What will I get out of awakening?

What do we get out of awakening?

There are many ways to answer that question.

I will explore it from my own experience and partly what I have heard from others, and in the context of the awakening process and not just awakening itself.


There is a me and an I here. There is a human being in the world, there are all sorts of identities and identifications. That’s not wrong, and being familiar with these helps this human self to function in the world.

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? I find I more fundamentally am what it all happens within and as. A thought may say I am the consciousness it all – the world as it appears to me – happens within and as. What I am forms itself into the world as it appears to me, and this whole field of experience. It forms itself into the wider world, this human self, identities and identifications, states, and so on.

Even more fundamentally, I find my nature is capacity for it all – for consciousness and what it forms itself into.


This is what awakening refers to, at least as I tend to use the word.

It can appear as a moment in time or it can be more stable and go through different situations in daily life.

It can be more or less thoroughly examined.

It can be more or less lived from in daily life situations.

Our psyche may be more or less on board with it and aligned with it.

And so on. It’s a process of clarification, deepening, and maybe even of our human self healing, transforming, and maturing within it.


It’s a process.

This process is always unique just like everything is unique.

There are also some common themes and aspects of it.

There may be an initial interest and fascination, typically fueled by projections. (We imagine things in the awakening that’s already here, and that helps us find it here – at least if we pursue it.)

There may be a more serious phase of sincerely asking the divine to be shown reality, of practices (prayer, meditation, inquiry, heart-centered practices, and so on), of following the guidance of a coach, and so on.

There may be initial glimpses, either before or during any of these phases. These tend to function as a carrot and encouragement to continue the exploration.

Our nature may recognize itself, at least for a while.

This may be followed by an experience of losing it. This is an invitation for clarification. We are invited to find the essence of what it is about and see the side-effects for what they are.

Our nature may then recognize itself more stably. It rests in noticing itself. The invitation here is to continue noticing through more and more situations in daily life, especially the ones where things in our psyche are triggered. Can I recognize that as my nature too? How is it to notice it while it’s happening?

Here, there is also an invitation for more of our human self to be on board with the awakening. Many parts of our psyche were formed within and still operate from separation consciousness. We may call these hangups, wounds, trauma, and so on. They inevitably color our perception and life in the world. And life tends to bring these up so they can be seen, felt, loved, and examined, and so they can realign with oneness and our nature recognizing itself. I imagine this is a lifelong process for most if not all of us.


Our personality and habitual patterns may like some aspects and phases of the awakening process.

It may like the early seeking and fascination.

It may like the initial tantalizing glimpses and the fantasies it puts on it.

It may like the initial honeymoon phase.

It may like and be fascinated with some of the side effects of awakening, whether it’s the ability to see or sense energies, sensing at a distance, healing at a distance, a stronger inner guidance, and so on.

It may like the label it can put on itself before that too falls away. (It may try to adorn itself with ideas about what’s happening, perhaps as compensation for not feeling enough.)

It may like the profound sense of coming home.


There are also many aspects and phases our personality may not like.

It may not like the ongoing stripping away of layers of identifications and holding onto stories for safety.

It may not like the different dark nights that are part of the process. The times when life and the process show us where we are still stuck and holding onto ideas and identities, and that this is out of alignment with reality.

It may not like that whatever is unhealed, unloved, unexamined, and unprocessed in us tends to come to the surface. When the lid is off, it’s off of everything that was previously under the surface. This can be hugely challenging for the personality and at a human level.

To me, it seems that the more awakening, the less I can get away with. If I act on hangups and trauma, or if I go against or don’t act on my guidance, the consequences tend to be immediate and severe. Some parts of my personality don’t like it, other parts really like it, and deeper down it feels completely right and aligned that it is this way.


This is true enough, in my experience.

And yet, a couple of things may be even more fundamentally true.

This is all life unfolding in different ways to itself, as everything is.

We are not fundamentally any me or I, we are what it all happens within and as. We don’t get anything out of it because it’s all happening within and as us, as fish and plankton happen within the ocean, or as clouds and weather happen within the sky.

The image is created by me and Midjourney

A wonderful smell and taste in the awakening process: amrita, ambrosia, divine nectar

I feel a delicious smell and taste in my mouth. It is an indescribable smell and flavor, it could be a kind of incense or perfume with Divine characteristics. It generates immense well-being and reminds me of the immeasurable union. It’s a reminder that I’m the one. I can also relate it to smells that I experience when I visit Amma the Divine Mother. It looks like Amma’s smell when I receive her hugs. It is literally magical and Divine.

This is my partner’s description of something that happened during and after the most recent Vortex Healing class, and others have noticed it as well.

It seems to be one of many possible side-effects of awakening, and this one is variously called divine nectar, amrita, and ambrosia, and it probably has more names in different traditions.

This particular side-effect is likely not necessary for our nature to recognize itself. It may also not be necessary for a thorough transformation of our human self within that new context. But it is one of many visitors that can come in the process, and it can serve as an encouragement.

Here are what I wrote about it in 2007: Shift in taste and smell | Other senses changing also | Dr. Wolff on ambrosia.

What are some of the other side effects of awakening? It can be seeing energies, sensing at a distance, the ability to invite healing at a distance, insights, inspiration for art and anything else, precognition, and so on. Different personalities relate to these in different ways depending on inclinations and conditioning.

Note: I found this article on divine nectar from a yogic perspective. It’s interesting but I have no way to check how accurate it is. I am more interested in it as (a) a phenomenon in the awakening process, and (b) how we relate to it.

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Awake without knowing it

I was at a Buddhist center1 in Oslo yesterday for meditation. A couple of times, I looked at the energy field of some of the people there2.

The teacher’s system was somewhere between awake and not awake. There was a lot of awakeness around and near the body, and it faded out further away from the body3.

I also looked at the field of a young woman who happened to sit in front of me. Her energy field was much more mellow and the whole field, going far out from the body, was awake. It seemed to be awake without being consciously aware it was awake. She was new to meditation, as she said and as the mellowness showed. At the same time, there seemed to be a natural low-grade awakeness going infinitely far out.

I assume she may not be consciously aware of it as that or have a label for it. It may just be the water she swims in, and it’s likely also why she is drawn to meditation and Buddhism. It may be familiar to her since it’s about what she is already – to some extent – living4.

There is a caveat here and that is that it can be tricky to isolate the energy field of different people when there are several in the room (it is possible to focus on the energy field at particular locations in space, as we do with physical objects), and there is an enhancement of the energies from meditation.


(1) It’s a new place for me and I love being a complete beginner there.

(2) Since my teens, I have – for whatever reason – been able to see and sense energies. What’s most easy for me to see is the degree of awakeness in a system.

I remember one time at the center in Oregon (CSS) where a student was promoted to teacher because he had an awakening shift. (That change in role is, in itself, questionable. It takes a lot more to be a good and responsible teacher.) I could see in his system that, yes, there had been an awakening glimpse or shift, but it was unstable and not very thorough. A few weeks later, the main teacher announced that this student would step back from a teaching role since the awakening wasn’t as stable as they had thought.

(3) The lack of awareness through her whole system doesn’t prevent her from being a good and capable teacher. She seemed to be doing a very good job.

(4) It’s the first time I have noticed this so it was new and also seemed very familiar to me. I wonder if more young people are like that today? Maybe not. In the past, she would likely “just” be seen as a kind-hearted person in the community. Today, with meditation being more available, she can more easily find a kind of fellowship. She may even develop it further if there is a drive to it, although if she doesn’t that’s fine too.

The notes are longer than the actual article today. It’s because I wanted to keep the main story simple, and also realized I wanted to add a few more details.

Image by me and Midjourney

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A “dangerous prayer”

Since my teens, I have explored and trained in a range of approaches to healing and transformation. (Tai chi, chigong, Buddhist practices, therapy, inquiry, somatic approaches, shamanic approaches, etc.)

I really wanted to go deep, especially in what I knew very well were unhealthy family dynamics, and although I could see and understand a lot of the dynamics, I never felt I was able to fully and viscerally dig into it.

At some point, maybe thirteen years ago, I wholeheartedly and sincerely asked the divine to “show me what’s left”.

A few days later, an immense and overwhelming amount of dread and terror came up. It filled my life for about nine months and then slowly diminished over the following years. During the most intense period, all I could do was walk in the forest and listen to talks and books by Adyashanti. I was unable to sleep or eat very much, and mostly unable to function.

Since then, whenever I do healing for myself or receive a session (Vortex Healing, craniosacral, TRE, or something else), it seems to easily bring up a lot. My system seems to use any opportunity to release as much as possible. Often, what comes up is a mix of fatigue, strong discomfort, and some combination of anxiety, anger, and grief. It’s been quite challenging and something I am still learning to navigate.

One obvious solution is to do it in very small portions at a time to not overwhelm my system. Slow is sometimes faster.

There aren’t really any insights here, apart from that our system seems to always want deeper healing and shifts into whatever can bring that about, whether we consciously feel we are ready for it or not. Also, be careful what you ask for because it may happen! I don’t regret that prayer, but if I was to do it again, I would probably ask for it to happen more gently and gradually.

Image by me and Midjourney. I went through some of my old images and felt that this one could work. Wrestling with trauma, primal fear, and anything else that’s surfacing can at times feel like wrestling with a whale.

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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.


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 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 itself can be gradual or sudden.


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.


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.


For me, this shift happened in my teens.


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.


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.)


(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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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 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 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.


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


(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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Viscerally getting others as consciousness

In a very general way, how we perceive ourselves is how we see others.

If I perceive myself as primarily consciousness, I tend to perceive others as primarily consciousness. I tend to see others as consciousness and the world, to them, as happening within and as that consciousness. We are all primarily subjects and a world to ourselves. (We subjectify.)

If I perceive myself as fundamentally this human self, or anything else within the content of experience, I tend to perceive others as fundamentally the same. We are all objects within the world. (We objectify.)


As usual, it’s that simple, and also not.

One question is: How can I deepen into noticing my nature? How can I deepen into living from and as it? How can I invite more of me – this bodymind and psyche – to be more onboard with it? How do I relate to this whole process?

The other question is: How can I deepen into imagining others as consciousness? How can I allow that to work on me and transform this bodymind and life?

Both of these are ongoing explorations. There is no finishing line. (As far as I can tell.)

And there is a difference between these two. The first recognition is an immediate noticing. The second requires some intention and imagination.


I have written more about this below, in another version of this article.

This is an ongoing exploration for me, and it makes a huge difference in how I perceive and relate to other beings.

Here at Finca Milagros, I see any living being as consciousness and a world to themselves. To themselves, they are consciousness just like me. The only difference is the particular body and nervous system they operate through and as.

That gives me a natural reverence for all life. If I kill one of them – inadvertently or intentionally – I snuff out a whole universe. I snuff out their particular universe.

That’s not something I take lightly.

That’s one side of it. The other side is that this bodymind was formed within separation consciousness as is the case for most of us. It has a lot of hangups, wounds, and traumas, as many of us do. And all of that also color how I perceive and live in the world. I eat some meat. I sometimes get scared, angry, and reactive. I sometimes feel exhausted and care less. And so on. That’s part of the process too.

Images by me and Midjourney.

This is a simplified version of a longer article. See below for the first version of this article which gives more details.

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A core veil experience

In Vortex Healing, the definition of awakening is that the core veil is gone, where the core veil refers to a component of our energetic system that sits in the heart area.

This is a different definition than what most use, which would be some variation of our nature recognizing itself and living from and as it (embodiment). That’s part of the Vortex Healing view as well, but not used as a definition of awakening.

A few weeks or months after I took my first Vortex Healing class, I asked my teacher (GC) about my core veil. She said, “It’s hanging on by a thread”.

For years, I had experienced something very uncomfortable in my heart area. I saw Jeannie Zandie talking about experiencing a “shard of glass in the heart” during a phase in her process, and that was my experience as well. It was there more or less constantly, felt like it was energetic more than emotional, and was almost unbearable.

During the final transmission in the Core Veil class1, that experience went away. It has not returned.

This makes me guess that the strong discomfort in my heart area came from the fragments of the core veil that was left in my heart area. It was there before the core veil transmission and gone after.

For me, that in itself made taking the Vortex Healing classes worth it!

(1) London December 2017 according to my calendar.

The image is created by me and Midjourney and is utter nonsense in terms of the energy system

Awakening and trauma and the apparent gap between the two

There is an apparent gap between my nature – as consciousness – and the trauma that’s in my very human system.


As what I am, as consciousness, I am oneness. And that oneness takes the form of a kind of love that’s independent of states and feelings.

As who I am, I am this very flawed human being. I have hangups, issues, and traumas. I have unloved parts of me. Unexamined beliefs. And so on. Here, I sometimes act from reactivity and it looks like (unloved) fear and reactivity and not love or oneness.

There seems to be a big gap there. And that’s true and not true in different ways.


It’s true in that these parts of me – the wounded and traumatized parts – were formed within separation consciousness and they perceive and operate from separation consciousness. They are not aware of the oneness they exist within and are part of. They behave as if separation is most fundamental, and for them it is.

These parts of me color my perception and life even if they are not obviously triggered.

When they are more obviously triggered, a couple of things can happen.

The consciousness I am can get caught up in this part of me and join in with its outlook and the scary stories it operates from. I – as a whole – become this part of me for a while, until the storm passes. (Sometimes, it means getting caught up in a part reacting to a reacting part!)

The consciousness I am can notice what’s happening without getting caught up in it. I notice what’s happening. I notice reactivity. I notice the pattern. I notice it’s happening within and as what I am. My human self can relate to it more intentionally and deal with it without getting caught up in it or reacting to it.

Or there is a mix of the two, which also happens.


At the same time, the gap is only apparent.

My human self and all its hangups happen within and as the consciousness and oneness I am.

Even getting caught up in it or not happens within and as the consciousness and oneness I am.

Noticing that is helpful. It’s helpful in the moment something is triggered. It helps me find what’s not caught up in it. And it’s helpful when I take time to rest with and explore these wounded parts of me. It gives a different context to the exploration. It helps me see that these parts of me have my nature. What I am forms itself into it and takes that form.


How can I explore the gap? How can I invite more of me to align with oneness? (With the oneness I am noticing itself?)

A big part of it may be regular trauma work and different forms of trauma-informed therapies.

Another is to train myself to notice when “I” as a whole gets caught up in it and help myself to shift out of it again. Seeing that it’s natural and, in many ways, innocent, helps here. The more peace with it, the easier to notice and shift back into what I am.


In general, it seems easier

The more I can embrace all of it and the messiness of it and find some peace with it.

The more I understand what’s happening. These are scared and sometimes terrified parts of me. They were formed within separation consciousness and still live that way. They are here to try to protect me. They come fundamentally from love. They have the same nature as I do as a whole.

The more I am with others who understand and have some love and humor about it all.

The more experience I have in seeing the patterns and dealing with them. That includes the times I – as a whole – get caught up in it and act as if I am that scared part of me. And the times when I notice what’s happening and can relate to it more consciously and intentionally.

The more I can admit to it to myself and others (when it feels appropriate). Admitting it is very human and creates more understanding and connections.

