Seeking a feeling or state 

It’s very common to seek a certain feeling or state. It’s also very understandable.

Most of us are very familiar with changing the content of experience and are less familiar with changing the context of experience. So we set out trying to change the content of experience. We try to avoid certain experiences and seek other experiences. We seek a feeling or a state. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s natural. It’s good to be a good steward of our life in an ordinary sense. And yet, to compulsively attempt to change the content of our experience is in itself suffering. It creates an additional layer of suffering. It creates an ongoing struggle with our experience.

The alternative is to change the context of experience. To notice what’s here: sensory input and imagination, and how they combine to create certain experiences. Notice that this experience is already noticed and allowed. Notice what it happens within and as (AKA awareness, presence).

I can explore this in different ways:

What would I have to feel if I didn’t try to change my experience now? Feel that. Stay with it for a while. Notice any resistance, fear, impulse to change experience, and feel that too. Include that too in the noticing and allowing.

How does my mind create the experience of something lacking or missing here and now? (UI on this lacking state or a deficient self.)

How does my mind create the experience of something else that’s better? (UI on the desired state.)

How does my mind create the experience of a threat in what’s here now? (AI on threat.)

How does my mind create the experience of a command to change my experience? Or not change it? (CI to change / not change.)

This impulse to change the content of our experience has an evolutionary function. It is, in a sense, built into us. And yet, it’s possible to examine it and shift focus to the context of our experience as described above. We may seek to change the content of our experience through food, entertainment, being loved, sex, status, being right, and also through trying to hold ideas as true. These ideas can be any ideas at all, including ideas about ourselves, others, life, politics, religion, and spirituality.

As usual, this exploration intertwines in how we ordinarily do things in ways that are simple and also complex. It’s simple in that (a) I continue to be the best steward of my life as I know in a very ordinary way while also (b) explore the things mentioned above. It’s complex in that this exploration will shift how I go about being a good steward of my life. It shifts the emphasis on changing the context of my experience rather than the content. It removes a layer of struggle and suffering, which brings more of a sense of ease into my everyday life. I go about being a good steward in a slightly more effortless way. And there is an ongoing deepening here.

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I perceive, therefore I am

This is quite straight forward, and yet has a big impact to the extent it sinks in:

The only thing I know is that perception (awareness, consciousness) is. That’s all. Any content of experience is up for question.

For instance. I know there is experience here. That’s indisputable.

As for the content of this experience, I see a laptop, a room, a fire place, windows, I hear sounds outside, there is a cat here etc. Thoughts interpret my current content of experience in this way, and also adds a human being perceiving all of this, a me sitting here, and so on. And all of that is made up by images and words. It’s all up for questioning. It is, for instance, possible I exist in some sort of Matrix type reality. All of this content of experience may be created for me. It’s perhaps unlikely, but if I am honest I have to admit it’s possible. (And in a loser sense, it’s accurate. My world, as I perceive it, is created for me by this mind, by life.)

Also, I know quite well that as I question my thoughts and assumptions, including the most basic ones of a me and I, what’s revealed is often quite different from how it initially appeared.

So in this sense, Descartes had a point. If we take cogito to mean perception, he was close. I perceive, therefore perception is.

That’s all that’s known. Anything else is up for questioning. (When I wrote “I perceive, therefor I am” in the title, it’s intentionally sloppy – and more aligned with Descarte’s statement. It’s assumed that the “I” in that statement is questioned too, and that even “perception” is questioned. What is the “I” that’s perceiving? Can I find it? What’s left when I see that my images and words of an “I” are not “it”? And if I look, can I really find perception? Can I remove it and show it to someone? Can I take a picture of it and publish it in a magazine?)

Just to mention it: Questioning doesn’t mean not using conventional views as guides for my everyday life. I will still do that. The only difference is that I am open to question even my most basic assumptions, and from that holding them much more lightly. From taking my assumption as true, solid and real, and identifying with them and feeling I need to protect and defend these identities, I recognize them as assumptions and hold them more lightly. And that gives a sense of ease in my life.

Bottom falling out, and reorganization

A quick note on something I have written about many times before…

When there is a Ground awakening, we can say that content does not need to change. It is an awakening of the awake void to itself, and its form aspect can stay the same. It is as if the bottom falls out, with the content hanging there in mid-air without any identification anymore, without being taken as an I with an Other.

