Who am I?

Who am I?

As with most important questions, it’s more about the exploration than anything else. The answers are reports from here and now, they will change, and they are questions rather than statements.

MY CONVENTIONAL IDENTITY

If I were to answer that question, I could start with the obvious: name, conscious and public identities, and so on. That’s the boring answer.

More interesting are my conscious interests, passions, and values. What’s important to me? What do I value?

If I trace my desires and wishes back to what I really hope to get out of them, what do I find? What’s the essence in them for me?

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

An even more interesting answer is that I am everything I see in the world.

Whatever story I have about anyone or anything is a thought I can turn around to myself and find genuine examples of how it’s true. I am, quite literally, as rich as the (my) world.

I may only see it “out there” and miss out on it in myself. And when I find it in myself, it enriches how I see myself and it allows me to relate to and make use of it more consciously.

THE WORLD AS A SEAMLESS WHOLE

The universe is a seamless system, and I am an intrinsic part of that system. As Carl Sagan said: I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I am the universe bringing itself into consciousness. I am the local product of 13.8 billion years of evolution. I am the Universe and the Earth experiencing itself. I am the Earth taking delight in itself, grieving itself, protecting itself, and so on.

This is as much or more part of my identity as the individual aspects.

THIS ALL BELONGS TO CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

These are all objects in experience. They all come and go. They are visitors.

What is it that does not come and go? That question brings me from who I am (this human self) to what I am.

WHAT I AM: WHAT MY WORLD HAPPENS WITHIN AND AS

Here, I find I am what this field of experience happens within and as. I am the awakeness taking all these forms. I am the awakeness the world, to me, happens within and as.

This is not a special awakeness. It’s the awakeness inherent in consciousness. It’s the awakeness I assume every single “conscious being” – from humans to ants – are to themselves. It’s what’s already here.

WHAT I AM: CAPACITY

Even more fundamentally, I find that my nature is capacity for all of it. It’s capacity for consciousness and all the different forms consciousness takes.

AN ONGOING EXPLORATION

All of this is an ongoing exploration.

How does my conventional identity change? What feels more right now?

What’s the essence of the different wants, desires, and inclinations in me? What do I hope to get out of it? What do I hope to get out of that? What do I find when I follow the chain back to a simple – and universal – essence? How can I give that to myself?

What stories do I have about others and the world? Which stories have a charge? Which stories are painful? What do I find when I explore these stories? Can I find genuine and concrete examples of how the story fits me? How is it to own it? How is it to notice and relate to it in myself more consciously?

What am I more fundamentally, in my own first-person experience? How is it for it to notice itself? How is it to rest in and as that noticing? How is it to live from and as it?

Read More

Being capacity for the world

I find I am fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me.

CAPACITY

I am fundamentally what allows any and all content in this field of experience.

This capacity is everywhere in my experience. It’s as if it’s inherent in all experience. It’s as if it forms itself into any experience.

It’s as if it makes itself into consciousness itself, which in turn makes itself into any experience.

NOTICING IT

There isn’t much to say about it. It’s just something to notice, and not even notice but kind of touching on noticing since this is not directly content of experience.

It’s always here. Sometimes, it comes to the foreground of attention. Sometimes, it’s more in the background while attention is on something else. (And even then, it’s kind of noticed.)

Sometimes, it’s even more in the foreground and everything else goes into the background. In my case, it happens during some shifts in meditation. And it also happens when there is consciousness through dreamless sleep.

TALKING ABOUT IT

Words come short in describing it, as words come short in describing anything. (Not because it’s so unusual or mysterious or unfamiliar, but because of the nature of thoughts. Thoughts can only point to something, they cannot capture it.)

When I look for words here and now, I can say it’s absolute stillness, a kind of absolute stillness that’s in and takes the form of everything.

NOT SPECIAL

It’s not special. I assume any “conscious being”, to themselves, are consciousness, and also are capacity in this way. It’s likely universal. It’s difficult to see that it can be any other way.

Here, it’s been consciously noticed for about 37 years so this human self is used to it. It’s familiar to this human self. That too makes it not so much to talk about.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Is it important? It’s important since there would be no experience without it. It’s what allows any experience. It’s what takes the form of any experience. It’s even what seems to allow and take the form of consciousness itself. It’s kind of a scent that permeates everything.

Is it important to notice it? Or for it to kind of notice itself? Apparently not since it doesn’t seem to be something most consciousnesses focus much on. If it was important to life and existence, it would be noticed a lot more. It seems that it’s perfectly fine for it to be in the background and not consciously noticed or recognized so much.

For this consciousness, it’s fun and interesting to notice, and here too, it’s very rarely talked about. Very occasionally, there may be some words written to reflect it, and I don’t think I have talked to anyone about it unless briefly when it’s clear we both recognize it, as a kind of nod.

A FEW MORE WORDS

Finding myself as most fundamentally capacity also means I am not most fundamentally human. That’s fine. My human layer is one of many layers, and I am most fundamentally capacity for all of it. I am what forms itself into all of it.

Is this what Buddhists call emptiness? It may be. I see how the label could fit, but I prefer the word capacity which I think Douglas Harding used. It fits a bit more.

I used “as if” and “kind of” phrases above. I am sure I could find clearer ways of saying it, but it also works. It shows that the words here are just pointers and approximations. They are trying to reflect something that’s here in immediacy but is also a bit elusive.

The image was created by me and Midjourney.

Read More

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

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

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

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

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING

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

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

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

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

DIRECT NOTICING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

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

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

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

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

LIVING FROM IT

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

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

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

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

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

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

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

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ONENESS

All of this is happening within and as oneness.

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

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

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

INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

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

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

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

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

ONGOING PROCESS

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

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

Read More

Some aspects of what I am: Capacity, oneness, human self, etc.

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find a few different aspects.

CAPACITY FOR THE WORLD

I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am most fundamentally capacity for any and all experience that’s here and now. I am capacity for what’s happening in my sense fields.

I am capacity for any content of experience, whether it’s what a thought calls this human self, others, the wider world, or anything else.

There is a big difference between (a) understanding this conceptually, (b) noticing this as my nature, (c) finding myself as this capacity, and (d) deepening in finding myself as this capacity.

CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE ESSENCE OF ALL EXPERIENCE

I find myself fundamentally as consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as what I am, it happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

The essence of any and all experience is consciousness. The nature of any and all content of experience, to me, is consciousness.

As some say, whatever we experience – including what our personality finds the most unpleasant and uncomfortable – is a flavor of the divine.

Again, there is a difference between (a) understanding it conceptually, (b) noticing it in a general way or when my mind is calm, (c) noticing that triggers and what’s triggered is also consciousness, and (d) finding myself as this consciousness that forms itself into all of this, including more reactive patterns.

