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.

PARTS OF THE SAME

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.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

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.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE DOES NOT RECOGNIZE ITSELF

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.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

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.

COLORING OUR PERCEPTION AND LIFE

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

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.

WHY IS THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS HAPPENING?

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.

MAPS HELP US NAVIGATE IN UNFAMILIAR PLACES

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.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MAPS

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.

THE LIMITATIONS OF AWAKENING MAPS

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 MAPS

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.

USING MAPS TO FEEL BETTER (OR WORSE)

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?

HOLDING IT ALL LIGHTLY

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.

SCIENCE IN GENERAL

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.

FATIGUE AND DYSREGULATION

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.)

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

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.

OTHER SITUATIONS WHERE OUR REGULATION FALTERS

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.)

CHALLENGES & GIFTS

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.

NO – ISSUES DON’T NECESSARILY GO AWAY

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 – IT CAN HELP US RELATE TO IT DIFFERENTLY

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.

HEALING AND AWAKENING GO HAND IN HAND

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.

IT DEPENDS

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?

NOTICING MY NATURE

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.

KEEP NOTICING

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.

ASPECTS OF WHAT WE ARE

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.

EXPLORE LIVING FROM IT

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?

SEE, LOVE, VISCERAL

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.

HEALING AND REALIGNMENT OF MY HUMAN SELF

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.

NOT COMPLETE

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.

THE BACKGROUND

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.

NOTICING AND HOLDING ONTO IMAGES OF ITS NATURE

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.

IT’S NATURAL

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.

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS

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.

A SPECIAL CASE OF AN UNIVERSAL DYNAMIC

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?

A MIRROR FOR ASPECTS OF THE AWAKENING PROCESS

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

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.

THE BIG PICTURE OF MY PROCESS

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 AS IT HAPPENED FOR ME

THE BEGINNING OF THE DARK NIGHT

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.

SHOW ME WHAT’S LEFT

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.

TRAUMAS

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.

RESTLESSNESS AND AVOIDANCE

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.

LOSSES

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.

LOSING ANY ANCHORS

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.

DISORGANIZED

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.

HEART DISTRESS

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.

COMFORT AND SUPPORT

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.

NEEDING HELP

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.

WHAT MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT

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.

DURATION

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.

THE INVITATION IN THIS DARK NIGHT

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:

CENTER OF GRAVITY: HUMAN SELF

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.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: IN HUMAN SELF BUT OPENING UP

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.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

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.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE STABLY IN WHAT WE ARE

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.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE VISCERALLY AS WHAT WE ARE

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.

THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF OUR MANY PARTS

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.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: GENERAL TENDENCIES AND BRIEF SHIFTS

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.

CONTINUED EXPLORATION

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.

SIMPLIFIED OUTLINE

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 OUTSIDE OF THE PHYSICAL BODY?

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 WHEN WITH US?

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.

WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

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.

AWAKENING

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.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

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.

THE BANALITY OF AWAKENING

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.

EXTRAORDINARY AND BANAL

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?

THE PROCESS

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 IT WORK?

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?

AWAKENING IS ITS OWN THING

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.

AWAKENING AND TRANSFORMATION

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.

WHY THE EMPHASIS ON THE FIRST?

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.

THE VALIDITY IN BOTH

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.

NOTICING 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.

FINDING OURSELVES AS OUR NATURE

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.

MY EXPERIENCE

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.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

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.

RETURNING TO NOTICING OUR NATURE

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.

TRANSFORMATION

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.

NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS

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.

INTEREST

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.

CONCEPTUAL EXPLORATION

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.

DIRECT EXPLORATION

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.

GLIMPSES

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.

MORE STABLE SHIFTS

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.

DARK NIGHTS

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.

EXPLORING LIVING FROM IT

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.

HUMAN SELF ALIGNING AND REORGANIZING

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.

SHARING

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.

STAGES AND THEMES

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

THE GIFTS AND LIMITATIONS IN CONCEPTS AND MAPS

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.

STAGE MODELS OF AWAKENING

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.)

THEME ORIENTATIONS

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

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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Themes in an awakening process

I have been interested in the phases and stages of the awakening process for a while, and although these stage maps have value, I am also very aware of their shortcomings.

So I thought I would explore a different approach here that may complement stage models, and also loosen them up a bit, and shed a slightly different light on the process.

What are some of the themes in an awakening process? And how do they look in different phases of the process, and perhaps in some of the individual processes I know about?

THEMES

Here are some of the themes that stand out to me.

INTEREST

If we are in an awakening process, we typically have some interest, fascination, and draw to it. We may feel called. We may respond to inner guidance or intuition. We may tell ourselves any number of reasons why we are interested in it.

This interest tends to stay with us through the process, perhaps with some periods where it goes more into the background.

An interest or fascination may be how it (apparently) starts for us. And other times, our fascination and interest come from an initial glimpse or shift. (For me, the shift came first.)

CONCEPTUAL EXPLORATION

Just about all of us have at last some intellectual curiosity about the process, we wish to make some sense of our own process and experiences, and we read or listen to what others have to share about it.

This intellectual exploration typically follows us through the process. It doesn’t belong to any particular phase.

It can be very helpful in that it provides us with a map and a way to orient.

And the pitfall is that we can have our noses so deeply in the maps that we forget about the terrain. We may distract ourselves. We may get overly attached to certain maps, even when they don’t fit the terrain so well. We may temporarily forget that this is about the terrain, not the maps.

DIRECT EXPLORATION

We also have the more direct and visceral exploration.

This may be a direct noticing of our nature, often guided by certain structured forms of inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain.

We may explore basic meditation and notice and allow what’s here, and then notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed and align more consciously with that. We may find that any and all content of experience, including anything associated with this human self, comes and goes. And that what we are is what all this comes and goes within and as.

We may train a more stable attention. We may engage in heart-centered practices. We may use body-centered practices or do energetic work. We may follow ethical guidelines mimicking how people tend to live when oneness notices itself.

We may explore how it is to live from all of this.

Not everyone starts with direct exploration, but it is an essential part of the process. And if we are on a sincere exploration, it tends to be with us for the whole process. There is always more to discover, clarify, deepen, and get familiar with.

GLIMPSES

At some point, we may have glimpses of our nature. We may intuit or feel some kind of oneness of existence. We may even recognize our nature as capacity for the word as it appears to us, and find ourselves as the oneness the world to us happens within and as.

We may experience different kinds of states highlighting and showing us aspects of our nature.

And these glimpes may show us something just a bit beyond what we already are familiar with.

This can happen at any phase of the process. Even after we notice our nature, there is always further to go, and we often get glimpses of what’s ahead. (At least, that’s how it’s been for me.)

MORE STABLE SHIFTS

We then have the more stable shifts.

Oneness may shift into more stably noticing itself, through the different states, experiences, and situations of daily life.

Oneness may shift from noticing itself to more viscerally experiencing itself as oneness, again through the different situations in daily life.

And so on. There are many of these.

DARK NIGHTS

We may go through several kinds of dark nights in an awakening process.

These are temporary states where we may feel lost or that we have lost something, we may have deep wounds and traumas surfacing, we may experience deep agony, and so on.

These are times when our old orientation and way of being may not work anymore. Old patterns wear off. And we get ready, whether we know it or not, for something else.

The more we struggle, the less pleasant this experience tends to be. And if we struggle, then that struggle is an integral part of the process for us and something we can learn from.

There are certain things we can do to make it a little easier for ourselves. For me, it helped to know that others have gone through something very similar. It helped to have the guidance and support of someone who had gone through it himself. Being in nature was a blessing and helped calm down my very frayed nervous system. Energetic work – Five Element acupuncture and Vortex Healing – has also helped. And heart-centered practices and inquiry has been a good support as well.

In my experience, this is something that lives its own life and has its own schedule. In many ways, “I” am just along for the ride.

EXPLORING LIVING FROM IT

Through the process, we may also explore living from what we discover and the shifts that happen.

We may explore living according to ethical guidelines, and notice what in us wishes to deviate from these. (Typically, wounded parts of us that need some befriending, understanding, love, and clarity through inquiry.)

We may do heart-centered or body-centered practices, and explore how to live from the shifts these bring about.

We may notice our nature, and explore how to live from that in different situations in daily life.

And we may notice what in us is still not yet on board with this, and gently explore and get to know those parts of us.

HUMAN SELF ALIGNING AND REORGANIZING

A part of this process is the reorganization and realignment of our human self and the many psychological parts of our human self.

This happens throughout the process. It happens at a conceptual level through our conceptual curiosity. It happens at a heart level through heart-centered and other practices. It happens as shifts in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, life, and our experiences. It happens in terms of our identity and what we take ourselves to be. And so on.

Mainly, it happens in the form of a healing of how we relate to anything. And as healing of the different wounded parts of ourselves.

These days, I am mostly using the befriend & awaken process to explore this.

SHARING

Some don’t feel moved to share much about this or their own process, and that’s perfectly fine.

And others are drawn to sharing, in some form or another. Even if it’s just occasional conversations with others on the path.

The sharing can be between colleagues exploring a similar terrain. It can be between a student and coach. It can be between someone familiar with this terrain and someone curious about it. And so on.

For me, the sharing mostly happens here.

UPSIDES OF A THEME ORIENTATION

Stage models obviously have their place and usefulness.

And I still love this focus on themes – or woven threads – in an awakening process.

It shows how themes may be present throughout the process. It shows how they may change in their expression through the process.

It complements the stage models, helps loosen them up a bit, and fills them in. And it’s fully possible to include a discussion of phases when outlining themes, or the other way around.

Note: I wrote an article using a theme orientation to outline my own process.

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Adapting to our more real identity vs attaching to a familiar mistaken one

I was rewatching a couple of Star Trek: Voyager episodes, including Course: Oblivion.

We follow the crew and ship, strange things start happening, and they discover that they are not who they thought they were. They are a substance that can mimic living beings and objects and that formed itself into the Voyager crew and starship. Some embrace their real identity and want to go back to the planet they came from. Others cling to their more familiar and mistaken identity and try to live out that life, even if it means the end of them.

It’s a great idea for a story, although not so well executed. (The buildup is brief. Most of them immediately accept what they really are, which seems unlikely. And it’s not explained so well why some insist on living according to their mistaken identity even if they also accept their real one.)

And as with any story, it can be fun and helpful to use it as a mirror for ourselves.

EXPLORING IT AS I WOULD A DREAM

If this was my dream, how would I explore it? What do I find?

The essence of this story is: A group of people live from mistaken identity. They realize what they really are. Some adapt and want to live according to their real identity. Others want to continue living according to their familiar and mistaken identity, even if it means their destruction.

SOME PARTS LIVE FROM MY TRUE IDENTITY, OTHER PARTS FROM MY OLD MISTAKEN IDENTITY

I can find that in myself.

At some level, I notice and accept my real identity. In my own first-person experience, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. That’s my moe fundamental identity.

And at another level, I am used to my familiar human identity. This identity is not wrong, it’s just limited and not what I more fundamentally am in my first-person experience.

Sometimes, I perceive and function more from my true identity. And other times, I revert back to following my mistaken identity. (Especially when unhealed parts of me are triggered.)

