Who am I?

Who am I?

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


All of this is an ongoing exploration.

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

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

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

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

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What is desire?

I have written about desire here for a few days now. What is desire?

When I explore in immediacy, I find that my thoughts or images trigger desire. And it may then seem that the object itself triggered desire. It didn’t, and it is sometimes good to notice.

When I bring attention to the experience of desire, I find that the essence of desire is simply desire, the experience of desire. It may be triggered by my imagination, and it is given an object by my imagination.

As pure and simple desire, it is an experience. Energy. Flow. Life. Aliveness.

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Taking care of own desires, and happy for the happiness of others

When I take care of my own needs, it is easy to find happiness for the happiness of others.

I take care of my own needs, and this brings a sense of satisfaction, alignment and of coming home. Whatever resentment and poverty mentality may be here from previously not taking care of my own needs, is released. And instead, there is a natural and spontaneous sense of gratitude and generosity. One of the ways this gratitude and generosity finds expression is as an satisfaction in and desire for the happiness and good fortune of others.

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Focus on the most basic desire

Here is a pointer from nonviolent communication (NVC) I find very helpful.

When I notice a wish, want, impulse or desire, I can ask myself what is the most simple and basic need behind it?

I prefer another variation of the question: What is my most basic desire behind it? It feels more true since there are no absolute needs*, and it feels more honest, alive, and juicy to call it a desire**.

In some situations, I find that the most basic desire is for connection with myself and others, and also life, reality, and God.

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Desire is fun. It adds zest and juiciness to life. And it is obviously essential for the survival of the species and of us as individuals. (Ordinary experience, evolutionary psychology.)

I can also find that which desire happens within and as, and is “free” of desire in that sense. Through headless experiments, shikantaza, the Big Mind process, or by exploring the sense fields, I find that desire is the play of awakeness itself. When I discover this, it becomes the context for any other exploration of desire.

Such as…

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Coming from glimpse, love or wants

The spiritual path looks quite different depending on where we are coming from.

When there is a glimpse of what we are, the spiritual path becomes a process of clarifying and living from it. It is a process of examining the veils that may cover it up again, make ourselves familiar with the dynamics, and also recognize more clearly that what we are is already independent of veils or clarity, confusion or awakening.

This glimpse can come at any point on the path, including before the path has started, and it can come repeatedly before it stabilizes, or be quite stable right away. No rules here, it seems.

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All seeking, a seeking of God

Again, maybe 101 stuff, but may still be useful as a pointer and inquiry….

All seeking, is a seeking of God.

As a statement, it is not very helpful. But as a question and starting point for own inquiry, it may be.

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Clarifying longing

Saying that God is longing to know itself is, as anything else, only a pointer, an invitation to exploration. It is not true or not true, apart from in the most limited sense, and the reversals are equally true. 

So how is this a pointer? In what way is it a helpful teaching? What is it a remedy for? 

The most obvious may be as an invitation to explore our own longings. I can take any longing in my own life, however mundane and unspiritual it may seem, and trace it back. What is it really a longing for? What is more genuinely true for me about it than its surface appearance? 

I have a desire for food. What is it about? I find that it is about survival, avoiding suffering, and finding some happiness. It is innocent, and a way to take care of this human self. 

I have a desire for success. Here too, I find that it is about survival, avoiding suffering, and finding some happiness. Again, it is innocent, and it is love filtered through stories. 

I have a longing for connection. Again, I find the same things. 

By exploring this, I find that my longings – the ones I have looked into so far – are all innocent, and they are love filtered through certain stories. The longing is always genuine and innocent. And the strategies to fulfill those longings may or may not make sense after I investigate them. If they don’t, there is always room to try something else. 

There is a relaxation here, a relase of struggle with myself. 

I also find that each longing is a longing for allowing what is, as it is, and for a full and rich human life. In other words, it is a longing for waking up – for appreciating what is, as it is, including the confusion, drama and mistaken identities, and also for releasing identification out of stories and identities, and the drama and resistance that comes from getting caught up in them. And it is a longing for growing up, for healing and maturing as a human being in the world. 

So the pointer God is longing to know itself is a way for me to clarify my own longings, my own intentions and desires. Not to change them, but to see what they really and genuinely are about for me. And I may find that they are innocent, and genuine desires to grow and wake up. There is a new sense of alignment when this is recognized, and it may happen over and over as I explore new longings and desires, or explore again the ones I have looked at before. It is always new. Fresh. Different. 

