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.

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

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

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

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

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

ONE WAY TO EXPLORE THIS

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

Finding the contraction

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

This is how I find the contraction.

Noticing the physical sensations

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

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

Allowing and welcoming

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

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

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

Finding the need and want

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

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

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

Giving it what it needs and wants

I then give it what it wants and needs.

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

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

Finding the lack

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

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

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

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

Seeing it’s here to protect me

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

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

Finding its nature

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

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

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

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

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

A NEW ORIENTATION

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

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

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

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

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Ground of being as other vs what we are

We can see our ground of being as other, or find it as what we are. And that makes all the difference.

GROUND OF BEING

What is our ground of being?

What we more fundamentally are, in our own experience, is capacity for the world as it appears to us. We are what allows any and all experiences.

SEEN AS OTHER

If we don’t recognize that all our experiences happen within and as our sense fields, and within and as what we are, it’s very easy to see our ground of being as other. As something that belongs to the world out there. And as something we typically don’t even consciously notice or recognize as anything of importance.

It’s easier and feels more natural to focus on the content of our experience, not what allows it all. Our focus tends to be on objects, and this what allows our experience of objects.

There is nothing wrong here, but we are missing out of something that can be interesting, or turn our perception inside-out and up-side-down, or even be profoundly transforming for our human self in the world.

FINDING IT AS WHAT WE ARE

If we look more closely, we may find something else.

Conceptually, we may find that to ourselves, we have to be consciousness and anything we experience happens within and as that consciousness. And there is some ground, or emptiness or capacity, here that allows all of these experiences.

And when we explore this through direct noticing of what’s here, perhaps aided by some guidance, we may find the same.

We find that our sense fields – sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental representations – contain our experience of everything, including this human self, the wider world, and anything else.

It’s all happening within our sense fields. It’s all happening within and as what we are.

There is a human self and a wider world, and yet none of it is really other. Any inside and outside happens within the same field of experience.

Here, we may also notice the ground of being which allows it all. And we may find that as our ground of being. This is what we are that allows any and all of our experiences.

It’s what allows and is and takes the form of anything we have ever known.

THE TRANSFORMATION THAT CAN HAPPEN

It may seem inconsequential. What if my nature, or ground of being, is this capacity allowing all my experiences? It’s literally nothing, so how can it matter?

It is what allows our experience. And noticing that it is our nature, and ground of being, can be profoundly transformative.

When we find ourselves as what our experiences happen within and as, we also find oneness. We find that oneness is our nature, in our own experience, and always was even when we didn’t notice.

Any sense of boundaries comes from our overlay of mental representations and taking these as the final word without noticing what we more fundamentally are.

The question here is: How do I live from this? In this situation, and if I take what I notice seriously, how do I live from it?

And there is often a parallel process. Anything in our human self not aligned with oneness and this noticing comes to the surface to more consciously be aligned with oneness. To the extent we support and join in with this process, it can be profoundly transforming and healing for our human self.

This transformation is partly a transformation in how we relate to our experiences, including our contractions. We are invited to find it all as happening within and as what we are, recognize that our contractions have the same nature as ourselves, and rest in this noticing.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

Knowing about this, and exploring it conceptually, can be interesting and – for some – a first step.

And knowing about it in itself doesn’t do anything. The transformation happens when we notice all of this directly.

How can we do that?

The most effective approaches I have found are the Headless Experiments and the Big Mind process. This can give us a taste within a relatively short time and without much if any preparation.

We can also explore this by exploring our sense fields, for instance through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern versions like the Living Inquiries.

And we can explore it through basic meditation: notice and allow what’s here in experience. Over time, we may discover several things. There is a big difference between noticing our thoughts and getting caught up in their content and stories. All our content of experience comes and goes and lives its own life. Everything is part of our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, emotions, thoughts, states, and so on. We may find that our nature is what allows it all. It’s what all of this happens within and as. And we may find it’s already more than familiar to us, we just didn’t consciously notice before.

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From noticing oneness comes love, and from noticing capacity comes stillness & silence

We could say that love comes out of finding ourselves as oneness, and silence and stillness come out of finding ourselves as capacity.

– from a previous post

This is where words fall short, but I thought I would say a few more words about it here.

WHAT WE ARE IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

To others, and in many practical settings, we are this human self in the world. And yet, when we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find that – to ourselves – we are more fundamentally something else.

In our first-person experience, we may find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us.

We are capacity for our own field of experience. We are capacity for this human self, the wider world, and anything else that happens in this field of experience.

To us, this human self and the wider world happens within our field of experience. We are capacity for it all. And it’s all happening within and as what we are.

ONENESS & LOVE

We notice that this human self, the wider world, and any other experience happens within our field of experience. We find ourselves as capacity for it all.

Here, we may also notice that this field of experience is a seamless whole. It’s one.

Any sense of boundaries comes from our mental overlay of mental images and words.

And when we notice this, we may find that another side of oneness is love.