Said another way, and just as with the Voyager crew, some parts of me accept and live according to my true identity. And other parts still operate from my old familiar mistaken identity.

CLARIFICATION & TRANSFORMATION

This points to an important part of the awakening process.

It’s relatively easy to notice our nature, especially if we have some pointers and a guide familiar with the terrain.

The challenge is in keeping noticing our nature through daily life – through different states, through different situations, in different areas of life, and even when unhealed parts of us are triggered.

The challenge is in recognizing any content of experience, including that which is unpleasant and our old patterns don’t like, as flavors of the divine. As happening within and as what we are, and having the same nature as we do.

The challenge is in inviting our human self to transform within a more conscious noticing of oneness, and inviting all the different parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to realign with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

How do we do this? We all have to find our own way, and I have written about it in more detail in other articles. These days, I am most drawn to the befriend & awaken process.

NOT EXACTLY MISTAKEN IDENTITY

I should mention that I don’t feel completely comfortable talking about mistaken identity. It works in this context, with this TV episode, but is not competely accurate.

It’s not wrong that we are this human self. It’s just not what we more fundamentally are in our own first person experience.

The two already co-exist (they are aspects of the same), and we can notice the validity in both and live from and as both.

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Phases in an awakening process

What are some of the phases and themes in an awakening process?

It’s always individual, but there are also some common themes.

When we write about these types of things, we can do it from oneness or from the perspective of the apparently separate self. Either one has value. Here, I’ll switch from one to the other.

HUMAN SELF VS WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

In the world, to others, and to ourselves when we take on that identity, we are a human self.

And to ourselves, in my own first-person experience, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here – of this human self, others, situations, the wider world, and anything else. And this timeless now it all happens within is self-cleaning, always forming itself into something new and fresh.

I also find that any content of experience happens within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as what I am.

The oneness I am forms itself into the world as it appears to me.

This oneness can form itself into separation consciousness. It can take itself to be something in particular within the content of experience – typically a mental representation of this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

And it can “wake up” to itself as oneness and live from this noticing and visceral knowing.

BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE

Early in life, the oneness we are forms itself into something amazing that helps our human self operate and function in the world. This is what we can call a psyche or ego in a psychological sense.

The psyche is a kind of operating system for the human self, it normally develops and matures over time, and a well-functioning operating system is essential for our human self to live in the world.

In itself, this has little to do with awakening or separation consciousness. Oneness can develop a relatively healthy and functional operating system whether it consciously notices itself (awake) or operates from separation consciousness.

CONTINUED SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

In most cases, the oneness we are continues to operate from separation consciousness through the lifetime of its human self. There is nothing wrong in that.

Even here, there are times when oneness operates more from oneness and less from separation consciousness, for instance in flow states, when there is ease and enjoyment, and so on. This may be experienced as enjoyable, and oneness likely won’t consciously recognize what’s happening beyond that.

On the continuum from oneness recognizing itself versus functioning from separation consciousness, oneness often moves somewhere between the two. Occasionally, it may go more to one or the other extremes. Most of the time, it’s somewhere more in the middle. And it may never consciously recognize itself as oneness.

INITIAL INTEREST

In some cases, oneness may have a stronger longing for finding itself again as oneness.

At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. (For me, this took the form of a strong longing through childhood and I had no idea what it was about until later.)

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under a vast open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Or we have glimpses and shifts and don’t see the use of it or it doesn’t grab us, so we leave it at that.

In many cases, this doesn’t go any further than a casual interest, and that’s fine too.

ACTIVE EXPLORATION

Oneness can then actively engage in an exploration of its nature.

We may explore and get to know maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

And we may engage in more direct explorations and some form of spiritual practice.

Some of these will help reorient us so we are more consciously aligned with how it is when oneness notices itself. (Heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines.) This makes it easier to live from noticing oneness if or when that eventually happens. And in either case, it tends to make our life a little more comfortable and enjoyable.

And some explorations help oneness notice itself more directly. (Basic meditation, structured inquiry, pointers.)

DIRECT NOTICING

Oneness may then notice itself more directly.

This can happen “out of the blue” without any obvious preparations and without any conscious interest in spirituality or awakening. (As was the case for me. It happened when I was sixteen, and I was an atheist at the time with no interest in spirituality.)

It can happen suddenly and without much warning after a shorter or longer period of practice.

And it can happen more deliberately through following structured inquiry and pointers. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can both lead people to notice their nature relatively easily and quickly without much preparation.

EARLY NOTICING: BELLS AND WHISTLES

The early noticing may come with or without bells and whistles. (The side-effects of noticing our nature, which can include strong states, unusual experiences, and so on.)

If it’s more neutral and free of bells and whistles, we may avoid distracting ourselves with the bells and whistles. The downside is that we may tell ourselves it’s too simple and familiar and we either abandon the exploration or keep looking for something else that fits our ideas about what it’s about.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Both happened in my case. I both noticed the essence of my nature when the shift happened in my teens. And I got somewhat distracted by states and experiences and ended up partly chasing states for a while.

Either way, this is not wrong and is often a temporary phase of the process.

The invitation here is to notice the essence of our nature. To find ourselves as capacity, and what the world to us happens within and as.

KEEP NOTICING

When oneness notices the essence of its nature, the invitation is to keep noticing.

We can learn to notice our nature independent of and through changing states and experiences.

Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

And when we get caught in separation consciousness, it’s an invitation to notice what’s happening. What painful identity or belief was triggered? What did I trigger in myself?

LIVING FROM AND AS IT

Through all of this, we are invited to live from noticing our nature, or our nature noticing itself as all there is.

How is it to live as oneness in this situation? How is it to perceive and live from my heart?

How is it to recognize even this experience, this uncomfortable one, as a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that my nature and its nature is the same?

TRANSFORMATION OF OUR HUMAN SELF

This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

DARK NIGHTS

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

In my case, I first went through one for a few years – maybe fifteen years after the initial shift – where it felt like “I” had lost it and I felt deeply off track. Then, there was a period of an absence of apparently any sense of separate self. And ten years after the first dark night, I was plunged into a much more dramatic dark night. This one was full of health challenges, loss in most or all areas of life, disorientation, a sense of deeper undoing of my human self, and intense and overwhelming primal survival fear and old trauma surfacing.

OUR CENTER OF GRAVITY

Our metaphorical center of gravity – what we viscerally take ourselves to be – tends to shift in this process. And typically more than once.

One of the major shifts is from separation consciousness to oneness.

It may seem as if we as the separate self notice our more fundamental nature as capacity, oneness, love, and so on. Even if we genuinely notice our nature, many dynamics and parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness, so that’s where our center of gravity largely is.

And when the separation consciousness dynamics are more worn out, it’s more clear that this is our nature noticing itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is. Love notices itself as all there is.

ONGOING PROCESS

Exploring our nature and how to live from it is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.

There is always more to explore and get familiar with. There is always more healing and maturing for our human self. There are always more shifts, and these will tend to be both surprising and familiar.

ENGAGEMENT AND GRACE

And all of it is ultimately grace.

Our interest, effort, engagement, and so on is grace. It’s given to us. It’s life showing up that way through and as our life.

Any shifts are grace. We cannot make them happen, we can just prepare the ground to the best of our ability.

Whatever happens, whether a thought calls it a setback or progress, is grace. It’s the oneness we are exploring itself as whatever happens.

It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

HOW WE SLICE THE CAKE

We can make different maps for any terrain, highlighting some features and leaving others out. And any map will reflect our own time and culture and what we are familiar with from our own process, and what we hear from others.

This particular map reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. Others will make other maps that may be equally or more valid than this one, and fit a bigger set of data better.

AN INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

A summary of the phases outlined here could be: (1) No interest. (2) Interest. (3) Active and dedicated exploration. (4) Direct noticing. (5) Keep noticing. (6) Exploring living from it. (7) Transformation of our human psyche and life. (8) Dark nights. (9) Shifts in center of gravity.

These don’t necessarily happen in this sequence. Not everyone goes through all of them. And the last three are more themes or phases that can happen throughout the process.

This is always an individual process. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

For instance, all of these phases and elements have been part of my process, but not exactly in the order outlined here. (I was plunged into oneness first, and the interest and conscious exploration happened as a consequence of that.)

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Perception of doership when we notice our nature

I find myself writing a short series of articles on how our perception of different things – distance, movement, time, and so on – may change when we notice our nature.

Here is one on our perception of doership.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

In the world, it’s important for me to take responsibility for my actions, words, and choices.

It helps me live in a slightly more mature way. It’s more in integrity. And it helps me see things about myself more accurately which may lead to changes. (There is a lot of room for improvement.)

If I don’t take responsibility, I can notice it through some of the telltale signs (blame, victimhood, etc.) and I can use it to find the fear behind it. What’s the scary story? What am I afraid would happen if I took responsibility for my own words, choices, and actions in this situation? What’s the identity that’s threatened?

THIS HUMAN SELF IS LIVING ITS OWN LIFE

I can then find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I can find myself as that which the world, to me, happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am to myself.

Here, I notice that all content of my experience lives its own life – this human self, thoughts, feelings, choices, actions, other people, ecosystems, the wider world. It’s all living its own life. It’s all happening on its own.

Within stories, I can tell myself that everything has infinite causes stretching back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and the widest extent of space (if there is any).

And in my immediate noticing, it’s all living its own life.

IN DAILY LIFE

In daily life, there are both.

I aim at taking responsibility for my own choices, actions, and life – and don’t always succeed. (Any time I go into a stressful story, it’s a sign I am not taking responsibility as much as I could.) This helps me live with a bit more integrity and it helps me mature a bit more.

And I notice that this human self is happening on its own like anything else. This takes some of the stress out of it and there is less interference from the idea of fundamentally being a doer.

SHIFTS HIGHLIGHTING THIS

As I have written about elsewhere, in an awakening process, there are often shifts that highlight certain aspects of what we are.

In this case, I experienced several shifts around fifteen years ago that brought the “this human self is living its own life” aspect to the foreground. These were shifts into a stronger disidentification with any content of experience, and they made it blindingly clear that this human self is happening on its own. (There were many similar types of shifts during that period.)

And these shifts have helped me notice it later on, even when this aspect is less obviously in the foreground.

Note: I have written similar articles on distance, movement, time, the physical, and this human self.

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The logic of awakening & the inevitability of what we are and how it plays itself out

This is another topic I feel drawn to revisit.

What are we in our own first-person experience? What are we to ourselves? What is the world to us?

We can explore this in our own direct experience, and that can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and our human self.

And we can also explore it logically, which can lead to and possibly support a more immediate exploration.

When I explore it logically, arriving at what we are – our nature – seems inevitable. And perhaps it looks that way since I have explored it in my immediate noticing since my teens. I shape the steps to fit what I notice in immediacy.

THE INEVITABILITY OF WHAT WE ARE

What are these logical steps apparently arriving at the inevitability of what we are?