At the same time, changes in content do often go before such an awakening… there are changes there that invites the awake void to notice itself. So the initial statement, although correct in theory, is often not the whole story.

And also, although a Ground awakening does not require any change of content, the content does often change as a consequence of it. There is a reorganization of our human self at the three centers, in terms of view (reflecting a nondual realization), heart (open to all form aspects, all situations and beings), and belly (a felt-sense of all as God, and a reorganization of emotions from reactive patterns to a steady nurturing fullness).

It is correct in an idealized situation that the content does not (have to) change prior to or following a Ground awakening (of course, what awakens to itself is the timeless Now so there isn’t really a before or after, apart from what appears as a before and after in our stories about it), but that is only part of the picture.

Mainly, emphasizing that distinction of content and Ground may serve as a teaching tool to nudge people to look for what is there independent of content, and not get caught up in the merry-go-round of always trying to change and improve content (which does not lead to Ground awakening). And as a teaching tool, it can certainly be helpful.

But it is also true that a Ground awakening is often preceded and followed by a change in content, if we look at our stories (memories) about this before and after.

Context and content

In my late teens, I got into Jung and read a good portion of the Bollingen series (his works translated into English.)

I noticed early on that as I got more into Jung’s world view… is insights, views, experiences and examples of work with clients, the more my own dreams resembled the dreams, archetypes and dynamics he described and wrote about. My dreams became, in some cases, textbook Jungian dreams. And why not?

The whole of us wants to communicate with that which we take ourselves to be, and it will use whatever language is most readily understood. It is as if it is saying: if the guy is attuned to a Jungian language of archetypes, let’s use that to reach him.

During my time at the Zen center, I did some regression therapy sessions, and as I was immersed in a group focused on the whole human/Big Mind dynamic, that was the main themes coming up in the sessions, along with the more usual rt material (which seemed peripheral.) The strongest session was one where I saw the innumerable cycles of incarnation of my individual self, the shifts and swings between being incarnated and disincarnate.

As I got into Process Work, the themes in my PW sessions where typical PW material and dynamics, weaving into the small me (my conscious view of myself) more pieces of Big me (the whole of who I am, and can be, as an individual).

Then there was a period of more outward focus, working with sustainability on a community level, and my dreams were more free ranging, less conforming to any particular approach (since I was not consciously focused on much inward related at the time.)

Nowadays, being into the two (closely related) streams of working with the three centers and the essence, and realized selflessness, the shifts in my waking life and my dreams tend to reflect these themes, and use a language available to me from Barry and Karen (the local diksha givers) and now also Almaas (since I have started reading some of his books.)

The whole of what/who we are, using a language familiar to us

One way to look at this is that the whole of who (individual soul/human) and what (Spirit, Big Mind, Brahman) we are wants us to…

(a) awaken to what we are (realized selflessness),

(b) embrace all of who we are (the fullness of who we are, as individuals, right now), and

(c) unfold as who and what we can be (heal, mature, develop as individuals.)

And it is using whatever language (a) is available to it (dreams, inner images, synchronicities, and even sensations and feelings), and (b) is most easily understood by who we take ourselves to be (our conscious world view, what we are consciously familiar with.)


The other level here is interpretation. Whatever arises will naturally be interpreted through whatever filters we have, from the basic makeup of this universe to the astronomical context of our planet, our ecology, our biology, culture, family, subcultures, conscious world view, and other influences.

Familiar language, and interpretation

So if we live in a Hindu culture, the symbols and themes in for instance our dreams (or visions, or Process Work processes, or journeying) may take a Hindu themed form. And even if they do not take an explicitly Hindu form, they may still be interpreted in that context.

Instead of Hindu, it may be any other worldspace or combinations of worldspaces, such as Freudian, Christian, pagan, socialist, Sufi, cognitive psychology, evolution, sci-fi, classic literature, or whatever else we are into – consciously or subconsciously.


There seems to be a dialog between the fullness of what and who we are (and can be) and what we take ourselves to be. The fullness seems to be using a language as available to us as possible, and our conscious view tends to aligned more with the direction our fullness takes us, if we allow it.

Some effects of the filters

This filter… of the basic makeup of the universe, the astronomical context of our planet, the ecology of our planet, evolutionary history, biology, culture, individual history, current situation, and so on… seems to have many different influences.

