Center of gravity shifting from separation to oneness

We all have a metaphorical center of gravity we typically perceive and live from, and we can think of this center as moving along a line from who we are (human self) to what we are (oneness).

This center of gravity will shift naturally a bit along this line for all of us.

And if we are in a process of actively exploring our nature, we may see a process that moves the center of gravity from who we are to oneness.

Here is how that may look:

CENTER OF GRAVITY: HUMAN SELF

In most cases, it seems that the center of gravity is in our human self. We perceive and live as if we most fundamentally are this human self.

In an early phase of the awakening process, this is typically where our center of gravity is. We may have an intuition or curiosity about awakening, and explore it mostly through mental representations. And we operate and function as if we fundamentally are this human self.

This is how most onenesses seem to live in the world today.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: IN HUMAN SELF BUT OPENING UP

Then, the oneness we are may start intuiting or glimpsing or being curious about its nature.

When these glimpses or intuitions happen, they tend to be filtered through our habitual mental stories and separation consciousness.

We may sense all as consciousness, and perceive it as the divine in nature.

We may have experiences of oneness and interpret it as if we – as a separate self – is one with everything else.

We may have more clear glimpses of our nature, of the world happening within and as what we are, of everything as consciousness, Spirit, and so on. And then we tell ourselves we had it and then lost it.

Here, our center of gravity is still in our human self although it’s opening to the possibility for something else and is more ready to move.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Then there is a process of noticing our nature more clearly. We find ourselves as what the world to us happens within and as. And we learn to notice this more easily when we look for it, and we learn to notice it more often in daily life.

We notice our nature when our attention is brought to it and perhaps less so at other times. And if issues and traumas are triggered, we may get caught up in them for a while.

We may see everything in a general sense as happening within and as us, or as consciousness or the divine. We may not always notice it in things our personality doesn’t like, perhaps because we forget to look for it. We may not yet have a deep love for all as our nature or Spirit. And we may not yet have a visceral sense of it all as our nature or the divine.

We may also shift into states that show us aspects of our nature, and these can be brief glimpses or last for days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years.

Here, our center of gravity moves from our human self towards our nature, and it shifts a bit back and forth depending on our attention and the situation we are in.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE STABLY IN WHAT WE ARE

After a while, we learn to notice our nature and live from this noticing in more and more situations and areas of life. It becomes a new habit.

We also learn to notice our nature even when deeper and more central issues and traumas surface, and to recognize that our nature is the same as their nature. Our center of gravity remains here even in more challenging situations.

We mostly see whatever is here as happening within and as what we are, or as consciousness or Spirit.

And we tend to find genuine love for all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Here, our center of gravity shifts more into our nature.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: MORE VISCERALLY AS WHAT WE ARE

This invites another shift. A more visceral sense of it all as our nature, as happening within and as what we are, as consciousness or the divine.

Our center of gravity is more solidly in our nature, reflected and supported by this visceral shift.

THE CENTER OF GRAVITY OF OUR MANY PARTS

One side of this process is what’s happening with the many parts of our psyche.

Many of our subpersonalities may still operate from separation consciousness even when the oneness we are generally and “globally” recognizes itself.

As mentioned above, when these are triggered, we may get caught up in them and join in with how these parts of us perceive the world. We enter their separation consciousness and perceive and live from it. At least, for a while.

We may also keep recognizing our nature, that our nature and the nature of these parts of us is the same, and stay in that noticing. This is part of what allows these parts of us to unravel their knots and join in with the awakening, although more specific approaches are often needed.

In the first case, our temporary center of gravity shifts towards our human self, and our more habitual sense of gravity is likely closer to our human self. In the second, our center of gravity remains more in our nature.

Also, each of these parts of us colors our perception and life even if they are not noticeably triggered. They are part of our system. They have their own view of the world. The more parts of us are operating from separation consciousness, the more our system as a whole is colored by separation consciousness. Even if our “global” and conscious view is one of our nature recognizing itself.

The more parts of us join with the awakening, the more our center of gravity can remain stable in our nature. In our nature noticing itself and living from this noticing.

