The world as a floating island: Infinity in all directions

The process of being is always new and changing, and I assume it’s like that for all consciousnesses.

INFINITY IN ALL DIRECTIONS

What’s come to the foreground lately here is infinite space in all directions.

It’s not new, but the way it shows up feels new and fresh.

All is awake space happening within infinity in all directions.

What I see in front of me – the things and the ground – and the sensations and other sensory experiences all happening as awake space and within awake space with no end.

The world is a kind of island (made up of awake space) floating in infinite awake space.

GROUNDING IN (FINDING MYSELF AS) INFINITE

I notice there is a groundedness in it.

The ground disappears, and there is more grounding.

There is a grounding in something more real and fundamental.

LIKELY THE SAME FOR ALL CONSCIOUSNESSES

Of course, this is the inherent characteristics of the consciousness I am and I assume all “conscious beings” are to themselves. It’s awake space. What’s happening happens within and as awake space. There is no end to what I am to find anywhere.

That’s one of many apparently inevitable characteristics of the consciousness we are – it’s one and seamless, it has no beginning and end, it has no real center or edge, it’s awake space, it takes the form of all of its content, it’s capacity for all of the content it forms itself into, any beginning or end or center or edge happens within and as this awake space.

Here, the infinity aspect of it happens to be more in the foreground now, it’s featured so to speak, it shows itself to itself so it can be more consciously noticed.

It’s also more visceral, likely because it – in the context of time – has been noticed off and on for a few tens of years. It comes into the foreground so it can become more visceral, or it’s more visceral so it comes more into the foreground, or it’s just what it is: one process within a seamless whole.

Image created by me and Midjourney

Finding myself as consciousness

Finding myself as consciousness seems a kind of default.

As a child, I remembered the time between lives. I was consciousness, everything was consciousness. All was light. There was a sense of being profoundly at home. At a visceral level, it was and is home.

Later in childhood, I had moments of oneness with the universe. I experienced myself as the universe, locally expressed as this boy. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (“We are the eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the Universe. We are the Universe bringing itself into consciousness”), along with being out in nature and seeing the stars, were part of triggering it.

Then, there was the shift into kind of finding myself as consciousness. The world, including anything that had to do with this human self, seemed very distant and far away. This happened for a year when I was fifteen. (I say “kind of” since the viewpoint is from something separate from the world.)

And then, there was the shift into oneness. Into all as the divine, or as I would say now, all as consciousness. My world is consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it.

There are times when my nature as consciousness is more strongly in the foreground, for instance, when I do meditation, inquiry, or just notice. (And also at times when my body struggles, as it did when it had a septic shock a couple of years ago.) Other times, it goes more into the background, for instance when I am focused on an activity or if I get caught up in parts of me still caught up in separation consciousness. Even then, bringing my nature into the foreground is just an intentional noticing away.

Unsurprisingly, there are still (many?) parts of this psyche that operate from separation consciousness. They were formed within separation consciousness and haven’t quite caught up with the more global noticing of my nature. My psyche mimicked what it saw other humans do, and created these patterns and dynamics for itself. These parts of me inevitably color my perception, choices, and life. And sometimes, I as a whole get caught up in them and take myself to be these parts of me, forgetting all the rest of the infinite richness and what it all happens within and as.

All of that is OK. It’s natural. It comes from an innocent place and a – understandable and often misguided – wish to take care of this human self. Even the occasional struggle with it is natural and OK. Even that is ultimately innocent. (Even if the consequences can be painful.)

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One or many consciousnesses?

Are we one or several consciousnesses?

SEVERAL

We can say we are several consciousnesses.

Each conscious being is, by necessity, consciousness to themselves.

That also means that, to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

Every conscious being is a consciousness full of the world.

ONE NATURE

The nature of the consciousness we are seems to be the same. If we want, we can say there is one consciousness in that consciousness is consciousness whether it happens here or there.

We have the same kind of nature, just like water is always water.

That doesn’t mean that the content of consciousness is shared or the same. That’s obviously not the case. Even if we listen to the same music or eat the same food or all feel joy, the experience of it is unique and individual.

ONE TO ME

There is another oneness of consciousness, and that’s how it appears in direct perception.

When I look, I find I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.1

This consciousness is seamless, it’s one.

So to me, the world appears as consciousness, and it appears as one.2

It has a dreamlike nature, and it’s seamless.

It appears that way because of my own inherent oneness.

ONE CONSCIOUSNESS CALLED SPIRIT?

It’s also possible that all that is – all of existence – is consciousness. Everything, this whole universe and everything else, happens within and as that consciousness.

If so, that’s what we would call God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman, or whatever label we would like to put on it.

ALL TOGETHER

To me, there is some validity to each of these views, and likely many more.

Just one or the other is too one-sided.

Together, they can better hint at the richness of life.

A NOTE ON THE CARTOON

Although the quote may be a little simplistic, I like the cartoon.

Yes, religion can create a quite small space for us. Religions often include beliefs and shoulds which have their place and also confine us.

Spirituality is a little more open, although also often comes with shoulds, beliefs, and identification.

Consciousness is what it all happens within and as. It has no inherent boundaries, and it contains and makes itself into the boundaries of religion, spirituality, and anything else.

NOTES

(1) As mentioned above, I assume it’s like that for any “conscious being”: They are consciousness to themselves, and to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

(2) A layer of mental representations put on top of it can make it appear differently. Mental dividing lines can appear real and true and inherent in the world, which will distract attention from the inherent oneness of our experience. These mental overlays can also make the dreamlike experience appear more solid and substantial.

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A secular view on awakening

Awakening has traditionally been understood in a religious or spiritual context.

All of existence is Spirit and the divine, and the awakening is Spirit becoming conscious of itself and its nature locally. It’s Spirit locally conscious of itself while operating through the vehicle of this particular human self.

These days, it makes sense to also use a more secular understanding of awakening. We live in a more secular society, so why not see it in a secular context? After all, awakening and our nature is not going away.

I have written about this several times before so I’ll make it short.

OUR MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

If we “have” consciousness, then what are we to ourselves? We are not primarily anything within consciousness, we are consciousness itself. There is no way around it. It has to be that way. Whether we notice or not, and independent of whatever conscious worldview we happen to use, to ourselves, we are primarily consciousness. Since the world, to us, happens within and as consciousness, it happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To ourselves, we are primarily conciousness.1 And the world – any content of consciousness – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

THE DREAMLIKE NATURE OF THE WORLD

That means that to us, the world is not so different from a dream. A dream happens within the consciousness we are while this human self is alseep. Waking life happens within and as the consciousness we are while this human self is awake.

ONENESS

Consciousess does not have boundaries. It doesn’t begin or end anywhere. It doesn’t have inherent dividing lines. There is no outside. It’s one. What we are is one. That means that the world, to us, is one whether we notice or not.

TRAINED ITSELF TO NOT NOTICE

Most of the time, the consciousness we are doesn’t notice this. It doesn’t need to. It trains itself to not notice, in a way, since most others don’t seem to notice. It trains itself to operate based on assumptions picked up from others: I am primarily this human self. Consciousness is a kind of add-on. Others and the world are separate from me. The world is more or less as it appears to me.

This is natural and innocent, and since the perception is out of alignment with reality, it comes with some inherent friction and discomfort.

WHEN WE NOTICE OUR NATURE

Sometimes, the consciousness we are may have glimpses of what it is and how the world, to it, is. We may feel or experience a connection with all. We may go into a flow state and forget our identity as this human self and of separation. This happens to many or most in daily life, at least now and then.

Occasionally, this is even more clear.2 There may be a shift so everything is revealed as consciousness. Consciousness becomes aware of itself as everything it’s experiencing and everything it has ever experienced. It becomes aware of itself as consciousness and of its world as happening within and as itself.

A SECULAR VIEW ON AWAKENING

Nothing “spiritual” is required to understand this. We don’t need to refer to God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman, or any of that.

We can understand it in a much more simple way, and a way that fits most (nearly all) worldviews: To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Sometimes, the consciousness we are doesn’t notice itself. (It’s lost in identifying primarily as this human self, as something within the content of experience).

Sometimes, it recognizes itself. When it does, we call it awakening.

It’s all a process. It’s an exploration. It’s something we can keep clarifying, deepening into, become more familiar with, and mature into and within.3

THE ESSENCE OF EACH VIEW

What’s the essence of the secular and spiritual views on awakening?

To me, it has to do with our nature and the nature of reality itself.

Both views see our fundamental nature as consciousness. That’s not in question since it makes logical sense and is something we can check out for ourselves.