The more I can find the humor in it. It is all more than a little absurd.

The more I know that there is no finishing line. It’s all about the process. I cannot know what will happen and it doesn’t matter. It’s easier and more comfortable to rest in (and as) not knowing.

The more I see that this is all the play of… the consciousness I am, life, existence, the divine, Spirit. It’s existence expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in this way here and now. It has a beauty.

The more I see that this is universal. We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. And we all have this self in the world with all sorts of hangups, wounds, and traumas. We are all in it together. We are all in the same boat. (And it’s all also unique. It all takes unique forms for each of us and in each moment.)

The more I see it’s not easy. It’s often *&%$# hard. It’s painful. Confusing. Sometimes overwhelming. It brings up fear, frustration, and anger. It sometimes brings up shame and regret. That too is universal, natural, and ultimately innocent. It’s OK.

Image by me and Midjourney

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No awakening without dealing with trauma

There is no awakening without dealing with trauma.

At some point, the awakening process requires us to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us.

It seems inevitable given enough time, and it may not in all cases happen in this lifetime.


Of course, our nature can recognize itself without dealing with trauma or anything else unresolved in us. It can keep noticing itself and even live from and as it through this human self in many situations. We can be in a temporary transcendent state. Our old psychological mechanisms may still be intact enough to push our traumas aside or keep them under the surface as much as that is possible.

In this situation, what’s unresolved in us will inevitably color our perception and life, and it will get triggered more actively in some situations and areas of life. It will always be with us and shape our life. 

It’s not a situation that can last forever. At some point, anything unresolved in our body-mind has to come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as happening within and as what we are. We have to learn to relate to it more consciously and for what it is (scared and wounded parts of us) and invite in healing for it. 


What’s the problem with traumas in this context, and generally what’s unresolved in us?

It’s not actually a problem. They are part of the process. It’s natural and even innocent. It provides material for exploration, grounding, humbling, maturing, and so on.

At the same time, these parts of us are out of alignment with the awakening. These parts of us were formed from separation consciousness and life within and from separation consciousness. And, as mentioned above, they will inevitably color our perception and life. As long as they are here, we will live partly from and as these parts of us.


Some things make this process easier: We may have a relatively small trauma load, or just a little comes up at once. We may already have good habits in how to relate to it. We may already be relatively healthy, grounded, and mature. We may find ourselves among people who understand and support the process. In short, we have the resources to deal with it and what’s coming up may not be big enough to overwhelm us. 

And the reverse seems to make this process more difficult: We have a larger and more difficult trauma load. A lot is coming up at once. We may feel overwhelmed and not know how to deal with it. We may not be so healthy, grounded, and mature. We may not find ourselves in an understanding and supportive environment. We may not have the inner and outer resources to effectively deal with it, and what comes up overwhelms us. 


This is really about embodiment, which is part of the awakening process.

It’s about bringing it into life in a more consistent, grounded, mature, and healthy way.

For that to happen, we need to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us, and it’s an ongoing process.

I doubt there is ever a finishing line, at least in this lifetime or as long as we are incarnated.


The essential part of awakening is not technically a process. It’s our nature recognizing itself and that happens here and now.

And everything else is a process. What leads up to it, and how it unfolds within and as that noticing.


Is it worth it?

It is, in a way, a nonsensical question. It’s not up to us as an individual. What’s happening here locally is part of the process of all of existence. Everything has infinite causes stretching out to the widest extent of existence and the beginning of time.

Also, it depends on how we look at it. It can be tremendously difficult and painful, as I know from my own experience. It can seriously impact and complicate our lives.

Not dealing with trauma is not necessarily any easier. That comes with its own pain and challenges and it lasts a lot longer.


I am writing from my own experience here so someone else will talk about it differently.

For me, the initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen and didn’t go away. My human self lived in a kind of honeymoon state for about ten years where the unprocessed human stuff was set aside or buried. Not intentionally, since I was deeply fascinated by psychology (especially Jung and depth psychology) and did regular therapy. But my system had mechanisms in place to keep it manageable.

Then, a dark night started. First, through a profound sense of being off track in life (I made a life decision that went against my clear inner guidance and knowing). And then, about ten years later, through the “lid” being taken off what was unprocessed in my system. That seemed to have happened through a combination of (a) six months in a clear no-self state, (b) my body-mind being severely weakened by a chronic illness CFS), and (c) a “dangerous prayer” where I sincerely and deeply asked the divine to “show me what’s left” (a deep and overwhelming survival fear came up one or two weeks after). An aspect of this is that a lot has been falling apart in my life, over and over, sometimes because of the way I have dealt with the trauma.

I am still in that darker phase of the dark night, although the form of it keeps changing.

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Two sides of an unexpected oneness shift: Profoundly at home, profoundly alone – my story

When I was fifteen, there was a shift where the whole world – thoughts, feelings, sensations, others, the wider world – seemed very distant and far away. One year later, there was a shift into oneness where all – without exception – was revealed as God.


This human self was an atheist at the time, although with some curiosity about what’s outside of our conventional worldview – ESP, quantum physics, and similar things. I lived in a small town in Norway, and it was the ’80s before the web, so I knew nothing about anything related to this. I knew nobody who was interested in it. There was no web to go on to find info. I couldn’t even find any books since the local library didn’t have anything about it, and I didn’t even know what search terms to use.


So on the one hand, it was a profound sense of coming home. It was a homecoming to something completely unexpected (to this human self) and profoundly familiar (to my nature). It was clear, it was obvious. Everything is God, without exception. And that includes this human self and any sense of being this human self. It was all what God has formed itself into. In this, there is no room for problems.


At the same time, at my human level, there were a lot of problems. I had a mysterious disease. (Later identified as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.) I had a lot of anxiety and hangups due to family and school dynamics. Huge amounts of energy was running through my system 24/7 for years, it felt like high voltage being sent through ordinary housing wires. I had nobody to talk about these things with at all.


It wasn’t until that I found a book by Meister Eckhart in the main library in Oslo, where I saw glimmers of someone who had recognized the same, filtered by another time and culture and said by someone who obviously wanted to be careful about how he expressed it. (1) I also met a couple of people (BH & HB) who immediately recognized it in me and where I recognized it in them. That happened when I was nineteen and twenty and was a big relief for this human self. And I found Taoism and read just about everything I could find there. Again, the writings typically reflected something similar but didn’t explicitly talk about the shift that had happened here.

In general, my human life changed significantly for the better after I left high school, moved to Oslo, and started art school there. I found new friends. I found new communities. I was able to explore everything with more breathing space. Things started falling into place.


So there were two sides to this. As what I am – what a thought may call consciousness, oneness – there was just a returning home that what’s always here. As who I am – as this confused and wounded human being – it was a wild mix of surprise, excitement, confusion, bewilderment, aloneness, and much more.

And that’s all, of course, happening within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as what a thought may call consciousness, oneness, or any number of things.


(1) In my teens, I also read a lot about systems views, mainly by Fritjof Capra and the people he referenced, that hinted at it but didn’t seem to come from a direct noticing. And I also read a lot of books by C.G. Jung which also hinted at it, but again were not written from a direct noticing. They hinted at oneness, the oneness revealed in the shift, and I loved it. I also loved systems views for how important they are for our world today. (Although most still don’t use them, for whatever reason.) And I loved Jung for his understanding of how to find more wholeness at a human level.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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The banality of awakening

There is a certain banality to awakening.


It’s what we are noticing itself. It’s our nature awakening to itself. And our nature is completely ordinary. It’s all we have ever known and all we will ever know.

When our nature recognizes itself and gets used to it, it becomes ordinary. It can even, at times, seem a bit banal. (That’s part of how our human self may relate to it.)

It’s also banal in that it’s not so difficult to notice. Through guidance and pointers, just about anyone can notice it and get a taste of it. The most effective approaches I have found are The Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. These can give a direct taste within minutes or seconds. The Kiloby Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry) are also effective, although it’s often a slightly longer process.

So it’s banal in that it’s our nature – what we already are – noticing itself. It’s banal in that this too gets ordinary over time. And it’s banal in that it’s not so difficult to find and notice, with the right guidance.


What’s awakening about?

In a conventional sense, we are this human self living its life in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that works relatively well. It matches reality well enough. And the ways it doesn’t match is where it that assumption creates discomfort and unease and perhaps even suffering.

More fundamentally, we are something else.

In my own immediate experience, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what the whole field of experience, all content of experience, happens within and as. This human self and the wider world happen within and as what I am.

Logically, I find the same. If I “have” consciousness, it means I – to myself – AM consciousness. And it also means that, to me, the world happens within and as what I am. I am this field of consciousness any and all experience happens within and as. Logically, it cannot be any other way.

When we find ourselves as more fundamentally consciousness, we also notice what mystics across time and cultures describe. We find oneness. We find that the world, inevitably, appears as consciousness, and if we are so inclined we may call that the divine, Spirit, God, Brahman, and so on. (The world appears as consciousness to me since, to me, it happens within and as the consciousness I am. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the nature of all that exists.) We find a love that’s all-inclusive and doesn’t depend on emotions or shifting content of experience. (And which may be covered up or sidetracked by the hangups and biases of this human self.)

What’s my connection with this human self? There is a special connection with this particular human self. I receive sense information through the physical senses of this human self. It seems that thoughts and emotions are connected with – and perhaps generated by – this human self. This human self is around all the time during (what we call) waking consciousness. This human self is what many others see me as. In a way, it’s my vehicle in the world. And it’s not what I most fundamentally am, in my own experience.


There is also something extraordinary to it.

There is something extraordinary in that anything exists at all. How come there is something rather than nothing? How come there is consciousness? How come there is an apparent world? That’s completely baffling to me and the question stops my mind. (1)

If the oneness we are has taken itself as something in particular within its field of experience (this human self, an observer, a doer, etc.), and it recognizes its nature, then it tends to be experienced as amazing and extraordinary. It’s typically both very familiar and feels like coming home and it’s something we have always, somehow, known, and it also seems completely amazing and extraordinary. And it does become ordinary after a while, which is good since it allows us to focus on something else instead of being distracted by our experience of the extraordinariness of it.

As with just about anything else, there is no end to wrinkles and intricacies of awakening and how to explore and live from it. In that sense, it’s anything but banal.


When the oneness shift happened when I was sixteen, it did seem absolutely amazing. It turned my (experience of) the world and myself inside-out and upside-down. My human self and psyche responded to it by seeing it as amazing and extraordinary for many years, even as I kept exploring it. (My nature, how it interfaces with my human self, how to live from and as it, and so on). It took some years before I found anyone talking about this or describing it, and although what I found at first was filtered through a culture different from my own, I found it fascinating to see how people talked about it.

After a while, it became more ordinary – and sometimes even banal. This took a couple of decades in my case (!), perhaps because this human self tends to be fascinated by the mystery of it all. It’s an ongoing process that’s always new and fresh and keeps revealing new sides of itself.

I am still baffled that anything exists, and I continue to be fascinated by the intricacies and the ongoing exploration process. (Part of that exploration process is to invite more of my human self and psyche to align with the awakening. This too is an ongoing, and sometimes challenging, process.)

(1) Some misunderstand and say: “It’s because it’s created by God”. But God too is something rather than nothing.

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Awakening is “permanent”?

Some talk as if awakening is somehow “permanent”.

I understand why.

When the noticing is here and stable, it seems obvious and unmissable. It seems it will never go away.

Time happens within and as what we are, so how could this go away?

Also, some may go into the thought that it’s permanent to find comfort. They want it to stay, so they tell themselves it will.

And yet, is it true?

Permanence is the story of a future.

I cannot know.

So for me, it’s more peaceful to hold it lightly and keep it open.

Also, I know that there is often an awakening shift, then it goes away (which can be experienced as one kind of dark night), and then it’s refound in a different and more thorough way.

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If we lived for eons, would awakening be inevitable?

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

– from Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

To me, it seems that awakening is inevitable (?) if we just lived long enough, perhaps for centuries or millennia. And it wouldn’t seem like anything special. It would just be a natural part of maturing and having lived for a while.

Over time, we get to see that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including anything we think we are, and any identifications we may have. We dream, and are someone different. We have an identity for ourselves and in the world, and something happens and it goes away. We think we are something in particular, and those thoughts go away for a while and we are still here.

So if we are not fundamentally anything within all this that comes and goes, what are we?

What are we more fundamentally? When I look, I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the experience of all of this. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

This is what we may discover through basic meditation, and also what we may – inevitably? – discover if we would be around for a few millennia.

Basic meditation is, in many ways, a condensed micro-version of this. We compress what would happen naturally, over many many years, into minutes, hours, days, and months.

And we can support that process through other explorations, including inquiry.

Here are two dialogs on this topic: Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos | Dialog with one who has lived eons and has a mystic streak

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Everyone is already enlightened?

I was curious about a book and saw a review on Amazon that said: “Everyone is already enlightened”.

As usual, I would say “yes” and “no” and “it depends”.

There may be a few more nuances than what the simple statement suggests.


Everyone is Buddha Nature. To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are. And that consciousness is Buddha Nature.

So yes, we are Buddha Nature, although few would call that “enlightened”.


In most cases, the consciousness we are doesn’t fully recognize its own nature. It tends to assume it’s something within its content, typically this human self and mental representation of an I, me, doer, observer, and so on.

For the oneness we are to recognize itself and its nature typically takes some intention, effort, sincerity, and guidance.

To keep recognizing it is the same.

Learning how to live from it requires the same dedication and engagement.

And allowing our human self and psyche to transform and align within this new context is an even longer process that requires dedication, courage, honesty, sincerity, and work.


So it depends. It mostly depends on what we mean by the words.

For me, the simplest is to say that all beings already are Buddha Nature. To ourselves, we all are most fundamentally consciousness whether we notice or not.

The consciousness we are typically doesn’t fully recognize its nature, and may not perceive it clearly even if there are glimpses.

It typically takes work for the consciousness we are to recognize itself. And it’s a long process to keep recognizing this through situations and states, explore how to live from and as it, and allow this human self to transform within it.

It’s a process that appears to not have any finishing line.


I don’t really know what’s meant by “enlightenment”.

Maybe it means what happens when most of our human self and psyche is on board with the awakening?

If so, it’s not something I am familiar with so I can’t say much about it.

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This experience too is most fundamentally content of experience

I had store-bought pizza last night, which is unusual for me, but I was somehow drawn to it. The result was predictable: a restless night and waking up feeling not very good. (Highly processed foods usually have a big impact on my system, including my emotional state.)

And that’s OK. I can still do some or all of the things I had planned for today.

More importantly, it’s an opportunity to explore.

It’s all content of experience. The weird feelings in my body, and the emotions and corresponding thoughts, are all content of experience. To me, it’s made up of what any experience is made up of.

It’s OK. It’s like any other experience. It’s most fundamentally like any other experience.

As someone said: It’s a flavor of the divine. It’s a flavor of consciousness.

So this uncomfortable experience is, in many ways, a blessing.

It’s an invitation to notice this and let my system soak in that noticing.