ONENESS

All my experiences happen within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am.

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

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

Here too, there is a difference between (a) understanding it at a story level, (b) noticing it, (c) keep noticing it when my psychology gets more reactive, and (d) finding myself more fundamentally as this oneness forming itself into all content of experience.

LOVE

When I find myself as oneness – and oneness forming itself into the world as it appears to me here and now – leads to something else. It leads to finding myself as a love that’s not dependent on any states or feelings. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Here, the difference is also between (a) conceptual understanding, (b) noticing it, (c) finding myself as it, and (d) how wholehearted the intention and willingness to live from this is. And how our human self is put together also plays a big role. The more healed and mature this human self is, the easier it is to live from this love. This love that comes from noticing and finding ourselves as oneness, and is independent on states or feelings.

THIS HUMAN SELF

In a conventional sense, to (most) others, and to myself when I mentally take on that identify for myself, I am this human self in the world.

In a practical sense in the world, I am one part of the content of my experience. I am this human self as it appears in my sense fields, including my mental representations.

It’s not what I more fundamentally am when I look in my own first-person experience. But it is what I am in a conventional sense and to most others, and it is an interesting and fascinating identity and role to play.

Here, the difference is in how I live from the noticing above. What would love do? What would oneness noticing itself do? How is it to notice that this contraction and discomfort is a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that what’s here now, including triggers and reactivity, is happening within and as consciousness? How is it to find myself as that consciousness? And so on. This can get more and more finely grained.

SEAMLESS WHOLE

What these words point to is all a seamless whole.

This differentiation only happens through an overlay of mental representations.

It can be done in many other ways, and the way I do it here reflects my culture, the subcultures I am familiar with and resonate with, and my current noticing and not-noticing.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

This is all an ongoing exploration.

I am very aware that I have much further to go here, especially in more consistently finding myself as all of this in challenging situations, and living from it in those situations.

And I am aware that although practices and conscious exploration are important, they only go so far. Grace is what allows for noticing and finding myself as this, living from it more consciously, and what allows old conditioning to soften and fall away so it’s easier to more consciously live from it.

This is ultimately life and consciousness exploring itself. Life and consciousness forms itself into all of this. Life and consciousness shifts when it’s ready. And these shifts are typically surprising and familiar and it takes time to get used to the new terrain that life reveals itself (to itself) as.

There is no finishing line. There is always more to clarify and deepen into. There is always more to find healing for. There is always more maturing that can happen. There are always more shifts in perception and identity that can and will happen.

Read More

Some aspects of what we are – oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on

I sometimes use words like oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on.

How do these appear in my own immediate noticing? In what ways do they relate to each other?

OUR HUMAN SELF

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

It’s not wrong, although it may also not be the whole picture.

What are we more fundamentally, in our own first-person experience?

What do I find when I look, perhaps guided by some pointers or basic meditation?

CAPACITY

In basic meditation, we may notice that all content of experience is always changing.

Am I most fundamentally something within this changing content of experience? This human self? Any idea of being a me or I or observer or consciousness?

Or am I more fundamentally capacity for all these experiences?

How is to keep noticing this aspect of what I am?

How is it to live from this noticing?

ONENESS

When I find myself as capacity, I also tend to notice that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am.

I can also explore my sense fields, and find that my world happens within and as my sense fields. And from here, there is a small shift to find that my world happens within and as what I am.

My nature is oneness. It always was, it just didn’t notice.

In my first-person experience, this human self and the wider world happen within and as what I am.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE OUR NATURE?

Why don’t we always notice this?

Perhaps because of the way our mind relates to its own overlay of thoughts and ideas on the world. Thoughts and ideas differentiate, and that helps this human self orient and function in the world. And when the mind holds some of these thoughts and ideas as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of these thoughts and ideas.

And this creates a sense of an I and Other. It creates a sense of being something or someone within the content of experience. It creates a sense of most fundamentally being this human self with identities and roles.

It creates separation consciousness.

DIFFICULT TO PUT INTO WORDS

This is difficult to put into words.

Not because it’s mysterious or we don’t have words for it.

The function of thoughts and ideas is to point to something within the content of experience, and this is not anything within the content of experience.

The function of thoughts is to split and differentiate, and this is what allows it all and takes the form of it all.

It’s difficult to put into words because the function of words is different. Words cannot capture the simple wholeness of what we are since they are aimed at describing things within the content of experience. Their function is to split.

LOVE

How does love come into this?

Love is what happens when we live from noticing what we are.

Love is what happens when oneness notices itself and lives from this noticing through and as this human self in the world.

It’s a love inherent in what we are, and it’s not dependent on any states or feelings. (Apart from noticing what we are and aiming at living from it here and now.) It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a pragmatic love.

This will always be somewhat imperfect since it’s filtered through this human self with its remaining hangups, wounds, traumas, and so on.

BLISS

There is a quiet bliss in noticing our nature and what we are. Or, more accurately, in what we are noticing itself.

I am not sure where this bliss comes from. It seems inherent in what I am.

Perhaps it’s the quiet joy in our nature noticing itself as all there is.

TRANSFORMATION

For most of us, most or all parts of our psyche is formed within separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we take ourselves to most fundamentally be a separate human self.

So when we notice our nature and keep noticing it, our human self is invited to transform.

The different parts of our psyche are invited to shift from separation consciousness to oneness.

This is not always a pleasant process. It involves meeting – seeing, acknowledging, feeling, allowing – all the different parts of us operating from separation consciousness. And this includes what we label hangups, wounds, and trauma.

It’s not necessarily what we, as an imagined separate self, thought we signed up for. But it’s what we get, and it’s ultimately what allows us to live from noticing our nature in a more free, clear, and mature way.

HOW DO WE NOTICE?

How can we explore our nature? How can we find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience?

What I have found most helpful is…

Basic meditation. Notice and allow my experience as it is here and now. Notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Aligned with the noticing and allowing that’s already here before any intention or stories come in.

Headless experiments. What am I in my own first-person experience? What do I find when I engage in these playful and simple experiments?

Big Mind process. What do I find I am when my attention is guided by a series of simple questions? Do I find I am without any beginning or end? That time and space happen within and as me? That the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am?

Sense field explorations. What do I find when I explore what happens in each sense field? What do I find when I see how the mental field (mental images and words) labels, interprets, and creates stories about what’s happening in the other sense fields? How is it to be aware of the mental field activities as innocent questions about the world and not any final or full or absolute truth?

Living inquiries. What do I find when I explore how the mind associates certain sensations and thoughts (mental images, words) so the sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations? What do I find when I trace this back to my first memory of experience a specific association? What do I find when I explore underlying assumptions and see how my mind creates its experience of those? What do I find when I explore the most basic assumptions – about myself and reality – that I operate from?