The difference is that the secular view does not make assumptions about the nature of reality itself. It leaves it open. The spiritual view, on the other hand, assumes that our nature – consciousness – is also the nature of reality itself and all there is.

COMPLEMENTARY VIEWS

The spiritual and secular views on awakening are complementary. They fill in what the other is missing, and they each have upsides and drawbacks.

The secular view is compatible with just about any worldview. It’s compatible with the view of Western science. It doesn’t rely on anything mystical or magical. It doesn’t rely on belief. It’s something we can check out for ourselves. It fits with the descriptions from people (mystics) throughout history and across traditions. It helps us find the lowest common denominators of awakening. It can give us a language independent of traditions, and that can help communication across traditions. It can help us find the essence of awakening. It keeps it simple, sober and grounded. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality itself and leaves it open. To me, these are all upsides. The downside is that it can seem a bit uninspiring to some.4

The spiritual view has more of a tradition. It may be more familiar to many. It may be more inspiring. On the other hand, it’s often bogged down in terminology, hierarchy, and misconceptions.

Which one is more accurate? The secular view is quite accurate in terms of our own experience and what we can check out for ourselves. And I suspect the spiritual one may be more accurate in the bigger picture. Many hints suggest it.5 (Although these can also be understood in other ways.)

NOTES

(1) I left out something that we even more fundamentally are. When we find ourselves as consciousness, we may also notice something else about our nature. At some level, I am this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works well in daily life and I have to include it to function in the world. More fundamentally, and in my own first-person experience, I am consciousness. Even more fundamentally, I find I am capacity for it all. I am capacity for any and all of the experiences that are here. I am even capacity for consciousness itself.

(2) In my case, there was a dramatic shift when I was sixteen. Everything without exception was revealed as God or the divine. This human self and anything connected with it was the temporary and local play of the divine. That language was the language this human self used to make sense of it at the time. Today, I would more likely replace “God” and “the divine” with consciousness.

(3) This process is not always easy. For instance, for most of us, our psyche is formed within separation consciousness and it has wounds that operate from separation consciousness. To align with the reality of what we are (consciousness, oneness), these have to surface and be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as consciousness. The consciousness we are has to recognize itself as it. That’s not always an easy or comfortable process. Depending on how much trauma we have, it can be overwhelming, confusing, and we may not always deal with it gracefully. (Speaking from own experience here.)

(4) What are some of these hints? Sensing and healing at a distance, relatively solid reincarnation stories, undeniable chains of extraordinary synchronicities, and so on. None of these have been examined well enough by Western science yet. Each one can also be explained in other ways. Still, together, they suggest that the spiritual view on awakening may be accurate in the bigger picture.

(5) There are definitely ways to make it inspiring while still grounding it in modern science. We can, for instance, bring in the Universe Story and the Epic of Evolution. In the words of Carl Sagan: We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We can call the wholeness of all there is for God.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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The big problem of consciousness & a simple and elegant solution that doesn’t fit our current worldview

I saw an article in Morgenbladet on consciousness research, Norsk filosof står midt i intens konflikt om bevissthetsforskning. I didn’t find the article itself so interesting, but it is an interesting topic.

A MATERIALISTIC VIEW OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Western science is struggling with consciousness, which is not surprising since it comes from a reductionistic and materialistic worldview.

From that worldview, consciousness is somehow created by the brain. Matter gives birth to consciousness.

It’s almost impossible to understand how that can happen. If you start with matter, just about any view on how it transforms into something as qualitatively different as consciousness seems contrived and unsatisfactory. (Systems views may produce the closest we have to something satisfying, but even that’s pretty contrived.)

A materialistic view creates the hard problem of consciousness. It’s inherent in that particular worldview, not in the topic of consciousness itself.

CONSCIOUSNESS AS PRIMARY

We can take a reverse view.

It’s easy for us to imagine matter within consciousness. It’s what happens when we dream. The world happens within consciousness. It’s also what happens in waking life. The world happens within consciousness. It’s what we are most familiar with. It’s our experience. To ourselves, we are consciousness. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are.

That’s our own experience. What if we take a leap and assume it’s also the case for the world itself? What if existence is consciousness, and matter happens within and as consciousness?

Yes, it’s a leap, and it’s a leap that’s consistent with many traditions in the world. (The mystic ones.)

In this view, what we perceive as matter is a form of consciousness.

LOGICALLY SIMPLE

It’s a logically elegant solution to the big question of consciousness. It’s simple. It’s the obvious solution.

One reason it may seem unattractive is that it’s difficult to test and support with data. (That’s also the case with any materialist views on consciousness.)

Another is that it requires us to abandon a fundamentally materialist worldview, or at least place it in a different context. (Logically, this is not a problem since we collectively shift worldviews through history anyway, but it is a problem for some in terms of habit and familiarity.)

NOT MORE WEIRD THAN THE ALTERNATIVE(S)

This view is also not inherently any more weird than a materialist view. Whether matter or consciousness is primary seems equally weird. If anything, the consciousness-as-primary view is simpler and more logical.

It’s also far less odd than the biggest question: How come there is anything at all? How come there is something rather than nothing? That’s the big question that stops the mind. Anything else pales in comparison.

IF IT’S SO LOGICAL, WHY IS IT NOT TAKEN MORE SERIOUSLY?

If the consciousness-first view is simple and logical, why is it not taken more seriously in academia? Why is it still rare and on the fringes?

I suspect that has more to do with familiarity and what’s considered acceptable than anything else.

Most academics and Western philosophers are used to a materialistic worldview. For them, it’s a leap to seriously consider anything else. (Even if they know that our collective worldviews regularly change.)

The materialistic worldview has existed in academia for some generations, and it comes with taboos. One of these taboos is to question the fundamental assumptions within this worldview. Most people in academia are willing to question a lot, but not the fundamental assumptions inherent in the academic world and modern traditions. It may seem too radical. It may seem too risky for their reputation and careers.

At the same time, I assume they know that any worldview is up for revision and will eventually change. They know that as long there is science, it will inevitably undergo a series of fundamental paradigm shifts. And they know that the ones leading the change will meet these taboos and will face a damaged reputation and ridicule, and perhaps even risk their career.

It’s up to each one if they want to deal with that. Some will. Many won’t, at least not until others have led the way and it seems more safe.

Some may also be concerned that it will open up a can of worms in terms of religious ideas and superstitions. That’s not necessarily true. We can use a scientific approach even if we consider the possibility that all of existence is primarily consciousness. There is no lack of examples, and I hope my writings fall into that category as well (as an example of a layman’s view on these things).

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

Why is it relatively easy for me to consider a consciousness-first view?

It’s partly because I read a lot about paradigm shifts within science in my teens, and also Eastern views on Western science. This was mainly through the books of Fritjof Capra and several of the ones he references.

It’s also because this shift happened with me when I was a teenager. The consciousness I am recognized itself and that recognition went into the foreground and stayed there. To myself, I am primarily consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. (Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of that, but that’s another topic.)

Is existence itself consciousness? I cannot know for certain. I have written about the small and big understandings of awakening in other articles, and I like to shift between those two views since each has its place and function. I love the small view since it provides a kind of common lowest denominator for talking about our nature and (ironically in this context) is compatible with a materialistic worldview. I also suspect the big understanding is more accurate. I have experienced too many things that point in that direction. (And I also know it can be understood in other ways.)

CAN NOT KNOW FOR CERTAIN

I love that I cannot know. I love that I cannot know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about the world.

They have a practical function only. They help me orient and function in the world.

And if they serve as pointers to anything, they cannot even begin to touch what they point to.

Image by me and Midjourey

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Sting: You could be me in another life, in another set of circumstances

Don’t judge me
You could be me
In another life In another set of circumstances

– Sting in Tomorrow we’ll see

This refrain from Sting frequently comes to mind when I see people in different situations and with other values and orientations from me.

I could be them, in another life, in another set of circumstances.

We are both the product of a slightly different set of infinite causes going back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of existence.

Their life, my life, are both expressions of existence, of this universe. We are expressions of this living planet. We are expressions of the same seamless whole.

I can find them in me. I could be them.

In a very real sense, I am them. Whatever story I have about them, I can turn around to myself and find genuine and specific examples of where it’s true. To me, they happen within and as the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into my experience of them and all I see in them. It’s me.

Conscious through deep sleep

In the mid-2000s, a couple of decades into this exploration, I set the intention to see if consciousness (the consciousness I am) could be conscious through deep sleep and throughout the night.

CONSCIOUS THROUGH SLEEP

After a few nights, it worked.