It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that comes from perception, from oneness, and is not dependent on feelings or states.

Living from this love is another matter. Our human self may still have hangups, beliefs, emotional issues, and so on that color our perception and life, and sometimes kick in more strongly and temporarily prevents us from living more intentionally from oneness and love. This is where healing comes in.

CAPACITY & STILLNESS / SILENCE

Finding ourselves as capacity is finding ourselves as, literally, nothing.

We are capacity for anything in our field of experience, and the capacity itself is nothing.

When we notice this capacity, it comes with a deep silence and stillness.

And resting in and as this can be immensely transforming for us.

I find myself as capacity. I find myself as this silence and stillness. I notice that a contraction in me is also this silence and stillness. Rest with and as it. And may notice that the contraction, in a sense, finds itself as this silence and stillness and tranforms and unravels within it.

ONENESS -> LOVE, CAPACITY -> SILENCE & STILLNESS

This is all in the borderland of being too intellectual, but there is also something real here.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I also find that the world is one. My field of experience is one, and that oneness happens within and as what I am. Here, I also find it’s love. Oneness, when it’s noticed and lived from, is love. A love not dependent on feelings or states.

When I find myself as capacity, and notice and rest with this noticing, I find myself as silence and stillness.

From noticing oneness comes love, and from noticing capacity comes stillness & silence.

ESSENCE VS SPECIFICS

At least, that’s how it appears to me now, and it’s important to differentiate the essence from the details.

The essence of this is that, in our own first-person experience, we may more fundamentally be something else than our human self, and living from that noticing can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and for our human self.

What many report is finding themselves as…. capacity for the world, what all content of experience happens within and as, oneness, love, or whatever other aspects people notice, and using whatever labels they find helpful and may be familiar with from their culture and tradition.

The specifics about how love and stillness & silence fit into all of this may be interesting and have some practical use. For instance, in my case, I find it easier to first find myself as capacity, and then notice the stillness & silence, at least for now. And it’s less important in the big picture.

Tomorrow, or next year, or in ten years, I may write about the specifics in a different way. For instance, I can find this stillness inherent in what I am without first noticing myself as capacity. This stillness in inherent in consciousness, independent of what forms this consciousness takes.

And others who explore this will also find and report slightly different things.

After all, when we create maps in this way, we may not be completely clear about the terrain, we notice different things as we get more familiar with it, we emphasize different aspects of the terrain, we may be influenced by other maps, and we use a language we are familiar with.

And that’s part of our collective exploration of what we are. The essence of what people report seems to be mostly universal, and what we each discover, emphasize, and how we talk about it may be a bit different. It all adds to the richness of our collective exploration.

EXPLORING THIS FOR OURSELVES

If we don’t notice this for ourselves, all of this can sound very abstract and even philosophical or a fantasy.

Fortunately, we can notice and explore this for ourselves, and it doesn’t even have to take that much time or be too difficult.

We can use the Headless experiments to find ourselves as capacity for the world.

The Big Mind process can help us find ourselves as all the different aspects of what we are, how they relate to each other, how we relate to all of them (what we already are), and so on.

We can use basic meditation to notice and allow our experiences, and perhaps especially our contractions, and notice it’s already allowed (by life, mind) and it’s already noticed (in the sense that it happens within and as the ordinary awakeness that’s here). This helps us find ourselves as the capacity for it all we already are.

There are also other very helpful approaches. For instance, we can explore our sense fields through traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern variations on this like the Living Inquiries.

And in each of these cases, it helps to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain, familiar with and skilled in guiding others, and someone we trust and resonate with to a certain extent.

Hvordan vi forholder oss til tankene våre

Hvordan forholder vi oss til tankene våre?

Nærmere bestemt, hvordan forholder vi oss til urovekkende tanker?

SJEKKE OM VI MÅ GJØRE NOE

Dette er ganske innlysende, men verdt å ta med for å fylle ut bildet. Om vi har en tanke, urovekkende eller ikke, så bør vi først sjekke om den forteller oss noe vi bør gjøre noe med.

Om en tanke forteller oss at vi har en ubetalt regning, og den faktisk er ubetalt, så kan vi betale den. Om en tanke sier vi er tørst, og vi faktisk er det, så drikk noe.

Det følgende dreier seg mer om mindre praktiske og innimellom mer plagsomme tanker.

TRE MÅTER Å FORHOLDE SEG TIL UROVEKKENDE TANKER

Går vi inn i de, som om tankene er betydningsfulle og sier noe sant?

Ser vi de som tanker, uten å gå noe særlig inn i det de sier?

Undersøker vi det de sier for å se hvor sant eller nyttig det er, og hva som er mer sant for oss?

Ser vi på effekten av hver av disse?

HVORDAN VI KAN FORHOLDE OSS TIL TANKER PÅ EN MER BEVISST MÅTE

Når vi har urovekkende tanker, er det fordi vi – ihvertfall delvis – ser tankene som sanne og vi identifiserer oss med synspunkter til tankene.