And I’ll still limit how often and how much I eat highly processed foods (!). I don’t need to actively seek it out to explore in this way since the content of experience is always in flux anyway.

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My experience of the world, this body, etc.

What’s my experience of the world, this body, and so on?

It’s multifaceted and depends on where the focus of attention is.


When I look, I notice it’s all consciousness. It’s all happening within and as a field of consciousness, and within and as what I am. This experience is always here, and I am reminded of it when I bring attention to it. As soon as attention is brought to it, it’s unavoidable to notice.

For instance, where my imagination says my body is, I notice sight (what my thoughts may label pants, arms, a blurry nose). I notice sounds (that my thoughts may label fingers on the keyboard, slight sound of pant legs). I notice sensations. And it’s all consciousness with those things happening within it, and temporarily and locally taking those forms.


The word “consciousness” is obviously a label and a pointer. It’s something used for communication – sometimes with myself and sometimes with others.

What it refers to is just what’s here. It’s what I am and all I have ever known. Labeling it makes it sound far more like a “thing” than it is, and for more like something that can be easily defined than it is.

That’s the same with anything we label. It’s all much less of a “thing” and much less easily defined than labels can give an impression of.


And “I” here refers to… nothing in particular. It’s more of a conventional way of talking about it.

It can refer to the field of consciousness as a whole, operating through and as this particular human self.

Or can refer to this human self.

It doesn’t really matter since it doesn’t really apply.


Sometimes, I notice my psyche reacting to experiences from habits, hangups, wounds, and so on. That may play itself out to some extent and there is some engagement with and fueling of it.

Or there is more space for something else to come in. For instance, it may be noticed and then there is no more fueling of it.

Or a medicine is applied, like noticing it’s happening within and as what I am, it all has the same nature. Or the validity in the reversal of the stressful thought behind the reactivity. Or ho’oponopno, tonglen. Or something similar.


Sometimes, there is a habitual sense of an “I” here observing, doing, and so on.

When attention is brought to it, it’s clear that there is no “I” here. It’s all just happening on its own.

The sense of an “I” is also an old pattern happening on its own.

There is no real reality or validity in it.


I also see energies in and around anything – people, non-human beings, plants, and non-animate objects.

Here too, it depends on where attention is.

Normally, I don’t notice it very much. It’s in the background just like ordinary textures, colors, and so on.

And sometimes, attention goes to it and it comes more into the foreground. It comes to the foreground of attention, as anything does when you bring attention to it.

In my case, I mostly use it to notice the degree of awakening. It’s relatively easy to see how awake a system is by looking at the energies around the body.

I can also sense at a distance, which I use when I do distance healing and Vortex Healing. In this case, since the context typically is healing, I tend to pick up things related to body-mind health.


When I write about this, it seems a bit binary. Words differentiate and can make things seem more separate or different than they are.

In reality, all of this is much more fluid. For instance, there is often not such a separation or difference between not noticing and noticing. There is not necessarily much distance between the two and not even that much difference.

And it’s all happening within and as the same.


It’s been generally like this since the awakening shift in my teens.

And there have also been general changes over time creating phases that may last weeks, months, years, or even decades.

For example, for some years following the initial shift, oneness was very strongly in the foreground. There was no need to bring attention there to notice. All was oneness, consciousness, the divine, and it was right there in the foreground all the time. I assume this helped “bring the message home” for my system.

Then, my life situation changed and I was more focused on sustainability and community work for a few years, and oneness went a bit in the background. Perhaps my system needed a break?

After this, and for about six months, the no-self aspect came very strongly in the foreground. It was inescapable no matter what happened with attention or within content of experience. This happened after a period of more systematic and dedicated meditation and inquiry practice, and I suspect it is so my system can soak in the no-self aspect of its nature and absorb it more deeply.

Shortly after this, a great deal of unprocessed material came strongly to the surface – primal survival fear, wounds, and traumas formed early in life. When this happened, and it felt overwhelming and brought me to my knees (and beyond), it took a more conscious effort to notice that the trauma, and the reaction to the trauma, has the same nature as me. The old habitual patterns were more often more in the foreground. This is one form of dark night, and what I think of as a dark night of trauma. Wounded parts of us come up to unwind within the context of oneness recognizing itself as that too. The dial is turned down on the intensity of this these days, but my system is still in this phase to some extent. (And that’s OK.)

I have written more about all of this in other articles.

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Awakening as a safety valve

Why did the awakening shift happen when I was sixteen?

I am not sure. I hadn’t done any of the things that often go before such a shift. I had no interest in spirituality. I had done no spiritual practice.

What was happening was an unusual amount of teenage angst. It may have been strong enough so my system needed another way to deal with it, and that was where my system went most easily.

At my human level, and in my psyche, it got to be too much. So my system shifted from being identified with all of that to releasing identification with it and found itself as its more fundamental nature. As consciousness. As the consciousness all our experiences happen within and as. As the oneness all of it and the world to us happens within and as.

In that particular case, that was the safety value. And the stress and overwhelm at the human level were strong enough to propel my system into the awakening shift in a relatively strong and lasting way.

That’s the simple story, and it’s not quite as simple as that.

One year earlier, there had been another shift. A shift from the usual separation consciousness to a simple observer and observed duality. On January 1st, I experienced a fog coming in, as if I had cotton in my head. It was as if the world, including my human self and anything to do with my human self, was far away. Very far away. And “I” was the one observing it all. I went to my doctor and many specialists, and nobody could find anything wrong. It was quite distressing, and it really did feel as if something had gone very wrong.

And after almost exactly one year, between Christmas and New Year, there was another shift. This time into oneness. Into finding myself and any and all experiences as consciousness. Or, as I thought of it at the time, of God revealed as all without exceptions. God was this human self as it was everything. God was even the impulse to temporarily take itself as this human self, and then suddenly and out of the blue remember itself as all.

It’s not a glorious story. It’s messy and human. There is absolutely nothing there my human self can take credit for. And it seems to be one way our nature notices itself, or the divine remembers itself as all.

States highlight characteristics of who and what we are

We always experience different states.

Anything we experience – the fullness of our experience – is a state. It always changes.

And each of these states highlights characteristics of who and what we are.


Some of what we experience tells us something about who we are as a human self in the world.

For instance, I am in a situation that brings up anger in me. What’s behind the anger? Is it an energy I use to get things done and protect myself or someone else? Does it come from an unquestioned painful story? Does it come from love and a wish to protect, perhaps with some layers of confusion on top?

Or I notice I am drawn to something. What is it about it I am drawn to? What do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? What’s the essence of what I am drawn to? How can I bring that into my life? How can I give it to myself here and now? How can I rearrange my life to bring it in more often?


And some of what we experience tells us something about what we more fundamentally are.

Here are some examples from my own process:

When I was fifteen, my system was shifted into a strong observer-observed duality. I experience the world, including anything connected with this human self, as very far away. I was what observed it all. (To me, this was distressing since I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to a lot of doctors and specialists to figure out what was going on, but they didn’t find anything.) This showed me – clearly and at a visceral level – that I am not, most fundamentally, anything within content of experience. (At the time, I wasn’t really consciously aware of any of this, but my system got it at a deeper level.)

A year after, there was another strong shift and this one into oneness. Everything without exception was revealed as God. This human self, and any tendency for the mind to take itself as this human self, was revealed as the play of God. It was God temporarily expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself that way. (These days, I would say “consciousness” instead of God.) This was especially strong for the first few years, and the oneness aspect of what I am was in the foreground and unmissable. It showed me the oneness aspect of what I am so clearly so I can notice it through shifting states and experiences.

Some years later, in the mid-2000s, my system was shifted into a strong no-self state. No-self was already part of the oneness shift, but for about six months, this particular aspect of what I am was brought into the foreground. This period highlighted something about what I am that’s undeniable and I can now more easily notice through shifting states and experiences.

There has been many shifts and states like this, highlighting features of what I am. One that followed the previous one was a shift into noticing what can be called the luminous dark or the divine feminine. I experienced a luminous dark aspect of the divine peering out through and as all forms. It’s difficult to describe but this also highlighted something that it’s now more easy for me to notice.

A small synchronicity: When I re-read and pondered “anything we experience is a state” the lyrics of the song I listened to said “What we feel now”. (Got to be real by Cheryl Lynn.)

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What’s the relationship between the divine and the human?

What is the relationship between the divine and the human?

I saw an advertisement for a course on this topic, so I thought I would see what comes up for me around it.


Within stories, the answer can be simple.

All of existence is a seamless whole.

It’s all the play of the divine.

It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, including through and as you and me, our lives and experiences, and our culture and civilization.


In our direct experience, it can also be quite simple.

As consciousness, this human self and the wider world all happen within and as what I am.

To me, what I am forms itself into the experience of all of it.

Said another way, it’s all happening within my sense fields (sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, mental representations), and those mental fields happen within and as what I am.

At the same time, there is a special relationship with this particular human self. It’s the only human self I receive “inside” information about in the form of senses and thoughts.


When it comes to our exploration process, it’s also simple and yet infinitely intricate.

A typical process is that our psyche is mainly formed within separation consciousness. (Especially noticeable with our hangups, traumas, and issues.) The oneness we are then notices itself, creates a habit of continuing to notice itself, and explores how to live from this noticing. And our human self inevitably transforms within that noticing so more of its psyche is aligned with oneness.

And that last part is not always an easy process. It can be overwhelming, confusing, messy, and scary, and more so the more trauma our human self has.

Whatever in us that’s still operating from separation consciousness comes to the surface so it can align with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

It’s inevitable. So it makes sense for us to consciously join in with that process, and support it as best we can.

Since our knots are universal with a personal flavor, the unknotting is universal with a personal flavor.

It typically involves a combination of shifting our relationship to our experience, including what our personality likes the least. And finding healing for our issues and trauma.

And that process can be supported through a combination of heart-centered practices, inquiry, therapy, mindful movement, relationship work, social engagement, and more.

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Awake without realizing it?

Is it possible to be awake without realizing it?

Is it possible for the oneness we are to recognize itself without realizing it?

It sounds almost like a contradiction, but I would say yes.


Without having any statistics, I assume many who would be considered awake are not aware of it. They may have been born that way and live their lives mostly from it, without realizing it has any labels and without being interested in any labels.

The oneness they are recognizes itself and lives from that noticing.

It recognizes itself as the field that any and all experiences happen within, including of this human self.

It may not be that conscious all of the time. There may not be the realization that this is different from how most other onenesses perceive and life. It may not happen all of the time.

And yet, there is a general awakening without realizing that’s what it is or that it has any name.

To others, and maybe to themselves, they likely just seem like a normal and relatively healthy, sane, and kind human being.


Similarly, most or all of us have tastes of it without realizing that’s what it is, or what’s going on.

The oneness we are recognizes itself without perhaps being very conscious of it or having any names for it.

It’s just something that happens. It may happen more easily in certain situations, and we may attribute it to those situations. What happens is that we forget about ourselves. We literally forget to identify as this separate self and find ourselves as what’s left – this open field of experience. This can happen any time we are absorbed in what’s happening, for instance reading a book, doing art, being in a flow state, sex, drugs, music, yoga, martial art, sports, or something else.

When the oneness we are recognizes itself, it’s not really a state. It’s the field that any and all experiences happen within and as that recognizes itself. And yet, it may seem like a state since it comes and goes in time. It’s interpreted as a state. (That’s not entirely wrong. In this case, it is a state in that it comes and goes. And it is the state of the oneness we are recognizing itself.)


I’ll give a brief background, even if this is included in a lot of other articles here.

In one sense, we are this human being in the world. That’s what the passport tells us, it’s what others tell us, and it’s what our thoughts may tell us. It seems real, and it’s not wrong.

And yet, to ourselves, in our own first-person experience, we may find we are something else. When I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the whole field of experience that’s here. I find I am what this whole field of experience happens within and as.

This is what’s often labeled awakening.

It can happen as an intuition or a glimpse. Recognizing it can be a habit. Our metaphorical center of gravity can shift from taking ourselves as this human self (a separate self) to finding ourselves as this field. We can explore to life from this noticing. We can invite the different parts of our psyche, often formed within and operating from separation consciousness, to join this oneness. And so on.


This article points to a range of different things. It can be the oneness we are intuiting itself. Our center of gravity being shifted towards oneness. Mostly living from – and as – oneness. Or any combination of these. And without being very consciously aware of what’s going on or having any labels or theoretical maps for it.

That’s wonderful. It’s just as wonderful and interesting as having maps.

And it’s perhaps simpler and less contrived, which has its own beauty.

The future of awakening

There are many ways to envision the future of awakening.

We may explore how it fits into maps of the mind and society (integral maps). We can see it as a part of the evolution of the universe. We can explore ideas of collective awakening. And so on.

Here is how I imagine it may look in society, if or when awakening is commonly accepted and is an ordinary part of our collective life.

I’ll write from the perspective of someone living in that world.


Awakening is commonly accepted as real and valuable. Since scientists and academia accept it, and many know people who have benefited from exploring it, most people in society also accept it.

Of course, people are interested in it to varying degrees, as with anything else. That’s good since we need people to specialize in different things.


And there are a few different ways to understand it, which is also good.

Some see it in a spiritual context, or in the context of their own religion.

Others understand it in a more secular and psychological way.

And for those interested, there is a lot to learn from each of these perspectives. Each of them contributes something valuable and unique, at least to some extent and in some areas.


Awakening is also generally demystified, at least to the extent that anything can be demystified.

Most people understand the general theory behind it.

The general understanding is a variation of this:

We don’t “have” consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we ARE consciousness. It can’t be any other way.

Similarly, to us the world happens within consciousness. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the waking world is similar to night dreams in that it all happens within and as consciousness.

The consciousness we are is one. It’s a seamless whole. So to us, the world and all of our experiences happen within and as oneness. (We may not notice since we get caught up in mental representations of boundaries, but the reality that’s always here for us is oneness.)

The consciousness we are is a no-thing that allows our experience of all things.

The consciousness we are may take itself to be an object within its field of experience, and as a separate self in the world. Or it can recognize itself and metaphorically “wake up” to itself as consciousness and oneness, and what the world – to itself – happens within and as. And its metaphorical center of gravity can shift from the first to the second, often over time and through intentional exploration and living from this noticing.

Of course, most may not be interested or familiar with all of the intricacies here, but they have a very general and rough understanding of it.


It’s also generally understood that awakening is what mystics across times and cultures have described.

The essence of awakening is the same, and the way it’s talked about varies across traditions and cultures.


Awakening is available to anyone. As much as playing the piano or learning any skill is available to anyone.

It’s something we can explore. It’s something we can have a taste of for ourselves. And having a taste is not necessarily very difficult or something that takes a lot of time. It can happen easily and within minutes, if guided by someone familiar with the terrain and effective techniques.

And as with anything else, getting proficient with it takes dedication and time. Those drawn to it can get very familiar with the ins and outs of the awakening process.


In the past, awakening was typically the domain of certain religions and spiritual traditions.

These days, it’s treated more as learning anything else. Depending on how we approach it and what our intention with it is, it’s treated similarly to learning a sport, painting or drawing, playing an instrument, or even learning a profession.