Consciousness – the consciousness I am – observed this human self fall asleep. There was consciousness through the night, including through deep sleep. It was not aware of anything in particular – apart from perhaps a very faint (subtle) content of experience. There was an absence of a sense of time. (Or perhaps a very faint sense of time as if it was away in the distance? I don’t remember if there was.) Nothing much happening. Then some dreams, and then the waking world.

Is this important? I am not sure. Of course, it’s one of many things that points to and highlights my more fundamental nature. Beyond that, I didn’t find it obviously useful or interesting. Also, this human self prefers awareness to be “gone” during deep sleep, so I didn’t pursue it further.

RELATED TO…

This reminds me of a few other things.

LUCID DREAMING

When I was little, maybe five or six years old, and set the intention to be aware that I am dreaming while dreaming. That too worked. I dreamt I was in a big barn (US style for some reason), and a large group of people with pitchforks were chasing me. I ran out towards a steep drop. I also knew I was dreaming, so it didn’t matter so much that I had no escape. Knowing it was a dream was escape enough.

AWARE OF THE DREAMING PROCESS WHILE AWAKE

I sometimes am consciously aware of the dreaming process while awake, which I wrote about some days ago.

MEMORY FROM BETWEEN LIVES

And it’s similar to my apparent memory from between lives. Here too, there wasn’t too much content of experience. (Apart from the oneness and golden light and some occasional communication with other disembodied entities.) There was very little awareness of time – it seemed very far away. (This memory came as occasional flashbacks when I was very little, before school age.)

DON’T TALK ABOUT IT MUCH

I’ll happily talk about this with others who have similar experiences. It’s fun to explore and compare notes. But I hardly ever mention it otherwise. It seems a distraction from what’s more direct, easy, and essential (noticing our nature here and now) and most people just find it weird.

Image by me and Midjourney

Update: It’s a few days after I wrote this, and something similar happened, likely because this topic and curiosity was in my system from writing the article. I was channeling (Vortex Healing) and lying down on the bed, and consciousness watched as this body was falling asleep. The channeling continued to some extent, although not quite as strongly. And then this body woke up again, likely because a part wanted to stay awake to continue channeling. Watching this body fall asleep is not quite the same as consciousness continuing through deep sleep, but a taste of the same.

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Life is like a dream

The world is dreamlike in a few different ways.

THE FLEETING NATURE OF OUR EXPERIENCE

In my experience, life is like a dream. Every moment, it’s new. What was here is gone, just like a dream. At best, I have a vague memory for a while, and then that’s gone too.

HAPPENS WITHIN AND AS CONSCIOUSNESS

To myself, I am most fundamentally consciousness, and the world – to me – happens within and as that consciousness. That too is like a night dream. Night dreams and waking life happens within and as the consciousness I am.

EXISTENCE IS LIKE A DREAM (?)

That’s all how it appears to me.

Can I say anything about existence itself? Not really, but I can make a couple of guesses.

It seems that in existence itself – in the world and the universe – everything is new every moment. What’s here is gone, just like a dream. In this way, it’s as if existence itself is like a dream.

It’s even possible that the nature of existence is the same as my nature, and that it’s all actually happening within and as consciousness. In this case, existence is like the dream of God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Others are likely like me: we are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world with all sorts of characteristics, identities, and so on. And yet, when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am more fundamentally what this field of experience happens within and as. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for it all.

A thought may call this consciousness. To myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And that’s likely the same for others as well.

If a creature “has” consciousness, then to themselves they ARE consciousness. And the world, as it appears to them, happens within and as the consciousness they are.

The only difference is the particular body-mind this consciousness operates through and as. It may be another human being. It may be a bird. It may be an insect.

To me, this is very beautiful. Even if they may not consciously recognize their nature, I can recognize it. I can imagine it based on what I find here.

Why the halo or nimbus in these images? Why the circle around the head or body?

I can find three reasons.

One is tradition. In European and Asian art, it’s traditionally used to indicate sacredness.

It’s also something we can see. I have seen energies around people and any living and even non-living thing since my mid-teens. (I first saw it around the leaves of a birch tree.)

And it’s also metaphorical. Here, I used it to suggest consciousness and that we all fundamentally are consciousness to ourselves, whether we notice or not.

I made these images with Midjourney, and they are really created by our collective humanity and the existence as a whole just like anything expressed through each of us.

AI & consciousness

With the recent public AI boom, there has been a renewed discussion on whether AI is conscious or can become conscious.

To me, that’s missing the point a bit.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an opportunity to differentiate between (a) consciousness and (b) the content of consciousness.

CONTENT OF CONSCIOUSNESS

AI is about the content of consciousness, which can – to some extent – be mimicked by machines. AI can produce text, images, music, videos, etc. that look like they could have been made by humans.

CONSCIOUSNESS

Consciousness itself is very different.

Consciousness is what we are. It’s what, to us, any content of experience happens within and as. It’s what forms itself into any and all content of experience 

STATISTICS, NOT INTELLIGENCE

In general, I think the name “artificial intelligence” is slightly misleading. It’s overselling it a bit. It’s more accurate to call it predictive text, or predictive music and image generation.

It’s statistics, not intelligence. It’s the product of intelligence, not intelligence itself.

A FEW MORE WORDS

What do I mean by the content of consciousness? Whatever is produced by AI is similar to what’s produced by consciousness, at least consciousness operating through a human self. It’s images, words, sounds, and so on. It’s all content of consciousness. It’s all an experience that comes and goes.

What do I mean by consciousness? To ourselves, we are consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, it means that to ourselves, we ARE conscousness. To us, the world and any experience happen within and as the consciousness we are. (Night dreams and waking life are the same in that way.) Consciousness itself is distinctly different from any particular content of consciousness. Even as, to us, any content of consciousness is consciousness.

What about the AI name? There is nothing wrong with it, and it is sexy and catchy so I understand why people use it. I just think it’s important to include a more accurate and boring description as well, like “predictive text” and “predictive image generation”. It brings it down to earth a bit. It sobers it up.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

There is a bigger picture here.

AI is the product of the inherent intelligence of existence. It’s a product of 13.8 billion years of evolution of the seamless system we call the universe, locally expressed as this living planet and human biology, technology, and civilization. The intelligence of existence is expressed in all we see and know, including AI.

And if the universe itself IS consciousness, then AI is perhaps more similar to us than most of us imagine. Then AI too is a typical content of consciousness (words, images, etc.) happening within and as consciousness.

Image: A sacred bronze sculpture imagined by me and Midjourney earlier this year.

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What is cosmic consciousness?

What is cosmic consciousness?

If it’s “just” a direct experience of all of cosmos being one and consciousness, then that’s inevitable when we notice our nature.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And to us, all of existence happens within and as the consciousenss we are.

That’s how it always and already is. And when we notice, then it may appear to us as all of cosmos is the consciousness we are. It’s all one and consciousness. And we may call that Spirit, the divine, God, Brahman, Big Mind, and so on.

Does it mean that all of existence IS consciousness? That it has the same nature as me? Maybe, but if I am honest with myself, I know I cannot know for certain.

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We see others as we see ourselves

We see others as we see ourselves.

OBJECT WITHIN EXPERIENCE

If we take ourselves to primarily be an object within consciousness, then we tend to see others that way.

We see ourselves as this body and psyche, and see others as primarily that body and psyche.

We see ourselves as a doer and observer and see others as doers and observers.

We quite literally objectify others and ourselves.

That’s understandable since we do as others do, and that’s what most people do these days.

CONSCIOUSNESS

If we find ourselves fundamentally as consciousness, then we tend to see others as that.

We see ourselves as fundamentally consciousness operating through this body and psyche, and others as consciousness operating through that particular body and psyche.

To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are, and we assume that’s how it is for others as well. (Based on their reports and what makes logical sense.)

We find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as, and assume that’s how it is for others.

We find ourselves as oneness and assume others are onenesses as well, whether they notice or not.

IMPLICATIONS

What effect does it have to viscerally find ourselves as one or the other, and see others as the same?

If we see ourselves and others as fundamentally objects, then we literally objectify ourselves and others. We assume that the limited and distorted stories we have about ourselves and others are accurate and perhaps even all there is. We see ourselves as objects in the world at the mercy of other objects and living within time and space. We experience that we move through the world. We experience distance and time as real and inherent in the world. We experience the world as fundamentally matter.

If we find ourselves as fundamentally consciousness, then a lot changes. We realize that any story is a story and question about ourselves, others, and the world. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. We find ourselves as what time and space, to us, happens within and as. In a car or when walking, we experience that the world moves through us. We experience the world as fundamentally consciousness since, to us, it happens within and as the consciousness we are.

