Don’t know as context – the rest are questions about the world

I wrote an article yesterday where I pointed out that we don’t know what will happen after death, and that the most peaceful – for me – is the rest in and as that not-knowing.

Today, I wrote another article about how I sometimes check in with people who have recently died to sense what’s going on with them.

How can both be true? Don’t they contradict each other?

Not really. They can easily co-exist. In a sense, they complement each other.

The not-knowing is the context. And the checking-in is pragmatic and part of daily life activities, and hopefully held lightly.

It’s the same for my general view on what may happen after death.

Not-knowing is the context and what’s most true.

And everything else – my apparent memory of the time before incarnation, checking in with those who have recently died, NDE reports, research, and so on – informs my view about what MAY be happening. I have experiences, interpretations of those experiences, and ideas about what’s going on, and I aim to hold it all lightly.

They are questions about the world, not answers.

Not-knowing and questions about the world live together. They come from the same place.

Image by me and Midjourney

Connecting with people who recently died

In my mid-teens, I discovered I could connect with the system of other beings and sense (some of) what’s going on. I have mostly used it for healing purposes since I also do distance healing.

And this also works for people who have recently died.

It’s been interesting for me to check in with people who have recently died, and perhaps do a little healing for them if it seems helpful and their system seems to want it.

I have been surprised by how diverse their experience seems to be.

One seemed to be in turmoil and disoriented when I checked in the day after he died.

Another, who died from cancer and was Christian, seemed to experience relief and peace.

Yet another, who recently died, seemed to experience a fullness and restfulness.

And yet another, who died just a few days ago, a kind of sober peace. My sense is that he left earlier than he wanted.

It also seems that the typical human responses are most obvious shortly after death, and then it seems to wear off. After a while, there is less to connect with. Maybe they shed layers in the period after death? I also assume the essence moves on – away from this kind of life or into another incarnation.

Is what I perceive accurate? I would think yes, mostly, based on my experience with this over several decades. And also based on checking in with others who can also sense at a distance. I sense what’s going on with someone – living or recently dead. They do it too. We compare notes. And most of the time, our reports closely match. (Even if one or both of us know next to nothing about the person in a conventional sense.)

Note: I wrote an article yesterday where I pointed out that we don’t know what will happen after death, and that the most peaceful – for me – is the rest in and as that not-knowing. That’s true. And what I write here too is accurate enough. Both can co-exist. The first is more accurate and the context for the second, and the second is more pragmatic and is held lightly.

The image is by me and Midjourney

Does our timeless nature mean we live beyond the death of this human self?

Some seem to assume that their timeless nature means they – consciousness – will somehow continue beyond the death of this human self.

CONFUSING TIMELESS WITH ETERNAL

I understand it can seem that way.

When we find our more essential nature, we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears t us. We find ourselves as that which all content of experience – time, space, the world, this human self – happens within and as.

We find ourselves as the timeless that allows for and forms itself into our experience of time. We find ourselves as the spaceless that allows for and forms itself into an experience of space.

Our nature is the timeless that time happens within and as. We are what this human self happens within and as. We are what all change happens within and as.

Doesn’t that mean that we – as this consciousness – continue even after the death of this human self?

Not necessarily. My timeless nature doesn’t say anything about what happens after the death of this human self. Noticing my timeless nature doesn’t give me any privileged or special insights into that topic.

Noticing my timeless nature is consistent with a wide range of worldviews. It fits with assuming that the nature of all existence is the same as my nature, and that all of existence is consciousness and the divine. It also fits with assuming that consciousness is produced by this physical human body, and dies with this body. It may even fit a traditional Christian view assuming a kind of soul that exists before and after this body. (The soul is then either what we are, or it’s something within content of experience that happens within and as what we are as anything else.)

A TOPIC FOR SCIENCE

What happens with consciousness after death is a topic for science. It’s something we can study, at least indirectly through near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, recollections of apparent past lives, and so on.

