How do I keep my heart open with all the terrible things happening in the world?

Finding it in myself is one path to keeping my heart open.

If I only see it “out there”, it’s difficult to keep my heart open. It’s too easy to go into judgment, separation, self-righteousness, and so on.

If I recognize in myself what I see in others, with concrete examples and viscerally, my heart opens to myself and others.

HOW CAN I DO IT?

The Work of Byron Katie is one of the most effective ways I have found, especially with the guidance of an experienced facilitator. (When done with sincerity and specificity, and allowing ourselves to take in what we find.)

Tonglen is also effective, as is ho’oponopno.

Other forms of inquiry can also be helpful like the Kiloby Inquiries or even the Big Mind process if skilfully facilitated.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO IT?

For me, the answer is that it’s more comfortable.

It’s more comfortable to have an open heart to myself and others.

It also helps me respond with more skill and discernment, and less from reactivity. It makes me slightly less annoying and more effective in the world.

REAL LIFE

Is it easy? No, obviously not.

It’s easy when I feel generally good and somewhat removed from what’s happening, and I am doing these practices in the comfort of my home or a spiritual center.

And it’s not so easy when I am in the thick of it and my own hangups, traumas, and painful beliefs are triggered. Going into my old habitual patterns is sometimes easier, at least for a while until the storm fades and I can relate to things with a little more clarity and kindness again.

That’s part of the process. It’s messy.

I can open my heart to that too – to my own struggle and the struggle of others. There too, we are in the same boat.

Thinking for ourselves?

I sometimes see people talking about the importance of thinking for ourselves.

What does it mean?

CONVENTIONAL SENSE

I was into it too in my mid-teens, as most teenagers are. (It was a big topic in my middle and high school to the point where it became an ongoing joke.)

It’s natural for us to branch out and explore ideas, information, and worldviews outside of what we grew up with. It’s part of growing up. And it’s good to examine and re-examine our own ideas, assumptions, worldview, and the information we operate on.

What’s typically happening is that we exchange one set of ideas, orientations and sometimes worldviews for another, and one that better matches us and our situation. We adopt views, orientations, and worldviews from other subcultures and sometimes other cultures.

In this sense, it’s not possible to completely “think for ourselves”. It’s always influenced by others and our wider culture and civilization.

EXAMINING THOUGHTS THEMSELVES

We can also examine our thoughts themselves, for instance, through inquiry.

We can learn to identify and examine our thoughts and beliefs and find what’s more true for us. The Work of Byron Katie is excellent for this.

We can also examine how our mental field creates an overlay on the world which helps us orient and navigate, and how our mind associates certain mental field representations with certain sensations. The thoughts give meaning to the sensations, and the sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. We can use traditional Buddhist sense-field inquiry to explore this, or modern versions like the Kiloby Inquiries.

Through these kinds of explorations, we can find the nature, gifts, and limits of thoughts, and that can be very helpful. We recognize that thoughts – including our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world – are questions about the world. They are here to help us navigate and function in the world. They can be more or less accurate in a limited and conventional sense. The world is always more than and different from our assumptions about it, and also less. And thoughts cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

BIASES

In general, it’s good to be aware of our biases.

Our personal experiences, subcultures, culture, biology, evolutionary history, and so on all color our perceptions, views, values, worldviews, and life.

We cannot escape it, and why would we? It’s part of the richness of the world. But we can be aware of it. We can be aware that everything about us and our history shapes our perception and orientation. We can also be aware of how our biases color some specific views and orientations, especially when we compare ours with those of others.

THOUGHTS LIVE THEIR OWN LIFE

We may find that we are never “thinking for ourselves”.

Thoughts happen. They live their own life as anything else.

We can notice a thought appearing. Where did it come from? Then it goes away. Where is it going? They just seem to happen and live their own life.

This is easiest to notice when identification releases out of content of experience and we notice what we more fundamentally are. (That which any content of experience happens within and as.) When identification releases out of thoughts, we notice they happen on their own and live their own life.

We can explore and get a taste of this through inquiries like the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

INFINITE CAUSES

We may find that anything appears to have infinite causes. We can always find one more, and one more, stretching back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of space.

In that sense, “we” are not thinking. It’s all of existence thinking locally here in and as this mind.

ALL TOGETHER AND MORE

This all comes to mind when I hear people talk about “thinking for ourselves”.

In a conventional sense, it means to explore and examine and variety of ideas, assumptions, information, and worldviews, and find the one(s) that makes the most sense to me now. This is all always up for revision, of course. It’s good to notice that it’s all coming from somewhere else, we are not really “thinking for ourselves”.

It means to be aware that we have innumerable biases and be on outlook to identify some of them and how they color our perception and life.

It means to examine thoughts themselves. What’s their function? Their gifts? Their limits? What do I find when I examine specific thoughts and assumptions? What do I find when I explore the mental field and how it interacts with the other sense fields, and especially body sensations?

How is it to notice that thoughts live their own life? That they happen on their own?

How is it to notice that they, like anything else, have infinite causes? That it’s really all of existence thinking here, locally?

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Thoughts and feelings belong to the world

I was on a Headless Way Zoom meeting for the first time this Sunday, and Richard Lang mentioned what someone else had said: Thoughts and feelings belong to the world.

That’s one of the things I love about finding my nature as well.

Thoughts, feelings, sensations, moods, and anything connected with this human self, belong to the world. It’s out there in the world. It’s part of what comes and goes.

It’s part of the field of experience.

What I more fundamentally am is not touched by any of it. I am what allows it all to come and go. I am what momentarily forms itself into all of it. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

I noticed this first when I was fifteen and the world suddenly (around noon on January 1st) seemed to become very distant. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the wider world all seemed very far away.

My mind responded by thinking something was very wrong. Later, I saw it more as a basic observer-observed split. There was identification with the mental representation of an observer and a release of identification with any content of experience.

In any case, it made it very clear that thoughts, sensations, and so on belong to the world. It belongs to the content of experience. It comes and goes and lives its own life just like any other content of experience and anything else in the world.

This shifted into oneness about a year later, and it never went away. (Although it goes more in the background or foreground of attention depending on where my attention goes…!)

I have since explored this more thoroughly through different forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, traditional sense field inquiry, and modern versions of sense field explorations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

Does this mean I don’t have hangups, traumas, wounds, and so on? Does it mean my center of gravity never goes into these traumas and wounds?

Not at all. I have a lot of traumas and wounds, these parts of me operate from separation consciousness, they color my perception and life, and they sometimes come to the surface and take over for a while.

That’s OK. It’s very human. It’s part of the process.

Image is created by me and Midjourney

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Earth from ISS

A suicidal / ecocidal civilization: Finding a more real, grounded, and kind way to relate to it all

All civilizations rise and fall, and ours is no exception.

An interesting twist is that ours is the first global civilization that rises and falls and we don’t know how that’s going to look.

INDEX

What comes together falls apart | A civilization fatally out of alignment with reality | Sudden change | Familiarity with systems dynamics | We have the solutions but do we have the collective will? | What will collapse mean? | What can we do individually? | Collapse acceptance | Power-over vs power-with | What’s my history with this? | Notes

WHAT COMES TOGETHER FALLS APART

How can we know that our current civilization will fall?

In terms of history, it’s because all past civilizations have risen and fallen. It’s what civilizations do and ours is no exception.

In the bigger picture, it’s because everything does. What comes together falls apart.

We can notice it here and now. Every moment, what was is gone and something new and fresh is here. And it happens at more obvious and larger scales, including at the scale of humanity, culture, Earth, and the universe. It will all be gone.

Everything we know – collectively and individually – has come together and will fall apart.

A CIVILIZATION FATALLY OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH REALITY

We can also look at specifics of how our civilization creates its own fall.

The most obvious may be that our civilization is fatally out of alignment with reality.

We operate on a worldview that’s out of alignment with reality. For instance, we assume and emphasize separation in a world where everything is intimately connected. We assume the superiority and rights of humans over other beings. We prioritize the current generations over Future generations. And, crucially, we assume that the Earth has unlimited resources and unlimited ability to absorb waste. (See more below under “Power-over vs power-with”.)

This is reflected in all aspects of our culture and all our systems. (1)

Let’s look at our economic system.

We have created an economic system that assumes an infinite ability of nature to provide resources and absorb waste, and that our health and well-being is not dependent on the health and well-being of the larger ecological systems.

We made those assumptions because it fits our general worldview, and because we practically could at the time it was developed.

At the time, our population was relatively small and our technology relatively simple so we didn’t receive immediate feedback from nature. For all practical purposes, nature was infinite.

We still use that economic system. The problem is that we now have a much larger population and a far more efficient technology, so Earth cannot keep up.

Globally, our ecological footprint would require two Earths to be sustainable. And for the Western world, our ecological footprint would require around five Earths to be sustainable.

We are also putting more waste into the Earth’s system than it can easily deal with. There are plastic particles and toxins in just about every living being. We are in the middle of an insect apocalypse because we (insanely) grow our good with toxins. Our climate is changing dramatically from all the heat-trapping gasses we release into the atmosphere.

We are in overshoot and we are not doing anything significant to change it.

And that overshoot has serious consequences.

SUDDEN CHANGE

Ecologically, we are doing the equivalent of living on our savings. If we lived on the interests – the surplus produced by the Earth – it would be sustainable. But we are digging into the savings. That looks OK for a while. We have what we need. Then we suddenly realize the harsh reality. We are out of funds.

Our climate is similarly set to undergo sudden change. Any system tries to maintain equilibrium for as long as possible. We put heat-tapping gasses into the atmosphere, the system maintains a kind of stability for a while. And at some point, it shifts into a new state, and that tends to happen quickly. In the case of climate, it shifts into a more chaotic and unpredictable state.

That’s what we can expect with our global ecological system as a whole. In the coming decades, we can expect to see a series of sudden and likely dramatic shifts. These shifts feed into the system to trigger a cascade of other shifts.

What may happen?

Several moderate changes are already happening: More extreme weather. Stronger storms. More drought. Heavier rain and flooding. Crop failures. Species extinction. Mass death of insects impacting the whole ecosystem. Mass human migrations away from areas that become unlivable from drought, flooding, and rising ocean levels (eventually tens of meters). This, in itself, is serious but manageable, at least initially.

We may also see more extreme changes: Changes in ocean currents may significantly impact regional climates. The oceans may die due to rising water temperatures, acidification, and low oxygen levels, and this – loss of oxygen production from plankton, etc. – will seriously impact land life. Forests may collapse in large regions due to drought or they may lose their ability to produce oxygen because of increased temperatures. And so on. These are all things experts in the field say can happen, and will likely happen if the current Earth changes go far enough. If any of this actually happens, it’s not realistically manageable for us. It may not be compatible with human life.

FAMILIARITY WITH SYSTEMS DYNAMICS

If we are not familiar with big-picture thinking or systems theories, we may assume a kind of linear and gradual progression. That means we have time. Things look mostly OK so far, so why change too much too soon?

If we are familiar with overshot and systems views, we tend to see it differently. Then we know that things may look mostly on for a while, then there is a sudden shift, and we are screwed. We don’t have time to wait. Changing things within our current sudden is not enough. We need a deep transformation of our civilization as a whole.

WE HAVE THE SOLUTIONS BUT DO WE HAVE THE COLLECTIVE WILL?

We have the solutions.

We know some (humane) ways to reduce our population. (Educate women, provide economic safety nets for everyone, and so on.)

We have many technological solutions that are part of the puzzle.

We know how to create an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and where what’s attractive and easy to do – individually and collectively – is also ecologically sound. (We have the big picture and know in what direction to move, and the details will be worked out.)

We have the worldviews necessary for a more sustainable civilization. Some elements may be ecospirituality within each of the major religions, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, deep ecology, systems views, integral views, and so on.

The question is: Do we have the collective will? Will we find it in time?

We are already too late to avoid massive changes to our planet which will impact all of us, so we have minus time in that sense.

Will we be able to create an ecologically sustainable civilization in time to prevent the fall of our civilization? We have to work towards it as much as we can, but it is unlikely.

What we tend to see at the end of civilizations is what we see in the world today: A few who recognize what’s happening, take it seriously and sincerely work towards creating a better and more functional civilization. Many who go into denial, continue much as before, or wait for others to do something. Polarization, infighting, distractions, and the privileged holding onto their privilege even if it’s suicidal. Of course, all of this is common anyway.

There is also a great deal of simplistic misdiagnosis of the situation. Ideas that focus on aspects of what’s happening within the system but not the system itself. Some blame greed, governments, or corporations. Some think there is a technological solution. Some assume it’s mainly about climate change. Some think we still have time because the changes will be gradual and incremental. And so on. All of it is simplistic and myopic. This misdiagnosis reflects and comes out of the worldview that created the situation in the first place. And the misdiagnosis is part of the problem.

WHAT WILL COLLAPSE MEAN?

I don’t know.

What we know is that it will look different from the collapse of past civilizations. They were regional and this one is global. People in those civilizations continued to live their lives, just in a slightly different context. A lot from those civilizations was passed on to other and emerging civilizations. In our case, we don’t have another place to go. We have destroyed our global life-support system to the extent that it may no longer be able to support us, or at least very many of us.

The best scenario may be significant ecological changes, a significant reduction in the size of humanity, and a new emerging civilization – hopefully with some lessons learned. This requires that the more extreme Earth changes – like the death of the oceans – don’t happen.

The worst, from our perspective, is the end of humanity. (Along with many other species and ecosystems.) The Earth’s system changes to the extent that it’s no longer compatible with human life. In this case, the end of humanity happens sooner rather than later. If the changes are as dramatic and rapid as some scientists – and especially those familiar with systems views – think, it may even happen within one or two generations.

In the bigger picture, these are not disasters. This is just what happens. It’s how reality is set up. Things come together and fall apart. Death is the price of life.

WHAT CAN WE DO INDIVIDUALLY?

The question then is: What can we do individually and in small groups?

We can do what we can in our own life.

We can find what we are most drawn to, and do that. Joanna Macy talks about three categories: Stopping actions. Creating and living alternatives. And developing and spreading new worldviews.

In my case, I eat organic and local as much as possible and do a few more things in my personal life. I used to be actively involved in local sustainability organizations. I do healing work for myself and others. I currently have 36 acres in the Andes mountains I am helping regenerate and make into a food forest. (I realize the last one is not everyone can do, and I didn’t expect it in my life.)

We can all find something we are drawn to that’s meaningful and a small part of the solutions. We may not be able to save the world. But we can save our world. We can save ourselves by doing something meaningful.

We can realize that we live within a *system* that’s not ecologically sustainable.

That means that what’s easy and attractive to do is not ecologically sustainable. We all, inevitably, contribute to the destruction of ecosystems, just by going about our own lives. That’s not our fault. It’s inevitable. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for it. (And we don’t need to use it as an excuse either.)

We can find ways to nourish ourselves through our connections with the larger whole.

We can explore the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, ecospirituality, systems views, integral views, and so on. Whatever we resonate with.

We can spend time in nature. We can connect with and nourish our physical body and sense-oriented animal self.

We can get familiar with the bigger picture.

Through the Universe story, the Epic of Evolution, systems views, Big History, and so on, we can become familiar with the bigger picture.

We expect what comes together to fall apart.

During the end of a civilization, we expect an amplification of what we generally see in society: Polarization, infighting, distractions, denial, people holding onto privilege, and so on. It’s what humans do.

We also expect some to do the work to create a better functioning civilization.