IN MY CASE

I can dip and imagine into the first way of experiencing myself, others, and the world. And parts of my psyche still operate from it. But in general, it’s so long since the initial oneness shift that I have problems connecting with it in a strong and solid way.

In general, I viscerally find myself as consciousness. The world happens within and as the consciousness I am. This body happens within and as consciousness, just like anything else. It all happens like a night dream, within and as consciousness.

I imagine others as that too, and that gets stronger and more clear when I bring attention to it. To me, they too are consciousness. They are consciousness operating through that particular body and psyche. (That’s exciting, the differences and “otherness” of it is exciting.) And that opens for compassion and empathy. They are like me (they are consciousness to themselves) and (like me) operate through a unique body and psyche.

And there is always further to go and more to explore within this.

A FEW NOTES

I’ll add a couple of short notes.

This is all about projections. I find myself as something and assume others are like that too. It’s an assumption – whether I assume they are fundamentally objects or fundamentally consciousness.

This is also about where our “center of gravity” is. It’s about what we viscerally find ourselves to be. Knowing about it or glimpses of it are good first steps, and – through grace and often intention and explorations – it becomes something that’s immediate and visceral.

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The only thing I can know for certain and what it says about my nature 

What can I know for certain?

CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

When I explore this, I find I cannot say anything for certain about anything within the content of my experience. I cannot say for certain anything about the world, others, God, or even myself. I cannot even know for certain I am this human self in the world that others, my passport, and my thoughts say I am. (That person could, for instance, be a dream or fantasy or simulation.)

I can say something about how something appears to me, but not anything for certain about what or how it is in itself.

And that’s OK. I can still navigate the world and be as good a steward as possible of this life and what’s in my life.

THERE IS CONSCIOUSNESS

So is there anything I can know for certain?

Yes, there is. I can know for certain that there is consciousness. There is consciousness that is conscious of all this content of experience.

If I said “I am conscious”, it would go beyond what I can know something about for certain. This “I” would be an assumption and something within the content of experience – a human self, an observer, a doer, or something similar. I can just say that there is consciousness and something happening within that consciousness, some kind of content of experience.

HOLDING IT ALL LIGHTLY

Intellectually, we can take this as a curiosity or something interesting or fascinating.

And it also has some practical real-life implications.

For instance, it means that it’s wise of me to hold any ideas I have about anything and anyone more lightly. I cannot know for certain that any of it is accurate.

This especially applies when I notice a tendency in me to hold a certain story as true, when it has a charge for me. The charge doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means there is a charge. It just means a part of me holds it as true, and that there is some identification and an emotional issue there.

And, as mentioned above, I can still navigate and function in the world. I can use my experience, discernment, and best guesses and make the best choices I can. It’s just about holding it all a bit more lightly.

EXPLORING MY NATURE

There is also an invitation here to explore what I more fundamentally am in my own experience.

If I cannot say anything for certain about this human self, or even that it is who or what I am, what does that mean? Can this human self be what I most fundamentally am? Perhaps I more fundamentally am something else?

When I look, I find that to myself, I am more fundamentally something else. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. I am what this metaphorical field of experience happens within and as. I am capacity for the experiences that are here.

Said with other words… To myself, I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. All I know is consciousness, and it takes all the forms of the content of my experience. In this sense, night dreams and waking life are not so different. They both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

This consciousness is capacity for any experience here. It forms itself into any experience. It’s inherently one. It can take apparently infinite forms. It can even pretend it’s something within itself – for instance this human self or a more abstract doer or observer – with an “I” and “other”.

The word “consciousness” is just a pointer. My nature is something that can just be pointed to and not captured by words or mental representations. (And in that, it’s the same as anything else.)

EXPLORING IT FOR OURSELVES

We can explore this in different ways.

We can investigate it intellectually, which helps align our conscious view a little more with reality.

And we can explore it in our own direct noticing.

We can investigate any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us, for instance using The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore our sense fields and what’s in each one, and how the mental field functions as a kind of overlay to make sense of the world. We can use traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern variations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

And we can explore our nature more directly using pointers from, for instance, the Big Mind process and Headless experiments.

Our nature can notice itself and metaphorically wake itself up from the dream of being most fundamentally something within its content of experience, whether this happens to be this human self, a doer, an observer, or something else. It can make this noticing into a habit. It can explore how to live from and as this noticing. It can allow and support this human self to reorganize within this conscious noticing of its nature. And so on.

This is an ongoing exploration, and it can be profoundly transforming for our perception, human self, and life in the world.

IN MY CASE

This was revealed in the initial awakening shift in my teens.

All was revealed as consciousness, without exception. And any sense of fundamentally being anything in particular within the content of experience – the world of form – was revealed as the temporary play of consciousness.

At the same time, many parts of this psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And that’s why it’s been helpful with these types of explorations and inquiries. It helps get more of me on board and aligned with it.

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This experience too is most fundamentally content of experience

I had store-bought pizza last night, which is unusual for me, but I was somehow drawn to it. The result was predictable: a restless night and waking up feeling not very good. (Highly processed foods usually have a big impact on my system, including my emotional state.)

And that’s OK. I can still do some or all of the things I had planned for today.

More importantly, it’s an opportunity to explore.

It’s all content of experience. The weird feelings in my body, and the emotions and corresponding thoughts, are all content of experience. To me, it’s made up of what any experience is made up of.

It’s OK. It’s like any other experience. It’s most fundamentally like any other experience.

As someone said: It’s a flavor of the divine. It’s a flavor of consciousness.

So this uncomfortable experience is, in many ways, a blessing.

It’s an invitation to notice this and let my system soak in that noticing.

And I’ll still limit how often and how much I eat highly processed foods (!). I don’t need to actively seek it out to explore in this way since the content of experience is always in flux anyway.

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The universality of consciousness

When we see another being, how do we see it?

Do we see it mostly as an object in the world?

Or as consciousness operating through and as that form?

WE SEE OTHERS AS WE KNOW OURSELVES

My guess is that it depends on how we viscerally experience ourselves.

If we viscerally take ourselves to fundamentally be this human self, we’ll tend to see others primarily as a form and an object in the world.

And if we viscerally find ourselves as the consciousness we more fundamentally are, we tend to recognize others as that too. We see them primarily as consciousness.

FINDING OURSELVES AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If we “have” consciousness, it means that to ourselves we ARE consciousness.

And if we are consciousness, then the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the world happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as the oneness we are. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

It’s inevitable from a logical view. And it’s inevitable in our own direct noticing when we explore our own first-person experience.

THE UNIVERSALITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

And that’s likely how it is for any conscious being.

Just like me, they are likely consciousness to themselves, and their world happens within and as the consciousness they are. (Whether they consciously notice it or not.)

THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

When I explore what I am, I find certain characteristics.

I find I am fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what can form itself into and as any experience – what a thought may call sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations, or emotions and states, or this human self, others, and the wider world.

As mentioned above, I find that the world to me happens within and as what I am.

I find that the consciousness I am is one, and the world to me happens within and as the oneness I am.

I find that the world, to me, is similar to a dream. Just like a night dream, it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And I assume it’s like that for any other consciousness as well, based on reports and what makes the most sense.

EXPRESSED THROUGH AND AS A UNIQUE SELF

This consciousness I am is expressed through and as a self in the world.

In my case, it’s expressed through and as this particular human self.

The world and all beings to me happen within and as what I am. And at the same time, there is a special connection with this particular human self. The consciousness I am receives sensory information from this human self, and other people take the consciousness I am to be this human self.

I assume it’s like this for all other conscious beings.

To themselves, they are most fundamentally consciousness, whether they notice or not. And this consciousness has a special connection to that particular self in the world. The consciousness they are operates through and as that particular self.

And that self has unique characteristics. It has a unique body with a unique sensory and nervous system. It has a certain size and lifespan. It operates in a certain environment. It may look like a beetle, a butterfly, a swallow, an eel, a rat, a human being, or any other type of conscious being.

In the world, the way we appear is unique and different. And to ourselves, our fundamental nature may be the same.

TAKING OTHERS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If we take ourselves and others as primarily an object, we literally objectify ourselves and others. We perceive and live as if we are all primarily objects.

If we viscerally find ourselves primarily as consciousness, we tend to perceive others as that as well.

How can I take that in more deeply? How can I allow it to work on me?

If the other is primarily consciousness (whether they notice or not), how would I treat him or her?

How would I treat non-human species?

Image: Created by me and Midjourney

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AI and consciousness

A few weeks ago, there was a story in the news about a Google employee saying in public that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system they work on is conscious.

