s empty of substance. It’s ephemeral. (To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am, so the world inevitably appears as consciousness.)

EMPTY OF A FUNDAMENTAL SELF

Then, there is a noticing that comes from comparing images of what’s here to images of what was or could be. This is a mental comparison. Here, I notice that this content of experience is empty of a separate self. This field of experience happens within and as what I am. Anything that could be taken as a self – this human self and ideas of being a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on – all happens within and as what I am. All of it comes and goes. None of it is a fundamental self. The content of experience is empty of a fundamental self.

EMPTY OF WHAT MY IDEAS TELL ME ABOUT IT

There is another noticing that could be called emptiness. The world is inherently free of what my ideas tell me about it. It’s not touched by it. It cannot be captured by it. It’s different from and more than any idea I have about it, and also less.

Of course, in a conventional sense, a thought can be more or less accurate, and it’s important to use the more accurate ideas as a guide. Still, a thought cannot capture any final, full, or absolute truth. They are questions about the world.

A NAIVE APPROACH

This is just what comes up for me from that one word. It’s a naive approach and likely has little to do with how Buddhist teachings and teachers see emptiness. (Naive is not bad, it helps me notice what’s here for me instead of what “should” be according to some ideas about it.)

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Inter-species communication

I have been fascinated by inter-species communication since childhood and early teens and have followed the research into dolphin and parrot communication. (For instance, Irene Pepperberg and the parrot Alex.)

COMMUNICATING WITH BUTTONS

I love the more recent approach of using talking buttons, developed by Christina Hunger and her dog Stella.

Having watched these videos over several years, it seems clear that our non-human friends function much as we do, and they find ways to use the buttons and a limited vocabulary to express what they wish to communicate.

HOW WE RELATE TO OTHER SPECIES

For centuries and millennia, we have trained ourselves to see ourselves separate from nature. We are somehow special, better, different in kind, and so on. We have also developed many justifications for how we treat other species, ecosystems, and nature.

One of these justifications is telling ourselves that other species are mute and dumb, inferior in every way, and even that they don’t have emotions or experience pain. This goes against basic common sense, but we needed this justification to treat them in the terrible ways we have done and still do.

This idea of separation has led to the ecological crisis we now find ourselves in.

Button communication is one piece of the puzzle in transforming how we see – and treat – other species and the natural world. And that will also change how we see and treat ourselves.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OURSELVES

How will it change how we see and treat ourselves?

It will help us see ourselves as part of the natural world and not apart from it. It will help us find a deeper sense of fellowship with all beings. We are no longer as alone here as we may have thought.

We may lose a sense of superiority (which was hollow and based on nothing real anyway) and find a deeper sense of belonging and community.

HOW WE SEE AND TREAT OTHER SPECIES AND THE NATURAL WORLD

It will, by necessity, change how we treat other species and nature.

If other beings have their own rich interior life, as we do, we’ll need to treat them with more respect.

We can no longer justify exploiting them for our own purposes as if their life and how they experience the world don’t matter.

They deserve a good life, just as we do, no matter where they are, whether they live with us or in the wild.

SEEING AND TREATING OURSELVES AS NATURE

In a deeper sense, finding more respect for other species and nature in general will help us find more respect for the nature we are.

It will help us see and relate to ourselves as nature, which can help us relate to ourselves with a little more understanding, kindness, and perhaps even wisdom.

We are learning to rewild ourselves.

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When no-self comes into the foreground

About twenty years ago, there was a shift1 where no-self2 came very strongly into the foreground.

The noticing of no-self has been here since the shift in my teens, and this new shift turned the volume way up on that aspect of what I am. It was so strongly in the foreground that it was inevitable and noticed all the time.

While it happened, this human psyche didn’t know if it was a new deepening into reality which would stay, or if it was a state that would come and go.

It turned out to be kind of both.

The noticing is there, although the volume is not turned up so high. In that way, it wasn’t a state. The notice seems more inevitable and effortless than before.

At the same time, having it so strongly in the foreground was a state which lasted about six months.

Why do these shifts happen? I see it as life showing itself aspects of itself. It’s so clear and so strongly in the foreground that it cannot be missed or overlooked. We get used to it, and it’s easier to notice even after the state goes away.

NOTES

(1) It followed a period of deepening in meditation. There was a deepening that “I” didn’t do but happened by itself. This particular shift was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments. (The “invisible crash helmet” experiment if I remember the name correctly. It’s where you cut out a circular hole in a piece of paper, notice the hole is full of the world – that you can see through the hole – and also empty. It’s nothing full of the world. Then, you bring the hole up to your face and eyes, and notice you are that nothing full of the world.)

(2) What does “no-self” mean? It’s a label like anything else, and I use it because I cannot think of another label that’s better right now. It just means that what I more fundamentally am is what any and all experience happens within and as. To me, the wider world and anything related to this human self happens within and as what I am. I am not most fundamentally this human self or any other kind of self. (Victim, doer, observer, etc.)

Image by me and Midjourney

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More real than waking life

It was/is more real than waking life. It’s not uncommon to hear people say that when there has been or is a glimpse into our nature.

That makes sense.

THE DREAMLIKE CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

The content of my experience is real enough2. At the same time, it’s like a dream. It’s always changing and what’s here now becomes a mental image. It happens within and as the consciousness I am. Waking life is the same as a night dream in that sense.

WHAT I MORE FUNDAMENTALLY AM

What I more fundamentally am – what this field of experience happens within and as – is always here.

It’s all I have ever known, even when it takes the form of this always-changing content of experience.

When my nature recognizes itself, there is a profound sense of coming home.

It’s profoundly familiar, even if it’s also new and sometimes disorienting to the psyche and conditioning of this human self.

MORE REAL THAN WAKING LIFE

When my nature notices itself, it’s more real than any of the dreamlike content of experience.

NOTES

(1) If my nature notices itself, and identification goes back into thought, it can become primarily a memory and an experience in time, even if it’s still what I more fundamentally am.

(2) It’s real to me since it’s here in the field of experience. It’s also a kind of virtual reality created by the mind. It’s a combination of interpretations of sensory input and mental field representations. It’s far from an accurate representation of some external world as it is.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Do what’s important and not just what’s urgent

I just read Yeon Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily and thought this was a good pointer.

What’s important to me? How can I do more of it? What does it look like if I prioritize it?

SIDETRACKED BY DAILY LIFE’S URGENT SMALLER TASKS

It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of everyday tasks and projects and lose track of the bigger picture. What are my real priorities? What’s really important to me? At the end of my life, when I look back at my life, how would I have liked to live it? What would I have liked to bring into life?

TWO KINDS OF PRIORITIES: REVEALED BY MY LIFE & WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO ME

When I look at my priorities, I find they come in two kinds.

One is revealed in my daily life. What do I spend time and energy on? My life reveals the priorities I live by. It can be sobering to look at this, and it’s important.

Another kind is revealed by exploring my dreams and wishes, what I genuinely value, my inner guidance, and so on. What’s more important to me than what I spend time on in daily life? How would my life be if I spent more time on what I really value? How can I bring it into my life, even in small ways?

SUPPORTING THE PROCESS

Several things can support this process: Examine the gap between these two kinds of priorities and bring it into awareness. Clarify my more real priorities. Finding an accountability buddy I can share daily updates with. Make small changes and make them into a new habit. Examine my fears and stressful beliefs that keep me to the first kind and away from the second.

FINDING THE ESSENTIALS

One of the ways to explore this is an inquiry from Adyashanti.

I take anything I am drawn to or want in my life, even if it’s something as simple as eating ice cream.

What do I hope to get out of that? I keep asking that question of what comes up until I find the most essential. What I find is something universal and simple. For instance, love, safety, being seen and understood, and so on.

What are some ways I can bring that more into my life?

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I was a student of Odd Nerdum in the ’90s

In the early 1990s, I was an apprentice of the painter Odd Nerdrum.

In general, I am interested in how it was to be an apprentice of well-known artists. That information is often lost, so I thought I would do those who may be interested a favor and give a brief account of my experience.

THE STUDIO

At the time Nerdrum had a house in Frogner in Oslo, and his studio was in another house (in Kristinelundveien) near Frognerparken in Oslo.

The studio had a large central space two levels high with large windows towards the north or northwest1. The walls were painted dark brown since it’s a good background for looking at paintings. The window had lamps to compensate for the fading sunlight on dark days or late afternoon and to give light at night.

He had a vintage couch there, one or two of his early and especially inspired paintings on the wall, and Persian rugs on the couch and nearby floor. He also had a good stereo where he would often play Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and similar kinds of music2.

Off that room was a smaller area where we students had our own space with easels and so on. There was a small bathroom there, and stairs up to a balcony around parts of the large space. Downstairs was a kitchen, the main bathroom, and a couple of bedrooms. He often used one, likely because he was in a divorce process at the time. Another was used by a friend of mine, who had been a student of Nerdum before me, and introduced me to him.

NERDRUM IN THE STUDIO

Nerdum would come in the morning, although the exact time would vary. He painted through the day, with brief breaks for food. He was there more regularly and for longer than most of his students.

He painted quickly and would put up the first layer in one or two hours. Most artists today would probably have been happy with that first layer, but he continued. I assume he used roughly a month on each painting, with variations depending on the size of the painting, and with most of the work on the details and texture.

He would work on more than one painting at a time, perhaps two or three, and sometimes also a charcoal drawing or study for a future painting.

He would use beautiful clear colors while painting, and cover it up with a brown varnish at the end. I assume he did it to mimic old paintings, and it was heartwrenching for me.

While painting, he would have conversations with the model and/or students or guests. The conversation was mostly about art, artists, music, or philosophy.

Sometimes, well-known people would come by – art historians, philosophers, TV personalities, adventurers, and so on. David Bowie came by one day to buy one of his paintings. (Unfortunately, I missed it!)

NERDRUM AS A PERSON

How was he as a person?

He was simultaneously an ordinary human being and larger than life.

He was deeply passionate about his art and art in general. I don’t hesitate in calling him a genius in painting and charcoal drawings. He was knowledgeable and unafraid to speak his mind.

He was socially smart and also unafraid of offending people.

He was happy to talk about the art of others, and he did talk about the aesthetic and visual aspects of his own paintings. One thing I never heard him talk about was the symbolism of his paintings. That was likely very intentional. He wanted to leave it open and available to the rich imagination of the audience. (I think he may have mentioned something about that, not sure.)

THE APPRENTICE SITUATION

When I was there, he had about five apprentices3 in the studio. The number was naturally limited by the space available, and he may not have wanted more anyway.

In my case, I was a model for one painting, I mixed his white paint, and I transferred a charcoal study for a painting onto a large canvas (using grid lines) so he had an outline to follow while painting.

My impression is that most students were models for one or more paintings, and they also did other tasks, likely depending on what Nerdum felt they would be good at or happy with doing.

There was no formal teaching. We were there to learn through observation, immersion, and conversations with him and the other students.

I assume most students came through either writing him directly or because they knew someone already a student. In my case, I had a meeting with Nerdum where I showed him some of my work. I also got the impression that he wanted me as a model.