And we expect to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a wide range of emotions as a response to what’s happening.

We can find more peace with death and change.

Change happens. What comes together falls apart.

It happens continuously, which we notice if we look closely. And it happens at a more obvious and larger scale, sooner or later.

Change and death are what allow something new to exist. It’s what opens up space for something new and different. It’s what allows experience. It’s what allows evolution. It’s how we are here. It’s what allows anything to exist at all.

Everything and everyone is born to die.

It’s meant to be. It’s perfect. It’s how this universe is set up.

We can find gratitude.

We can find the gifts in death and change. As I have mentioned above, it’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what allows us as individuals to be. It’s what allowed humanity and our current civilization to exist.

It’s what opens the space for something new. When our civilization is gone, who knows what will come in its place? Perhaps some humans will survive and create something new, and even something more aligned with ecological realities. And when humanity is gone, who knows what will come in our place? Perhaps the descendants of the octopus will create a new and amazing civilization that would not be possible if we were still here.

We can allow and welcome our grief, anger, and other responses.

It’s completely natural to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a range of other emotions in the face of what’s happening with our world. And it helps to make friends with it and even welcome it.

It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s something we can channel into action.

We are, in a very real way, a local part of the Earth grieving itself. We are the Earth grieving itself.

These are universal emotions. All humans experience it and many or most species likely experience it in one form or another. It’s one of the things that tie us together. Even what triggers these emotions is universal in its essence.

We can find gratitude.

There is a lot to find gratitude for here.

We are an expression of all of existence. We are part of this amazing and beautiful larger whole.

We are alive. We are alive at the peak, in some sense, of our civilization. We have the basics for life and often a lot more. Many of us live beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past, and better than 99.9% of all humans that have lived in terms of healthcare, food availability, convenience and so on.

We are aware of the larger context of impermanence and can allow it to inform us in sobering and beautiful ways.

By viscerally getting impermanence – including of ourselves and all we know – we can find deep and equally visceral gratitude for our life and what’s here now.

We can find kindness towards ourselves.

We can learn to relate to ourselves and our world with more kindness.

That, in itself, makes a big difference.

It makes our life easier, and we are giving ourselves something essential we all wish for. It’s what we often are really looking for when we think we are looking for something else.

It’s something our civilization doesn’t really teach us and something we don’t learn unless we are lucky with our parents and upbringing. So this work is also part of changing our civilization and our individual and collective worldview.

One of the things I do for myself is to aim at being a good parent to myself, especially when thoughts and emotions visit that it’s difficult for me to meet with kindness. And I also use the befriend & awaken approach.

We can find kindness towards others.

We all do our best with the cards we are dealt. When people go into denial, short-sightedness, and so on, it’s their way of dealing with living in this world. A lot of it, or all, comes from fear.

We can be of service.

We can find meaning and joy in being of service, in whatever form that takes for us. Whether it is supporting humans, non-humans, or ecosystems.

We can find fellowship.

We can find others like us. We can find and create communities. We can support each other.

I did this in the past and lost it to some extent (apart from what I carry with me) due to illness and other life circumstances. Now, it may be time to refind and rebuild community.

We can find our nature, if we are drawn to it.

What do I mean by our nature?

It’s true enough that I am this human self in the world.

And if I look more closely, I find that in my own immediate experience, I am more fundamentally what my field of experience happens within and as. I am, more fundamentally, what a thought may call consciousness, and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. This is what mystics across cultures and throughout time have described. (And talking about it this way is compatible with a range of worldviews.)

Just about anything is an invitation for us to notice and explore how it is to live from our nature. And these types of more dramatic and massive change even more so.

Of course, many won’t be drawn to it. But if you are, then there are ways to explore this. The ones I have found that seem most effective are: The Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Kiloby Inquiries. Basic meditation. And supportive practices like training a more stable attention.

What does this do for us? Not much, necessarily. But it does feel like coming home which is a relief. And it does change the context for everything.

COLLAPSE ACCEPTANCE

What does collapse acceptance mean?

It means accepting that what comes together falls apart.

This civilization will come to an end. Human civilization will come to an end. Humanity will come to an end. Each of those deaths will leave space for something else, which could be a new human civilization or new species eventually developing a new civilization.

It also means accepting the possibility of a more imminent collapse than many expect.

It’s a possibility, it’s not inevitable. We don’t know for certain.

To me, it also means using this to fuel our life – our gratitude, zest for life, engagement, connections, and so on. We can use it to deepen our conscious connection with our life, the life of others, and life in general. We can use it to be good stewards of our own life and life in general. It’s immensely precious as long as it’s here.

POWER-OVER VS POWER-WITH

A few more words about worldviews.

The worldview of our civilization (post-agriculture) has a power-over orientation where we seek power over ourselves, others, nature, and so on. We have a transcendent sky-god out there somewhere and not in or manifesting as everything, including ourselves, others, and nature.

That allows us to see nature – and ourselves and others – as primarily a resource and something to use (and abuse). This is internalized in all of us, and we can train ourselves to recognize it and support and emphasize alternatives ourselves and our culture.

The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves (different parts of our psyche), others, nature, and the universe. It’s also to see all of existence as sacred, as the divine or an expression of the divine. (This includes ourselves, others, nature, the universe.)

When this is internalized, it leads to a very different life individually and collectively. We’ll still need to use natural resources to support our own life, but we’ll do it from a different place. We’ll do it with more gratitude, reverence, and seek to find ways to do it that supports not only our own life but the larger living system, future generations, and life in general.

Of course, there will still be times when a more narrow view takes over – times of crisis or when we are caught in trauma, and we’ll make mistakes because we don’t know better – but that will still happen within a larger context of a general power-with and immanent Spirit orientation. And there will be systems in place to protect the interest of life – our own and the wider living systems – to prevent the worst anti-life behaviors.

This is not idealism. It’s what’s necessary for our own survival. It’s how we protect our own survival and the survival of our descendants.

WHAT’S MY HISTORY WITH THIS?

I loved nature from a very early age. As a child, I always said I wanted to become a zoologist. (What I really meant was ecologist but I didn’t know that word then.) I loved being in nature. I loved the hiking, skiing, and cabin trips with my family. I loved sleeping under the stars in the mountains of Norway. I loved the nature documentaries with David Attenborough and Sverre M. Fjelstad. I loved Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which had a huge impact on me and – in many ways – changed my life. (“We are the local ears, eyes, thoughts and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.”)

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into Fritjof Capra, systems views, and the people he references. I also got deeply into Deep Ecology (Arne Næss, a fellow Norwegian) and eco-philosophy, and I got deeply into Jung. I read all the books I could get my hands on from these authors.

Climate change became a big topic in my later teens, in the ’80s, and even then, I saw it as just one expression of the problems inherent in our civilization. We need to make the changes anyway, climate change or no climate change. (Discussing the details about it and whether it’s human-caused or not is a distraction and sometimes an intentional distraction.)

In my twenties, in the US, I read everything I could find about ecospirituality (from any and no particular tradition), ecopsychology, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I used the Ecological Footprint a lot in my work with sustainability. (I was the initial paid coordinator for Sustain Dane in Madison, Wisconsin.) I organized several projects where we used the ecological footprint as a central theme, and also several events and workshops (and one longer retreat) where we used the Practices to Reconnect and the Council of All Beings.

These days, I work on a regeneration project (15 hectares) in the Andes mountain. It feels deeply rewarding to help this land become more vibrant and healthy again and support the lives of innumerable beings. An integrated food forest will provide food for non-human beings and humans. And it may also eventually be part of local eco-tourism. We’ll see. Anything can happen.

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Shapeshifting and what it says about our more fundamental nature

I am reading The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images and love the content and format, and just about every paragraph is a pointer for several types of explorations.

For instance, there is a chapter on shapeshifting. (One expression of this is shamans experiencing themselves as a jaguar, condor, bat, or whatever it may be during their shamanic journeys.)

A REMINDER OF OUR MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

For me, that’s a reminder of our more fundamental nature.

Yes, in one sense I am this human self. And more fundamentally, I am consciousness. I am the consciousness that this whole field of experience – the wider world, this human self, and anything else – happens within and as.

I can take on any perspective.

I can create an identity out of any perspective and mental representation. I can imagine myself as it, and perceive and feel as if it’s true.

Most of the time, the consciousness we are is identified with and as our human self. Why? Because that’s what others do, and when we grow up we do as others do. If we were connected with the body of a different species, and we grew up in a society where people had that type of body, then that would be our typical identification.

This identification works pretty well in daily life, so most of us don’t have any strong incentives to question it. (It does come with inherent friction and stress since it’s somewhat out of alignment with reality, but most of us don’t realize the root cause of that discomfort.)

The ones who tend to move outside of this typical identification are the outsiders in society, the insane, mystics, and shamans.

HOW WE CAN EXPLORE IT

How can we explore this for ourselves?

The Big Mind process is perhaps the most direct and effective way to explore this. We can explore taking on a wide range of perspectives. If we can imagine something, we can imagine into that perspective. We can explore what happens when we identify with and as a particular perspective. We can even find our more fundamental nature and explore how it all looks from there.

We can also get a taste of our more fundamental nature through the Headless experiments, and explore identities and how we are not – more fundamentally – any of it.

We can dismantle of identifications through The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore how our mind creates perspectives and identifications through the sense fields and how they combine, for instance, guided by the Kiloby Inquiries.

And there are many other approaches. Just find the one(s) that resonate with you.

MY EXPERIENCE

My path into this was perhaps a bit unusual and had some shamanic elements.

At age, fifteen, something shifted so it felt like the world – any content of experience including this human self, feelings, thoughts, states, and so on – felt very distanced. It all felt very far away. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in spirituality (I was a self-identified atheist), what happened was scary and didn’t make any sense, and the doctors and specialists couldn’t figure out what was going on either.

Already here, life showed me my nature. It showed me that I wasn’t fundamentally anything within the sense fields, within the field of experience. Because of my background, I didn’t get it which is normal and fine.

Almost exactly one year later, there was another shift. This time into oneness. Here, all was revealed as God, Spirit, the divine. The whole field of experience and the consciousness it happened within and as was revealed – as consciousness, Spirit, the divine, or whatever we want to call it.

This didn’t go away and led to an intense process over several years for my human self.

I have continued to explore this – through Buddhist practice, Taoist practice, Christian practice, parts work, several forms of inquiry, energy work, and so on. I even dipped into shamanism a few times, but not seriously. (Although I love it and am very happy people go into it deeply.)


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Taking the role of a spiritual teacher: Upsides, downsides, and pitfalls

I admire people who take on the role of spiritual coach or teacher.

It’s a role that comes with many challenges and downsides.

THE UPSIDES

The upsides are well known:

You get to share something that’s important to you with others.

Others get to benefit from it. (Hopefully!)

You get to learn from it. You learn from exploring it more thoroughly on your own. You learn from students. You learn from situations. You inevitably learn about yourself and your own blind spots.

You pass on what may have been passed on to you. You get to be a part of the chain.

You may follow a genuine calling. That, in itself, gives a sense of rightness and satisfaction.

There may also be some more mundane benefits, and some questionable benefits.

Depending on the circumstances, you may get lodging, food, and expenses covered, either for a while or in the long run. You may make money on it. You may be able to make it a living. You may be admired. You may get the apparent (!) benefits that come with being in a respected and admired position.

THE DOWNSIDES

There are also many possible downsides, and some are intrinsically part of the apparent benefits.

You have to deal with the many misconceptions people have about awakening and what it means and does. Many of these are ingrained in the culture and in individuals.

You have to deal with the many projections people will put on you. They will have an image of how a spiritual teacher should be, and compare you with it. They may imagine you as a savior. They may swing to the other side and see you as a villain. And so on.

You have to deal with what the role may bring up in you. Your mind may be tempted to tell you that you know and that you are right. (Overlook that we don’t know anything for certain.) You may be tempted to use the role to tell you that you are important. (Compensate for a sense of lack.) You may buy into the projections from others. (They mirror your own and you may reinforce them for yourself.) You may be tempted to take advantage of your position. (Go overboard with money. Get into relationships with your students. Have affairs. Shut down people who criticize you and how you use your position. And so on.)

I see this in many or most spiritual teachers, in one form or another, and it can lead to people going down in flames.

AVOIDING PITFALLS

We cannot really avoid pitfalls. If we are predisposed to get into them, we most likely will, with an invitation to notice one or more of our blind spots.

But we can be aware of some of them, and we can do some things to reduce the risk and minimize the fallout.

If we are part of a tradition, there are often things in place to prevent the worst excesses. Our own teacher will continue to mentor us. Our peers will hopefully give us feedback. And so on.

How do we relate to the role? If we take on the role as an identity, we set the stage for psychological inflation and abuse of power. We may use the role as a shield to protect against our own sense of lack and criticism from others. If we instead recognize it as a role, we can have a more healthy relationship with it. We recognize it’s a role we take on in a limited situation and that it otherwise doesn’t apply. We also recognize that it’s a superficial role. Even while in the role, we are more importantly a human being like anyone else with flaws and warts and all.

How do we label ourselves? If we see ourselves as a teacher, and if we take it on as an identity, we set the stage for psychological inflation and abuse of power. If we see ourselves as a coach, similar to a sports coach, we’ll tend to take a more pragmatic approach, and it’s easier to see that it’s a role we play in only some situations and leave it behind otherwise. Even better, we may see ourselves as primarily a fellow explorer and student, one that shares as the others share, and where the learning goes both ways.

How do we see ourselves in relation to the students? Do we put ourselves on a pedestal? As the one who knows while the others don’t? (If so, it’s likely a defense mechanism.) Or do we see it as a shared exploration?

Do we actively seek to learn from the others? Do we actively seek to listen to and learn from the students and our fellow explorers? Do we recognize that many of them inevitably have more experience and insights into some parts of the terrain and some phases of the process?

How real and transparent are we? Do we try to present and live up to a certain image? Or are we real and transparent about what’s going on with us?

Are we conscious of our priorities? Have we examined our priorities? What are our conscious priorities? Is it to help people find their nature? (If so, are we actively seeking out, learning, and sharing the most effective methods?) Is it to pass on our tradition? Is it to help people befriend themselves and their experiences? Are we explicit about our priorities? Also, what are the priorities we are less conscious of? What are our priorities connected with our hangups, wounds, and sense of lack?

What’s our motivation? Does it come from a genuine calling? Something we cannot help? Something we are asked to do by our own teacher? Or does it come from a desire to deal with our sense of lack? Or a combination? How is it to be honest about this? One way to explore this is to ask: What do I wish to get out of being in the role? And what do I wish to get out of that? What do I find when I follow that chain to its essence?

Are we trying to give guidance on everything? Or do we limit our guidance to practicalities relating to practices and ways to navigate certain phases in the process? In the first case, we may be buying into the stereotype of a spiritual teacher who has answers to everything, and we are likely doing ourselves and our students a disservice. (There will be a great deal others know more about and are more qualified to say something about. We are all our own final authority and it may be more helpful to invite the students to find their own answers. And we set ourselves up for inflation and the students up for projecting something superhuman onto us.) In the second case, we set the stage for a more sober and grounded approach. 

Do we actively work on our own beliefs, hangups, and projections? Do we use effective methods to work on our own wounds and projections? Are we guided and facilitated by others (preferably outside of our own community) in this?

Do we give the power to the students? Do we emphasize that we are all our own final authority? That we cannot blame anyone else for our own choices and actions? And that we cannot take anyone’s word for anything? That we need to check it out for ourselves?