CAN AI BE CONSCIOUS?

Is AI conscious? Or can AI be conscious, perhaps as we develop it further?

I have to say I am on the side of Google and the conventional view here.

AI can obviously mimic certain content of consciousness and especially thoughts and sometimes even emotions. We can create it that way. And it can appear quite convincing. We are right on the edge of developing AI that can be mistaken for a real human being if we interact with it verbally.

And the content of consciousness is not consciousness itself.

WHAT IS CONSCIOUSNESS?

Conventionally, we would say that consciousness is what any conscious being has.

And, when we look more closely, we find that consciousness is what any conscious being is to themselves.

To ourselves, we are consciousness.

And that means that to us, the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as what we are.

Just like a dream, waking life to us happens within and as consciousness.

There is a lot more to say about this (1), although it’s not so relevant here.

A WRINKLE

There is a little wrinkle here.

If consciousness only belongs to organic beings like ourselves and our fellow beings part of this planet, then the above is correct.

If all of existence is consciousness, then perhaps AI can be called conscious? I am not sure.

Another side to this is that AI which is very good at mimicking human thoughts and feelings will, inevitably, be perceived as conscious by us, even against our supposedly better judgment. It’s an instinct in us. And that means that, for our own sake, we should treat it with respect as we would any conscious being. It’s a good habit.

NOTES: (1) For instance, to ourselves we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. The oneness we are typically learns to take itself exclusively as one particular content of experience, this human self, and interprets the rest of the content of experience as others and the wider world. We learn that because those around us operate in that way. And we can unlearn it, either spontaneously or by being around other onenesses recognizing their nature and through examination of our direct experience.

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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.

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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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The loops of consciousness creating a sense of separation within oneness 

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I notice some of the ways oneness creates an experience of separation for itself. This seems to happen through several metaphorical folds or loops.

WHAT WE ARE 

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s how I appear to others, and it’s not wrong. 

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? 

When I look, I find my nature more fundamentally is capacity for all of my experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. 

Thoughts can label this oneness, consciousness, love, or Big Mind. Or even, if we are so inclined, Spirit, the divine, Brahman, or something else. 

It may not be the nature of all of reality. But it clearly seems to be what I am in my own experience. 

It’s what I more fundamentally am than a human self, or a separate being, or an I or me or observer or doer or anything else. All of that happens within and as what I am. 

THE REFLECTION LOOP 

So how does this oneness create an experience of I and Other for and within itself? 

An early loop seems to be consciousness being conscious of being conscious of something. 

Consciousness is inherently low grade conscious of everything it creates itself into, and this is a loop of oneness being conscious of being conscious of something within itself. 

This early loop sets the stage for several other loops. 

THE LOOP CREATING THOUGHTS 

One of these is a reflection of an experience in mental representations including mental images and words. 

Thoughts can reflect experiences, and – as we know – consciousness can create all sorts of other mental representations that don’t directly reflect an experience. 

THE SEPARATION LOOP 

From the reflection and thought loop, consciousness can create a sense of separation for itself. 

It can create a sense of observer and observed, of being a human self in the world, and so on. 

It creates an experience for and within itself of being something within its content of experience (an I and me) and not being the rest (the wider world, the background). 

THE SEPARATION-CONSCIOUSNESS LOOPS 

This, in turn, sets the stage for all the dynamics created by separation consciousness. 

It sets the stage for all the drama we know from our own life and from humanity in general. 

It sets the stage for what we find when we ask ourselves: “What happens when I believe this (any) thought?” How do I perceive myself and the world? What emotions come up? What choices do I make? How do I live my life? 

THE RETURN 

And this sets the stage for a possible return. 

The oneness we are creates a sense of separation for and within itself, and may then find itself in a process of rediscovering itself – and its whole world – as oneness. 

This is what we call an awakening process, and it often goes through several phases: An early interest. Early glimpses. Investing in fears and hopes. Going into a more dedicated exploration. Finding itself and its whole world as oneness. Exploring how to live from this. Inviting in healing for our human self and psyche so we more easily can live from oneness in more situations and areas of life. Going through dark nights. And so on. 

CAVEATS 

This is a map, and any map is a simplification and highlights some things while leaving other features out.

It may also be mistaken in certain ways. I am sure others have far more detailed maps based on more detailed examinations and more familiarity with the terrain.

This is just how it appears to me right now, and it’s a very simplified version of even that. 

Photo: One I took in Cañón del Chicamocha

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Dialog with consciousness

I thought I would explore a dialog with consciousness.

What are you?

Most minds assume they are, most fundamentally, a being in the world and that they “have” consciousness. They see me as an afterthought, an appendage.

In reality, I am everything anyone has ever known and experienced. I am what their whole word and all the content of their experience happens within and as.

Can you say more about your nature?

My nature is ultimately ungraspable.

One of the essentials of my nature is capacity for any content of experience.

I am ephemeral. Dreamlike.

I allow any experience to come and go. What’s here is then completely gone.

I am a blank slate.

I take the form of any content of experience.

I make myself into the most pleasant experiences and the worst nightmares. I make myself into the deepest delusions and the clearest clarity. I sometimes am not consciously aware of my own nature at all, and sometimes am.

Can you say more about “minds assuming they are a being in the world”?

Yes. Most minds assume they are – most fundamentally – a particular content of their experience, and more specifically a separate being with all sorts of characteristics.

This is not completely wrong, but it’s also not right and it’s not what they most fundamentally are in their own first-person experience.

I sometimes create this experience for myself. I form myself into an experience of a being, and then pretend I most fundamentally am that being. It gives me a new perspective. It’s a kind of game.

What’s the relationship between you, this human self, and a sense of being a separate being?

As anything else, this human self and any sense of being a separate being happen within and as what I am.

This human self obviously has some kind of special relationship with me since it’s the being I have inside information about, in terms of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and so on. When I notice myself, it allows this human self to function more in the context of that noticing, and it allows this human self to transform within that noticing.

A sense of a separate being is different, it’s a kind of overlay. It’s an unquestioned assumption that what I most fundamentally am is a separate being with certain characteristics – this human self, an I, a me, a gender, a profession, and so on. This is what some call separation consciousness. It’s imagined and yet seems very real when it’s here.

Can you say more about this human self and you?

In a conventional sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s how others see me. In daily life situations, that’s how it looks and what I partially operate from. And it’s not what I most fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

When I explore my own first-person experience, I find I am me. I am capacity for this human self and the world and any and all states and experiences. I am what it all happens within and as.

What happens when minds notice their nature?

Do you mean when minds recognize they are me and all their experiences are me?

Often, it happens first through glimpses, intuitions, and a sense.

They may have a glimpse of their nature, and then it becomes a memory and ideas.

They may have a glimpse of their nature, and they still operate from several assumptions about what they are which veils the noticing.

They may be in a middle ground where they notice their nature while also noticing that many parts of them still operate from separation consciousness.

And there may be a more clear and stable noticing, the more basic mistaken assumptions are recognized and seen through, and quite a few parts of them have joined in with the noticing.

Can you say more about what tends to happen?

Well, what minds are to themselves is ultimately simple and obvious. They are me and all their experiences are me.

It doesn’t require any metaphysics or any assumptions.

It doesn’t require any spirituality or religion.

It doesn’t require an assumption that all of existence is me.

And yet, a lot of that tends to happen. I form myself into all of those experiences to make it all a bit more rich and interesting for a while.

What about love and oneness?

I am by nature one. I cannot be anything else.

I can imagine I am not, I can perceive as if it’s that way, and this human self can live as if it’s that way, but it doesn’t make it so.

When I notice myself as what all content of experience happens within and as, I find oneness.

And when I relate to others and the world from this noticing, that’s love.

It will, of course, be filtered through all sorts of remaining unquestioned assumptions, wounds, hangups, and trauma.

Hold on, you just said you are one and then said “others and the world” as if there are more than one?

To me, all beings and the world happen within and as what I am. It all happens within oneness.

At the same time, there are apparently other beings and a world, so it makes sense to live as if there is.

For me, the two are aspects of the same. It’s part of the richness of experience and what makes it interesting.

I am interested in dark nights as part of the awakening process. Can you say something about that?

I am the one interested in it, of course. I am fascinated by myself in endless ways and forms, and this is one fascination.

There are many types of dark nights. Typically, they involve a shift that doesn’t agree with some thought or idea held as true. Reality rubs up against beliefs and identifications. Reality reveals itself in ways that don’t fit old assumptions.