Note: I wrote this on January 8, 2022, and didn’t publish it. I found it while searching for something else and thought I would publish it now. (I often don’t publish what I write here.)

Read More

Mother’s day

It’s mother’s day in some countries today.

We can look at mother in many ways, including literally, as a projection, and metaphorically.

And although much of it may be pretty obvious, it can also help us shift our perspective. We may be able to shift out of habitual views and into views that are more new and fresh to us, and hold them all more lightly.

And that, in itself, is often valuable. 

LITERAL MOTHERS

The most obvious is our own human mothers – whether it’s our biological one or the one(s) who raised us.

Can I find love for my human mother even if she wasn’t perfect?

The more we resolve any issues with our mother and those in our early life, the more we tend to resolve many of the more central issues we have. If you wonder what to find healing for, a good place to start – and end – is your mother and father and anyone important in your early life.

The more we find healing for our relationship with our mother, the more we can find genuine gratitude for her, as she was and is.

Another side to this is that, to us, our mother is as much or more in here as out there. Finding healing for our relationship with our mother (and father) helps us heal parts of ourselves.

MOTHERS ALL THE WAY BACK

There is also the lineage of mothers.

This lineage goes through all our human mothers through the centuries and in many geographical locations, going back to the early human migration(s) from Africa.

It goes back through our non-human humanoid ancestors. The ones that may be somewhat similar to primates today.

It goes back to our non-human and non-primate mammal ancestors. The small ones that lived during the dinosaur era and even further back.

It goes back beyond this, to our non-mammal ancestors. The ones who left the ocean for land, and the ones who lived in the ocean.

It goes back to the very simple organisms that were the pioneer lifeforms in the oceans.

And it goes back to the very first single-celled organism that’s the ancestor of all life today.

All of these are our mothers. They tie us to all Earth life.

Without them, we wouldn’t exist and the amazing living planet we are part of wouldn’t exist.

MOTHER AS A MIRROR

We also have the mother in all of us.

These are the mother qualities of nurturing, understanding, fierce protection, and so on, and also the distorted version of these.

When I see mother qualities in others, whether nurturing or protective or more distorted, can I find it in myself? What stories do I have about my own mother and other mothers? WHat do I find when I turn this story to myself? Can I find specific and genuine examples of how each one is true?

OUR CHILDREN AS OUR MOTHERS

We think of mothers as mothers of children. Is the reverse also true?

Yes, in a sense, our children are our mothers. They are part of making us who we are.

Can I find appreciation and gratitude for this as well? 

MY EXPERIENCES ARE MY MOTHER

At first glance, it may look as if the situations I am in are my mother.

The universe, planet, ecosystem, culture, subcultures, and family I grow up and live in form and shape who I am.

All my experiences – whether I call them small or big – are my mother.

THE WAY I RELATE TO MY EXPERIENCES IS MY MOTHER

When I look more closely, I find something else is more true for me.

It’s the way I relate to my experiences that forms and shapes me and who I am in the world.

The way I relate to my experiences – the way I relate to myself, others, situations, and so on – is my mother.

MOTHER NATURE

Nature is our mother in a very real sense.

Without this living planet, we wouldn’t exist. Every molecule in our bodies comes from the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. All of it comes from the wider ecosystems we are part of.

We are an intrinsic part of this living system and a local expression of this living system.

Our own health and well-being, individually and collectively, is dependent on the health and well-being of our mother, of this living system we call planet Earth. 

MOTHER UNIVERSE

Similarly, the universe is our mother.

All of existence, going back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and stretching out to the widest extent (if there is any boundary), is our mother.

We depend on all of it for our own existence.

Without the whole, just as it is, we wouldn’t be.

WE ARE THE MOTHERS OF EXISTENCE

The reverse is also true here. We are the mothers of the universe.

We bring existence into form and life – locally and through and as our experiences and life.

We are the local expressions of existence as a whole. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

As Meister Eckart said, we are the mothers of God.

CAPACITY AS THE MOTHER OF ALL

There is also the mother of existence, which is what allows it all – as it appears to me – to happen.

When I look at what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me.

I am capacity for any and all experience – whether it’s of this human self, the wider world, or anything else.

This capacity is the mother of the world as it appears to me. 

Read More

The no-thing that allows all things

What is our more fundamental nature?

When I look for myself, I find that one aspect of my nature is capacity.

CAPACITY FOR THE WORLD AS IT APPEARS TO ME

My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. Capacity for any and all of my experiences – of this human self, the world, and anything else. 

This capacity is nothing in itself which makes it possible for it to allow anything. 

Somehow, I am that capacity. We can say that it allows any experience. Takes the form of any experience. And can be found within any experience.

CAPACITY FOR TIME, SPACE, MOVEMENT, SOUND

It’s timeless allowing time. This timelessness is here whether or not there is an experience of time. It’s what any experience of time happens within and as. And it’s present even when there is an experience of time.

It’s spaceless allowing space. This spacelessness is here whether or not there is an experience of space. It’s what any experience of space happens within and as. And it’s present even when there is an experience of space.

It’s stillness allowing conventional stillness and movement. This stillness is here whether or not there is an experience of conventional movement and stillness. And it’s present even when there is an experience of conventional movement and silence.

It’s absence of sound allowing conventional silence and sound. It’s the stillness that’s here whether or not there is conventional sound and silence. And it’s present even when there is an experience of conventional sound and silence.

AND SO ON

We can go through the same with any content of experience.

My nature is the absence of color that allows color, forms itself into color, and is within any experience of color. And the same with shapes, sensations, thoughts, trees, people, the world, the universe.

OTHER ASPECTS OF MY NATURE

When I explore my nature, I find it can be talked about in other ways too, using words like awakeness, oneness, even love, and that’s for other articles.

SIMPLER TO NOTICE

When I try to talk about this with words, it easily sounds convoluted and mysterious. Partly because I may not find the simplest and most immediate way to express it, and partly because of the nature of language.

And when I notice it, it’s simple, immediate, and obvious. It’s the most familiar to me. It’s always been here whether it’s been noticed or not.

Read More

Jack Kornfield: Our heart has the capacity to be present for it all

Instead of fearing painful experiences & running away from them, or grasping after pleasant experiences hoping that somehow by holding onto them they will last, with meditation we come to realize our heart has the capacity to be present for it all.

– Jack Kornfield, Meditation for Beginners

We are built open for the world, including painful experiences, to add to another quote from Douglas Harding.

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.

Read More

Aspects of what we are

There are many ways to talk about the aspects of what we are.

Most of us would say, if asked, that we are this human self. And that’s not wrong.