Do we point out the typical misconceptions about awakening and spiritual teachers? Are we pointing out the downsides of buying into those ideas?

Do we give the students effective tools for finding their nature? Do we use approaches like the headless experiments and the Big Mind process? If not, why are we withholding it? Why are we not democratizing that part of the process?

Do we give the students pointers to recognize typical projections? Do we address the typical projections from students to teachers? Do we point out the typical pitfalls for students and teachers? Do we address how psychological inflation looks? Do we focus on shadow work?

Do we give them the tools to deal with it? Do we give them effective tools to work on projections? Do we explore these tools together? Do we create safe containers for applying them to ourselves?

Do we have a genuine system in place for checks against abuse of power? If we are part of an organization, is there an independent organ to deal with concerns, complaints, and abuse of power? Are they genuinely independent? (They should not be our students.) Do they have real power?

Of course, many of these reflect my own culture and times.

MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS

What’s my relationship with all of this?

I share here, and I sometimes share informally with a few friends, and that’s all.

I have not gone into the role as a guide or a teacher, for a few different reasons:

(a) I have not followed any one teacher or tradition long enough to become a teacher in a particular tradition.

(b) I am very aware of my own shortcomings and the downsides and pitfalls inherent in the role.

(c) I am not sure if I am called to it. I seem to be called to share here (it just comes out of me), but I have not noticed a calling to share formally in a group. (Apart from as a Breema instructor, TRE provider, and inquiry facilitator, but that’s a sharing that’s more specific to the modality.)

(d) I have some personal hangups and wounds that make it difficult for me. A part of me strongly dislikes to be seen and be the center of attention. This is likely a family pattern combined with personal experiences in elementary and middle school.

If I did share more in groups, it would likely be as a coach for a specific approach, and as a fellow explorer. That’s something I would be more comfortable with.

A CAVEAT: I DON’T HAVE THE INSIDE EXPERIENCE

One obvious caveat here is that I haven’t lived this experience of being a teacher or guide. I don’t know it from the inside.

The lived experience is always meatier than, and different from, imagining it.

It has unexpected wrinkles.

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The world doesn’t fit categories

It seems pretty obvious. The world doesn’t fit neat little categories.

So why do I even mention it?

Because it points to something important about how our minds work.

MENTAL FIELD OVERLAY

Our experience can be distinguished into sense fields. We can say that these sense fields are physical sensations, sight, sound, taste, smell, the mental field, and so on. (That distinction itself is made up of categories and we can imagine other ways to make that differentiation. It’s made up for convenience.)

Our mental field functions as a kind of overlay on the world. We make sense of the world through an overlay of mental images and words. And we can say that this overlay consists of labels, imaginary boundaries, stories, and so on. (That too is a somewhat arbitrary distinction made for convenience.)

These mental field overlays are created by our minds. None of it is inherent in the world.

That seems obvious too.

WE IMAGINE THE REST OF THE WORLD

And yet, there is another layer here.

Our immediate experience of the world is filtered through this mental overlay.

And what’s not here in our immediate experience – the whole rest of the world – only exists to us in our mental field.

There is a whole lot of imagination going on here.

We imagine boundaries, distinctions, labels, categories, stories, and so on. And we imagine anything that’s not here in immediate experience. We imagine the whole rest of the world.

ANY THOUGHT IS CATEGORIZATION

In a sense, all this mental field overlay is doing is categorizing. It creates imaginary divisions, labels, stories, and so on. And it’s all a way to categorize the world.

What’s the function of this?

It’s all to help us orient and function in the world.

Without it, we wouldn’t be able to function. It’s all essential for our life in the world.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THOUGHT

Thoughts have some characteristics.

They function as a map of the world, to help us orient and navigate.

They help us explore possibilities before we act in the world.

They are questions about the world. They are always provisional and up for revision. (Even what may seem the most solid to us is that way, including what comes from what we see as the most authoritative source. And the idea of authority is another question about the world.)

They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

THE WORLD IS MORE THAN AND DIFFERENT FROM OUR MAPS

And the world is always more than and different from our maps.

Our mental field overlay is an overlay created by our mind. The distinctions, labels, and stories are not inherent in the world. It’s ours.

IF SO OBVIOUS, WHY EVEN MENTION IT?

Again, all of this may seem obvious. So why even mention it?

It’s because it may be obvious to us in a general sense and intellectually, but is it obvious to us at a more visceral level?

Often not. Our mind and system tend to hold onto some stories as true, often without even realizing it.

And that’s what creates hangups, closed minds, a closed heart, rigidity, contraction, tension, and stress. Taken to the extreme, it’s what creates fundamentalism, bigotry, and intentionally harmful behavior.

EXPLORING HOLDING ONTO STORIES AS TRUE

How can we explore the parts of us holding onto stories as true?

Inquiry is one way, and especially structured inquiry guided by someone familiar with that terrain.

What I have found most effective is The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby Inquiries, and perhaps also the Big Mind process.

Another approach is any form of therapy we are drawn to and that works for us. That too can help us identify and find some freedom from taking stories as true.

WHY DO WE HOLD ONTO STORIES AS TRUE?

Why do we have such an apparently unhealthy relationship with our mental field?

Why do we hold onto some stories as true even if they are obviously painful and not as true as we pretend they are?

The simple answer may be that we do as others do. As we grow up, we do what we see others do.

Another answer is that we try to find safety in holding certain thoughts as true. It seems to give us an advantage. We can pretend we know how things are. We don’t need to stay open and receptive, at least not in the area of life covered by that particular story.

The reality is quite different. Holding onto these stories is out of alignment with reality. We pretend something that’s not true. And somewhere in us, we know what’s going on. We cannot trick ourselves. And that creates stress.

Holding onto stories as true creates stress in other ways as well. It is created by our mental field so we need to remember, rehearse, and prop up the story. We need to defend it when life or others inevitably show us something out of alignment with the story. We create rigidity in our perception and life. We miss out on options in life. We may get into conflicts with others just because we hold different and apparently incompatible stories as true.

WHEN TAKEN FURTHER

We can take these explorations further.

We may realize that even our ideas about who or what we are are ideas. They do not reflect reality in an accurate or complete way. We can even examine each of these stories and find what’s more true for us.

So what are we more fundamentally?

When I look, I find I am more fundamentally capacity. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for the sense fields and anything happening within content of experience.

I am the field all of it happens within and as, including any sense impressions that my mental field says is this human self, any ideas of what I am or am not, and any tendency to hold any one of those ideas as true or not.

What releases us from the reincarnation cycle?

A monk asked a Zen master, “What happens when you die?” The Zen master replied, I don’t know.” The monk said, “What do you mean. Aren’t you a Zen master?” And the Zen Master replied, “Yes, but I’m not a dead one.”

– this is a classic Zen story and I am unsure of the origin. I got this version of the quote from Zenkei Blanche Hartman.

Some folks are invested in ideas about reincarnation and what would release us from the reincarnation cycle.

As with any topic, this one is as complex or simple as we make it.

I DON’T KNOW

The simple answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as reincarnation. Or how it works. Or if there is a release from it. Or what would lead to such a release. Or if any of it is really important.

I cannot know.

I know what some folks say about it. That’s, at best, second-hand or X-hand info, and at worst speculation.

I know that there is some research into it and I know some of the findings and some of the ways to interpret the findings. (Reincarnation is just one possibility). That’s very interesting research, but it’s provisional and not by any means conclusive. No research is ever conclusive. There is always more to discover, and new contexts to understand it within which may turn it all upside-down and inside-out for us.

I can know that I, personally, have what seems like memories of the time between lives and some past lives. Here too, I cannot know for certain if this is accurate or not.

I can only find reincarnation and my personal memories as ideas here and now. They happen within my mental field. I cannot find them any other place.

What’s most honest for me is that I cannot know. And for that reason, it’s also the most peaceful. It’s most aligned with my reality, with my world.

EXPLORING IT AS PROJECTIONS

Also as with anything else, I can explore my ideas of reincarnation as a projection. And I can do that in two general ways.

One is to use the stories as a mirror for what’s already here.

Can I find what these stories point to in my direct noticing?

When I look, I find reincarnation here. I find that what’s here is always fresh and different. I find that any ideas of who or what I am is recreated here and now. Any sense of continuity is created by my mental field, it’s a story tying mental images together to create a sense of continuity, time, past, future, and present, and so on. Basic meditation (notice and allow) is good for noticing this, especially when combined with inquiry.

This helps me ground it in my direct noticing.

The other is to notice it as a mental overlay I put on the world.

I can find any and all ideas I have about reincarnation in my mental field. Any ideas of a self reincarnation, or specific incarnations, or release from the cycle, is here in my mental field. I cannot find it any other place.

This helps me hold it more lightly.

EXAMINE THE STORIES

I can also explore the stories more in detail, and how my mind creates its experience related to reincarnation. Here are two of my favorite ways to do this:

I can examine the stories I have.

What is a stressful story I have about reincarnation? (Hopeful and fearful stories are both stressful.) What happens when I hold it as true? How would it be to not have it? What’s the genuine validity in the reversals? (Including when I turn it back to myself.) (The Work of Byron Katie.)

I can explore it in my sense fields.

How does reincarnation show up in my mental field? Can I find it outside of my mental field?

What sensations are connected with it? Where do I feel it?

What happens when my mind associates certain sensations with these stories? Do they seem more solid and real? What happens when I rest with respectively the mental representations (mental images and words) and the sensations? What happens when I recognize the sensations as sensations, and the mental representations as mental representations? Does the “glue” soften? (The Kiloby Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.)

WHAT AM I TRYING TO ESCAPE? HOW WOULD IT BE TO MEET IT INSTEAD?

If I am invested in ideas about reincarnation and a wish to escape the cycle, that points to something I wish to escape here and now.

Which experience am I trying to escape here and now? What stressful story? What uncomfortable physical sensation?

How would it be to meet it instead?

To identify and examine the scary story?

To notice and feel the physical sensation?

How would it be to befriend the scared part of me? What does it have to tell me? How would it like me to relate to it? What would help it relax a little more?

And so on. The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby Inquiries are very helpful here, as is any form of befriending or heart-centered approach (toglen, ho’oponopono). Basic Meditation can also be helpful, especially when combined with inquiry.

TAKING CARE OF IT NOW

Here is a more general angle to the wanting-to-escape dynamic.

If we seek release from the reincarnation cycle, it may be because we imagine it as a release from any suffering we experience now. It’s a kind of get-out-of-jail card.

But can I know that’s the case?

To me, it makes more sense to assume that my hangups and struggles will be with me beyond this life. (If there is a beyond.) Why wouldn’t they? So why not find that resolution now?

GIVE IT TO MYSELF NOW

Here is another simple inquiry that can be helpful:

What do I hope to get out of a release from the reincarnation cycle? And what do I hope to get out of that? And that? (Continue until you find the essence. Usually, the essence is something simple and universal like love, contentment, peace, understanding, support, and so on.)

Is it true that’s not already here? How would it be to notice it?

How would it be to give it to myself now? (Yes, I know that giving it to myself seems unnecessary if it’s already here, but I find the two go hand in hand.)

FIND OUR NATURE

As with anything else, there is also an invitation for us to find our nature here.

Reincarnation is a story of change. It’s a story of taking on different selves and roles in the world. It’s a story of different words.

Everything related to this is a story of change.

If it all changes, none of it can be what I more fundamentally am.

I an have an idea of something within content of experience that doesn’t change. But that’ an idea. Here too, it’s not something I can find outside of my mental field.

So what am I more fundamentally?

The Big Mind process and the Headless experiments are the most direct and efficient supports I have found to explore this, along with the slower Basic Meditation.

FIND THE TWO AS THE SAME

If I was to guess what would release us from a reincarnation cycle, I imagine it would be this:

To find the two as the same.

To find the essential sameness in our incarnated and disincarnated life. And to not only see it but viscerally get it. To taste it.

So what is the sameness of the two?

This is something I have had a strong incentive to explore. In my childhood, I had flashbacks to the time between lives, to a disincarnate state, and I had a deep longing for it. So one of my genjo koans (life koans) is to find that here and now.

The most fundamental sameness is that it’s all – any experience whether its in the context of an incarnate life or a disincarnate existence – happens within and as what I am. I am capacity for it all. It all happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And there is more. I can find the same timelessness independent of the content of experience. I can find my nature as love.

LILA

Lila means the play of the divine. All of existence is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

And we can find that too here and now.

All our experience is the play of the consciousness we are.

It’s the consciousness we are expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

That includes our ideas of reincarnation.

And it includes any changing content of our experience – whether that changing content is waking life or night dreams, this human self changing over time, a disincarnate time between incarnations, new incarnations, and so on.

It’s all the play of the consciousness we are. It’s all lila.

It’s all the existence we are expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

MAKING USE OF IT

We can pretend to believe stories about reincarnation, and that may be comforting for a while and to some extent. But it’s also stressful, especially since we know we cannot know for certain.

So why not make practical use of our ideas about reincarnation?

Why not find what the stories point to here and now? Why not examine our stories about it? Why not meet the discomfort we wish to escape? Why not give to ourselves what we imagine we would get out of it? Why not use it to find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience?

This grounds what’s otherwise speculation in something that’s already here and now.

We use speculation to find what’s already here and now.

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Does all time happen now? Yes, to us it does

I remember having this experience in my teens, following the oneness shift. It was as if I could see, for my inner eye, all of time happening now, and I imagined that’s how time is to God. This was one of the early side effects of the shift, and it changed as I found more clarity about what was going on.

Since then, I occasionally talk with people who share a similar experience, often relatively early in the awakening process.

Is this topic important? Why do people experience it this way? And how can we explore it for ourselves?

IS IT IMPORTANT?

At a philosophical level, it’s about as important as other abstract philosophical topics. For most of us, it’s not very important in our daily life.

If it’s an experience – or a sense or intuition, then it’s often important for the ones having it.

And as a topic to explore in our own direct noticing, it can lead us to notice our nature. It can lead us home, to the home we already are whether we notice it or not. And for us, nothing may be more important than that.

WHY DO SOME HAVE THIS EXPERIENCE?

Where does the “all time is happening now” experience come from?

It comes from noticing reality. Not necessarily some absolute reality out there but the reality of our own experience.

To us, any content of experience happens within our sense fields. Any experience happens within one or more sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation, mental representations, and so on.

And that includes our experience of time. Any ideas of past, present, and future, and any ideas of what’s in each of these, happen within our mental field. It all happens here and now.

Any sense of all time happening now also happens within our sense fields. It happens as a combination of certain mental representations (of a timeline and past, future, and present) and certain sensations in the body. Our mind associates the two so the sensations seem to lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

That means that to us, all time happens now. It’s inevitable. It’s always been that way.

So if we experience that all time happens now, it’s because it does – to us. It was always that way. It cannot be any other way. It’s just that we don’t always notice.

And that doesn’t mean that this is how reality itself is. It’s just our inevitable experience because of how our mind works.

DIFFERENTIATING OUR OWN EXPERIENCE FROM REALITY “OUT THERE”

It’s important to differentiate the two.

To me, all time happens now. I cannot find the past or future, or even the idea of the present, outside of my mental representations. And they all happen here and now.

And that doesn’t say anything about reality itself. It doesn’t tell me how existence in itself is. What we call “time” is a mental overlay on (our mental overlays of) existence.

It says something about my own experience.

A POINTER TO MY OWN NATURE

More importantly, it says something about my own nature.