There are some relatively serious studies on these topics, as outlined in Leslie Kean’s Surviving Death. And within mainstream science, it’s still a mostly taboo topic. Probably because modern science has attached itself to a mostly materialistic worldview.

Life is change so this may change too. I wouldn’t be surprised if these topics are included within a future mainstream science.

WHY ASSUMING THAT TIMELESS MEANS LIFE AFTER DEATH?

Why do some assume that our timeless nature means life after death?

I am not sure.

They may be relatively new in noticing their nature so they don’t have a more mature and nuanced view yet.

They may engage in wishful thinking. That’s more than possible even if we notice our nature.

They may come from a tradition assuming life after death, and they adopt the same view without examining it more closely.

They may be aware of some of the research and jump to conclusions based on just a few studies and interpretations.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

For me, intellectual honesty is important.

I want to differentiate between what I can say something about, which is my immediate noticing. And what I cannot say anything for certain about, which is just about anything else. (And, of course, my stories about my immediate noticing are also up for revision.)

I notice my timeless nature. I notice that, to me, this timeless nature allows for and forms itself into my experience of the world, including time and space and change.

Beyond that, I cannot say very much. I cannot say anything for certain about the nature of existence, or what happens after death.

And that’s a relief. It brings me back to the most immediate and simple.

MY STORY

When I was little, before school age, I had shifts where I seemed to remember how it was before this life. I was shifted into an experience of all as golden light, consciousness, love, wisdom. There were no bodies, although there were occasional beings – far more wise than me – I could communicate with.

During my childhood, I had a deep longing in me. I didn’t know exactly what for.

And when the awakening shift happened in my teens, I realized what the longing was for. It was for this oneness, timelessness, and love. I also had dreams that seemed to be from past lives, and I found the historical details to be correct when I later checked.

It’s easy for me to assume that these were real flashbacks to a time between lives, and the apparent past life dreams were just that. But I don’t know. I cannot know.

And that’s more peaceful. It’s more peaceful to embrace the mystery. It’s more peaceful to be honest about it and hold it all lightly. It’s more peaceful to see what happens when that time comes.

Note: The seed for this article is seeing that some nondual folks, including teachers, seem to assume that our timeless nature means life after death. For me, it’s more honest to say that I cannot know for certain. And it’s more peaceful rest in not knowing

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Does my timeless nature mean I won’t die?

I sometimes see people who have found themselves as timeless say that it means they won’t die. Our timeless nature means we won’t die.

When we find ourselves as capacity for the world, we find that all our experiences – including of space and time – happens within and as us. We are timeless and time happens within and as us.

From here, it’s easy to assume we won’t die. This human self comes and goes, and what we really are stays around.

It can seem convincing, but it all depends.

To myself, I am consciousness, and that’s how it would be even if the materialist view is accurate. This human self and the brain may be what supports and allows consciousness to exist, and – to myself – I would still be consciousness. I will still find myself as capacity for the world, and all my experiences will happen within and as what I am. In this case, when this human self dies, I – as consciousness – dies. What I am dies with the body. (This is the small interpretation of awakening.)

That’s why I am a bit more careful with stating that I – as what I am – will be around even after this body is gone. I don’t know. And if I am honest, I have to admit that the scenario above is possible.

There are hints of something else. We have accounts of people apparently remembering past lives, and research that seems to support it. We have stories of near-death experiences and people perceiving things they couldn’t through their physical senses. We have stories of sensing at a distance and healing at a distance. We have synchronicities. And so on. It’s possible to dismiss this, especially if we don’t know much about it. And yet, many of us have experiences of this and more which hints at something more. (I have experienced most of it myself.)

To myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am. That means that, to me, the whole world appears as consciousness. It’s made up of consciousness. It has to appear that way. It’s inevitable, whatever its true nature is. And these experiences – of near-death experiences, sensing and healing at a distance, and so on – suggest that the true nature of existence may be the same as our own. (This is the big interpretation of awakening.)

