Why do most scientists and psychologists ignore our nature?

To me, there is something that seems clear, both from direct noticing and logic.

And that is what we are to ourselves, and what the world is to us. It’s our own nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to us.

WHAT I AM IN MY OWN NOTICING

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that helps this human self orient and function in the world.

And yet, in my own direct noticing, it is what I most fundamentally am?

When I look, I find I am something else.

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what allows and takes the form of any and all of my experiences. I am what allows and takes the form of what happens in all of my sense fields, in sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and the mental field. (And any other sense fields we can differentiate out through our mental overlays.)

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

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

We can call this different things. For instance, consciousness.

And that brings us to the logic side of this.

WHAT I AM LOGICALLY

In our culture, most say that “we have consciousness” as if it’s a kind of appendix we happen to have. There is an assumption here that we are primarily a physical object and this physical object somehow has consciousness as it happens to have arms, legs, and physical organs.

This is a third-person view, and it doesn’t really matter in this context how accurate it is.

The more interesting question for me is: What are we to ourselves, in our own immediate experience?

Logically, if we “have” consciousness, we have to BE consciousness. There is nothing outside of consciousness somehow experiencing consciousness. What experiences and has the idea of consciousness is consciousness itself. Not anything outside of it.

Any experience happens within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking the form of that experience.

So to us, the world happens within and as consciousness.

The world, and any experience, happens within and as what we are.

We ARE consciousness and the world and any content of experience happens within and as consciousness, within and as what we are.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHAT WE ARE

Both direct noticing and (this particular) logic arrives at the same answer for what we are to ourselves, and it also arrives at the same answer for the characteristics of what we are.

What are some of the characteristics of what we are to ourselves?

What are some of the characteristics of consciousness?

To me, what I am has no beginning or end in space. It also has no beginning or end in time. Any experience of space and time happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am one. I am the oneness the world happens within and as. I am what my field of experience, which my mental field differentiates in many different ways, happens within and as.

To me, I am the world and the world is me. The world happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It’s like a dream in that way.

To me, any and all content of experience comes and goes. And this includes any ideas of what I may be within the content of experience (this human self) and what these ideas refer to. In some cases, I may not take myself to be this particular human self, for instance in a dream, and what I more fundamentally am is still here. What any and all experiences happens within and as is still here. (Including shifting ideas of what I am as an object in the world.)

When what I am notices itself, I find that my nature is what can be called love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on shifting states or emotions. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And this love is often obscured by separation consciousness, by dynamics and patterns created from when I took myself most fundamentally as a separate object in the world.

IS THIS WHAT I “REALLY” AM?

So is this what I really am?

Yes, it is. It’s what I am in my own direct noticing.

Outside of that, I don’t know. I don’t know what my nature more fundamentally happens to be from some kind of outside third-person view. And that’s also less important, at least in my daily life.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE?

If this is so obvious both in terms of noticing and logic, why don’t we always notice or take this into account?

Most likely, because we live in a culture and world where most don’t. When we grow up, we do as others do. We learn to take on and operate from separation consciousness. And that can be very convincing, at least until we start examining our assumptions – about what we are and what the world is to us – a little more closely.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Yes and no. We humans obviously get by without noticing or examining our nature.

And yet, when the oneness we are notices itself, keeps noticing itself, and explores how to live from this noticing, it can be profoundly transforming.

It can be profoundly transforming for our perception, sense of fundamental identity, life in the world, and our human psychology.

WHY DO MANY OVERLOOK OR DENY THIS?

If this is so obvious, both in terms of noticing and logic, why do so many ignore or deny this?

Most people are not so interested in the question of what they more fundamentally are in their own immediate experience. That’s fine. They get by anyway. They have more immediate concerns to focus on and take care of.

And yet, for some people, this is their job. For scientists and especially psychologists, this is essential to their job and (I assume) interests.

So why don’t more of them explore this? Why don’t more of them take it seriously?

I am not sure.

The essential answer may be the same as above: We live in a world where we are trained in separation consciousness from we are born. It becomes the norm, so we don’t even consider questioning it. And if we do, we feel we are somehow transgressing and entering dangerous waters so we don’t take it very far or speak about it.

To elaborate a bit:

Exploring these things is a kind of taboo in our culture, especially in academic circles. It goes against our shared worldview. It goes against standard norms. (Although all of that is changing.)

Our western culture, and especially our scientific culture, value the more “objective” third-person view over first-person explorations. Again, this has been different in the past and will very likely be different in the future.

If you work as a scientist in academia or as a psychologist, you typically cannot stray too far from the mainstream. As a scientist, you risk losing (or not getting) funding. You even risk losing your job if you get too weird. And as a psychologist, you risk losing your license. (In Norway, psychologists have lost their license for exploring the possibility of past lives in therapy sessions, even if these explorations obviously deal with projections and don’t say whether or not the past lives were real or not.)

In short, cultures are systems and systems want to stay mostly stable. There are many mechanisms operating to preserve some kind of stability. There are many incentives to not explore this, and not so many opportunities or invitations to do so. (Which, again, is fortunately changing.)

At a more personal level, many people may not have the curiosity or passion for exploring this. They are happy exploring other things, and that’s fine. Not everyone needs to explore these things.

WILL THIS CHANGE?

Will this change?

It is already changing. More and more people, including in science and psychology, are interested in a more transpersonal approach and understanding.

I envision a future where the third-person and first-person approaches exist side-by-side and even hand-in-hand, including in science and psychology.

It will be a far more rich exploration of our human experience, and one that reflects a little more of the bigger picture.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE VALIDITY OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

If or when this shift happens, something else will happen as well.

And that is an acknowledgment – in science and our culture – of the validity in what mystics across times and cultures have described.

If we look at the essence of what mystics describe, it’s exactly this.

We are consciousness, and the world to us is consciousness.

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

Image: Created by me and Midjourney (AI image)

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.)

Returning to the basics

I find myself returning to the basics, and in the context of this website, this is the basics of awakening and healing.

A FEW BASICS

When it comes to awakening, what are some of these basics?

Our nature and how to notice and explore it for ourselves.

How to live from this noticing.

The pitfalls on the path, including the misconceptions some have.

The wrinkles that come from our very human messiness.

And also some of the basic structured explorations that support this. In my case, inquiry to notice my nature (Headless experiments, Big Mind process), basic meditation, training more stable attention, sense field explorations, heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’o), inquiry into beliefs (The Work), and so on.

WHY THE BASICS?

I find that returning to the basics helps me in several ways.

It helps me refine and clarify.

It helps me discover something more essential. (Than I was previously aware of.)

It invites me to explore if there are basics I have left out.

It helps me balance out any tendency to go into complexity. (Which also has its place.)

It helps me ground. (And not get too caught up in intellectualizing and fanciful complexities.)

It helps me prioritize and focus. (And not get too lost in the periphery.)

It helps me communicate a little better with myself and others.

Personally, I also find it helps me stay in contact with the childlike in me, with curiosity, awe, and wonder.

SIMPLICITY AND COMPLEXITY

The basics here mean what’s essential.

Is that the same as simplicity?

Yes and no.

The basics are simple in that the essence of it is often simple. And the basics offer simple pointers and reminders.

At the same time, there is an infinite complexity there as with anything else. There is always more to discover and explore. There are always new perspectives and angles we can take on it. There are always new contexts we can understand it within. And so on.

In this exploration, following the basics typically leads to insights into the complexity. The basics help ground our exploration. And getting lost in the complexity and forgetting the essentials can be fun for a while but is ultimately a distraction.

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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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The more you know, the more you know how little you know

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been floating around on social media for a while so I assume many are familiar with it. Knowing a little can make you think you know a lot because you don’t know how little you know. Novices can become over-confident.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES

This especially came to the forefront during the recent pandemic. Many conspiracy theorists thought they knew a lot about vaccines and epidemiology. (Topics that take decades of study to become proficient in.) While they, in reality, based their views on random pieces of information from dubious sources, internet echo chambers, generally bad data and bad logic, and a lack of familiarity with the field.