CENTER OF GRAVITY: GENERAL TENDENCIES AND BRIEF SHIFTS

As suggested above, it seems that our center of gravity generally is somewhere on an imagined line from separate self to oneness. There is a place or area on this line where we most often are found to operate from.

At the same time, there are more temporary shifts along this line. During meditation or inquiry, where we perceive from may move towards oneness. When we are triggered and caught up in the trigger, our center shifts more toward separation. And so on.

CONTINUED EXPLORATION

There is no finishing line here. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s a process of continued exploration, clarification, deepening, and maturing.

For instance, our nature has many aspects – oneness, love, activity, mystery, capacity, and so on.

And this process tends to reveal and highlight different aspects of our nature to us at different times, allowing us to get more familiar with it.

SIMPLIFIED OUTLINE

This is a very simplified and idealized outline.

In real life, it’s far more varied and often messier.

It’s typically not so linear. We get hijacked by our issues, traumas, and hangups. It may appear that the process is going backward at times or is stagnating. And that is OK. It’s the oneness we are – or life or the divine – exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in all of these ways.

It’s just how I like to map it out now. And my own process hasn’t followed these steps so neatly.

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Ways of knowing our nature

There are many ways of knowing in general.

And there are many ways of knowing our nature.

WHAT IS MY NATURE?

What is my nature?

Are I this human self? To others, in my passport, and to myself when I take on that identity, that’s true enough. It’s an identity that works well. (Although it comes with some inherent stress since it’s not completely aligned with the reality as it appears to me.)

And when I take a closer look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally somehting else.

I am more fundamentally capacity for my experiences – for the world as it appears to me and any content of experience.

And I am more fundamentally what the content of my experience happens within and as. What the world as it appears to me – including this human self, others, the wider world, and any states and experiences – happen within and as.

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

This is a direct noticing. It’s not primarily a philosophy, although it will inevitably appear that way when reflected in words. It’s not a “mystical” view since it doesn’t require any adherence to any religion or form of spirituality or anything else. It just requires noticing.

It also doesn’t suppose anything divine, any God or Spirit or anything of that sort. All I can say about it is that there are experiences here. That points to consciousness. No matter what that consciousness rest on in some third-person or objective sense – whether it’s created by this human body and nervous system or whether it’s a part of a divine reality or God or Brahman – to myself I am this consciousness. And to me, the world happens within and as what I am, and I am capacity for the world as it appears to me.

To myself, I am inevitably consciousness, the world happens within and as what I am, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and I am the oneness the world to me happens within and as.

WAYS OF KNOWING MY NATURE

So what are some ways I can know my nature?

I can have mental concepts – ideas, maps – about it. Whether I notice my nature or not, and no matter where my visceral “center of gravity” is, I can have these concepts.

And no matter what, it’s helpful to identify, explore, and question these concepts. They may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense, and they are ultimately all wrong and somewhat misleading. Reality is always more than and different from our ideas about it, and ultimately – to us – also simpler. And so also with our nature.

This investigation also helps me differentiate noticing ideas versus noticing what the ideas point to, which are two very different things and sometimes – when it comes to apparently ephemeral things like our nature – it can be easy to mix the two up.

I can notice my nature more directly. Popular misconceptions says this is very difficult, can take lifetimes of practice, and so on. And, in reality, it can be sinple and quick – especially if we are guided by someone familiar with the terrain, familiar with guiding others in noticing their nature, and who is using effective structured pointers – for instance Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Noticing once is helpful. And in terms of transformation – of our perception, sense of what we most fundamentally are, and of our human self and life in the world – keeping noticing is where it’s at. This requires a deep interest which helps us prioritize it over most or all else, and which keeps us coming back to it through the day.

This ongoing noticing helps me be more familiar with the terrain – the terrain of what I am, the transformations that happen through this ongoing noticing, and how it is for this human self to live in the context of this noticing in daily life and through different situations.