We approach it with a combination of theory and practice, typically with the guidance of a coach, someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others. And exactly how that looks depends on how much in-depth we wish to go, and if it’s for our own sake, to use as an element in our profession (therapy, education, etc.), or if it’s part of training to become a coach.

We have a collective exploration of which approaches and techniques are most effective and appropriate to different groups and individuals. Coaches are generally expected to keep up with this and to learn and apply current best practices. There are, of course, individual differences and flavors, and some specialize in some aspects of awakening, in working with particular groups, or in using and developing some particular approaches.

This process is also, to a large extent, demystified and secularized.

The traditional approaches are still around and available, although just as the secular approach is informed by the traditions, the traditions are now often informed by the secular approach. They often include some of the approaches and techniques developed by the secular approach.


Awakening is generally studied by a few different branches of academia, including psychology, medicine, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. Most universities have also created departments specifically to study awakening, and these are typically interdisciplinary and use an integral approach.

They study any and all aspects of awakening: Psychology. (Mechanisms and dynamics, common phases and aspects, challenges, benefits, how it can transform people’s perception and lives, and so on.) Biology. (Changes to the brain and nervous system, changes to any part of the body.) How do most effectively coach and support people in the process. And so on.


Meditation and approaches to give students a taste of awakening is incorporated in many schools. For most schools, it’s one of many topics the students explore, and other schools specialize in it and make it more central. Students who want to go deeper have electives or can find classes and coaches in the community.

Awakening is also often used as an aspect of sustainability and understanding of ecology. It helps people have a direct taste of oneness, which tends to transform how we perceive and relate to the wider world.


There is also an ongoing discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of demystifying awakening and approaching it in a more secularized way.

The benefits are obvious: It makes awakening available to more people. It removes some of the old misconceptions about awakening. It grounds our understanding and approach.

And it does have some drawbacks. The traditions do have valuable insights and ways of doing things (praxis) that may not be picked up by the secular approach. Some assume that secular understanding is accurate and sufficient and limit their perception and explorations.

That’s why there is a smaller movement to revive and support the traditional approaches, and this is very helpful in the bigger picture. The traditional approaches are (in)valuable aspects of the larger exploration of awakening.


What are some of the limitations and benefits to envision these kinds of futures?

One of the limitations is that we cannot predict the future. This particular vision is an extrapolation of what we are already seeing in some western cultures, especially on the west coast of the US. (Where I lived for a while and was involved in these types of communities.) It assumes a kind of linear progression, and what unfolds is rarely linear.

If one thing is (mostly) certain, it’s that the future won’t be like this. Reality is far more messy. For instance, we may see this in some subcultures and some areas of the world, while other subcultures and other areas of the world may be completely different. That’s the diversity we have seen so far through history so we can assume it will be like that in the future as well.

This is not about predicting the future. This is about envisioning itself. It’s about bringing up in me what I would like to see in the world. It’s a way to inspire me to help bring it about, even if it’s in very small ways.

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Glimpses of Spirit

The oneness we are can experience itself in innumerable ways.

Here are two ends of a typical spectrum.

(a) The oneness we are takes itself to be this human self. It takes itself to be something within its field of experience, as a separate self, and in our case this human self. This is what’s most common in the world today.

(b) The oneness we are recognizes itself as oneness. It recognizes that any experience happens within and as itself. To ourselves, the world happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

In between those two is a field of almost endless possibilities.

I’ll mention a few common experiences on that spectrum. What they all have in common is that they are a mix of direct perception and an overlay of interpretation, and that overlay is not quite recognized for what it is.


I’ll first mention a particular experience and then write a few words about the essence of what’s going on, the more fundamental reality of it, and the filters that make it appear the way it does. I’ll also mention the invitation or opportunity in it.

A sense of the divine. Or that we are more than “just” a human self in the world

The oneness we are takes itself as a separate self, as something in particular within its field of experience. At the same time, it senses or intuits what it more fundamentally is. And it interprets this as a sense of the divine somewhere, and that we are more than this limited human self. Both of those are accurate. The invitation is to explore this sense of the divine and that we may be more than this human self.

A sense of a tree (or anything) looking back at me

The oneness we are takes itself to fundamentally be a separate self looking out at the world.

In reality, the world to us happens within and as what we are. To us, the world – including trees and anything else – happens within and as the consciousness we are. It’s then easy to have an experience of a tree or anything else being sentient and even looking back at us.

It is, in a sense, accurate. Although it’s more accurate that all of it happens within and as the consciousness we are.

A sense of Spirit in nature

We may have a sense of Spirit in nature, of nature as divine. This is a variation of the previous one.

In reality, the world to us happens within and as what we are. To us, it happens with and as the consciousness we are. To us, the world and any experience is more fundamentally consciousness. The consciousness we are takes the form of any and all content of our experience.

When the oneness we are takes itself to fundamentally be a separate self (not quite true), and it also senses its field of experience as happening within and as consciousness, it can interpret it as “Spirit in nature”.

The invitation here is to find a bit more clarity about what’s happening and notice that our whole field of experience happens within and as the consciousness we are.

A sense of being a self that’s one with all

The oneness we are takes itself to fundamentally be something within its content of experience, a separate self. (Not accurate.)

In reality, the consciousness we are is inherently one. Our field of experience – that the world to us happens within and as – is inherently one.

Because of the assumption of separation, and the habit of taking itself as a separate self, this is interpreted as “this self is one with all”. The noticing of oneness is accurate but it gets “hijacked” by the assumption of most fundamentally being a separate self.

The invitation here is to take a closer look and notice that any experience of a self or separate self also happens within the field of consciousness. It comes and goes as any other content of experience. It happens within and as the consciousness we more fundamentally are.

A sense of having had it and then lost it

The oneness we are may notice itself as oneness, or it may notice its whole field of experience as consciousness. It may tell itself that all is consciousness, or that all is Spirit or God.

It may then lose sight of this. It gets caught up in old habits of separation consciousness.

And it tells itself “I had it and then lost it”.

That’s both accurate and not accurate. It’s accurate in that the conscious noticing may be gone. And it’s not accurate in that what we are is always here. In reality, it’s all we have ever known.

The invitation here too is to take a closer look. We may get caught up in some of the experiential side-effect of the initial noticing and take that as the substance of what it’s about. That’s an approach that will fail since any content of experience, any state, comes and goes. So what is it that doesn’t come and go? What’s the real essence in the initial noticing?

A sense of all of existence as the divine

This is a bit different from the other ones. This one is more about dialing back than expanding.

We are, more fundamentally, what the world to us happens within and as. We are what our field of experience happens within and as. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are.

That means that it’s easy to assume that our nature (consciousness) is the nature of all of existence.

After, it inevitably appears that way to us. It’s our direct experience.

And yet, it is an assumption. I cannot know for certain.

It’s good to be honest about this. It’s good to notice and acknowledge that what I find about my own nature doesn’t necessarily apply to all of existence. It’s good to see that what I find may be compatible with a wide range of worldviews – from atheism and materialism to more “spiritual” worldviews.


This is all the play of consciousness. It’s the consciousness we are experiencing itself in always new ways.

It’s the oneness we are taking itself as something within its field of experience, and then finding itself as oneness again. And in the process, it may have a sense of the divine in nature, or a tree looking back at itself, or of being a self one with all, and so on.


I’ll say a few words about who and what we are, although I often mention it in these articles.

In one sense, we are a human self in the world. That’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works quite well.

And yet, if we look in our own first-person experience, we may find something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the word, I am capacity for my field of experience, for the world as it appears to me.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the consciousness the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

This is the essence of what mystics across times and cultures have described.

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Waking up parts of our psyche: Become & wake up

I have written about a “befriend & wake up” process in other articles, to help different parts of our psyche wake up and align with reality and our nature.

A variation of this is a “become & wake up” process where we take on the role of a part of us, notice our nature from the view of the part, and rest in and as that noticing to allow that part of us to align with reality.


Even if we generally and “globally” recognize our nature, that doesn’t mean that all the different parts of our psyche are on board with it.

Most of these were formed within separation consciousness, and many of them will still operate from separation consciousness.

They color our perception and life in the world and sometimes get triggered more strongly.

That’s natural and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is uncomfortable and there seems to be an equally natural process in us to have these parts of us surface so they can join in with the awakening.


So how does this work?

I assume there is any number of specific ways to explore this, but the essence is the same.

Preliminary step 1: Identify a part of the psyche. Notice a part that’s operating from separation consciousness. A part that we can call a wound, hangup, or emotional issue, and is operating on an unexamined belief. A part that has taken on, and even been created by, a story. A part that goes into reactivity, defense, and contraction. A confused and stressed subpersonality. Many parts of us are, to some extent, like this. They are suffering and wish for liberation.

Optional step: Get to know the part. Examine this, if you like. Dialog with this part. Take on its perspective and get a sense of how it is to perceive and live from this view. Identify and examine its painful stories and find what’s more genuinely true for you. Thank it for protecting you. Thank it for its love for you. And so on. This can be a helpful preliminary step but is not necessary for this particular process.

Preliminary step 2: Notice your nature. Notice your nature. Find what you more fundamentally am. (Capacity for the word, what the world happens within and as.) Use headless experiments or the Big Mind process to shift into this, if needed. This is so noticing our nature comes more into the foreground.

Main step: Become & awaken: Shift into and become the part. Take on its view. And notice your nature as that part of you. Notice your nature as capacity and what the world happens within and as. Rest in and as this noticing. Allow you – as this part – to realign and shift within this noticing. Take your time. Allow it to sink in.


When it comes to identifying parts of me with a charge, I have a couple of favorite approaches.

One is to scan my timeline.

I go through the timeline of my life and find situations that light up, that still have a charge on them, where there is still something unresolved. Then I shift into that role, I become myself as I was then, and explore from there.

In this case, I explore awakening – noticing my nature – as the one I was then, rest in that noticing, and allow it to work on that part of me.

The past me in these situations is still a part of me. They are still here. And I find that scanning the timeline is an effective way to identify subpersonalities that still suffer and wish to join in with the awakening.

The other approach is to use others as a mirror.

Others are a mirror for me, as is anything “out there” in the world.

Whatever I see in them is something I can find in myself. I can take whatever story I have about someone or something “out there”, turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true. (It may not look the same as what I see in the world, but the essence is the same.)

I identify someone that has a charge for me, whether this is a real or fictional person or someone from a night dream. (The charge shows me that there is something unresolved there for me.) I then take on the role of that person. I imagine myself as that person.

As that person, I find what I more fundamentally am. And I rest in that noticing, allowing that part of me to align more closely with reality.


I assume the “become & awaken” approach is a component of many approaches to awakening, whether it’s directly and explicitly or indirectly and implicitly.

When we do tonglen or ho’oponopno, we invite parts of us to heal. (The world is my mirror.) And, in the process, we invite them to wake up, at least if there is a general and global noticing of our nature here. We invite them to join in with the awakening.

When we do Basic Meditation, parts of us not aligned with the awakening will naturally surface. If given space, they will be recognized as having the same nature as ourselves and align with that noticing.

It’s definitely implied in the Big Mind process, and it happens indirectly as part of that process. (Some may also do it explicitly, I am not completely updated.)

In the most recent Vortex Healing class, the main teacher used a similar approach: Become the confused part of you. Do a mantra to prepare it to wake up. And as that part, ask yourself the question “What am I?” Stay with the question until something shifts and the place where the question makes sense falls away.

Using therapy as part of our process also supports this. The more we heal as human beings, the more parts of us are available to align with the oneness we are noticing itself.

Also, when we talk about embodiment in this context, it typically means to live from noticing our nature, or from the oneness we are noticing itself. And the more parts of us are on board with the awakening, the more we have the possibility to do this – more thoroughly and in more situations and areas of life.

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The relationship between who and what we are (our human self & consciousness)

What are some of the relationships between who and what we are? Between our human self and consciousness (AKA Buddha mind, Big Mind, Spirit).

It’s obviously a big topic so I’ll mention just a few things here, based on my own experience.


The first answer is that they are part of the same.

It’s thoughts that differentiate the two. I can’t find any diving line outside of my mental representations.

I can also say that to me, my human self happens within and as what I am.

Who I am happens within and as what I am. They are not two.


To me, everything happens within and as my field of experience.

That includes any human self, they all happen within my field of experience. To me, they all happen within and as the oneness I am, as does anything else.

And there is also a special relationship with this particular human self.

It’s around a lot more than any other humans and most or all other content of experience.

And this consciousness perceives through and as this human self. What I am experiences the sense fields of this human self – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts, movement, acceleration, and so on.


When our nature does not recognize itself, our human psyche tends to operate from separation consciousness. It tends to assume that what we most fundamentally are is an object within the field of consciousness. It perceives, lives, and acts as if this is how it is.

That’s how it was for me too. In my childhood, my psyche was formed within separation consciousness and many parts of me learned to function from separation consciousness.

That’s also how hangups, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, and so on are formed. They are expressions of and operate from separation consciousness. If they didn’t, they would align with reality and find healing.


When our nature notices itself, there is an invitation to keep noticing, explore how it is to live from this noticing, and for our human self to transform within this new context.

All of this is ongoing. The noticing, exploration of how to live from it, and the transformation is ongoing.

It’s all happening within and as the oneness we are, just like anything else.


Even when the oneness we are notices itself, many parts of our human self and psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception, choices, and life in the world. And they will get triggered more strongly in some situations.


The transformation process can also be difficult and messy at times, especially as deep issues surface to be seen, felt, befriended, loved, and recognized as love and part of the oneness we are.

When this happens, our habitual responses to our deep and painful issues tend to come up as well, with an invitation for us to see, feel, and befriend these too.

In periods, what’s unprocessed in us may be mostly under the surface, although they will color our life and some issues tend to come up. This can happen during a kind of honeymoon period after an initial noticing or oneness shift.

In periods, they may come up in mostly smaller portions and now and then. This allows us to explore and befriend painful parts of us without feeling too overwhelmed.

And in periods, the metaphorical lid may be taken off and a huge amount of them come up at once. When this happens, it can feel overwhelming, confusing, scary, painful, and even unbearable. This happened for me some years ago, and I am still in this phase although it has quieted down a bit.

In general, the more trauma we have, the more this process can feel difficult, overwhelming, and messy. And the less trauma we have, the more manageable it may feel although still with its challenges.


There are a couple of answers:

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, what’s out of alignment surfaces so it can heal, transform, and align with oneness noticing itself.

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, anything in our human self still operating from separation consciousness distorts the expression of oneness. They are out of alignment. They need to transform and realign so the oneness we are can express itself more clearly in more situations and more areas of life.

To me, this seems a natural and perhaps even inevitable process.

And it’s certainly not always comfortable. For me, it’s been the most difficult, messy, and humbling phase in my life by far, and I have not always dealt with it gracefully.

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Maps for the awakening path

Maps for the awakening path can be very helpful.


