Self-improvement and what to take care of first(ish)

I have noticed that self-improvement sometimes gets a bad name, perhaps especially from nondualists and some psychologists.

To me, self-improvement is – in its essence – a healthy impulse. It’s a wish to better one’s own world and the world in general, and that’s far more constructive than a lot of other activities and projects we sometimes put our time and energy into.

Where does the impulse come from?

It’s good to see where the self-improvement impulse comes from and look at that early on in the self-improvement process. Does it come from neediness? Wanting to fill a hole? Wanting to escape something? Not feeling good enough? Not feeling loved or lovable? A sense of lack? If so, it’s a good idea to put those on or near the top of issues to take care of as part of the self-improvement process.

Similarly, if I notice I am engaging in self-improvement in order to please others (be acceptable to others), that too is good to put near the top of the list of what to take care of.

The impulse can also come from a wish to be more comfortable in one’s own skin, more authentic, more alive, less restricted by painful beliefs and identities, and live a life better for oneself and those around us. These are deeper and more relaxed motivations.

When we take care of the neediness behind the self-improvement impulse, we can hold it all more lightly, and we can come more from the deeper and more relaxed impulses in us for self-exploration, self-befriending, and self-improvement.

Small and big self

Self can mean little self – our human self, who we are, and it can mean big Self – Big Mind or what we are. And it’s also helpful if we can notice that the little-self improvement happens within the big Self. That too helps us hold it all more lightly and see it more as a play and exploration.

What do we mean by self-improvement?

Last but not least, it’s good to look at what we mean by self-improvement. Do I have a constructive idea of what it means? Can I adjust it a bit so it’s more helpful? When I hear the word, I tend to think of learning communication skills, relationship skills, living a life that’s meaningful to me, living more from authenticity, finding receptivity, befriending more of the world and myself, and sometimes resolving emotional issues that prevent me from living a healthy and meaningful life in the world.

This comes last in this list but first if we want to explore self-improvement.

Note: I don’t think I have used the term self-improvement here before. It’s not a term I find terribly useful or necessary but some people use it so I thought I would say a few words about it.

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Any experience is food for maturing

This is something I think most of us have noticed: Any experience is food for our development.

Whether we make use of it at the time or not, any experience is potentially food for our development. and when we are ready, we can take in and digest the experience and it becomes food for our deepening, humanizing, maturing, insights, or deepening love and gratitude.

And as we continue to mature, the same experience may become food for further development.

This happens within our human lifespan. And if something carries on and keeps incarnating, then any experience is likely indefinetely food for future development, waiting for us to ripen enough to make use of it.

In this sense, nothing is wasted. Not what we see as the biggest disasters in our lives, nor – at the other end of the scale – when we rest or coast along in life.

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Being more mature than what your culture requires

… you have to think about what it means to actually be more complex than what your culture is currently demanding. You have to have a name for that, too. It’s almost something beyond maturity, and it’s usually a very risky state to be in. I mean, we loved Jesus, Socrates, and Gandhi—after we murdered them. While they were alive, they were a tremendous pain in the ass. Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.—these people died relatively young. You don’t often live a long life being too far out ahead of your culture.

– Robert Keegan in an interview with What Is Enlightenment? Magazine, cited in Robert Kegan’s Awesome Theory Of Social Maturity by Mark Dombeck

I would add that those who are far ahead of mainstream and publicly seek social change, risk not living a very long life. There are certainly many who are far ahead of mainstream and foucses on facilitating change in other areas of life, such as Adyasanti, and they don’t run the same risk.

Fully, in three ways

In everyday language, we sometimes talk about doing doing something fully, such as being fully responsible.

But what does that really mean?

For me, I can find three quite distinct meanings.

First, doing it fully in the meaning of wholehearted. I do it as fully as I can here and now, where I am, with what is available to me. I am wholeheartedly responsible, in the ways available to me here now.

Then, it means a deepening and maturing over time. What is available to me in terms of being responsible evolves over time, it deepens and matures for me. What appeared fully mature to me then, is not what fully mature means to me now.

And finally, it is the completeness that comes when what we are notices itself. In terms of being responsible, there is a completeness in seeing that there is no I with an Other here, and that everything arising is this I without an Other.

The first one has to do with what is possible for this human self right now, the second one with the maturing and development of this human self, and the third one with what we always and already are noticing itself.

And all three can be at play simultaneously.

I can be fully responsible in the conventional ways. Taking responsible for how I relate to myself and the wider world. Taking responsibility for my actions and their consequences in the world. Work with projections, and see right here what I see in others. Own disowned parts of me. Examine my beliefs, and find what is more true for me. Fully allow experience, as it is.

I can invite in and be receptive to this maturing and evolving over time. What responsible means to me now is not how it will look tomorrow, or in a year.

And I can invite what I am to notice itself, as that which content of experience happens within, to and as. As that which has no Other, so is free from being a victim – and also from (the idea of) being responsible.

Finally, it may be helpful to examine my beliefs around being responsible. I need to be responsible. It is better to be responsible. I need to be fully responsible. Is it true? Could it be that clinging to those beliefs makes me less responsible in certain ways? Less aligned with what is?