Here is one version:

  1. There is consciousness.
    • This is indisputable, as far as I can tell.
  2. This consciousness has content.
    • We label this content this human self, others, the wider world, and so on.
    • All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – are content of consciousness.
  3. To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • All the content of our experience comes and goes. Nothing stays.
    • This also applies to our human self and any ideas we have about our human self.
      • This human self is more ephemeral than we may tell ourselves. This human self comes and goes. For instance, in a dream we may be someone else or not present at all. Our experience of this human self, including our ideas about it, is always changing.
    • To ourselves, we are more fundamentally consciousness.
  4. The world, to us, happens within and as what we are.
    • To us, the world happens within and as consciousness, what we are to ourselves.
    • Our nature forms itself into the world as we experience it here and now.
  5. We are capacity.
    • One characteristic of consciousness is capacity.
    • Consciousness is capacity for any and all of the content of its experience.
    • We are capacity for the world, as it appears to us.
  6. We are oneness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as consciousness.
    • This consciousness forms itself into any and all content of experience, including this human self, others, the world, and so on.
    • Consciousness is one, no matter what experience it forms itself into.
    • To ourselves, we are oneness.
  7. Separation consciousness
    • Consciousness can take itself to primarily be one particular part of its content.
    • Consciousness can take itself to be this human self, a doer, an observer, and any concept.
    • This is how separation consciousness is created.
  8. Awakening
    • Consciousness can notice itself as consciousness.
    • This is what some spiritual traditions call awakening.
    • It can happen through intention, practice, or without any conscious work or desire.
    • The noticing happens here and now, and learning to keep noticing, clarifying, deepening, and living from it is a process.
    • This process is ongoing and has no finishing line.
  9. Universality
    • The essence of this has been described by people across time and cultures, it seems universal.
    • Mystics from all the major spiritual traditions, and outside of any tradition, talk about finding themselves as capacity (“God-head”), oneness, and so on. And they speak in very similar ways about the process leading up to noticing, and the process of living from this noticing.
  10. A psychological understanding of awakening
    • This is a more psychological understanding of awakening.
    • It doesn’t rely on spirituality or spiritual terminology, although what it describes is the same.
    • It says something about what we are in our own first-person experience.
    • It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality. It doesn’t rely or depend on words like Spirit, God, or Brahman.
    • That makes it more accessible to people independent on their existing worldviews.
    • And it can also provide common ground for people who are exploring and finding this, independent on whatever spiritual tradition or religion – if any – they belong to.

I realize that some may have arguments with some or all of these steps. That’s the job of the mind.

For instance, someone may agree that to ourselves, we are consciousness, oneness, etc. And yet, they may not see it as possible for consciousness to “wake up” to itself in this way because it’s outside of their current experience and the worldview they are familiar with.

I also realize that this can seem abstract and intellectual if we haven’t tasted it for ourselves, in our immediate noticing. (In my case, the noticing came before finding this apparent logic.)

And I am sure there are other ways of phrasing this that are more to the point and make more sense.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS AND AWAKENING

I thought I would say a few more words about separation consciousness and awakening since that’s of particular interest to me.

For me, the essence of how separation consciousness and awakening plays itself out also has a logic in it. Although there is a wild diversity in how each is expressed and lived out, there is also an apparent inevitability in its essence.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

The oneness we are can take itself as fundamentally something in particular within the content of experience. Typically, this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

This happens, at least partially, through social learning. We are taught to take ourselves to be, most fundamentally, this human self. So we are good boys and girls and play the game so well we overlook our nature.

The specific ways separation consciousness unfolds is individual and always different.

And yet, there are some universals that inevitably come with separation consciousness.

This game of separation consciousness comes with inherent struggle and stress. Seeing ourselves as most fundamentally an object in the world, at the mercy of innumerable other objects, creates struggle and is stressful. And operating from a view out of alignment with reality does the same.

We also tend to operate from several blind projections. We see characteristics in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. This comes from and reinforces a sense of fundamentally being an I with an Other.

THE AWAKENING PROCESS

We don’t completely forget. Our nature is, inevitably, what’s most familiar to us. It’s all we ever know.

Here are some typical phases of the awakening process, and with the benefit of hindsight, the process looks relatively logical.

Initial interest

We may have a longing for finding ourselves again as oneness. At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. For me, it was a profound longing for coming home.

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under an open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Practice

We may engage in spiritual practice and explore maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

In the best case, this helps reorient us so it’s easier to notice our nature and live from this noticing.

Noticing

We then notice our nature. Oneness notices itself.

If it’s without bells and whistles, it’s possible we’ll tell ourselves it’s too simple and obvious and keep looking for something else.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Keep noticing

We then realize this is about keeping noticing our nature. We can learn to notice it independent of and through changing states and experiences. Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

Living from it

Here, we explore how to live from this noticing. How do I live from a conscious noticing of oneness in this situation?

Transformation

This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

Dark nights

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

Always individual

This process is always individual. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

This is just an idealized and generalized outline. For instance, I have gone through or lived each of these steps or aspects, but not in the order outlined here.

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Some side-effects of the awakening: poor memory, dreamlike quality, etc.

The awakening process tends to have several side effects. Some of these happen during certain phases of the process. Not all are experienced in all cases. And some seem more or less unavoidable and inherent in the awakening itself. 

I’ll mention a few here that I am familiar with from my own experience and that seem relatively common based on what I hear from others.

POOR MEMORY

It’s quite common to experience poor memory at some point in the awakening process. Our memories used to feel solid and real, and now they feel ephemeral and difficult to grasp.

We may also have a more general sense of cognitive dysfunction. It seems that our mind doesn’t work very well, and may be surprised when we actually are able to function and do what we need to do. It’s as if the abilities miraculously come online when they are needed.

DREAMLIKE QUALITY

The world may have a dreamlike quality to us. It’s as if we can put our hand through it. It feels ephemeral.

The world and this human self – and any content of experience – feel like a dream to us.

This can feel disconcerting, although here too, we may find that we can still function fine in daily life.

THIS HUMAN SELF LIVES ITS OWN LIFE

Another common side effect is that this human self lives its own life.

Anything connected with this human self – thoughts, feelings, words, actions – happen on their own. 

It’s always this way. And noticing it is now more unavoidable.

IT’S NORMAL AND WE GET USED TO IT

All of this can be disconcerting to our mind at first.

And all of it is normal and we get used to it.

We may develop strategies for remembering certain things. (I write anything down that I may need to remember in the future.)

We trust that we will function OK in the world even if it appears like a dream to us.

And we also develop a trust in this human self being able to take care of itself, even if it is living its own life and anything connected with it is happening on its own.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

There is a reason why we may have these experiences, and it’s inherent in the awakening dynamic itself. 

Poor memory

In an unawake state, we tend to hold many of our thoughts – mental images and words – as inherently true. That gives them a charge for us, and it makes them seem real and substantial. This also applies to the mental representations we call memories, and the charge and sense of solidity make it easier to bring them up. It’s easier for us to remember things because these memories mean something to us.  

In an awakening, we tend to recognize all mental representations as just that. They are representations aimed at helping us orient and function in the world. They may be more or less accurate in an ordinary sense, and they are unable to hold any full, final, or absolute truth. For this reason, they tend to lose charge for us and they generally seem less substantial and solid. And that can make it more difficult for our mind to bring up memories. They don’t have as much charge for us, they are more ephemeral and less solid, and we recognize them as a mental creation happening here and now. 

Dreamlike quality

The world takes on a dreamlike quality because it always is like a dream to us. Dreams also happen within and as consciousness. And the world to us – this human self, the wider world, any content of experience – happens within and as consciousness. To us, it all happens within and as what we are, which a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, and it’s always that way. It’s just that we didn’t notice and now we do. 

Lives its own life

This human self appears to live its own life because that’s how it always is. Its thoughts, feelings, words, and actions are always happening on its own. All of it is living its own life. It’s just that in an unawake state, we added a sense of an “I” or “me” doing it (a human self, an observer, a doer, etc.), and now we recognize that as a mental add-on. 

NOTE

As mentioned earlier, there are many possible and typical side-effects of awakening. One is that thoughts quiet down. They appear when needed, and otherwise, it’s mostly quiet. There is just perception and a general absence of noticeable thought. And it’s not always this way. For instance, Byron Katie, rapports a great flow of thoughts, and that’s perhaps why she was moved to formalize her approach to inquiry. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

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Awakening described in five levels of difficulty

I keep seeing YouTube videos where people explain something at different levels of complexity. 

So why not do it for awakening? 

How may it look if I describe it from the essence and then increasingly add more detail and differentiation? Here is my first go:

What is awakening? 

LEVEL 1 

At the simplest level, it’s about exploring what we really are in our own experience. 

To see what we find and see how it is to live from it. 

It’s as simple as that. 

LEVEL 2 

We can add another layer of detail. 

In one sense, we are this human self, a being in the world, and so on. That’s not wrong. 

And yet, when we look, what is it we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? 

This involves setting aside any ideas others tell us we are and we tell ourselves we are. Engage in a sincere and often guided exploration. See what we find in our own first-person experience. 

And then see how it is to live from that noticing and what it does with us. 

LEVEL 3 

This can be understood in a psychological or spiritual context. 

In a psychological context, awakening is just about discovering what we are in our own first-person experience. 

We have mental representations of this human self in the world, and we need those to orient and function in the world. And yet, when we look more closely, we may find we more fundamentally – to ourselves – are something else. 

Conventionally, we may say we “have” consciousness. And in our own first-person experience, we are this consciousness and all content of experience – including this human self, the wider world, and anything else – is happening within and as this consciousness. What we are forms itself into any and all our experiences. 

In that sense, all we have ever known and will ever know is what we are. All we have known and will ever know is our nature. 

In a spiritual context, we can go one step further. We can say that all of existence is the divine, and we are the divine first taking itself as a separate being and then reminding its own nature and oneness. 

The upside of the psychological interpretation is its simplicity and that it doesn’t require any particular worldview. It can help us ground our approach to awakening and living from and as oneness. 

The upside of the spiritual interpretation is that it *may* be more accurate in the bigger picture, and it can be more inspiring. 

LEVEL 4 

What may we find when we explore our more fundamental nature? 

We may find ourselves as capacity for all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. 

And we may find ourselves as what any and all experiences, and the world to us, happens within and as. 

Noticing this is the first step. And it doesn’t necessarily involve a long and complicated process. 

Simple guidance from someone familiar with this terrain may be enough, for instance using the Big Mind process or the Headless experiments. 

The next step is to keep noticing this in more and more situations in our daily life, and over time deepen the groove of this new noticing habit. 

And to explore living from it. How is it to live from noticing my nature? How is it to live from noticing that the world and all of existence, to me, is one? 

What does this do to me? What does the noticing do to where my “center of gravity” is in terms of what I most fundamentally take myself to be? What does it do to me to intend to live from this noticing in more situations and more areas of my life? 

The noticing itself is relatively simple. It doesn’t ask that much from us. 

And to keep noticing it and to live from it asks everything from us. 

It involves a profound transformation of our most fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche. 

And it requires a deep healing at our human level. It requires deep healing of all the different parts of our psyche still caught up in separation consciousness, and emotional issues, hangups, beliefs, and traumas. 

We can notice our nature and even, to some extent, live from it, while also having many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception and life, and they will sometimes be more actively and obviously triggered. 

In an awakening process, they’ll come up metaphorically asking to join in with the awakening. Asking to reorient within the context of finding ourselves as oneness. And find deeper healing through that. 