Dette gjør at det kan være vanskelig å se hva som skjer. Vi er delvis hypnotisert av det tankene forteller oss.

Heldigvis kan vi trene oss i å forholde oss til tankene på en mer bevisst måte. Og for å gjøre det, hjelper det med en slags struktur som kan lede oss, og også en veileder som kjenner terrenget og har lynne for og erfaring med å veilede andre.

HVA SKJER NÅR VI FORHOLDER OSS MER BEVISST TIL TANKENE?

Istedet for å ukritisk ta til oss det de sier, eller kjempe med de, så gjenkjenner vi de som tanker. Vi vet hva de er.

De er spørsmål om verden. De kan ha noe gyldighet, men det har også en mengde andre tanker om det samme temaet, og noen av disse kan genuint være mer sanne for oss.

Ideer er vesensforskjellige fra det de dreier seg om. De er kun her for å hjelpe oss til å orientere og fungerte i verden. De forteller ikke en endelig eller absolutt sannhet.

Vi kan bruke tanker til det de er gode på, som er å sikre spørsmål om verden og hjelpe oss til å navigere. Og vi kan gi tankene ferie fra å prøve å gjøre noe de ikke kan, som er å gi oss en endelig eller fullstendig sannhet.

OPPDAGE VÅR MER GRUNNLEGGENDE NATUR

Når vi forholder oss mer bevisst til tanker, og det de som tanker uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet, kan vi også lettere oppdage vår mer grunnleggende natur.

Vi kan oppdage at vi er kapasitet for alle våre opplevelser – av oss selv som dette mennesket og resten av verden. Vi er det som alle disse opplevelsene skjer innen, og som former seg til alle disse opplevelsene.

Det er ikke galt at vi er dette mennesket. Det er sånn andre ser oss, og det er en antagelse som fungerer bra i hverdagen.

Men i vår egen opplevelse, når vi tar en nøyere titt, så er vi ikke, først og fremst, dette mennesket. Og vi er heller ikke en som gjør eller observerer. Vi er kapasitet for alt dette. Dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv.

Her oppdaget vi også at, for oss, så er alle våre opplevelser – av dette mennesket og resten av verden – ett. Enhver opplevelse av adskillelse kommer fra våre mentale bilder og ord.

ENKELTE FREMGANGSMÅTER

Det finnes en del støtter og fremgangsmåter for å utforske dette.

Kognitiv terapi er en god start, selv om den stort sett ikke går så langt at vi oppdager hva vi mer fundamentalt er. (Det er helt opp til terapeuten og klienten.)

Vi kan utforske tankene gjennom The Work av Byron Katie.

Vi kan utforske hvordan tankene kobles til kroppsfornemmelser for å gi oss en opplevelse av sannhet i tankene, og så vi identifiserer oss med synspunktene til tankene.

Vi kan bruke grunnleggende meditasjon for å lære å gjenkjenne tanker som tanker, uten å automatisk gå inn i innholdet så mye.

Vi kan oppdage hva vi er gjennom Big Mind prosessen og eksperimentene fra The Headless Way. Dette kan skje relativt fort.

Jeg har skrevet en del om dette i andre artikler, mest på engelsk.

Om å finne flytsonen, og det vi egentlig er (oppvåkning på fint)

Man glemmer seg sjøl, man er bare.

– Lars Monsen: Mitt liv, s. 169 i uinbundet utgave

Lars Monsen beskriver en ganske vanlig opplevelse for mange. Vi glemmer oss selv. Vi bare er. Vi er fullstendig tilstede, fungerer bra og gjør det vi skal, er en i slags flytsone, og vi glemmer oss selv. Vi fungerer bra kanskje nettopp fordi vi glemmer oss selv.

Vi søker denne opplevelsen på ulike måter. Gjennom natur, fysisk trening, sport, dans, musikk, sex, meditasjon, yoga, fjellklatring, tegning og maling, og mer.

Vi ser at det meste har å gjøre med kroppen, og å ta oppmerksomheten ut av innholdet til tankene. Selv meditasjon er overraskende fysisk, og dreier seg å legge merke til tankene istedet for å gå (for mye) inn i det de forteller oss.

HVORFOR SØKER VI Å GLEMME OSS SELV?

Hvorfor søker vi denne opplevelsen?

Det er et par ulike grunner.

På den ene siden er det behagelig. Vi glemmer oss selv. Vi glemmer vårt liv og våre identiteter. Vi bare er. Vi er som en del av naturen og alt annet som er.

På den andre siden er dette det vi allerede er. Vi allerede er rom for verden som vi opplever den. Vi er den våkenheten som allerede er her, og som vi allerede kjenner svært godt. Vi er det som rommet dette mennesket og resten av verden. Vi er det våkne rommet alt dette skjer innen og som tar form som alt dette. Og alt lever sitt eget liv. Dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv.