Many also seemed unaware that they were repeating predictable patterns from history. During pandemics, these types of conspiracy theories flourish, likely because people are scared and try to find a sense of certainty. (Often through blame and assigning the cause to a group of people rather than the systems or the unpredictability and randomness of nature, and/or by denying what’s happening.)

AWAKENING, HEALING, AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

This also applies to healing, awakening, and spiritual practices.

I often see people who have been into it for a few years presenting themselves as if they have certain knowledge, while they in reality are just scratching the surface and approaching it in a relatively immature way.

Of course, some get a lot in a relatively short period of time. (I was probably among them.)

And their knowledge may be more than sufficient to help others along the way. We often just need to be one or two steps ahead of someone for our guidance and input to be helpful, especially if we approach it with some groundedness and a sense of our limits.

AS WE GET MORE EXPERIENCE

There is also something that happens as we mature into it.

In a conventional sense, we may know quite a bit and perhaps more than most. And we also learn and discover how much we don’t know.

We may be among the ones who have the most experience with something. And at the same time, we realize that our own experience and knowledge is a drop in the ocean compared to how much there is to discover and learn.

We tend to realize that we don’t know anything for certain.

We tend to be more aware of our biases and how our evolutionary history, our biology and psychology, our place in time and culture, and more all strongly color our perception.

We tend to know, from experience, that our view may be turned upside down and inside out at any time.

We tend to realize there is no finishing line and that there is always further to go.

This helps us hold it all more lightly, and that is often a sign of maturity.

WHY THIS EFFECT?

The peak of “mount stupid” is often marked by a sense of certainty.

We start to feel a sense of mastery of something and we tell ourselves we know and that we are experts.

There may be several reasons for this.

We may not yet have enough experience in that particular area to realize how little we know.

We may not be good enough in any area to have learned that there is always more to learn and that we are always, in a sense, just scratching the surface. We may not have this experience to generalize from.

And we may be motivated by wanting to compensate for a sense of lack. If we have a sense of lack and feel we are not good enough, it’s tempting to jump on a little skill or knowledge and use it to feel better about ourselves, and then overdo it.

WHEN WE AVOID THIS PITFALL

As suggested above, we can avoid or reduce the DK effect in different ways.

As we get more experience, we know how little we know, we know we don’t know anything for certain, and we hold it all more lightly.

If we have expertise in one field, we tend to know how little we know and that there is always further to go. So we find some humility grounded in reality, and can generalize this to other areas of life. If this is how it is in the field I happen to know about, it’s probably the same in other fields.

We may have this more naturally with us. Perhaps because of our upbringing and what we see from others, from our own experiences and insights, or because we don’t have much of a sense of lack or don’t use the DK strategy to compensate for it. We may naturally hold it all more lightly with an inherent knowing that we cannot know for certain.

LEARNING ABOUT THESE DYNAMICS

Another way to prevent or reduce the DK effect in our own life is to learn about it.

We learn about the effect, examine some typical expressions of it, and look at some specific examples. And that makes it easier to recognize when it happens to us.

We can also use our common sense. There is always more to learn and further to go. We don’t know anything for certain. It makes sense to hold it all more lightly. And it makes sense to have some respect for those who have spent decades in full-time study of something and hear what they have to say and learn from them.

Also, if we don’t know much about something, and our view is different from professionals in the field, then maybe it’s most likely that we are off on a wild goose chase?

A REVERSE DUNNING-KRUGER

A kind of reverse Dunning-Kruger effect can also happen.

We can be painfully aware of how little we know, to the point of not sharing it with the world.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is often rooted in a sense of lack. People compensate for a sense of lack by pretending – to themselves and others – they know and understand more than they do.

And the reverse Dunning-Kruger effect is also rooted in a sense of lack. It just plays itself out differently. We tell ourselves that what we know is not much, or that what we know is not worth much because we are not worth much, so we don’t share it or make much use of it.

This is something that’s familiar to me. And it’s one reason why I am mostly just sharing these things on an anonymous blog that just a few people look at.

Illustration: From Wikimedia Commons

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 comes from and is a kind of maturity

Through an imagined dialog with someone who has lived for eons, it became more clear to me that awakening – noticing our nature – is, in a way, inevitable with enough time and experience. Especially if we have some receptivity and curiosity.

A NATURAL PROCESS OF RECOGNIZING OUR NATURE

Why? Mainly because all content of experience comes and goes, and that includes anything we may take ourselves to be within the content of experience.

Given enough time, we gain a great deal of familiarity with this. With some receptivity, curiosity, and authenticity, we will eventually consciously recognize it. And that leads to the realization that we cannot most fundamentally be anything in particular within the content of our experience.

So what are we, more fundamentally, in our own first-person experience? We may find we are what the world, to us, happens within and as. We are what this human self, others, the wider world, thoughts and ideas, feelings, states, and anything else happens within and as.

Since we don’t live for eons, this natural process tends to not come to fruition in most cases.

And we can compress and support this natural process so it does come to fruition. We can engage in basic meditation, noticing and allowing any content of experience. (And notice it’s already allowed and noticed.) We can explore what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. We can use pointers and practices from a range of different traditions. We can find someone familiar with the terrain to guide us.

AWAKENING COMES FROM AND IS A KIND OF MATURITY

In this way, we can say that awakening comes from a kind of maturity.

It’s a natural process that may be more or less (?) inevitable given enough time.

It’s a natural process that can be compressed and sped up through various practices and intentional explorations.

And it’s a more mature way of noticing and living. It’s the oneness we are finally recognizing itself as any and all experience, as the world as it appears to us.

AWAKENING AND MATURITY IN GENERAL

There are several connections between awakening and maturity.

Awakening itself is a kind of maturity. It seems to come as a natural result of noticing the reality of our experience, which is a kind of maturity.

Awakening is supported by several types of maturity. It’s supported by ordinary life experiences and noticing patterns, including that all content of experience changes. It’s also supported by innate characteristics present when we are more healthy and mature. For instance, receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, and authenticity. And from sincerely wishing to know our nature, or truth, or love, or the divine.

Awakening tends to support this human self to mature further. It can open up for and deepen sincerity, authenticity, and receptivity, and a sincere wish to know our nature, truth, love, or the divine.

Our relationship with our nature matures over time and through familiarity. We deepen into it. We explore how to live from and as it. We may even explore how to share it with others, as travelers shares stories of the places they are familiar with.

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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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Quote: Maybe you are searching among the branches

Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.

– attributed to Rumi on the internet

This obviously applies to many things in life, including psychological healing and awakening.

In terms of healing, we may try to find resolution through focusing on surface manifestations and single issues.

And for any real healing to take place, we often need to go deeper. We may need to find the essential story behind the issue. We may need to address a whole network of issues supporting a particular issue. We may need to address underlying issues and assumptions supporting the issue. And we may need to address the whole life situation of the person as well.

In terms of awakening, it’s common early in the process to get caught up in and search among the content of experience. We may look for states and particular experiences. We assume that what we are looking for is “out there” somewhere.

And as we find more maturity in the process, we recognize that what we are looking for – our nature – is here across and independent of changing states and experiences. It’s something that can be found and noticed here and now. We don’t need to go looking for any particular states or experiences.

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Awakening is in the sweet spot of what can be described and studied, what cannot be proven to our satisfaction by others, and what we have to find for ourselves

I love the sweet spot where we find awakening. It can be talked about and studied. It cannot be proven to our satisfaction by others. And we ultimately have to find it for ourselves if we want to check it out and get a taste of it.

And that is, of course, how it is with most things in the world. It’s not unique to awakening.

IT CAN BE TALKED ABOUT AND STUDIED

We can talk about awakening and we can study it through science.