LEVEL 5 

A couple of things here are relatively simple. 

It doesn’t necessarily take much for us to notice our nature, especially with skilled guidance. 

And it doesn’t take that much to understand all of this, to some extent, at a story level. 

Both of those are good starting points. And the real work is in living it. 

The real work is in keeping noticing our nature, exploring how it is to live from it, and inviting the many parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to align more closely with oneness. 

There is always further to go in the noticing, living, and realigning of the many parts of us. 

It’s an ongoing process. 

What are some of the many things we may discover or experience? 

We may go through dark nights. As I see it these days, these are phases where our system holds onto deeper assumptions and identities and life puts us in a situation where these don’t work anymore. There are many types of dark nights, including one I am familiar with where deep trauma comes up to heal and align with the awakening. 

We may engage in different forms of structured inquiry and explore certain processes more in detail. We may notice what happens when our system holds onto a specific belief, examine this belief, and find what’s more true for us and how it is to live from this. 

We may explore our sense fields. We may notice how our mental field is a kind of overlay on the rest of the content of our experience to make sense of it all. Our mental representations help us orient and navigate in the world. 

We may see how our mind associates certain mental representations (mental images and words) with certain bodily sensations. The mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations, and the sensations give a sense of solidity to the mental representations. This is how the mind creates beliefs and identities for itself, and also emotional issues, hangups, and traumas. 

This is also how the oneness we inherently are creates an experience for itself of I and Other. It’s how separation consciousness is created. It’s a relatively basic mechanism behind separation consciousness. 

We may find that mental representations (thoughts) are questions about the world. Their function is to help us orient and navigate in the world. They are different in kind from what they point to. They simplify. In a conventional sense, they are more or less accurate. And they cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any thought, and also – in a sense – far more simple. 

As we explore this in more detail, we may discover more places where our systems hold onto identities and assumptions about ourselves and the world. We may find an identification as an observer, as consciousness, as oneness, as love, as capacity for the world, and so on. In each of these cases, the mind creates a mental representation for itself, associates it with certain physical sensations, and identifies with the viewpoint of that mental representation and its story. 

This is an ongoing process.

ABOUT THESE STEPS 

These steps are obviously somewhat arbitrary, and they turned out to be more about adding another layer of detail than explaining awakening in different levels of complexity. If I did it again, I may be able to follow the assignment more accurately…! 

I would likely also include more about the heart and energetic aspects and more about the dynamics of living from noticing our nature.

I am also aware of how these steps roughly mirror my own process. During the initial awakening shift in my teens, oneness woke up to itself. I wasn’t aware of the more detailed mechanisms and so on. All that came through different forms of inquiry and other practices later on. 

Note: If I wanted to point to it more directly in the first level, I could say: “It’s the one pretending to be two and then refinds itself as one and many simultaneously”. This is not wrong, but I prefer to emphasize the questions and exploration since it more clearly leaves the finding up to the person. Pointing to it more directly can give some a sense that they get it even if they only get it at a conceptual level. As mentioned above, that’s a good first step but it’s not what this is about.

Photo: A snapshot I recently took from the land that chose us in the Andes mountains.

The transformations of awakening

In what way is awakening transformative?

If we keep noticing our nature and living from this noticing, it can be transformative in several ways.

OUR CENTER OF GRAVITY SHIFTS

Our center of gravity – the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be – shifts from our human self towards our nature. It shifts into noticing our nature as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and as what our world – our human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

It shifts from who to what, although both are there and there will be some fluidity in where our center of gravity is depending on our attention and what’s required in the situation.

OUR PERCEPTION SHIFTS

Our perception transforms. It shifts from separation consciousness to oneness.

The mind generally shifts from identifying with the viewpoint of certain thoughts to noticing itself as capacity and what our experiences – of the whole world including us – happen within and as.

There will still be assumptions and thoughts the mind identifies with, either without noticing or in a more conscious way. These are inherently out of alignment with reality, create stress, conflicts, and discomfort, and this is the sign that we are holding onto a mental representation as true and an invitation to identify this, investigate, and find what’s more true for us.

OUR LIFE SHIFTS

Our life tends to transform. It will be more aligned with living from oneness.

To the extent we notice our nature and sincerely aim at living from it, it transforms. And to the extent we sincerely and diligently explore whatever in us is out of alignment with oneness, it transforms.

OUR HUMAN SELF SHIFTS

Our human self and psyche transform.

We have innumerable psychological parts, many or most of these were formed within and operate from separation consciousness, we are likely not aware of many of them, and the invitation is for these to shift into being more aligned with reality, with oneness and love.

This is an ongoing process. It can be messy. It’s sometimes confusing, scary, and overwhelming. We sometimes muddle our way through it. And over time, we gradually get more used to it. We find ways to relate to what’s coming up that are more aligned with reality. (E.g. the befriend + wake up process.)

REALITY IS MORE THAN AND DIFFERENT FROM THIS, AND ALSO SIMPLER

Any map is inevitably simplified and idealized. And this is bare-bones outline is no exception.

It’s all an ongoing process. It requires us to join in and engage with the process. It’s often messy. Our perception and life are inevitably colored by the parts of us still operating from separation consciousness, and sometimes our conscious view is hijacked by these as well. The process also lives its own life and we – if we take ourselves to be anything other than all of it – are along for the ride.

And ultimately, all of it – with no exception – is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as this.

It’s life playing itself out.

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Is awakening overrated?

Is awakening overrated? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.

Mainly, it depends on how we rate awakening and what we expect from it.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AWAKENING

Some people have misconceptions about awakening and engage in wishful thinking.

They may assume it will fix all their problems. It’s a state that doesn’t allow for any discomfort, sadness, anger. It may give us special powers. And so on.

This is what Adya calls the “dream of the ego”. When we assume we most fundamentally are a being in the world, this is what we think will fix what seems wrong.

If our motivation is some form of wishful thinking, then awakening may seem overrated. It’s far more simple and more ordinary. It won’t fix our problems. It’s not a state. (Apart from a state of noticing.) It doesn’t give us any special powers.

DARK NIGHTS

There are also several challenges in the awakening process.

We tend to go through several types of dark nights. Periods where we are faced with whatever is left in us of old assumptions, identifications, and unprocessed materials.

These periods can be among the most challenging things we have experienced. They bring us to our knees and beyond.

If we assume the awakening process is only pleasant and we live through a dark night, the awakening process may seem overrated.

HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

When we live from noticing our nature, life tends to give us swift and strong feedback if we are out of alignment with what’s true for us. When we stray from authenticity, sincerity, and kindness, life tends to show us and not always in a pleasant way.

If we assume the awakening process is all about freedom, and we notice that life holds us to a higher standard of how we live our life and there is – in some ways – less freedom in how we live, we will get sobered up. The more invested we are in the idea of freedom, the more a part of us may see the awakening process as overrated.

WHAT WE ALREADY ARE

Awakening is about noticing our nature and living from this noticing.

It’s about noticing what we already are.

We may assume that awakening is about something far away and special and unfamiliar. When we discover that it’s about what’s already here and what we – in a sense – are more familiar with than anything, a part of us may feel that awakening is overrated.

WON’T SAVE THE WORLD / NO QUICK FIX

Similarly, if we assume awakening somehow will save the world in a conventional sense, or fix anything apart from our mistaken identity, we are in for some healthy disillusionment.

PROFOUND TRANSFORMATION

There are also several ways awakening is not overrated.

It brings a profound shift in what we take ourselves to be.

It brings a profound transformation in our perception.

It brings a profound shift in how we relate to anything.

And when we live from noticing what we are, it – over time – invites a profound transformation of our human self.

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Phases in the awakening process, and maturing in spirituality

We can come up with any number of maps and models for the awakening process. Many of these fit much of the data we have, and they also tend to reflect our own biases, experiences, tradition, and culture.

I’ll outline a few general phases many seem to go through. And this fits, more or less, my own process as well. (I did skip the two first phases, see the last section.)

As with any phase model, any one individual process may look different. Some will skip some of these phases. Sometimes, a phase is baked into other phases. The path for some may look nothing like this. And many may not go further than the initial one or two phases.

POSSIBLE PHASES 

Casual interest. Many have a casual interest in spirituality. Something in it is fascinating to us and we are drawn to it, and we may enjoy going to some events or reading some quotes or books. And that’s about it. This may progress to more serious interest, or stay like this, or fade.

Either one is perfectly fine.

Fascinated by what’s bright and shiny. Early on, we may be drawn to the bright and shiny. We may be attracted to teachers, teachings, and traditions that are charismatic, appear confident, and tell us what we want to hear. This can especially happen if we haven’t had a taste of what it’s about.

Engaging in more serious practice. At some point, which may be right away, we are called to engage in more serious practice. We devote time and energy to following pointers and practices from certain guides and traditions.

Here, we tend to focus more on the content than the packaging, and our discernment hopefully improves with experience and maturity.

A taste. We may have a taste of oneness, all as the divine, and so on. If the taste happened more spontaneously, it can function as a carrot, and, for a while, we may get caught up in chasing the experience.

If the taste comes from guided inquiry – like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process – several things may happen. We may find it interesting and not do anything more with it. We may feel it’s too simple and obvious, and it doesn’t fit our preconceived notion, so we dismiss it. Or we may engage in continued finding and exploration of what we are.

Learning to find and live from. When we more reliably can notice our nature, our invitation is to keep noticing in more situations in daily life and exploring how to live from it. Over time, this becomes a new habit.  

Inviting the human self to transform within it. Here, we may notice that many parts of our human self still operate from separation consciousness. These color our perception and life. And when they are triggered, we may get caught up in them for a while. We get caught up in the insanity of these scared parts of us instead of noticing and living from our nature.

An important part of this process is to notice these parts of us and invite them to join in with oneness and transform within oneness.

Dark nights. It’s common to experience different types of dark nights during an awakening process. We may have found the divine as all, and then it goes away and we respond with despair and loss. We may realize that none of what we believe is true the way we took it, including about spirituality, and have a kind of crisis. Our mind and heart open, and it also opens to anything unprocessed in us which then comes to the surface. (And this can feel disorienting, scary, and overwhelming.)

There are many other variations than the three I mentioned here. Common to them all may be that they help wear off some of our more cherished and essential assumptions about ourselves, life, and awakening. And although I inserted the dark night section here, it’s somewhat arbitrary. We can have dark night phases during any part of the awakening process.

Deepen into oneness and transformation. If we keep noticing, keep exploring living from it, and invite more of our human self to align within oneness, we may find that all of this gradually clarifies, deepens, and becomes more natural. We may also recognize that this is all ongoing and there is no endpoint.  

ASPECTS OF THE PATH 

In addition to phases, there are also aspects or characteristics of the path.

Religion vs. spirituality. Some may go into or stay within a religion. They may do it for the community, comfort, and promise of some kind of salvation, or to engage in serious practice. Some may go into a more general spirituality that’s open for pointers and practices from many different traditions or that’s outside of any tradition.

Ideology vs pragmatics. We may engage in wishful or fearful thinking, believe whatever a teacher or tradition tells us, and go into ideologies. Or we may take a more pragmatic approach, hold whatever we are told lightly, engage in a serious practice, and see what works.