Uten at vi kanskje gjenkjenner flytopplevelsen som dette, og uten at vi helt vet hvordan vi kan gjenskape det eller finne det mer permanent, så merker vi hva vi er. Vi kommer hjem. Vi oppdager at her hvor vi allerede er, er hjemmet vårt.

Vi glemmer oss selv som et spesielt individ med spesielle identiteter, ønsker, håp, og problemer. Og vi finner oss selv som det vi allerede er, som det våkne som rommer verden og dette mennesket.

Eller, ihvertfall, det våkne som rommer vår opplevelse av dette mennesket og resten av verden.

HVORDAN KAN VI FINNE DETTE PÅ EN MER FORUTSIGBAR MÅTE?

Vi kan sette oss selv i en situasjon hvor vi kan komme i flytsonen, men det er uforutsigbart og varer ofte ikke så lenge. Så hvordan kan vi finne dette på en mer forutsigbar måte?

Det dreier seg om å legge merke til det vi allerede er. Det som allerede er svært kjent for oss, men som vi kanskje overser, ikke ser på som så viktig, som er i bakgrunnen i vår opplevelse, og som vi kanskje ser på som ikke oss selv.

Og det er nettop det vi opplever i flytsonen: et våkent rom som vår opplevelse av dette mennesket og resten av verden skjer innen og som tar form av disse opplevelsene.

Når vi finner oss selv som dette, så merker vi at dette mennesket og resten av verden lever sitt eget liv. Ingenting innen var opplevelse – dette mennesket, resten av verden, den som gjør eller observerer – er det vi dypest sett er. Vi er dypest sett kapasitet for vår opplevelse av alt dette.

Det finnes metoder og pekepinner som kan hjelpe oss til å finne hva vi allerede er.

Grunnleggende meditasjon er å legge merke til og å tillate opplevelsene våre som de er, inkludert de sidene av oss som vil noe annet, og å se at alle våre opplevelser allerede er tillatt (siden de er her) og allerede er lagt merke til (siden de skjer innen bevisstheten). Vi legger merke til tankene istedet for å gå inn i de og de historiene de forteller oss. Dette hjelper oss til å finne oss selv som det som rommer alt, og som tar form av alle disse opplevelsene.

Vi kan også utforske hva vi er gjennom å følge pekepinner fra, for eksempel, Big Mind prosessen og Headless eksperimenter. Dette er ofte den mest direkte or raskeste veien til a få en smak av det, og finne det igjen når vi ønsker det eller husker på det.

Og vi kan utforske det gjennom Buddhistisk gransking av sanseområdene våre og hvordan de kombineres for å danne våre opplevelser, eller moderne varianter av dette som Living Inquiries.

DETTE ER BEGYNNELSEN

Selv om ryktene sier dette er vanskelig, er det ofte ikke så veldig vanskelig å oppdage hva vi er, særlig om vi bruker metoder som de jeg nevnte ovenfor, og om vi blir veiledet av en som er kjent med terrenget og som har erfaring og riktig lynne for å veilede andre på den måten.

Hovedprosessen er å finne ut av hvordan vi lever utifra fra dette. Om jeg finner meg selv som kapasitet for min verden, hva betyr det for hvordan jeg lever livet mitt og forholder meg til den situasjonen jeg finner meg i her og nå?

Når vi finner oss selv som kapasitet på denne maten, så oppdager vi også at verden – alt som er i vare sanser og tanker – skjer innen hva vi er og at det vi er tar form av alt dette, og at enhver adskillelse kommer kun fra vare mentale forestillinger. For oss er alt ett, og vi er den enheten. (Dette er en direkte og klar opplevelse og ikke bare en ide eller floskler.) Så hvordan lever vi fra dette? Hvordan forholder vi oss til livet og den situasjonen vi funnet oss i utifra enhet?

Dette er stort sett ikke bevisste tanker eller spørsmål, men det er underliggende spørsmål vi lever med og utforsker i hverdagen og livet vårt. Og om vi tar det alvorlig kan det føre til en dyp omgjøring av hvordan vi ser verden, hvordan vi lever i hverdagen, og hvordan vi er som menneske.

LITT OM ORDBRUK

Alt dette kalles ofte oppvåkning og, på engelsk, embodiment (vet ikke helt hva det kalles på norsk). Jeg bruker innimellom de ordene siden de er korte og greie og folk har en viss forståelse for hva det dreier seg om.

Men jeg liker helst å unngå de, siden vi alle har en del assosiasjoner som ikke er gunstige og som kan være misvisende.

Dette dreier seg om noe som er mye mer vanlig, nært, og hverdagslig enn det oppvåkning og lignende ord kan få det til å virke som.

What is consciousness?

In a social media group for mainstream science, someone asked “what is consciousness” and there were a wide variety of answers.

This is partly because people define it differently. Some see it as attention or self awareness, and some a byproduct of evolution”.