We can talk about our own experiences with it. We can talk about others’ reports on it and their lives. We can philosophize about it. We can talk about fantasies and misconceptions about it.

And we can study it through science. We can examine the reports of individuals. We can examine groups of reports for themes and patterns. We can examine biological correlates to what people report. We can try out methods for awakening and see how apparently effective they are. And so on.

And that’s how it is with most things. We can talk about it and we can do different kinds of research on it.

IT CAN NOT BE PROVEN TO OUR SATISFACTION BY OTHERS

There are many things we assume exist based on second and third-hand reports.

I assume Australia is an actual place even if I haven’t been there. I assume there are bears even if I haven’t encountered any. And so on.

And yet, if we want to be sure we cannot completely rely on the reports from others. We have to check it out for ourselves.

That especially applies to awakening since it’s not something we can take photos of and measure. And it’s not widely accepted in our culture so most people are less likely to accept second- or third-hand accounts.

WE HAVE TO FIND IT FOR OURSELVES

In terms of awakening, we can listen to what people have to say about it. We can pretend it’s true. And that, in itself, is ultimately not very satisfying.

To find satisfaction, we need to use effective pointers and find it for ourselves. That’s the only way for us to know for certain if what people talk about exists or not.

And to find deeper satisfaction, in terms of the transformation that comes with awakening, we need to keep noticing and finding it and make that noticing into a new habit. And to allow the noticing to transform our perception, identity, and live in the world and to keep working on us.

A GOOD MIX

This is a good – or even perfect – mix.

If we couldn’t talk about it at all, it would be difficult to share our experiences, learn from each other, and ignite our interest through the sharing of others.

If we couldn’t study aspects of it through science, it would mean it didn’t really touch the world that can be studied and measured which, in turn, would mean it didn’t touch our lives in this world and a significant part of its relevance would be missing.

If we couldn’t find it for ourselves, it would just remain something distant and irrelevant at – at most – something others talked about.

AWAKENING IS NOT UNIQUE IN THIS WAY

Awakening is not unique in this way. It’s similar to many or most other things.

To be certain, we have to find it for ourselves.

And for something to really do something with us, it has to be a firsthand experience and it requires a wholehearted engagement and willingness to be transformed.

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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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Perception of causality when I notice my nature

How do we perceive causality when we notice our nature?

CONVENTIONAL PERCEPTION OF CAUSALITY

In a conventional sense, we assume causality in daily life. I stub my toe, experience pain, and stubbing my toe caused or led to the pain. I step on the gas pedal, the car goes faster, so stepping on the gas pedal made the car go faster.

As with our thoughts and assumptions in general, these assumptions of causality help us orient and function in the world. They work often enough and well enough to help us function.

They are often relatively accurate in a conventional sense. They are often layperson level understanding of causality, which means they are simplistic and work reasonably often and well. And they sometimes miss the mark and are not accurate in a conventional sense, and if we receive feedback we have a chance to learn from it and modify our assumptions.

NOTICING MY NATURE

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. It’s how others tend to see me, it’s what my passport says, and it’s how it appears to me when I take on that role. It’s an assumption that mostly works well in daily life.

But is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience?

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else.

I find my nature as capacity for the world as it appears to me. It’s what allows any and all content of experience.

And I find myself as what the world, to me, happens within and as.

Said another way: To myself, I am inevitably consciousness, and any content of experience – of this human self, others, the wider world, and so on – happen within and as what I am.

PERCEPTION OF CAUSALITY WHEN I NOTICE MY NATURE

When I notice my nature, my perception of causality is much the same as described above, although the conscious context is different.

Here, the world happens. It’s what it is in immediacy. Any content of experience lives its own life.

And any sense of time and space and causality is created by a mental field overlay. It’s created by mental representations.

Mental representations says what happened, what’s happening (always a little behind), and what may happen in the near and possibly distant future.

This is where causality lives. There are mental representations of having walked, stubbed my toe against a rock, that this experience is called “pain”, and that walking and stubbing my toe is the cause of pain. Similarly, there are mental representations of driving, of having pushed the foot down on the gas pedal, and the car going faster as shown on the speedometer when images of how it was just seconds ago is compared with images of how it is now.

It doesn’t mean ideas of causality are inherently wrong. It just means that I recognize where causality, for me, comes from. It’s created within my mental representations.

I appreciate the gifts in it. It helps this human self function and live in the world.

And I can more easily recognize the limitations inherent in these assumptions. They are assumptions. They are often roughly accurate. I am aware that they are rough approximations and simplifications. And I also recognize that since they are assumptions, they are sometimes wrong – either in details or more completely.

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The experience of my human self when I notice my nature 

I had lunch with family today (father’s day) and experimented a bit with shifting identification and where my center of gravity is in terms of identification.

THE FREEDOM OF FINDING THIS HUMAN SELF WITHIN WHAT I AM

Normally, I notice that the whole landscape – of this human self, others, and the wider world – happens within and as what I am. The field of sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and thoughts happen within and as what I am. It’s all happening within and as consciousness. It’s happening as a dream in that it’s created by consciousness and its nature, to me, is consciousness. To me, my world and all I am is consciousness.

This is freeing. It allows a noticing of this human self as he listens, speaks, feels, thinks, does, and so on. It allows a noticing of this human self as he lives his own life.

THE CLAUSTROPHOBIA OF BEING INSIDE THIS HUMAN SELF

I then tried to consciously shift identification more exclusively to this human self. How is it to imagine me as only this human self? Inside this skull? Looking out of these two openings in the skull onto others and the world.

For me, that immediately feels claustrophobic. I feel locked in. Looking out. The world feels more threatening. My social anxiety goes up several levels. I more easily become self-conscious in an uncomfortable way.

Note: I have written similar articles on distancemovementtime, the physical, and doership.

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Drama queen spirituality

There is a lot of drama queen spirituality.

Overly dramatic ideas about spirituality and what it is about.

Some of it has some validity.

And yet, and at least when it comes to awakening, the essence of it is inherently undramatic.

UNDRAMATIC ESSENCE

In what way is it undramatic?

It’s what we already are noticing itself. Nothing is created. Nothing is added.

It’s what we already are most familiar with. We have never experienced anything other than our nature.

We “just” need to notice. Our nature needs to notice itself as everything it experiences and all it has ever known. What’s required is for the oneness we are to notice itself.

THE APPARENT DRAMA

And there is also some apparent drama in an awakening process.

When oneness takes itself as a separate self within itself, it tends to create drama around a range of things including awakening. It has ideas about awakening. It may yearn for awakening. It may struggle to find awakening. It may discard and reject awakening. And so on.

And it may also struggle with the process itself as it unfolds. It may tell itself it “got it” and then “lost it”. It may tell itself something has gone wrong. It may go through phases that don’t look the way it thinks it should look. It may recognize most experiences as itself and “forget” that other experiences – typically the ones the personality doesn’t like – also are itself and struggle with it. And so on.

All this is a kind of drama. Its drama the oneness we are creates for itself within itself.

The irony is that all of this drama is made up of our nature. What we seek is what makes itself into all of this drama and any other experience we have. All of it is inherently what we are.

Oneness takes itself to be a separate self within itself. Seeks some idea of awakening. Creates drama for itself. And what it really seeks is what makes itself into all this drama. It seeks the nature of this drama.

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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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Perception of time when we notice our nature

This is another article in a mini-series on how we tend to perceive when we notice our nature. I have written about our perception of distance and movement so far, and here is one on time. (Since I have written about our perception of time in several other articles so I will only touch on it briefly here.)

CONVENTIONAL TIME

In one sense, I perceive time as anyone else. I know how to use our ideas of seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so on. And my sense of time stretches and compresses depending on what I am doing and whatever states are moving through me, as it seems to do for most people.

TIME HAPPENS WITHIN ME

At the same time, I am aware that my sense of time happens within and as what I am.