There may very well be processes and dynamics deeper than for instance any cultural, and even biological, and maybe even physical differences. And for each of us, they appear to us filtered through all of these layers. So I may have a glimpse of what I really am, and it takes the form of an encounter with Christ or Krishna, or finding myself as Big Mind, or something else. If I am an individual somewhere else in the universe, with an entirely different planetary context, biology and culture, I may still have this glimpse, but filtered in a quite different way.

A full blown awakening may have the same basic features, such as the field of awake emptiness and form awakening to itself, inherently centerless and selfless, but even this one will be heavily filtered in how it is expressed and lived.

At the same time, these filters may determine – to a lesser or larger degree – which processes and dynamics are available to us, and how. For instance, if we are deeply entrenched in a view that upholds the ultimate reality of a separate self (for instance theistic traditions), we may not so easily drop into realized selflessness. Or if our view is strongly materialistic, we may not so easily notice ourselves as pure wakefulness, and the content of this wakefulness as no other than wakefulness itself. Or if our orientation is strongly transcendent, we may not so easily drop into endarkenment and the belly awakening.

And these filters certainly influence our interpretation of whatever happens. They are our interpretation of whatever happens.

So they filter how deeper and more universal processes arise in our individual life, to some extent they filter which processes are available, and they determine our experience and interpretation of these as well.

All the way up and down, it is all filtered by the makeup of this universe as a whole, including its very local characteristics of planet, ecology, biology, culture, individual history, and current situation.

From Content to Context

In many practices, we use content (the world of phenomena) as a springboard into context (a sense of I or realization of selflessness). We explore content, which leads us into exploring context.

This seems to be the case for…

  • Process Work
    Typically with an emphasis of content, but within a – yet slightly fuzzy – context of selflessness (it seems that the selflessness part is more coming into focus).

  • The Big Mind Process
    This approach uses explorations of content (personal voices) to see that they are inherently without any I. And we also go directly to an exploration of selflessness (Big Mind) to familiarize ourselves with that, and have a taste of it.

  • The Work
    Byron Katie’s inquiry process is content focused (examining our beliefs, the effects of their presence and absence, and turning it around), yet brings us into a taste and then realization of selflessness. It seems that from exploring typical surface beliefs – such as she should …, I need … and so on, we move to exploring the more core beliefs – the initial stories spawning all the other stressful ones – such as I am a human being and I am.

Using content to bring us into explorations of context only makes sense. It is after all where most of us start from, what we are already familiar with, and journeys typically starts from where we are at (!)

Directly to context

Of course, we are already at the context of selflessness as well, although we don’t notice it. So some practices focus on this as well, such as Headlessness and some Dzogchen practices. Here, we just notice what is already there – the absence of any I anywhere. We notice, gradually become more familiar with it, gradually learn to trust it, gradually allow the realization to dawn.

The Direct Route

The direct route (to awakening, realizing selflessness, etc.) is to see all as God, as Big Mind, as the play of the divine mind, as emptiness dancing.

And one of the more direct routes to see this is to notice and examine whenever this is not alive for us. In other words, whenever we notice that there is an experience of an I, of separation, of stress, and so on, we can explore what are the mechanisms of Samsara?

Context and content

Seeing it all as God is to include both the context (selflessness, God as the only I) and the content (the infinite number of always fresh manifestations).

Renouncing or loving it all

In some traditions, they emphasize renunciation (focusing on the context, temporarily rejecting the content) and that may work well in monastic settings. Today, when most people are active in the world, the context + content approach seems more inviting to many.

And there is a close parallel between renouncing it all and loving it all. In both cases, nothing is excluded (from the exclusion or inclusion). In both cases, all phenomena are seen as equal. In both cases, there is really a neutrality towards all phenomena – all manifestations.

Absence of Identity

Yet another way of talking about an awakening to selflessness:

The content is the same, yet absent of identification with any of it. In a way, the falling away of identity is the only real difference.

There is the same human self with its thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations. And there is the same rest of the world, the same people, animals, plants, sun, sky, clouds, houses, landscapes and stars. And there is no identification with any of it. None of it has any inherent “I”. It all just happens.

And through this, there is a deeper sense of intimacy with all there is – really beyond intimacy and lack of intimacy. There is absence of separation, yet also separation. There is oneness, and differentiation within this oneness. There is the engagement of this human self with the world – much as before, yet without any identification. There is the ground within and as this all unfolds. There is that which all polarities unfolds within, including that of existence and nonexistence.