Some also see it as something we have, as we have a leg or lungs. It’s attached to us, somehow. This may be the most common view.

TWO GENERAL APPROACHES TO STUDYING CONSCIOUSNESS

Few topics are as central to us as consciousness, so why not study it and see what we find?

Around the world, academics study consciousness. They study different aspects of consciousness and what different definitions refer to, they study it as an object, and they do so through numbers and qualitative data. This is all valuable and important research.

We can also explore how consciousness looks from the “inside”. What do I find when I explore my first-person experience of consciousness? What is consciousness to me?

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

There is an even more essential question: What am I in my first-person experience? What do I find, if I set aside what thoughts, memories, and my culture tells me?

(As I wrote that sentence, Kings of Convenience sang “don’t let them tell you who you are” in the song Rumors from the album Peace Or Love.)

A LOGICAL EXAMINATION OF WHAT WE ARE TO OURSELVES

What do I find when I look at it logically?

If we see ourselves from a third-person view, as an object, and as primarily this human self and this body, then – yes – we can have consciousness as we have a leg or lungs. It can be seen as a component of what we are.

If we look at what we are to ourselves, we may find something else.

Our experiences happen within consciousness. To us, they happen within and *as* consciousness. Our experience of anything, including this human self and the wider world, happens within and as consciousness. Even any sense or thoughts about what we are happen within and as consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness and our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We can also find this when we look at our memories of our experiences. During waking life, this human self is in my experience. But during dreams, it’s not always here. Sometimes I am what’s observing a scene, and sometimes I am another person. If I took psychoactive drugs, I imagine there could be even more variations on this. In my own experience, I must be what all of this happens within and as.

This is all a logical or conceptual exploration of what we are, or must be, to ourselves. It can be interesting, although it is still an exploration of what we are as an object and as “other”. In itself, it’s not very transforming. There is another way to explore this that can be profoundly transforming.

WHAT DO WE FIND IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

What do I find I am in my own first-person experience?

In a sense, I am this human being in the world, but I know that can’t be what I most fundamentally am to myself.

So what am I, more fundamentally, to myself?

I find that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my field of experience happens within and as.

I notice that any sense of boundaries comes from an overlay of mental representations. My field of experience is one, and what I am is this oneness.

And this noticing and oneness can be the context for how I live my life in the world.

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS?

Since this exploration can go against our habitual ways of exploring things, and also against how we are used to seeing and perceiving ourselves, we may need some support and guidance in this exploration.

Basic mediation – notice & allow what’s here – can help us find what our always changing experiences happen within and as.

Headless experiments can help us find what we are and explore how to live from it, and it can do so relatively easily and quickly.

The Big Mind process is another form of inquiry that helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart, as what we already are, and it can also happen relatively quickly and without any particular preparation.

Traditional Buddhist inquiry can help us examine how our sense fields combine to create our experience, and we can also use Living Inquiries which is a modern version of this type of inquiry.

The Work of Byron Katie helps us identify and examine thoughts we identify with and hold as true, and this brings clarity and, over time, can help us notice what we are.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our experiences. It shifts us from struggle to befriending, and it’s easier to notice what we are in more situations in life without getting caught in the struggle. (This can also make our life more enjoyable, and we may be less of nuisance to others.)

These are training wheels, and it’s helpful to be guided by someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

To some, this can seem as vaguely interesting information and something to mentally store away as one of many curiosities. It can also seem as philosophizing without any real practical usefulness or application.

If we take an outside view on it, it can certainly seem that way.

And if we go into it, we find something very different.

If we explore this sincerely for ourselves, and take what we find seriously, it can be profoundly transforming to our perception and life in the world. It can be profoundly transforming for our human self.

Most of us are used to function from separation consciousness, our habits are formed within separation consciousness, and many parts of us – and perhaps especially our wounds, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas – were created and operate from separation consciousness.

What happens when all of this transforms and aligns with oneness? What happens when our life in the world, and our human self, transforms within oneness and love?

This is possibly the most profound transformation imaginable.

IT’S ALREADY WHAT WE ARE – TO OURSELVES

The good news here is that we are just exploring what we already are to ourselves.

We don’t need to look for anything outside of us or anything that’s “other” to us.

What we need is some interest, sincerity, intimacy with our experience, and perhaps a few pointers and some guidance.

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Adyashanti: Experiencing many dimensions of being allows you to be more fluid

Experiencing many dimensions of being allows you to be more fluid and not be stuck in unity, fullness, emptiness, or the eternal.

– Adyashanti in The Fluidity of Consciousness

Yes, we cannot really prevent this fluidity anyway. And it’s far more interesting to allow it.

THE FLUIDITY OF WHO I AM

As who I am, as this human being in the world, I have innumerable parts and sides to me. Here too, it’s easier and more real and interesting to allow the richness of who I am and have some fluidity in what I access and even live from. Different situations call for different sides of me.