Any ideas of past, future, and present – and what I imagine in each one – happen within my sense fields.

They happen within and as what I am. They happen within and as what a thought may call consciousness.

It’s all happening in the now that’s all I know and have ever known.

MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

I am aware of my mental representations of time – of a timeline with a future, kind-of-present, and past, and that my mental field places certain events on this timeline and in one or more of these three times.

I have examined these through more thorough inquiry several times, which helps me recognize them in daily life. And it helps me recognize them as mental representations happening now.

These mental representations are essential for helping this human self function in the world.

TIMELESSNESS

Another aspect of all this is timelessness.

Since time happens within and as what I am, I find my nature is timeless.

My nature is no-time allowing time and different experiences of time, including the three times and the stretchiness of time.

SHIFTS HIGHLIGHTING CERTAIN FEATURES

When we are in a process of exploring our nature, it’s not uncommon to have experiences that highlight certain features of what we are.

One of these for me happened fifteen or more years ago. I was training a more stable attention (focus on sensations of the breath in the nose) while music was playing in the background. Suddenly, there was a shift where any sense of continuity of time fell away. There was no continuity in the music, only the shifting sounds here now.

This helped me see how my mind, and especially the mental field, creates not only a sense of past, future, and present, but also of continuity of time. Without it, there is only an always shifting now with no continuity. Without it, we couldn’t function as human beings in the world.

IN DAILY LIFE

In daily life, all of these are here and attention may highlight some aspects of this more than others.

I operate with time in a conventional sense, and with my cultural influences. (I like to be on time since I am from Norway, and I like to stick to schedules that involve others for the same reason.)

I notice my mental field creating and operating with representations of time – a timeline, three times, events on this timeline and in the three times, and so on.

I notice my timeless nature, either in the background or more intentionally.

And I am aware that without my mental field, there would be no sense of continuity in time.

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

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Perception of movement when we notice our nature

I thought I would write a mini-series of articles on how our perception changes when we notice our nature. I have written about our perception of distance, so what about movement?

MOVING THROUGH THE WORLD

As a human being in the world, when I move I move through the world. I travel from A to B.

This is how others see it, and how I often talk about it since it’s how most people talk about it. And it has some use. It’s not wrong, even if it’s not the full picture.

THE WORLD MOVING THROUGH WHAT I AM

When I look in my first-person experience, I find I am something more fundamental than this human self in the world. I find I am capacity for the world (what allows my experience of the world to happen). I find that the world, to me, happens within and as my sense fields. And I find that the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am. Any content of experience – this human self, others, the wider world, and anything at all – happens within and as what I am.

Here, I also find that when this human self moves in the world, what’s actually happening is that the world, to me, moves through me. It moves through this field of experience. It moves through and as what I am.

What I am forms itself into the appearance of the world moving through me.

STILL ESSENCE

When I look more closely, I find that my nature forms itself into the world as it appears to me.

And this means this moving world is moving. And it’s also all happening as my nature, as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

So there are three things happening at once.

This human self moves through the world.

The world moves through me. It moves through my sense fields and what I am.

And the essence of it is not moving since the moving world, to me, happens as what I am. It happens as consciousness. Its essence is always the same.

IN DAILY LIFE

For me, this makes daily life more interesting.

Yes, this human self moves through the world and that’s how I talk about it with others.

For myself, I notice that the world moves through me. It’s fascinating and gives me a quiet joy to notice it.

And I also notice how it’s all happening as what I am, and the essence of it all is – in that sense – still.

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

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Our nature: From conceptual understanding to noticing to finding ourselves as it, and living from it 

This is a variation on an often revisited topic for me, in these writings and in my life since my teens.

When it comes to exploring our own nature – and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience –there are several shifts that can happen. 

The main ones are from conceptual understanding, to direct noticing, to finding ourselves as it. And through it all, we have living from all of this as best we can and inviting our human self and psyche to transform within it.

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING

We can have a conceptual understanding of our nature and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience.

If presented in a down-to-earth way, it can make logical sense to many if not most.

Some may find it fascinating but of no practical value and nothing to keep exploring. Some may find it fascinating and continue to explore it conceptually, and that won’t bring any real or thorough transformation. Some may use it as a starting point for a more immediate exploration. And some may first notice or find themselves as their nature, and then explore and express it more conceptually.

And any conceptual understanding is refined through our own familiarity with the terrain, and that’s also what grounds it and keeps it real.

DIRECT NOTICING

Then we may directly notice our nature. We notice it in immediacy.

We may notice our nature as capacity. Our nature is capacity for the world as it appears to us. It’s what allows any and all of our experiences to happen. It’s the nothing that allows all things.

We may notice that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. Any experience – of this human self, others, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

We may notice we are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as this oneness.

We may find that another word for oneness is love. This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And it comes from noticing and finding ourselves as our more fundamental nature, and it’s not dependent on states and feelings.

With some structured pointers, many if not most can notice this, and it can happen relatively quickly. Some will think it’s too simple and look for something else that fits their preconceived ideas. Some will find it interesting but not be drawn to explore it further or explore how to live from it. And some will get t and continue to notice and clarify and explore how to live from it in daily life.

In my experience, Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and exploring my sense fields are practices that most effectively help me find and notice my nature, along with basic meditation.

FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

Following this, there may be a shift into finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, and so on.

Our metaphorical center of gravity shifts into being our nature. This is what we already and always are, and now our conscious experience of ourselves is more aligned with our more fundamental nature.

These shifts are always grace. We cannot make it happen, although we can prepare the ground through noticing and clarifying and through our sincerity and receptivity. We can also prepare the ground through simple practices like inquiry and basic meditation.

It seems that there is always more to clarify and more to be revealed. Life keeps revealing more of itself to itself through and as us.

LIVING FROM IT

And through it all, we have living from what we notice or what we find ourselves as.

How is it to live from noticing my nature as capacity and oneness?

How is it to live as capacity? As oneness? As love?

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

What in my human self needs to heal and mature so I can live more fully from and as this?

Living from and as our nature is greatly supported by inquiry and heart-centered practices, and also following some basic ethical guidelines which help us notice when we are out of alignment.

In general, the more our human self is psychologically healed and mature, the easier it is to live from what we notice – or find ourselves as – in more situations and areas of life.

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ONENESS

All of this is happening within and as oneness.

In a purely conceptual understanding, oneness takes itself as primarily this human self and doesn’t notice itself or its nature. It may have an intuition or sense of what it is, which fuels an intellectual curiosity.

When there is a direct noticing, oneness still operates from identification as a separate self and the center of gravity is in this identification, while it also notices its own nature.

Finally, oneness rests in finding itself as oneness. Love rests in finding itself as love. Capacity rests in finding itself as capacity. The center of gravity has shifted more into its more fundamental nature.

INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

How this looks is different in each case. This process is as individual as each of us.

Sometimes, the conceptual understanding is first and sometimes it comes after some of the other shifts.

Sometimes, we explore living from and as this through different spiritual practices before there is any direct noticing or taste.

Sometimes, the noticing or being is far ahead of living from it. While others may live from love and clarity based on a good heart and maturity, and perhaps only an intuitive sense of their nature. 

ONGOING PROCESS

There is always further to go in all of this. There is no finishing line.

We may intentionally explore all of this and put effort into it. And anything that happens – any interest, fascination, exploration, guidance, and anything else including apparent setbacks – is ultimately grace. 

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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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Noticing our nature vs our nature noticing itself

Sometimes I write “noticing our nature” and sometimes, “our nature notices itself”.

The difference may seem small but it’s crucial and significant.

So what’s the difference?

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When I write about “noticing my nature” I am intentionally using a language closer to conventional ways of talking about it. It’s a language that assumes a separate self noticing something.

The upside of this is that the language is more familiar to most people. And the downside is that it’s not all that accurate.