We would occasionally do things as a group with Nerdum. For instance, we went to see a Spanish movie together at the local movie theater. I also went with him to Kjeller where they work with radiation (!). He was interested in knowing if radiation could help some of his paintings where the paint sagged over time.

NERDRUM, MODERNISM & NORWAY

Nerdrum received a lot of resistance to his approach to painting and drawing from the beginning.

His response was to develop an apparently deep-seated aversion to modernism and much of the art community in Norway.

His response is understandable. It’s a response to hurt. And yet, the whole dynamic was and is somewhat baffling to me. Why did he meet so much resistance just because he painted in a more figurative style? (Did other artists feel threatened because his skill was beyond most of theirs?) Why did he respond by rejecting their approach? (He probably just did what they did. They rejected him and his art so he rejected them and their art.) Appreciating one doesn’t mean you have to reject something else. It’s not a zero-sum game unless you make it so.

Life and art is rich, that’s the beauty of it. It’s very possible to love or appreciate a wide range of approaches to art and anything else. There is more than enough room for everyone, and finding appreciation for it all only enriches our experience, life, and art.

I can add one more thing here: Why does he call his art kitsch? I assume it’s to get ahead of his critics. If he calls his art just about the worst you can, what’s left for the critics to say? It takes the air out of them and their arguments.

MY SITUATION

I had been passionate about learning to draw and paint in a soulful traditional style since my mid-teens, especially the style of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and other Baroque artists. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the art of Nerdrum.

I went to art school for a couple of years after high school, got to know another student there who was also a student of Nerdrum, and she introduced me to him.

I was an apprentice for about a year (?), and during this time, I started studying at the university. First, art history and then psychology.

THE LIMITS OF MEMORY

I only knew him during this period, so other students at other times will likely have a different experience.

Also, this is the memory of one person, and it’s a memory – which is notoriously unreliable. Over time, some things fade and some things stay, and what stays is filtered by how we see the world in general.

Still, I think most of this is pretty accurate.

NOTES

(1) The light from the north is best for a studio since it’s more stable and you avoid direct sunlight.

(2) I happened to have a very similar taste in music as him, and a very similar taste in art in general.

(3) We were apprentices in the old-fashioned sense, more than students. When some talk about the “Nerdrum School”, they refer to younger artists inspired by his style, of which many were his apprentice at some point.

The painting is the one I transferred from a drawing to canvas so he had an outline to work with to begin the painting.

Another footnote: I remember Nerdrum once said that he painted so that he would be remembered after his death. He may have said it to seem interesting or to spark a dialog. He may also have used the thought as a motivation to improve and reap the benefits in this life. It’s difficult for me to imagine he believed the thought literally. After he is gone, he won’t be here so he won’t benefit from it. Also, people will remember a simplified image of him, not him.

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How we notice change

How do we notice change?

By comparing our mental images of what thoughts label “now” with our mental images of what thoughts label “past” whether it’s a recent or more distant past.

Without mental representations, there would be no idea of change, and no idea of past, future, and present.

HOW HAVE I EXPLORED THIS?

It was one of the things that was revealed when my nature initially recognized itself.

There have also been shifts in meditation where the mental functions that create and tie together ideas of now and past seemed to not function anymore, and there is only now. One time, I was listening to music, and it was not music anymore because nothing was able to tie the sounds happening now with the memory of sounds that just passed.

I have also explored it through different forms of inquiry, including The Work of Byron Katie and especially the Kiloby Inquiries (a modern variation of traditional Buddhist sense field inquiry).

WHY DO I WRITE ABOUT THIS NOW?

I saw a post from an awakening teacher saying that Buddhism sees realizing impermanence as a result of awakening. She then criticized that straw man argument for more or less the reason I outlined above.

That’s misguided since it’s a misrepresentation of Buddhism, and it’s easy to see it as unethical for the same reason. She didn’t do her homework, which would have taken long.

Buddhist teachings and teachers use impermanence to help our nature notice itself, it’s a teaching and inquiry tool. It makes use of how consciousness works when it doesn’t notice its nature, to help it notice its nature.

For instance, we may notice that everything within our field of experience changes. In basic meditation, that’s one of the things we notice over time. The question then is, if everything within the content of experience changes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am? If the experience of this human self comes and goes, if the mental representation of a doer or observer comes and goes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am? Can it be what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? This is a visceral noticing and inquiry that deepens over time in basic meditation, perhaps even without being consciously noticed.

Image by me and Midjourney

Nothings

Is this how awakening is?

Not really, but there is a grain of truth in it.

Awakening shifts our relationships with identities – as a human, a self, a man or woman, a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on. It helps us see that these are roles our human self sometimes plays. It’s not what we more fundamentally are. It helps us release, soften, or at least question our identification with all of these identities. We find ourselves as what we more fundamentally are, which is what all of this and everything else in our world happens within and as.

We realize we are inherently empty of any identification, which is what allows the appearance of any identification, and it allows us to take on and play roles for a while.

We are fundamentally nothing full of everything, full of the whole world, sometimes full of this particular human self.

In that way, we are inherently nothing. Although that realization can be a bit shocking to our human self and our habitual patterns, it doesn’t necessarily look like the cartoon above…! In my case, it was immensely familiar. It was like coming home. It was revealed as all I had ever known, without realizing it. My human self and psyche had reactions to it, and it was somewhat disorienting to my psyche, but not like in that cartoon.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & two types of rest

In the CFS world, some talk about two forms of rest. Or, more accurately, two phases of rest.

TWO TYPES OF REST

REST FOR RESTITUTION

The first type of rest is for restitution. We spend energy through activity and then rest to recover that energy. In the best case, our body returns to where it was before the activity. In my experience, if I am in a CFS crash or an especially bad period, this phase can take a long time, maybe days or weeks, or even months or years. In a better period, it can take a day or so.

REST FOR HEALING

The second is healing rest. This is what happens when we rest beyond restitution and don’t spend that energy on activities. Here, the body can use the extra energy for actual healing, for improving beyond just recovering from daily activities.

TWO PHASES

As mentioned, these are two phases of rest. First, the body’s priority is restitution. When that’s accomplished, and there is no need to spend the energy on activities, the body’s priority is healing.

THREE WAYS TO APPROACH REST

There are a few general ways to work with these two types of rest.

MINIMAL RECOVERY AND ROLLERCOASTERING

The first is what many do at the beginning of living with CFS. We spend energy as soon as we have it. There is so much we want to do, so when there is metaphorical money in the bank, we spend it. This leads to a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, crashes and recovery. In the worst case, we can crash hard which leads to a worsening of the condition that can last for months or years.

STABILIZING AND FUNCTIONING AT A SLIGHTLY IMPROVED LEVEL

The second is to take enough time for restitution rest and some healing rest to stabilize. This, in itself, is an improvement in our condition, and it can lead to functioning at a slightly better level. Since we still don’t allow for regular healing rest, there isn’t too much further improvement.

SCHEDULING ONGOING HEALING REST

The third is to schedule healing rest consistently and regularly, ideally daily. In theory, this will lead to continued improvement since the body has the energy to continue healing. It’s a form of extreme rest, and I assume it takes a certain amount of readiness and intention to do it. The readiness likely comes from living with the first two approaches for a while and seeing that they ultimately are not satisfying.

MONEY METAPHOR

A money metaphor can be useful here. Our body’s energy is like money in the bank.

We can spend it as soon as it comes into our account, and sometimes more than what comes in. We can learn to have a bit in the account and not spend more than what comes in. And we can regularly spend less than what comes in so it accumulates over time.

The first is a precarious situation. The second is OK but not as good as it could be. And the third is the wise choice over time, and what many of us find we genuinely want after experiencing the two first for a while.

REST BEFORE, DURING, AFTER & EXTRA

All of this goes back to a simple guideline for CFS: Rest before, during, after, and extra.

Resing before any activity saves up energy so we have some to spend.

Resting during an activity helps us reduce the impact.

Resting after allows for restitution.

Resting extra allows for healing.

WILL IT WORK FOR EVERYONE?

Will scheduling in healing rest bring about improvement in the condition of everyone?

I don’t know. What I know is that it likely won’t hurt. It’s giving our body its best chance of recovery, which is always worth it.

I suspect it will help everyone to some extent. It may lead to a dramatic improvement over time for some. And it may lead to a more moderate improvement, or perhaps just stabilization, for others .

It may depend on the cause of the CFS. The CFS label is likely used for a range of conditions caused by a range of different things.1

It would be very interesting to do a study on this. Of a group of people diagnosed with CFS, how many improve through some months of extreme rest, and in what ways and how much? How many stabilize? How many experience an actual improvement in their ability to function? Is there a difference depending on the particular form of CFS and what likely caused it in each case?

IN MY CASE

I am very familiar with the first approach to rest. It’s what I did when I initially got CFS in my teens, and also during one phase when it returned in my 30s.

I am also familiar with the second. It’s what I have been doing over the last several years.

The third is more unfamiliar to me, and something I notice I am fascinated by. My system seems to crave it. (I am strongly drawn to be in a quiet place in nature for a long time, resting). I want to bring it into my life, and it’s all about priorities and making space for it. (I do have some practical things to take care of, with a timeline set by circumstances and others, so it may be that I’ll go between number two and three for a while until I am in a situation where I can rest more fully and consistently. Although I know this is ultimately a matter of priorities. What’s most important to me?)

A FEW MORE WORDS

As usual, there is a lot more to say about it.

Our culture tends to value productivity highly. We gain value through being active and producing something. Many of us have our identity and self-worth wrapped around activity. That’s one reason it’s often difficult to rest beyond restitution. It feels wrong somehow. It’s good to be aware of this, question these assumptions, find our genuine value independent of our activities, and perhaps even redefine productivity.

For instance, just like a baby and any life, I have value independent of any activities or ability to produce. Also, if I have CFS, one of the most valuable and ultimately productive things I can do is to schedule regular extra and healing rest. It’s what gives my body a chance to stabilize and perhaps even recover and heal. Nothing is more important than that.

The rest during an activity can happen in two ways. One is to take breaks. The other is to do things slowly and avoid stress. I schedule in plenty to time. I do it slowly with slow movements. I take breaks. And so on. Also, if there is a rush, or I feel pressure or a push to do something, I typically choose to not do it if I can. It’s not worth it.

I find it helpful to minimize or avoid anything that masks the natural signs from my body. I want to be open to and in tune with any signs of having done too much, or being at the edge of doing too much. That’s why I generally avoid caffeine, and I also find it helpful to avoid too much sugar. (Not always successful in the latter but working on it. For me, it’s a matter of noticing the discomfort sugar leads to in my body.)

It’s also important to be aware that the more activities we rest from, the deeper the rest tends to be. Even listening to an audiobook takes energy. It may be fine, but silence can give an even deeper rest.

Over time, we can also do things to deepen our rest. Rest means rest from stress. The more we can minimize stress in our life, the deeper and more fully we can rest.

Stress is ultimately created by our stressful thoughts and it sits in our body. We can release some of this stress through cognitive therapy or inquiry. We can also release stress from our body through gentle movement (yoga, tai chi, Breema, etc.) and neurogenic tremors (Tension & Trauma Release Exercises).

A NORWEGIAN ARTICLE AND BOOK

Here is an excellent Norwegian article on the two types of rest. The website is for the book Aktivitetsapassing which goes in depth into this and more.