The more we actively investigate and explore these different parts of the process, the more familiar with will be with this terrain. And we’ll have different fascinations and ways to explore it that gives us all different levels of familiarity with different parts of this vast and infinite terrain of who and what we are and the process of noticing our nature and living from it.

Through this process, the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be will shift. What we viscerally experience ourselves as, without having to shift our attention anywhere, will shift.

An initial noticing of our nature may or may not shift our visceral experience of what we more fundamentally are. If the noticing comes through guided inquiry, it may not shift too much at first. The shifts happen over time as we keep noticing and exploring.

If the noticing comes more spontaneouslly, or following long practice and exploration, the shift may be more dramatic and immediate.

And, in most cases, there are many shifts like this. Our nature keeps revealing new layers of itself to itself.

So we have a conceptual knowing. We have the knowing that comes from direct noticing. We have the knowing that comes from exploring and becomning more familiar with the terrain over time. And we have the knowing that comes from viscerally finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, love, and so on.

IN MY CASE

This is not always sequential.

In my case, the initial noticing and shift of center of gravity happened at the same time and without any apparent warning or preparation.

I was a nerdy and angsty teeanger, walking down a path at night with a big wind blowing through the landscape and the night sky littered with stars above me. And from one second to the next, my visceral sense of identity went from this awkward human being with social anxiety to the oneness all of existence happens within and as. The consciousness that all happens within and as.

Previous to this, I had less than no interest in relgion or spirituality. I had decided I was an atheist in elementary school since religion seemed mostly absurd to me and a crutch.

This was a visceral shift that never went away. And most of the insights I write about here came immediately or over the first short period after this shift.

At the same time, it has taken a long time to get more familiar with the landscape and how to live from it. My human self continued to have many of the same issues, and it takes time – at least in my case – to find healing for these.

And it also took a bit of time to reflect the noticng and my experiences in some preliminary and provisional maps. For instance, I loved Ken Wilber’s integral model when I discovered it later in my teens.

And there has been several shifts since. For instance, some years ago, there was a much stronger shift into the oneness and “no self” aspect of my nature which helped me viscerally differentiate my nature versus shifting experiences more clearly.

And there has been shifts into what can be called the divine feminine or a kind of soft fertile darkness aspect of my nature.

This is all an ongoing process and exploration.

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Stage models, reality, and when the sequences are jumbled

For me, it was more about finding cosmologies that fit my experience. Specifically, that in my experience I am consciousness and the world to me appears as consciousness. (Whether that’s how reality actually is, is an open question but possible.) I had to go to Buddhism, Taoism, mystics from different traditions, etc. to find cosmologies that reflected this. (When the shift happened for me, I was an atheist living in a Christian culture so I wasn’t familiar with any of the cosmologies that eventually felt more like home.)

This was my reply when someone in an online “spiritual emergency” group asked about shifts and cosmologies.

In many cases, people will initially be interested in spirituality, read and hear about it, explore some practices, and so on. And if there is a real shift in perception and identity, it often comes some years into the exploration.

Most maps and models of the awakening process reflect this. First, there is an interest or draw to it. Then an exploration of maps and practices. And then a shift.

And, as we all know, maps are maps. They are mental representations of a part of life and life’s processes. They are more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They are always refined as we get more information and experience. They are simplifications. They leave a lot out. They are different in kind from what they refer to. And life is more than and different from any map.

Life operates independently of human maps. And if we have our noses too deeply into our maps, life will inevitably throw up surprises and remind us that it’s different from our ideas about it.

In my case, life didn’t follow the standard maps. This human self was an atheist, mostly interested in science, and saw spirituality and religion as a crutch of little or no interest. One night – while this human self was walking down a dark gravel road under a sky filled with stars and a big wind, out of the blue, and for whatever reason – oneness shifted into noticing itself, and the “center of gravity” shifted into oneness. And then this human self spent a long time playing catch-up and exploring the sharing from others who had recognized the same or similar, cosmologies, and different types of spiritual practices.