As a human being, the world is my mirror. Whatever stories I have about someone or something in the world, I can turn these stories around to myself and find examples of where they are true. This allows me to consciously recognize and embrace more sides of myself and find some fluidity in how I relate to them.

THE FLUIDITY OF WHAT I AM

As what I am, I also have several aspects. I can find myself as capacity for it all, which helps soften identification as anything in particular within the content of my field of experience.

I can find myself as what my field of experience happens within and as. Here, I find that my field of experience is one, and any distinctions come from an overlay of thought. This human self and the wider world happens within the same seamless field of experience. It’s one. And I find myself as oneness. This helps me shift out of my familiar identity as a human self with a wider world as other.

I can explore different facets or expressions of what I am. As oneness, I am also love – not a felt love but the love of the left hand removing a splinter of the right. I can find myself as the void allowing it all. I can find myself as wisdom – at least the wisdom of noticing what I am. I can find myself as the wisdom that comes when I examine when the mind gets caught up in a thought, and what’s more true for me. I can find myself as fierceness in cutting through my own delusion when it comes up. And so on.

THE FLUIDITY OF WHO AND WHAT I AM TOGETHER

Even when we find ourselves as what we are, we are still also this human self in the world. It’s just not our most fundamental identity. A big part of this is exploring noticing what we are while we live our human life in the world. How is it to live from that noticing in this situation? How is it to invite this part of me still operating from separation consciousness to realign within this noticing?

In daily life, noticing what I am is something more intentional and in the foreground, and sometimes it’s more in the background, especially if I focus on daily life tasks that require more attention. And as a human being in the world, different parts of me come up in different situations, either because the situation calls for it or because something unhealed in me got triggered.

There is a natural and inevitable fluidity here.

WHERE WE ACTUALLY GET STUCK

We don’t really get stuck in unity, fullness, or anything else. It’s not possible.

In reality, we get stuck in the viewpoint of a thought. We identify as it, and we seek temporary refuge in the viewpoint of a thought.

Why? Mainly because it helps us not face a particular fear – the unmet feeling of the fear, and the unexamined fearful thoughts behind it.

Even if we hold onto an idea of what we are, and perceive and live as if it’s true, we cannot make it true. We are still the wholeness of what and who we are, and there is an inherent fluidity in this that cannot be stopped. We only pretend we can.

EXAMPLES OF GETTING STUCK

Adya mentioned a few examples of where we may appear to get stuck.

Most people get “stuck” in their identification as a human being, and taking themselves to most fundamentally be this human being. Even here, there is some fluidity. What we are is still here, and we are familiar with it even if we don’t recognize what it is. We still find ourselves as it in some situations, for instance in flow states.

As a human self, we can get a bit stuck in certain identities – gender, age, nationality, political orientation, positions on all sorts of things, abilities, skills, better or worse than others, and so on.

When we get interested in what we are, we can get stuck in ideas about this too.

We can take ourselves as capacity for the world, and downplay oneness or our human life in the world. We can focus on oneness, and downplay capacity or the importance of distinctions. We can emphasize love and overlook the importance of being a good steward of our human life and set clear – and loving – boundaries.

When we get stuck in these ideas about who and what we are, it’s innocent. It’s understandable and natural. We are flailing a bit. We scare ourselves, and tell ourselves it’s safer this way.

EXPLORING FLUIDITY AND STUCKNESS

One way to explore the natural and inevitable fluidity in all of this is to notice the fluidity that’s already here.

As a human being, I am already far more fluid than any of my identities. I inevitably perceive and live from far more sides of me than I am consciously aware of.

As what I am, all the different aspects mentioned above – and innumerable other – are already here. I can notice and explore this too.

We can also explore this in a more structured way, for instance through the Big Mind process which is explicitly designed to help us discover and explore all these facets of who and what we are, how we relate to each one, what advice they have for us, how it is to perceive and live from and as each one, and so on.

And finding this fluidity is also a function of identifying and exploring any belief or identity we notice we have, for instance through The Work of Byron Katie or the Living Inquiries.

IS IT A PROBLEM TO BE STUCK?

Not really. It’s natural, understandable, and innocent.

It’s part of being human, and it’s part of the awakening process and exploring how to live from it.

As mentioned above, we cannot prevent the inherent fluidity in who and what we are. But we can pretend we are just or mainly something a thought tells us we are. And this is inevitably smaller and more one-dimensional than the immense richness and variety of who and what we are. We perceive and live as if we are less than we are, and that’s inherently uncomfortable.

The experience of no-self

In non-dual circles, some talk about no-self.

What does this refer to?

THE CONVENTIONAL EXPERIENCE

Most of us take ourselves to be this human self, which is not wrong. It’s an assumption that works pretty well in daily life.

Beyond that, we may also take ourselves to most fundamentally be this human self.

When we look more closely, we may find that the reality is different. We may find that, in our own direct experience, we are fundamentally something else.