OUR NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

When I write “our nature notices itself”, it may sound less familiar and it’s also more accurate.

This is what’s happening. Our nature notices itself. Our nature notices itself as all there is. It notices the world as itself. Our nature notices the world as happening within and as what it is. Our nature notices this human self happening within and as itself, like anything else.

We can also say that love notices itself as all there is. Truth notices itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is.

CAN SEEM LIKE ONE, THEN THE OTHER

Initially, it may seem to us as if we notice our nature. There is still an idea here of a separate self noticing its nature. In reality, it’s our nature noticing itself and assuming there is a separate self here doing the noticing.

After a while, and especially if we keep exploring, there may be a shift. Here, it’s clear that it’s our nature noticing itself. Our nature is noticing itself as all there is, even if there is still (what a thought may call) a human self here in our sense fields. Any idea of a separate self is recognized as an idea, as something happening as a mental representation.

If there is still a sense of a separate self doing the noticing, how can we explore it?

We can notice that our nature is capacity for it as it is capacity for anything else. Our more fundamental nature is capacity. It’s what allows any experience, including of this human self and any sense of someone doing or observing.

We can notice that any content of experience happens within and as what we are, including this human self and any sense of someone who is a doer or observer. Our more fundamental nature is what it’s all happening within and as.

We can also explore how the sense of someone doing the noticing is created in our sense fields. We can notice how certain sensations and mental representations combine to create ths experience. We can rest in noticing the physical sensations making up the experience. We can then rest in noticing the mental representations. And this, in itself, tends to soften the mental “glue” holding the two together. It allows us to see through the illusion, even as it may still partially be here.

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Big Mind process & awakening

What’s the relationship between the Big Mind process and awakening?

And what is the Big Mind process?

THE BIG MIND PROCESS

The Big Mind process was developed by Zen teacher Genpo Roshi based on Voice Dialog and his experience as a Zen student and teacher.

In the Big Mind process, we take on the role of different perspectives and these are typically personal (parts of our human psyche) or transpersonal (Big Mind, Big Heart, etc.).

It’s a therapeutic process, and it can also help us shift into the “view” of Big Mind, of our nature, of what the world to us happens within and as. A skilled facilitator can help most people find their nature within minutes and speak from this, which means novices can sound like traditional Zen masters or mystics in a very short while.

WHAT’S THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE BIG MIND PROCESS AND AWAKENING?

Is this awakening?

Yes and no.

The noticing itself is a noticing of our nature, and that is awakening. It’s typically a noticing free of bells and whistles and big experiences. It helps us get a sense of what it’s about and, equally important, what it’s not about. (It’s not anything distant, it’s not for special people, it’s not about mystical powers, etc.)

At the same time, for this to transform us, we need to keep noticing and exploring how to live from it.

It’s not enough to notice it once or when we do the Big Mind process. We need to keep noticing, clarify, deepen, and continue to explore how to live from it.

We need to allow it to transform us and our perception, life in the world, and the different parts of our human self and psyche.

SUPPORTED BY PRACTICE

This process is supported by different forms of practice.

The noticing itself is a form of practice and can be supported by the Big Mind process and similar forms of inquiry (e.g. Headless experiments.)

Living from it is also a form of practice and can be supported by therapeutic work. The more healed we are as a human being the more able we are to live from a conscious noticing of our nature in more situations and areas of life.

And traditional forms of spiritual practice also support us in this process.

Basic meditation helps us notice that all our content comes and goes, and find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

Heart-centered practice helps us shift our relationship with ourselves, others, the world, and all content of experience. It helps us have a relationship with it that’s more aligned with oneness.

Training a more stable attention supports all of this and just about anything else in our life.

And so on.

MY BACKGROUND

I was at Kanzen Zen Center when Genpo Roshi developed the Big Mind process, I took part in several Big Mind workshops, and I have used it for myself since then and occasionally facilitated others. And that’s about it.

I remember some conversations about this at Kanzeon Zen Center at the time. People off the street would get koans almost immediately, even if they had no experience with Zen or meditation. Some old-timers seemed miffed that newbies, within minutes, would “get” – at some level – what they themselves had spent years on. (Which was entertaining to me.) And Genpro Roshi likened the process to bringing water down the mountain to people and emphasized that we still need practice to clarify, deepen, and learn to live from it.

As with so much else, I have been out of the loop for more than a decade due to my health so I am not sure how others see it or what the “official” take on it is these days.

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Why I am drawn to a psychological interpretation of awakening

There are benefits to both a big (spiritual) and small (psychological) interpretation of awakening.

Here, I’ll revisit some of the upsides and downsides of both, and say a few words about why I am more drawn to the small interpretation these days.

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

In a conventional sense and to others, I am this human self in the world. This is also what I may imagine myself to be if I take on what others tell me I am. This is not wrong, but it’s not what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

When I look in my own first-person experience, I may find something else. I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. It’s what allows any and all experience. And I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

Both are valid in their own way. One is who I am in the world. The other is what I am in my own first-person experience.

THE BIG AND SMALL INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

We can leave it there and that’s the small or psychological interpretation of awakening.

Logically, I find that to myself, I have to be consciousness. And the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as what I am.

And that’s also what I find when I look in my own experience. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and what the world – to me – happens within and as.

We can also take this one step further, and that’s the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.

We can say that the nature of existence and reality is the same as my nature. All of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, God, Brahman, and so on.

Since the world, to me happens within and as what I am, it will inevitably appear to me as if the nature of existence is the same as my nature. It will appear as if the world IS consciousness. And we can take a leap and say that this appearance is how it is: The nature of all of existence and reality is the same as my nature and what we can call Spirit or God.

A FEW UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES TO EACH

Each of these two interpretations has upsides and downsides.

What are some of the upsides of the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening? It may be more inspiring. It’s often expressed in a more poetic way. In terms of language, it’s what we are more familiar with from the different spiritual traditions. Ultimately, it may also be closer to reality.

What are some of the downsides to the big or spiritual interpretation? Mainly, it tends to encourage misconceptions about awakening. It can make it sound special, distant, for just a few, and so on.

The small or psychological interpretation of awakening also has upsides and downsides. It generally takes a more grounded and sober approach to awakening and makes it closer and more ordinary. It may also make it sound a bit more dry and boring. (Which I, personally, see as a benefit. It counteracts some of the common misconceptions about awakening.)

WHY I PREFER THE SMALL INTERPRETATION THESE DAYS

For a few years following the initial awakening shift in my teens, I definitely used the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening.

After all, to me, all of existence clearly was consciousness and what I called Spirit and God.

And now, I am more drawn to exploring the small interpretation of awakening.

Why has this shifted for me?

It may be a natural shift from one end of this polarity to the other so I’ll get more familiar with both.

Another reason is that the big or spiritual interpretation is more mainstream. Spiritual traditions and mystics have typically used the big interpretation of awakenings, and the small one is a slightly less explored ground, both historically and for myself. And that makes it more interesting to me.

I also see many benefits to it, as I suggested above.

The big interpretation of awakening tends to come with misconceptions. We may think it’s special, distant from us, for just a few. We may assume it comes with special powers. We may assume it’s a state or that it will solve all our problems. We may get seduced and mislead by the many fanciful stories about awakening, or the wishful thinking we often see among those drawn to it. (The connection between the big interpretation and misconceptions is not inevitable.)

The small interpretation tends to be more grounded and sober. It shows us it’s about what we are which is already here and now. It shows us that it’s not about a state. It’s not about anything within content of experience. It won’t give us any special powers.

The small interpretation is more compatible with a range of worldviews. Here, awakening is about finding what we already are in our own first-person experience. It’s about finding and exploring how to live from noticing our nature. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of the rest of existence and reality.

The small interpretation makes awakening more available to more people, for some of the reasons mentioned above. It’s more logical. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality or existence as a whole. It’s more honest. It points to something we all can explore and find where and now, with some pointers and perhaps with the guidance of someone familiar with this terrain.