The world as a mirror. We may take the world as “out there” and more or less as it appears. Or we can use it as a mirror. We can use it by turning our stories about the world to ourselves and find specific examples of how it’s true. We may that, to us, it happens within and as our sense fields. We may find that our stories about the world, including the most basic assumptions and labels, come from an overlay of our own mental images and words. We may find that the world – any content of experience – happens within and as what we are.

Relationship with thoughts. We may take our thoughts as true and saying something real about the world. Or we may recognize thoughts as thoughts, as questions about the world, as serving a pragmatic function, as often only partially correct in a conventional sense, and as unable to hold any full, final, or complete truth.

This is an ongoing exploration since our system usually holds some thoughts and basic assumptions as true even if it doesn’t match our conscious view. These inevitably color our perception and life. And we may not be aware of these until one or more of them are triggered.

Finding effective tools. We may stay with the tools given to us by a guide or tradition. (Which may work fine or very well.) We take a more pragmatic approach, find what works for us, and learn which tools do what and apply them as needed. Or we do both, staying with the tools of a certain tradition and also exploring outside of this tradition.

Recognizing our own authority. Some may be tempted to give away their authority, especially early in the process. After a while, we may realize that we are always the final authority when it comes to our own choices and actions. Even when we pretend to give away our authority, we are our own final authority.

States vs our nature. For a while, we may experience unusual and amazing states, assume it’s about states, and chase states. At some point, we realize that this is about our nature, not states. And we can notice our nature here and now, independent of whatever states or experiences are here. (Unless they are very strong, our noticing is not so strong, and our attention gets distracted.)

Living for ourselves vs the larger whole. We can go overboard in either direction here, or life places us in a situation where we get to explore one more than the other. Over time, we may find more of a balance in a conventional sense, and look a little deeper and find where one is the other. (For a while, I tended to ignore my own needs and instead serve others, which doesn’t work especially in the long run and comes from some issues and hangups. Then, life placed me in a health and life situation where I had no choice but to focus on and take care of myself. The situation was too urgent and I didn’t have the energy or resources for anything else.)

Growing and waking up. As many talks about these days, both are important. We can work on healing and maturing as a human being. And also notice our nature and live from this noticing. They go hand-in-hand, and if there is an awakening, life tends to put us in situations where we need to grow up. (That happens no matter what, but it seems to get intensified in this process.)

USE AND MISUSE OF ANY MAP OF PHASES

When we are presented with a map of phases, it can be helpful or not depending on how we use it.

It can be of help when we personally are going through certain phases. When I was in the darkest dark night, I listened to Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism, and especially the chapter on the dark night, over and over. Just about everything in it matched my experience, and it gave me some comfort knowing that others had gone through something similar. I felt a kinship to these people she wrote about, and I also went to some of the sources she used.

When we are in earlier phases, it can be moderately helpful to have a general map of the process. It gives us some idea of what to look out for, and it can help us avoid some of the pitfalls. (Although knowing about pitfalls is often not enough to avoid them, and we may need to gain our own experience.)

And as an awakening guide, it’s helpful to have a general map of the process. I assume just about anyone on this path eventually forms a map in their own mind of the process. And this map is often based on their personal experience, what they have seen from others, and maps created by others.

The idea of phases can also be less helpful.

It’s not so helpful if we use it to want to get to the next one. It’s better to just keep doing our practices and see what happens.

It’s not so helpful if we get caught up in placing ourselves and others in the different phases to see who is more “advanced” and so on. Life is more complex than that and there is a lot more going on than what’s described in any one model.

And it’s especially not helpful if we assume it has to be that way for everyone including ourselves. There are always cases that don’t fit a certain map or model. Life is always richer than any model. It’s always more than and different from any model.

As with so much, maps and models may be most helpful when we hold them lightly, use them for specific practical purposes, and know that reality is different.

MY OWN PROCESS AND BIAS

It may be important to say a few words about my own process since it explains some of my biases. And it’s also an example of how life doesn’t always conform to the map. My own process doesn’t fit all of the phases I listed above.

In my case, the initial awakening shift happened spontaneously in my mid-teens. I didn’t go through an initial casual fascination phase. On the contrary, I was an atheist and saw religion and spirituality as impractical, something people seek for comfort, and something to avoid.

Since it happened outside of any tradition, I have felt free to explore any tradition. And I also tend to take a pragmatic approach and find and use what works for me whether it’s from a tradition or outside of traditions.

As mentioned earlier, I have gone through a relatively dense dark night. For me, it had to do with a lot of primal fear and trauma surfacing so it could join in with the awakening. It hasn’t been so strong recently, but it’s still very much a focus for me. It’s a process of allowing it to work on me. Healing my relationship with it and life. Inviting in healing for the trauma itself. And recognizing it all as flavors of the divine.

My main focus these days is to invite the different parts of me to join in with oneness.

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Our individual history flavors how we talk about awakening

The essence of awakening is universal, and the way we live and talk about it will depend on our culture, spiritual tradition, and personal experiences. (And if we eventually meet non-human beings with an interest in awakening, we may also notice that our biology and physical characteristics also flavors how we live and talk about it.)

I see that I have some perspectives based on my own history that are a bit outside of the mainstream in the awakening world, although not that unusual.

The awakening shift happened early in my life, when I was fifteen and sixteen. I was an atheist and had no interest in religion, spirituality, or awakening. And I had done nothing for it to happen.

All of that gives me a certain take on it all.

I have lived with it for quite a while now. I am not tied to any one particular religion or tradition. And my experience with different practices has more to do with clarifying and inviting the different parts of me to align with the awakening more than finding what awakening is about.

This also means that although I appreciate the different traditions, my preference is to find ways to talk about it that are more immediate and fit even non-spiritual worldviews.

Similarly, I am more interested in finding effective ways to notice what we are and live from it, than using approaches from any particular tradition. I prefer pragmatics over tradition, although there is a lot to learn from the different traditions.

And since it happened without any intention on my part or any previous practice, I am open for it happening in any number of ways for others. I don’t have any particular expectations of how it “should” look in terms of when and how and what goes before.

Another aspect of my journey has been going through a quite dense dark night for more than a decade. That too flavors how I see and talk about it. I know how difficult it is. I know there are many different types of dark nights. (The most intense for me has been the dark night of trauma, when deep trauma surfaces to join in with the awakening.) I know some of the things that can help a bit, and that it needs to run its course.

I should also mention that I have loved science since I was very little, and wanted to become a scientist. (I have a graduate degree but my health challenges put an end to any further career in science.) And that too colors my approach to awakening. I prefer a pragmatic approach, trying out things to see the effects, comparing my experiences with the reports of others, and being as intellectually honest as I can about all of it.

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Adyashanti: If you want to become more conscious, you’re becoming more conscious of the whole thing—your heaven and your hell

If you want to become more conscious, you’re becoming more conscious of the whole thing—your heaven and your hell.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

If we engage in a process of bringing more of who and what we are into consciousness, it may at first seem that we have a choice of what we bring into consciousness. And, at some point, the rest tends to follow, whether we want or not. It’s all tied together.

For instance, we may engage in meditation to find more tranquility, equanimity, and stability in our life. For a while, that may be the effect. And then, at some point, other things that were excluded from our conscious awareness wants to join in, and this may not be just pleasant. We may think we invite in our heaven, and then our hell follows.

This is not bad or wrong. We have just supported a natural healing process. And when we do, eventually all of who and what we are wants to join.

This happens in any deeper healing process.

AWAKENING PROCESS

And it also happens in a real awakening process, and sometimes even more quickly and thoroughly.

The more we notice our nature and rest in that noticing, the more all of what we are tends to come to the surface. It all wants to join in with the noticing, and realign and find healing within the noticing.

And that includes our heaven and hell. It includes bliss and joy as well as buried trauma, wounds, fear, and terror.

If the latter comes up in one package, it can last for months or years and be experienced as a very difficult dark night. (In my case, it has lasted roughly a decade and it’s still ongoing although currently in a gentler form.)

It’s not always a pleasant process, but it is a process of allowing it all to be seen, felt, and realign within the noticing of what we are.

BUYER BEWARE

Ultimatly, we as an imagined separate individual don’t have much choice or say in the process. Not in the apparent start of it and not in how it all unfolds.

And yet, it is good to let people know what they may be getting into if they start any form of healing or awakening practice. It’s good to screen people for trauma and give these additional support. And it’s good to present a map of possibilities so people can be moderately prepared and know who to turn to for assistance if or when challenging material surfaces.

Ultimately, this is all part of an overall healing and awakening process. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s not bad. But for some, it can feel quite overwhelming, disorienting, and scary. And it’s good to have the support from someone who has gone through it themselves and can guide with some kindness, wisdom, and maturity.

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Is awakening an experience?

Some would say that if the “spiritual experience” goes a bit further, it’s not an experience anymore. It’s what we are noticing itself. It’s a noticing, not an experience. Although, for me, a noticing is a kind of experience. I understand where they are coming from, and appreciate the distinction, but feel it’s a bit idealized.

– from a previous post

I thought I would say a few more words on this.

It is popular, in some circles, to say that awakening is not an experience.

So is awakening an experience? I would say yes and no, neither and both, and it depends.

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

We can say it is noticing what we are, and really what we are noticing itself.

Or that it is to notice our nature, which is capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what the world to us happens within and as.

This can sound very abstract if we don’t have a personal experience or noticing of it. And it can seem simple and obvious when there is that noticing.

IN WHAT WAY IS AWAKENING NOT AN EXPERIENCE?

Awakening is what we are noticing itself as all there is.

To us, the world happens within and as what we are.

Awakening does not happen within the content of our experience. It’s not dependent on any particular content of experience. We can notice what we are whether we experience elation or depression, sadness or joy, or anything else. It’s not dependent on any particular state.

And it can and will be reflected in the content of our experience. It will impact the content of our experience, to some extent. At first, our thoughts and emotions may respond with surprise, elation, fear, or something else. And over time, as we keep noticing what we are, our human self will transform within this noticing and align with it more consciously.

If we look for awakening as an experience and within our content of experience, we are looking in the wrong place. Sometimes, we may need to look in the wrong place for a while. And we may also use structured inquiry to guide our attention so we may more easily notice what we are.

IN WHAT WAY IS AWAKENING AN EXPERIENCE?

We can say that the noticing itself is an experience. Although perhaps a slightly different type of experience than most other experiences.

In a conventional sense, it happens within a timeline. We can often put a time period or even a specific day or minute for when the initial noticing happened. In that sense, it’s an experience.

As mentioned above, it does impact the content of our experience. Our system has a reaction to it. And if the noticing happens over time, our human self will transform within that noticing. In this sense, there is certainly an experience component to awakening.

And to others where this noticing may not be happening right now, it certainly looks like an experience. They (we) don’t have another option but to see it as an experience since that’s all we consciously know and are aware of.

POINTERS

When some say “awakening is not an experience”, it’s a pointer.

It’s meant as medicine for a condition, and the condition is to (mistakenly) assume that awakening is an experience and look for it within the content of experience.

It has a practical function only and is not meant to be any final, full, or absolute truth.