So if I am honest with myself, I cannot know if “I” – as consciousness – continue after the death of this human self. And yet, it does seem possible, but not because I find myself as timeless and what time happens within and as. It’s because of these other experiences and research into these phenomena suggesting a life beyond death.

Some ways to look at reincarnation

How do I see reincarnation?

The main reincarnation I can find is how this life is reincarnated here and now. My thoughts tell me there is some continuity – in this situation, this human self, the world – and it’s somehow reborn afresh here and now. (The two are categorically different. I can find the past only within thoughts while what’s here is here in immediate perception and all sense fields.)

No matter how we see reincarnation or rebirth, it’s all happening within and as what I am. This moment, this human life, possible past or future lives, they all happen within and as what I am. They are part of my world of experience.

Whether there is reincarnation in a conventional sense is a matter of research and science. For me, it doesn’t matter so much but if or when mainstream science acknowledges it, it will mean a significant shift in mainstream worldview out of strict materialism.

If I have images of past lives, they mirror me here and now. They point to something I can explore and get to know in myself now. That’s the usefulness and value in it for me.

These are some of the ways I find useful for looking at reincarnation. The first helps me notice that I can find the past only within thought while I can find what’s here in all the sense fields. The second helps me notice that all experience, no matter what it is, happens within and as what I am. The third is a reminder that reincarnation – as it’s understood conventionally – is a matter of research and science, not personal opinion. The last is a way to use images about possible past lives to point back to something in me – and my human life in the world – here and now.

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

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

The short answer is, I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

Intellectual honesty in spirituality: Zen and not dead yet

The Emperor asked Master Gudo, “What happens to a man of enlightenment after death?”

“How should I know?” replied Gudo.

“Because you are a master,” answered the Emperor.

“Yes sir,” said Gudo, “but not a dead one.”

– I heard this story almost 30 years ago but can’t find an original source right now. It seems to be quoted a lot without a source.

This is honesty. There is a huge amount of bs in spirituality, and it consists mostly of people pretending that stories are reality.

Do we know that reincarnation exists? Or the soul? Or any afterlife? Or karma? Isn’t this just what someone else has told us?

Is it something we can check for ourselves? And if not, why repeat it or pretend we know it’s true?

Why not instead be honest? Why not admit we don’t know?

There are other ways to use these concepts and ideas that seem more helpful. For instance, why not explore these concepts and ideas as projections? Why not use them as something we can explore here and now? How can I find where they fit my experience?

For instance, I can find a kind of reincarnation here and now. I notice that each moment is fresh and new and something is kind of recreated. I notice that any ideas I have of a me or I are recreated here and now. In that way, “I” am reborn. (Any ideas of continuity are just that, ideas. I cannot find it outside of my ideas. This means that reborn even in this sense is also based on an idea on not something actual I can put my finger on.)

I can find karma in that something that happens has consequences. Actions has consequences. Through how I think, feel, and act, I create habits and grooves that it’s easier to follow in the future. When I act in the world, the world responds. This is the karma I can find in my own life and check out for myself. Beyond that, I don’t really know. (Even here, I cannot really find karma, cause and effect, and so on outside of my ideas.)

What about the afterlife? I can find it in my ideas, but not outside of my ideas. I can find timelessness here, and that all my experiences happen within and as this timelessness. I notice that this human self – and the idea of time itself – happens within and as that timelessness. But I still don’t know if there is anything after this human self dies.

Of course, I know that not everyone are interested in or inclined to explore in this way. For many, holding onto ideas is comforting and sufficient. It’s that way for me too, sometimes and in some areas of life, and probably in ways I am not even aware of. That’s completely fine. But I prefer to be honest about it, at least as much as I can.