There are also other ways the hadith God is longing to know itself is a pointer. 

It is an invitation to see what is happening here now. To notice that form happens within and as awakeness, and not even that, just as the mystery no pointers can touch. This world of form, as it is, is God longing to know itself. It is no thing longing to know itself as (the appearance of) something, in always new, fresh and different ways. 

It is of course an anthropomorphism. There is no longing there. And yet, maybe we can say there is. The movement into form in itself can be seen as a longing for God to know itself as and through form.

Including as this universe, planet, plants, animals, humans, mistaken identities, awakenings, and whatever else is happening. 

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Zen cooking and desires

The Zen cook takes whatever ingredients are available and works with it. 

So how does that look in terms of desires? For instance, a desire to know, do and die? 

A desire to know can be cooked with in a less helpful way, as a way to accumulate stories for their own sake and taking them as true. And it can be cooked with in a more helpful way, as a desire to know what I am and a more playful exploration of stories as temporary tools. When does any particular story seem useful? When not? 

A desire to do can be cooked into an escape, and be less helpful in the long run. And it can be cooked in a more helpful way, at our human level and also to invite what we are to notice itself. It can be a doing of inquiry and allowing shifts making it easier for what I am to notice itself. 

A desire for something to die is similar. When cooked in confusion, it can be less helpful. When cooked with more clarity, it can be a motivation for change in our human life, and also for allowing identification with stories and a sense of a separate I to fall away. What do I more honestly want to die? When I explore it for myself, I find that it is that identification with a story.  

There are two ways to approach this. 

I can take whatever ingredients are here and cook with them differently, maybe with a little more skill. 

And I can trace desires back, find what they more honestly are about for me. 

And those two are not that different. 

A good cook will naturally be curious about the ingredients. What are they really? 

And when desires are traced back, they naturally are cooked with differently. Initially, it may appear as a desire to know about the history of China, and then it is clarified as a desire to know what I am and explore the infinite ways it plays itself out as form. (Including as the history of China!)

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Actions show what I act on, what is a priority for me

Again, it is quite simple and maybe obvious. And when I explore it in my own life, it can be very juicy.

My actions show what I act on. What I value. What I take as important. What is a priority to me.

Sometimes, it comes from a belief. Fear. Shoulds. Identifications.

And sometimes, it comes from my heart. Intuition. What is fulfilling to me.

When there is a release from the belief, there is freedom to act from my heart.

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Two forms of motivation

When I explore motivations for myself, I find two general types…

One is to avoid suffering and find happiness. When I trace back most of my everyday desires and intentions, I find that they go back to the basic one of avoiding suffering and finding happiness.

This makes sense in an evolutionary perspective. It is how individuals and the species as a whole survices. And it also makes sense from a basic psychological view. As soon as there is an identification with a story, there is a sense of I with an Other, and a desire to take care of this I as best as possible. 

The other is a quiet love for God and truth. This is an impulse towards awakening and can take different flavors. A desire to come home. To find what is really true, no matter what it is. To find what I really am. To know God. To be with God. To serve God fully. 

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Clarifying and channeling motivation


When I look at desires and motivations, I find two main types.

One type of desire comes from our human self. We want to get something. And mainly, we want to avoid suffering and find happiness. 

This makes sense in an evolutionary perspective. It is how the human individual and species takes care of itself. 

And it is also what happens when we identify with any story. There is a sense of an I with an Other. And we want to take care of that I. 

Another type of motivation is a quiet love for God or truth. This seems to be more of a remembrance of what we are, and a quiet longing back. 

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Clarifying intention

When I explore intention, I find that it helps in daily life and also in growing and waking up.

And although it may seem to help to change or form intentions, all I really need is to clarify the ones already here. I can work with what is here, instead of against it.

I notice an existing intention in whatever form it takes. Desire. Wish. Want. Attraction. Aversion. Seeking.

I trace it back. What do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? What am I really looking for? What would be the most satisfying? (This is an inquiry Adyashanti suggests.)

By doing this, I find – for myself and for now – that any initial intention comes back to seeking to avoid suffering and to find happiness. No matter how mundane or crude the surface expression of the intention seems, when I trace it back I find that it is really innocent.

In daily life, clarifying intentions helps me prioritize, focus, stay receptive to opportunities and so on.