And yet, in our first-person experience, we may find that we more fundamentally are something else. When we look, we may find we are capacity for our world, and what all of our experiences – of this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

SENSE FIELDS

To us, all our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything – happens within and as our sense fields. It happens within sensations, sight, sound, smell, taste, movement, and thought, and any other sense we wish to include.

Here, there is no inherent inner or outer. It’s all part of the same field. And it’s all happening within and as what we are.

Any boundaries, labels, and stories come from an overlay from our thought field. It’s created by mental images and words. It’s not inherent in the world or what these images and words refer to.

CAPACITY

Even more fundamentally, our nature is capacity for all of this. Capacity for any and all content of experience.

We are what allows all our experiences, and takes the form of all our experiences.

Our nature is capacity, or void, or emptiness, or no-thing, taking the form of the whole world as it appears to us.

ONENESS

When we explore the sense fields, and notice it’s a seamless whole, we also find oneness. The sense fields are a seamless whole, and happen within and and as what we are.

Siimilarly, when we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, the world is a seamless whole. It’s one.

Our nature is this oneness inherent in our experience. It’s always here, although it may be temporarily covered up if the mind takes it’s mental overlay – with its boundaries, labels, and stories – as inherent in what it refers to.

LOVE

Another word for oneness is love. When oneness notices itself, it’s naturally expressed as love.

It’s a love independent of any feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

And it can be, and often is, covered up by the mind holding (stressful) thoughts as true. It’s always here. It can be covered up. And the covering up is, in reality, love covering itself up. It’s part of the creativity and play of love.

STILLNESS & SILENCE

The world, to us, happens within and as what we are. It’s nature is it’s nature, independent of what temporary form it takes.

It doesn’t really move, even if it takes the form of movement. It’s silent even if it takes the form of all sorts of sound.

It’s inherently still and silent.

ALL THE MANY FORMS: HUMAN SELF & THE WIDER WORLD

All of this, to us, takes the form of all our experiences. All our inner experiences that are not on display to others. And all experiences of the wider world.

It takes the form of all our sensations, sights, sounds, smells, taste, emotions, thoughts, states, and so on. It takes the form of all beings as they appear to us. It takes the form of the universe as it appears to us, in bits and pieces.

ALL THE MANY FORMS: THE PLAY

All these many forms happen within and as what we are, and are expressions of the creativity and play of what we are.

That includes the mind not noticing what’s going on and temporarily taking itself to be a separate self, and something specific within itself.

And it includes the mind catching on to what’s going on, and finding itself as what’s described here, and perhaps far more.

HOW TO EXPLORE THIS

How can we explore this?

As I often mention, for me, the most direct and effective approaches are Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These can give us a taste, and pointers for how to keep noticing and exploring it.

Investigating the sense fields, and how they combine to create our experinece, is another way that help undo many of the mental dynamics covering up the noticing of what we are. The Living Inquiries is a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry, and an effective way to explore this.

We can also do other forms of inquiry, like The Work of Byron Katie.

And there are innumerable practices that supports this noticing and living from this noticing, including heart-centered approaches (ho’oponopono, tonglen, prayer), body-centered approaches (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema), energy-sentered approaches (Vortex Healing), and so on.

As with any exploration, it’s helpful to have a certain orientation (receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, playfulness, recognizing we are our own final authority), a rough map, and a guide or guides who is familiar with the terrain.

Photo: The beach in Santa Marta by Alejandra Lobelo

Read More

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.

Read More

Imperfect practice and noticing what’s already here

Maezumi Roshi, and I am sure many others, pointed out that we can only do approximate shikantaza. We can only imperfectly do the basic meditation of noticing and allowing.

It’s that way with many practices. We can only do it imperfectly.

And there is a great blessing in this, in more than one way. It keeps us humble, and it invites us to find the nature of what we already are.

BASIC MEDITATION

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s already here in our experience. As a human being, this is something we can do only imperfectly.

Why can we only do it imperfectly?

The simple answer is that it’s not humanly possible. We’ll get distracted. We cannot intentionally notice everything happening in our field of experience. We cannot fully allow it all, or do so all the time. And we are always one step behind what’s already happened.

And the more real answer is that the premise is already out of alignment with reality. There is ultimately nobody doing it, and basic meditation cannot be “done” or manifactured.

So what’s the solution?

We can practice more. We can get more familiar with and fine-tune our practice. That is part of the answer and very valuable.

And the more real solution is to notice that basic meditation is already happening. What’s here in my experience is already allowed – by life, space, mind. I can notice it’s already allowed. And I can notice that what’s here in experience is already, in a sense, already noticed. It’s already happening within and as this (ordinary) awakeness.

Both of these perspectives have validity. In a sense, there is a human being here engaging in this practice, and perhaps fine-tuning it through experience. And ultimately, there is nobody doing it and the practice cannot be successfully done or manifactured. All we can do is notice it’s already happening. It’s our natural state.

The nature of what we are is to allow and notice what’s here, and it happens no matter what this human self is doing or distracted by.

When we do basic meditation, we mimic what our nature already does and is.

At first, it may seem unfortunate that we can only do approximate basic meditation. And, in reality, it’s a blessing since the only real solution is to notice the nature of what we already are.

FINDING WHAT WE ARE

Finding more directly what we are, through pointers and noticing, is similar. As someone doing it, we can only do it imperfectly.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, or oneness, or stillness & silence, do I actually notice this? Or do I notice my mental representations of being capacity, or oneness, or stillness & silence? Or is there a combination?

Also, when I find myself as this, is there some part of my sense field that’s not included in my noticing, and that there is still some identification with?

In my case, there is likely a yes to all of these questions. There is some actual noticing. There is some noticing of the mental representations, and these are partly mistaken for what they refer to, and they are partly used as pointers to notice what they refer to. And there is sometimes a part of the sense field that is identified with, and especially some sensations and mental images in the area where the head is.

For these reasons, and because my attention is not always stable or fully on, this noticing is imperfect.

Of course, practice helps, especially when combined with honesty and sincerity.

And what really helps is to go beyond what’s done and manifactured.

Can I notice the capacity that’s already here, and that allows all this doing and noticing?

Can I notice the stillness & silence that’s inherent in this field of experience, independent of any noticing and doing?

THE GIFTS IN THE IMPERFECTION

As I mentioned, there are real gifts in this imperfect practice.

One is that it keeps us humble at a human level. I cannot really do any of these practices. I can only do it imperfectly, and – in a sense – fake it.

And the other is that the only real solution to this is to notice what’s already here. To notice the allowing & noticing inherent in this field of experience. And notice the capacity, stillness & silence, and oneness inherent in this field of experience.

At first, we may assume that the practice is to do it and manufacture something. And after a while, we may find that it’s noticing what’s already here.