We may also find that taking ourselves as fundamentally this human being creates stress and is out of alignment with what we already are although may not notice.

THE EXPERIENCE OF NO-SELF

What do we find when we look more closely?

We may find that we are capacity for the world, and that our field of experience happens within and as what we are.

We may notice that what we most fundamentally are, is what all our sense fields – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, and mental representations – happen within and as.

We are not fundamentally anything within our content of experience. It’s all happening within and as what we are, and it all lives its own life.

We may also notice that this field of experience is one. Any distinctions and differentiations come from an overlay of mental images and ideas.

This field of experience is the same whether we notice what we are or not. This human self is here, the wider world is here. It’s just that it all happens within and as what we are, and it all happens within and as oneness.

We know that others will still take us as this human self, and that’s completely fine. We can still live our life as if that’s how it is. And we also notice that our true nature is capacity for all of this, and what it all happens within and as.

WHAT IT DOESN’T MEAN

It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a human self here. And it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of beings in the world and a lot of selves in that sense.

It just means that what we most fundamentally are, when we look and notice, is capacity for all of this, and what it all happens within and as.

Similarly, it doesn’t mean not taking care of our life. We still need to be a good steward of our own life.

It also doesn’t mean we abandon all conventional views and guidelines. We’ll still strive to live an ordinary good human life.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS?

Some notice what they are without consciously recognizing it as their true nature.

Some notice what they are, recognize what it is, and for whatever reason don’t pursue it.

And some notice what they are, recognize what it is, and are drawn to continuing exploring it.

So what happens if we keep noticing what we are, and explore how it is to live from it?

Mainly, we explore and learn how to live from and as oneness.

And this shift comes with a profound transformation of our human self and our life in the world.

The parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface, sometimes in drips and sometimes in larger chunks, and want to join with the conscious noticing of oneness.

This is a lifelong and ongoing process, and can be both immensely fascinating and rewarding and at times immensely challenging.

I have written about this in other articles so won’t go into more detail here.

NOT TERRIBLY MYSTERIOUS

When we try to put this into words, it can sound mysterious. Words differentiate and what we try to point to is what all experience happens within and as. So words naturally fall short and are inevitably misleading.

It can also sound mysterious since we may not have a reference for it. We may not have noticed it yet, and we may not have a memory of having noticed it in the past.

Fortunately, it is something we can explore and find for ourselves.

And when we do, we may find it’s not mysterious at all. It’s what’s always been here. It’s what we always have been. It doesn’t require anything special to notice it, apart from perhaps a bit of initial help in noticing it. It’s already very familiar to us, although we may not have consciously recognized it as our true nature.

HOW CAN WE FIND IT FOR OURSELVES?

I have written about this too in other articles, so will only mention it briefly here.

The easiest way may be simple and structured inquiry under guidance by someone familiar with the terrain. The Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are the two that works best for me.

Over time, basic meditation will also help us notice what we are. Here, we notice and allow whatever is here in our experience, and notice that when we intentionally notice and allow, we are one step behind since it’s already noticed and allowed. We may find that all our experiences – including our thoughts – come and go and live their own life. Our identification with any particular content of experience – and really thoughts telling us we are something in particular within this content of experience – soften. We may find that we are not fundamentally any of it.

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Awakening is here now, not in a story about another time or somewhere else

Where do I find awakening?

In a story about it being somewhere else – in the past, future, or over there?

Or here and now?

WHERE DO I FIND THE PAST AND FUTURE?

Where do I find the past or future in my own experience?

When I look, I see that I cannot find the past and future outside of my stories. The only place I can find the past and future is in my own ideas, in my own mental images and words.

And that goes for stories about awakening as well. Any story about awakening in the past or future or any permanent awakening are stories and I cannot find it outside of my stories and imagination.

That’s not to say that they can’t be useful.

MAKING USE OF THE STORIES OF AWAKENING IN THE PAST OR FUTURE OR AS PERMANENT

Memories of past awakening are reminders that it’s possible and pointers for noticing here and now.

Stories about future awakening is a reminder to find it here and now.

And any stories about “permanent” awakening is a reminder to find it here and now, and also look at what in me wish to believe there is such a thing. Where does it come from? Is it a way for me to imagine I can find safety? Security? Something stable and desirable that will always be here? Does it point to fear about change and fear about certain experiences? And that I am not comfortable with that fear?

Perhaps it’s easier to find peace with this fear? To inquire into these stressful beliefs?

STORIES OF AWAKENING OVER THERE

We can also have stories about awakening over there.

Awakening is in that person over there.

That too is a story about awakening, and about awakening being some other place.

And this too is a reminder to find it here and now.

HOW CAN WE FIND IT HERE AND NOW?

An understandable response to this is:

It’s not that easy. I don’t know what it is or how to find it.

And yet, it can be quite simple.