Since it talks about our own first-person experience, it can provide common ground – and a kind of smallest common denominator – for people exploring awakening from a range of different spiritual traditions and religions.

The small interpretation appears more logical. If we think about it logically, we see that to ourselves we have to be consciousness, and to us, the world has to appear within and as this consciousness. We can take this through a few steps: (1) There is conscusness here. (2) No matter who or what we are in a more objective sense, to ourselves we have to be this consciousness. (3) Any content of experience, including this human self and the wider world, has to happen within and as this consciousness. (4) To us, the world happens within and as what we are. (5) We are oneness and to us, the world happens withi and as this oneness. Again, this doesn’t say anything about the nature of the rest of existence. This is just about how it is to ourselves when we look more closely.

The small interpretation is more honest for me. It’s what I can say something about without leaps of faith. It’s more honest for me to differentiate between the small and big interpretation of awakening, and look at the upsides and limitations of both.

That said, I love that both the big and small interpretations exist and that there are variations of both. They both have their value and usefulness.

Note: Because of my health and brain fog, I have been out of the loop for more than a decade when it comes to what others say about these things. So I am not sure who else talks about this, although I assume there must be several. If you are reading this and know about others, please leave a comment 🙂

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Real Zen is not about Zen

Real Zen is not about Zen.

WHEN ZEN IS ABOUT ZEN

When Zen is about Zen, it’s about the identity of Zen. It’s about the tradition, rituals, specific practices, and so on. There is nothing wrong in this but it’s good to be honest about it. There is a lot of value in Zen, and when Zen is about Zen, this can be passed on to new generations.

WHEN ZEN IS NOT ABOUT ZEN

Real Zen is not about Zen. It’s about the exploration. It’s about finding what we are and exploring how to live from it. The essence of this is inherent in who and what we are, and in reality, and it’s not dependent on any traditions.

Many traditions have insights and pointers for exploring this, and no tradition has any monopoly on it. And if we are too identified with a particular tradition and its particular approach, we may miss out on practices and pointers that could be very valuable to us.

SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS IN GENERAL

The seed of this article came from a brief comment I made about Zen on a friend’s social media post, so I wrote it about Zen. But this is far more universal. This is about spiritual or awakening traditions in general.

They each contain valuable pointers, practices, guidelines, and insights.

Since they are traditions, their main priority is inevitably to maintain themselves. In practice, this means that for many within a trdtiion, they will set their tradition on part with or sometimes above what the tradition is explicitly about or initially was about.

And it means that if we are sincere about finding what we are and living from it, we lose out on valuable pointers, guidelines, and practices if we stay too rigidly within the tradition for too long.

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Would it hold up in a court of law?

This is the question I ask myself when I am faced with a piece of information.

Would it hold up in a court of law?

If yes, I assign it a little more weight in a practical sense. It’s a bit more likely to be somewhat accurate.

If not, I put it on the “likely nonsense” shelf. Or, if I feel generous, the “maybe” shelf.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND UFO STORIES

Nearly all conspiracy theories fall short of this test. They are typically founded on bad logic and bad data, and would not hold up in any court of law.

The same goes for most UFO stories and similar. A few are supported by multiple sources of apparently solid data. (For instance, the Ariel school phenomenon and the US Navy UFO sightings in recent years.) And most would not hold up in a court of law.

WHAT ABOUT AWAKENING?

So what about awakening? Would it hold up in a court of law?

Maybe. And, in reality, no. And that’s not a bad thing.

Maybe, because it’s been reported by many people across times and cultures. If described logically and without relying on too much jargon, it makes sense to a receptive mind. And it’s something we all can check out for ourselves with some guidance. (Sometimes even relatively quickly, for instance using the Big Mind process or Headless experiments.)

And likely not. It’s not something that can be “proven” outside of logic and our own immediate noticing. It’s not something widely accepted in our culture, which also plays a role. And it hasn’t been thoroughly explored and described by science yet, although that can and maybe will happen in time.

In many ways, it’s a blessing that it likely wouldn’t hold up in court. It means we have to rely on our own explorations and check it out for ourselves. We cannot take anyone’s word for it.

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When awakening shifts happen without preparation: some upsides and downsides

Some awakening shifts happen without any conscious preparation. We may not have done any spiritual practice. We may not know anything about awakening. We may not have any interest in spirituality or religion.

MY STORY

That’s what happened in my case when I was in my mid-teens. I was an atheist. I saw spirituality and religion as a crutch for people who couldn’t face life more directly. (Which is not wrong, in many cases.) I was passionate about science. (Ecology, Universe Story, systems views.) And earlier in my childhood and teens, I had a strong interest in parapsychology.

As I have mentioned in other articles, for one year, there was a sense of the world – all content of experience including this human self – being infinitely far away. I later realized that this was a kind of spontaneous observer-observe split. There was identification as an observer, and everything else was observed and far away.

At the end of this year, there was an equally spontaneous and unexpected shift into oneness and an experience of all of existence as God. Spirit forms itself into everything, including this human self and anything associated with it. And Spirit sometimes takes itself to most fundamentally be this human self, and sometimes and in some places wakes up to itself as Spirit and everything as Spirit.

HOW WE CAN PREPARE FOR AWAKENING SHIFTS

Awakening shifts are always somewhat surprising and unexpected.

And yet, we can be prepared for them in different ways.

We may have some kind of story-level understanding of it. We may be familiar with the map, which helps us when we are in the terrain.

We may have had glimpses of it or shifts where the veils were thinner. We may have a sense of it through some forms of inquiry.

We may have done preparatory practices. These can help our system deal with the shift energetically. They can help us, and different parts of us, be somewhat “pre-aligned” with a conscious noticing of oneness. And they can help us live from it more easily.

We may know teachers who can guide us through the process before and after the shift.

And we may be in a community of people who can support us in the process.

And so on.

WHEN WE ARE NOT PREPARED: SOME UPSIDES AND DOWNSIDES

So what happens when we are not prepared. In my case, none of the preparations mentioned above was in my life. I had no interest in spirituality. I had done no practice. There was no internet where I could find information. I had no one around me who understood. There was nothing about this in the local library.

THE DOWNSIDES

Although Spirit recognized all as itself, there was also loneliness at a human level. This human self was alone in this, with nobody around who understood and nobody who was even remotely interested if I tried – with some care – to talk about it.

Also, there was an experience of huge amounts of energy running through my system. Even at the time, I thought of it as high voltage running through regular housing wires. This was intense and challenging for a few years.

And although Spirit noticed itself as all there is, and everything was one and inherently complete, I also knew there was more to clarify and deepen and that my human self needed a lot of reorganization to align with this more conscious noticing of oneness. (My human self was a mess and still is, in many ways.) There was inner guidance here, but no guidance or support from others who were familiar with the terrain and the process.

THE UPSIDES

There are upsides, and some of the downsides are also upsides.

Being unprepared and without any support helped me explore it on my own. I had to rely on my inner guidance. I had to find my own way within this.

Not knowing any traditions until years later helped me explore this terrain free of traditions.

Also, it made it very clear that this was direct noticing and not anything I had heard or read. (As if thoughts could in any way mimick the intensity of this direct noticing of all as Spirit.)

A NOTE ABOUT WORDS

The way I write about this here is with the benefit of hindsight and decades of exploring this through my own practice, with some guidance from others, and reading to see how others talk about it.

At the time, the way I expressed it in my journal was much more simple and with more pathos and emotion. And yet, the essence is the same.

A NOTE ABOUT THE HUMAN SELF IN THIS CONTEXT

Also, I should mention that although Spirit recognized itself as all there is, and the essence of that noticing didn’t go away, that’s just a beginning of a new process of clarification, deepening, and especially inviting more of this human self to realign with a more conscious noticing of all as Spirit. This is an ongoing process. And, to be honest, at a human level I am a little embarrassed that this process isn’t further along. That may partly be because this human self was completely unprepared for this shift and I have spent a lot of time just getting familiar with the terrain and the process.