NOTES
(1) In my case, I have the classic CFS that followed mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), I assume combined with other stressors including mold and life stress.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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The timing of drinking and eating

For me, the timing of drinking and eating seems to make a big difference.

I drink a lot of water – usually in the form of herbal and spice infusions – in the morning and early afternoon, and then taper off. I usually don’t drink much in the evening. This helps me avoid waking up to have to go to the bathroom. My general aim is to have pale to clear urine, which is an indication that I have been drinking enough. (I notice I feel and function much better when I have enough to drink.)

Similarly, I mostly eat during the third of the day between morning and mid to late afternoon. When I wake up, I usually have herbal infusion first and maybe some fruit, followed by breakfast one or two hours later. The main meal is around mid-day or early afternoon. I may have something light later in the afternoon. And that’s about it. That feels natural and in rhythm with my body. It means that I don’t eat, or occasionally eat something small like a fruit, around two-thirds of the time.

Of course, none of this is fixed. It depends on what my body seems to need and the situation, but this is how it generally looks.

I know a lot of people and traditions have ideas about this. For me, it’s more important to explore, see how my system responds, go with what seems to work the best and keep exploring since that may and will change with situations and over time.

I can add a few things: If I don’t drink enough water, my system feels contracted and can get grumpy. I usually eat low on the food chain since that feels better in my body. (Even as a child, I generally didn’t like meat very much.) I mix up and vary the herbal teas I drink so it’s not the same all the time. When it comes to food, I don’t eat more than I need and try to leave 1/4 to 1/3 space in my stomach. Although all of this is how it generally looks, I also don’t follow any fixed rules. I follow what my body seems to need in the moment and what makes sense in the situation. Sometimes, it’s also good to go against the common pattern.

Image by me and Midjourney. I like those teacups even if they are not the types I usually use!

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René Magritte: People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image

People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it. They are afraid. By asking what does this mean?’ they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things.

– René Magritte

That’s how it is in life as well. A part of us wishes to eliminate mystery by telling ourselves we understand, we know what’s going on.

Why? Likely in the hope of finding safety. We think telling ourselves we understand makes us safe.

If we don’t reject mystery, we have a different response. We ask other things.

We know we don’t know. We cannot fully know. We live in and as mystery.

We can still use stories. We can still understand in a conventional sense. We may even be an “expert” on something in a conventional sense. And yet, we don’t know any of it for certain. We know the limits of stories. We rest in and as mystery.

This is not just about our conscious view. Many parts of us hold stories as true even if we consciously tell ourselves we don’t. That’s where inquiry comes in. It can help us identify and examine these stories parts of us still hold as true.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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The beauty and madness of civilization: Thoughts as tools vs thoughts as truth

This civilization is immensely beautiful and immensely mad, like many civilizations I imagine.

It’s beautiful because we make use of thoughts to imagine and create things.

It’s mad because we hold thoughts as true.

BEAUTY FROM IMAGINING AND CREATING

Every piece of our civilization was once imagined by someone, and others then reimagined it a little differently.

It has created the immense beauty we see in art, music, dance, technology, science, and much more.

Thoughts – in the form of mental images and words – made it all possible.

MADNESS FROM HOLDING THOUGHTS AS TRUE

This civilization is also immensely mad. It has fueled immense suffering through ideas of power-over, separation, different worth based on changing characteristics, privilege, racism, sexism, anthropocentrism, a remote sky god, nature as infinite, nature as here for us, I am right and you are wrong, you are not quite human, I am unlovable, and so on. Worse than that, it’s ecocidal and suicidal. It has an economics that operates on the idea of nature as infinite, which has led to global ecological overshoot. Ecocide means suicide, so it’s also inherently suicidal.

Thoughts created all this too. Thoughts held as true instead of as questions.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

We are a young species and a young civilization.

We make use of thoughts, we believe thoughts, and we rarely examine thoughts or our relationship with thoughts or find their nature. We rarely consistently make conscious and wise use of thoughts.

Collectively, we have yet to learn to wisely and consciously make use of thoughts as the tool it is.

What’s the nature of thoughts?

They are imaginations. They are different in nature and content from what they point to. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their nature or purpose. They are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and function in the world. That’s it.

A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION

I imagine a different civilization, one that has a more mature relationship with thought.

Here, children learn to relate more consciously with thought.

They learn to choose as guide thoughts supported by good data and avoid logical fallacies. They learn to find practically useful and grounded thoughts as guides.

They learn to identify the thoughts they operate on. They learn to examine and question them.

They learn to find what’s more true for them, which is that thoughts – even the ones that may seem the most true – are questions about the world. They are practical tools only.

The world is always more than and different from any thought about it.

They learn to hold thoughts lightly. They learn to use thoughts as tools to orient and navigate, and recognize their limits.

They learn to live in and as a deeper mystery.

Will this prevent the inherent problems of civilization? Not likely, but it will make life easier for many individuals, and it may make it easier for us collectively to identify essential problems and make changes.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

All this is literally stardust reorganizing itself.

It’s the universe locally forming itself into all of it – consciousness, us, feelings, thoughts, experiences, civilization, art, technology, suffering, inequality, wars, and so on.

There is an immense beauty in that too.

There is an immense beauty in the messy complexity and awesomeness of it all.

NOTE

There is another way we can see the madness of our civilization, and that it comes from thoughts. Our civilization likes abstractions. It likes things to be easily understood intellectually, and abstractions is a good way to do that. The only problem is, life is not like that.

This is reflected in how we treat nature. Here in Norway, people want manicured and sterile gardens. They remove trees, bushes, and previously wild areas of the garden, and replace it with a sterile lawn with a few exotic ornamental plants. This provides a habitat for almost no animal, bird, or insect. We grow food through monoculture. All of this is easy for our thoughts. It gives the illusion of control.

In contrast, nature is wildly diverse, that diversity provides a rich habitat for a range of beings, and it also balances the ecosystem. For instance, it prevents any one species – insect, plant, animal – from multiplying so much that it’s detrimental to the ecosystem. It’s far more life-supporting and wise than a monoculture.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Paul Bowles: Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.

– Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

In a conventional sense, everything in our life will happen only a certain number of times, and the number is often very small.

In a more real sense, what’s here is even more precious. What’s here now is the only that’s here, it’s all that is for us. Anything else exists as a thought, a dream, an image of the past or future.

Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view

Even if our culture often invites a snapshot view of things, a longer view can be far more informative.

LANGUAGE AND THE LONG VIEW

I remember my uncle would complain about changes to the language at family dinners.

Even as a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me. Language changes. It changes with each generation, and even decade by decade and year by year.

He has a snapshot view of language based on what he learned and was used to when he grew up. The generations that came before him would see his language as different and perhaps judge it as bad and wrong. And the generations after him will likely view his language as old-fashioned. That’s just how it is.

Our language today is the product of a language that has changed for not only centuries and millennia but over hundreds of thousands of years. I imagine even the ones who first used what we would think of as language were judged by the older generations. Why do they use these weird cryptic sounds instead of grunts and body language?

So when my uncle judged the language of young people today, and incremental changes to sounds and grammar, what would he use as a standard? What was, in his view, the correct language? Was it the one he grew up with, just because he happened to grow up with it? Does the world revolve around him and his generation? Or was it ten generations ago? A hundred? Did he want to return to a time before verbal language, when we used body language and other kinds of sounds?

For me, a long view makes more sense. It helps me be a little more informed, see things in perspective, and realize that language is supposed to change. People younger than me use a different language than me. Some would even pronounce my last name differently from how I do it. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. That’s the nature of language. That’s how we have the language we have today. That’s how we have language in the first place.

WOKE AND THE LONG VIEW

I love woke. Why?

Because the intention behind woke – the wish for kindness and inclusivity – is remarkable in a historical context.

Many if not most cultures have not been that inclusive. Often, certain people are excluded or oppressed for things they cannot change: their ethnicity, color of skin, sexual orientation, caste or socioeconomic status, and so on. Woke seeks inclusivity and that’s remarkable and something to be applauded.

Of course, woke can take somewhat immature forms. That’s the same with everything and it doesn’t disqualify it as something remarkable and something to applaud and support.

So why do I love woke?

It’s not because of the more immature expressions of woke. I am happy to speak up against those and encourage more balanced approaches.

It’s because I take a long view. I know how unusual and remarkable woke is. Strong forces want to suppress it, now and historically. Many with privilege, including white privilege, feel threatened by such inclusivity.

It’s because I know that inclusivity helps all of us. It creates a more vibrant society and culture. It allows me to be more who I am, since I too am outside the norm in different ways. (As we all are.) It helps me be more myself and embrace more of myself.

Also, it’s because I know that the anti-woke attitudes and orientation originate on the far right, even if it’s sometimes adopted – somewhat naively and misguidedly in my view – by some of the left. Why do some on the left adopt those views? Is it because they don’t have a long perspective?

PANDEMICS AND THE LONG VIEW

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised. I knew that another pandemic was due any time since they tend to come about once a century. (That may change now with continued human incursion into previously mostly intact ecosystems and changing climate. The first brings more human exposure to diseases previously limited to other species. A warming climate spreads previously tropical diseases to new areas.)

I was also not surprised by the pandemic measures implemented by governments around the world. Since I am familiar with epidemiology, I know what’s considered best practices in a pandemic: quarantine, limiting contact and exposure, vaccines, and so on. These are measures that have been shown to work historically. (Some went a little too far, like the Chinese government, and some didn’t do quite enough, like Trump and Bolsonaro.)

I was not surprised by the backlash to these from some. There will always be a backlash when the government implements restrictions, even if these are temporary and based on epidemiology. There are innumerable restrictions in our society that most people accept. (Laws against theft, killing, driving too fast, and so on.) Why do we accept these restrictions? Because most of them make sense and help society function better. When some reacted to the pandemic restrictions, I suspect it was largely because the restrictions were new. Many also seemed unfamiliar with epidemiology and common and effective responses to pandemics. They didn’t have the long view.

I was not surprised by the conspiracy theories that flourished in some subcultures. History shows that conspiracy theories flourish during any pandemic in just about any time and culture. That’s how people work. I assume it’s a way to deal with fear. Through conspiracy theories, some feel they have some kind of control, if only imaginary. (In reality, conspiracy theories distract from far more serious and urgent big-picture issues that we all know are happening, including global ecological overshoot.)

When it comes to vaccines, I also take a big picture and long view. We know from history and epidemiology that vaccines have had a huge and beneficial impact on our collective health in general. We also know that at an individual level, they occasionally lead to serious health problems and even death. That’s the case with all modern pharmaceutical medications. In rare cases, some individuals experience a strong reaction to a certain vaccine or medication. That’s to be expected and it’s widely known. That’s why I support vaccines in general, and why I am very selective in which ones I personally take and (often) don’t take. (Some anti-vaxxers seem to think – or pretend? – that this information is somehow hidden or not included in the equation when health authorities decide to approve or recommend certain vaccines or medications.)

ECOLOGY AND THE LONG VIEW

With nature, we also often operate on snapshots. This is called the shifting baseline syndrome.