It’s a pointer to what I more fundamentally am, in my own first-person experience.

If I notice a sense of all time happening now, it’s an invitation for me to take a closer look. How does my mind create this experience?

This can be an invitation to explore our sense fields. To explore what’s happening in each, and how the mental field combines with physical sensations to create a sense of solidity and reality out of imaginations and sensations. (These imaginations are essential for us to orient and function in the world so there is nothing wrong with them, it’s just good to notice what’s happening.)

And this may lead me to find what I more fundamentally am. I may find that I more fundamentally am capacity for anything appearing in the sense fields. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

How can we investigate this for ourselves?

There are many approaches out there and what works depends on the person and situation. Here are a few I have found helpful.

Traditional Buddhist sense field explorations. For instance, pay attention to one sense field at a time and what happens there. Notice what happens in the mental field. Notice how the mental field interprets what happens in the other sense fields, how it interprets what’s not here in any other sense field, and perhaps even how certain sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to some mental representations (give them a charge) and how certain mental representations give a sense of meaning to certain sensations.

The Kiloby Inquiries is a modern take on this traditional Buddhist inquiry. This inquiry usually requires a facilitator, at least unless we are trained and have some experience with it for ourselves.

The Work of Byron Katie can be helpful, especially if we explore this specifically.

Apart from sense field explorations, the most direct ways to explore this may be the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. Here, we get a direct taste of any ideas of past, future, and present as happening here now, and happening within and as what we are.

Basic Meditation can do the same, although it tends to be a slightly slower process. Notice and allow what’s here. Notice that it’s already noticed and allowed. Notice how any content of experience comes and goes, including any ideas of past, future, and present. So what am I more fundamentally?

ALL OF TIME DOES HAPPEN NOW

So yes, all of time does happen simultaneously. To us, it does. It’s inevitable since time can only be found in our mental representations, and these happen here and now. I cannot find time outside of my present experience.

That doesn’t tell me how reality itself is.

And it’s an invitation for me to take a closer look, which may lead me to find my own nature.

Although much is important in life, we may find there is no greater treasure than that.

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Exploring identities and finding what we more fundamentally are

There are several ways for us to notice what we more fundamentally are.

VIA POSITIVA AND VIA NEGATIVA

We can explore it directly through, for instance, the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. (Via positiva.)

And we can explore what we are not, which leaves just one option for what we more fundamentally are. It brings us to the threshold of noticing what we more fundamentally are. (Via negativa.)

EXPLORING WHAT WE ARE NOT

How do we explore what we most fundamentally are not?

There are several ways.

One is to explore subpersonalities.

I can identify and explore a wide range of subpersonalities in myself. Whenever I notice a reaction in me, that comes from a subpersonality. I can also explore universal subpersonalities. And I can use the world as my mirror – whatever I see “out there” mirrors parts of myself.

I can shift in and out of the perspectives of the different subpersonalities and notice how it is to perceive and live from that perspective.

By doing that, I notice that I am not most fundamentally any of those. I am each of them, in a certain sense. And more fundamentally, I am not any of them. I am not any identity because I can shift in and out of the perspective of each and any identity.

So if I am not any particular identity, what am I?

Another is Basic Meditation.

This works in a similar. We notice and allow what’s here in our field of experience, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. (It happens within and as consciousness so it is, in a sense, noticed by consciousness even before it’s consciously noticed, and it is already allowed by life, space, and consciousness.) We notice it all comes and goes. Any content of experience comes and goes, including ideas about what we are and what these ideas refer to.

I may also notice that in my dreams, I may be either absent or a different character than in my daily life.

If all of this is coming and going, I cannot most fundamentally be any of it.

So what am I, more fundamentally?

BRINGING US TO THE THRESHOLD

These kinds of explorations remove options for what we are. It removes any identity and anything within the content of experience as an option for what we most fundamentally are.

And this brings us to the threshold of noticing what we more fundamentally are.

So what is the remaining option? It may be difficult to notice and accept since it’s a whole different category than what we are used to. It requires a fundamental shift in what we are noticing and looking for.

What I find is that I am, more fundamentally, capacity for the world. I am capacity for any and all content of experience, and any and all identity and what these refer to.

I am what it all happens within and as. I am what allows it all to come and go.

I am what forms itself into all of these experiences, including of taking myself to be something within my content of experience.

THE BRILLIANCE OF THE BIG MIND PROCESS

I learned the Big Mind process more than two decades ago, when Genpo Roshi first developed it, and I keep noticing how brilliant it is.

In this context, it does two essential things very well.

It helps us explore any number of views, perspectives, and subpersonalities, and how it is to experience the world from their viewpoints. This allows us to notice that we are not, most fundamentally, any of these. Identities are fluid. We can shift in and out of any of them.

And then, it helps us notice directly what we are. It helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart.

It brilliantly combines via negativa and via positiva.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky: I am the others, the others are me

I am the others, the others are me

– Alejandro Jodorowsky in Jodorowsky’s Dune

I can find several ways it’s true.

The first two are more loose and poetic. The next three are something we can check out for ourselves in our direct noticing. And the last one either depends on our definition or is an assumption – at least for me now.

POETIC & SENSE OF US

We can mean it in a loose and poetic way.

I have a sense of fellowship and a sense of us.

So I am you and you are me in the sense that we are all in it together.

SYSTEMS VIEW

We are all part of and expressions of larger social and ecological systems.

We are expressions and parts of a larger whole, just like cells are part of a larger organism.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

In this sense too, I am you and you are me.

MIRROR

I see in others what I know from myself, whether I know I know it from myself or not.

I can take any story I have about someone else (or anything in the world), turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of where it’s true.

You are my mirror. You are me.

I am your mirror. I am you.

This is something I can find for myself by exploring projections. One of my favorite ways is through inquiry and especially The Work of Byron Katie.

SENSE FIELDS

To me, the world happens within and as my sense fields.

To me, any experience is found within sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts, and so on.

To me, you happen within and as my sense fields.

Here too, you are me. And to you, I am you.

This is something I can explore and find for myself, by noticing my sense fields and how any experience happens within them. Traditional Buddhist sense field explorations are especially good for this.

WHAT I AM

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that’s not wrong and it works pretty well.

And when I look closer at what I am in my own experience, I find something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the world and anything that happens in my sense fields. I am what allows any and all experience, including what I think of as you.

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

If I want to put labels on it, I can say that to me, I am consciousness and the world happens within and as this consciousness I am.

In a very literal sense, you are me. And to you, I am you, whether you notice or not.

This is also something I can check out and find for myself, perhaps most effectively through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, and also Basic Meditation.

SPIRIT

We can take this one step further.

If we call all of existence Spirit, the divine, or God, we can say that we are all aspects and expressions of Spirit.

I am you and you are me.

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My meditation history

I thought I would write a few words about my meditation history, and I’ll include a brief mention of other spiritual practices since they go hand-in-hand.

CHILDHOOD INTEREST

In my childhood, I was fascinated by yoga and meditation and wished to explore both but I couldn’t find anyone who could guide me. Not much was going on in my little town in Norway at the time. (These days, it’s easy to find.) The closest I came was doing yoga from a book I found in the library.

INITIAL EXPLORATIONS

During the observer-observed shift when I was fifteen, I remember trying some forms of meditation based on what I picked up from a movie I watched, but it didn’t make much sense and wasn’t very satisfying. (I think it had to do with focusing on a candle flame.)

TAOIST, CHRISTIAN, AND BUDDHIST PRACTICES

When I was sixteen, there was a shift into oneness that turned everything upside-down and inside-out. This sparked a more intentional exploration of my nature and the nature of existence. (And also of healing since my human self was still quite messy and with lots of trauma.)

It led to first engaging in the Taoist practices described by Mantak Chia, which felt natural to me and I could sense the energies moving. It led to getting involved with a local Tibetan Buddhist center in Oslo and the Ngöndro practices. It led to exploring Christian practices like the Heart/Jesus prayer and the Christ meditation (visualizing Christ in the six directions and the heart). And I also did Tai Chi and Chigong.

I had a passion for these practices and did them for at least two hours daily and often longer. Just like drawing and painting, it didn’t require discipline. Something in me wanted to do it more than anything else.

I should say that the Taoist and Christian practices felt very familiar and natural to me, and I loved them completely. I also loved the Tibetan practice of Tonglen and did it daily for long periods of time.

Some of the other Tibetan practices were more challenging since they seemed to encourage the energy and attention to go “up” and made me feel more ungrounded, and the teachers I talked with about this didn’t seem able to relate to it and didn’t give me helpful pointers.

During this time, I also discovered the books by Jes Bertelsen, which I deeply loved since they incorporated Depth Psychology, Taoism, Buddhism, and Christianity, and I did also explore and engage in the practices described in some of these books.

ZEN PRACTICE

When I was twenty-four, I went to Salt Lake City to study psychology, moved into the Zen center there (Kanzeon Zen Center, Genpo Roshi), and lived there for about three years. Here, I obviously engaged in basic Zen practice. (Training more stable attention, Shikantaza, Koan practice.) If I remember correctly, I think the official meditation practice was 3-4 hours a day during quiet periods and double or triple during more intensive periods. Although I loved my time there and the practice, the more formal practice did feel constricted and constricting compared to the previous Taoist and Christian practices. It felt less alive.

THE BIG MIND PROCESS

After a while, Genpo Roshi developed the Big Mind process which I also loved since it incorporated what had revealed itself during the initial oneness shift and my passion for psychology and parts/subpersonality work. (I was there when I first came upon it and started developing it.)

MORE FOCUSED ON COMMUNITY

After my marriage and moving to another state, it was difficult for me to engage in my inner exploration as I had before. Instead, I got far more involved in community projects – mostly related to sustainability. This lasted for about five years and was deeply rewarding in its own way. (We used a solution-focused and partnership-oriented approach, and I was the coordinator for the organization.)

RETURN TO PRACTICE

In my early- to mid-thirties, my passion for exploration returned.

I trained in Breema, practiced Breema daily for years, and also instructed.

I got back into training a more stable attention.

I found and loved the Headless experiments.

I continued exploring the Big Mind process for myself and with others.

After a few years (2-4?) of these explorations, there was another shift. This time, into a sense of complete absence of any separate self. It was all just existence experiencing and living itself, and this human self somehow living its own life as a small part of that. (The shift itself was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments, likely supported by all the other practices.)

And this was followed by a collapse of my health and a dark night of the soul that has lasted years. (I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.)

A NECESSARY SHIFT

After my health took a dramatic turn for the worse (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome later combined with Lyme disease), I had to shift how I engaged in these explorations.

Before this, I had relied on my passion and fire. And now, I had to find a more gentle and effortless way of exploring and noticing. (Which is a blessing.)

For instance, I had to use a distinction in basic meditation more intentionally. Basic meditation is to notice what’s here in my field of experience and allow it as it is. And really, it’s to notice it’s already allowed and already noticed. Noticing what’s already here is more effortless and easier, and it’s also a bit closer to reality.

I continued with The Work of Byron Katie, did two “Schools” for The Work, and did most of the certification process. I continued with Ho’oponopono. I got certified in Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) and the Living/Kiloby Inquiries. I did each of these daily or close to daily for some years, with some overlap. (The Work, Ho’o, and TRE during the same time, then Kiloby Inquiries and TRE.)

HUMBLING

I had taken some pride in my practice, ability to keep a stable focus almost indefinitely, and ability to meet my experiences with some intention and equanimity. All that went out the window when the dark night started several years ago. (It came following my health crash.)

My ability to meet my experiences with intention and equanimity went out the window, and a huge amount of unprocessed psychological material came to the surface. It was the most difficult period in my life, and it’s still here to some extent.

THESE DAYS

How do my exploration and noticing look these days?

It’s more a natural part of daily life. I rarely sit down with the intention to practice. I also know that sitting meditation has many benefits and wish and hope to get back into it.

I notice that what’s here in the field of experience is already allowed (by life, existence, mind) and that it’s already noticed (by mind and before consciously reflected upon).

I notice that the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as what I am.

I notice that my more fundamental nature is as capacity for any experience, for anything appearing in my sense fields.

When I notice it would be a helpful medicine, I engage in ho’oponopono, prayer, TRE, and similar practices.

WHAT’S THE EFFECT OF THESE PRACTICES?

I am honestly not sure.

I notice some are quick and eager to point to all the beneficial effects their practices have had in their life. As for me, I cannot say I know. I only have this one life. There is no control group or comparison. I don’t know how my life would be without it.

What I can say is that training more stable attention certainly seemed to have an effect. I had laser attention during the time I practiced this daily, and that supported many activities and my life in general. (The stable attention also came with the initial oneness shift and the transformations that followed.)

The heart-centered practices certainly seem to have an effect when I do them. My orientation shifts.

I have discovered a lot through the different forms of inquiry.

The essence of the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments, combined with the oneness shift in my teens, makes noticing my nature close at hand and effortless.

Have I somehow transformed through these explorations? I don’t know. With the dark night, my capacity to relate intentionally to what’s here was reduced and a lot of unprocessed material has come to the surface. It’s easy to think of this as a backward step, although it’s equally an invitation for deeper healing.

A FEW WORDS ON MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

The word is used to refer to several different explorations.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s already here in the field of experience, notice it’s already noticed and allowed, and rest in and as that noticing and allow it to do whatever it does with us. Here, there are also some insights that tend to come over time. For instance, we may notice that attention tends to get distracted, and it does so whenever thoughts have “glue” on them and what they tell us seem real and important. And that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including who or what we think we are. If that too comes and goes, what are we more fundamentally? What are we in our own first-person experience?

Training a more stable attention is also often categorized as a meditation practice.

Inquiry is an exploration of what’s already here, and is often done as a meditation. As is several forms of body-oriented practices like Tai Chi and Breema.

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF MEDITATION AND OTHER SPIRITUAL PRACTICES?

That’s a good question. Mainly, it depends on the practice and the person.

Heart-centered practices help us shift our orientation and relationship with our experiences. (AKA ourselves, others, life, situations, and parts of ourselves.)

Training more stable attention supports a wide range of activities, our life in general, and also other spiritual or healing practices.

Inquiry helps us see how our mind creates its experience, and it can help us see through the misleading quality of many of our mental representations.

Some forms of inquiry can also help us notice our nature. (Headless experiments, Big Mind process.)

The purpose of basic meditation is especially interesting here. On the one hand, the purpose is to notice the changing nature of our experience, find ourselves as what it all happens within and as, and also allow that noticing to work on our human self and psychology. On the other hand, there is no purpose. It’s just resting in and as what we are.

WHY WRITE ABOUT THIS?

Why did I write about this here?

It’s partly because I may find helpful insights, pointers, or reminders for myself now.

And it’s partly because it may be helpful to others on a similar path. I have often learned a lot from others. (That includes reminders of what doesn’t resonate with me which clarifies my own path.)

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)

The logic of what we are (awakening)

There is a logical inevitability to what we are.

There is a logic to what we are in our own first-person experience.

There is a logic to what we find when we are guided, and when we set aside thoughts telling us what we are.

THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW & WHAT I FIND

The conventional view is that we are this human self in the world. I am a human being in the world that has consciousness. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

But is this what I find when we take a closer look in my own immediate experience? Here, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experience. I find am what any experience happens within and as. And I find there is a logical inevitability to this.

THE LOGIC OF OUR WHAT WE ARE: THE SIMPLE VERSION

Why is there a logical inevitability to what we are?

The simple version is that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE ARE IN MORE DETAIL

I’ll go into this in a little more detail.