Reincarnation

When I look for reincarnation, or rebirth, in my own experience, here is one thing I find:

Images and thoughts are reborn here. There is an image in my mind of a cat I used to know. It comes up again. And although it’s quite similar in content, it’s a new image. It’s reborn.

The tendency to take certain images and thoughts as true is also reborn. Mind identifies with an image or thought, for instance my father sacrificed for me. It’s gone from conscious awareness. Then the image and identification is back. It’s reborn.

And that’s happening in society as well. Images and thoughts are reborn in different and sometimes new individuals. As a baby learns how to  live in society, images and thoughts from parents and others are reborn in her or his mind. And a part of this process is to watch which images and thoughts are typically identified with, and which are not, and then do the same. These tendencies for identification are also reborn in the new human. And this happens not only in childhood, but also when we grow up. It’s an integral part of learning to function as a human being in society.

So rebirth happens in these two ways. First, images and thoughts are reborn here in my mind, as are tendencies to take some images and thoughts as true. And both of these are also reborn throughout society, passed on from human to human.

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Simple explanations

angel_memling

The Norwegian princess recently published a book about angels and how to contact them, and someone I know just sent me an email with a story about how I had helped her in a past life.

As usual, these things are an invitation to explore, in this case explore ways of relating to these topics, and some possible effects of each of these ways of relating.

I can dismiss it, which can be fine, but I also miss out of insights.

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Rebirth

A few simple things about rebirth….

It may be helpful to separate out the science, social/culture and practice sides to rebirth.

From the science side, there are some simple questions: Does it happen or not? If it seems to happen, what are some ways to explain it? (Rebirth, or picking up information from other lives without rebirth?) If there is rebirth, what is reborn? (Patterns? An entity? Something else?) There is some research looking at these questions, and plenty of room for more.

From the social/cultural sides, the main question is: What function does it have for society and culture? How does it function as ethics, as another angle to the golden rule? Does it help society to function better? How does it seem helpful? In what ways may it be less helpful? (And what measures do we use to determine that?)

And from the practice side, one question is: Is it a useful guideline for me or not? What happens if I take it as truth? Is it useful for me if I take it as a guideline? What happens if I take it as a guideline?

Then, how does rebirth happen here now? Does it happen as a story? Does it happen within my own world of images? Can I find it outside of my own world of images? Is it here in the freshness of everything happening? (Always new, different, fresh?) Does it happen when a story is reborn and taken as true? Can I notice how a sense of me + I is reborn here now?

And also, if something is indeed reborn – as shown by science – is that what I really am? Is it content of experience? Does it come and go? Is that what I really am?

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Reincarnation as projection, guide and question

A few things about reincarnation…

As any other story, it is a projection of what is here now.

A story is projected into the past, present or future. An idea of a past, future and even present life is projected and appears solid and substantial out there. Can I notice it as just an image, a mental field creation happening here now?

Qualities and dynamics are projected into the past, present and future. Maybe a life of blessings or of hardships, and details about each. Can I find it here now? See how it plays itself out? Feel it? Welcome it?

And among these is the dynamics of rebirth itself. In what way is rebirth happening here now? Can I notice that my stories are being reborn here now? My images of myself are continuously being recreated here now. Continuously maintained, fueled, enhanced, rehearsed, elaborated, in different ways.

(Whether those stories align with data and consensus reality or not, and appear to reflect something in the wider world, they are still also a projection of something here now. I couldn’t see it out there if it wasn’t also right here.)

And as any other story, it is a guide of temporary and practical value (or not). Helpful in some situations. Less helpful in other. When I use it for myself, what effects does it have? Does it help me take responsibility for my actions here now? If so, it may be quite helpful. Does it bring stress and tensions? If so, it may be less helpful.

And finally, as any other story, it is a question.