It took at least a couple of years before I found anyone who seemed to describe what seemed so obvious to me. I still remember it. I was still a teenager, standing in the man library in Oslo, in the religion and spirituality section, reading in an old book of Meister Eckhart’s sermons. And there, behind some layers of cultural differences and Christian language, I saw someone who had at least glimpsed the same.

Later, I found reflections in some Taoist writings, and also Buddhism and especially Zen, but all of it seemed hidden behind layers of tradition, cultural differences, and sometimes intellectualizing that deviated from actual immediate noticing. I found Jes Bertelsen, a fellow Scandinavian, who clearly knew what this was about. Some years later, I found Adyashanti who most clearly of anyone reflected what seemed so obvious to me but few talked about in a direct and simple way. After that, I also found the more modern Advaita and neo-Advaita folks who talked about the same, often in a clear and direct way, and also sometimes seemed a bit caught up in ideology.

If I am honest, I still feel I am playing catch-up to what was revealed back when I was sixteen and what is still shows itself to itself here. I still feel a bit like I was hit by a truck. I still work on helping my human self reorient and reorganize within it.

And when it comes to stages and models of the awakening process, I hold it all lightly. Yes, there are some common phases and elements of the process. And no, it’s not always sequential and especially not in a particular one-size-fits-all way. The phases may happen in different sequences. Sometimes, several phases – or elements of several phases –– happen at once. Sometimes, phases return in a different way.

To me, it all looks more like themes woven into each other and expressed in our life in different ways. The themes are recognizable. And they are always woven in an individual way.

My recent health crisis

I am just back after a few days at the hospital in Oslo.

I broke a tooth. The infection in the root spread to the face. I felt surprisingly unwell and, without knowing it, had the beginnings of sepsis. And following a dentist appointment, my system went into septic shock. There is about an hour I can’t remember, and I woke up sweating profusely, shaking uncontrollably, and without being able to think much at all. Fortunately, I relatively quickly got sent to the hospital in an ambulance and received critical care, was then under observation for a day, and then spent a couple of days in the infection section of the hospital.

It was a dramatic and scary experience, I am profoundly grateful for modern medicine and for being able to receive such good care so quickly. Without it, I may not have been be here today.

SHIFTING INTO BIG MIND

I also noticed what seems to be a natural tendency in my system. In a crisis, the “center of gravity” shifts into Big Mind. I far more strongly and clearly and unmissably find myself as Big Mind, as what this human self and the wider world happens within and as.

I can see it as a kind of safety valve. Or my system may not have the energy or ability to operate closer to the human side of the equation so this is what’s left. Or it just makes sense. In these types of crises, it’s helpful to function a bit more from and as Big Mind.

In daily life, I always find myself as Big Mind. It’s always there. It’s easy to notice. And yet, the “center of gravity” tends to shift around a bit on that spectrum from the human self to Big Mind. Sometimes, its more over to the human side, sometimes more over on the Big Mind side. It depends on the situation and where attention is and what’s required, and also if anything is triggered in me and how much I get caught up in it.

THE EFFECTS OF BIG MIND

How did I notice the effects of having Big Mind more strongly in the foreground?

The most obvious is that in my immediate experience, what I am is this crystal clarity anything happens within and as. Any ideas of boundaries or time or space or divisions between this human self and the wider world and so on happen within and as this crystal clarity.

I found myself surprisingly OK with the whole situation. At one level, my human self did its best to get the care needed and to tell the nurses and doctors the symptoms and what had happened. At another level, there was just a noticing of it all and a slight curiosity about how it would all unfold. Would he survive? How would it be to die? What’s on the other side of death, if anything? How is that big adventure?

I also noticed that things that normally would annoy this human self, like a nurse talking unnecessarily loudly in the middle of the night or someone making a lot of slime-related sounds, were fine.

And I noticed and experienced the whole situation as love. The words and actions of the nurses and doctors were love. The iv was love. The cardiovascular monitor was love. The ten tubes and cables attached to my body is an expression of love. All the work innumerable people have engaged in for all of this to exist was love. I know that, for them, it may “just” be a job. And, for me, it was love. It’s an expression of care. It’s what helped me survive and get back to health.