We grow up with our ecosystem looking and functioning a certain way, and that becomes the baseline for us. We may not be aware of how much this ecosystem has changed due to human impact, and how far it is from a state not impacted by human activity.

For instance, as a kid I loved being in the forest near our house. To me, it was nature, it was wild. Later, I realized that it’s cut down regularly and the trees are replanted. That’s why the trees are all the same size. That’s why there is not more diversity and life there. This forest, like most forests in the world today, is very different from a more untouched old-growth forest. It’s close to a monoculture.

I remember the garden from childhood full of insects of all types. Badgers and hedgehogs. Swallows and many types of birds. Today, it’s very different. They’re is almost no life here. I imagine many young people don’t realize the change that happened over two or three decades. They see the absence of life as normal.

This is why it’s important to learn about how nature has changed over time, where we are, and in other places. Visualizing how it used to be and comparing it to how it is now can be a shock, and it’s a useful shock. It can encourage us to support or work on regeneration and rewilding, which benefits not only the wider ecosystem but also humanity and ourselves as individuals.

I make a practice out of imagining how nature used to be where I am (approximately), and also visualizing how it can be with some efforts into regeneration and rewilding. I do this in nature and rural areas, and also in towns and cities.

BENEFITS OF THE LONG VIEW

In all of these cases and many more, the long view helps me find a more sober, informed, and kind view.

In addition to the examples above, there is one that’s even closer to home. When I look at my own behavior, trauma, and so on, it helps to see it in terms of culture and evolution.

My trauma is not (just) mine. It comes from my parents. Much of it has likely been passed on through generations, in variations of the same essence. It’s shared, not just in my family but likely among many in my culture. The essence of it is likely shared by many around the world.

When I look at behavior patterns I may not be completely happy about, for instance the tendency for comfort eating, that’s not just from culture and family. The stage was set by evolution. I am biologically predisposed to like fatty and sweet food. In an environment where that was scarce, the ones who craved it were a little more likely to survive and have surviving offspring.

“Read more” to see what ChatGPT has to say about some of these topics.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 70

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

MOSKOW VS WASHINGTON DC, 1434

I saw this meme with an image of Moskow and Washington DC in the early 1400s. Moskow has churches and big buildings. Washington, D.C. has native American tents. There is no commentary, but I suspect the idea is to show that Russia had civilization back then and North America did not.

That’s misguided at so many levels.

NORTH AMERICA AND RUSSIA ARE BOTH EUROPEAN CIVILIZATIONS

The current North American civilization and Russia are both European civilizations.

What we see in North America today is not the civilization of the indigenous people. (Some of us wish it were.)

NATIVE AMERICAN CIVILIZATIONS

The image combination may suggest that the Native American civilization was somehow primitive or inferior to the Russian civilization at the time.

If so, that’s a questionable view.

The indigenous people in the Americas had their own civilizations.

Even from a conventional European view, many of these were sophisticated and advanced. For example, we can find democracy, equality between the genders, sustainable agriculture, sophisticated architecture, advanced languages and mathematics, large buildings and cities, and so on.

INDIGENOUS CULTURES CAN BE SEEN AS MORE ADVANCED

If we want to compare civilizations, the way we do it obviously depends on our own views and what we value. If we use the filter of traditional European values, then the European civilization will necessarily appear superior. But those are not the only valid and valuable views and values. Other values may be more essential and important, especially today.

European culture and civilization is, in many ways, unhealthy and damaging to nature and people. It sees humans as separate from the rest of nature. It has an idea of a remote sky-god. It sees nature as infinite and here for humans. It sees humans as superior to other beings. It values intellect over heart and the wisdom of the body. It’s traditionally racist and sexist. It has often been colonialist. It has an extractive mindset.

In contrast, many indigenous cultures see humans as part of the web of life. The divine is right here in and around us, which is more conducive to reverence for life. They often have a more ecological mindset and a more ecologically sustainable way of life.

The first is ecocidal and suicidal. The second is more life-centered.

Of course, is not always that simple. There is much value in European culture, and many indigenous cultures have views and habits that most of us wouldn’t like to be exposed to. But in general, European culture is profoundly misguided on some essential and basic things, and many indigenous cultures were and are not.

NOT MEANT TO BE SCRUTINIZED

I understand that these memes are not meant to be scrutinized like this. The people posting them do it for emotional reasons. In this case, the meme only works if you don’t think about it and follow racist logic.

Some pro-Russian propaganda can be surprisingly naive. Still, it’s sometimes adopted by some Western folks on the left.

Why? It’s likely because Putin and some Westerners on the left both like to criticise the US and Western Europe for their policies and how they sometimes treat the rest of the world. They use a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic.

I am also no fan of much of what the US and Western Europe have done and are doing. That doesn’t mean I leave my brain at the door and adopt the views of Russian propaganda.

A MORE SANE VIEW

For me, there is a more grounded and sane approach.

European culture – whether it’s in the US or Russia or anywhere else – is profoundly misguided on several essentials. It has a power-over orientation, an extractive mindset, it sees nature as infinite and primarily existing for human use, the sacred is separate and “out there” somewhere, and so on. That’s found equally in the US and in Russia, and it’s ecocidal and ultimately suicidal.

Indigenous cultures often have views and orientations that are more sane and ecological. These are one piece of the puzzle in transforming into a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

That’s far more fundamental and essential than any US vs Russia debate. And if I wanted to go into that particular discussion, I would certainly not adopt a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” orientation.

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Allan Lichtman vs polls: Indicators for US presidential elections

The media loves to try to predict who will be the next US president.

WHY NOT JUST WAIT AND SEE?

The main question is: Why? Why not just wait and see? The outcome will reveal itself when it’s time.

That would be a sane and sober approach, and it doesn’t fit the needs of most media.

Most media thrive on news and drama. That’s how they get readers and viewers. One way to generate news and drama is by trying to predict who the next president will be.

Many of us buy into it. If the media is focused on something, we do too. The media largely sets the topics for our public, and sometimes private, discourse.

GROUNDED IN SOCIAL & ECONOMIC FACTORS VS POLLS

So let’s look at indicators for who may get elected.

There are two main types of indicators: One is grounded in what’s happening in society and the world, and the other is polling. The first tends to be more stable over time. The second changes between pollsters and from week to week. The first may be more reliable, and the second needs a lot of analysis and interpretation to give useful results. (538 and Nate Silver were usually very good at it.1)

ALLAN LICTHMAN’S KEYS TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Among those in the first category, Allan Lichtman seems to have a pretty reliable system.

He is a historian who developed and tested his model – Keys to the White House – on historical data. The indicators are based on social and economic factors and events that influence or reflect who people actually vote for. He uses a mix of objective and somewhat subjective factors, which I think provides a good balance. Who people vote for is largely based on impressions, and subjective factors can catch some of that. How is the economy going? Who is the incumbent? How are the wars going? What was the tendency in the recent mid-term election? How charismatic is the candidate? And so on.

The model also has predictive value. Since he started applying it in the early 1980s, it’s been accurate2,3.

So why don’t the media go with his system? Why are they so focused on the always-changing polls?

The answer is likely the same: They need news and drama, and the polls provide that.

Allan Lichtman’s system may be more accurate, but it’s not news. It’s enough to interview him once or twice and that’s it. It’s not so good for the media, apart from spicing it up a little now and then.

WHAT DOES HIS SYSTEM SAY ABOUT THE 2024 ELECTION

His system shows that if the presidential election was today, Biden would likely win.

Between now and the election this fall, a lot has to go wrong for him to lose the election according to the Keys to the White House. What can go wrong includes wars abroad, the economy, and so on.

A WORD ABOUT PREDICTIONS IN GENERAL

These models are based on indicators and they just need to be largely accurate to be useful, and Lichtman’s system clearly is.

It’s natural to be focused on the current prediction and whether or not it turns out to be accurate. To me, the model itself is more interesting, along with how accurate it is over time and many instances.

WHAT THE INDICATORS SAY ABOUT SOCIETY & APPLYING THE SYSTEM TO OTHER SITUATIONS

I also find it interesting what Lichtman’s indicators say about society. It tells us something about what’s actually important to people, and how we arrive at collective decisions.

As far as I know, he hasn’t applied his system to other types of elections or other types or collective decision-making. I am also not aware of his system being adopted and applied to other countries. All of that would be very interesting and tell us more about how societies and collective decision-making work.

NOTES

(1) In 2016, Allan Lichtman predicted Trump as the winner based on his system. 538 and Nate Silver said there was a one-in-four chance Trump would win. (Whenever the polls looked the way they did, Trump would win one of four times.) I followed both before the election, which is why I wasn’t too surprised when Trump won. (I happened to be in Rockridge at the time, at the edge of Oakland, and heard the riots in the distance!)

(2) One exception was Al Gore, although the outcome of that election was ultimately decided by a court.

(3) The predictions may have been accurate not just because of his system. It may also be because of him and what he brings to it when he evaluates which direction each of the keys is going. Someone else would likely view the keys differently and their predictions would be different. That’s why I used his name in the title and not the name of his system.

Here are two recent interviews with Allan Lichtman from Times Radio: Biden can absolutely win the election | Biden to defeat Trump in election 2024

Image by me and Midjourney

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What are you painting? It’s a self-portrait

A man walks up to Tove Janson painting a dramatic nature scene.

What are you painting?

It’s a self-portrait.

I am watching Tove, a movie about Tove Janson, the Finnish author and artist who is the mother of the Moomins. I love it so far, and especially that scene.

Whatever we create is a self-portrait, even if it’s just walking down the street or drinking a glass of water.

More than that, anything in our world is a self-portrait.

The way I interpret and perceive something says something about me. It reflects my background, experiences, biases, orientation, dreams and hopes, hangups, and so on. (It reveals something about me.)

Whatever story I have about it, I can turn it around to myself and find specific and genuine examples where it fits. I can find any dynamics and characteristics I see in the wider world also in me. (I find The Work of Byron Katie very helpful here.)

To me, it’s happening within and as what I am. My world is happening within and as the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. In that way too, anything is a self-portrait. (This comes from my nature noticing itself.)

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Photos from a portrait series – 2013

I thought I would share a few photos from a portrait series from 2013. These were made in the basement of a house on Gabriola Island near Vancouver BC. The light came through narrow windows and was perfect for portraits. I used a dark grey blanket as a background for most of these. This is the only portrait series I have done, and I would love to do more.

These are low-res versions I happened to come across so the technical quality is not the best. I may look for the higher-quality originals and upload those at a later time.

See below for color versions of some of these photos.

Shifting baseline syndrome: When we don’t realize how much nature is changing & learning to see with deep-time eyes

Yes, this is a big concern. Most of us don’t realize how much nature has changed over the centuries and even over the last few decades. We see nature and don’t realize how impacted it is by human activity.

CHANGES OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES

When I grew up in Norway in the ’80s, the garden was brimming with insects, birds, badgers, hedgehogs, and more. We had the windows and doors open in the summer, and the inside of the windows became full of insects when we closed them. We drove a few minutes in the car, and the windshield was covered in insects. After one drive, we had to clean it.