And that’s the same when I nuance it here. It’s meant as a pointer. As a support in unsticking from any one particular idea about awakening being an experience or not.

Dialog with awakening

I saw a post from Jeff Foster that I, for a second, read as “I am sorry, awakening”. The title was “A sorry awakening”, but I like my misreading and it gave me the impulse to have a dialog with awakening.

Hi awakening

Hi you

How are you?

I am fine. You?

I am OK. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?

Go ahead.

What are you?

Hm. I am what you see me as and much more. You consciously only get only a part of it. And I am also much less, since I am the most simple.

How does P. relate to you?

He got thrown into me when he was 15-16, without asking for it and without having much preparation or support, so he is a bit ambivalent about me. Since he got thrown into it, he is fascinated by me and is trying to get to know me better and understand me since he thinks it will help him navigate me and life.

Does it help him?

Well, to some extent. Although his intellectual understanding only helps to a small degree. It’s more about learning to swim in me, or rather swim in the noticing of what he is, as a fish swims in the water.

Is he learning to swim?

It’s happening. It’s a process.

Is P. awake?

You already know the traditional answer: P. cannot be awake since he is happening within and as what he more fundamentally am. That’s not wrong, but there is another way to see it. P. can be more or less conscious of what he more fundamentally am, he can live from it more or less wholeheartedly, and he can allow his unawake parts to join in with this noticing and awakening. Of course, all of that happens within and as what he is. It’s all movements of the mind, or life, reality, existence, the universe.

So what about him specifically?

Hm. He is in the process, as everyone is. He is no different from anyone else. Some are not conscious of what they are. Some have glimpses without recognizing it for what it is. Some have had glimpses, and then try to refind it. Some notice it without living from it so much. Some notice and live from it, in some situations and to some extent. Some consciously invite the unawake parts of them to join in with the noticing. And so on. He is somewhere in there, as everyone else.

You don’t seem too concerned about pinpointing it?

Right, it’s a process. Life brings up what he needs to explore here and now, and it’s perfect for where he is at. It cannot not be perfect. And that’s also how it is for every being.

How do you help him?

Hm. I am not sure if I help him. I am not here to help him. I am just a part of life. I am a part of the process of the life of all beings. He and others may think I help him, and they may seek me assuming I’ll help them, and that’s part of the process too. It’s not really true, although it may seem that way. It’s also not true that I don’t help. The question doesn’t really apply.

What do people not get about you?

Do you mean misconceptions? There are many, of course. They may think I am a “thing” they can find and get and own. They may think I’ll fix their problems. They may think I’ll give them only bliss. In general, people tend to project their hopes and dreams on me, and although the essence of it is not wrong, it’s also not the whole picture. With me comes what they tend to experience as challenges, discomfort, growing pains, and so on. All of this is, as I notice I like to say, part of the process.

I notice you don’t go into specifics very much?

I can, if you want. But life tends to take care of the specifics. Life gives all beings what they need to stay in this process. It’s unavoidable. It’s all happening within and as life. It’s all happening within and as what all beings already are. The process unfolds.

You talk about process?

Yes, I am a process. I am life unfolding. I am the unfolding of what all beings more fundamentally are.

You seem to talk about yourself in two ways: As the process of all life, and also as a more conscious noticing of what we more fundamentally are?

Yes, that’s true. Both are here.

All life happens as part of the unfolding, and you could say the unfolding within and as me. It all happens within and as the awakening process.

At the same time, most talk about me as the part of the process that happens after they get more consciously aware of me.

Are you the purpose of life?

No. I am just one of the aspects of how life unfolds. Any “purpose” is what’s here now, as it is.

Do people, in general, get you?

That’s a strange question. I am not really something to get. I am something that’s lived, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. It doesn’t matter if they “get” me or not, although they will be fascinated by me, explore me, learn about me, talk about me, and so on. And all of that is part of the unfolding and process too.

Going back to what gave P. the idea for this dialog: Does he, or anyone, have something to be sorry to you for?

You have some funny questions! I’ll play along. Not really, of course. All that’s happening is life unfolding. And yet, some may experience some remorse and so on. For instance, they may realize they put a lot of ideas on me, and perceived and talked and even – to some extent – lived as if it was true. They may feel an urge to say “I am sorry” when they realize that, which is also part of the process.

Would these questions and answers be different if they happened through someone else than P.?

Yes, of course. All of this is filtered through his filters – from culture, biology, the way this universe is set up and unfolding, and so on. Someone else will have different filters. Some of what comes out will tend to be more essential and (apparently) universal, and it will all be colored by the individual. This is life exploring itself through all beings, and in each case a little differently. It’s all part of the richness of life experiencing and exploring itself.

Do you have any advice for P.?

Just what he already knows. He is now in a new situation that requires him to get engaged more in life again, and that’s good for him. It’s the next step. It’s part of the cycles of life and his life.

The extraordinary and ordinary of awakening

Awakening can be talked about as extraordinary and ordinary, and even extraordinarily ordinary (!), and all of it has some truth to it.

THE EXTRAORDINARINESS OF AWAKENING

A spiritual opening or awakening can seem special and amazing in contrast to an unawake state. This can last for a while until the awakening becomes more familiar, lived, and – in a sense – ordinary.

Finding what we are gives us what we most deeply long for. When the One takes itself to be something separate within itself, it tends to create neediness, a sense of lack, and longing. And awakening is the solution for that neediness, lack, and longing.

When we notice what we are, we can more easily dissolve any wounds, hangups, and traumas we have as human beings in the world. It’s not an easy process, and it can be messy, but we are coming from the right place to do and allow it. (It partly comes from intention and doing, and partly allowing.)

Presenting it as special and amazing can be used as a strategy to attract people. It appeals to our wishes and dreams when we come from an unawake state. (To me, this seems a bit too deceptive, even if there is a grain of truth to it.)

THE ORDINARINESS OF AWAKENING

At the same time, awakening is simple and ordinary, and the essence of it is already familiar to us.

It’s the ordinary consciousness we are all familiar with that wakes up to itself as that which all happens within and as.

What we find we are has always been here. We have just been temporarily transfixed by the assumption that we most fundamentally are something within the content of experience (this human self), and we have taken the rest – consciousness, the rest of the world – as others. When we find what we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience, we realize we (also) are what we took to be background or context.

We discover that our world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are. This is compatible with just about any worldview, whether it is atheistic or spiritual of some kind.

Since, to us, the world happens within and as awakeness or consciousness, it may seem that all of existence IS awakeness or consciousness. But that’s a step beyond what’s in our immediate experience. It’s good to be honest about this and differentiate what’s our own nature and fits most worldviews, and what’s an assumption about reality itself and fits only more spiritual or religious worldviews.

This is all pragmatic, practical, and something we can explore for ourselves. We can also say it is, in a sense, logical and even inevitable. To ourselves, we most fundamentally have to be what our world happens within and as. We are not, most fundamentally, any particular content of our experience since it all – including this human self – comes and goes and is in constant change.

THE EXTRAORDINARY AND ORDINARY

If we only present awakening as extraordinary, we leave out the inherent ordinariness of it. And if we only present it as amazing and perhaps blissful, we leave out the messiness and challenges of the process. In both cases, we present only part of the picture, it’s misleading, and we are likely doing people a disservice.

If we only talk about the simplicity and ordinariness of it, we leave out how amazing it can seem when we first discover what we are, that it is what we most deeply have been seeking, and the ability of this noticing of what we are to dissolve wounds, hangups, and even – over time – trauma.

Including both gives a slightly fuller picture, and gives people a slightly more accurate idea of what the process may entail.

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The spiritual path & comparing ourselves with others

Comparing ourselves with others seems relatively universal although I am sure it plays out differently in different cultures. It’s also part of what fuels our current consumer culture, and advertisers know how to make use of it.

TWO WAYS TO COMPARE

There are two ways to compare ourselves with others.

One is for pragmatic reasons. It can give us useful information.

The other, which is often overlaid on the first one, is to make ourselves feel better or worse than others. This is not so useful. It can feel good to compare ourselves with someone and make up a story that we are somehow better than the other. But it’s a temporary victory since it means we inevitably are worse than someone else in the world, on the same scale, and we’ll inevitably be reminded of it. And it’s hollow since we know – somewhere in us – that it’s just a mind game.

In terms of spirituality, we can tell ourselves we are more advanced, sophisticated, or mature than someone else and it may feel good for a while. At the same time, we know we are less advanced, sophisticated, and mature compared with some other people. And we know, whether we acknowledge it or not, that it’s a mind game.

We cannot know for certain where people are in their process. We know we are comparing to make ourselves feel a bit better about ourselves. And we know it’s a losing game in the long run.

OUTSIDE VS INNER VIEW

When we compare ourselves with others, we often compare the public image of someone with our inside knowledge about ourselves.

We all have a public persona, which is more or less polished and inclusive. We present a certain image to the world and often leave out a lot of the confusion, pain, and unsavory attitudes and behavior. At the same time, we are often very aware of all the confusion, pain, and unsavoriness in our own life.

So it’s inherently an unfair comparison, and it tends to make us feel not so good about ourselves.

Often, it looks like the spiritual path and insights of others is clean, easy, and perhaps even joyful. And we know that our own spiritual path is windy, confused, didn’t go as planned, and so on.

HOW WE TALK ABOUT OUR SPIRITUAL PATH

The pain of comparison is greatly enhanced or diminished depending on the culture (or subculture) we are in.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers like to present a glossy image of their own path, and of the spiritual path in general, it can lead to a more unfavorable impression of our own path.

If we are in a culture where spiritual practitioners and teachers are open about the messiness of their own path, and the spiritual path in general, it can help us see that we are all in the same boat. My own messiness is less painful since I know it’s similar for others.

And if we are in a culture that encourages us to work with projections, then…

MAKING USE OF THE TENDENCY TO COMPARE

…we can make good use of the tendency to compare. We can use it as material for our own exploration, and to invite in healing and maturing, and even awakening and living from the awakening.

We can make a practice of finding in ourselves what we see in others. (And in others what we know from ourselves.)

We can identify and examine our painful comparing-thoughts and find what’s more true for us. (Often, that the story is not absolutely true, and that the reversals have validity as well.)

We can explore how the comparing appears in our sense fields. What are the sensation components? The mental image and word component? What happens when I differentiate the two and rest with each? What do I find when I follow the associations, for instance back in time to my earliest memory of having that feeling or thought?

Instead of indulging in thoughts and feelings relating to the messiness of our own path, we can take a pragmatic approach and make use of whatever comes up.

THESE DAYS

I am grateful that these days, in our culture, there is more transparency and openness about the messiness of the spiritual path. People seem to feel more free to share all aspects of their experience. And many work intentionally with projections and inquiry, which also helps.

A glossy image of the path may serve as an initial carrot. But in the longer run, it seems far more helpful to be open about everything that can – and often will – happen on a spiritual path, warts and all.

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Befriending and awakening contractions: How it works

I am enjoying the befriend & awaken process these days.

It’s simple. Direct. Intimate. And supports healing, awakening, and embodiment.

I have written about this before, directly and indirectly, and thought I would revisit the topic here.