After all, any time we enter a place that’s unfamiliar to us, maps, stories, guides, and fellow travelers can be invaluable. They help us orient, make better decisions, avoid some pitfalls, provide company and guidance on the way, and can make the whole experience generally more easy and enjoyable. We can learn from those who are more familiar with the place, and we can find support from others exploring it.

Of course, this depends on the quality of the maps, stories, guides, and fellow travelers.

It depends on how we relate to these sources of information and the journey itself.

And it depends on what we bring with us in terms of baggage, orientation, experience, and good sense.


For all the many benefits of maps, they also have some limitations, and it’s good to be aware of and explore the characteristics of maps.

They are different in nature from the terrain. They are mental constructs and are different in nature from what they point to. (Unless they happen to point to other mental constructs!)

They simplify and leave a lot out. That’s why they are useful, and it’s also one of their limitations.

They may be more or less accurate. Sometimes, maps are misleading.

They inevitably reflect the biases of the one(s) making them. They reflect a certain time, culture, worldview, personal orientation, and sometimes even hopes and fears. That doesn’t make them less useful, but it’s good to keep in mind.

As with any story, they inevitably reflect and come out of a certain worldview. There are innumerable other existing and possible worldviews that may make as much or more sense, and fit the data as well or better. And these worldviews may produce very different maps of the same terrain.

Maps and stories in general cannot reflect any full, final, or absolute reality.

Reality is always more than and different from any map.

And any mental construct is a kind of map, no matter what form it takes. Whether it’s a book, a diagram, a teacher or fellow traveler sharing something, or our own mental images and words telling us something.


Maps of a physical place have these benefits and limitations, and that goes doubly (or triply!) for maps of non-physical and metaphorical places like an awakening process.

Yes, there may be patterns in how the awakening process unfolds that we can detect and put into a kind of map. Many have done just that. For instance, Ken Wilber has collected and synthesized many of these maps into a more inclusive and comprehensive map.

And yet, life doesn’t follow our shoulds or our maps. Life goes its own way.

The process may be different for people in different cultures. Your process may be very different from mine. Each case is always different to some extent, and sometimes by a lot.

Also, maps about awakening are informal. They come from people’s own experiences, or what they have seen or heard from others. It’s not a topic that’s studied rigorously using scientific methods.

Maps of the awakening process are provisional at best, and likely only partially accurate.

In my experience, the process is not necessarily very linear, and the process itself tends to undo any and all fixed ideas I have about it or anything else.


How we relate to these stories and maps makes a big difference.

Do I hold onto some of them as true? What happens if I do? For me, I typically find it’s stressful. I need to hold onto, rehearse, and defend the stories. I make an identity for myself out of it. If my path is different from the maps, I feel something is wrong. And it’s generally stressful whenever life shows up differently from the “shoulds” of the maps, which it inevitably does.

How would it be to hold onto them more lightly? Here, I find it’s generally more peaceful. I find more curiosity. I recognize the maps and stories as pointers only, and as questions about the world. I am more open to exploring what’s here rather than being distracted by how a story tells me it should be.


We can use maps, and especially stage maps, to feel better (or worse) about ourselves and our life.

We can use them to tell ourselves: I am at this stage in the awakening process. It means I am further ahead than these other people. It means those people are ahead of me. It means this will happen next. It’s all cleanly laid out and predictable, and I know how it is.

But do we actually know? Can we know if the maps are accurate? Can we know that we understand them well? Can we know that another worldview wouldn’t make as much or more sense, and bring about a very different map? And what about everything left out of the maps? Isn’t what’s left out far more than what’s included?


For me, and for all of these reasons, it makes more sense to hold these stories and maps lightly, and it gives me more sense of ease. It’s more aligned with reality.

Yes, I have found it fun and fascinating to learn about them. (Since my teens and for about three decades, I read everything by Ken Wilber. I read widely about stage models in general from psychology and spirituality. And I studied developmental psychology and stage models at university.)

Yes, they can be somewhat useful as something I keep in the back of my mind and sometimes check in with.

And it feels better to hold it all lightly. To not invest too much into it.


That’s how it is for me with science in general.

I love science and find it fascinating, fun, and helpful.

And yet, I know that the stories from science are maps. They reflect our current culture and understanding. They are provisional. Future generations will see our maps as quaint, at best as partially valid, and often as hopelessly outdated.

Perhaps most importantly, what they leave out is far more than what they include. What they include is likely an infinitely small part of what there is to discover. And what we discover may put what we already (think we) know in a completely different light.

Reality is always more than and different from any story we have about it.

[Read on to see what ChatGPT has to say on this topic.]

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Reduced capacity to set emotional issues aside in an awakening process and from exhaustion

When we have a reduced capacity to set aside emotional issues, they tend to naturally surface.

And that can happen in several different situations.


I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and this is far from regular tiredness. It’s a profound fatigue and dysregulation of the whole system.

When my system is extra fatigued, it’s no longer able to regulate very well. It has trouble regulating temperature (too hot, too cold), thoughts (difficult to think clearly and make decisions), emotions (more sensitive, reactive), and much more.

This includes difficulty regulating emotional issues. When my system has more resources, it can more easily set old emotional issues aside. (Although they will always color perception and actions.) And when it’s more fatigued, these old issues surface more easily.

That’s one reason I prefer to just go to bed when this happens and set aside any tasks or conversations for when my system functions a little better. (And often, I don’t have much choice. My system desperately needs that rest and anything else is automatically set aside.)


When our nature recognizes itself, something similar can happen.

For a while, it takes itself to most fundamentally be this human self, a separate being in the world. Or, at least, it pretends to do this since others do it.

And then, the oneness we are recognizes itself. It shifts out of its temporary self-created trance.

And, as Adyashanity says, this can take the lid off a lot of things, including anything very human and unprocessed in us. What’s unprocessed comes to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as love, and recognized as having the same nature as we do.

I am not sure of the exact mechanism, but here is my best guess: It takes active regulation for the oneness we are to pretend – to itself and others – that it’s a separate being, something specific within its content of experience. When it recognizes its nature, it is no longer actively regulating, and that (sometimes) means it’s also not actively regulating old emotional issues. It’s no longer setting them aside, so they surface.

This doesn’t always happen. It can happen a while after oneness first recognized itself. (In my case, it happened several years into the process.) And when it happens, the oneness we are can react with confusion, feeling overwhelmed, fear, and much more.

It’s humbling, it can be very messy. And – as Evelyn Underhill said – it’s a very human process. And it’s not necessarily easy. In my case, it’s been the most challenging phase of my life by far.

And it’s also necessary. For the oneness we are to live from consciously recognizing itself, our human self needs to be a good vehicle. And that vehicle needs tune-up and cleaning. Any remaining emotional issues (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas) operate from separation consciousness, and they inevitably color our perception and life even if they don’t seem activated.

So they surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as part of the oneness we are. They surface to join in with the awakening.


There are other situations where our system has trouble setting aside emotional issues.

The most obvious is when strong emotional issues are triggered, and our mind identifies with what comes up. Here, we take on the perspective and identity of the issue and actively perceive and act as if we are that part of us. We may not even try to relate to it in a more intentional or mature way.

I suspect it also happens in some kinds of mental illness, and under influence of some kinds of drugs. (Sometimes this happens when drinking alcohol.)


There are challenges and gifts in our system being unable to set aside old emotional issues.

I imagine the challenges are familiar to most of us. It’s uncomfortable. It can feel overwhelming. We may get caught up in the struggle with what’s surfacing. And we may get caught up in what’s surfacing and view the world and act as if we are that hurt and confused part of us.

There are also gifts here. When these issues surface, we get to see them. It’s an invitation to see, feel, and find genuine love for what’s here. It’s an invitation to examine these confusing and hurting parts of us. It’s an invitation to get to know them. It’s an invitation to recognize that and how they operate from (painful) separation consciousness and unexamined and painful beliefs.

It’s an invitation to find healing for our relationship with them and to find healing for the issues themselves.

All of this is can seem obvious if we are familiar with it, but navigating it is often anything but easy. It takes skill, dedication, experience, and time.

It’s not something that’s done and dusted. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s part of being a human being.

It’s part of being oneness taking on the role of this human being in the world and living that life.

And it’s also where awakening and healing become one process. Where the two are revealed as aspects of the same seamless process.

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Awakening and self-esteem

In a social media group, someone asked if awakening helps with low self-esteem.

My answer – as usual – would be yes, no, and it depends.


Low self-esteem comes from emotional issues. They come from beliefs creating an identity and emotional issues. Those may not go away even if our nature notices itself.

It’s perfectly possible, and very normal, for our nature to notice itself and for us to generally live from and as that noticing, and still have many emotional issues. These will inevitably color our perception and life in the world, even if there is a general kind of awakening here.


Yes, awakening may help.

Awakeness helps us relate to what comes up – including those issues – differently. It’s easier to recognize them as issues and not get so caught up in them.

It’s also easier to recognize their nature, and that they have and are our nature, which also helps us shift how we relate to them. This gives us that interesting experience of oneness (it’s what I am and everything is to me) and distinction (it happens within and as what I am, it’s an emotional issue).

And, as mentioned above, these issues will still inevitably color our perception and life, and we may still get caught up in them.


This is why healing and awakening go hand in hand.

Healing makes it easier for the oneness we are to keep noticing itself without getting distracted by issues. The fewer issues, the fewer of these distractions. (And these apparently distractions are really life bringing our attention to something that needs healing.)

Healing helps us operate from fewer issues coloring our perception and life. Any dormant issue will color our perception and life. (As is obvious when you look at the life of many who generally live from awakening.)

And awakening makes it easier for us to relate to our issues more consciously, to recognize them as expressions of the oneness we are, and invite them to reorganize within a conscious noticing of this oneness. This requires intention and skill and doesn’t come on its own.


And that’s where “it depends” comes in.

Whether awakening helps us with our emotional issues, including low self-esteem, depends on how we make use of the awakening. It depends on intention, experience, training, and skill.

It doesn’t come on its own. It doesn’t come for free. It requires work.

And it’s ongoing. It’s not something that’s fixed once and for all.

There is no place where we arrive and where this is not a theme anymore. (At least not in this life.)

Aspects of awakening

I keep revisiting the topic of awakening, and especially the basics since that helps keep it grounded.

So what are some of the basic aspects of awakening?


It is to notice our nature.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what people, my passport, and my own thoughts often tell me. And it’s not wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life, although it does come with some inherent stress and discomfort.

Another question is: What am I in my own first-person experience? What am I more fundamentally?

Here, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any content of experience, for anything that happens in any of my sense fields. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

In the first, I am in the world, and in the second, the world is in me. Both are valid and useful, and the second is more fundamental to what I am in my own experience.


Noticing our nature is obviously an essential aspect of awakening.

Another is to keep noticing.

If we noticed in the past, it becomes a memory – a mental image and words – and a kind of reference point, which is useful. It can be a reminder to notice it here and now.

And the real juice is in noticing here and now. With time, as we keep noticing, it becomes a new habit. We deepen the groove.


As we keep noticing our nature and live more in that landscape, we tend to discover more aspects of our nature.

I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any content of experience.

I find I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

I find I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness.

Another aspect of oneness is love. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love independent of any states or feelings. It’s an unsentimental and practical love. (And it’s easily covered up when I get caught in my very human hangups, issues, and traumas.)

I also find there is a quiet joy in this, a joy also independent of changing states, feelings, and experiences.

And there is more here. Any content of experience is an aspect of what I am. It happens within and as what I am. The world, as it appears to me here and now, is an aspect of what I am. You are an aspect of what I am. Any thought, feeling, sensation, smell, or sight that’s here is an aspect of what I am.

This human self is also an aspect of what I am. It too happens within and as what I am. And I find I have a special connection to this human self since it’s here, in my experience, most of the time, and it serves as a sensory organ for me in the world and I have inside information about this human self.


As we get more used to noticing our nature, we naturally explore living from it.

How is to live from noticing my nature? How is it to live from noticing oneness?

How is it to live from this noticing in this situation?

How is it to live from this noticing in more and more situations? Including the ones that are difficult for my human self?

How is it to live from this noticing in more and more areas of life?


When I notice my nature, I metaphorically see it.

I can find love for all as the divine and/or happening within and as what I am.

And I can viscerally get that all is the divine, including that which my personality doesn’t like.

In my experience, all of this is an ongoing and deepening process.


And that process of living from noticing my nature, and seeing, loving, and viscerally getting all as the divine, requires and leads to a transformation of my human self.

Many and most aspects of my psyche were formed within separation consciousness. They operate on the assumption of separation, and that’s also the essence of emotional issues, hangups, traumas, and painful beliefs (all beliefs are ultimately painful since they are out of alignment with reality).

At a human level, I am programmed to largely operate as if separation is my most fundamental nature. So living from a conscious noticing of my nature requires healing and transformation of my human self and how I am in the world.

And that’s not an easy process. It takes time, it’s ongoing, and life will show me where I am still stuck.

It requires facing unprocessed materials (including the Jungian shadow), and that can at times be overwhelming, confusing, and scary.

It’s a very human and messy process, and at the same time beautiful.


This is obviously a very limited and cursory list of the aspects of awakening.

It’s just what comes to mind to me now, and the aspects I happen to be most drawn to based on my own conditioning and experiences.

Another important aspect is community. If we are lucky, this is a process we share with others. We are our own ultimate authority, and at the same time, it’s something we can explore with others in whatever form that takes.

There are also the side-effects of awakening which can include bliss, a sense of cosmic consciousness (a flavor of the oneness we are), extra-sensory perception, the ability to do distance healing, some level of precognition, and so on. For me, these are fun and interesting but not central – or essential – to awakening.

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Noticing our nature while holding onto images for safety

At some point in the awakening process, we may find ourselves in a kind of in-between state.

We notice our nature directly, at least when we pay attention to it.

And we also still hold onto some ideas about what we are and identify as these.


To ourselves, we are consciousness and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness.

We are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as that oneness.

This oneness learns that it is this human self happening within itself. It’s this human self that it can only see in the mirror or in photos and videos, can only see partially directly, that others and our passport say we are, and that it senses and lives in the world through. This is how most onenesses operate.

At some point, this oneness may become curious about its nature. It may intuit itself as oneness and consciousness. It may have glimpses of itself as that. It may learn how to notice its nature, and to do so more often through daily life.


At this point, it will often both notice directly its nature, at least when bringing attention there. And it will create and hold onto some mental representations of its nature.

These may be mental representations of oneness, void, capacity, love, consciousness, and so on. And perhaps even Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, and more.


This is a natural part of the process. It’s innocent. There is nothing inherently wrong with it.

The oneness we are is used to holding onto mental representations of who or what it is. It’s what it has learned from others. It’s how it finds a sense of safety, although it also brings friction with reality.

Also, when it discovers its nature, it can feel like a treasure and vitally important, so it tries to remember and hold onto it by creating and holding onto mental representations of it and even identifying as these mental representations.

This too comes with inherent discomfort. It’s something we feel we need to remember, rehearse, and even defend. And that’s a motivation to explore further and find a bit more clarity.


What are some ways to explore this?