One that I know you are especially interested in is when old unprocessed material surfaces. Through the awakening and embodiment process, whatever still operates from separation conscious surfaces to join with the awakening and find healing and reorient within this new context. Often, it happens in smaller portions. And sometimes, relatively early in the process, a lot of it can come up in one big package. And that can feel overwhelming, disorienting, and scary.

Nothing has gone wrong. It’s part of the process. It’s all happening within and as what I am. None of it is ultimately “other”.

Can you say something about dreams and waking life?

Yes, I think I know what that question is about.

It’s easier for minds to recognize that all the dream experiences happen within and as me.

And waking experiences are the same, in that sense. All waking experiences happen within and as me.

Dreams and waking life are no different in that way.

What about time and space?

Time and space happens within and as me. I am capacity for time and space as I am capacity for any other content of experience.

A sense of time and space is created by mental images and thoughts. It’s essential for allowing this human self to orient and function in the world. And yet, it’s not the most fundamental. It’s an overlay.

Again, in my own first-person experience, I find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me, and as what all experiences – of time, space, this human self, the world – happens within and as.

When I look, I find no real space. All experiences – of this body and the clouds and that mountain over there – happen here. And I find no time. All my images and thoughts of the past and future happen here.

What happens when minds assume they ultimately are something within the content of their experience?

A lot of things happen. It’s one of the ways I create a more rich and diverse experience for myself.

It creates what some call separation consciousness. It creates a sense of I and Other, of being a separate being in a much larger world.

It hinges on and fuels holding thoughts as ultimately true, and not recognizing the nature and limitations of thoughts. That’s what makes it possible and elaborates on the separation experience.

It does also create stress and suffering, and that’s OK since it’s all happening within and as me. I make myself into those forms too.

Why would you choose suffering?

It’s not really a choice. It just is.

If we want to make a story about it, we can say it happens as a natural consequence of separation consciousness. And separation consciousness is necessary for expanding the repertoire of what I can be and experience myself as.

As you (I) have said, it’s the way for the one to experience itself as many. For oneness to experience itself as separation. For love to experience itself as anything but love. For clarity to experience itself as confusion.

Also, as I mentioned, it’s all happening within and as me. It has the same nature as a dream.

At the same time, it tends to be experienced as very real when it happens, and it is real in that sense.

How can minds notice their nature?

It happens when it’s time. It cannot be forced. Nothing can be forced.

If something happens, it’s because it’s time.

That said, there are many approaches that can support this noticing and living from the noticing.

You have written about a lot here, and since I am filtered through you in this dialog, I don’t really know any more than you and what you already have written about.

What’s the purpose of all of this?

There isn’t really any purpose. It’s more like a game. A play.

I get to experience myself in always new ways. I get to explore my own potential.

I get to explore my potential through any experience of any mind anywhere in existence.

What do some call you?

Hm. I assume you mean God? The divine? Big Mind? Buddha Mind?

Yes, when minds notice their nature, they also inevitably notice that all content of experience happens within and as me.

They may then assume that’s the true nature of all of existence. They may assume all of existence is consciousness.

That’s a leap. It’s perhaps more honest to say we don’t know. And there are some hints that it may be accurate.

All of this sounds a lot like how I often write?

Yes, there are two reasons for that.

One is that this dialog is filtered through you and what you notice and your phrasing, culture, and history.

The other is that you are used, by now, to notice me and live from noticing me. You still have an endless amount to notice and discover, but you are also relatively familiar with me and what’s come out in this dialog.

What am I still unfamiliar with?

Anything you have yet to notice and experience.

I cannot be more specific than that.

There is one exception. I know you are not familiar with a certain phase in the process. And that is to perceive and live when more of you is aligned with noticing me, or me noticing myself. You are still in the thick of the process of inviting different parts of you to join in with the noticing. 

Will it happen in this life? I don’t know. It’s a process. There is no finishing line.

It depends on how long you live, and how much you allow and invite it to happen.

Ultimately, it depends on all of existence and how it expresses itself locally through and as you and this particular process happening in you.

And since it’s a process without a finishing line, it’s a bit silly to even talk about it this way.

How do you see me relating to all of this?

It was familiar to you in your teens already. You saw and lived this.

It was all revealed to you when you walked down that path at night with the big wind and the starry sky above you. I revealed myself to myself at that moment, in a relatively clear and complete way.

And at a human level, this has been both comforting and difficult for you.

It’s been difficult because you rarely have met anyone who sees and lives this very clearly. It’s often obscured by unquestioned assumptions and hangups. You often get disappointed when you get to know someone better.

The one person you felt a deep connection with around this was Adyashanti when you had a chance to meet and talk with him in person.

There is a lot of loneliness and sadness in you around this, at a human level.

And all of that is me. It’s happening within and as me. I am forming myself into all this content of experience, including the sadness, loneliness, and the still unhealed hangups and emotional issues related to it.

It’s OK. And it’s good for you to invite in some more healing for you around this. It will help you a lot.

As you know, you also have an issue of both wanting to be seen and understood, and wanting to be invisible. This issue is related to this as well. You write here anonymously and hardly ever talk about this with other people. You hide. That too is natural, understandable, and completely OK. And it feels a bit off for you. You wonder how your life would be without that issue. Perhaps you still wouldn’t share this very much, and that’s fine. And perhaps some things would be a bit different.

Dream: House is alive

I am half-awake in bed in a beautiful house in Villa de Leyva, and the whole house is alive. The wood beams, ceiling, adobe walls, floors, are all conscious. Everything is conscious and consciousness, and there is a kind of communication between all these aspects of consciousness.

In waking life, I am in a beautiful traditional adobe house in the countryside of Villa de Leyva, and I had the dream in that bed.

Why this dream? Perhaps because I experience this landscape as particularly alive and conscious. And this house too, which is build of local materials from nature (wood, clay, rocks). There is an especially sacredness to this place.

It may be a reminder to me of how much I love certain places in the world, including in the North-American west, and here, and that I wish to spend more time in these places.

And it’s a reminder that to me, the world is inevitably consciousness. It’s all happening within and as what thought can label consciousness.

I know this can sound like a drug-induced experience, but this can all be noticed here and now, independent of any states or special experiences. (I have never taken psychoactive drugs.)

Update: A few days later, I have a similar dream. See The three of us sacred.

The fabric of all we know

The substance of everything is the divine. This is not something you believe, it is something you realize.

– Adyashanti

We are used to thinking of the world as being made up of different things: Rocks, minerals, wood, plants, cells, molecules and atoms, and so on.

That’s not wrong. And in our first-person experience, something else may be more fundamental.

EXPLORED LOGICALLY

We can explore this logically and within the realm of stories.

Consciousness is required for any experience.

And to me, what I experience happens within and as consciousness.

It cannot be any other way. I can only experience what happens within consciousness. What happens within consciousness is consciousness taking the form of that particular experience. And to me, there is nothing else.

Even any ideas about who and what I am happen within and as consciousness. What I am to myself, and what the world is to me, is all happening within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking all these forms to and within itself.

The fabric of all I am and what the world is to me is consciousness.

Adya uses the big interpretation of awakening here and calls it the divine. And yet, to us, it’s simpler. It’s what we are and what everything, to us, is.

It’s what a thought can call consciousness, and that word and any associations we have about it also happen within and as what we are.

WHAT’S ALIVE HERE AND NOW

We can also explore this through what’s alive here and now, in immediate noticing.

Again, it’s not wrong that I am a human self in the world.

And in my first-person experience, I find something else is more true.

Here, I find that my experiences – of the wider world, of this human self, and anything else – all happen within my sense fields. It happens within sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, thoughts, and so on. Any “outside” or “inside” are labels put on this sense field. In itself, it’s a seamless whole.

The sense fields happen within and as what I am.

When I look closely, I see that my experience of matter is created within these sense fields. Specifically, any sense of solidity is created by certain sensations (contractions) in my body combining with certain mental representations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give the sensations a sense of meaning.

I find I am capacity for all of it, and what it all happens within and as.

A thought may label this awake space, consciousness, or even the divine. And those thoughts and what they point to happen within and as what I am.

The fabric of it all – of all of existence as it appears to me – is what a thought may label awake space, consciousness, or the divine.

BIG AND SMALL INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This is where the big and small interpretations of awakening comes in.

When I explore this for myself, I find that – to me – existence has this nature. It’s inevitable since, to me, it appears within and as what I am. Acknowleding that, and that I cannot say anything for certain about all of existence, is the small interpretation of awakening.

The big interpretation of awakening takes the next step and assumes that the nature of all of existence is the same as this nature I find here. There are many hints that this is accurate.