How does the befriend and awaken process work?

WHAT IS A CONTRACTION?

A contraction typically has several aspects. The mind aspect can be labeled a stressful and unexamined belief, an emotional issue, trauma, an unloved part of us, and so on. The physical component is a bodily contraction or tension. And this is reflected in blocks in our energy system as well.

BEFRIENDING A CONTRACTION

The process can be as simple or complex as I wish – depending on what seems needed.

I notice the signs of a contraction. The signs of a contraction may be stress, tension, unease, discomfort, struggle, defensiveness, reactivity, and so on.

I bring attention to the physical sensations. This helps ground the attention, and it serves as an anchor so it’s easier to notice the fearful images and words without getting caught up in them. If I notice my attention wandering, or getting caught in stressful images and words, I can bring attention back to the physical sensations of the contraction. (These may and usually will shift over time.)

I thank the contraction for protecting me. Thank you for protecting me. When I have a contraction, I may not be aware that it’s here to protect me. It was formed to protect this human self and an apparent separate self. Also, I may not be very thankful for the contraction. I may see it as a problem.

Thanking it makes me more receptive to seeing if or that it’s here to protect me. Over time, as I befriend and get to know the contraction, I may find genuine gratitude for the contraction. This easier my relationship with it. I find more peace with it. I shift out of my previous struggle with it.

Also, noticing it as a contraction, noticing the physical components of it, and thanking it, helps me see it as an object. It’s a part of my experience here and now. It’s not all of what I am. It’s an object, not a subject. This helps recognize it if or when it comes up later, and it helps release identification with it.

I keep thanking it until I notice a significant shift in how I relate to the contraction, and I can return to the thanking at any point within a session or at a later time. The more I do it, with sincerity, the more shifts tend to happen.

I allow it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants. Again, I am often in a struggle with the contraction, and this struggle can be more or less conscious. I may try to contain it. I may try to make it go away. And this struggle is part of what keeps the contraction here, and the struggle dynamic is itself uncomfortable. By intentionally allowing it to get as big as it wants and stay for as long as it wants, I go against this old pattern in me. It helps me recognize the old pattern, and that something else is possible. It also helps the contraction itself to unwind and relax.

I notice the space it’s happening within. I cannot find an end to this space. I notice the space and the contraction at the same time. (I may also notice that the contraction has space within it, and perhaps that it is space.) Noticing it as something happening within (and as) infinite space helps “giving it” more space. It helps in recognizing it as an object and disidentifying with it.

I welcome it. At any point in the process, I may intentionally welcome the contraction. Parts of me typically see the contraction as a problem, and it’s not always welcome. When I intentionally welcome it, it goes against this tendency, shows me there is another way, helps me recognize that parts of me do not welcome it, and helps the contraction itself to relax.

I say I love you to the contraction. The more I see it’s here to protect me and comes from love, the easier it is to find genuine love for it. Love is the antidote to the previous struggle with the contraction.

I explore what it wants and needs, and the lack it is coming from. What do you want and need? What sense of lack do you come from? How is it to give it what it needs and wants? How is it to give it what it perceives it lacks? Here, I may explore a few universal needs and lacks.

Typically, I may try to fulfill the needs and wants through the world – people, situations, roles, labels, and so on. That works to some extent, but it doesn’t really work. It never fills the real and deeper needs, wants, and sense of lack.

The only one who can resolve this deeply, and give the contraction what it really needs and wants, is me. I am the only one in the position to do it. I am the only one who can get intimate enough with it since it’s part of me. I am the only one who can touch it.

If external pieces fall into place, I sometimes allow myself to give to the contraction what it needs and wants. I may give it love, safety, support, and so on. This gives temporary relief, but as soon as my external situation changes my relationship to these contractions may change. I may cut off my own love, support, and so on.

So why not do it directly? Why not, as Byron Katie says, cut out the middleman? Why not give to the contraction what it needs without waiting for external situations to change?

I may notice stressful beliefs and examine them. Contractions are created from stressful and unexamined beliefs, so one remedy is to notice these stories and examine them. I may do this informally as part of this process, or I write them down and examine them more thoroughly later. (For instance, using The Work of Byron Katie.)

GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

I approach the contraction with respect. This helps me allow it as it is, welcome it, find curiosity about it, and so on.

I find curiosity about the contraction. Curiosity is part of the whole befriending and awakening process. As long as I react to or act on the contraction, there isn’t much curiosity about it. Intentionally finding curiosity about it shifts my relationship to it. It helps me recognize it as an object, and it helps me explore and get to know it.

I take my time. I stay with and rest with each of these steps. I notice shifts. I notice what else may be needed. I return to some to see what happens. I may return to the whole process at another time.

This is an antidote to the typical quickness of reacting to or acting on the contraction, and the tendency to wish to not stay with it since it may seem uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

Through this process, I may find genuine love for the contraction. I see it’s here to protect me. It comes from love. And this makes it easier for me to find genuine love for it.

I allow this process to transform me. I allow the noticing and resting in the noticing to transform whatever is naturally transformed.

NOTICING THE NATURE OF THE CONTRACTION

After this, I may explore the nature of the contraction.

First, I notice my own nature. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as capacity for any content of experience, whether a thought may label it body, thoughts, emotions, the wider world, and so on. I notice I am what the content of my experience happens within and as. (If I need the help of some structured pointers, I can use Headless Experiments or the Big Mind process, or whatever else works.)

I notice how the contraction relates to what I am. I am capacity for it. It happens within and as what I am. I rest with this noticing.

I notice the contraction is, in a sense, capacity for itself. I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in that noticing and allow whatever needs to shift to shift.

Typically, I may see the contraction as an object and a thing. This noticing process helps me recognize its nature, and it invites it to notice its own nature. It’s easier the more familiar I am with noticing my own nature, and it’s much more simple and direct than it may seem from these words.

This noticing helps shift how I relate to the contraction. I notice its nature. It’s part of the field noticing itself. (There is no I or Other inherent in any of it.)

THE BENEFITS OF NAMING IT CONTRACTION

There are several benefits to calling it a contraction rather than some of the other possible labels. (Issue, belief, trauma, etc.)

It’s simple.

It points to something immediate in our experience.

It’s free of the many associations the other labels may have for us.

It doesn’t require or rest on any particular worldview or ideology.

The process itself supports psychological healing, awakening, and living from this awakening, without needing to use any of those words.

SUPPORTS HEALING, AWAKENING, AND EMBODIMENT

This process supports and invites in healing, awakening, and living from the awakening. And it does so without us having to use any of those words or even having that intention or aim.

All that’s required is a wish to notice and befriend contractions, notice its nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to transform me.

Emotional issues come from a stressful belief, identification with painful and unexamined stories, unloved parts of us, and so on.

If there is no noticing of what I am, it comes from holding stories as true, which in turn creates a sense of I and Other and fundamental separation.

If I don’t live from noticing what I am, it’s because I get caught up in unresolved emotional issues, beliefs, trauma, and so on.

And this process supports healing of all of that.

SHIFT FROM SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS TO ONENESS

The essence of this process is a shift in how I relate to the contraction.

When I operate from separation consciousness, I identify with the contraction (act on it) or react to it or both, and this creates struggle.

The befriending & waking up process helps shift out of this old pattern and into one that’s more aligned with oneness. It mimicks how I would relate to the contraction from noticing oneness, and it makes it easier to notice the oneness of it all.

ESSENTIAL AND INTIMATE PROCESS

For me, this is a very intimate process, and it goes to essence a wide range of spiritual practices.

When I look at the essence of other spiritual or healing practices, I find it’s typically something included in this befriending & waking up process.

It’s often about finding love for our experience. Examine stressful beliefs. Welcome what’s here. Notice what we are and the nature of our experiences. And so on.

And that’s what this process does in a simple, direct, and intimate way.

It doesn’t mean the other practices are not helpful. It just means that I have a simple and direct way of exploring it, and I can supplement it with any number of other practices.

Note: As I have mentioned in other posts, I have relatively strong brain fog these days (CFS) so these articles are often not as clear or well organized as I would have liked. A part of me wants to rewrite this to make it more clear and to the point, and another part of me knows that’s likely not to happen. So I decided to publish this version instead, with all its warts and imperfections. As someone said, the perfect is the enemy of the good. Or, in this case, the good-enough.

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Living from an idea of awakening

This is perhaps obvious, as so much here, but worth mentioning.

We can live from a direct noticing of our nature and what we are. (Capacity for our world, what everything to us happens within and as.)

We can live from our ideas about this.

And we can live from a mix of the two, and one more than the other at different times.

There is nothing wrong with this. It’s natural and innocent. And the images and ideas can be used as a springboard for a more direct noticing.

At the same time, it can be interesting and helpful to examine these mental images and ideas. As we do, they may lose their charge. We learn to recognize them. And we may learn to differentiate between our mental images and the actual direct noticing.

What are some of these mental images and ideas?

It may be awakening, oneness, love, capacity for the world, consciousness, awareness, and so on.

And how can we explore them?

There are many forms of inquiry we can use, either more spontaneous and organic, or more structured. Personally, I find Living Inquiries – a modern version of traditional Buddhist sense field inquiry – very helpful.

Difficulties in the awakening process

Yes, it can certainly feel that way at times.

The awakening process comes with many challenges. It’s a process of abandoning old and familiar identifications. It’s a process of trusting our own immediate noticing. It’s a process of unhealed material in us coming to the surface to join in with the awakening.

And none of that is necessarily easy or pleasant. It can be uncomfortable, scary, overwhelming, disorienting, and brings us face-to-face with what we may not have wanted to face in ourselves.

Freedom & spirituality: Does awakening lead to freedom?

Some who are into spirituality talk about freedom as one of their main motivations.

Although it’s hasn’t resonated so much with me, I thought I would explore it a bit.

What are some of the connections between spirituality and freedom?

For instance, does being in an awakening process lead to more freedom? As usual, the answer may be yes, not, and it depends.

YES

Yes, there may be more freedom in a few different ways.

We can find some freedom from reactivity. As we find more healing for how we relate to triggers and what’s triggered, we find more freedom in how we relate to both. Triggers may no longer be triggers, and what’s triggered may no longer be triggered. This means we can relate to it all with a little more clarity and kindness, instead of automatically being caught up in reactivity.

We can find freedom to experience what is as it is. As our struggle with life and reality lessens, there is more freedom to allow and welcome what’s here. We align more consciously with the allowing that’s already here, before any reactivity or intentional allowing.

We find freedom from exclusively taking ourselves as this human self, as a separate self.

NO

There are also a few ways we don’t find more freedom.

We tend to recognize that all our choices and activities have infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of this universe and out to the widest extent of the universe. Our local feelings, thoughts, insights, and actions are expressions of the whole.

We recognize that the idea of freedom (or not) is created by the mind, it’s not inherent in life or reality.

When we notice what we are, we see that any ideas of freedom or no freedom, and anything these ideas refer to, happen within and as what we are. What we more fundamentally are, in our own first-person experience, does not find freedom. It doesn’t apply, apart from in the more limited ways mentioned above.