I may have images of past lives (for me, a life as a Russian intellectual in the 1850s and 60s, and a Taoist master in Xian in the 900s? during the Tang dynasty) but did those lives really happen? If they did, was something associated with those lives reborn in this one? If so, what is that something? And if something is reborn, is there an “I” in that something? If I can’t find an I here, anchored in this human life, would there be one then?

And it is also a question for us collectively. A question we can do studies and research on. And that research may well be worth doing, especially since its findings may help us open up our current science based world view.

So the story of reincarnation, as any other story, is a projection, a guide and a question.

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Karma and reincarnation as teaching strategy

What do we know about life, death and what continues?

Well, we know for sure that this human self dies. It is gone. Never to come back. So if we take this human self, with its particular personality, to be “I”, then “I” will surely die and be gone forever, reincarnation or not.

At the same time, we see that the world of form is a seamless whole. Everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. The world of form is reorganizing itself in always new and different ways. There is no I with an Other within the world of form. Doing, but no (separate, individual) doer.

And if we look, we find that within all of this coming and going, all of this change, something does not come and go. The awareness it all happens within does not come and go. It is that which all forms happens within, to and as, including all time and space, all causality, and any sense of an I with an Other. This awareness is inherently free from all of it, so is also free to allow the appearance of it all. This is what we really are, awakeness inherently free from any of its content, free from any I with an Other, yet allowing the appearance of it all in its fluid richness.

So in this context, personal karma does not have much meaning, nor does reincarnation if we think of an “I” that is reincarnated.

There is no “personal” karma because everything has infinite causes and infinite effects. Every single little thing this human self does has causes that stretch back to the beginning of time and out to the extent of the universe. It is the karma of the world of form as a whole and does not belong to any individual entity within this world of form.

And there is no reincarnation of a separate “I” either, because it doesn’t exist. It only appears when we filter the world through a sense of I and Other, which all comes from a thought, which all happens within, to and as awakeness itself.

At most, there may be a rebirth of this alive presence with its many flavors of infinite love, wisdom, luminosity, nurturing darkness, and somehow personal and impersonal at the same time. This alive presence at the soul level, which may come in through certain soul level practices such as prayer, and which we can place our sense of “I” on if we want. But this too is within content of awareness, this too comes and goes, this too is inherently free from any I with an Other. So even if there is some form of rebirth here, it is free from a rebirth of any “I”.

So why does Buddhism, and some other traditions, emphasize personal karma and reincarnation? They are not stupid, they too must have discovered this either in their own immediate experience or at least rationally, so why do they still – sometimes – emphasize it?

To me, it seems to be a teaching strategy. A teaching aimed at a particular, introductory, level.

It is far too easy to be caught up in the words about these things… ground, awakeness, emptiness, no I with an Other. As soon as we start believing the thoughts about these things, or anything else, it quickly gets really weird.

So then it is better to encourage people to continue to believe in a separate self, with individual karma and the prospect of being reborn, because that at least invites in some personal responsibility, some measure of ethical living, the practice of thinking of the longer term and far reaching consequences of ones actions.

(It easily becomes a fear based motivation, which Buddhism traditionally is not foreign to, so we may agree or disagree with that particular approach.)

It aligns our sense of a separate I, with a conscious view of a separate I, which anyway is more honest.

If we are going to believe in thoughts, as we do until there is a shift into awakeness awakening to itself, we may as well believe in these thoughts. They do at least have some practical everyday value.

And if we, in addition to this, practice, we may eventually come to see through it all. We may discover that there is really no I with an Other. That the world of form is a seamless whole, where the local manifestations of the movements of the whole appears as under the influence of infinite causes and infinite effects. That what we really are is this awakeness within, to and as the world of form appears, inherently and already absent of any I with an Other.

And that there is no, and never was any, personal karma. No reincarnation of any I. No substance to those teachings.

Yet a great deal of appreciation for them anyway, as practical guides for a certain phase of the path.

Death and what continues

A quick look at death and what continues…

First the obvious one: Our human self, with its personality and quirks, dies. It is gone forever. At most, some of its influences on others and society continues for a while, but then that is gone too.