We may need some structured guidance, and here are a few I find useful:

Headless experiments help me notice my nature as capacity and what the world, to me, happens within and as. Here, it’s easier to notice the contrast between a direct noticing and my mental representations of what’s noticed.

Kiloby Inquiries helps me explore any identifications still in my system, including of capacity, oneness, love, and all the other identifications we may create for ourselves.

And the same goes for The Work of Byron Katie. This too helps me identify and explore any ideas I have of what I am.


As suggested above, this is a special case of something much more universal.

The oneness we are notices its nature. It recognizes itself as all it knows. To the oneness we are, the world happens within and as itself.

And it will still, very likely, hold onto a variety of mental representations of who and what it is. It will, at least to some extent, identify as these.

As mentioned, this happens out of old habits and because it feels safe. It’s a natural part of the process. And it comes with discomfort which is an invitation to explore what’s going on and find a bit more clarity around it.

What are some of these mental representations? They typically include a wide range of relatively universal ones. For instance: Gender. Nationality. Political orientations. A sense of lack and not being good enough. A sense of separation. All sorts of shoulds about ourselves, others, and life. And so on.

These are not necessarily wiped out by our nature recognizing itself. Usually, they remain in our system.

And that’s part of the process and adventure.

They are inherently uncomfortable, so we are invited to explore what’s going on, find a bit more clarity around it, and shift how we relate to it.

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Odysseus & Calypso

I read many of the classics from around the world in my teens and twenties, and have not been able to read much the last ten or fifteen years because of brain fog (CFS). It’s been a blessing, in many ways, to not be able to read much. I used to read between one and three books a week – mostly within psychology and mysticism – and it was a big part of my identity. Now, I have to find who I am without that identity, which is another adventure. And it’s also an invitation to stand more on my own two feet without too much input from books and talks.

That said, I am reading a few graphic novels these days since it’s easier for me. Right now, it’s The Odyssey illustrated by Gareth Hinds.

Any story is a reflection of dynamics in ourselves and our lives, and so also the story of Odysseus and Calypso. She is an immortal nymph who fell in love with Odysseus. She kept him captive while promising him immortality and freedom from the suffering of sickness, old age, and death. Zeus ordered her to allow him his freedom. And given the choice, he chose to go back to his wife. He chose to abandon immortality, knowing that he would have to experience no end to struggles and sorrows, including old age and death.

What does this reflect in me?


In terms of the awakening process, we can understand this in (at least) two ways.

He found his nature. He discovered himself as what the world, to him, happens within and as. We can call this immortality in the sense that it’s what time and change happens within and as. It’s the timeless we always are, whether we notice or not, and no matter what happens with this human self over time.

The first way to understand the Odysseus & Calypso story is that he abandons the commitment to noticing and living from a conscious noticing of his nature. He goes back to the exclusive identification as a human self in the world, and noticing his nature becomes a memory.

That often happens, and it’s not wrong or bad. Our nature remains the same, whether we notice it or not. And it sometimes happens for a while and we are moved to keep exploring our nature again.

I find the other way to see it more interesting.

Here, Odysseus chooses to embrace his humanness more fully without abandoning a conscious noticing of his nature. The oneness we are notices itself and lives from and as that noticing. And yet, there is also a more full embrace of our rich, messy, and flawed human life.

This is often a sign of maturity. It appears we have a choice to remain mostly identified with and as our nature, with and as Big Mind. And we chose to abandon that identification and instead embrace all of what’s here including the flawed richness of this human and his or her life in the world.

And it’s not really a choice.

The oneness we are may identify exclusively as this human self. Then, it discovers its nature and identifies with and as a partial image of its nature. (Out of habit and out of a habitual impulse to protect itself against discomfort.) And then that identification has to go, and we have to find ourselves more nakedly and raw as what we are and what’s here, and that very much includes anything and anything that’s part of our human self and life in the world and in time.

It also and especially includes what’s part of this human self and our life that our personality doesn’t like. That too is part of the wild richness of what we are. That too happens within and as the oneness we are. That too happens within and as the timelessness we are.

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The dark night trainwreck

When we go through a dark night of the soul, it can feel like a train wreck.

It can feel like everything – ourselves, our life, the process – is a messy, confusing, disorganized, and overwhelming wreck.

I know it did for me, and it still does to some extent.


Dark nights are talked about in two contexts.

One is as it’s used by most people, as a metaphor for an especially difficult period in life. For instance, divorce or an existential crisis.

The other is more specific to the awakening process. In the process of exploring our nature, we can go through several different kinds of dark nights.

In general, dark nights happen when life rubs up against our cherished mental representations – of who or what we are or how our life should be. We can explore these and find what’s more true for us. And often, they just have to wear themselves out. It’s a necessary cleaning-out process.

Any remaining beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, hangups, and so on are distortions that make it difficult to live more consciously from and as the oneness we are. We may get caught up in them when they are triggered. And even if they are not obviously triggered, they are here in our system coloring our perception, choices, and life.

Awakening itself doesn’t necessarily clear all of that out. It seems that many of us need stronger medicine.


I have written a brief bio in another article but will give a summary.

In childhood, I had memories (flashbacks) to life between lives, and I felt a strong longing for it – for the divine – even if I didn’t consciously know what it was.

At age fifteen, I got a mysterious illness (which turned out to be CFS). At the same time, the world – anything within the content of experience – also moved very far away. In hindsight, it seems like consciousness went into an observer-observed duality.

One year later, the initial awakening shift happened. From one moment to the next, all without exception were revealed as God. Everything, including all human experiences and culture, was God.

This led to a ten-year honeymoon period.

Followed by the beginning of a dark night when I went against a clear inner guidance on a major life issue.

For some years, my focus was mostly on daily life and community projects.

I then got back into these explorations, and there was an extended shift into a clear no-self state.

And after all of that, it felt like everything collapsed.



The dark night started when I got married in the US and abandoned many of the most important things in my life (Zen center, friends, Utah, graduate program, etc.) in order to move to another state to support my wife in taking her MA there. I went against a very clear and strong inner guidance, and it led to me feeling profoundly off track.

The more intense phase started several years later. Following strong pneumonia that kept me bedridden for weeks (which my doctor refused to treat and called “walking pneumonia”), my health collapsed. I initially got CFS following an Epstein-Barr (mono) infection in my teens, and my health had gotten better after that. Following long pneumonia, my system was very weak and then collapsed into acute and severe CFS. I spent the next months in the classic dark room unable to function in daily life.

My memory of this period is fuzzy. I remember going through a phase where archetypes were presented to me and moved through me in different ways. For instance, one night I experienced an apparently endless stream of “dark” archetypes from all of the world’s cultures moving through me. As each one came up to me, I moved into its face as if it was a mask and I experienced that archetype from the inside for a while until the next one came up to me.


After a few years, I got a little better, moved back to Norway, and asked the divine “show me what’s left”. (AKA a dangerous prayer.) This led to a whole new phase.

Within one week, I was overwhelmed by a profound survival fear coming up in my system. For about nine months, it was so strong that I was lucky to get one or two hours of sleep early in the morning. And during the day, all I could do was walk in the forest while listening to Adyashanti. The fear was so strong and intense that I couldn’t understand how I was somehow still here. I felt completely overwhelmed. I asked the divine to do anything for this to pass. Even death seemed far more preferable than this, and I also knew it was not a solution. This experience was beyond anything I have ever experienced.

About nine months in, the intensity turned down slightly, although the profound and primal survival fear lasted for several years after this. It’s still here but at a generally much lower volume.


The lid was taken off the primal fear, and it was also taken off deep traumas and issues in me that were still unprocessed and unhealed. It seems my system is no longer able to bury these as it did previously. They are here, right on the surface. And I know there may be more I am not aware of.


Since my teens, I had a laser focus and loved silence, meditation, and resting in and as my nature. I loved it more than just about anything else. And during this dark night, that all changed. I shifted into a pattern of restlessness and avoidance because of the overwhelming fear and trauma surfacing. It became much more work to meet and be with what was coming up, and it was as if I had to learn it for the first time.


This has been a period of losses. I lost friends, especially during the most intense period. My marriage ended (which was good since it didn’t feel right). I lost my house, belonging, and money. And so on. It has been a period where I felt I lost just about everything.

The last several years are also characterized by a series of false starts. Something happens that seems very good to my personality, and then it falls apart relatively quickly. Several relationships started and ended during this period.


At the beginning of the most intense period, around 2011, I also lost any sense of inner anchors. When I turned off the light at night and put my head on the pillow, I couldn’t find any anchor points anywhere. This also brought up fear although also felt like another adventure.


My system has felt disorganized. I am not sure when this started. When the strong traumas and primal fears came up? In any case, I felt like my psyche shattered into a million pieces all pointing in different directions. It’s been very difficult to make good decisions and I see myself behaving in ways I know is far from optimal and in ways I wouldn’t have earlier in life. In several situations, I saw myself acting against my better judgment.


After the primal survival fear diminished slightly, I noticed an extreme discomfort in my heart. This one too was with me for several years. I think I saw Jeannie Zandie talk about something similar, describing it as a shard of glass in the heart. For me, this went away during the Core Veil class in Vortex Healing. A VH teacher said that my core veil was hanging on by a thread before this class, and that may be what created the immense discomfort.


What gave me slivers of comfort and support during these years?

A bit from partners and friends, although their love and support didn’t reach quite into the most painful places in this experience.

Nature has been immensely helpful to me. I have spent as much time in nature as possible.

During the most intense period, I found comfort in the Dark Night of the Soul chapter in Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism. Most of what’s described there fit my experience exactly, and it was a comfort to know that others had gone through something similar. I remember seeing the comedy in Underhill describing different ways people experience the Dark Night of the Soul and finding that just about all of it happened with me. I seemed to need all of it, and not just one or two variations.

In general, finding others who had gone through it themselves was a big comfort to me, including working with one facilitator who had come out on the other side and could guide me somewhat.

Five-element acupuncture helped some during the most intense period, although often for just a day or two.

Vortex Healing may have helped provide a kind of turning point in this process. It does feel that the divine put me on a slightly different path after I got into VH.


Before the dark night, I typically took pride in doing things on my own. I rarely needed to ask for help. That also changed during this dark night. I had to ask for help. I became the one who needed help from others. And there is a beautiful blessing here too. I learned the beauty of receiving and allowing others to help.


It’s not a surprise or secret what’s made this phase of my life more difficult for me: how my system has reacted to deep trauma. Deep and painful beliefs and identifications creating and holding in place the trauma, originally created as a survival strategy in a difficult family situation. The more we have of this, the more difficult the cleaning-out process can be. It tends to become more messy, painful, and perhaps drawn out.


The dark night has lessened in intensity but is not over yet. I still feel like I have been hit by a truck: disoriented, partially in shock, and parts of me find it difficult to trust life.

It started when I got married and went against clear inner guidance, which is twenty-five years ago. And the far more intense phase started fifteen years ago.

It has not been a quick process for me. Perhaps because some traumatized parts of me are strongly holding onto old survival mechanisms and associated beliefs and identifications. These need to wear out.


What was the invitation in this dark night? And why did it happen?

I cannot say anything for certain about the why. But it does seem it happened as a kind of reversal of the long honeymoon period following the initial awakening shift. During the honeymoon, everything fell into place in miraculous ways, I lived in a soft bliss, I had a lot of passion and direction in my life, and so on. During the dark night, everything fell apart, I lived with a huge amount of pain, I completely lost direction in life, and so on. When it goes up, it goes down.

The invitation here is more clear. The invitation is to clarify what I am and live from it, and not be so caught up in changing states, experiences, and situations. The invitation is for my center of gravity to shift more fully and viscerally into and as what I am.

More specifically, it is to…

Not only generally see all as the divine, but also see what my personality doesn’t like as the divine.

Not only see it all as the divine but more consistently find the genuine love for it all that’s already here, including for what my personality doesn’t like.

Not only have my center of gravity in what I am when things are easy, but maintain this center of gravity when it’s challenging and difficult things come up. To maintain this center of gravity when my old habit is to join in with reactivity and the issues coming up.

I can consciously explore this and invite in these shifts. I can prepare the ground. But the shifts themselves are always grace, as is the noticing and any active exploration I engage in. It’s all grace.

And the same goes for exploring and inviting in healing for my traumas and issues, especially the more central ones put in place early in life and related to my parents and family. For instance, my habit of not speaking up and not standing sufficiently up for myself. (And being repeatedly disappointed for that reason and having resentment come up.) And related to that, my issue around wanting to hide and not be seen, and having resentment for not being seen.

In general, the invitation is to wear out – and consciously explore – some of my remaining beliefs and identifications. These are typically put in place early in life to help us survive, and they are often rooted in and held in place by fear. A fear that’s unfelt, unloved and exiled. And has a scary story behind it that’s not sufficiently examined.

As Evelyn Underhill says in the dark night chapter of Mysticism, this is a messy and thoroughly human process.

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Center of gravity shifting from separation to oneness

We all have a metaphorical center of gravity we typically perceive and live from, and we can think of this center as moving along a line from who we are (human self) to what we are (oneness).

This center of gravity will shift naturally a bit along this line for all of us.

And if we are in a process of actively exploring our nature, we may see a process that moves the center of gravity from who we are to oneness.

Here is how that may look:


In most cases, it seems that the center of gravity is in our human self. We perceive and live as if we most fundamentally are this human self.

In an early phase of the awakening process, this is typically where our center of gravity is. We may have an intuition or curiosity about awakening, and explore it mostly through mental representations. And we operate and function as if we fundamentally are this human self.

This is how most onenesses seem to live in the world today.


Then, the oneness we are may start intuiting or glimpsing or being curious about its nature.

When these glimpses or intuitions happen, they tend to be filtered through our habitual mental stories and separation consciousness.

We may sense all as consciousness, and perceive it as the divine in nature.

We may have experiences of oneness and interpret it as if we – as a separate self – is one with everything else.

We may have more clear glimpses of our nature, of the world happening within and as what we are, of everything as consciousness, Spirit, and so on. And then we tell ourselves we had it and then lost it.

Here, our center of gravity is still in our human self although it’s opening to the possibility for something else and is more ready to move.


Then there is a process of noticing our nature more clearly. We find ourselves as what the world to us happens within and as. And we learn to notice this more easily when we look for it, and we learn to notice it more often in daily life.

We notice our nature when our attention is brought to it and perhaps less so at other times. And if issues and traumas are triggered, we may get caught up in them for a while.

We may see everything in a general sense as happening within and as us, or as consciousness or the divine. We may not always notice it in things our personality doesn’t like, perhaps because we forget to look for it. We may not yet have a deep love for all as our nature or Spirit. And we may not yet have a visceral sense of it all as our nature or the divine.

We may also shift into states that show us aspects of our nature, and these can be brief glimpses or last for days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years.

Here, our center of gravity moves from our human self towards our nature, and it shifts a bit back and forth depending on our attention and the situation we are in.


After a while, we learn to notice our nature and live from this noticing in more and more situations and areas of life. It becomes a new habit.

We also learn to notice our nature even when deeper and more central issues and traumas surface, and to recognize that our nature is the same as their nature. Our center of gravity remains here even in more challenging situations.