As so much, it seems obvious. And yet, for a mind used to complexify things, it’s so simple and natural that it’s easy to overlook.

Read More

Notice what seems the least like my nature

I find that what I am, in my own experience, is capacity for the world as it appears to me, and what my sense fields – containing this human self and the wider world – happens within and as.

Is that it? Yes and no.

NOTICING MY MENTAL IMAGES

I find that I sometimes notice directly, and sometimes also mistake my mental images of what I am for what they refer to. It’s often a mix.

When I look for them, I can notice these images, and that helps recognize them as images and use them as pointers for what’s already here outside of any mental fabrications.

I can also investigate these images, and my relationship with them, more in detail. For instance, through the Living Inquiries. This helps me recognize the images more easily in the moment, and it also helps release some of the charge out of them.

INVITING CONTRACTIONS TO FIND WHAT THEY ARE

When I notice what I am – as capacity for my world, stillness & silence, and so on – I can also look for what in my field seems the least like this.

What in my experience, here and now, am I not recognizing as having the same nature as I have?

Usually, these are contractions – made up of mental, physical, and energetic contractions. They are parts of me still operating from separation consciousenss and from unexamined beliefs and unloved fear.

They are bubbles of separation consciousness.

When I first find myself as capacity and stillness & silence, I can notice these as having the same nature. I can rest in this noticing, and invite these contractions to find themselves as stillness & silence. This allows them to rest in it, and realign and unravel.

A VERY NATURAL PROCESS

When I do this, and especially the stillness & silence part of it, I notice it’s a very natural process. It’s so simple and natural it’s even a bit difficult to write about.

I also see that there is no differentiation between healing, awakening, and embodiment here. All three are present in this process.

Inviting contractions to find themselves as stillness & silence is healing in that it allows emotional issues to heal.

It strengthens the habit of finding my own nature and noticing what’s in my experience as having the same nature.

And it supports living from noticing what I am. It supports embodiment since these contractions inevitably color (distort) my perception and life, and when they are triggered, it’s easy for me to temporarily get caught up in them and perceive and live from separation consciousness.

Read More

Tracing back to find what’s unmanufactured

When I explore what I am, or some aspect of it, I often trace it back to what’s unmanufactured.

More precisely, I notice concepts and mental representations of it, and whether I mistake those for what they point to. And then use them as pointers to what they refer to.

For instance, when I woke up this morning, I noticed a contraction in me, and wanted to explore it from stillness and silence.

So I found myself as stillness and silence and noticed that some elements of it felt manufactured. It was the idea of stillness and silence. It was a sensation and some mental images of stillness and silence. And there were some sensations and mental images creating a slight sense of someone doing it, someone looking for and finding stillness and silence.

So I metaphorically took a step back. What’s the actual stillness and silence that allows all of this? That takes the form of all of this? What’s the stillness and silence already here, and that doesn’t need to be manufactured?

I often do the same when I find myself as capacity, or oneness. And when I just explore what I am without these pointers as a guide.

I find myself as capacity for this field of experience. I notice some sensations and mental images that represent – and give a sense of – capacity, and some that give a sense of someone doing the looking or observing. And see if there is a more actual capacity inherent in it all, that doesn’t need to and can’t be manufactured, already allowing it all – including these senses of capacity, doer, observer, and so on, these sensation-mental image combinations.

Stillness & silence as part of what we are

One aspect of what we are is stillness & silence.

Over the last few years, I have tended to focus on the oneness aspect of what I am, and finding myself as capacity for it all.

Before then, and perhaps especially in the years following the initial awakening shift, I did pay much more attention to the stillness & silence side of it, and somehow that got “lost” for a while.

That’s OK, and it may be time to intentionally notice it more again.

STILLNESS & SILENCE

In a sense, oneness and capacity are the two ends of the polarity of what we are. And somewhere in the zone inbetween is the silence and stillness of what we are.

We are capacity for that silence and tillness, and that silence and stillness come out of and are aspects of finding ourselves as capacity for our field of experience.

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

THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF & STILLNESS & SILENCE

There is also a practical side to finding ourselves as silence and stillness, as my friend Amy H. reminded me of.

When a contraction comes up, and I notice there is something out of alignment with oneness in how I relate to it and how it operates in me and my life, I can….

Find myself as capacity for the world. (This helps me get into it.) Find myself as stillness and silence. Notice the contraction as stillness and silence.

And rest here for a while.

In a sense, and this is one place where words fall short, this reminds the contraction of what it is. It helps the contraction find itself as this silence and stillness. And that helps it align more consciously with oneness. It helps it rest and unravel and find some peace.

A MISSING PIECE

For me, this has been a missing piece lately.

I have met these contractions in different ways… befriending, dialog, listening, finding love for, notice as part of oneness, notice their true nature is capacity, and so on.

And one missing piece has been this silence and stillness.

When I find myself as it, and the contraction as it, something different does happen. It is, as Amy calls it, a dissolver.

Read More

I am in you and you in me?

When you call me European, I say yes. When you call me Arab, I say yes. When you call me black, I say yes. When you call me white, I say yes. Because I am in you and you are in me. We have to inter-be with everything in the cosmos.

– Thich Nhat Hanh

This can sound like a poetic expression or well-intentioned wishful thinking.

And if we look more closely, we may find something else. We may find it’s an accurate description of how it already is.

BIOLOGY

We share ancestry not just going back to the first cells but to the beginning of this universe. We share 99.9% of our genetic material.

We are basically the same, in all the essentials. We have the same basic needs, wants, fears, and so on.

PROJECTIONS

If I have a story about you, and turn it around to myself, I can specific examples of how it’s true for me as well. I can find how it’s as or more true for me.

You are my mirror. You help me see myself. (If I allow it and notice.)

In this sense, you are me. What I see in you is what I know from myself, whether I notice or not.

WHAT I AM

My experience of you happens within my sense fields. If you are here, or I see a movie or picture of you, you happen within my sight and possibly touch, smell, and so on.

Whether you are here or not, you also happen within my mental field. You happen through my mental representations of you – my mental images, labels, memories, and stories.

I find I am capacity for you. You happen within and as my sense fields. You happen within and as what I am.

In this sense, you are me. You happen within and as what I am. And I am you. What I am takes the form of my experience of you.

I AM IN YOU AND YOU IN ME

In several ways, it’s true that you are in me and I am in you.

It’s true in a biological sense.

It’s true since you are my mirror. What I see in you is what I have in myself.

It’s true since my experience of you happens within and as what I am.

The question is: if I keep noticing this, and keep exploring it and seeing it’s undeniably so, what does it do to me? If I take this seriously, how do I live my life?

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.

Read More

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.