And another one, which takes a bit of looking: What we are, this awakeness that all form unfolds within, to and as, is free from form, space & time. It is that which form, time and space unfolds within and as. It is always and already here, whether it notices itself or not (temporarily taking itself to be a portion of its own content). This one is not “personal”, it does not seem dependent on this human self. It is existence itself, temporarily functionally connected to a particular human self.

As Big Mind, that which goes beyond and embraces all polarities, it continues on independent of any individual self. Or rather, it continues to allow form to unfold within and as itself.

Finally, maybe the least obvious one: Our soul self. This alive presence. This one that is not quite personal and not quite impersonal. Not quite in time and not quite outside of time. Not quite located in space, and not quite outside of space. This too is content of awareness, so it is possible to either identify with it and make it into an “I”, or see and appreciate it as just content, similar to the human self. If something continues on an “individual” level, and if there is a vehicle for – for instance – rebirth, it seems that this could be it.

(And finding myself as awakeness, it doesn’t quite matter. Continuing or not are just two different flavors of awakeness itself, two flavors of experience.)

Soul and rebirth

Draft: 

Some spiritual traditions talk about a life after death, and even rebirth, and others don’t, and as one Zen master said: I don’t know, I am not dead yet.

It seems that traditions that emphasize the soul level, the alive presence in its many flavors, are more likely to also talk about life after death in general, and rebirth in particular. Christian mysticism, Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism all encourage and nurture the soul level, and all emphasize life after death, and rebirth in the case of Tibetan Buddhism. Advaita and Zen, neither of which explicitly nurture the soul level much, both brings focus to what is here and now, and tends to discourage stories about past and future, including life after death and rebirth.

In my own experience, this makes sense. When the head center awakening is more in the foreground, headlessness, Big Mind, the awake void and all form as this awake void, then any stories about past and future are just stories, and life after death and rebirth become uninteresting. Also, no obvious vehicle for it is present in immediate awareness.

But this changes when the soul level is in the foreground, and the heart and belly centers are more awake and alive. Now, there is an alive presence here. Infinitely alive, loving, intelligent, responsive. It is transparent to the void and timeless, and yet substantial and real, even more so than the physical world. When the soul level is in the foreground, a very plausible vehicle for life after death, and rebirth, is present.

Dreams: journey and combined composer

I live in an intentional community with several Breema practitioners, and am enjoying the nourishing, warm and human connections there. At the same time, I am about to go on a journey that I know will involve my death, and there is a sense of equanimity about it, an alignment with it, and also a knowing that there is no other option.

Arvo Part, Bach and several others of my most favorite composers come to our house in the form of one person. It seems that he is coming to stay for good. He has an instrument, acoustic and with several organic looking pipes sticking up form it. It can create the sound of any instrument, and the sounds of individual instruments and groups of instruments, including a whole orchestra. The sounds are not only similar to these other instruments, but somehow the actual sounds of the instruments.

The death theme of the initial dream fragment is typical these days, with a sense of death and rebirth at several levels and in several ways.

The composer who is a composite of my favorite composers (and all other composers it seemed), is similar to his instrument which is able to reproduce all other instruments. There is one which contains many, and the individuality of each is maintained, along with the infinite variety that emerges from the access to and interactions of all of these individuals.

It is also similar to a dream some months back of someone playing computer role games shifting into having access to innumerable characters at once, either as pure or as freely chosen composites with characteristics from many.

This is what happens when we explore and become familiar with more of our many subpersonalities and identities, release some of the blind and fixed identification with some, allow some that have been disowned, and find that they are each available in a more fluid and free way.

From being chronically attached to some, and equally persistently pushing others away, there is more of a free access to many of them… in their individual form, or as a combination of qualities from several. (I can’t really say that my life is a good example of this, but the possibility may be awakening in me.)