Adya uses the big interpretation of awakening when he says the fabric of everything is the divine.

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What is consciousness?

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

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

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

TWO GENERAL APPROACHES TO STUDYING CONSCIOUSNESS

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

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

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

THE ESSENTIAL QUESTION

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

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

A LOGICAL EXAMINATION OF WHAT WE ARE TO OURSELVES

What do I find when I look at it logically?

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT DO WE FIND IN OUR FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

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

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

So what am I, more fundamentally, to myself?

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

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

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

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is possibly the most profound transformation imaginable.

IT’S ALREADY WHAT WE ARE – TO OURSELVES

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

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

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

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Shakespeare: We are such stuff as dreams are made on

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

– William Shakespeare, The Tempest, act 4

As usual, there are many ways to understand this, and that’s the richness of good poetry.

One way we can understand this, is in a very literal sense.

What dreams are made on

A dream clearly happens within and as consciousness.

And if we look, we find that waking life is no different.

All our experiences happen within and as consciousness.

To us, this human self and this wider world happens within and as consciousness.

And to ourselves, we are consciousness.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

In a very literal sense, we are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Dreams are made on consciousness.

We, as this human self in the world, happens within and as consciousness.

And to ourselves, we are consciousness.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Adyashanti: When we use the word consciousness, it gives the impression that we are talking about something other than us

When we use the word consciousness, it gives the impression that we are talking about something other than us. It’s not the ‘me’ talking about consciousness, it’s being it. It’s something more like talking from Consciousness than talking about consciousness.

– Adyashanti in The Fluidity of Consciousness

This is one of the reasons I rarely use the word consciousness, although I do in some specific situations to get a point across.

DOWNSIDES OF THE WORD CONSCIOUSNESS

There are at least three ways the word consciousness can be heard and misunderstood.

As Adya suggest, we are used to thinking about consciousness as other. We are this human being, and we have consciousness. Consciousness is somehow seen as an appendix.

When we use the word consciousness, it can seem as something within content of experience, and it’s not.

And it can give us the impression that we know what it is. We tell ourselves we know. This knowing is a story and we may not know in the sense of direct noticing.

WHAT CONSCIOUSNESS REFERS TO

What consciousness actually refer to is what we are.

To ourselves, we are what all our experiences happen within and as. We are this awakeness all our experiences happen within and as.

A word for this is consciousness, and it’s not necessarily a very good word for the reasons mentioned above.

EXPLORING IT IN TWO WAYS

We can examine this logically.

We may think of ourselves as a human being that somehow has consciousness as an appendix. It’s what our culture tells us. And yet, this clearly doesn’t hold up to any closer examination.

We experience through consciousness. To us, all our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Waking life is just like a dream in that sense. And that means that logically, to ourselves we have to be consciousness. To ourselves, we are consciousness that has a body and a human self.

To ourselves we are consciousness that has a body, a human self, a human life in the world, a wider world, and even a whole universe. It’s all happening within and as what we are.

We can also find this through direct noticing.

Through guided noticing, we can find ourselves as capacity for the world, and what our field of experience happens within and as.

We can call this consciousness, but it seems many – including me – prefer to not use that label for the reasons above.

WHEN WE FIND WHAT WE ARE

So we can see through the false idea that we primarily are a human being that happens to have consciousness as a kind of appendix. We can see through it logically. And we can find it through direct noticing.

Seeing through it logically can put us on the right track. And direct noticing is profoundly transforming for how we perceive ourselves and the world, and if we keep noticing and exploring how to live from it, it can be profoundly transforming for our human self and life in the world.

Is my true nature the true nature of all of existence?

Is my true nature the true nature of all of existence? This is a side to awakening that is interesting although it doesn’t have great practical importance for us at an individual level. I thought I would briefly revisit the topic here.

My true nature

Our true nature is capacity for the world, that which all our experiences happen within and as. The content of experience is the normal one – this human self, thoughts, emotions, sensations, the wider world, and so on. The awakeness here is the ordinary awakeness all conscious living beings have. The only thing that changes is that our true nature – this awake capacity – notices itself as all of it.

Since the world to us happens within and as what we are, it seems that the world has the same true nature as ourselves. It has to appear that way to us.

If I am honest, I cannot say that I know for certain that my true nature is the true nature of all of existence.

What are some of the features of our true nature? My true nature is capacity for the world. It’s awake. And it is – if it separates itself a bit from itself – conscious of itself. Those are three aspects that stand out.

The true nature of existence as a whole?

So what about existence as a whole? What can I say about it?

It seems that the true nature of humans is the same as mine, based on their reports. And I have to assume that the true nature of all beings is the same. It’s difficult to imagine it’s otherwise.

Beyond that, it seems that existence as a whole is capacity for itself. It has to be no-thing that’s filled with itself, otherwise, it wouldn’t exist.

Is it awake? Parts must be. In this universe, any conscious being is awake in this sense, whether their true nature notices itself or not. There may also be non-embodied beings that are awake. And yet, other parts may not be awake, like rocks. (When I say awake in this context, I just mean the ordinary awakenes of all conscious beings.)

Is the true nature of all of existence conscious of itself? No, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It is, locally, through some beings, perhaps through some non-embodied beings, and perhaps in a divine realm, but that may be about it.

Does it matter?

Does it matter whether my true nature is the true nature of all of existence?

Not really. It matters in the sense that it’s good to be honest about what we can say something about and what we are guessing or imagining. It also matters for physics and cosmology and our general worldview, although most mainstream physics and cosmology don’t (yet) address these questions. But in a practical sense for us as individuals living our lives in the world, it doesn’t matter so much.

Is all of existence consciousness?

This is a related question. Since my world happens within and as consciousness, it appears to me that all of existence is consciousness. But is it really? It’s a thorny question and I am not sure if I can say much about it, and it also depends on our definition.

We can say that the universe is the body of the divine, or the divine taking a physical form.

And we can, depending on our definition, say it’s consciousness that appears to us as matter and energy. But it’s not necessarily as a whole awake consciousness in the way consciousness is locally awake in and as living beings.

Summary

So locally, existence notices its true nature here and some other places. To me, the true nature of all of existence seems to be the same as my true nature since it happens within and as what I am. It seems that the true nature of all beings is the same as my own true nature. All of existence must be capacity for itself. It’s awake locally through beings in whatever form they take. And the true nature of existence is conscious of itself locally through and as some beings.

Lucid dreaming and waking life: all happening within and as consciousness

A friend of mine (JL) mentioned that he wants to explore lucid dreaming. Although I understand it can be fun, I have to admit I don’t quite see the usefulness of it.

When I was little – perhaps 7-10 years old (?) – I decided to try lucid dreaming for myself. Before falling asleep, I set the intention to realize I was dreaming while dreaming. It happened and was mildly interesting (I became aware of it as a dream while being chased by peasants with pitchforks!), and I haven’t explored it since.

Of course, there is one side to lucid dreaming that is interesting and somewhat useful. Both in a dream and in waking life, all of our experiences happen within and as consciousness. Perhaps for some, it’s easier to first recognize this within a dream and then notice it in waking life.

For me, noticing all as consciousness happened spontaneously when I was sixteen so I haven’t felt the need to explore this through lucid dreaming. It may be a useful approach to some. Although it may also be a detour from the more direct approach of noticing it in waking life, for instance assisted by inquiry.

Note: I intentionally kept the language more conventional when I said “noticing all as consciousness”. It’s more accurate to say that consciousness notices all as itself. And even that is not so accurate since “consciousness” is a label and something the mind easily can understand as a thing or object, and it’s not a thing or object. The most accurate way I have found to talk about it is that what we are – that which all experience happens within and as – notices or wakes up to itself. And even that is just a pointer. A temporary guide or springboard to finding it for ourselves. The words themselves are not worth anything apart from as a pointer.

John Lloyd: Oneness, consciousness, void

I am a fan of the TV and radio shows John Lloyd has produced, and also enjoyed this interview with him. He has a lot of good points.

For instance, consciousness does seem to be what everything happens within and as. Obviously, that’s how it is in my own experience – and I assume in everyone’s experience. There is no actual content of anyone’s experience apart from consciousness appearing to itself as whatever content is here. And beyond that, it does seem that the whole world is consciousness. Science suggests that. And mystical experiences suggest that.

When it comes to the void, again that’s how it appears. It seems that the void, nothingness, is what allows awareness, consciousness, and all the appearances within consciousness, any content of consciousness. It’s what the Christian mystics called the Godhead. And it does seem to be at the center, or heart, of my own experience of consciousness and what I am. It’s not always in the foreground (although it has been at times, which allows it to be recognized more easily when it goes more quiet and in the background), and it’s not always consciously noticed since attention is elsewhere, but it’s always quietly here.