These days, there is very little life of any kind. There are very few insects. I hardly see any on the windshield. The inside windows have just about none. I don’t see any grasshoppers, ladybugs, butterflies, crickets, daddy longlegs, or any of the very familiar insects from my childhood. I don’t see any swallows anymore.1

I suspect most young people don’t realize how much this has changed and how quickly. They didn’t experience it for themselves. This is all they are familiar with. This lack of life is what’s normal for them.

CHANGES OVER CENTURIES AND MILLENNIA

This is also happening over longer timespans. When I look at the rolling hills here in Southern Norway, it’s beautiful in its own way. For my inner eye, I see something else. I see the rich and diverse old forest that very likely was there before humans, or when there were only a few humans there thousands of years ago. I see a multi-layered old forest full of animals, birds, and insects. I imagine the ocean similarly full of life.

When I walk through my childhood forest, I experience it differently from when I was a child. Back then, I thought this was wilderness. Now, I see a monoculture planted for profit. The trees are all the same type and of the same age, planted too close together for much else to grow there. It’s far from the rich diversity of a natural old-growth forest.

CITIES

When I walk in a city or town, I imagine how it looked before humans built it. I imagine walking through the rich and multi-layered forest that used to be there. (Or whatever ecosystem it was.)

LEARNING TO LOOK WITH DEEP TIME EYES

For me, it’s important to learn the basics of how mature and rich ecosystems look, and how it was where I am before humans had a huge impact. It’s important for me to learn to see landscapes and places with deep time eyes.

IMAGINING HOW IT CAN BE

It’s also important for me to learn to imagine how I can be. If we engage in regeneration and bring back a mostly native and rich ecosystem, how would it look? How would it look right here?

GRIEF, HOPE & ENGAGEMENT

If I look at the past, it brings up sadness and grief, and that’s a natural and healthy response. I am nature grieving itself. I am a part of this planet and ecosystem driving the loss of so much of itself.

That’s why I also make a practice out of imagining how it can be. I imagine the place I am in full of life and a rich and mature ecosystem, with human settlement as an integral part of it.

That’s also why I make a practice out of doing something in my own life. When I do something to bring it about, in however small a way it may be, I am part of the solution. It’s meaningful. It brings hope. I get to see that something can be done.

IN MY CASE: SOME OF THE SMALL THINGS I DO

What are some of the small things I do?

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into systems views and deep ecology. In my teens and early twenties, I also got into ecospirituality, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I learn to see with deep time eyes. I learned about how the ecosystems used to be before they were hugely impacted by humans. I learned to imagine how it can be, with regeneration and sustainability efforts.

I shifted how I see myself in relationship with nature. I am nature. I am part of this seamless living planet. I am part of this evolving universe. I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I allow this to work on me, and I invite in a deepening visceral experience of it. (Deep ecology, universe story, epic of evolution.)

I learned how we can create a more life-centered and ecologically sustainable civilization. I learned about how our current economic system doesn’t take ecological realities into account (assumes nature is infinite), and how that can and needs to change.

I do small things in my life. I recycle. Use dishwater and shower water for plants. I walk or take public transportation when I can. I try to limit my consumption.

I make connections with and learn from like-minded people.

I have been engaged in several sustainability community projects in the past, especially when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. (EcoTeams, NWEI discussion groups, Practices to Reconnect, Sustain Dane.)

I am also gifted with being the steward of land in the Andes mountains, and I am engaged in the regeneration of this land. (Roughly a thousand native trees will be planted as soon as the rain returns, and we are also developing a food forest.) We are also using natural building techniques (rammed earth), we use mostly local and/or recycled materials, we will collect rainwater and use it to water the plants, we plan on installing solar power, and so on. It’s a gift and a great privilege to be able to do this.

NOTES
(1) Why is the loss happening? The general reason is that we – in our Western civilization – are in ecological overshoot. We use far more resources than nature can keep up with and replenish. The more detailed reasons are many: Use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow food. Monoculture. Loss of old forests. Reduced diversity in the gardens. (When I was little, many gardens had wild areas and in general had a lot more trees, bushes, and flowers.) More houses. Less wild (semi-wild) areas.

The nature of different parts of reality

Whether we notice or not, we all operate on assumptions about the nature of reality.

So why not make our assumptions, often absorbed from our culture, conscious?

Why not explore what’s more true for us?

THE NATURE OF WHAT I AM

The nature of what I am to myself is the most immediate. It’s the only one I can check out for myself.

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world, the way many others see it and my passport tells me. It’s an assumption that works relatively well, although there is some inherent stress in it. It’s stressful to be an object in a world of objects. And it’s stressful to hold onto assumptions not aligned with reality.

When I look, I find that to myself, I am more fundamentally something else. I am what this whole field of experience happens within and as. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

A thought may call this consciousness, and as this consciousness, I have a lot of characteristics described and pointed to by mystics through time and across traditions.

For instance, I cannot find boundaries and that can be called oneness. When the oneness I am notices itself, the way I relate to all is a kind of love independent of feelings or states. (Which can easily be covered up by the hangups of this human self.) Waking life and night dreams both happen within and as the consciousness I am. All I have ever known is my own nature, taking different forms.

I also find that I even more fundamentally am something else. I am capacity for all of it. I am capacity for consciousness and for this consciousness forming itself into the field of experience that’s here.

See articles tagged who and what I am for more on this.

THE NATURE OF THE WORLD

So what’s the nature of the world? Of this Earthly world with people and nature and culture?

I cannot know for certain, but it makes sense to me to assume it’s more or less as it appears. This human self lives in a world full of other people and nature. (Any other assumption tends to create weirdness and unnecessary complications.)

THE NATURE OF OTHERS

What’s the nature of others?

Again, I cannot know for certain. Based on logic and reports, I assume their nature is the same as mine.

To themselves, they are likely consciousness. They are likely what their world happens within and as. They are likely capacity for all of that.

That goes for all beings that we say “have” consciousness. If they have consciousness, then to themselves, they inevitably have to BE consciousness and the world, to them, happens within and as that consciousness.

THE NATURE OF REALITY

What’s the nature of all of reality?

Here too, I cannot know for certain.

I know how it appears to me. It appears as consciousness. And I know why it appears that way. The consciousness I am notices itself, and it notices that the whole field of experience happens within and as the consciousness it is, so everything inevitably appears as consciousness. That doesn’t mean that is the nature of all of existence.

I find it useful to assume that the universe and all of existence is a seamless evolving whole. It’s a dynamic system with wholes and parts and the parts are themselves wholes. (Holarchy.)

Whatever the nature of this whole is, I call it reality and even the divine. To me, the wholeness of reality as it is – which I cannot know for certain – is God.

I am open for materialism being true. Perhaps our most fundamental nature, in a third person view is this body. Perhaps the consciousness we are to ourselves somehow comes out of this body. It’s possible.

It’s also possible that all of existence is consciousness. Some signs hint at this, for instance, distance sensing and healing, precognition, persistent series of undeniable synchronicities, and so on. (These can also be explained in other ways.)

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

As I mentioned, I have done a lot of inquiry on inherited assumptions about reality.

When I was sixteen, there was a shift into oneness and perceiving everything without exception as consciousness. The consciousness I am noticed itself and that it forms itself into any and all experience.

At first, it made the world appear very unreal and it was quite disturbing to this human self. After a while, after some years and decades, it became a new normal. All appears as a dream since it’s all happening within and as the consciousness I am, and that’s fine.

I have been lucky (?) enough to just assume that the world is mostly as it appears filled with people and other beings. At a human level, I just live normally. (I know some can get into weird ideas here.)

I have taken some time to take in others as consciousness to themselves and to include all beings. This is something that needs to be absorbed and unfolds and deepens over time, and there is further to go.

When it comes to the nature of all of existence, I find it interesting that it’s not more common to differentiate between how it inevitably appears to us (all is consciousness) and reality itself. To me, it seems helpful to make that distinction. It makes me freer in how I think about things and how I can talk about it with others. Sometimes, I can take a more materialistic view. Other times, I can take the view of all as consciousness. Both have value and I enjoy being fluid with it. (See posts on the small and big interpretations of awakening.)

The essence of this is that the only thing I can explore for myself is my own nature. The rest are questions and assumptions, something to hold lightly, and it makes sense to be fluid and pragmatic about which assumptions I use.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Action gives hope

Action gives hope. When I act to support life and create a more life-centered civilization, in however small ways it may be, it gives me hope. I feel I can make a difference. I feel we all can make a difference.

This is one of those things that seems obvious when we know it from our own life and may not occur to us before we experience it.

As usual, there are a lot of wrinkles here.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH

It’s also helpful to come to terms with death – the death of ourselves, our loved ones, this civilization, and even humanity. What comes together falls apart. Death is what allows anything to be. Death and impermanence is what gives space and birth to all we know, and all that was and will be. We wouldn’t be here without it. For all the grief and pain we may experience because of it, it’s also an immense and immeasurable blessing. It helps to let all of that sink in.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH + FINDING HOPE

We can come to terms with death, even the possible near-term death of our civilization and humanity, and also find hope. They are not mutually exclusive. We contain multitudes.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can only put one foot in front of the other and do our best. We can be a good steward of our own life and our role in the world.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When we notice our nature, and examine our relationship with thoughts, hope is not as important anymore as it may have been before. We don’t really need hope. We have here and now, which is more than enough, and hope is revealed as a story about the future we cannot know anything for certain about.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

I have explored these things since my teens.

I have taken action to make my life more life-centered and sustainable in different ways, and also worked on community projects (through Sustain Dane and other organizations). Even small actions make a lot of difference. These days, I find myself helping to reforest and regenerate 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, which is immensely meaningful to me.

I have spent quite a lot of time coming to terms with death and impermanence, and finding genuine appreciation for it. (Although it often also brings up grief, sadness, and despair in me.)

I have explored my relationship with thoughts, including within the context of my nature noticing itself and through structured inquiry.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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When progressives are seduced by misinformation

“If you think that something in the cow’s digestive process changes the climate, there is something seriously wrong with you”

A social media friend posted this quote. She is someone who seems to care deeply about people and nature and is generally progressive in terms of politics.

This brings up a few things for me.

WHY DID SHE POST IT?

Why did she post it? I assume she may be one of the progressives naively seduced by misinformation. This type of misinformation often originates on the far-right and is – more or less consciously – designed to undermine sane collective action. (Anti-woke is another example of a far-right bandwagon that some naive progressives seem happy to jump on.)

Maybe she wanted to seem smart or anti-establishment? Maybe she wanted to fuel and present a certain identity?

Maybe she knows someone with that attitude and she wants to join in with them?

WHOSE INTERESTS ARE YOU SPEAKING UP FOR?

Here are some questions that come up for me…

Did you consider where that information and attitude come from? (You may find it’s most popular on the far right.)

Did you check to see if there is any solid science behind it? Did you consider if it would hold up in a court of law? (It certainly would not because it’s not funded in science or reality.)

Did you consider that you may be wrong if you see it one way based on whatever, and tens of thousands of scientists from everywhere in the world – who have spent decades studying it – have a different view?

Did you consider who you are aligning yourself with? Did you consider whose interests you are speaking up for? (In this case, it’s the beef industry. In a broader sense, it’s anyone who think they benefit from preventing a shift into a more sustainable civilization.)