What is the difference of taking these stories as practical guidelines only and familiarizing myself with the truths in their reversals, and identifying with them and denying or being unaware of the truths in their reversals?

Trigger for this post: Two excellent posts by Vince on being responsible.

The Work in different contexts

I am reminded of how The Work and its effects appears differently depending on where we are coming from, and specifically what appears as real to us.

If we take the conventional world as basically real and true, accepting that we are separate individuals going about our business much as everyone agrees on, then The Work helps us find release from attachment to one particular perspective, and a fluidity among perspectives. We can see our situation from many different angles, and find the limited validity in each one. This in itself is a tremendous relief, and releases a great deal of energy and attention previously wrapped up in a far more narrow perspective and its struggle with life. We find a new clarity, freedom and engagement in our life.

This requires a willingness to let go of the idea that one perspective is right and the other ones wrong. But even if we still hold onto this to some degree, there can be a relief here. At least, we can question the things our worldview allows us to question, and that in itself is helpful to us. To take a crude example, I may believe that the Bible is the word of God and should be taken at face value as much as possible. That is fine, and I can still question other things, such as the idea that life should be fair and so on.

If there has been glimpses beyond taking any stories as real and substantial, The Work takes on yet another flavor. I may intuit or have glimpsed myself as awakeness and all its content as this awakeness, in whatever way I interpret or talk about that: all is Buddha Mind, Big Mind noticed itself as Big Mind, there is nothing but God and the Divine Mind, and so on. Here, I know to a certain extent, from experience, that the way things appear to us is just that, an appearance. It is all the play of God, and it is all inherently OK as it is. Any idea of something being not right comes from seeing something as not God. Within this context, The Work becomes a way of exploring the mechanisms of samsara, the ways attachment to thought filters what happens to make something look solid and not-God.

Finally, if awakeness has noticed everything as itself, inherently free from the overlay of thought including the sense of I and Other, center and periphery, and so on, this human self can still do The Work. It is still a way to explore the mechanisms of samsara in fine detail, and now to understand and possibly help others better. Also, as Byron Katie says, we are only awakened to a thought or not, and any story of that continuing into the future is just a story.

If we want to put this into some sort of developmental model, the whole process may go from a more fundamentalist context, to modern, to post-modern, to mystical glimpses and intuitions, to oneness, to nondual. But that is just another story, and it is rarely as clean-cut as that. Life is already free from those ideas.

The beauty of The Work is that it works with us exactly where we are. I have a belief, it creates friction with my story of what is, I experience stress, and I can inquire into it. It is a process that guides – and eventually undoes – itself, unfolding at its own pace and one step at a time.  It works with us wherever we are.

Disidentification from beliefs, fully allowing it all, and actively embrace the fullness of our human self

Whenever I use the word disidentification there is a part of me that cringe, because I know it can sound very different from how it is meant.

It can easily sound aloof, distant, transcendent, and all the other words that -rightly so – have associations of escape.

But the reality of it is very different.

The reality of it is that identification – with beliefs, identities, this human self and anything else – automatically creates resistance and ambivalence. We identify with certain beliefs and identities, and anything that does not fit this, whether it happens in this human self or the wider world, is resisted. We cannot help it. There is a great deal of ambivalence about our human self and the wider world, which creates drama, stress, escape, clinging, and resistance. We are part of it, yet also don’t want to be. We appreciate some of it, and want something else to go away. We disown parts of our self and what it means to be a human, and we build cases for how life should be different.

And a disidentification with this – with beliefs and identities and all that comes with it – is an allowing of it all. It is a wide embrace of who we are as a human being, and this life, and the world as it shows up. This is what automatically happens through disidentification.

Beyond this full allowing of it all, there is also an invitation for our human self to actively embrace all of what it is, to actively explore and own all its different parts and voices and subpersonalities. To actively live and become familiar with itself as it is mirrored in everyone else and everything in the wider world. To find a fluidity among a wide range of identities without getting caught up in blind identification with any of them. To engage with a much wider repertoire of ways of being in the world.

Far from being aloof, distant, unengaged, one-dimensional, or living up to any shoulds or identities, a disidentification with beliefs and identities allows and invites for an active embrace and living of all of what this human self is and matures into.

This does not automatically happen, but the invitation is there. And whether or not this invitation is taken depends on the interest and impulses of this human self, and it is really OK either way.

Although I have to say, emphasizing the active embrace of our human self is a juicy addition. Without it, there is just the automatic and passive allowing of whatever happens to manifest. With it, there is an active engagement, exploration and living of always more of the wholeness of this human self, and its unfolding development.

It is more fun. And just in terms of skillful means, it also makes sense. In our culture, the juicy engagement and embrace of all of what we are is more attractive to many of us than the traditional emphasis on transcending and escape. Why escape? This life may be messy, but it is what is here so why not actively embrace it beyond a passive allowing?

Seamlessness of psychology and spirituality, practice and daily life

Another topic that is pretty obvious…

Before Ground awakens to itself, it makes sense to do practices that invites Ground to notice itself and also makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be. Why leave one out?