If I am capacity for the world and this human self, does that mean that this awake capacity is here after this human self is gone?

If I am capacity for the world and this human self, does that mean that when this human self dies, this awake space is still there, perhaps filled with something else?

The short answer is, I don’t know.

It’s true that to me, I am awake capacity for all my experiences – this human self, the wider world, change, birth and death, and so on. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

But from that doesn’t follow that this awake space will still be here after this human self dies. I cannot say. Maybe it will go away. (The capacity will still be here, but maybe the awakeness will be gone with the human self.) Maybe this awake capacity will continue, filled with different experiences. (Experiencing a life between lives etc.) I don’t know.

I personally have images that seem to be from before this human life, and I have images that seem to be from particular past lives. They feel like memories, but I don’t know if that’s what they are. People and traditions may talk about reincarnation or heaven, but I cannot know if that’s true or not. There is research into reincarnation, and they seem to find data that fits the idea of reincarnation, but I cannot know that for certain either.

And that’s a very good place to be. It’s freeing. It’s honest.

All that matter is that right now, I find myself as capacity for it all – this human self, the wider world, these ideas, and anything else happening.

Adyashanti: You can’t see your true nature without seeing the true nature of everything

When you wake up from your story, guess what you realize about everybody else? They are not their story. They are spirit, too. And that spirit is totally independent of their story and your story about them. So you not only lose your center, you lose their center, that box you would put them in. You see they are the same. This is why it is said that enlightenment is never a personal matter. You can’t realize you are enlightened and still believe that others aren’t. You can’t see your true nature without seeing the true nature of everything. It is literally impossible. This is a tremendous act of compassion, an act of love.

– Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing

Yes, that’s true. And there is a slight nuance or wrinkle to it.

To us, it appears that everybody and everything has the same nature as us.

Everything happens within and as what we are, so naturally it appears that their true nature is the same as “my” true nature.

When we check with others, their reports seem to confirm that their true nature – to them – is the same as my true nature to me.

But is it true for everything? Yes, it appears that way. There may be hints, and sometimes a lot of hints, that the true nature of existence is the same as the true nature I find here. But if I am completely honest with myself, can I know for certain? For me, I find it helpful to have the flexibility to acknowledge the validity in both.

Is this important? Yes and no. It doesn’t really matter in a practical sense. But it’s good to be honest about these things. It helps us clarify and differentiate.

Is my true nature the same as the true nature of existence?

I rarely use the term “true nature” since it suggests certain knowledge, although I also understand why they call it that in Buddhism.

My own apparent true nature

When I explore it for myself, I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. What I am is what my experience – of myself and the wider world – happen within and as.

One aspect of this is being capacity for the world as it appears to me. I can also say it’s no-thing full of everything. Or void allowing any experience. Or awakeness and all happening within and as awakeness. Or oneness since all is happening within and as what I am. Or love and all happening within and as love. (This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter of the right, not the type of love that is a feeling or dependent on a feeling.)

It can also be called Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, the Divine, or any of the labels that points to roughly the same.

So I understand why they call it “true nature”. It’s difficult to imagine anything more fundamental than finding ourselves as capacity for all content of our experience, including awakeness, love, and whatever else it may be.

The true nature of existence

If my true nature is capacity, or capacity and awakeness, what about the true nature of the rest of existence?

The honest answer is that I don’t know.

Another answer is that, yes, it appears – to me – to be the true nature of all of existence. To me, the world happens within and as capacity and awakeness, so it naturally appears that way to me.

It makes logical sense that it’s the true nature of existence. After all, what’s more basic than capacity for anything and all? I am not so sure about the other qualities like awakeness. Is the universe and existence awake in itself? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps in part. I don’t know.

And yet another answer is that there are signs that suggests it’s the true nature of existence, for instance synchronicities, ESP, distance healing, and more. At the very least, this hints at the oneness of existence.

Exploring this for ourselves

As I often write about, there are ways to explore this for ourselves. Any words are pointers and questions, at most, and this only comes alive and has meaning as we discover it for ourselves.

Headless experiments is an excellent way to explore this, as is the Big Mind process and the Living Inquiries, and many other approaches out there.

Summary

I can say something about what appears to be my own true nature. I can say that existence itself appears to me to have the same true nature. It makes logical sense. There are some hints. And that’s about what I can say.

This is something we all can explore for ourselves. What do I find when I investigate for myself? Is it similar? Different? Would I talk about it differently?

Read More

Wanting what’s here

I just (re)listened to the audiobook version of On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, mostly because it’s a relief to listen to someone taking such a simple, grounded, sane, and pragmatic approach to awakening (!)

Towards the end, he talks about actively wanting what’s here.

Why would we want what’s here?

We are capacity for what’s here – our human self and the wider world as it appears to us. It happens within and as what we are. It’s us in whatever form it happens to take here and now. So why not welcome it?

What’s here is here. It’s too late to do something about it. So why struggle with it? Struggle only creates suffering. It makes more sense to actively want what’s here. This also frees us up to be engaged and work on changing situations as needed.

The wanting-what’s-here pointer is a touchstone. It shows us how we relate to what’s coming up in us. Is it easy for us to genuinely welcome it? Or is there an impulse in us to avoid it or make it go away? And do we join in with that impulse or do we notice that it too happens within what we are capacity for? Having the pointer in the back of our mind can help us notice when suffering – unawake and unhealed – parts of us are triggered, and also whether we join in with it or notice ourselves as what it happens within and as – just like anything else.

How does it look in practice?

It’s a welcoming of what’s already here because we can’t do anything about it and struggling with it doesn’t help or make any sense. What’s coming up for our human self is already here. The situation our human self is in is already here. So why not join in with it and actively want it? Also, it’s what we already are so why not welcome it as another expression of the creativity of what we are?

It does not mean to be passive or resigned. We can still actively work to change the situation and circumstances we are in – or someone else is in. Often, wanting what’s here frees up our response. Instead of reacting we can respond a little more intentionally. There is access to more kindness, clarity, wisdom, and creativity.

How can we find this active welcoming?

When we notice ourselves as capacity for what’s here, including anything coming up in our human self, it’s easier to notice it all as happening within and as what we are and find a genuine and active welcoming and wanting of what’s here.

Said another way, the welcoming and actively wanting it is already here. It’s what we already are. So when we find ourselves as capacity for what’s here, we also find this welcoming and wanting.

Why don’t we always notice what we are?

Perhaps we haven’t noticed. Or we have noticed but don’t take it seriously. Or we don’t see any practical use of it.

Or we do notice and we take it seriously, and yet sometimes get pulled into old beliefs, emotional issues, and traumas, and “forget” for a while.

How can we notice what we are?