Did you consider what those attitudes lead to? (Distrust of science, undermining of sustainable changes.)

Do you value staying close to reality, or something else like belonging or fueling a certain identity? (The second is fine, and it’s good to be honest about it.)

Did you consider that these attitudes undermine what you appear to care deeply about? (Taking care of nature and animals.)

If you love nature, why do you promote attitudes not supported by science that undermine sane actions to protect nature?

LOOK AT MORE THAN ONE CONNECTION

When you look at the connections between two things, it’s good to look at more than one connection.

In this case, what are some of the connections between cows and climate change?

An obvious one is that the digestive process of cows (the need for grass) destroys the Amazon at a rapid pace and that hugely impacts our climate and all of us.

There are more than one billion cows in the world. How can that not significantly impact our climate? They need an enormous amount of grass and grain, which means cutting down large areas of forests and vegetation. This changes the local and regional climate. It creates a dryer and hotter climate. When this happens around the world, it inevitably changes our global climate.

You cannot leave that out.

THE SPECIFIC TOPIC

To address the narrow topic she likely referred to: Methane from cows and climate change.

One cow can produce 250-500 liters of methane a day. With more than a billion cows, that’s a huge amount of methane.

Methane is a greenhouse gas. It works like a greenhouse. It allows light through but not heat.

Light passes through glass / our atmosphere -> the energy of the light is converted to heat when it hits matter -> and that heat is then trapped in the greenhouse / our planet.

It obviously will impact our climate. It’s inevitable. It’s simple physics.

Our planet is small and the atmosphere is thin. It doesn’t take that much to significantly change our atmosphere, and with it our climate and all we know.

This is all simple. It’s what you learned in elementary school.

SANE ACTION

When it comes to cows, there is a sane approach:

(a) Reduce the number of cows in the world and (b) change the way they live and are fed.

Eating meat is hugely inefficient when it comes to land use. It’s far more efficient for us to eat lower on the food chain. It’s also more healthy for us. It helps the cows often living in terrible conditions. And it helps protect nature and our ecosystems.

It’s fine to have some cows, but it’s better – for them and us – if they live outdoors as much as possible, on land that’s managed well. (For instance, silvopasture.)

This is sane action whether or not there is climate change (there is), whether or not it’s human-created (it is), and whether or not methane from cows contributes to it (it does).

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Traffic calming measures

A MOTORCYCLE CRASH

This weekend, a young mother died outside of town and two more were seriously injured.

From what I understand, two (presumably) drunk young men were racing each other on motorcycles. One of them hit a young mother driving her own motorcycle and on her way to buy food. She died. The driver and passenger on the racing motorcycle were seriously injured. The other young man drove off without helping. (We know the cousin of the woman who died and the parents of the young woman who was injured.)

This highlights the terrible road culture here, and it brings up a few things for me.

WHY SPEEDING & DRUNK DRIVING?

Why do they drive like that? I know a standard answer is that it’s what young men do, but there is obviously more behind it. They may do it because they don’t have a way to take out their energy and hormonal craziness in a more sane and healthy way. They may do it to show off and fuel a certain identity. They may do it to deal with stress and trauma. They may do it because it’s a part of their subculture. They also do it because they can. Here, they know they very likely won’t get in trouble. In most cases, unless something like this happens, there won’t be any consequences.

LOSS OF A MOTHER

The mother who died had two children, one nine months old and one five years old. In our culture, some like to assume it’s easier for the youngest one: She won’t understand what’s happening. That’s something you would say if you think we only live from the neck up. The baby has a deep visceral bond with her mother. For her, the mother is her whole world. This loss can easily create a deep trauma for her, as it will for the older child.

HOW CAN WE PREVENT IT?

What can we do about it? How can we prevent it?

EDUCATION

In our culture, some well-meaning folks say we need education.1 They assume that information, delivered in the right way, will change the behavior of those who drive too fast and drunk. It may be one small piece of the puzzle, but it’s not enough and it’s not the most effective approach.

A general rule is that educational campaigns don’t work very well, even if they are well-designed, creative, emotional, fun, and so on

Educational campaigns work for people who take information seriously and already are motivated to do the right thing. Education tends to work for educated people with resources, but this group already often behaves responsibly and it’s not the main target group.

In general, most of us already know what to do. We know we should drive safely. We know we should eat healthy food. If we still don’t do it, it’s not for lack of education. Other factors are far stronger and more influential on our behavior.

In some cases – for instance, some teenagers – educational campaigns may even work against their purpose since people don’t like to be told what to do.

It’s better to assume that people (a) act stupidly (which is sometimes true) and (b) don’t want to do the right thing (which is sometimes the case), and create social and physical structures that bring about the behavior you want anyway. In this case, safer driving.

TRAFFIC CALMING STRATEGIES

There is a wide range of practical traffic calming strategies.

The obvious ones are frequent speed controls, frequent drunk driving controls, and digital signs that give you immediate feedback on your speed. In Denmark, they confiscate and sell your vehicle if you drive way too fast.

Several simple road design elements require the driver to reduce speed: Speed humps, speed cushions, and speed tables are uncomfortable if you go too fast. Chicanes are elevated semi-circles located on the edge of the road to make it go in a zig-zag pattern. Medians narrow your lane. Rumble strips give visceral feedback on your speed.

Although not a traffic-calming strategy, reflectors and medians mark the middle of the road and help people stay in their lane.

Trees, bushes, and flowers planted along the road can also help calm the traffic. As can optical markings like a series of white stripes on or across the road. In some places, these can be spaced increasingly closer together to give the drivers a sense of speeding up if you want them to slow down. (The downside is that locals get used to them.)

See Speed reduction methods to promote road safety and to save lives, Finding Creative Ways to Crack Down on Speeding, and Speed Reduction Mechanisms for several of these.

A more creative one is to enroll people who drive at or below the speed limit in a lottery where they can win money. This can be done with traffic cameras or apps. Apps can also be set up so you earn points for fuel, restaurant meals, and similar when you drive at or below the speed limit.

Parking an empty police car by the road can also help, although locals will catch on and get used to it if it’s done too frequently. (Unless it’s moved to different locations and sometimes also means speed and alcohol control.)

The road can be painted in colorful patterns to slow down traffic3. In Portland, they paint mandalas in the intersections for this purpose. Crosswalks can also be painted colorfully and creatively by the community, for instance with images of plants, animals, and children.

I have selected a few examples that may work in our location, in a rural town in Latin America, and left many out.

A MIX OF STRATEGIES

A mix of strategies will generally work the best. A bit of education, especially in school, may not hurt but is not enough in itself. The coercive ones – controls and punishment – are in the back of the mind of everyone. Some of the design elements work for everyone since they require you to slow down. The more fun and community-oriented ones work for the ones who resonate with that and they lighten the mood that would otherwise be created by the coercive measures.

NOTES

(1) As mentioned above, the ones who favor educational campaigns are often well-educated and well-meaning. They are among the few an educational campaign would actually work for, although they tend to not need it and act responsibly anyway. They assume others are like them, which is not the case. Most don’t pay attention to educational campaigns, or they quickly revert to their old behavior. Other factors play a far greater role than what educational campaigns, even the best ones, can touch in people.

(2) I have a background in environmental psychology and health psychology, with a focus on strategies to facilitate public behavioral change. (University of Utah and University of Oslo.) What works? Structural changes. What doesn’t work so well? Education.

(3) Road paintings can confuse and interest the driver so they are induced to slow down. It may not work so well if they are locals and familiar with the paintings, which is why it may be helpful to change them regularly. This can be a community art project. The paintings then also become a reminder of the community, which can help local drivers to drive more responsibly.

The image is dreamt up by me and Midjourney and is only meant to give a feel of how road paintings combined with medians, chicanes, and roundabouts may look. It’s not meant to be taken literally.

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Alan Watts: My philosophy is not concerned with what should be but with what is

People often ask me why I smoke and drink. I don’t preach, remember. My philosophy is not concerned with what should be but with what is.

– Alan Watts

Another beautiful Alan Watts quote, and, as usual, there is a lot to explore in it.

I too am interested in the descriptive more than the prescriptive. I am interested in the exploration and what I find. I am interested in what’s already here.

That doesn’t mean that the prescriptive doesn’t have a place. It has often been used by religions, philosophers, governments, and those in power to regulate society. In the best case, it can help society to function more smoothly.1 In the worst case, it’s used to maintain hierarchies and power for the few privileged and to justify inequality and injustice.

At an individual level, it can be used as a temporary (artificial and external) guideline to keep us out of trouble. For those on a spiritual path, it can also roughly mimic how we would live if we did live from our nature recognizing itself.

It also doesn’t mean that exploring our nature can’t be transformative. It often is. When our nature consciously recognizes itself – and recognizes that it’s forming itself into all of its content, including anything related to this human self – that creates a context that can be transformative for our human self and life in the world.2 This too is more about noticing, exploring, and describing more than anything prescriptive. The way this unfolds cannot be prescribed, no more than we can prescribe how a plant should grow.

When it comes to smoking and drinking and similar things, I take a pragmatic approach. I was never drawn to smoking, and alcohol doesn’t feel good in my body. I’ll have a small amount of wine or beer (oatmeal stout) very occasionally, and that’s it. My mind is weird enough as it is so I don’t need to make it weirder. My health is challenged enough so I don’t need to make it worse. It’s not from shoulds or morals. It’s just what happens to work for me, it seems.

To state the obvious (?), our nature recognizing itself doesn’t mean that our human self or our human life is automatically very different. Our human self and our human self may continue much as before, or it can shift in several ways. It seems different in each case, and it depends on how our human self – our psyche and patterns – responds to it. It’s fully possible for our human self to continue much as before, at least for a while until life catches up with us and brings up anything not aligned with oneness, inviting it to become more aligned with oneness. And even that is an ongoing process.

NOTES

(1) The Ten Commandments is an example of guidelines to help society run more smoothly. Other guidelines also have a practical function. For instance, when some religions say you should stay indoors during a solar eclipse (and add to the motivation by saying it’s “bad luck” to look at it), I assume it is so people won’t damage their eyes by looking directly at the eclipse.

(2) It seems that, over time and in its own time, the human self and psyche transform to be more aligned with this oneness. In the best case, old wounds, hangups, and traumas – which are created by and operate from separation consciousness – realign more with oneness, which is what we call healing, and when the human self operates less from these wounds it lives more from (a very ordinary kind of) kindness and sanity. This happens more easily when we actively join in with that process and invite in that healing for the wounded parts of us. I assume it’s an ongoing process without any finishing line, at least not within the relatively short lifetime of this human self.

Image dreamt up by me and Midjourney

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Be it & what happens when I notice I already am this field of experience

When I wake up these days, there is a lot of discomfort in my system. I suspect it has to do with having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have had this experience in the morning to varying degrees for decades now. I don’t feel at all refreshed when waking up, the body feels full of toxins, the brain fog is strong, and so on. That’s all quite typical for CFS.

A helpful reminder for myself is to be it.

ALREADY HERE

It’s simple, and in some ways, it’s obvious and inevitable. I already am my whole field of experience. It cannot be any other way. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it.

HELPS SOMETHING SHIFT

At the same time, the reminder is useful. When the noticing is a little more intentional and has a little more energy, something shifts. It shifts how I relate to what’s here, and that makes all the difference.