CHALLENGES

That said, there are also some challenges at the human level.

For instance, the first night at home was riddled with restless dreams bordering of nightmares, involving imagery from the hospital stay – including wanting to not move too much because of all the tubes and wires connected to my body. I was also generally disoriented.

At the hospital, I spent the last two days in the infection ward. Since they didn’t have enough rooms, they put me in the corridor. The first afternoon and evening, my bed was next to the room of a woman dying. The nurses said it was best to stop treatment so she could die sooner since there was nothing they could do for her.

My bed was moved down the corridor for the night, in between two isolation rooms. The people in both rooms were screaming in agony – or confusion? – through the night. Groups of nurses went in and out of the rooms most of the night, dressing in and out of their protective astronaut outfits.

In spite of having been close to death just a day or two earlier, I was one of the healthier people there. It really felt like one of the first circles of hell – hearing and imagining the agony of some of the patients and seeing the nurses literally running around to try to keep up with everything while somehow and miraculously still being attentive, with a smile, and often a good-hearted joke.

My body and mind function as if I was ninety years old and in bad shape even for that age, although I know it will change. And I imagine I will enjoy the small pleasures of life even a bit more. I already do.

I get even a bit more viscerally that life is change. Nothing that’s here will last. Enjoy it while you can.

Note: After I came back to the house, I have been in bed most of the time. Just now, I went outside in the beautiful summer afternoon and had dinner in the garden. It literally felt like being reborn into this life.

Note 2: I suspect I may have had this infection for a while, and wasn’t able to have it taken care of it because of a confluence of reasons including the pandemic. It may explain why my body has seemed to struggle and has felt especially weighed down for a while now.

Note 3: I have had a couple of infection-related dreams. A day or so after returning from the hospital, I dreamt that some ruthless burglars wanted to break into my car and there was nothing I could do. Last night, July 5, I dreamt a fake male nurse wanted to put poison into my iv to kill me. The first is a typical infection dream, and it’s a good sign it was my car and not my house. (It seems to suggest that my mobility will be impaired, which it was.) The second seems to mirror the poisoning of my blood that did happen, and perhaps that I am not out of the woods yet. I am still on antibiotics and will take another step to remove the source of the infection. (And, of course, I can explore these dreams in a more psychological-mirror way as well.)

Note 4: I noticed my misophonia went away during this experience. Sounds that usually would trigger stress in me were just sounds. Maybe because of the stronger shift into Big Mind?

Note 5: It’s now a week after I returned from the hospital, and I still feel like I have been hit by a truck – with fatigue and brain fog as the strongest symptoms. (On top of what I already have from the CFS.) This means I am not writing so much here, and that may change in time.

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Phases in an awakening process

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

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

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

HUMAN SELF VS WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CONTINUED SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

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

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

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

INITIAL INTEREST

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

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

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

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

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

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

ACTIVE EXPLORATION

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

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

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

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

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

DIRECT NOTICING

Oneness may then notice itself more directly.

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

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

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

EARLY NOTICING: BELLS AND WHISTLES

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

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

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

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

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

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

KEEP NOTICING

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

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

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

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

LIVING FROM AND AS IT

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

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

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

TRANSFORMATION OF OUR HUMAN SELF

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

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

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

DARK NIGHTS

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

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

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

OUR CENTER OF GRAVITY

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

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

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

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

ONGOING PROCESS

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

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

ENGAGEMENT AND GRACE

And all of it is ultimately grace.

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

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

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

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

HOW WE SLICE THE CAKE

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

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

AN INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING

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

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

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

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

DIRECT NOTICING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

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

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

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

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

LIVING FROM IT

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

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

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

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

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

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

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

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ONENESS

All of this is happening within and as oneness.

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

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

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

INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

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

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

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

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

ONGOING PROCESS

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

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

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The background becomes the foreground in an awakening shift, and this shapes how we see ourselves, others, and reality

What do we most fundamentally take ourselves to be? And how does this influence how we see others and the world?