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A pragmatic approach to awakening

I typically take a pragmatic approach to awakening.

If we have a serious interest in anything, pragmatism tends to make more sense. It’s more grounded than the alternatives, and it’s more likely to give results.

A PRAGMATIC UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

What does a pragmatic understanding of awakening look like?

For me, it means to point to the essence of what awakening is about, in an as simple, direct, and universal way as possible. 

And that means to use a language that is as simple, direct, and universal as possible, and as little dependent on any particular jargon or tradition as possible.

I don’t even like to use the word awakening, but do it here as a shorthand so people will have a rough idea of what the topic is about, and so it more easily can be found in search engines.

When I write, I often have a few questions in the back of my mind: Can I simplify further? Can I get more to the essence? Is this something that would make sense to people from a variety of different traditions? And across times and cultures? 

A PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

What may a pragmatic approach to exploring awakening for ourselves look like? 

It means to use the approach that has the best chance of working, no matter what we wish to explore or learn. 

For instance… 

Use the tools and approaches that work the best, based on reports from others and our own best judgment. This may and often will change over time, and a combination of approaches can often be effective. (For instance, basic meditation, inquiry, heart-centered approaches, body-centered approaches, and guidelines for living.)

Find and follow the guidance of a good coach. Someone who is familiar with the terrain from their own experience has the skills and personality to guide others, and whom we trust and resonate with. 

If something doesn’t work, let it go and find another approach that works better. Awakening is not about something that may happen in the far future. It’s something we can find and live from here and now, and if an approach doesn’t do that for us, we can find another. (Sometimes, what doesn’t work is our approach and we can refine it with some guidance. Other times, we may need to change the tool.) 

Engage in practices that support the different facets of awakening: Notice what we are. Continue to notice what we are. Live from it. And invite in healing for our human self so it’s easier to live from that noticing in more situations and areas of life. 

Recognize that all of this is an ongoing process without any finishing line or arrival point. 

And perhaps most importantly, approach it with sincerity, honesty, and diligence. Find the sincerity and honesty that’s already here. Clarify your motivations for engaging in this exploration and find the most essential one(s). 

THE BEAUTY IN WHAT’S NOT UNIVERSAL 

Even with a pragmatic intention, and the (limited) simplification and universality that can be expressed through this system, my approach and words will inevitably reflect my own culture, time, and personal experiences.

There is nothing wrong with that. It’s inevitable. And there is a beauty in it. 

We all filter this and anything else through our culture, time, and personality. We all give it our own flavor. We all know the terrain in a slightly different way.

And all of it adds to the collective richness in how we experience, live, and understand it. 

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Awakening: Realization and embodiment

If we do not live and manifest in our lives what we realize in our deepest moments of revelation, then we are living a split life.

– Adyashanti

Adyashanti is here talking about realization and embodiment.

This has several parts.

One is to notice our nature, what we are in our own first-person experience. This can be relatively simple and doesn’t need much time or preparation, especially with the support of guided inquiry like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Another is to keep noticing in daily life and through more and more situations and independent of experiences and states. This takes some intention and effort. It’s an ongoing practice.

Then we have living from this noticing. How is it to live from this noticing, in this situation? How does it look?

How can I support living from this noticing? What in me – beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds –  stops this from happening? What do I find when I explore unquestioned painful stories? How is it to find love from unloved parts of me? How can I invite healing for this human self? How can I prepare the ground for maturing of this human self?

By necessity, living from the noticing lags behind the noticing itself. It’s natural and inevitable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The question is, how can I reduce the gap between the two?

And all of it – the noticing and living from it and the healing and maturing – is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.

In Ken Wilber’s terminology, this is about waking up, cleaning up, growing up, and showing up.

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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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What awakens? What holds a belief?

When I write about awakening and holding a belief, I often write “I” since it’s easier to read and makes it a little more accessible. 

In reality, something else is going on. 

WHAT IS IT THAT AWAKENS?

Our more fundamental nature is what all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happen within and as. And that’s what wakes up to itself.

It wakes up out of the dream of most fundamentally being this human self or anything else within the content of experience. It wakes up out of the dream of being what any mental representation says we are – an I, a me, a being, an observer, a doer, a witness, consciousness, oneness, love, and so on.

And that process is often both sudden and gradual. There may be a sudden shift and recognition. And refining and clarifying is ongoing.

WHAT HOLDS A BELIEF?

Sometimes, we consciously hold onto a belief. We consciously hold a story as true and create an identity out of it. We identify with the viewpoint of the story and take on an identity as someone who sees the world that way. 

Equally or more often, a part of us holds a story as true. Our conscious view may be quite different. We may not even be consciously aware of the story. And our system still, somewhere in itself, holds the story as true. A part of us perceives and operates as if it’s true. And this will inevitably color our perception and life, whether we are aware of it or not. 

Discovering these parts of us, and inviting them to join in with a more conscious noticing of oneness, is an ongoing and lifelong process. 

A FEW MORE WORDS

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

When it comes to awakening, we can phrase it differently. We can say that it’s Big Mind, or any of the many synonyms, that recognizes itself and wakes up out of taking itself exclusively as this human self or anything else within itself. 

What does it mean to hold a belief? At one level, it means to hold a story as true. And that means to identify with the viewpoint created by the story. This creates an identity for us as well. We create an identity as someone with that view. And this comes with an automatic duality. It creates a sense of I with an Other. “I” am this viewpoint as opposed to other viewpoints. 

That’s also how the oneness an experience of separation for itself. It’s how separation consciousness is created. And it’s what Big Mind – what we are – wakes up out of when it recognizes itself. 

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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.

Why is (what we discover through) awakening difficult to put into words?

What we find through awakening – our more fundamental nature – is notoriously difficult to put into words.

It’s not because it’s far removed. (Our nature is what’s most familiar to us and what we already are.) Or that it’s so amazing that words don’t do it justice. (It’s becomes very ordinary as we get more familiar with noticing it and living from it, although it’s also extraordinary.)

It’s because words have another function.

WHAT ARE WORDS?

Words are mental representations.

They are questions about the world. They are maps of the world.

They are made up of mental images and sounds. And when we hear or read the words of others, we have our own mental images and words that helps us make sense of them.

Words helps us communicate with ourselves and others. They even allow us to communicate with people we will never meet or people who live long after we are gone.

THE FUNCTION OF WORDS

Our experience is, whether we notice or not, as seamless whole. To us, the world – this human self, others, the wider world – is a seamless whole that happens within our sense fields.

To orient and function as human beings in the world, we need mental representations that splits this whole into parts. We mentally differentiate within this seamless whole in order to make sense of the world.

This helps us orient and function in the world, and also communicate with ourselves and others.

That’s the magic and amazing gift of words and mental representations in general.

THE LIMITS OF WORDS

At the same time, words and mental representations have their limits.

They cannot hold any final, full or fundamental truth for several reasons.

They are different in kind from what they point to. They are maps, and maps are not the terrain.

They are simplified representations. Reality is always more than and different from our ideas about it. And it’s also simpler.

And they are also guesses about the world. Sometimes educated guesses, and still guesses.

These are some of the limitations inherent in mental representations, including words.

There is another limitation of mental representations that is more to the point here. And that is that they differentiate within oneness. 

To ourselves, we are oneness, whether we notice or not. And the function of words is to split the world, not to represent oneness. 

That means they are not very good at describing what we are. They can point to it. They can orient us to notice it for ourselves. And they cannot describe oneness itself very successfully.

THE BEST WAY TO USE WORDS

The best way to use words is to recognize their function and limits. 

We can recognize they are questions about the world. They are provisional maps. 

They help us orient and function in the world. 