To have an initial glimpse of what we are, and to keep noticing in daily life, it helps to have some pointers. For me, the most effective one has been the Headless Way, Big Mind process (based on Voice Dialog and Zen), and Living Inquiries (a modern version of traditional Buddhist inquiry).

How can we train this noticing even when emotional issues come up?

There are two elements that stands out to me.

One is how we relate to what’s coming up in this human self. Do we get caught in it or do we notice it as happening within and as what we are?

The other is inviting in healing and awakening for any suffering parts of us surfacing, the one still operating from separation consciousness.

These two mutually support each other.

Noticing what we are while bringing presence into the suffering parts helps them relax and feel seen and loved. They receive what they need and want.

And inviting these suffering parts of us to heal and awaken makes it easier to notice what we are even when they are triggered. Some or most of the charge goes out of them.

I have written a lot about this in other articles so won’t go into it here.

What if we notice the shift is close?

If we are in a situation where we notice that the shift into actively welcoming what’s here is close, then a small pointer or question may be helpful. For instance:

How would it be to want what’s here?

Even if there are things coming up in my human self, I can often find this shift. And I can still notice what’s coming up in me and later get to know it better and invite in healing and awakening for it.

How does the overall process look?

Douglas Harding talks about seven stages or phases. I’ll just mention a very simplified version here.

First, there is an initial glimpse or noticing. This is always spontaneous although it can come without any apparent preparation or through inquiry or other spiritual practices.

Then, there is taking this seriously and wishing to continue exploring it and how to live from it in our daily life.

A part of this exploration is to investigate what happens when the mind gets pulled into old separation consciousness. We get more experience in noticing ourselves as capacity through more and more experiences, states, and life situations. And we invite in healing and awakening for the parts of us still stuck in suffering and separation consciousness.

As we keep doing this, the noticing becomes more stable and continues more often even when emotional issues surface.

Is Douglas Harding the only one talking about this?

Not at all, it’s common for mystics from all times and traditions to talk about it. Christian mystics may talk about God’s and my will becoming one. Byron Katie talks about loving what is. And so on.

Read More

Tools for emotional emergencies

When we feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to have some emergency tools to help us deal with it.

We may can feel overwhelmed when a strong emotional issue or trauma is triggered in us. And this can happen from daily life situations. Or it can come up as part of an ongoing healing or awakening process.

I have selected a few tools for this article that I have found helpful for myself.

These are emergency tools. They won’t solve the issue themselves but they can help us relate to them differently and help us through the strongest parts of the storm.

If you are currently overwhelmed, just do something simple that helps you here and now. Ask for help. And if something in this list resonates with you, try it and see if it helps. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Be kind with yourself.

If you are currently in a more calm place, I suggest you try each tool out for yourself, see which one or ones resonate with you, and get comfortable using it so it’s easier to apply when you need it.

AMPLIFY / RELEASE

Make whatever goes on for you stronger for a few seconds. Then release, let it all go, and rest for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after. Repeat a few times if necessary.

See if you can make the uncomfortable sensations stronger. Make the scary thoughts and images stronger. Do it for perhaps five seconds. Then release. Relax. Let it all go. Do this for a few seconds. Notice the difference before and after and repeat once or a few times if necessary.

Don’t worry if you are unable to actually make the sensations etc. stronger. It’s the intention and engaging in the trying that it’s important.

I love this tool and it can help reduce the strength of what’s going on. I assume it works because our resistance to uncomfortable experiences makes it stronger and tends to hold it in place. Using this tool, we go against this resistance and intentionally try to make it stronger. That helps us release the resistance and it also shows us that the sensations, thoughts and so on are not as scary as they seemed.

BE KIND WITH YOURSELF

Place your hands on your chest and belly. Breathe slowly and intentionally.

Say kind and soothing words to yourself, as you would to a child or a good friend. For instance: I love you. I love you just as you are. This will pass. You are stronger and more resilient than you realize. Everything you are feeling is OK as it is. This is part of the universal human suffering we all sometimes experience.

You can also say to what’s coming up – the pain, fear, panic, loneliness, anger: Thank you for protecting me. You are safe here. I love you. Repeat.

Say: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you. Repeat several times. Say it to yourself. Or the suffering part of you. Or who or what triggered the reaction in you. (This is a beautiful Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopno.)

SAY “YES” TO WHAT’S HERE

How is it to say YES to what’s here?

How is it to say YES even to the “no” we have in ourselves?

ATTENTION TO PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Pay attention to the sensations in your body connected with the emotions. See if you can set aside any thoughts and mental images for a little while.

Stay with the physical sensations. Find some curiosity about them. Where do you feel it? Do they have a boundary? If you close your eyes, can you also notice the boundless space they happen within? Can you notice the space and the sensations at the same time? Do the sensations get stronger? Weaker? Do you notice sensations other places in the body?

If the sensations feel like too much, try shifting attention between sensations and the space they are happening within. Spend some time with the sensations, then some time with the space, and so on.

It can really help to learn to pay attention to the physical sensations and set aside related thoughts and mental images. It helps us ground. It helps us notice that the charge of emotions comes from body sensations. And we may notice that it’s often OK to set aside stressful thoughts for a while. We don’t need to actively fuel them.

BREATH

Slow and intentional breathing helps calm our system. There are several ways to explore this.

One is the alternate nostril breathing from yoga. Use a finger to block one nostril and take a relaxed and full in-and-out breath with the other. Switch. Repeat several times. Notice any differences before and after.

Another is to breathe out as much air as you can and allow your lungs to fill up again naturally. Repeat a few times.

And and yet another is to lie down, place one hand on the chest and another on the belly, and breathe slowly and intentionally. This can be combined with breathing as much air out as possible and then allowing the air to fill up the lungs naturally.

NATURE & PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Ground in simple activities. Do the dishes. Clean. Make food. Do gardening.

Spend time in nature. We belong to and evolved in nature so this can be soothing and nurturing. Walk barefoot if conditions allow.

Walk. Run. Scream. Sing. Jump up and down while landing on your heels. Do strength training. Swim. Do yoga. Shake. Use your body. Take a good bath.

Put your face in cold water or splash cold water on your face. This can help calm down your system.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF

Identify your stressful thoughts. Write them down. Be gently and brutally honest with yourself. What’s more true than these stressful thoughts? If your life dependent on being brutally honest with yourself, what would you tell yourself? Finding what’s more true for us is often a relief.

For instance, my mind may tell itself it’s too much, I can’t handle it. Is that true? What’s the reality? The reality is that I am still here. I seem to know how to handle it, somehow.

This one may depend on some practice with inquiry. As with the other tools here, only use it if it works for you.