TAKING OURSELVES AS MOST FUNDAMENTALLY THIS HUMAN BEING

If we take ourselves to most fundamentally be this physical human being, an object in the world, a few things happen. We become object-focused. We see others as fundamentally objects.

And anything else – including the space this human self and other objects happen within – becomes the background. It’s a kind of stage for everything to happen, and in itself not very interesting or important.

FINDING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE IN OUR OWN FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE

If we find what we more fundamentally are in our own immediate noticing, then this background is revealed as what we more fundamentally are.

We are what all objects, and any content of experience, happen within and as.

Even more fundamentally, we are capacity for all of this. And this capacity may not even be anything we notice if we are more object-focused.

SHAPES PERCEPTION

We can take ourselves to most fundamentally be an object in the world, or what the world to us happens within and as. And which one we function from profoundly shapes our perception and life in the world.

So what does it mean for how we see others and the world? And consciousness and oneness?

a. HOW WE SEE OTHERS

If we take ourselves most fundamentally to be an object in the world, we see others as the same. To us, objects are primary and anything else secondary.

If we notice what we are in our own first-person experience, this shifts.

When we see others, we know they likely are the same in their own first-person experience, whether they notice it or not. They are more fundamentally what the world, to them, happens within and as.

They are, most fundamentally, capacity for the world as it appears to them.

And the oneness they are may notice itself as oneness, or it’s identified as something within itself, as this human self, and everything else it is becomes a kind of background and “other”.

b. HOW WE SEE REALITY

I have already hinted at how this colors how we perceive reality.

If we take ourselves as most fundamentally an object, then the world mainly consists of objects to us. They become primary and anything else a background.

If we notice our more fundamental nature, then we also notice that the world to us happens within and as what we are. It’s like a dream to us in that it happens within and as consciousness.

To us, the most fundamental nature of reality appears as consciousness. (I say “appears as” since we cannot know how the word, in itself, is. We can only say something about how it appears to us. It’s not a given that our nature is also the nature of all of existence even if it appears that way to us.)

c. HOW WE SEE CONSCIOUSNESS

If we take ourselves to most fundamentally be an object in the world, then we may see consciousness as something we “have” as a kind of appendix. We may not even consider the relationship between ourselves and consciousness very much.

If we find ourselves as what our content of experience – this human self, the wider world, anything else – happens within and as, then we find ourselves as what a thought may label consciousness. To us, that’s what we are and the world happens within and as consciousness.

d. HOW WE SEE ONENESS

If we take ourselves as fundamentally an object then the world consists of innumerable larger and smaller objects. Any idea of oneness is understood only at a story level, or it’s seen as imagination and wishful thinking.

If we notice our nature more directly, then oneness is inevitable. To us, the world happens within and as what we are, and that gives oneness to it all. To ourselves, we are oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TAKE OURSELVES AS ONE OR THE OTHER?

What do I mean when I say “take ourselves most fundamentally as”?

I don’t mean our intellectual worldview. That doesn’t matter so much.

This is more about where our metaphorical center of gravity is located.

Is it located in ideas of being a separate self? And does our human self mostly operate from separation consciousness?

Or is it located in a direct noticing of our nature? And how much of our human self and psyche is aligned with this noticing? Does our human self largely operate from oneness?

When we notice our nature and keep noticing it and exploring how to live from it, our center of gravity gradually shifts more towards operating from oneness. And in this process, it will wobble a bit and shift in one or the other direction depending on the situation and what’s activated in us.

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Awakening described in five levels of difficulty

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

So why not do it for awakening? 

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

What is awakening? 

LEVEL 1 

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

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

It’s as simple as that. 

LEVEL 2 

We can add another layer of detail. 

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

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

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

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

LEVEL 3 

This can be understood in a psychological or spiritual context. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEVEL 4 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEVEL 5 

A couple of things here are relatively simple. 

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

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

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

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

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

It’s an ongoing process. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an ongoing process.

ABOUT THESE STEPS 

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

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

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

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

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