(1) If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

Consciousness is not some appendix we happen to have. (The only way it can look that way is if we: (a) Assume we most fundamentally are an object in the world with consciousness somehow attached to it. And (b) don’t examine it very closely.)

If we “have” consciousness, it means that we perceive “through” that consciousness. It means that all our experiences happen within and as that consciousness. It means that what receives any and all experiences is that consciousness. And that means that, to ourselves, we have to BE that consciousness. There is no other option.

(2) The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. We are that consciousness.

That means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

And by “the world” I mean any and all content of experience including the wider, this human self, thoughts, feelings, states, and so on.

Anything that appears in any sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

(3) And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

Here are some of these characteristics:

Oneness. The consciousness we are is one. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as the oneness we are. Our experience of anything and everything inevitably happens within the oneness we are. (If our system is invested in a perception of separation, we may not notice that oneness, but that’s another matter.)

Timeless. To ourselves, our nature is timeless. It just is. And since the world happens within and as what we are, that too is timeless to us. Time happens within and as what we are. It’s not fundamental to what we are.

Spaceless. Similarly, to ourselves, our nature is spaceless and the world appears spaceless. Any sense of space happens within and as what we are, it’s not fundamental to our nature.

Love. We can also say that our nature is love. Love is a natural expression of the oneness we are recognizing itself. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. (It’s always here but it’s dependent on not being too obscured by our separation-consciousness hangups to be expressed.)

Not a thing. As consciousness, we are not a thing. And since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – is not a thing. It’s all happening more like a dream, within and as consciousness, than anything else. (Again, being caught up in separation consciousness can make the world appear very much as a thing, and there is some truth to that too.)

Ephemeral. Any and all experience is ephemeral. It’s gone before we consciously realize we have noticed it. In this way too, everything is dreamlike. (Any sense of permanence is created by the overlay of our mental field.)

Capacity. As consciousness, our more fundamental nature is capacity. We are capacity for any and all experiences. We are what allows it all. We are what all happens within and as.

Always here. Our nature is, inevitably, always here. It may not recognize itself, but it’s here. It’s what we already are.

NO IDEOLOGY OR SPIRITUALITY REQUIRED

No ideology or spirituality is required to explore this. It’s just what we find (or not) when we look.

What we find is what mystics throughout history and from any tradition have described. And yet, it’s not dependent on any religion, spirituality, or ideology.

If anything, it reveals that any religion, spirituality, and ideology is human-created, it’s created by our mental field. At most, and in this context, it reflects a direct noticing and can offer some pointers for how to explore it for ourselves.

HOW CAN WE EXAMINE IT FOR OURSELVES?

So how can we examine it for ourselves?

I’ll mention a few approaches I have found especially helpful.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are two of the most simple, direct, and effective approaches I have found so far.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Over time, we realize that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including what we may take ourselves to be. So what are we more fundamentally? Are we what it all comes and goes within and as? How is it to notice that? How is it to explore living from that noticing?

And there are also many approaches that support this noticing or support living from it, including other forms of inquiry (sense field explorations, Kiloby inquiries), heart-centered practices (prayer, tonglen, ho’oponpono, metta), training more stable attention (including body-centered practices), and ethical guidelines (reduces distractions, highlights what in us operates from separation consciousness).

WHY IS IT COVERED UP?

If this is our nature, why don’t we notice? Why is it covered up?

The simple answer is that as we grow up, we do as others do. We see others operate from separation consciousness, assuming they most fundamentally are an object in the world, so we do the same. And we don’t find a good reason to question or examine it. Or we don’t have access to good tools and guidance to examine it.

HOW IS IT COVERED UP?

How is it covered up? What are some of the mechanisms?

In short, it’s covered up when our mind holds onto mental representations – mental images and words – as accurately reflecting reality.

As soon as consciousness holds a story as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of that story. It becomes an “I” with an “other”. To itself, it becomes something within the content of experience. (1)

It temporarily takes itself to be one part within itself, and everything else as “other”.

That’s how separation consciousness is created, and it can seem very real.

If we grow up with separation consciousness, as most of us do, then many parts of our psyche are formed and operate from separation consciousness. That’s how emotional issues, traumas, hangups, ideologies, and so on are created.

Even when the oneness we are recognizes itself, it can still have many parts operating from separation consciousness, and it can take time to get all of these onboard with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THIS?

Why don’t more people talk about this?

Well, some do. Many Asian spiritual traditions talk about this. Mystics from all traditions and times talk about it. Many spiritual coaches and teachers talk about it. Some psychologists and philosophers talk about it.

And yet, most psychologists and philosophers don’t talk about it, and few in academia explore it in any serious way.

Why do they ignore it even if it has logic to it? Why do they ignore it even if this has profound practical implications? Even if it can be profoundly transforming for anyone engaging in these kinds of explorations?

I am not sure.

Perhaps some lack curiosity or interest? (Which is fine. Our fascination is our calling, and there is no lack of things to be fascinated by.) Perhaps they haven’t investigated the conventional “have consciousness as an appendix” idea? Perhaps they are concerned to get lumped in with mystics, spiritual people, and weirdos?

I assume it’s not because this is not an important topic, because it is. It’s not for lack of information or guidance, because that can be found. It’s not because they cannot explore it for themselves, because they can. And it’s not because there is no logic to it, because there is.

IS OUR NATURE THE SAME AS THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE?

Is our nature the same as the nature of all of existence?

If we find our own more fundamental nature, it’s natural to assume that the nature of existence is the same. After all, the world to us happens within and as what we are, so it will appear that way.

And yet, do we know? Not really.

I cannot know for certain. I can find what appears as my more fundamental nature, I can explore how to live from that noticing, and so on. And yet, I cannot honestly say I know for certain that’s the nature of everything.

THE SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This is where I differentiate between the small and big interpretations of awakening.

This article is written from the small interpretation of awakening. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It’s about what we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s about our own nature, in our own first-person experience, not the nature of reality or existence.

From here, we can go one step further and say that our nature IS the nature of existence and reality. Reality IS consciousness. It is what we traditionally think of as the divine, as Spirit, as God.

Each of these interpretations has its place and value.

The small interpretation is more accessible to more people, it points more directly to what we can find for ourselves, and it goes to the heart of what mystics from different times and traditions describe. As I see it, it’s also more intellectually honest. And it may appear a bit dry and boring.

The big interpretation fits more what the main religions and spiritual traditions describe, it can be more inspiring, and it can open us up more. In some cases, it’s also a bit intellectually dishonest (presenting fantasy or speculation as reality), fanciful, and misleading. And there are several hints that the essence of it is more accurate in the bigger picture.

LILA – THE PLAY OF REALITY

All of this can be seen as play.

We can see it as the play of consciousness, reality, or even of the divine.

In the big interpretation of awakening…

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

It’s the one experiencing itself as many. It’s oneness experiencing itself as separate. It’s love experiencing itself as what looks like anything but love. It’s consciousnes experiencing itself as an object in the world. And so on.

It’s the dance of reality or Spirit.

In the small interpretation of awakening…

It’s much the same. It’s the oneness we are experiencing itself as separate. It’s the love we are experiencing itself as anything but love. It’s consciousness taking itself to be an object in the world.

And here, we can see it as play or something that’s just happening.

In either case, we can see it as the dance of consciousness, reality, or the divine.

And any ideas of purpose or meaning are ideas and not inherent in reality itself.

(1) Said another way, the consciousness we are creates a lot of identities for itself and identifies with these. It takes itself as a human, a gender, an age, someone with certain characteristics, and so on. None of this is necessarily wrong, but it is limiting and it’s not accurate in a more real sense.

If we look more closely we may find another mechanism. The consciousness we are associates certain thoughts with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And the consciousness we are may create chronic tension in the physical body in order to have ready access to sensations lending substance to certain thoughts.

If we have chronic beliefs, about anything, it’s a good bet that these are connected with chronic tension somewhere in the physical body.

Read More

How old am I?

I had a birthday yesterday, and it brings up the topic of age.

How old am I?

It’s a simple question, and if I take it seriously, it can reveal a lot about my nature.

THE AGE ON MY PASSPORT

In a conventional sense, I am the age my passport tells me. It’s the age in my official documents, and the answer most people expect if they ask the question. It’s not wrong, but it’s a small part of a much bigger picture.

MY BODY’S AGE

In another sense, my body has a certain biological age. Depending on genetics and lifestyle, it can be older or younger than my conventional age. This age has some importance in terms of my health. (And depending on how it’s measured and what criteria are used, it will likely change somewhat.)

THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE

In yet another sense, I am the age of this universe. According to current science, I am roughly 13.7 billion years old. This can sound like an answer that’s meant to be cute or clever, but it’s far more real than that.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this universe.

Every molecule is the product of this evolution, most having been forged in ancient stars blowing up and reforming into this planet which formed itself into all of us and this living evolving world.

Every dynamic in me is the product of the evolution of this seamless system we call the universe.

As Carl Sagan said, and I often quote: We are the ears, eyes, thoughts and feeling of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of the evolution of this larger seamless system I am a local and temporary expression of.

In a very real sense, I am the age of this universe. Everything I am as a human is the age of this universe.

This age is important since it’s a reminder of the reality of the oneness of the universe. It’s a reminder of what current science tells us about our more fundamental identity and nature.

TIMELESS

All of that has some validity to it. And yet, am I most fundamentally this human self? Or even a local and temporary expression of this seamless and evolving larger whole?

If I look in my own first-person experience, what am I more fundamentally?

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, including this human self and anything connected with it. I am capacity even for any thought or sense that I am fundamentally this human self.

I find that any experience – of the wider world or this human self – happens within and as my sense fields. (Sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental images and words.)

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

This is my more fundamental nature, in my own immediate experience.

Here, I find I am what any ideas or experience of time happens within and as. My nature is timeless, allowing and forming itself into ideas and experiences of time and change.

LAYERED

My age is layered.

As a human being, I am the age in my passport and my body’s biological age.

As a local and temporary expression of this larger seamless evolving system, I have the age of this universe. (And that will change somewhat depending on what science says.)

And in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is timeless. I am the timelessness any ideas and experience of age happen within and as.

I love the richness of my age. I love that there are many answers and that some change over time.

I love that each one makes sense in its own way.

WHY DON’T WE USE OUR UNIVERSE AGE MORE OFTEN?

If science tells us we all are 13.7 billion years old, why don’t we use that age more often?

It may seem a silly question, but it’s actually a very important one. Science tells us our more fundamental age is 13.7 billion years, so why don’t we collectively take it more seriously?

It may be because this story is still relatively new so it hasn’t had time to sink in yet.

Also, we are used to using our age in our passport so most people stick with that. Much in society is dependent on separating us by age. (School, tickets, pension, and so on.) And many seem to like to follow that orientation.

For me, it’s beautiful and important that this is an age we all share. Everything that exists has the same age. That’s amazing and wonderful to me. It’s a reminder of what ties us together and that we are all local and temporary expressions of the same seamless evolving whole.

That’s far more fundamental and important than the age we happen to have as local and temporary expressions of this whole.

WHY DON’T WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR TIMELESS NATURE MORE OFTEN?

Similarly, why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often?

It’s not because it’s not here to be noticed. Based on my own noticing and what I hear from others, it seems we all have this nature. (It’s the nature of the consciousness we all inevitably are to ourselves.) (1)

It’s not even because it’s difficult to find. I assume most can find it with guidance and within minutes.

So why don’t more people acknowledge this?

I assume there are many answers here too. The obvious one is that we live in a society that tells us – directly and indirectly – that we most fundamentally are this human self, an object within the field of our experience. As we grow up, we see that this is what others do so we do the same. In our innocence, which is very beautiful, we train ourselves to do as others do.

There are also many misconceptions about this. Many traditions suggest that finding our nature is difficult or takes a long time, or that it’s for special people, or that it’s about something distant, or that it gives us special powers.

In reality, it’s right here. It’s not only what we are most familiar with, it’s the only thing we are familiar with. It’s what all our experience consists of.

Since it’s about noticing what we already are, it’s for all of us.

It doesn’t give us any special powers, it’s just a noticing of our nature. (And that can be profoundly transforming for our perception and life in the world.)

And with good guidance, most of us can find it within a relatively short time.

How can we find it? The best approaches I am familiar with (so far) are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Of course, finding it is just the first step. It’s just a glimpse. If we want to continue exploring it, we need to refind it here and now. We need to explore how to live from this noticing. We need to investigate anything in us out of alignment with it, anything created and operating from separation consciousness.

And that takes dedication, passion, and a lifetime. (Or more if there are more.)

(1) Why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often? It’s not even because it’s illogical. Based on logic, we find that in our own experience, we have to be consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, we inevitably and most fundamentally have to BE consciousness in our own experience. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We have all of the characteristics of consciousness, and since the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – have those characteristics.

We are what’s inherently free of time and space and that our experience of time and space happens within and as. We are the oneness any sense of distinction and separation happens within and as. And so on.

This just says something about our own nature in our own first-person experience, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence or the universe. And that’s more than enough. If we are led – by existence – to take it seriously, that’s profoundly transforming.

Image: A look at the distant relatives we call the “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.)

Noticing our nature while holding onto images for safety

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

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

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

THE BACKGROUND

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

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

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

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

NOTICING AND HOLDING ONTO IMAGES OF ITS NATURE

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

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

IT’S NATURAL

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

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

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

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

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS

What are some ways to explore this?

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

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

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

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

A SPECIAL CASE OF AN UNIVERSAL DYNAMIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s part of the process and adventure.

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

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From seeing to visceral

For some years, inquiry was the center of my focus and something I did daily, whether it was The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or just old-fashioned Buddhist sense field exploration inquiry. (This was mostly from around 2000 to 2018.)

I’ll still do more formal inquiry when I am drawn to it, but my focus these days is more on direct noticing and energy healing.

And I also notice a shift. For instance, when I did The Work on a topic in the past, it was sometimes a seeing of what was more true for me a certain topic, and my visceral experience hadn’t quite caught up. These days, I more often notice the visceral experience.

I imagine it may be more of my system catching up to the seeing, and it happens and deepens over time.

For instance, I saw the “I know everyone loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it” quote from Byron Katie this morning, and I notice it resonates viscerally with me. Not with all of me since there are still psychological parts that don’t realize it, but more of me get it viscerally. The overall experience is of getting it more viscerally. When I first saw that quote many years ago, I remember seeing the truth of it but not getting it so viscerally.

And, of course, there is always further to go. There is a lot I haven’t examined yet, and there are many parts of me that have not caught up with the seeing.

May your inner voice be the kindest voice you know

Through intention and new habits, it can be.

Most of us have an inner voice that’s a mix of the voices we heard growing up – from our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, schoolmates, and so on.

And for most of us, not all of these voices as kind. We learned to speak to ourselves in unkind ways, especially in some situations and areas of life.

WHAT UNKIND VOICES DO TO US

What do these unkind voices do to us?

Mainly, they create an atmosphere that feels uncomfortable and unsafe.

At any moment, our inner dialog can turn harsh and unkind.

And this distracts us from our natural kindness, wisdom, and engagement.

It also makes it easier for us to speak to others in unkind ways. The way we speak to ourselves tends to color how we speak to others. We pass on the ways others spoke to us early in life.

HOW DO WE CHANGE THIS?

The first step is to be aware of what’s happening.

What is my inner dialog?

In what situations do the unkind voices come in? In what areas of life?