In terms of growing up, it helps me experience myself in a more unified way and as a whole. And it also helps me see that we are all in the same boat here. We all seek to avoid suffering and to find happiness, no matter how that is filtered and expressed. (Often through a bit of confusion.)

In in the context of waking up, it helps me recognize that all my intentions already are in the direction of waking up. I just need to notice.

And one way to notice is to trace my intentions back, over and over, so I get to see and feel its essence, the way it is expressed in my life right now (often filtered through confusion), and what happens when it is filtered in a confused way and when there is more clarity around it. And through that, there is a genuine appreciation and love for it all, as it is.

This is a topic that is endless. For instance, an aspect of many spiritual practices is to clarify intention. To helps us see that our one wish – appearing in all the different ways desire and intention appears in our life – is to wake up.

And it is also helpful to recognize the validity of intentions as they appear at different places in the chain back to their essence.

The surface desire may be for a hearty soup, which may be entirely appropriate to fulfill at the human level. Looking a little closer, I find a desire for something nurturing which I can also find through relationships, in nature, through Breema, and more. And when I trace it even further back, I find a desire for avoiding suffering and finding happiness, which is a desire for growing up and – if I take it that way – for waking up.

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A small biographical tidbit which illustrates a more universal dynamic.

As a child, I would often wake up in the morning with a deep longing. And I would get up and eat a strawberry jam sandwich (my favorite), be with my parents, read Donald Duck comics, and do other things to try to still or satisfy the longing, but nothing worked.

Then, as there was the initial (Ground+soul level) awakening in my mid-teens, I realized that this was what I had longed for. I knew – somewhere in the background – that this is what I am, and longed intensely for it. I was finally home, and finally, I knew what home was.

Corrections: desire, fusion and shadows

Some of the recent posts have been more than a little approximate…!

Big Mind does not desire, but is desire (when it arises)

For instance, in the posts on desire and insatiability, the distinction between Big Mind and desire is not quite clear. To put it simply, Big Mind does not desire (there is no Other to desire, and in its formless aspect it is free from form). Yet it also is desire, when desire arises in an individual. At that moment, Big Mind arises as desire.

So when desire arises in an individual for a full human life and awakening arises, which seems to be our deepest desire (at least for me), then Big Mind is free from it, yet also arises as the desire.

We can say that Big Mind is the desire for it to experience itself through and as a full human life, and also as Big Mind awake to itself.

In a very approximate (and anthropomorphizing) way, we can say that Big Mind (or God) desires to experience and explore itself as finite, through and as an individual human life. And not only that, but as finite in the form of this universe, as galaxies, solar systems, planets, planets becoming alive, ecosystems, social systems, cultures, industry, subcultures, neighborhoods, families, couples, and so on.

The formless desires to experience itself as form, and form desires the formless. The infinite desires to experience itself as finite, and the finite desires the infinite.

It is a catchy and poetic way of putting it. It sounds good at that level. But it is also very imprecise. It gives the impression that God (or Big Mind) desires, yet when there is only the I without the Other, there is no desire. Only rest. Peace (even in the midst of the worst storms and the strongest desires).


In the same post on desire, the word fusion is used, and this fusion is just one of the relationships between Spirit, soul and human self. Ultimately, it is all Spirit, all God, the centerless and selfless field of seeing and seen.

But within this, there is a fusion of the three, an infusion of Spirit awake to itself into the individual, and an infusion of soul into the human self. The previous post is on this topic.

Collective shadows

And then the post on a journey into collective shadows. Collective shadows? No. Again that is just a poetic, a little more catchy, and very approximate way of talking about it.

My journey was very much through my own individual shadow, of the many and varied dark characters that puts a face on what is there.

But this individual shadow is formed within a culture where most people put many of the same things into their shadow. Even if there is individual variations, there are also many commonalities, and that is where the idea of a collective shadow comes from. Even for humanity as a whole, across cultures, many of the same things are put in our individual shadows.

And the faces put on what is in my individual shadow is of course influenced by everything I have experienced, including dark and shadowy characters from my own culture and many other cultures.

So the immediate experience of the journey is one of journeying through our collective shadow, the shadow of humanity. But, realistically, it is of course just this individual one reflecting what is out there, in our world culture.

It doesn’t really matter for the impact the experience has on me. What was important was the experiencing of each of these dark creatures from the inside, living and breathing their life, and at the same time seeing that it is the one transcendent I which is the I of all of these.

But it is still good to make the distinction.