MORE STRUCTURED APPROACHES

The Work of Byron Katie can be great for dealing with stressful and overwhelming thoughts and corresponding emotions. Look up the free helpline where a facilitator will help you through the process.

Another form of inquiry, the Living Inquiries, can also be of great help although it does require some ability to rest and notice.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) helps release tension out of the body through the natural and in-built tremoring mechanism.

And Vortex Healing can help your system relax relatively quickly. This can be done at a distance.

Common for all of these is that you’ll need an experienced practitioner to help you unless you have some experience with it (The Work and TRE) or gone through the training yourself (Living Inquiries, Vortex Healing).

NOTES

There are a lot of other tools out there. Find the ones that work for you and practice when your system is more calm so you get familiar with using them.

You may notice that many of these tools have to do with the body, nature, and our physical world. That’s not coincidence. When we go into overwhelm, it’s usually because we actively fuel stressful thoughts and mental images. This can happen more or less consciously. In either case, it helps to bring attention to something physical and here-and-now.

I have written more in-depth about some of these tools. Follow the tags to find these articles. I also have a small booklet on the back-burner with these and more tools.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

Emergency measures

When something – an emotion, physical or emotional pain, cravings and addictions – feels overwhelming and unbearable, what do we do?

As psychologists (and others) identified a while ago, there is a range of coping strategies. From the more unhealthy ones such as drinking, using drugs, and aggression and violence, to the moderately unhealthy ones such as eating, shopping, and entertainment, to the more helpful ones such as friendships, nature, movement, to the ones that may resolve it all such as inquiry and seeing through the beliefs of overwhelm and unbearable.

Among the latter, some may be helpful short term and some in the longer term. And we each have to find what works for us.

Here are some emergency measures that works for me:

Move. Go for a walk. Do self-Breema. Shake (TRE). Jump up and down in place.

Talk with a friend.

Conscious breathing. Place hands on belly and chest and notice the breath. Make outbreath longer than inbreath. Breathe into the sensation, allow the sensation and breath to merge.

Feel the sensations. Feel them as sensations. (Set the stories aside for a while, if I can.)

Use ho’oponopono. Say to myself (the scared part of me), I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you. Say this also to whatever triggered it. (A person, symptom, situation.)

Alternately amplify and drop the stressful stories. (10 sec. each, described by Joey Lott in some of his books).

Tapping. (EFT type tapping.)

Say to myself: I love you. I love you. I love you. / It’s OK to feel this.

Ask myself: Is it true this is overwhelming? Is it true it’s too much? It’s unbearable, is it true?

And some longer term strategies:

Inquire into how I relate to what’s been triggered.

Can I find the threat? The overwhelm? Intensity? Pain? (Living Inquiries.)

Is it true it’s unbearable? Too much? (The Work.)

Inquire into the triggers. (Perceived threats.)

Inquire into being triggered. (My stories about it, deficient identities, fears.)

I posted a question about this on a Facebook page for inquiry, and here are two answers I found especially helpful:

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B.

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R.

Read More

Capacity to meet what’s here in an intentional and conscious way

Capacity to meet what’s here – emotions, sensations, images, thoughts – in an intentional and conscious way generally grows with familiarity and experience.

More specifically, it’s enhanced through a living insight into the nature of illusion and the nature of reality.

It’s enhanced through recognizing what’s here as innocent love, and meeting it with love.

It’s enhanced through training a stable attention, for instance by bringing attention – gently, wordlessly – to the sensations at the nostrils from the breath.

It’s supported by noticing that opening for what’s here is already here, before any intention to open to it or meet it intentionally.

It’s supported through body centered activities such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong and Breema. It’s supported through a good diet and drinking plenty of water. It’s supported by physical activity and being in reasonably good physical shape. It’s supported through being in nature.

It’s supported when someone else is here as a friend, a witness, a facilitator, preferably someone who themselves are able to rest in (as) what’s here. It’s supported when two or more are gathered in this shared intention. It’s supported through gentle, friendly touch.

And it may be temporarily weakened or even apparently lost, for instance through a dark night of the soul (as I know very well), and also when strong wounds, hurts, fears and beliefs surface for the first or first few times – until they are met in a more conscious way.

Thank you, collapse

I sometimes notice a lack of capacity to meet what’s surfacing, and also a collapse when what’s surfacing is strong and the capacity is low. This has happened more frequently after the dark night set in, and especially after the chronic fatigue. Where I used to think that “I” could relate to anything in an intentional and sane way, I am now experiencing the reverse, and it’s humbling in a good way. It shows me something about control that wasn’t so clear to me before. I used to know at a conscious level that there is no (absolute, final) control. Now, I get to live it.

To collapse, and lack of capacity, respectively:

You are welcome here.

Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your deep devotion for me. Thank you for your deep love for me.

How would you like me to be with you?

What do you long for, what would satisfy you forever?

Who/what do you protect?

Is there a natural strength there?

Who are you really?

Capacity, awakness, form

About 30 minutes into this video, Bentinho Massaro talks about three facets of reality or what we are, and it’s quite simple and basic, and fits my experience and noticing.

There is awakeness and the field of awakeness which every experience (sight, sound, sensation, taste, smell, mental) happens within and as.

There is content of awakeness (experience) – as sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, smells and mental activities (images, thoughts).

And there is the capacity for all of this.

Using Bentinho’s analogy, there are clouds (form, content of awakeness/experience), there is the sky (awakeness which clouds happen within and as), and capacity for it all (space). Where this analogy breaks down, where it doesn’t fit, is in the word space. The appearance and experience of space (and time) happens within and as awakeness, and capacity is capacity for all of it.

There is also a difference between noticing and finding ourselves as form, awakeness, and capacity. I may generally take myself to be form, content of experience, as this human self (me), this soul (presence), or the I (doer, observer), and I may still – at times – notice awakeness and even capacity. I may find myself as awakeness, and form (experience) happening within and as me, and I may intuit or notice capacity. Where I am right now, I have noticed capacity, and perhaps to some extent found myself as it, and yet it remains mostly a noticing for now. And that’s fine.

My me – my human self and soul (subtle body, presence) – will continue to change and evolve within all of this. As long as this human self is around, it will continue to reorganize and align with what’s noticed, and what I take myself to be. Noticing awakeness invites the human self to reorganize and realign with this, and finding myself as awakeness even more so, and I assume the same is the case for noticing and (at some point?) finding myself as capacity. It’s ongoing, and I don’t assume there is any end to this as long as there is a human body around, and a more subtle body.

So there are three facets of reality – capacity, awakeness, and awakeness in its play as form and experience. There is the difference between noticing and finding myself as either of these three. And there is the continuing reorganizing, aligning and evolving or the me – my human self and soul – within all of this, guided and influenced by what’s noticed and what I find myself as.

Read More