Then we can learn to see through and replace these voices. We can find where they come from and who spoke to us in that way early in life. We can examine what they are saying and find what’s more true for us. We can intentionally speak to ourselves in a more kind and supportive way.

THE INNER DIALOG WE ARE NOT CONSCIOUS OF

This applies to our conscious inner dialog, and it also applies to the inner dialog that’s here and perhaps not so conscious.

The part of our inner dialog that’s conscious is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest colors our experience as much if not more.

How do we be more aware of this inner dialog? What can we do about it?

The most effective way to explore this may be through different forms of inquiry.

Here, we can identify this inner dialog and learn to see through it. Fortunately, we have a clear sign that unkind voices are operating in us: a sense of discomfort and stress. And structured forms of inquiry can help us with the rest.

If we keep at it over time, our unkind inner dialog will lose its power and be replaced with a more naturally kind, wise, and pragmatic voice.

And there is always more to explore. There are always voices we haven’t seen yet. There are often more essential underlying stressful stories, and more stories in the wider network of stories.

For this, I especially like The Work of Byron Katie for finding underlying stressful thoughts, and the Kiloby Inquiries can do the same, as do many other approaches including cognitive therapy.

AREN’T SOME UNKIND VOICES TRUE, NECESSARY, AND HELPFUL?

That’s what the unkind voices tell us, and when we explore this for ourselves we may find something different.

I find they are not as true as my mind sometimes tells me. There is often some validity to them, but they are definitely not the whole picture, and the fuller picture is typically far more kind.

They are not necessary. We don’t need unkindness or even stress to act.

And they are not that helpful, especially if compared with the alternative of clarity and kindness.

THE OTHER TYPE OF INNER VOICE

I use the term “inner voice” here since that’s what the quote calls it, and it does work.

The term “inner voice” can refer to two different things.

One is our inner dialog, which is what this article is about.

The other is our inner guidance which sometimes but not always takes the form of a voice. Our inner guidance is calm and clear and available for us to listen to and follow or not. It’s neither kind nor unkind, it just offers guidance.

Image: A meme from social media, source unknown (to me).

Set aside looking for God and explore your own experience instead

There are many paths to God, and the two main ones may be devotion (prayer, surrender) and inquiry (investigation). Each one may be important at different times in our process. Both are equally valid and important. Each one offers something unique. And each one can be medicine for the other.

The statement above reflects the inquiry approach, and how the inquiry approach can be medicine for some of the potential pitfalls of an exclusively devotional approach.

WHAT WE MAY MISS ON A DEVOTIONAL APPROACH

If we are exclusively on a devotional path, we may look for God as something far away and out there, unfamiliar and extraordinary. We may get caught up in ideas about God, reality, and ourselves, and perceive and live as if they are true. And we may miss out on recognizing how our mind creates its own experiences.

INQUIRY AS MEDICINE

One medicine for this is inquiry. Through inquiry into our own experience, we may clear up a few misconceptions. We may explore what we more fundamentally are in our own direct experience, and find something we can call Spirit and qualities we associate with the divine.

WHAT WE MAY FIND THROUGH INQUIRY

We may find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as oneness and the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as without any inherent characteristics allowing for the experience of any and all characteristics and experiences. And so on.

We may realize that our nature is already what we can call Spirit, and it has always been what’s the most close and familiar to us, and for that reason also the most ordinary. We may find that all we have ever known is our own nature since the world to us happens within and as what we are.

TWO WINGS OF A BIRD

Clearing up this, we may still enjoy a devotional approach. The two are not exclusive.

As they say in Buddhism, devotion and inquiry are like two wings of a bird.

THE REVERSE – AND GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

We can also find this in the reverse. An exclusive inquiry approach can be one-sided and a devotional approach can be the cure.

And there are some general orientations that guide and support both devotion and inquiry: Receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, diligence, authenticity, and so on.

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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The Scarlet Witch and how we relate to our trauma

I watched Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness which is one of many trauma-informed stories in pop culture these days.

In it, Wanda experiences immense pain from losing the love of her life, her (imagined) children, and more. And she deals with it by reacting to this pain.

She goes into an obsessive pursuit of being with her children in a parallel universe, no matter what the cost is to herself and others, and without considering if the children of another Wanda would accept her. In her obsession, she is unable to consider and take in the real consequences of her strategy.

REACTING TO OUR PAIN

We all sometimes do this.

We go into reactivity to our pain.

And when we do, it always has an obsessive and compulsive quality.

We may compulsively do just about anything to distract ourselves from the pain, or try to find a resolution to the pain.

We may compulsively eat, work, have sex, or go into relationships. We may obsessively seek something spiritual and engage in spiritual practices. We may compulsively go into ideologies about politics, religion, or just general ideas about how life should be. We may go into blame, hatred, biotry. We may go into shame and self-loathing. We may go into depression or anxity. We may go into pursuing perfection. We may seek fame and success. We may hide from the world. And so on.

Whenever anything has a compulsive quality, it’s a good guess that it’s an attempt to escape pain.

This is not inherently wrong. It’s our mind creating this in an attempt to protect us. At the same time, it’s not the most skillful way of dealing with our pain, and it inevitably perpetuates the cycle of pain and creates more pain.

It doesn’t deal with the real issue so it’s not a real solution.

RELATING TO OUR PAIN MORE CONSCIOUSLY

Is there another option?

Yes, we can relate to our pain more consciously and with a bit more skill and insight.

We can learn to genuinely befriend our pain.

We can meet our pain with love. And this is often easier, at first, when we use a structured approach like metta, tonglen, or ho’oponopono.

We can feel the physical sensation aspect of the pain and rest in noticing and allowing it.

We can dialog with the part(s) of us experiencing the pain. We can listen to how it experiences itself and the world. We can ask what it needs to experience a deep resolution and relaxation. We can ask how we relate to it, and how it would like us to relate to it. We can ask what it would like from us. We can find the painful story it operates from, and help it examine this story and find what’s more genuinely true. (And often more peaceful.) We can find a way to work together more in partnership. And so on.

Through this, we may come to realize that the pain is here to help us, and even our reactivity to the pain is here to help us. It’s our psyche trying to help us. It comes from a wish to protect us, and it’s ultimately a form of love. And it often reflects a slightly immature way of dealing with pain. It’s the way a child deals with pain when they don’t have another option. And that’s no coincidence since these parts of us were often formed in childhood when we didn’t know about or have experience with other options.

We can also find our own nature – as capacity for the content of our experiences and what the world, to us, happens within and as. Notice that the nature of this suffering part of us is the same. (It happens within and as what we are.) Rest in that noticing. And invite the part of us to notice the same and rest in that noticing. This allows for a shift in how we relate to the suffering part of us, and it invites the part itself to untie some tight knots and reorganize.

MYTHOLOGY OF OUR TIME

Whether we like it or not, big Hollywood blockbusters are the mythology of our times – at least for large parts of the world.

So it’s wonderful to see that some of these stories are trauma-informed.

They help us notice patterns in ourselves, at least if we are receptive to it.

Yes, I am like Wanda. I sometimes go into reactivity to my pain and become compulsive about something. That can create even more pain for myself and others, and it doesn’t really resolve anything. And there is another way.

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The field

How do I experience myself?

Mainly, as a field. The field my experiences – right now of this room, this body, the computer, the sounds of the keys, and so on – happen within and as.

Sometimes, the focus goes more into the human self. I am the field, and there is a kind of focus on the human self. It stands out a little more.

And I am also very aware that many parts of my psychology still operate from separation consciousness. They too happen within and as the field, and they seem to assume they are separate.

All of that is part of the richness of what’s here.

SEEING VS VISCERAL EXPERIENCE

This is also where the difference between seeing and a visceral experience comes in.

For me, it’s inevitable to find myself as this field in terms of seeing. That is the visceral experience most of the time. And sometimes, when parts of me operating from separation consciousness are triggered, the visceral experience shifts into a sense of being separate.

That too is part of the richness that is here. The field takes that form too, sometimes.

COLORING

And when I look more closely, I find that these parts of my psychology experiencing and operating from separation consciousness color everything even when they are not triggered. It may appear to not be very obvious, but it’s here.

Until all parts are liberated, the whole is not fully liberated.

And that’s OK and more than OK. It’s all how the field and the whole expresses, explores, and experiences itself. It’s part of the richness.

THE FIELD

What is this field?

It’s what I most fundamentally am. It’s what takes the form of all content of experience – the whole world as it appears to me. It’s more familiar to me than any particular content of experience. In reality, it’s all I have ever known since it’s what takes the form of all content of experience.

Thoughts can label it consciousness, or oneness, or love, or Big Mind / Big Heart, or – if we want to be more fanciful – Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on. And as with anything else, labels can only point to it.

How can we find it for ourselves?

In one sense, we are this human self in the world. It’s how most others see us, it’s what our passport tells us, it’s what our own thoughts may tell us since we have learned it from others. It’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. Although it does have some inevitable drawbacks since it’s partially out of alignment with reality. (It tends to create an underlying sense of something being off, and – to the extent our system pretends it’s true – it tends to create discomfort.)

And yet, is that what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? And how can we explore this for ourselves?

We can explore it through basic meditation. Notice and allow what’s here in this field of experience, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Through this, we may get a visceral sense of how any and all content of experience comes and goes. And yet, something doesn’t come and go. What is that? Is that what I more fundamentally am? How is it to find myself as that?

We can explore it by investigating our sense fields, and especially how our mental field combines with the other fields to make sense of the world and help us function in the world. (And how it also can create a sense of fundamentally being something within our field of experience, this human self, even if that’s not the full picture.)

We can perhaps most easily and directly explore it through guided noticing. The most effective approaches I have found are Headless experiments (from Douglas Harding) and the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi).

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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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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How does God see us?

We believe that God sees us from above. But he actually sees us from the inside.

– Shams Tabrizi

If we have adopted a sky-god view of God, then we may imagine that he sees us from above.

If we have a more immanent view of God, we may say that God sees us from the inside.

GOD SEES THROUGH OUR EYES

We can say that…

God sees through our eyes. Hears through our ears. Senses through our body.

God thinks through our thoughts. Feels through our emotions.

God lives through our life.

If we say that reality or existence as a whole is God, then this is clearly true.

A MORE IMMEDIATE NOTICING

And it’s also accurate in a more immediate sense.

If I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, what do I find?

I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here.

I am what my experience of the world happens within and as. To me, the world happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as what a thought can call consciousness. To me, the world is like a dream since both happen within and as what I am, within and as consciousness.

If I use a big or spiritual interpretation of awakening, I can say that this is all Spirit or God.

And that means that God, quite literally, sees through my eyes. Hears through my ears. Lives through my life. And so on.

FINDING IT ON OUR OWN

It’s something we can explore and find on our own.

If we haven’t noticed it for ourselves yet, it may seem abstract, distant, a philosophy, a fantasy, unrelated to my life, without any practical use, and so on.

If we noticed it sometime in the past, it becomes a kind of reference. A pointer inviting us to notice it again here and now. Our nature is always here, so it’s always here to be noticed. It’s always here to notice itself as all it is in its own experience. It’s always here to find itself as what the world, to itself, happens within and as.

And we can find it on our own. We can explore what we are in our own first-person experience.

How? If we are not familiar with this terrain, we may not even know where to start.

That’s where more structured pointers come in. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

That’s where being guided by an experienced guide comes in. Someone we trust, to some extent, and who is familiar with this terrain and in guiding others.

And that’s where any number of supporting practices come in, for instance, basic meditation, sense field explorations, heart-centered practices, training a stable attention, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines, and so on.

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What are we in our own first-person experience? What do we find in immediate noticing? What do we find through logic?

What are we to ourselves, in our own first-person experience?

This is a question that, quite literally, is central to our existence.

We can explore it in two basic ways.

We can explore it in our own immediate noticing. To the extent we keep noticing and exploring how to live from this noticing, this can be profoundly transforming for what we take ourselves to be, our life in the world, and our human self.

We can also explore it through logic and thought. This, in itself, can be interesting. Although it’s not very transforming. And if we have a deeper interest, it can lead us to explore it in our own immediate noticing.

WHAT ARE WE IN OUR OWN FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

What are we to ourselves, in our own first-person experience? What do we find if set aside any thoughts and ideas about this, and look more directly?

Many of us may not know how to even start this exploration, so it’s helpful to have some structured pointers and a guide who is familiar with the terrain and guiding others in noticing.

The most direct and effective approaches I have found are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These guide us in noticing what’s already here and in finding what we more fundamentally and already are in our own first-person experience.

What I find is that I am this human self in the world, in a conventional sense.

And more fundamentally, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. And I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I am what this human self, the wider world, and any experience, happen within and as. And a thought may label this consciousness. It’s a rough pointer and works for some purposes.

Noticing this once may give me a kind of reference.

And it’s transformative to the extent I keep noticing it. Explore how to live from it. And invite more of my human self to align with this noticing. (Many parts of my human self and psyche are formed within and still operate from separation consciousness, so a part of this process is to learn how to invite these parts of me to align with oneness noticing itself.)

WHAT DO WE FIND WHEN WE EXAMINE IT THROUGH LOGIC?

We have all adopted a conscious worldview that tells us who we are in the world.

In this context, these worldviews don’t matter so much. (We may tell ourselves we most fundamentally are a physical human self and consciousness is somehow created by the biology. We may tell ourselves we are a soul. We may be a spark of some kind of universal Spirit. We may think of ourselves as having a soul or consciousness as some kind of appendage, without considering the specifics of how that may work. And so on.)

Seeing that aside, what are we to ourselves in our own first-person experience? Can we find something that’s simple and essential, and perhaps even so fundamental that it’s independent of these worldviews?

Here is a set of statements that, to me, make logical sense.

  • There is consciousness.
    • We experience something and that means there is consciousness.
  • There is content of consciousness.
    • Something is experienced and this is the content of consciousness.
    • This content typically consist of this human self, anything connected with this human self, and the wider world.
    • To us, whatever happens is within consciousness.
    • To us, this human self and the wider world happen within consciousness.
  • To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • Even if we – in some objective and third-person sense – most fundamentally are a physical being of flesh and blood, to ourselves we have to be consciousness.
    • To ourselves, we have to be the consciousness that all our experiences happen within and as.
    • Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness and the consciousness the world – to us – happens within and as.
  • To us, the world happens as consciousness.
    • The wider world happens within and as consciousness.
    • This body and human self and anything associated with it happens within and as consciousness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as the consciousness we are.
  • To us, we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness.
    • To ourselves, as consciousness, we are a seamless whole and the world happens within and as this seamless whole.
    • Thoughts create imaginary lines within this oneness so we can orient and navigate.
  • Our nature is more fundamentally capacity.
    • We are capacity for the world as it appears to us.
    • We are capacity for all our experiences.
  • We can also take this a step further…
    • In many cases, we as consciousness take ourselves to most fundamentally be a separate self in the world. This is an experience created by and within the oneness we are, and it’s often quite functional although also inherently stressful. Although it’s not wrong in a conventional sense that we are this human self in the world, assuming that this is our most fundamental nature is out of alignment with our reality.
    • As oneness, we can notice ourselves as oneness and even learn to live from this noticing. This is typically a long process because of our previous habit of taking ourselves as most fundamentally a separate self.

This is just one way to outline it, and I suspect I’ll find a more clear and succinct way to do it at another time.