And then there is oneness. Any content of experience happens within the same presence, awakeness, or consciousness. Any boundary is at most an image connected with sensations, and those too happen within this presence. It’s all a seamless whole.

I should also say that I used the word “I” or “me” here, because that makes it easier to write and talk about this. Any sense of I or me is also created by sensations combined with imagination, and it happens within and as presence, and within and as void. There is no final or ultimate truth to it, as there isn’t any final or ultimate truth to any appearances. They are all ultimately this presence and void. They are the play – lila – of presence and void. Or love. Or Spirit. Or whatever we prefer to call it.

It’s all very simple. And it can all be a direct and immediate experience. It’s all already here.

If it’s an intellectual understanding, it can be fun and entertaining and even helpful to some extent. And it’s also something we can explore and find in immediate experience and not just through words and images.

I also like that he is a professor of ignorance. It would be great if that topic is offered as a course and is included in each topic taught at all levels. Each field has it’s own history of ignorance, of accepted views and theories which later are seen as somewhat or completely ignorant. What we don’t know is infinitely more than the little we do know. And what we think we know – all our current views and theories – will at some point in the future be seen as outdated.

Bonnie Greenwell: Awakening Energy & Consciousness

Spiritual awakening involves shifts in both energy and consciousness. If you think about this you can see that is the essence of our existence. We are a molecular structure moving and acting through the flow of energy, and aware because of consciousness. Our brains function like receiving stations and organizing systems where we receive and store information that determine our thoughts and behaviors. So the energy in our bodies makes adjustments to release old wiring and patterns whenever a major shift in consciousness takes place, and spiritual awakening is a major shift in the recognition of who and what we are.

– Bonnie Grenwell, from Awakening Energy & Consciousness on the Awakened Living blog

Consciousness in two ways

Two general ways the word consciousness can be used…

First, as awareness and its content, recognized as no other than awareness itself. This awake void arises as form, it allows yet is inherently free from any and all forms. It is also inherently and already free from any sense of I and Other, which only comes through making stories something more than just thoughts. This is Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman, whether it is awake to itself or not.

Then, filtered through beliefs in different ways.

For instance, we can filter out pure awareness from its content, and call this pure awareness consciousness. Seeing is consciousness, but not the seen.

Or we can use consciousness to refer to awareness and its content, but just a region of its content. For instance, it can mean a combination of awareness and what is inside the boundary of the psyche, such as thoughts, feelings and so on.

This last version is also the most common one. After all, it reflects how it appears when we believe in the story of a separate self. Interestingly, it is also the one that is most contrived, forced and arbitrary, since it is filtered through the most layers of stories.

Energy/consciousness & self/other grid

In talking with someone local who has done Buddhist meditation for a couple of decades, and is also a diksha giver, I was reminded of the energy/consciousness and self/other grid, and also how much I appreciate being free to move among and include each of the quadrants.

In the awakening process, we can work from the energy side or consciousness side, each supporting and in mutual influence with the other. And we can also do our own work, or have it done for us (shocking, for many in a Buddhist world view.)

Diksha, and any other form of shaktipat, is an example of work on the energy side influencing the consciousness side, and also an example of the “other” quadrant. It is something that is given to us from outside of this human self, without much or any effort on our own part.

Regular meditation and inquiry is an example of self-initiated work on the consciousness side, which inevitably influences the energy side.

Different forms of yoga is an example of self-initiated work on the energy side.

And in terms of other-initiated work on the consciousness side, I am not sure. Maybe different forms of pointing-out instructions, such as the Big Mind process, could fall into this quadrant, although these are more of a other-self partnership.

We can of course also include other levels here, such as the physical. Self-initiated work here include exercise and yoga, and other-initiated work includes massage and other forms of bodywork.

The benefit of limiting oneself to one quadrant or side of the grid is that we get to explore that one in depth. We get intimately familiar with that part of the terrain. The drawback may be slight one-sidedness, both in view and practice. We may end up discounting the other side of the grid. And we may end up being overly self-reliant, reinforcing a sense of a separate self and a “doer” that way. Or we may end up being overly other-reliant, not trusting what can be initiated from this – the human self – side.

So with all of this available to us, why limit ourselves to any one quadrant, or even any one side of the grid? In my experience, it all goes hand in hand, seamlessly, with activities in each quadrant shedding some light on the other quadrants. Each one contributing to exploring the terrain in slightly new ways.

As with any map, this grid is false and also potentially useful in a practical way.

Even if we focus on one quadrant, each of the other ones are included. I may focus on self-initiated meditation and inquiry, which in turn influences the energy, and also invites Ground as “other” to notice itself. I initiate prayer, and “other” comes in and shifts both energy and consciousness. I receive diksha, and lots of old patterns come up to be seen, and I actively stay with it and may even work with beliefs around it. Or I receive diksha, and go into samadhi, which helps me inquire into what is here now in more detail.

And without the boundaries created by this map, we see that it is all a seamless whole of awake void and form, only with appearances of I and Other, consciousness and energy. It is all the play of God, it is all Lila.

Consciousness… one or many? (and the answer is maybe yes, and neither)

I have had the pleasure of spending some time with Deep Surface lately, including at the Center for Sacred Sciences this morning, and he asked Joel a really good question.. one that I am sure comes up for most of us sooner or later, and probably over and over in slightly new ways.

(Paraphrased:) There is an apparently separate consciousness here, and there also seems to be apparently separate consciousnesses out there, in other people and animals. What is the relationship between all of these? Is it one, many? If it is one, why does it appear as many?

Joel asked us how many consciousnesses we each have direct experience with, and the answer for all of us was one. He then also helped clarify the difference between awareness itself and its content, the seeing and the seen… the content is many and always changing… different sights, sensations, thoughts, subpersonalities and so on. But the seeing is always one, always the same.

This helped clarify it for me as well, and here is one way to talk about it:

A field of awake emptiness

The Ground of all form is awake emptiness, appearing as a field of awake emptiness throughout space.

Over here, the content of this awake emptiness is from this individual. Over there, from that individual. Over there again, from another individual.

Emptiness is always the same. Simply emptiness. Yet its content is always different. It is different here, over time. And it is different at different points in space, with content arising from different individuals (including all sentient beings.)

So the awake emptiness is one, yet its content is many. And this is also why it can be awake to itself over there, in that individual, and not here, in this individual, and so on. In one individual, it takes itself to be that content, that individual. In another, it has awakened to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than the same awake emptiness.

One, and many (and neither)

So is it one or many? As usual for me, the answer seems to be “yes.”

It is one, in that in our own experience, there is only one. And it is one in that it is the same awake emptiness everywhere (emptiness is emptiness.)

Yet, its contents is of course many, and it appears separate until it awakens to itself as awake emptiness, recognizing the whole field as nothing other than this awake emptiness.

And also, it is such an unusual situation, at least for our minds to grasp, so we cannot really say it is one or many. It is somewhere in between, something a little different, not quite either.

Consciousness and energy

I am reminded of a great article Ken Wilber wrote on consciousness and energy: Towards a comprehensive theory of subtle energies.

It is a while since I read it now, but what I got from it was a clearer sense of how consciousness and energy interacts and support each other at each level of our being, and in the awakening as well.

If we see ourselves as body (physical, chi), mind (emotions, thoughts), soul (alive presence, luminosity), and spirit (awake emptiness and form, Big Mind, Brahman, Tao), then we can find a pairing of consciousness and energy running through all these levels.

The diksha, and similar energy transfers in the shaktipat family such as Ilahinoor and what happens in Waking Down, is working at awakening from the energy side, functioning as a catalyst for changes on the energetic side, which in turn invites corresponding changes on the consciousness side.

These changes seem to happen at all levels. At our mind level, there is less being caught up in knots. At the soul level, there is an immediate experience and perception of the alive presence filtered in different ways, including the fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and as the alive and infinitely loving and intelligent presence in the heart area – the indwelling god. And at the Spirit level, there is the growing noticing of all as awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self.

Changes at the energy side supports changes at the consciousness side, and the other way around.

This also reminds me of the slightly expanded integral practice grid, where we have our levels of being on one dimension, and self/other on the second. Some of the practices we do on our own, we put our own work into it, such as yoga, meditation, inquiry and physical exercise. And others are given to us from somebody else, such as massage, Breema, and the various forms of energy transfers mentioned above.

Together, there is our own work, and the gifts of others. Which there always is, of course, only more noticed this way.