What’s in the way is usually two things:

(1) Our ideas about it being unachievable for us. We may have bought into ideas telling us it requires preparation, preliminary practice, lifetimes of practice, that it’s only for special people, that it’s something terribly esoteric and mysterious, that it’s something already unfamiliar to us, and so on.

(2) And we may not have the tools and guidance.

The first is only an obstacle if we believe those thoughts to the extent that we give up looking for and using pointers that can help us find it here and now.

The second is only an obstacle until we actually find it, and these days – with the internet – it’s easier than ever to find these pointers. The two I am most familiar with are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. If we engage in them sincerely and with the guidance of someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others, both tend to be effective in showing us what we are in a relatively short time. And by a short time, I mean minutes.

TRUSTING WHAT WE FIND

Finding what we are is not necessarily so difficult. We need an open enough mind to try it, we need the right pointers and guidance, and we need some sincerity in the exploration.

In many cases, it’s more a matter of trusting it.

Again, this comes down to the ideas we may have about awakening from culture and some teachers and spiritual traditions.

If we think awakening inherently comes with bells & whistles and amazing experiences, then we’ll probably be disappointed if we notice what we are without all of these unnecessary side effects. It may seem too simple.

If we think awakening is something special, mysterious, and unfamiliar, then noticing what we are may seem too familiar and ordinary.

In reality, it doesn’t need to come with bells & whistles. It can be simple and apparently unremarkable. It’s not a problem. (And it helps us avoid the sidetrack of the mind becoming fascinated with the bells & whistles and pursuing them.)

And it’s not something that was somewhere else. It was always here, and we were always familiar with it. We just didn’t notice.

How can we come to trust that what we notice is the real thing? And the transformative power in it?

The initial trust may be a trust in the source – in the pointers, where they come from, the guide, and perhaps the community of people having used it and found what they are.

If we continue to explore it, the trust may come from noticing that what we find ourselves to be – even if it seems unremarkable and already familiar – fits the essence of the description of awakening from many different spiritual traditions and teachers. (At least if we remove the stories about bells & whistles, special powers, and so on.)

Most importantly, the trust may come from noticing what we are, explore living from it, and notice the effects.

SUMMARY

In summary….

Awakening means noticing what I am in immediacy.

I cannot find awakening in my stories about awakening in the past or future or over there, but I can use those stories as a reminder to find what I am here and now.

If I have any stories about “permanent” awakening, then that’s a reminder to find what I am here and now, and also to find what in me wants that story about permanent awakening to be true.

It’s not necessarily difficult to notice what I am. The main obstacles are often (a) assuming it’s difficult and involved, and (b) not knowing the pointers and having a guide.

When I notice what I am, it can seem too ordinary, simple, and familiar. That comes from misconceptions about awakening. I can learn to trust it, and the transformative power of that noticing, through continued noticing and exploring how it is to live from it.

Looking for what we are

If we set out to look for what we are, a couple of things may happen.

We look for something. We may look within content of experience, and what we are is not a thing.

Also, we may look for something apart from us, and what we are is not apart from us.

So how can we go about it?

One answer is to notice what all our experiences are to us. We are capacity for the world, and all our experiences happen within and as what we are.

Here, we don’t directly look for what we are, because that often leads us to get stuck in looking for something within the content of our experience. We instead look at what all our experiences are to us.

That may be a good pointer, but we still need to explore it for ourselves. How can we practically go about exploring it? As I often mention, the two most effective approaches I have found are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Why don’t spiritual traditions use more direct pointing?

Why don’t most spiritual traditions use direct pointing similar to the Headless experiments or the Big Mind process? Is it because they didn’t figure it out?

It probably varies with the tradition. The theistic ones may not do it because it doesn’t fit so cleanly with their theology. And the non-theistic and more non-dual ones may not do it for another reason that makes as much or more sense.

These traditions typically start people off with preliminary practices. These practices reorganize and realign us at a human level, and they mimic living from and embodying an awakening. When people are ready, there may be a direct pointing that helps people notice what they are, or the teacher wait until the student have a more spontaneous noticing. And then there is an emphasis on continued noticing and embodiment, bringing it into daily life.

Why do they do it this way?

It may be because they, through experience, find that the embodiment side of it is what’s practically most important and what takes the most time. Noticing what we are takes very little time, if we are guided to it. Living from it takes a whole life, and many lifetimes if we have many lifetimes to work with.

The other side of this is that if some are shown and notice what they are too soon in the process, they may not take it seriously, or they may think they got it and nothing more is needed. Both of which are a bit misguided.

Also, if someone doesn’t get it, for whatever reason, they’ll at least have the benefits from the preliminary and other ongoing practices.

I know that in Dzogchen, they have direct pointing but don’t use it until people have done the preliminary practices and are ready for it. Possibly for these reasons.

Is it misguided to go directly to helping people notice what they are?

No. It’s just helpful to also point out that noticing what we are takes very little time, and exploring how to live from it takes infinite time. It’s something we are never done with, at least not until we die and are not here anymore.