The essence is that, to ourselves, we have to be consciousness. To us, the world has to happen within and as consciousness. And to ourselves, we are inherently oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

This doesn’t say anything about our more “objective” nature or the nature of all of existence, and it’s relatively independent of worldviews. It may fit within a wide range of worldviews. This is all about what we are to ourselves in our own first-person experience.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

If this question is central to our existence, why is it not central to more people?

Most people have enough with their daily life. They may not be drawn to this exploration. They may not see it as important to them. They may not see any practical use for it. And so on. And that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone needs to collect stamps. Not everyone needs to be interested in this.

If it’s so logical, why is it not recognized logically by more people?

I am not sure. Perhaps they haven’t thought about it this way. Perhaps they are more interested in some “objective” third-person reality rather than our own first-person experience. Perhaps it’s not as logical as it appears to me?

If this is what we already are, why don’t more people (AKA onenesses) notice it?

Here too, I am not sure. Perhaps it’s because we live in a culture that doesn’t encourage this kind of exploration. We are trained to take ourselves as most fundamentally this human self in the world. And we are not trained to explore or prioritize our first-person experience.

A FEW MORE WORDS

This is just a brief outline, and there is a lot more to say about it.

For instance, there is a wide range of practices designed to help us notice our nature and live from this noticing, and to support this exploration.

Basic meditation helps us notice the always-changing nature of the content of our experience, which – in turn – helps us find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

Heart-centered approaches help us shift our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world, and align more with the oneness nature of it all.

Some forms of inquiry help us explore any mental representations (thoughts, identities) we identify with and find a more conscious relationship with these, and it may even invite these identifications to soften or release.

Parts work help us get to know the different parts of us, relate to them more intentionally, and invite them to align more consciously with oneness. It can also, as in the Big Mind process, help us shift into noticing and finding ourselves as our nature.

Training more stable attention helps us with all of this and just about anything in our life.

Body-centered approaches help us relax and ground and train more stable attention.

Ethical guidelines help us notice when we are out of alignment with living from oneness.

Relationships, social engagement, and living in the world, and any reactivity and discomfort this brings up in us, help show us “what’s left”.

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Finca Milagros - view

Befriend & Awaken: The essence of many healing and awakening traditions

The befriend and awaken process is what I use the most these days as a practice.

It’s simple, direct, and effective. It includes essential elements from traditional psychological and spiritual approaches.

And it goes straight to the heart of emotional healing, awakening, and embodiment.

It allows for healing and relaxation of parts of me caught up in painful separation consciousness. It allows more part of me to align with a conscious noticing of my nature. And it makes it easier for me to live from this noticing in more areas of my life and situations in my life.

Here is a very brief outline.

NOTICE THE CONTRACTION

I notice a contraction.

I recognize it through one or more of the telltale signs: reactivity, defensiveness, one-sided views, feeling like a victim, being paralyzed, and so on.

I notice the contraction in the body. I notice the sensations. Feel the sensations. Recognize them as physical bodily sensations.

I rest with this noticing.

A PART OF ME

I recognize the contraction as a part of me.

It’s a part caught up in painful separation consciousness. It’s caught up in and operates from painful beliefs, identifications. It’s wounded.

Although it may seem big and overwhelming when I am caught up in it or a struggle with it, it’s not even close to all of who and what I am.

THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING ME

I thank the contraction for protecting me.

Thank you for protecting me.

Thank you for your love for me.

I repeat this and rest in this noticing.

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

I explore what the essential need of this part of me may be.

Is it being seen and understood? Love? Safety? Support?

I give it these in turn and notice which ones allow it to relax and rest, and I rest with the ones that resonate.

WHAT’S THE PAINFUL STORY YOU OPERATE FROM?

What’s the painful story this part of me is operating from?

What’s the essence of it?

What are some of the underlying and more essential stories?

Is it true? What’s more true?

What happens when you believe it’s true? Is there validity in the reversals? Can I find specific examples of how they are as or more true?

WHAT’S YOUR NATURE?

I notice the contraction as a flavor of the divine.

And in more detail:

I recognize my nature as capacity for the world as it appears to me.

I am capacity for this contraction. It happens within and as what I am.

I notice that my nature is the same as its nature, and rest in and as that noticing.

IN PRACTICE

In daily life, I may not go through all of these steps in one go.

If I have time, I typically notice the contraction, thank it, notice what it needs and give that to it, get a sense of the painful story, and rest in noticing the nature of the contraction. Later, I may investigate the painful story more thoroughly, although I have done a lot of inquiry so it tends to happen more automatically.

And if I don’t have so much time, or am in the middle of an activity, I may just notice the physical sensations and thank it for protecting me. And then explore it more thoroughly later (or not).

The sequence is not set in stone, and the particular steps are not set in stone. I use whatever works.

ADVANCED PRACTICE?

Is this an advanced practice? Yes and no.

Anyone can benefit from exploring several of these steps.

And for me, I notice they rest on a lot of practice that I have done in the past.

Noticing the contractions come mostly from Living Inquiries / Kiloby inquiry.

Noticing it as a part comes from parts work.

Thanking it for protecting me comes from parts work and dialogue explorations, and it has elements of ho’oponopono.

Giving it what it needs comes from… I am not sure. It seems a part of a lot of other explorations, including Non-Violent Communication.

Identifying and exploring the painful story comes from The Work of Byron KAtie.

Recognizing its nature and resting in this noticing comes from any exploration of my own nature, including the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, along with basic meditation.

For me, this, simple befriend & awaken process rests on decades of other explorations. So I am honestly not sure how suited it is for people who are not so familiar with these other approaches. I would tend to recommend these more basic ones first, and then this one as people get more familiar with the terrain.

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What is omniscient and omnipresent? Turning the story around and see what we find

Some have the idea that God or the divine is omniscient and omnipresent.

As with any map, cosmology, and story, we can turn it around and see if we can find it here and now in our own experience. We can use it as a mirror for ourselves, for who or what we are, for our human self or our nature.

This particular story seems to more obviously reflect my nature than dynamics at a human level, and the “God” part of the story hints at that as well.

MY NATURE

First, what is my nature? When I look in my own first-person experience, what do I find? 

At one level, I am this human self in the world. That’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole picture and it’s not what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

I find that more fundamentally, my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what allows any and all experiences including of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. 

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

OMNIPRESENCE

Here, I also find that my nature, to me, is omnipresent. I am what the world – all content of experience – happens within and as. My nature, to me, is everywhere and everything.

OMNISCIENCE

Similarly, I find that my nature is inherently omniscient.

There is a knowing of any experience before this knowing is reflected in thoughts and any conscious reflection on the experience.

FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

How can we find this for ourselves?

For me, the most effective way is guided and somewhat structured inquiry, initially guided by someone more experienced. The Big Mind process and the Headless experiments are two of the most direct and effective ones I have found. 

The initial noticing can happen relatively quickly and without much preparation. Continuing to notice it and live from it is where the work is. 

NO SPECIAL POWERS

When we hear the words “omniscience” and “omnipresence” we may associate them with special powers.

In reality, it’s inherent in our nature. It’s what’s most familiar and ordinary to us, even if we may not consciously notice. And it looks quite different from what our thoughts and fantasies initially may have told us. 

At the same time, there is something extraordinary in this. Thee is an extraordinariness inherent in existence and our nature and the nature of all beings.

CONSCIOUSNESS

I prefer to not put too many labels on our nature. Labels can help us mentally get it, and that’s not what this is about. It’s about what we find in our own noticing. 

And if we are to use more direct labels, one is consciousness. 

To ourselves, we are consciousness, and this human self and the world happen within and as this consciousness. All the content of our experience happens within and as what we are. 

To us, as this consciousness, our nature is everywhere. The world happens within and as what we are. Consciousness, to us, is omnipresent. 

And this consciousness knows any and all of its content, before any of it is more consciously reflected on and reflected in thought. It’s inherently and effortlessly omniscient. 

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Finca Milagros - view

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.

Two of us – perceiving ourselves as observer and observed

You can talk about ‘myself’ as if there’s two of you: one that is doing or has done something, and the other one who’s watched it and is talking about it. Strange, isn’t it?

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 80, Q&A Sessions, Day 4

In daily life, we tend to take this for granted. We talk about ourselves as something we observe. And we talk about ourselves as someone who observes. And we may not give it a second thought.

It seems a given, and most of us may not even point this out or question it. And if we do, it may just seem like an interesting curiosity.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

When we take a closer look, we may find something else.

And it helps to do this exploration with guidance from more structured inquiry, for instance, sense field explorations (traditional Buddist inquiry, Living Inquiries), the Big Mind process, and even The Work of Byron Katie. We can explore it through the Headless experiments. We can explore it through basic meditation, through noticing and allowing any content of experience, and noticing it’s already noticed and allowed before the mind comes in and does something about it. And many other approaches.

Each of these gives us a slightly different view of what’s happening.

What do we find through these forms of explorations?

We may find that any sense of observer and observed happens within the content of our experience. They come and go. Our nature is capacity for both. And they happen within and as what we are.

And when we take another look, we may find that both are mental representations. We have an image of ourselves as observed, as an object in the world. And we have an image of ourselves as observer, as an I. The mind associates each one with a lot of other mental representations, and it also tends to associate each one with certain sensations in the body. These sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. And it’s all happening within and as what we are, which a thought may (unsuccessfully) label consciousness.

THE CREATIVITY OF THE MIND

This shows the creativity of the mind.

To ourselves, we are capacity for all our experiences. And we are oneness. We are the oneness our experiences of anything – this human self, the wider world, anything else – happen within and as.

And that goes for any sense of observer and observed as well.

Our nature temporarily forms itself into a sense of observer and observed.

WHY DOES ADYA POINT THIS OUT?

Why does Adya point our this apparent oddity?

Because it shows that we often take something for granted – in this case perceiving ourselves as both observer and observed – and on investigation, it may reveal itself as something we didn’t expect.

If we look more closely, we may discover something about our nature. We may discover what we are, in our own first-person experience.

THE MAGIC HAPPENS IN THE EXPLORATION

We can read about this and understand it, to some extent, within the realm of stories. That may be a good initial step, but it doesn’t lead to any real transformation.

The real transformation comes when we engage in an exploration of our own immediate experience and see what we find for ourselves, and when we keep noticing and exploring this.

Image: John William Waterhouse’s Echo and Narcissus 1903

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Love denial

In a conventional sense, this is how it is for many of us. We are unaware of the love in our life, or we sometimes ignore it. We are more focused on our painful beliefs and identities that prevent us from noticing or taking in the love that’s here – from others and even from ourselves.

And in a more fundamental sense, this is how it is for nearly all of us. The mind is fascinated by painful stories and identities and overlooks or is unable to take in the love we are.

In what sense are we love? To ourselves, we are capacity for our experience of the world. The world happens within and as what we are. We are oneness. And when we live from noticing that oneness, we are love. It’s that way whether we notice it or not, and we often don’t notice because the mind is fascinated by its painful stories about us, others, life, and existence.

What can we do about it?

A good start is to notice what’s happening. Our hangups and issues often prevent us from noticing and taking in the love that’s here from others and ourselves.

Another is to become a friend to ourselves. To find genuine love and (unsentimental) compassion for ourselves and our experience whatever it is. We can do this through dialog with parts of us, and different forms of heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’o, metta).

Yet another is inquiry. What are my painful stories and identities? What do I find when I examine these? What’s already more true for me? How is it to live from what’s more true for me? Structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie and the Living Inquiries can help us with this.

And yet another is inquiry that helps us notice what we are and live from this noticing. The Big Mind process and Headless experiments can be very helpful here.

Drawing: Grumpy cat protecting herself from love. Artist unknown to me.

We are not primarily human

This is a statement that can seem either obvious or outrageous depending on where we are coming from.

WE ARE NOT PRIMARILY HUMAN

If we are somewhat familiar with finding what we are in our own first-person experience, it may seem obvious.

In a conventional sense, we are this human self in the world.

And when we look more closely, and set aside our assumptions just enough to not be blinded by them, we may find that our more fundamental nature is something else.

We may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and as what our world happens within and as.

If thoughts were to put (very imperfect) labels on what we are, it could be consciousness or awakeness. And this is the very ordinary consciousness and awakeness we are all familiar with.

It’s the consciousness or awakeness we are and which all content of experience – of the world, this human self, and anything else – happens within and as.

AND WHEN THIS IS NOT NOTICED

For most, the statement that’s the title of this article may seem silly or preposterus.

It may seem to come out of a weird philosophy or theology. Or something not meant literally but metaphorically or discovered through slightly forced logic. Or something said as click bait or for the (very moderate) shock value.

Of course we are this human self, and nothing else – unless you mean a vague idea of a soul or something like that nobody has seen or measured or have any clear idea what is.

I understand where this is coming from.

It’s not wrong that we are this human self in the world. We have inside information about this human self and outside information about all the other ones.

And yet, when we look in our own first-person experience, we may find that we more fundamentall are something else. To ourselves, we are something else.

HUMAN AND NOT

When we notice this, we find we are human for practical purposes in the world. And primarily something else in a more real first-person sense.

This only looks like a dilemma or paradox within a certain set of stories.

When it’s lived, is simple, given, and what we already are most familiar with even if we didn’t always notice.

Meister Eckhart: The eye by which I see God is the same as the eye by which God sees me

The eye by which I see God is the same as the eye by which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye are one and the same – one in seeing, one in knowing, one in loving.

– Meister Eckhart

Big Mind, how do you see this?

BIG MIND

I am all you know and all you will ever know.

I am you, as an imagined separate self experiencing the divine, and I am the divine having a human experience through and as you.

You may call me capacity for all your experience. You may call me consciousness. You may call me what all your experiences happen within and as.

I am what humans call the divine. And I am all you know and have ever known.

I take all the forms of you experience and ever will experience, and this includes as being a separate self, an I, a me, a human self in the world, and so on.

I am this apparently separate self experiencing the divine – as glimpses, intuitions, longing. And I am the divine experiencing itself, locally and as you, as a human being in the world.

Your eye seeing me, and my eye seeing you, is one and the same. It’s what you call the divine, or consciousness, or Big Mind, or any number of other labels.

I am more familiar to you than you realize. I am more mysterious to you than you realize. I am easier for you to notice than you realize.

This quote from Meister Eckhart makes very little sense to you if you don’t notice me, or don’t have any memory of noticing me. In that case, you can only understand it conceptually and that will always be off. Your thoughts are different in nature to whatever they appear to be about. They exaggerate and they simplify. Reality is always more than and different from your thoughts.

And if you do notice me, the quote is simple and clear. It’s obvious.

Your eye and my eye is the same.

Your knowing is my knowing. It’s me knowing through and as you.

Your love is my love. Your love is the love that comes from being oneness. And sometimes, and just about always, it’s somewhat – or greatly – obscured by your very human hangups, wounds, and traumas. And that obscuration is also me taking all those forms.

All of it is me.

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The same principles used in magic tricks apply to how we unawake ourselves

How do we unawake ourselves?

The main principles are very similar to the principles of magic tricks.

Of the ones Penn & Teller demonstrate here, several are specific to sleight of hand, and a couple is more universal.

MISDIRECTION

Misdirection means to direct attention away from where the real action is happening.

The magician may direct attention to another part of their body or stage, or use verbal misdirection (say something that’s not true), or some other form of misdiretion.

How does this apply to how we unawake ourselves?

Mainly, it happens through directing attention to the content of stories and away from noticing what we are. When attention is absorbed into stories, it’s difficult to (also) notice what we are. It’s difficult to notice our nature as capacity for our world, and ourselves as what any content of experience – including the stories – happen within and as.