My old separation conditioning is to try to avoid an unpleasant experience that’s already here. I try to separate myself from it, in whatever way seems to work the best, which is usually some variation of distraction, compulsion, and so on. This is still in my system, so it helps to notice I already am all of it since it goes against this conditioning. It’s an antidote. It creates another pattern, another conditioning that’s a little more aligned with reality.

It does not necessarily shift the content of what’s here, and it doesn’t have to.

As usual, there is a lot more to say about this.

CAN STILL EXPLORE WHAT’S BEHIND THE DISCOMFORT

It can also be useful to explore the content of experience.

The discomfort may come from going against my inner guidance or knowing, or from not taking care of myself and my life in a situation where the kind and wise thing would be to do so. In that case, it’s good to notice and see if I can find a way to follow and act on my guidance. At the very least, I would be more in integrity which gives a kind of peace in itself.

If there is anxiety, depression, compulsion, or something similar here, it’s worth exploring these experiences and what may be behind them. For instance, what stressful beliefs do I have? What’s more true for me?

In the case of CFS and waking up with this discomfort, I know that some supplements and herbs can help, for instance, magnesium, so I can take that and see what happens.

AMPLIFYING IT

As mentioned, we – or parts of us – can seek separation from discomfort. We can notice we already are it and rest in and as that noticing. And there is a third way.

We can intentionally amplify the discomfort. Make it stronger for 2-3 seconds, then release and relax. Repeat after a few seconds. Notice what happens.

When I do this, I notice that how I relate to the experience shifts. There is less struggle.

This too goes against the old pattern of seeking separation and creates a new pattern of less struggle.

IN MY CASE

Although there was a oneness shift in my teens and I have explored it since, there are still many parts of me that are not quite on board with it. They still live in and operate from separation consciousness.

That’s why noticing I already AM it is helpful. It’s a reminder of what’s already here, and noticing and living from it goes against old patterns.

In addition to this, I have done a lot of inquiry on many aspects of this, from exploring stressful beliefs (which are also identities) to exploring how the discomfort and the reaction to it show up in the sense fields, to dialog with these parts of me, to how it all is here to protect me and was created early in life for that purpose.

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Systems change from an ecocidal civilization to a more life-centered civilization

When I see dynamics that hold our current ecocidal system in place, I see expressions of universal systems dynamics.

SYSTEMS SEEK DYNAMIC EQUILIBRIUM

Systems seek dynamic equilibrium, and they have dynamics in place to try to maintain that equilibrium. It will resist anything that’s destabilizing. That’s natural and healthy. That’s how any system exists and that’s how we are here.

SPECIFIC EXPRESSIONS OF THESE UNIVERSAL DYNAMICS

In our ecocidal system, we see many expressions of this. Some ridicule those who question the sanity of our current system. Some want to continue with business as usual because it’s comfortable or it serves their short-term interests. Some deny that we are in an ecological crisis. Some think it’s hopeless. Some misdiagnose the problem and blame corporations or the government. Laws and courts sometimes protect those who destroy ecosystems and punish those who seek to protect them.

These are all expressions of our current ecocidal system, and they are expressions of dynamics seeking to maintain the equilibrium of this system.

It’s not personal. It’s not really about the individual. It’s all expressions of systems dynamics, often expressed through the attitudes and behaviors of groups and individuals.

SYSTEMS CHANGE

So how does this system change? How does it shift into another state, hopefully, one that’s more life-centered?

It shifts the way any system shifts. It shifts due to a build-up of dynamics pushing it out of equilibrium and into another state.

It shifts because too many things induce it to shift, overcoming the dynamics seeking to keep it in equilibrium.

A SHIFT OUT OF OUR ECOCIDAL SYSTEM AND INTO SOMETHING ELSE

In our case, it will shift because the dire situation we are in will become obvious to more and more people, the necessity to shift into a more life-centered civilization becomes obvious to enough people, and enough people are taking action to make those changes.

The other option is a collapse of our current civilization. A small portion of humans may survive and create another culture. Or humans may collapse with the system. Either way, our global ecological system will continue and find another equilibrium that deals with the changes our civilization has caused.

Note: These are the things I was passionate about in my teens and early twenties, in the ’80s and ’90s. I haven’t really kept myself up to date with systems views since then, but I assume the essence of this still applies. For the last 10-15 years, I have been unable to read much or take in much information due to my health.

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What’s insane? Destroying our life-support system or protesting against the destruction?

I am watching the recent episode of True Detective. At some point, Jodi Foster’s character says that her daughter’s protest against the mine is “insane”. (Then retracts it.)

It’s clear what’s insane in that situation. Destroying our life-support system is insane.

It’s an insanity facilitated by a system that does not take ecological realities into account. A system where what’s easy and attractive to do is also often destructive for our ecosystems and our own life.1

What’s sane is to (a) do anything we can to stop it. What’s even more sane is to (b) shift into a more ecological and life-centered worldview and (c) to live and promote pragmatic life-centered and life-supporting alternatives. All three are needed to change our civilization into a more life-centered one.

Why do so many get it topsy-turvy? Why do they think that protesting is insane while business as usual is sane? Probably because business is usual is what we are used to.2 It’s normal so we think it’s sane. In this view, protesting is not normal so it’s not considered sane. It’s ridiculed. Pushed back against by our legal system. Marginalized. That’s how the current system tries to stay alive.

(1) This system is inherently insane. It’s also understandable how it came about. It was created at a time when our population was small enough and our technology simple enough so we could, for most practical purposes, assume that nature is infinite.

(2) There are also many incentives to maintain business as usual. It’s profitable to some. It may seem more comfortable than change. It’s predictable even if it’s destructive.

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Valuing old age

Yes, that’s true. Our civilization generally values doing and not being. It values production of any kind.

There are a lot of wrinkles here.

IT’S CULTURAL

These views are cultural and not inevitable.

It’s easy to imagine cultures that value old age. Most non-Western cultures do just that.

WESTERN CULTURE VS OTHER CULTURES

Why does our Western culture value youth while most other cultures value old age?

It may be because our society is in rapid change. “Old” knowledge and experience becomes outdated and less valuable. Young people have better quality knowledge than that of old people because it’s more current, relevant, and useful.

Other societies are more stable and highly value old knowledge and wisdom because it’s still relevant. What people learn over a lifetime is still useful and relevant. Old people have better quality knowledge than young ones.

Why is our society in rapid change? Likely partly because we value doing and innovation. (It’s also driven by consumerism. We need innovation to have an excuse to sell and buy new things.)

TIMELESS WISDOM

Even in our rapidly changing society, the wisdom that comes with age is valuable. It’s a timeless wisdom that has to do with being human, and that’s always valuable.

In our society, it’s not always appreciated. Perhaps partly because our focus is more on technology, and partly because we value innovation and new ideas even when it comes to understanding ourselves.

Of course, these “new ideas” are often timeless wisdom packaged in a new way.

QUESTIONING AGE-RELATED IDEAS

We can question any age-related ideas we have absorbed from society. What ideas do I have? Is it true?

Is it true that youth is better? Is it true that old age is useless? What happens when I hold those ideas as true? Can I find genuine examples of how the reverse is as or more true for me? How is it to live from the reversals that are more true for me?

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Feel it as a flavor of the divine

In one of the regular Friday Vortex Healing Zoom meetings, a senior student said: Feel it like a flavor of the divine.

Whatever is here – discomfort, anxiety, sadness, anger, reactivity – feel it as a flavor of the divine.

It’s a helpful reminder for me. It helps me not only notice that it’s happening within and as what I am but also feel it. Take it in. Rest in it. Allow it to work on me.

Here are some additional pointers I sometimes find useful:

You are welcome here. Stay as long as you want. Thank you for protecting me.

Is it separate from me? Is there a dividing line? Does it happen within and as what I am? Am I capacity for it?

Or some other phrasing: Is it true it’s separate from me? Is it true there is a diving line? Is it true it’s not happening within and as what I am? Is it true I am not capacity for it?

For me these days, this noticing and these shifts in noticing are mostly wordless. It may start with the “feel it as a flavor of the divine” reminder and then the noticing is mostly wordless.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Is the self an illusion?

I saw this question yesterday and thought I would see what comes up for me.

As usual, it depends and it has different layers.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY A SELF?

First, what do we mean by a self?

It can mean this human self1 or any other kind of self. A doer or observer can be seen as a self.

More to the point, any thought that’s held as true creates a sense of self. There is identification with and as the viewpoint of the story and the identification that comes with it. To us, that becomes a self with anything else as Other.

SELF AND NO SELF

In a conventional sense, there is a human self here with a passport, biography, identities, and so on.

That’s not wrong. It works reasonably well and it helps this human self function in the world.

The illusion is that it’s what we fundamentally are.

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am the field of experience as a whole. I am what any and all experience happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and this consciousness that I am forms itself into any and all experiences, including of a self.

Even more essentially, I find I am capacity for all of it. I am capacity for consciousness and what it forms itself into.

HOW IS THE EXPERIENCE OF A SELF CREATED?

How is the experience of a self created?

In a sense, it’s a useful fiction.

It happens within and as what I am like any other experience. It’s the consciousness I am temporarily forming itself into that experience.

More specifically, it’s created through a combination of what happens in different sense fields. In the mental field, there are images and stories of a self, and the mind associates these with what happens in other sense fields (sight, sound, smell, taste, physical sensations).

There are also physical sensations that lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations give a sense of meaning to the same sensations.

HOW IS THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING A SELF CREATED?

How is the experience of being a self created?

This experience is created any time a thought is held as true. When that happens, there is identification with the viewpoint of the thought and anything else becomes other.

We perceive ourselves as the viewpoint of the story. It becomes what we, to ourselves, are. It becomes an identity to prop up, remember, reinforce, and defend. Anything else becomes other.

Another way to talk about this is to say that there is a shift into identification with something within the field of experience.

DOES IT MATTER?

Does it matter? That too depends.

It obviously doesn’t matter hugely. Most consciousnesses function fine even if they are caught up in the illusion of fundamentally being a self. There is some inherent stress, but most can function OK anyway.

In some cases, it matters. It matters if it matters to the consciousness. If there is curiosity, a draw to explore it, a glimpse, or something similar.

It also matters in that it can have real-life consequences. If the consciousness we are recognizes itself, stays with that noticing, and allows it’s human self to reorganize within that noticing, there is a kind of unwinding and reorganization that happens.

SO IS THE SELF AN ILLUSION?

Is the self an illusion?

As so often, the answer for me is yes and no and it depends.

It makes sense to assume there is a human self here functioning in the world. (The other options tend to create weirdness in a practical sense.)

This human self is not what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience. Here, I find I am more fundamentally what the whole field of experience happens within and as. Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it. The illusion here is about identity, it happens if I take myself as fundamentally this human self – or a doer, or observer, or similar. I can explore this through the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments, and also basic meditation2 and a range of other approaches.