They cannot capture any final, full, or absolute truth. 

And when it comes to awakening, they can guide us to notice what we are. Either indirectly through various practices, or more directly through different forms of inquiry. 

UNDERSTANDING THE STORY VS NOTICING FOR OURSELVES

We can use words to – very inadequately – describe our nature

For instance, here is how I sometimes describe it:

My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. And the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am.

That’s the best I can do. These types of inadequate descriptions can be one of several pointers for others to find it for themselves, although more structured guided inquiry is far more effective and to the point.

There is also a drawback inherent in these types of descriptions. We can understand the words, at a conceptual level, and that’s different from finding it for ourselves.

A conceptual understanding doesn’t, in itself, lead to any transformation. And finding it for ourselves, and keeping noticing and exploring how to live from it, can be profoundly transforming – for our sense of fundamental identity, perception, how we live our life, and our human self and psyche.

At most, these types of descriptions are a good first step. They can wet the appetite for exploring it for ourselves.

And when we notice our nature for ourselves, we see that – or whether – the words fit.

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Adyashanti: For the vast majority of people that awaken and sustain in it…. Truth is the most important thing in their life

For the vast majority of people that awaken and sustain in it, there is something similar among them. Number one is that Truth is the most important thing in their life. Truth and reality is number one on their agenda, and usually it’s been that way for a long time.

– Adyashanti, The Intention of Spirit

Yes, awakening requires us to be radically honest with ourselves. It requires us to prioritize what we honestly and genuinely find we are in our own immediate experience and what the world is to us in our immediate experience. And set anything else – anything we have been told and anything we tell ourselves – aside.

The main way to do this is to radically prioritize truth and to prioritize truth in all areas of our life. It creates a habit and an atmosphere where we more easily can be honest with ourselves about what we find and notice in our own first-person experience.

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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Awakening and altered states

To perceive everything as one is not an altered state of consciousness. It’s an unaltered state of consciousness. It’s the natural state of consciousness.

– Adyashanti

Enlightenment is not an altered state of consciousness. It’s coming out of an altered state of consciousness.

– Adyashanti

It’s interesting to look at the relationship(s) between awakening and altered states.

MEDICINE FOR A CONDITION

Why is Adya pointing this out?

Likely because some assume that awakening is a kind of altered state. The pointer is medicine for the condition of assuming it’s about altered states.

If we assume it’s a state, we’ll chase states – something that’s “out there” in others or in our future or even past. We’ll miss it right here. So by pointing this out, Adya is inviting us to look at what’s here and now independent of the presence or absence of any particular states.

Awakening is about noticing our more fundamental nature and living from this noticing. And this nature is here no matter what our content of experience is, and no matter what state is here.

THE MORE FUNDAMENTAL ALTERED STATE

Altered states is conventionally defined as the altered states we can experience through drugs, insanity, or something similar. These are not what Adya talks about.

When he says awakening is coming out of an altered state, he probably refers to the altered state created by holding stories as true. The mind believes certain assumptions and stories about ourselves, others, life, and the divine, and – to some extent – perceives and lives as if these stories are true. Most of these assumptions and stories are not very conscious. It will also interpret whatever is happening from within the stories it more explicitly holds as true.

Since thoughts are questions about the world, have a pragmatic function only, and cannot – by their nature – hold any final, full, or absolute truth, holding stories as true brings us out of alignment with reality. It’s a kind of insanity. And it’s responsible for nearly all of the insanity we see in our own life and the world.

THE UPSIDE OF ALTERED STATES

There is one benefit to altered states. If we experience some of them over time, we’ll eventually notice that their nature is to come and go. They are visitors. They are not what this is about.

And there is the same benefit to noticing that we are always experiencing altered states. The content of our experience is always changing. It’s always altered. Noticing that, and really getting it in our bones, helps us notice that we cannot – most fundamentally – be any content of our experience. It all comes and goes. Even anything related to this human self comes and goes and is always changing. So what it is that’s more fundamental? What’s not changing?

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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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How do I reconcile a science orientation with spirituality and distance healing?

How do I reconcile my science orientation with my interest in spirituality and distance healing?

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by and loved science and I still do every bit as much.

I also have a fascination and passion for awakening. And I do distance healing.

So how does it all fit together in my mind?

Let’s take spirituality first.

SCIENCE & SPIRITUALITY

I take a pragmatic view on spirituality.

For me, spirituality is mainly about awakening and the effect of spiritual practices.

Awakening is about what more fundamentally we are in our own first-person experience. It doesn’t require any theology or assumptions. It’s purely about what we find in our own direct noticing. And in my experience, What I find fits a wide range of worldviews, is independent of them all, and is what allows and holds and can find the validity in them all. It’s about what I find when I look with sincerity. It’s about what others report they find. (Which seems to be very similar or the same, throughout history and across cultures and traditions.) And it’s about what science finds when this is studied in a more rigorous and systematic way. (We are still in a very early phase here.)

Exploring the effects of spiritual practices is also pragmatic. This is similar. It’s about what I find and what works for me. It’s about what others find and what works for them. And it’s what we can discover through science and more rigorous research. (Here too, we are in a very early phase.)

When it comes to awakening and the effects of spiritual practices, I take a scientific approach as much as possible. I try to do it with sincerity, diligence, and intellectual honesty. As much as possible, I separate what I can know something about (how it appears to me), my stories about it (which are very limited guesses), and what’s actually happening (which I can only make guesses about, which my mind cannot really grasp, and which I cannot know anything for certain about).

SCIENCE AND DISTANCE HEALING & SENSING

What about distance healing and sensing? Isn’t that more woo woo?

Yes and no. It’s certainly a slightly different animal.

Here too, I try to take a scientific approach as much as possible. I look at the effects on animals that don’t know they are receiving healing. I look at patterns over time. I take into account different types of biases. I check my sensing with others. I compare my healing results with those of others. I differentiate what I can say something about, my stories about it, and reality (which I cannot know).

And I wish for a thorough scientific examination of distance healing and sensing, far beyond the little that’s already done.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

The methods of science are, in its essence, our natural ways of exploring anything set into system. At least if our exploration is relatively sincere, grounded, rigorous, and intellectual honest.

Whenever we wish to explore how something works, we use approaches we also find in science.

We try something out and see what happens. And if it’s more important to us, we compare this with what others find. We explore other possible explanations. We take our own biases into account. We value intellectual honesty. We hold it all lightly, take it as provisional, and know it will inevitably look different to us with more exploration. And so on.

If something is important to us, we can learn from science and apply a more rigorous approach to our own explorations. This will support any exploration – including of awakening, the effects of spiritual practices, and distance healing and sensing.

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Brief notes on healing and awakening and occasional personal things – vol. 34

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

ENJOYING DAILY LIFE EXPERIENCES

The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.

– Friedrich Nietzshce

We don’t need to wait for bad memory. We can notice what’s actually happening.

The past and future only exist as images and other stories in our minds, often with some associations with sensations (emotions). Even the present only exists as sensory impressions and overlays of images and stories.

The more we perceive this, the more it becomes obvious that enjoying what’s here is the only thing that makes sense. It’s all we have, so why not find enjoyment in it.

“I AM NOT AFRAID TO DIE”

I heard someone say: “I am not afraid to die”.

My first thought is: How can you know?

You may not notice any fear now, likely because you don’t have the thought that your death is imminent. And how can you know there isn’t fear in you? How can you know that some situations won’t trigger fearful thoughts about dying, and with it fear?

It’s good to be humble about these things. What I am aware of in myself is only the very tip of the iceberg. Many parts of me perceive things very differently from my conscious view, the view I desire and identify with. And certain situations almost certainly can activate fear of dying.

This is the case for me as well. I don’t notice any fear of dying in me right now. And I know that parts of me likely have that fear and can be triggered by certain thoughts, which in turn can be triggered by certain situations.

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