Another misdirection is when attention goes to the content of stories and away from how our mind creates its own experience. Attention get caught up in the stories and we don’t notice how our mind associates particular sensations with certain stories, and how sensations allows the stories to seem more substantial and true, and how the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

For many of us, these two forms of misdirection are so ingrained that we may never notice what our attention is drawn away from. In order to notice what we are and how our mind creates its own reality, we may need structured inquiry or some other form of disciplined practice.

SIMULATION

Simulation means to make something appear a certain way, and often in a way we are familiar with, when something else is actually happening.

For instance, we see a head and feet sticking out of two ends of a long box, and assume the head and feet belong to the same person. In reality, they may belong to two different people, or the feet may be fake. The magician simulates a single whole person.

Similarly, our mind simulates a great deal. It takes a diverse range of sensory information and creates it into a simulation of a world. It adds thoughts to this to tie it together further and create another dimension to our experience.

Our mind simulates the world as it appears to us, and we tend to take it at face value. This is part of how we unawake ourselves. Sensory information happens in our sensory fields, and together with thought, our mind creates it into a mostly unified and coherent experience of a world.

If we examine each sensory field and how the mind combines them, the illusion is somewhat seen through. We may see that we cannot take any of it at face value. The world, as it appears to us, is constructed. And the world, as it appears to us, happens within our sense fields.

From here, we may also notice that our world and any content of experience happens within and as what we are.

LIFE’S MAGIC TRICK

Life sometimes takes itself – locally and temporarily – as ultimately something within content of experience, as a separate being. In order to do so, it has to play a magic trick on itself. And it does so through some of the same principles as conventional magic tricks, including misdirection and simulation.

The most impressive magic trick of them all may be that we often don’t even notice that these magic tricks occur.

Life tricks itself without even noticing, until it does.

SEEING THROUGH THE TRICKS ADDS ANOTHER DIMENSION TO THE EXPERIENCE

For me, it adds to the experience to know how a magic trick is done.

I get the enjoyment of experiencing it without knowing. I get the enjoyment of figuring out or learning how it’s done. And I get to enjoy the skill of the performance.

It’s similar with life’s magic trick. We may first enjoy the illusion. Then the process of discovering how the trick is done. And we get to recognize how it’s done while it’s happening. We may also be in awe of both the simplicity and complexity of the illusion, and that it’s happening in the first place.

EXPLORING LIFE’S TRICK

How do we explore life’s magic trick?

How do we investigate and learn about how our mind unawakes itself?

I mention this in most articles here, and will briefly list some of the approaches I find most effective and helpful:

The Work of Byron Katie to investage thoughts we hold as true.

Living Inquiries to explore how our mind combines sense fields (including thought) to create its experience of us and the world.

Headless experiments to find our nature and what the world is to us. (To find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and that this world happens within and as what we are.)

The Big Mind process to do the same, and explore the interplay of the innumerable parts of us.

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The play of life (lila) & finding ourselves as capacity for our world

If we more thoroughly explore lila, we are invited to find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us. And finding ourselves as capacity makes it easier to notice all as lila.

Our maps and descriptions of the world reflect something in ourselves. They say something about who we are, as a human being in the world, and they may say something about what we are. And so also lila – the play of life or the divine.

THE CREATIVITY OF THE MIND

Our mind is almost infinitely creative. It takes sensory input from a range of senses and creates the impression of a world. It uses mental images and words to create stories of all kinds, from labels to stories about ourselves and the rest of the world. It can hold these stories as true or not.

It can pretend, for a while and to some extent, that its imaginations about this human self and the wider world are true. It can perceive and live as if these stories are true.

It can recognize itself as capacity for all the content of experience. As what our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as.

Everything we know and experience is the mind expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

This is the lila of our mind, of what we are to ourselves.

THE CREATIVITY OF THE WORLD

We know the lila of the mind since that’s what we are. And we can imagine that the actual wider world is the same.

We can see the evolution of the universe metaphorically as an expression of the creativity of the universe, the play of the universe. Everything that’s ever existed, everything we know, and everything we are individually and collectively, is an expression of the play of the universe.

We can also frame this differently. If we like, we can say that everything – all of existence including all we are and experience – is the play of the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

MAKING USE OF THE IDEA OF LILA

Whether we see lila as the play of the mind, or the play of the universe or existence, or the play of the divine, it reflects something here and now.

How can we explore this for ourselves?

There are many ways, and I’ll mention just a few.

We can use the story of lila to frame our experiences – and existence in general – as the mind and existence expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. This can help us hold it all more lightly and approach it with more curiosity, receptivity, and even playfulness.

We can also explore the particular creativity of thought and how it colors our perception, choices, and life.

For instance, we can explore what happens when a belief is believed, and what happens when we recognize a thought as a thought. (The Work of Byron Katie.)

And we can explore how the mind associates inputs from different sense fields and creates an experience for itself. For instance, it can associate certain thoughts with certain physical sensations so the sensations give a sense of solidity and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give apparent meaning to the sensations.

LILA & FINDING OURSELVES AS CAPACITY

There is a mutuality between exploring lila and finding ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

If we explore lila, we’ll recognize that all content of experience is part of the play. In this, there is an invitation to find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

And finding ourselves as capacity makes it easier to notice all as lila.

In a bit more detail:

If all content of experience is part of the play of mind and existence, including any sense experiences and ideas we have about this human self, we may see that this human self cannot be what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience. So what are we, more fundamentally, and in our own experience?

We may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what our experiences happen within and as. (Perhaps aided by structured inquiries like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.)

This, in turn, allows us to more clearly see all content of experience – including this human self and any thoughts and mental images – as the play of the mind and existence.

LESS DEPENDENT ON ANY PARTICULAR WORLDVIEW

Seeing lila this way makes it less dependent on any particular worldview.

If we are more psychologically inclined, we recognize it as the play and creativity of the mind, and something we know here and imagine onto the rest of existence.

If we take a more cosmological view, we may see it as the metaphorical play and creativity of the universe.

If we have a more spiritual view, we may see it as the play of the divine, and the divine exploring and experiencing itself as all there is and in always new ways.

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Aspects of oneness

We can find oneness in several places.

I’ll make this short since I have gone into it in more detail in other articles.

ONENESS IN IMMEDIATE NOTICING

One general form of oneness is what we notice in our own first-person experience.

Here, I find my nature as capacity for all my experiences – for the world, this human self, and anything else as it appears to me. One place I find oneness is my nature as capacity for the world as it appears here.

Another place I find oneness is within my sense fields. All my experiences – of the world, this human self, and anything else – happen within my sense fields. Within sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thought, and so on. These sense fields are a seamless whole. Any sense of boundaries and any labels come from my mental field overlay. This is another oneness.

I find that all my experiences – of the world, etc. – happen within and as what I am. This is yet another aspect of oneness.

These are all aspects of the same, and all ways to explore and find oneness for ourselves.

ONENESS IN A CONVENTIONAL SENSE

We also find oneness in the world, in a conventional sense. And many of these stories of oneness come from science.

The universe is a seamless evolving whole.

All we know and see and know about is a part of this evolving seamless system.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

All Earth life share ancestors. We are all intimately related. We share huge amounts of DNA with a large number of species – whether we call them animals or plants.

And so on, and so on. There are always more examples of oneness in the universe and the natural world.

ANTIDOTE TO A SENSE OF SEPARATION

Why is this important?

Because it’s an antidote to a one-sided sense of separation. Especially in our western culture, it’s easy for people to feel disconnected and separate from just about anything – themselves, others, society, nature, existence.

Exploring the connections, and also exploring these forms of oneness, is an antidote to that sense of separation and isolation.

We can find the oneness already here, in our immediate experience. And we can find it in the universe and nature – which we are an intrinsic part of.

We can engage in all sorts of practices to explore this for ourselves.

We can explore the first general form of oneness through inquiry, basic meditation, heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, and so on.

And we can explore the second through deep ecology, ecopsychology, ecospirituality, epic of evolution, the universe story, big history, shamanic work, rituals, and Practices to Reconnect.

We can find these two forms of oneness for ourselves, and allow it to transform us and our life in the world.

Photo: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, spiral galaxy NGC 4651

Transcendent state of oneness?

I saw someone use this phrase, partly as a joke.

Recognizing oneness can happen here and now, it doesn’t require any particular state (apart from the state of noticing) and it doesn’t require transcendence.

As I often write about, certain simple and structured inquiries can help us notice oneness here and now. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

And, over time, exploring sense fields is another effective approach.

I notice that all my experiences happen within my sense fields – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts, and whatever else we want to label and look at.

I notice that my sense fields are a seamless whole, and any “outside” and “inside” are both parts of this seamless whole and only come from an overlay of mental representations (mental images, words).

I notice that my nature is what allows all of this and takes the form of all of this. I am what all of it – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happen within and as.

And here, it’s oneness. It’s all a seamless whole.

To me, the world and all of existence happen within and as what I am. It’s all one.

It’s already this way. It’s already my nature and here. All that’s required is to notice it, and that’s independent of any particular states (although strong states can be distracting) and it’s independent of any transcendence. It’s also independent of any spirituality or religion, and any dogma or even worldview.

All of this – states, transcendence, ideas – happen within and as what we are.

There is a slight irony here. Some who seek awakening assume it’s a state or connected with a state, so they seek certain states. In reality, their nature is already here and is what already allows any and all states. And it’s in some ways easier to notice in a more mundane and ordinary state since we are not distracted by the fireworks of unusual states.

In many cases, we may have some strong states which help us recognize certain things. These then fade, and we are invited to notice our nature here and now, in this more ordinary and mundane state. And then to keep noticing as states come and go.

Using Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) as a pointer for what’s here

I listened to an interview with Dr. Jeffrey Long, a Near-Death Experience (NDE) researcher. And although the topic is familiar to me, it was a reminder that the NDEs are all pointing to what’s already here.

Any story, and any cosmology, is pointing to what’s already here in our experience.

What are some common features of NDEs? And what do I find if I use them as pointers for what’s here?

ALL AS THE DIVINE

A common experience in NDEs is of all as the divine, and beyond what we can easily put words on.

It may seem very different from our daily life experience, but we can find the essence of it here and now and bring the noticing to life and allow it to transform us.

In a conventional sense, we are this human self. That’s not wrong.

And yet, is it what we most fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? What do we find when we look a little closer?

We may find we are capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what all our experiences happen within and as. We can make this noticing into a habit and explore how to live from it. And we can allow this to transform our perception, life, and human self in the world.

The easiest approach to finding this may be through some simple structured inquiries, guided by someone familiar with the terrain and guiding others. Personally, I find the Big Mind process and Headless experiments most effective here.

LOVE, PEACE, HOME, ACCEPTANCE

Most report a sense of infinite love, of profoundly coming home, a deep peace, and a deep acceptance.

When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what all our experiences happen within and as, we find these as characteristics of what we are and this noticing.

All our experiences happen within our sense fields, and they are part of a seamless whole. Noticing this oneness invites a love independent of feelings and states. Since this is what we more fundamentally are and always have been, there is a profound sense of finding home. And there is also an inherent acceptance in this since it already allows and takes the form of whatever is here.

NO BODY / SINGLE EYE

People with NDEs often report panoramic vision, a vision free from depending on the two eyeballs, and generally sensing free from physical sense organs.

When we find that all our experiences are happening within our sense fields, we may also find that it’s all happening within and as what we are. Here, we notice that all our experiences are happening within our seamless field of experience. In a conventional sense, we still see with eyes, hear with ears, and so on. But in our direct experience, it’s all much more immediate.

The thought that we see through the eyes, hear through the ears, sense with the skin, and so on, is still correct in a conventional sense. But it becomes peripheral and the more immediate experience and noticing of what’s here in the sense fields take center stage.

LIFE REVIEW

Some report a kind of life review. They get to see a series of instances from their life and the impact their actions had on themselves and others.

Our mind always seeks to process unprocessed material and experiences. It brings it up in daily life and dreams. Often not as explicit memory, but in the form of contractions and reactivity. We may not even notice it, or we notice just a feeling or discomfort without recognizing what’s behind it. And often, the resolution and healing process doesn’t go further unless we actively engage with it and allow and invite deeper and more thorough processing.

In this sense, the life review is ongoing. And we can engage with it more intentionally through therapy, inquiry, and so on.

HELLISH EXPERIENCES

A few who experience NDEs report a kind of hellish experience. It may be turmoil, despair, confusion, anger, struggle, and so on.

This too is part of our daily life experience. If we look for it, most of us can even find it here and now even if it’s at a very low level.

It’s what happens anytime we identify with a struggle with what’s here in our experience.

TRANSFORMATION

Following an NDE, many say their life is transformed.

It leads to changing our priorities and putting what’s most important – typically connections, love, service – at the center, and the rest more in the periphery.

It leads to appreciating life in a fresh way. They find a deeper appreciation of life as it is.

It leads to a realization that we are not, most fundamentally, this human self.

If we explore what’s on this list and make it into a part of our daily life, that too leads to this type of transformation. It transforms our perception, orientation, and life in the world.

UNIVERSALITY

These types of NDEs are found across cultures. There is a universality to them.

And the same universality is here when it comes to finding what we most fundamentally are in our own experience, and the rest on this list.

HOW CLOSE IS THE MATCH?

I imagine it’s easy to look at this list and think: Yeah, this is contrived and an intellectual exercise. The two – NDEs and what’s here now – are obviously very different.

So how close is the match between the two?

On the surface, it can certainly seem like an intellectual exercise – until we engage with it ourselves, examine it, and actually find it all here and now. Then, we see that the essence is the same. What’s in an NDE is no different from what’s already here, and what we can find when we look.

And finding this in daily life can be as transformative as any NDE experience.

MY OWN STORY

I have been fascinated by NDEs since I first heard about it when I was eight or ten years old. I read anything I could find about it, even back then.

Why? At the time, I didn’t really know. I was just fascinated by it.

Later, I have seen some connections.

When I was little, before school age, I had flashbacks to an earlier time. There was a profound sense of being home, infinite love, all as consciousness, profound understanding, and so on. I was without body, and there were other beings there – infinitely loving and wise – I communicated with now and then. It was all golden light and consciousness. These flashbacks would often happen when I sat outside and saw the light filtered through the leaves of birch trees.

Later, when I was in my teens, I realized that this seemed like flashbacks to a time before this incarnation. I realized that this was very similar to what people describe in NDEs.

And when the initial awakening shift happened in my mid-teens (age sixteen), I also realized that the essence of these flashbacks pointed to what’s already here, and what was revealed in the awakening shift.

Is Big Mind / Headlessness a perspective?

Someone on social media asked this question about headlessness.

In itself, what we are – and noticing what we are – is not a perspective. It’s what allows any and all human perspectives.

When we live from it, it becomes a context for our life. Does this mean it’s a perspective or orientation? Not really, and perhaps not necessarily. Although in practice, we may make it into a kind of perspective for ourselves.

When we put it into words, it becomes a kind of perspective. A framework that becomes a way of talking about things.

And if we make it into an ideology or a belief, it certainly becomes a perspective. One of many, and maybe even one in apparent conflict with other perspectives.

The question may not have a yes or no answer. In itself, our nature is obviously not a perspective. And noticing our nature doesn’t in itself create a perspective. But when it’s translated through and as a human, it can become a kind of perspective.

As so often, it’s good to notice, be honest about it, and inquire into these perspectives and if anything in us feels a need to make it into a perspective.

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