It also makes sense to acknowledge that my experience of this human self and the wider world is created by the mind. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. It’s a kind of virtual world. This human self and the wider world are not inherently as I experience it. With different sensory inputs (a different body and sense organs) and different stories, it would all appear very different. I can explore this by examining my sense fields and how they come together to create an experience, for instance by using traditional Buddhist sense-field exploration or modern versions like the Kiloby inquiries. I can also notice that night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

MY STORY WITH THIS

I was a very curious kid, but this wasn’t really on my radar until two shifts happened in my teens.

First, there was a shift into being an observer. I found myself as observer and anything else – this human self, thoughts, emotions, the wider world – as distant and far away. To this psyche, it felt like something had gone terribly wrong. This happened when I was fifteen and it lasted for about a year.

Then, there was another shift. This time into oneness, into the consciousness all experience happens within and as. My psyche interpreted this as: All without exception is God. All is God exploring itself as all of it, including locally and temporarily taking itself to be a human self.

That fundamental shift stayed with an overlay of a psyche3 with its conditioning and hangups, and deepenings and additional shifts of many different kinds.

Consciousness showed itself itself, and that it’s not fundamentally this human self or a doer or observer or anything else. So this psyche naturally got interested in it. It was curious and wanted to explore and learn more about how to navigate and live from and as this.

NOTES

(1) A physical self can be seen as a kind of eddy of matter and energy (in a physical sense) in the world of matter. It’s a subsystem within a larger social and ecological seamless whole. It’s a holon in a holarchy.

(2) Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed, and rest in and as that noticing and what’s here.

(3) I thought I would add a brief note on the words I use here. Consciousness refers to what we are to ourselves, what forms itself into the content of experience, and it’s all we have ever known whether we notice or not. Some call it “awareness” although I prefer to use that word for being consciously aware of something. The psyche is more our human operating system and it consists of evolutionary predispositions, conditioning, biases, hangups, and so on. To us, the consciousness we are forms itself into the psyche and everything else.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Is Buddhism true?

Is Buddhism scientific? Is Buddhism “true?” Does Buddhist meditation reveal “the way things really are”? Is the self an illusion? 

– from a Cheeta House announcement about a reading/discussion group

What comes up for me with these questions?

Is Buddhism scientific? It depends. It depends on what aspect of Buddhism you are talking about and what you mean by science. Buddhism is diverse, and there are many valid ways of doing science. Within Buddhism, some approach it in a sincere, sober, and grounded way, which makes it more aligned with science. Some go more into beliefs, which makes it less scientific.

Is Buddhism true? Again, it obviously depends. In my experience, the essence of it has much that seems valid. The way they point to and talk about our true nature fits my experience. The essence of how they describe the dynamics of the mind often seems accurate. Other things in Buddhism are more cultural and peripheral.

Does Buddhist meditation reveal “the way things really are”? As far as I can tell, with the right guidance and sincere exploration, it can. It can reveal our nature to ourselves. We can find ourselves as that which our field of experience happens within and as. We can find ourselves as capacity for all of it. That’s what it can reveal, and it can reveal some of the dynamics of the mind that distracts attention away from this. That’s about it. It cannot reveal the nature of all of existence or anything else, really. See articles tagged small and big interpretations of awakening for more on this.

Is the self an illusion? Again, it depends. I would talk about it in two ways. (a) There is a self here in a conventional sense. This is a self with a passport, a biography, and so on. The illusion is more that this is what we fundamentally are. We are what this self and everything happens within and as. Our more fundamental nature is what it all happens within and as. Even more essentially, we are capacity for all of it. So I would say that the self is not an illusion, but that it’s our fundamental nature is an illusion. (b) The other side is that the experience of this self is created by and within consciousness. The consciousness we are forms itself into the experience of this self and anything else. More specifically, it’s created by the mind associating different stories and appearances in the sense fields. It’s a kind of virtual creation that the consciousness we are creates for itself to function in the world. It’s a useful creation in a practical sense.1 See articles tagged who and what we are for more on this.

Even what’s phrased as statements are questions. They point to something to explore here and now.

(1) The self can take many different forms, from this human self to a doer, observer, or something else. In reality, any time the mind identifies with the perspective of a story or identity, a self with an Other is created. It perceives itself to be that view and anything else becomes Other.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Living outside of what’s natural for us

Yes, this is true for us as a whole, and for our body and mind.

Through evolution, we are made to live in nature, in daily physical activity, in a small community, doing things that are meaningful and give visible results, without clocks and schedules, and so on.

In our modern Western society, we often find ourselves living contrary to this.

Many of us are sedentary in daily life and need to add artificial periods of exercise. We live in cities where we don’t know our neighbors and many are isolated. We don’t know our neighbors and live separated from our family and friends. Many have jobs that are not very meaningful. We have to follow the clock and schedules without regard to the natural rhythms of the day, seasons, and our bodymind. We live separated from nature and the aliveness of nature. We eat food grown with toxins and we clean our homes with toxins. We eat hyper-refined foods. We try to fill the void many of us experience (from living in this civilization) through consumption or fueling certain artificial identities. We see huge portions of nature being destroyed. We see the suffering of people and non-human beings in the news daily. We know that our world can end suddenly from wars. We live with shoulds and taboos that don’t really make sense and create a lot of stress. We see the huge inequality in the world and the many living in poverty. We know that our world is heading towards its end because of our ecocidal civilization.1

No wonder there is a lot of illness of both body and mind. This is a situation that’s not only destructive for our life-support system. It’s destructive for us here and now.2

Many of our illnesses are symptoms of a civilization that has removed itself very far from what our mind and body evolved to live in. Many of our mental, physical, and social ills are illnesses of our particular civilization.

NOTES
(1) Why is this happening? The essence may be our ability to think abstractly, and more to the point, the tendency of our mind to take these abstractions as true. Abstract thinking is a wonderful tool and it can do a lot of amazing things. And when our minds take it as true and don’t recognize it for what it is, it can create a lot of problems for us individually and collectively. Our mind takes a fantasy world as real and distracts itself from what’s more real. It prioritizes identities, shoulds, and so on, over recognizing thoughts for what they are – an important tool with limited use and validity. As a species, we are still in our childhood when it comes to relating to our thoughts in a sane and wise way.

(2) This doesn’t mean that all was easy for our distant ancestors even if they lived in a setting we evolved to live in. They had their own challenges, of course. They lived with disease, children dying young, famine, local conflicts, and so on. The difference is that most of what they dealt with was on a human scale.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things – vol. 49

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on healing, awakening, and personal things. These are more spontaneous and less comprehensive than the regular articles. Some may be made into a regular article in time.

EVERYONE IS A WHOLE WORLD

Every being is a world. When someone is born, a new world is here. When someone dies, a world is gone.

If we are a conscious being, then to ourselves, we are that consciousness. The world, to us, is created within and as the consciousness we are. It’s a unique world. That world doesn’t exist anywhere else. It doesn’t exist before or after. The world, as it’s experienced by any one consciousness, is one of a kind.

That goes for every single being. An ant is as much consciousness to itself as anyone else. It is as much a world as anyone else.

What’s different is the body it operates through and as and the world it creates for itself. Each of us perceives the world differently. We have a particular body and sensory organs, we are in a unique place in the world, we have our world we bring with us from the past. The world we create for ourselves is different.

Our fundamental nature to ourselves is the same. (Very likely, judging from reports and what makes sense.) The body and content of the world is unique.

What a beautiful combination.

Image by me and Midjourney

CG JUNG: THE BRIGHTER THE LIGHT

The brighter the light, the darker the shadow.

– CG Jung

What is Jung referring to here? I am not sure, but I can find where the quote seems accurate.

The more I am identified with desirable qualities, and the more I see them as exclusive, the more the rest of me will go into the shadow. It’s something I see in others and not (so much) in myself.

There is another dynamic here and I am not sure how to talk about it: The more light, the stronger the shadow. When my system goes “up” it’s followed by going “down”. There is a sense of a lot of light coming into my system, it tends to bring up new layers of what’s unprocessed in me. This can happen, for instance, after focusing on heart-centered practices and so on.

The invitation for me here is to engage in these practices differently, in a way that opens to all of me – what’s desirable and not to my personality, what my culture sees as “light” and “dark”. In a way where there is less identification with the “light” side of me and more of a conscious embrace of all of it, including the “dark” sides.

I am exploring these dynamics right now. After the Amma experience some weeks ago, and after going into heart-centered practices, it was as if new layers of unprocessed material came up quite strongly. It’s clear that the more I wish for the light and try to hold onto it, the more the dark comes up and it feels challenging and unwanted. The more I recognize all of it as expressions of the divine and the mind, and the more I can intentionally embrace it all, the easier it is. That’s when it all can work on me and make me more consciously whole and aligned with reality and what’s already here.

What specifically has been coming up? First, grief and pain from Merlina dying. Then, a lot of anger and I didn’t always deal with that anger gracefully. Likely because I never really learned to deal with and work with anger from my birth family, and because a part of me tells me it’s bad and wrong and my mind still believes it to some extent. In addition to this, just generally feeling uncomfortable, which may be discomfort about underlying anger. The anger is partly from me not taking care of my own needs in my life and also recently.

Right now, how is it to fully embrace the anger that’s here? How is it to embrace the fear behind the anger? How is it to embrace the discomfort? How is it to embrace the messiness? How is it to embrace anything in me reacting to what’s coming up?

You are welcome here. You can stay as long as you want. Thank you for protecting me.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Dream: With my father in one of his buildings in Oslo

I am with my father to see a building in Oslo that he designed several decades ago. It’s a large and important performance hall with a lot of interior spaces for the public to hang out. It’s beautifully designed, has a good feeling, and the spaces feel organic and alive. He shows me one area with several nature paintings from his father. I am impressed by the quality of the paintings considering he was an amateur. The building will be demolished and they will build a new building in another location. I ask if the paintings will be moved to the new building and he says yes.

I am not sure what this is about although a few things came up right away.

This is about the creations of my father and grandfather. My father is an architect and artist and my grandfather was a reasonably good amateur artist in his own way. They both love(d) nature, spent a lot of time in nature, and nature was important in their art. I am like that too. I love art, I do some art, I love nature, and I often include nature in what I create. The dream also reminds me that I would like to do a lot more art, the way I used to in my teens and early twenties. (I stopped because I went against my clear inner guidance on a major life issue. That made it too painful for me to continue with anything that connected me with my guidance, including art, because all my guidance said was “get out of this situation”. Because of issues and trauma, I felt stuck and unable to get out of it.)

The building has a large performance hall and many smaller and playful spaces for the public outside of the main hall. It feels good to be there. In waking life, I remember my father telling me that for him, the main criterion for architecture is that it should feel good to be there.

The building will be demolished. In waking life, my parents are old and may not live much longer, and we are selling the house that I grew up in outside of Oslo, Norway.

They will build another and more modern building in another location, and they will bring the art over to the new building. Maybe this is some of what I inherited from my father and grandfather, including a love for art and nature?

Update a couple of days later: It seems that the dream is (a) reminding me of the love of nature and art passed on from my father and my father’s father, and (b) is showing me that old structures and identities are falling away and that something – including that love – continues.

The image is by me and Midjourney. The dream building was not quite as dark and it didn’t rain or snow in the dream. It was also more in the middle of town, surrounded by other buildings. Still, it’s roughly similar to the building from the dream.

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