We mostly see whatever is here as happening within and as what we are, or as consciousness or Spirit.

And we tend to find genuine love for all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Here, our center of gravity shifts more into our nature.


This invites another shift. A more visceral sense of it all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Our center of gravity is more solidly in our nature, reflected and supported by this visceral shift.


One side of this process is what’s happening with the many parts of our psyche.

Many of our subpersonalities may still operate from separation consciousness even when the oneness we are generally and “globally” recognizes itself.

As mentioned above, when these are triggered, we may get caught up in them and join in with how these parts of us perceive the world. We enter their separation consciousness and perceive and live from it. At least, for a while.

We may also keep recognizing our nature, that our nature and the nature of these parts of us is the same, and stay in that noticing. This is part of what allows these parts of us to unravel their knots and join in with the awakening, although more specific approaches are often needed.

In the first case, our temporary center of gravity shifts towards our human self, and our more habitual sense of gravity is likely closer to our human self. In the second, our center of gravity remains more in our nature.

Also, each of these parts of us colors our perception and life even if they are not noticeably triggered. They are part of our system. They have their own view of the world. The more parts of us are operating from separation consciousness, the more our system as a whole is colored by separation consciousness. Even if our “global” and conscious view is one of our nature recognizing itself.

The more parts of us join with the awakening, the more our center of gravity can remain stable in our nature. In our nature noticing itself and living from this noticing.


As suggested above, it seems that our center of gravity generally is somewhere on an imagined line from separate self to oneness. There is a place or area on this line where we most often are found to operate from.

At the same time, there are more temporary shifts along this line. During meditation or inquiry, where we perceive from may move towards oneness. When we are triggered and caught up in the trigger, our center shifts more toward separation. And so on.


There is no finishing line here. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s a process of continued exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

For instance, our nature has many aspects – oneness, love, activity, mystery, capacity, and so on.

And this process tends to reveal and highlight different aspects of our nature to us at different times, allowing us to get more familiar with it.


This is a very simplified and idealized outline.

In real life, it’s far more varied and often messier.

It’s typically not so linear. We get hijacked by our issues, traumas, and hangups. It may appear that the process is going backward at times or is stagnating. And that is OK. It’s the oneness we are – or life or the divine – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in all of these ways.

It’s just how I like to map it out now. And my own process hasn’t followed these steps so neatly.

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– When I am with you, I feel I am out here (pointing to the area outside of the body)

A series of events led my wife and me to a realtor who quickly also became a friend, and we talked about energy healing, synchronicities, and so on, all topics she has a growing interest in.

At a café earlier today, she said: “When I am with you, I feel I am out here.” (Gesturing to the space around her body.)

I laughed and said: “That’s the reality”.


Why did she experience herself “out there” outside of her physical body?

When the oneness we are is identified with just a part of its content, with this human self, it creates an experience for itself of not only being this human self but somehow contained within this human self.

When the oneness we are recognizes itself, then it recognizes the world – as it appears to itself – as happening within and as itself. It finds itself as oneness. It finds itself as consciousness, and the world – including this human self – happening within and as consciousness.

And in the transition between the two, it often creates experiences for itself like the one our new friend described. It still experiences itself mostly as this human self, out of habit. And it also has a sense of itself as more than that and outside of this human self. There are tastes of oneness, often as glimpses.

This helps us get used to our nature, even if our nature is not recognized very clearly at first. And it often serves as a carrot for continuing our exploration.


Why did she experience this when she was with us?

As an infant and child, being around onenesses that take themselves to be this human self helps us mimic and learn that for ourselves. It’s what others do, so it’s what we learn to do.

And being around those who recognize their nature helps us recognize our own nature. It’s what they do, so it’s what we learn to do.

Of course, there is a lot more to this. Many things facilitate the process of recognizing our nature, even when we are around others who do. For instance, receptivity, interest, and readiness. Guidance. Active exploration. Effective pointers. And so on.

In this case, it seems she was just ready for it.

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The banality of awakening

There is a certain banality to awakening.


To ourselves, we are consciousness.

We can find this in our immediate experience. When I explore my first-person experience, I find my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me, capacity for any content of experience. And I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And logically, I find the same. No matter what I more fundamentally am in a conventional sense, to myself I have to be consciousness.

It may well be that I most fundamentally am this physical body and this body somehow produces consciousness.

Any experience happens in consciousness, including the experience of this human self and anything associated with it – thoughts, feelings, emotions, sights, and so on. Any experience happens within and as consciousness, including of anything thoughts may tell me I am.

So to myself, I inevitably and most fundamentally am consciousness.

To me, the world happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am. To me, the world happens within and as the oneness I am.


We are typically trained to take ourselves most fundamentally as something within the field of our experiences, as this human self, as an object in the world, as an I with the rest of the world as Other.

This is not wrong, but it’s not what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

So this assumption, and living from it, inevitably creates a sense of something being off. We metaphorically throw ourselves out of paradise, the kind of paradise that comes from finding ourselves as the oneness we are.

And in some cases, the oneness we are wakes up out of this separation fantasy and into finding itself as oneness. It finds itself as the oneness the world, in its own experience, happens within and as.

Why? It can happen spontaneously and without any obvious preparation or even conscious surface interest. (As was the case with me.)

It can also happen after some conscious and intentional exploration, especially when its sincere, dedicated, under skillful guidance, and done with receptivity, curiosity, and over some time.


As who I am, I am this human self in the world. That’s how most others see me, it’s what my passport tells me, and it’s what my thoughts may tell me. It’s an assumption that works reasonably well.

As what I am, I am the oneness the world to me happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, whether I notice it or not. Here, I am not most fundamentally a human being.

The first happens within and as the second. And the story of the second also happens within the second.


Awakening is often presented as something special.

And yet, it’s also very banal.

What we find is, in a certain sense, inevitable. It’s inevitable if we look with some guidance and sincerity. And it’s inevitable logically.

It’s what we already are most familiar with, whether we notice it or not. It’s what we always have been and always are.

And it’s all we have ever known. Any experience happens within and as what we are. It’s most fundamentally, and completely, what we are.


Noticing what we really are is extraordinary in that it’s not all that common in the world today. And it certainly may seem extraordinary when the oneness we are shifts from operating from separation consciousness to recognizing itself.

It’s also banal. And to me, sinking into that noticing is a relief. It’s an antidote to stories saying it’s special.

And, of course, those are both labels with very limited validity. As anything else, the reality is more than and different from any labels or stories about it.

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Waking up issues, parts, and subpersonalities

I enjoy using the befriend & awaken process these days, as I have written about in other articles. (It’s a process that draws on elements from a range of approaches, others have come up with similar processes, this one is one I have developed for myself since it seems to work the best for me, and I don’t think anyone else calls it “befriend & awaken”.)

One of the last steps in that process is to awaken issues or parts and subpersonalities.

What does it mean to awaken issues? Or awaken parts and subpersonalities?


When I do this part of the process, I go through a few steps.

I connect with the issue or subpersonality through the previous steps, feel the sensation aspect of it, connect with the painful story behind it, and so on.

I notice my own nature and that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am. (I find myself as what a thought may call consciousness, and that the world to me happens within and as consciousness.)

I notice that the nature of the issue or part is the same as mine. It happens within and as what I am, so it – by necessity – has the same nature as me.

I rest in that noticing.

I invite the issue or part to recognize its own nature and rest in that noticing.

I invite whatever shifts to shift, to reorganize within this conscious noticing of what’s already here.


How does this work? What is it that happens?

As mentioned, this is all already happening within and as what I am. Any issue, part, and subpersonality – and any content of experience – already happens within and as what I am. It already has the same nature as I do.

When they were formed, they were typically formed within separation consciousness. They were formed when the whole of me, or most of what I am, operated from separation consciousness. And they still function and operate within separation consciousness. That’s why they are issues. That’s why they seek some form of resolution.

By consciously noticing their nature, and resting in and as that noticing, I – as a whole – recognize their nature. This shifts how I relate to them. I recognize them as myself. I recognize them as having the same nature as I do. This is part of the befriending. This helps me shift out of reactivity and reacting to them from habitual patterns, which also come from separation consciousness.

I then invite these parts of me to notice their own nature and rest in that noticing. This shifts how this part of consciousness relates to itself. It wakes up to its own nature. It wakes up to itself having taken the form of the issue or the part and subpersonality. And that sets something in motion. The part tends to reorganize and align with a more conscious noticing of itself as oneness. (AKA healing.)

On the one hand, it all happens here and now, and any ideas of past, future and present happen here and now. And on the other hand, this is a process. The more time I spend resting in this noticing, and resting in inviting these parts of me to notice their nature, the more there is a realignment.

Exactly what happens is always a bit of a surprise. It lives its own life. I – as the whole – just notice it shift, unravel, and realign.

And, as so often, the way this is presented makes it sound like a clean and orderly process. It’s often not. It’s often messy. These parts of us are tied up in knots, and the unknotting process isn’t always so tidy or clean.

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Awakening doesn’t change our life?

I have been reading The Triune Self: Confessions of a Ruthless Seeker by Mike Snider and love it as I loved the two talks he gave on request from Adyashanti.

He is clear. He follows his own path. He is unfraid to call out what he sees as bullshit often found in nondual and spiritual communities.

In general, I feel a deep resonance with what he talks and writes about and his process, and he has been unfailingly kind and wise in the few interactions I have had with him.

At the same time, there is one thing I am curious about. He says that his nature recognizing itself – AKA awakening – didn’t change who he is in the world. (This is based on memory since it’s a few weeks since I read it, and my memory is not so good these days due to CFS and post-covid brain.)

Why does he emphasize this point? And does awakening lead to a transformation of our human self and life in the world or not?


It’s true that awakening doesn’t neccesarily lead to an immediate transformation at the human level.

Oneness recognizing itself doesn’t depend on anything in particular within the content of experience. It doesn’t require our human self or life to be any particular way. (Apart from having the basic psychological makeup to allow for awakening.)

And the noticing itself doesn’t neccesarily transform our human self or life in the world. At least not right away.


And it’s also not the full picture.

In my experience, there is an ongoing and lifelong process of transformation that happens at many levels and in many areas.

One is transformation in perception. This is a shift from oneness viscerally taking itself as something within itself (this human self and ideas about this human self) to noticing itself to viscerally finding itself as oneness to different layers of its nature (oneness, love, capacity etc.) revealing itself to itself in new ways.

An aspect of this is transformation of identity, of what oneness viscerally takes itself to be.

And then there is the transformation of our human self – of our psychology and life in the world.

Many parts of our psyche were formed within and still operate from separation consciousness and these will inevitably color our perception and life in the world. If they are not actively triggered, they still color our perception and life. And if they are triggered, oneness may get more strongly caught up in them and more obviously perceive and live from them.

That’s inherently uncomfortable. And it gets even more uncomfortable when the oneness we are recognizes itself.

And it seems that awakening sets in motion a process of transforming our human self so more of it is gradually more aligned with oneness recognizing itself.

Some of that transformation may happen through various practices before our nature recognizes itself. Some may happen in the moment the recognition happens. And in many or most cases (?), most of that transformation happens after and within oneness recognizing itself.

We may intentionally support that process through various practices and our attention, receptivity, and sincerity.

And, in my experience, most of it happens through unprocessed psychological material surfacing on its own. Often, as a trickle. And sometimes, uninvited and to an extent that can be overwhelming, disorienting, and scary to our human self. (When that happens, we may label it as a kind of dark night.) This may be triggered or amplified by life events and loss – of willpower, health, friends, family, belongings, status, reputation, and so on.

This process happens whether we consciously want it or not, and it often happens in ways that our personality doesn’t like. It’s happens by necessity in that way since it’s a process of our old patterns and conditioning wearing off and something different and more authentic emerging instead. And then that may be worn off so something new and more authentic can emerge. And so on.


So why did Mike Snider emphasize that his human life didn’t change?

There may be several reasons.

One is that his life didn’t change to any significant degree. Perhaps his life already is relatively authentic and loving? (It seems that way.)

Another may be that he wants to emphasize that awakening is not about getting anything or getting anything from it. It’s about our nature noticing itself, not really about any secondary transformations. If it happens, fine. But it’s secondary and a side-effect.


That’s true. And it’s especially true, in my experience, that a too strong focus on getting something out of it distracts from a simple noticing of our nature and living from that noticing.

At the same time, the transformation does happen and it’s important. Our human life is important. How we live our life is important. It’s important for our human self. And it’s important for others.

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Reactions to noticing our nature / finding ourselves as our nature

When the oneness we are notices its nature, what are some of the typical reactions?

In my experience, it depends partly on how and in what context we notice our nature.


We can notice our nature in a relatively undramatic fashion, for instance through guided inquiry. (Headless experiments and the Big Mind process among other approaches.)

Oneness notices itself.

And because of assumptions and emotional needs, may see it as too simple, too familiar, and not exotic or dramatic enough. It’s not what it thought it would be, so it keeps on looking somewhere else.

Or it may find itself intrigued and fascinated by it and keep exploring its nature. It keeps returning to noticing its nature. It keeps exploring how to live from it. And so on.

The upside of a simple noticing is that it’s often undramatic and simple and we are less likely to be distracted by dramatic experiences. It’s a little easier to notice the essence of our nature – capacity, oneness, love, and so on. And that it’s not about any particular content of experience. Oneness can notice its nature here and now through shifting states and experiences.

The downside is that we may see it as too simple. We expect something more dramatic or exotic, so dismiss it and continue to look somewhere else. Eventually, after some wild goose chases, we may realize that our nature never went anywhere and by neccesity is simple and familiar to us, and we may return to this simple noticing.


The oneness we are may also find itself as itself in a more wholesale way, with or without any particular preparation or intention.

This is often a sudden shift, although some seem to experience it as a gradual shift.

The upside of this is that our nature is undeniable. It’s strongly in the foreground of our noticing and experience, and it’s impossible to miss or explain it away.

Even the most dense atheist, like me when this happened, can’t dismiss it.

The downside is that we can easily get caught up in the associated states and side-effects of these more dramatic shifts with fireworks and bells and whistles. We may end up chasing states for a while and miss the simplicity of our nature that’s here across changing states.


In my case, the shift happened without conscious preparation and intention and was dramatic, wholesale, and lasting.

Although my nature did notice itself relatively clearly, the drama of the initial shift and the side-effects and states (which my personality found very enjoyable) made me also chase experiences and states for a while. At some level, I was a little confused.

Later, I came to appreciate the simplicity of a simple noticing of my nature – especially guided by the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

The simple noticing helped me clarify the essence of my nature and what this is really about.

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The 80-20 rule in spiritual practice: Most of it is about transformation, and only a bit is about awakening

The 80-20 rule says that 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time, and the remaining 20% takes 80% of the time.

That’s often roughtly accurate in my experience. I often find that most of the work is done relatively quickly, and it’s the final bits that take a lot of time to finish up and get right.

And so also when it comes to spiritual practice.