And we may find that the more clarity is here, the more serious – or at least obvious – the consequences are for not following what’s authentic for us. It’s as if life demands more from us, and sometimes a lot more. In this way, we don’t find more freedom. Life, in a sense, requires that we live from clarity, kindness, and authenticity.

IT DEPENDS

Do we find more freedom through an awakening path?

It depends what we mean by freedom, and how we see it.

What we more fundamentally are does not find freedom.

As a human self, we find some freedom around old issues and hangups.

We can find freedom to intentionally allow what’s here as it is, and consciously align with the allowing that’s already here.

As a human self, the consequences for not following what’s authentic for us get more obvious and perhaps even serious.

As so often, the answer is mixed. It’s not yes and no. It’s far more rich and difficult to define.

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Who or what is unawake? Or has emotional issues?

Who or what is it that’s unawake or has emotional issues?

I find it most helpful to think of it as our parts. A part of me is unawake. A part of me has an emotional issue.

Sometimes, there is identification with this part, and then it seems like “I” as a global whole is unawake or has an emotional issue.

In a sense, that’s accurate since there is a kind of global identification with it and we perceive and live from that part of us. And it is more accurate to say that a part of us is like this, and there is a conscious identification with or as that part.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR HEALING AND AWAKENING

Seeing it this way is practical and helpful, in many ways.

It helps us dis-identify from these parts of us, and recognize them as parts and not (even close to) all of who or what we are. We can see them more as objects and relate to them more intentionally.

It reminds us that even if we have done a lot of healing, there are very likely parts of us still operating from confusion. We don’t know how many they are, or what many of these are. They will color our perception and life. And when they are triggered, we may get temporarily identified with them.

And it reminds us that even if there appears to be a kind of global awakening here, there are likely still many parts of us that are unawake. Any part of us that has something unresolved, and doesn’t recognize it’s nature, is unawake. Here too, we don’t know how many of these parts there are, and we often don’t know (yet) what they are. They will color our perception and life. And when they surface, we may get temporarily identified with them and perceive and act from and as them.

Recognizing this keeps us a bit more sober.

SAME DYNAMICS FOR AWAKENING AND HEALING

I have differentiated between unawake and emotional issues here, and they are really two names for the same.

The terms unawake, emotional issue, belief, identification, hangup, contraction, and trauma, are all names for the same dynamics.

That’s why psychological healing and awakening go hand-in-hand. They are part of the same process.

We heal from emotional issues, and we heal from separation consciousness. The same dynamics create emotional issues and separation consciousness. The same approaches can invite in healing for both.

And thorough healing from our emotional issues can only happen through awakening. It can only happen when we notice that our nature, as a whole, is the nature of our contracted parts, and when we invite these parts of us to find and rest in and as their own nature.

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT WE ARE

It’s not wrong to say that this human self being unawake or having emotional issues. It’s how it appears to most people.

And it’s perhaps more accurate to say that parts of us are like that, and when there is a conscious identification with these parts, it appears as if we – as a whole – are like that.

We can also say that what we are is capacity for all of this, all of our experiences related to this human self and the wider world. And that we are the field all of it is happening within and as. We are what takes all these forms.

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The different parts of us have real needs, and we are the one in position to give them what they need

We all have many subpersonalitites or parts, and these are often operating from a need, want, and sense of lack.

When we identify with them, we feel that we have those needs, wants, and lack, which is not wrong since these are parts of us.

We often try to fulfill the needs and wants through something in the wider world – love and acceptance from others, success and status, and so on. This is also not wrong, ahough it’s precarious and doesn’t really give these parts of what what they need and want. And it doesn’t resolve the sense of lack.

We are the only one in the position to really give these parts of us what they need and want, and help them find a deeper resolution for the sense of lack.

ONE WAY TO EXPLORE THIS

How do we find these parts of us, identify what they need, and give it to them? And how do we help them resolve the sense of lack?

Finding the contraction

I notice a sense of unease, a contraction, or a need, want, or sense or lack. I can also bring this up by reminding myself of a situation that triggered it in the past, or through words resonating with something less than peaceful in us – for instance, “I am alone”, “I won’t have what I need”, and so on.

This is how I find the contraction.

Noticing the physical sensations

Where do I feel it in my body? What are the physical sensations? How do I experience it? (How is it to find some curiosity about it?)

In this way, I anchor my attention in the bodily sensations, while still being aware of the mental images and words connected with it.

Allowing and welcoming

I can say: You are welcome here. Stay as long as you want. Get as big as you want.

I can also notice it’s already allowe – by life, mind, space. It’s already here. All I am doing is more consciously joining with that allowing.

This helps shift out of any habitual pattern of wanting to push it away.

Finding the need and want

I can ask: What do you want? What do you need? What would make you content?

I can also explore some of the triggering situations to find what it wants and needs.

And I can go through some of the universals – love, safety, acceptance, and so on – and see which one resonates and helps it relax.

Giving it what it needs and wants

I then give it what it wants and needs.

How is it to…. Give it love? Be a safe harbor for it? Welcome and allow it? Accept it as it is? Or whatever else it may want and need?

How is it to give it to it, as I would like to receive it? As I would give it to a frightened animal? A scared child?

Finding the lack

What’s behing the need and want? What’s the sense of lack?

What’s the story in that sense of lack? What’s the painful story?

What’s my first memory of feeling that? Of having that story?

Is it true? (We can also take this to a more thorough inquiry.)

Seeing it’s here to protect me

At some point in this process, perhaps here, I notice it’s here to protect me. It’s innocent. It’s often from a child’s view on the world. It was created to protect me.

This helps me welcome it more genuinely, and it also helps me find more genuine love for it, wish to be a safe harbor for it, and so on.

Finding its nature

I notice the nature of what I am. I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find myself as what my sense fields – including this human self, the contraction, and the wider world – happens within and as. I notice it’s seamless. I notice the inherent stillness and silence in it, and how that stillness and silence takes all these forms.

What’s the nature of the contraction? How is it to notice it? Rest in that noticing?

I can also ask the contraction: Do you know your nature?

I can allow the contraction notice it’s nature and unravel and rest in and as that noticing.

This part of the process can be supported by headless experiments (Headless Way, Douglas Harding) or a quick dip into the Big Mind process.

A NEW ORIENTATION

This process helps us find healing for our different human wounds, and it can also help us heal out of separation consciousness.

And the magic happens in doing it and exploring it. These are just pointers and medicines for specific conditions. What works for me may not be what works for you. And what works will change a bit with each process, and we’ll discover more as we keep exploring it.

It’s something we do here and now, whenever these suffering parts of us come up. (Or as soon as we have the opportunity.)

And over time, it becomes a new orientation and a new habit. It becomes a new way of being with ourselves and these facets of life. It becomes second nature, although it will always require some attention – especially when more ingrained suffering comes up.

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Full circle: back to what’s more simple and natural

During the initial awakening shift in my teens, everything was very clearly the divine (the label I put on it then). If a contraction came up – a belief, hangup, emotional issue – that too was recognized as the divine, the divine taking that particular form.

That shifted how I, as this field, related to it. And, in a sense, it allowed the contraction to notice itself as the divine, to unwind and to relax into and as it.

It’s very simple and natural. This happened long before I found books about spirituality or started any formal spiritual practice. It was the naive approach of the novice.

Some years later, I did get into spiritual practice. Tai chi and chigong were completely compatible with this, as was prayer (Christ meditation and heart prayer), and basic meditation. As time went on, I got more into different traditions and practices, and it all got more complex and complicated.

I lost trust in the initial naive, simple, and natural approach I had found early on in the awakening. None of the teachers or traditions seemed to speak about this very simple approach, and they instead said I should do all sorts of more complex practices, apparently often aimed at people operating more from separation consciousness.

I felt I lost my way, in a sense, and remember talking about it with friends. At the same time, I wanted to trust these teachers and that they knew what they were talking about.

My “mistake” in it all was to not trust what worked for me, and what seemed to obvious and so simple.

Of course, I learned a lot from all these practices. I got to investigate some of the dynamics of the mind more in detail. And I got to see that one of my hangups is to not trust myself, and instead just do what teachers and traditions say even if it doesn’t always make much sense to me. (And often still don’t, seen with the benefit of hindsight. It often seems as if they applied remedies and medicines without first checking that they are appropriate for the person and where they are in the process.)

Now, I seem to find back to the wonderful simplicity of the first years. Back then, the noticing of all as the divine (I mostly use different words now) was unavoidable. The noticing was turned up to 11. These days, it’s still easy to notice although it requires a little more intention.

I notice my nature – as what a thought may label capacity (for my field of experience), oneness, stillness & silence, love, or consciousness, or even the divine.

A contraction comes up, and I “anchor” my attention in the physical sensations of the contractions while being aware of the rest (the mental images and words).

I notice the nature of this contraction and see it’s the same as what I am. (It can’t be anything else since it’s happening within and as what I am.)

I rest with this noticing.

I invite the contraction to notice its own nature. I may even focus this through a simple question: Do you know what you are? Do you know what your nature is? Do you know what you are made of? How is it to notice your nature?

I allow that noticing to clarify, and the contraction to unravel and rest in and as that noticing.

It has a wonderful simplicity. It’s natural, intimate, and has a feeling of essence. It’s what many of the more complex practices seem to circle around.

Why don’t more teachers and traditions talk about this? Some do, of course, and the ones I know about are outside of any tradition. And some essential practices, like basic meditation (notice and allow), do invite and allow this noticing and natural transformation and unwinding. It’s rarely if ever talked about, but it’s what often happens.

In general, spiritual traditions seem more aimed at bringing people from strong separation consciousness to perhaps a little milder version of this, and generally not so much more. And that’s fine, of course. That’s their function, and it is helpful for many.

Note: I know this is not about a feeling. At the same time, when I do this again now and rest in and as it, there is often a sweet feeling. A feeling I remember from this time in my teens and twenties when I did this naturally. When it seemed the most obvious thing to do. (It’s even a bit blissful, although I typically don’t use those words since this is certainly not about bliss.)

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The past is like a dream

Do you remember how it was before? It’s almost like a dream, isn’t it?

I heard someone say this in reference to the time before the pandemic.

Why does the past seem like a dream? Because, just like a dream, we can only find it as mental images and stories. And, just like a dream, it happens within and as consciousness.

The future is also like a dream, for the same reason. We can only find it in mental images and stories, and it happens within and as consciousness.

And really, the present is very similar. Our mental images and stories about the present, including about what’s physically present with us, are the mental images and stories we find in a dream. And it all, including what’s appearing within all the sense fields, happens within and as consciousness.

If we don’t notice what we are, we tend to take all of this as more solid than it is. The past seems real to us, even if we can only find it as mental images and stories happening within and as consciousness. The future can seem relatively real to us, especially if we attach fears and hopes to it, even if that too only consists of mental images and words happening within and as consciousness. And the present seems real, even if our mental images and stories about it are just that, and what’s happening in all of the sense fields – sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thoughts – happen within and as consciousness.

And that’s why, when we notice what we are, it can feel like the world is a dream. It’s because it is, to us. It always was and is and cannot be anything else, we just didn’t notice. This can be disorienting and perhaps disconcerting at first, but we get used to it as anything else. We are just noticing what’s always here and what we already are more familiar with than just about anything else.