Contrary to popular misconceptions, it’s not that difficult for most of us to notice our nature. If we have a guide familiar with the terrain, who is using an effective series of pointers, most of us can get it – the essence of it – in a relatively short time. And that means minutes, not hours, days, months, years, or decades. In these cases, the noticing itself can be 1% of the work or less.

We can get it, although many won’t see the value in it. It may seem interesting. A fun party game. But of little or no practical value. So we let it go and move on to something else.

Or we may value awakening, but what we find when guided doesn’t fit our ideas so we keep looking for it somewhere else. We may be looking for something exotic, distant, and mind-blowing in a crude way. And what we are shown is deeply familiar, never left, and without any fanfare or fireworks. It seems just too simple, so we move on and keep looking for the exotic and unusual.


If we find it and value it, then that’s where the work starts. It takes a deep and visceral interest – enough to prioritize and return to it – to keep noticing it through daily life. This is 10 or 20% of the work.


And then there is the transformation of our human self and psychology and life in the world. This too takes a deep and sustained visceral interest and passion.

This transformation can happen, to some extent, through different types of sincere and dedicated spiritual practice even if we don’t notice our nature.

And it can happen within the context of oneness noticing itself as all there is, and aligning our human self with this conscious noticing.

In my experience, this is the majority of the work and the 80% from the 80-20 rule.


When I give numbers to the different aspects of the process, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Each case is individual and it will vary a lot. And it’s not really possible – and easily misleading and a bit absurd – to assign numbers in this way.

So why am I doing it? Just to highlight that, in my experience, the noticing costs very little. Sustained noticing requires more of us. And the transformation requires a lot more – and really everything – from us.

Finally, what are some of the structured pointers that can help most of us notice our nature so quickly? Two approaches I personally enjoy are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

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Themes of awakening in my own process

I wrote an article about themes in the awakening process and how this can be useful in itself, and as a complement to a more traditional stage view on awakening. (Stage models can be interesting and useful to a certain extent, and also come with drawbacks.)

I thought I would give an example of how a theme orientation can be used in a specific case. And since the case I happen to be most familiar with is my own, I’ll use that.

Each theme could be its own book, so this is obviously a very simplified overview.


My interest in this came after the oneness I am shifted into noticing itself as all there is. It took the form of trying to find books written by others who had found the same, and then reading a lot of books and engaging in a variety of practices from different traditions.

In my late twenties and early thirties, my active exploration and interest dipped a bit since I was very engaged in sustainability and community organizing. I probably needed a little breather after a quite strong exploration in my teens and early- and mid-twenties. And then it returned in my mid-thirties and hasn’t waned much since.


My conceptual exploration started after the initial shift. At first, I had little idea about what to look for, apart from Christian mystics. And I did find people who seemed to have found the same, including Meister Eckart.

After a couple of years, I started finding more people and devoured a lot of books. Especially from Jes Bertelsen, CG Jung, Taoism, Ken Wilber, Fritjof Carpa, and Tibetan Buddhism in my teens and twenties. Zen in my twenties and thirties. Adyashanti, Byron Katie, and Douglas Harding in my thirties, and I also dipped my toes into Advaita/Neo-Advaita. I have also read a lot from other traditions and by other authors, often two or three books a week. (I used to have a library of a few thousand books on these topics.) In addition, I have listened to talks, talked with a few spiritual coaches, lived at a Zen center, and so on.

And I explore how to express and map out certain things here in these articles.


In my case, the direct exploration started the moment my system shifted into oneness recognizing itself.

In my teens, oneness recognized itself as all there is and explored itself. There was an enormous amounts of insights coming just about all the time, which sometimes felt a bit overwhelming. Most of it is, in its essence, the same as I what write about here now. (I often feel there hasn’t been all that much development, more a getting used to it.)

In my late teens, I also did tai chi and chigong daily. I did Christ meditation and Jesus/Heart prayer daily for one to three hours, and the heart prayer became ongoing even as I slept, and this was profoundly transformative for me. I did several Taoist “inner yoga” practices as described by Mantak Chia and Jes Bertelsen, and found these very powerful. And I loved doing tonglen. I continued all this into my twenties, and in my early twenties, I also started the Ngöndro practice from Tibetan Buddhism.

After moving to Salt Lake City for psychology studies, I found Kanzeon Zen Center, became a resident, and followed their daily program and the sesshins/retreats. I was also there when Genpo Roshi developed the Big Mind process, which I am very grateful for. The practices I did here were training a more stable attention, basic meditation, and koan practice.

I continued most of these practices, and in my thirties, I also got into ho’oponopono, Breema bodywork (instructor), The Work of Byron Katie (did daily for many years), the Headless experiments (love them), Living/Kiloby inquiries (facilitator), and more.

And a few years ago, I got into Vortex Healing and have continued to take these classes since they seem to do something interesting and possibly useful with my energy system, and I find the tools powerful and helpful.


I did have glimpses of oneness before the major and lasting shift that happened when I was sixteen.

During early childhood and maybe up until about school age, I experienced several flashbacks to what seems the time between lives. It seems to mostly happen when I was outside in the garden and the sunlight filtered through the leaves. It was an experience of all as consciousness, golden light, and one, and I found myself as consciousness without a physical body. It seemed timeless, with only a hint of change and of time happening mostly in a place far away. There was occasional communication with other consciousnesses, and they seemed infinitely wise and loving and were there to guide me. I felt profoundly at home. (It was all one and consciousness and golden light, and a sense of entities within this oneness.)

At the time, I didn’t consciously consider it very much. It just happened. And I made no connection between this and the word “God” or Christianity which seemed much more distant and abstract. When I later learned about near-death experiences, I realized that this seemed very similar although it was more of a memory from before this life. And when the oneness shift happened, I realized that the deep longing I experienced as a child was for what I had experienced between lives, and really for oneness – for the oneness I am recognizing itself as all there is.

After being profoundly influenced by Cosmos by Carl Sagan when I was ten, I also had several moments when I looked into the deep starry sky and experienced all as one. As Carl Sagan said, I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I am the universe bringing itself into consciousness. I deeply and viscerally experienced that.

And since then, I have experienced glimpses and shifts that point to more lasting noticing and shifts coming up. For instance, in my mid-thirties, there were a few months when the essence of my nature came to the foreground very clearly and strongly and was unmissable. This was a temporary state, but it has helped my noticing focus on the essence of my nature since then. Thes essence stands out much more clearly and is less easily confused with states and other changing content of experience.

And there was also a shift that happened when I was fifteen which seems to have led to the oneness shift one year later. This was a shift where the world – including this human self and anything connected with this human self – seemed infinitely far removed and I found myself as what was observing it all. In hindsight, it seems that my mind created the experience of a clean observer-observed duality, and this – one year later – led to a shift into oneness recognizing itself as all there is.


The first stable shift that happened was also the first shift I am consciously aware of. It’s what happened when I was sixteen, walking down a gravel road to the house, with a big wind going through the landscape and the infinity of space filled with innumerable stars above me. For whatever reason, and perhaps as a safety valve for stronger-than-average teenage angst, oneness shifted into recognizing itself.

From one millisecond to the next, all without exception was recognized as God, as the divine and consciousness. This human self was the divine exploring itself as and through this form, and the divine takes and explores itself through all forms and everything that is. Even temporarily and locally taking itself as most fundamentally a separate being is the divine exploring itself through and as that.

Many years later, the shift mentioned above happened – where the essence of my nature came to the foreground in a clear and unmistakable way. This led to a more immediate and clear noticing of the essence of my nature through daily life situations. The noticing became a little more precise, at least that’s how it seems.


I have gone through a few different dark nights, and it obviously depends on what definition we use.

In my teens, I went through a kind of conventional dark night filled with teenage angst, social anxiety, and a self-esteem that was very low in some areas and OK in other. I assume the oneness shift may have happened as a kind of safety valve for this pressure that was building up. 

Later, I experiences another kind of dark night when I went against clear and unmistakable inner guidance on a major life issue. I geographically moved away from what I deeply loved and what felt deeply right for me  – graduate studies, Zen center, a community, and nature I deeply loved in Utah. I did on the surface to support my then-wife in her studies and career – by sacrificing my own – and deeper down I was caught up in fears. And it felt deeply wrong and I felt deeply off track. One consequence of this was that I was abruptly unable to continue drawing, painting, and meditating, which I had deeply loved and did daily for 10-15 years before this. 

Some years after this, I went into an even deeper dark night. It started with strong pneumonia which led to severe CFS and being confined to a dark room for months. Then, there were several months with huge amounts of archetypal images going through my system, including the dark ones. Then, divorce (which was good) and loss of my house, belongings, friends, community, and just about all of my money in the divorce process. A part of this process was also asking the divine to “show me what’s left”. This was followed, a few days later, with an enormous amount of primal survival fears and trauma surfacing. It was overwhelming, felt unbearable, and led to nine months of immense pain where I was lucky if I could sleep one hour in the morning, and walked for hours every day in the forest listening to Adyashanti and the dark night chapter in “Mysticism” by Evelyn Underhill. This gradually eased over the next several years. Along with this, I have felt that my brain doesn’t work very well, it’s been difficult to make good decisions, and my system has felt disorganized. This dark night is still here, several years later, although it seems to gradually ease up.


How do we live from what we notice? How do we live from the shifts that come about through heart-centered approaches and other practices?

For me, it makes the most sense to allow this to unfold naturally.

I notice and am curious about what happens.

If I notice I act from reactivity in some situations or areas of life, I make a note of it, identify some issues behind it and perhaps some stressful thoughts and identities, and typically explore it using one or more approaches.

Sometimes, I’ll take a turnaround from The Work and make it a living turnaround” and explore how it is to live from it in daily life.

Sometimes, I’ll intentionally go against an old habitual pattern that is not so helpful for me (or others) anymore.

And that’s about it. As with anything else here, this is an ongoing process. And there is certainly a lot of room for improvement for me and probably all of us.


I have been passionate about psychology and healing since my teens. Initially, I devoured a large number of books (talks made into books) by Jung and humanistic psychology and explored it in my own life. I have gone to therapy at different times in my life. I trained in Process Work for several years and did a number of workshops and classes with Arnie Mindell and others. I have done Breema bodywork since the mid-2000s and am an instructor. I trained in the Big Mind Process with Genpo Roshi since I was at the center when he initially developed it. I have done heart-centered practices since my teens. I have explored a good number of issues using different forms of inquiry.

And that doesn’t mean I am anywhere near “healed”. There is always further to go. Some central issues – formed through my mind’s response to ongoing childhood experiences – take time to explore and unravel. And often, it’s as much or more about healing my relationship with certain hangups in me and their triggers than finding healing for the issues themselves. (The two are obviously connected, and healing my relationship with what’s triggered and the trigger does invite healing for the issues.)

These days, I mostly enjoy using the befriend & awaken (wake up) process which I have written about in other articles. In short, I notice a contraction, which is reflected in the body (tension) and mind (reactivity). Notice the physical sensations connected with it, that they are physical sensations, and rest in noticing that it’s already allowed and noticed. Thank the contraction for protecting me, and for its love for me. Explore what it deeply wants and needs, and rest in giving it to it. Notice some of the painful beliefs behind it and inquire into these. Notice that its nature is the same as my nature, and rest in that noticing. Invite the contraction to notice its own nature. And so on.


I haven’t shared much about this. I tried in my teens, in very small portions with friends, but none seemed to have any interest in it. I also tried with one or two Buddhist teachers in Oslo, but I got the sense that they were more familiar with – or interested in? – the teachings than the actual terrain.

I did meet two people in my late teens where there was an immediate mutual recognition, and this was very important to me. One was my friend BH whom I met at tai chi, and the other was the then-wife of Jes Bertelsen whom I took some workshops with. Later, I experienced the same with Bonnie Greenwell and Adyashanti when I got to spend some time with him one-on-one.

I imagine most people who know me don’t even know I am interested in these things. And my sharing these days is mostly here, in these articles.

At a human level, I notice some loneliness in me around this. Parts of me wish for more of a sense of shared exploration and a community of people exploring this. What I have found is that people who follow a traditional path often seem to be as or more interested in the tradition than the actual terrain. And for me, the terrain has always been primary and the traditions more of a support.


I thought I would add a few words about stages and themes.


Any map and any concepts about reality are superimposed by the creativity of our mind. They are essential and useful in helping us navigate and function in the world. And they also come with limitations. They are not reality itself. They are different in kind to what they are about. They are simplifications and leave a lot out. And they are inherently inaccurate.

They are questions about the world. They are provisional.


And so also with stage models about awakening.

They can give us a generalized map of a typical awakening process, and that can be useful. It can give us some markers. It can help us feel we understand a bit more about the overall process. It can be intellectually fascinating. And so on.

At the same time, they come with inherent limitations and possible drawbacks.

I mentioned some above. Stage models, by necessity, simplify and generalize. And when we develop them or use them, we tend to emphasize data that fits and set aside, ignore, leave out, or interpret away data that doesn’t fit.

Life is always more than and different from any map, and it’s also in its essence simpler.

We can superimpose universal themes and phases on an awakening process. And it’s also inherently individual. The way oneness ties itself into separation consciousness is somewhat individual, and the way it unties itself is also somewhat individual.

In many cases, the process may not fit a particular stage model. The stages may be jumbled. We may apparently skip one or more. The characteristics of several stages may happen at once. There may be something else happening in our process that seems important and is not covered by the stages in the model. And so on.

If we hold stage models lightly and are aware of their limitations, then they can be useful.

And if we hold them more tightly and ignore their limitations, it’s often stressful.

For instance, if we are in an awakening process, and the form it takes doesn’t fit the models we are familiar with, we may think something is wrong and this may create unnecessary confusion and doubt. (Although, if it happens, then it’s part of our process and we are invited to learn from it.)

Similarly, if a spiritual coach is caught up in certain stage models and encounters a student whose process doesn’t follow these models, the coach may not be able to adapt so easily, they may get a wrong impression of the situation, and they may even try to fit the student into the model even if that’s not what they need. (I have experienced this several times.)


That’s why I like the theme orientation.

Many themes are found through the awakening process, and it’s interesting to see how each theme changes over the course of the process.

A theme orientation is more adaptable to the individual quirks and flavors of the awakening process.

We can always add or subtract themes depending on what we wish to focus on or find useful. (For instance, additional themes may be relationships, our life in the world, and special states, abilities, or experiences.)

And we can weave in a (lightly held) stage understanding into a theme orientation if or when that seems useful.


In my case, a stage view does work to some extent, although some stages will be in a different sequence than in most models. (For instance, interest and exploration came after the initial shift.) Also, several aspects of the process have been present throughout the process and not just in one or a few stages. (Interest, glimpses, shifts, dark nights, etc.) And several important aspects of the process may not fit neatly into any particular stage. (E.g. early glimpses.)

For these and other reasons, it seems a bit forced to try to fit my process into the stage models I am familiar with and even the ones I have come up with in articles here. It’s like trying to fit my foot into a shoe that’s too small or has a different shape than my foot.

A theme orientation feels far easier and more logical to work with, and it’s more fun for me to explore the themes and how they have changed through the process.

And in exploring that change, it’s possible to test out or include the idea of stages if we want to.

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