And after Ground awakens to itself, it makes sense to continue with practices that allows who we took ourselves to be, this human self, to continue to mature and develop. After all, it is who Ground-awake-to-itself is expressed through in the world, and part of the exploration and development of skillful means.

Some practices focus on one or the other, and that is fine and useful. And other cover both areas seamlessly.

Among those covering both areas…

  • Being-with of whatever arises
  • The Work
  • Big Mind process
  • Headless experiments
  • Heart practices such as gratitude and rejoicing in others happiness.
  • Stability practice and meditative inquiry

Each of these (a) makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be, (b) makes it easier for Ground to notice itself, and (c) makes it easier for our main tool for skillful means following awakening, this human self, to continue to mature and develop.

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Quadrant: Beyond & embrace, noticing & working with

It is always fun to play around with quadrants, partly because four field is just enough to make some interesting differentiations and also few enough to grasp right away.

Three that comes up for me is (a) inner/outer, one/many (as Ken Wilber has popularized through is aqal model), (b) self/other, human/spirit (practice), and (c) beyond/embrace, noticing/working with (path).

When I explore the last one, I see that…

I can go beyond and include polarities in two ways: by noticing and also by working with it.

In general, I notice that life is already beyond and includes any and all polarities. And I work with it in my own human life, exploring how it arises and is expressed in this life.

And I can filter it further through each quadrant…

I go beyond and notice by noticing that life is already and always beyond any and all polarities. First, the world of form is a fluid seamless whole beyond any pole and polarity. (When I find myself as Witness, as pure seeing, this is alive in immediate awareness. Whatever arises, here and now, is revealed as aspects of one fluid seamless whole.) Also, when I find myself as awake void I also go beyond polarities, and when I notice the world of form as nothing other than this awake void, I similarly find the world of form beyond polarities.

I go beyond and work with it by finding in my human self whatever I see out there in others and the world. I allow my identity at my human level to embrace both ends of any polarity. I familiarize myself with it, and include it in my active repertoire. All this is a process with no end point and takes work. This includes letting go of beliefs and identities, and allowing a fluidity of views and a more inclusive human identity. This human self deepens and matures into its own unique and universal humanity.

I include and notice by noticing that this fluid seamless whole of form already and always includes any and all poles and polarities. And also by noticing that the play of awake void as form likewise always and already includes any and all poles and polarities.

I include and work with by familiarizing myself with each pole and polarity in this human self, and how they arise and are expressed in this human life, and how they can be expressed. As before, this is an ongoing process, and involves a maturing and development of this human self.

As usual, there is a mutuality among all of these. Working with one makes it easier to work with the three others.

By noticing that which is already and always beyond and embracing any polarity, I can more easily work with it in my own human life

And by working with it in my own life, I can more easily notice that which – in its form and void aspects – already and always are beyond and includes any polarity.

The noticing part has to do with Ground awakening, with Enlightenment.

And the working part has to do with the maturing and development of this individual human and soul, which makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be before Ground awakening, and is an intimate part of skillful means following a Ground awakening.

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The least human allowing the most human

It is ironic how finding ourselves as that which is furthest removed from the human (the awake void) is what allows for a deepening into what is most human… Finding ourselves as awake void, as nothing at all, as that which is free from any identification, is exactly that which allows for this human self to deepen into its humanity, to mature and develop into its evolving fullness. Free from identification and resistance, the always changing wholeness of the human self is embraced and allowed to evolve freely.

But that is only one side of it. The other side is that the identification with content, with this human self, and the resistance that brings with it, is also a part of the maturing of the human self… that too is part of the process, before the void awakens to itself.

The path of sobering up

Especially recently, the path of deepening into who and what I am feels very sobering… Which is not surprising. We go from having a lot of ideas about who and what we are and how the world is, which include a lot of fantasies and wishful thinking, to seeing more clearly what is already there, what is already more true for us.

The two main aspects to this sobering up may be working with projections (at the who level, leading into what), and also discovering the void, and ourselves as the void (at the what level).

I thought I was worse and better than everyone else, but the more I work with projections, and maybe especially the shadow, the more I see that is not the case. Whatever I see out there, I also find in here, and the other way around. The more I work with projections, the more the world is a mirror for myself, at the level of my individual self.

And as I find myself to be the void, nothingness, as the void awakens to itself, it is even more sobering. Here, all identifications fall away… as this human self, this personality, finite, separate, and I with an Other, and anything else, it all falls away. There is only the void, which is no thing… nothing… nothing there… awake void and form arising as this awake void itself. Everything is stripped off. It is beyond and includes any and all polarities. It cannot be touch by words, as words split the world up. This is the real sobering up, having all identifications stripped off with not a trace left. Anything I ever took myself to be is stripped away.

At a more finely grained level, both of these include a stripping away of beliefs as well.

At the who level, it involves partly exchanging beliefs with other beliefs. But as the process goes on, the level of attachment to beliefs themselves fades (although some strong attachments usually remain). The whole system of beliefs and identities becomes more inclusive, more transparent, more fluid. We deepen into the evolving whole of who we are, which in developmental terms looks as maturing and developing along the different lines and levels outlined in many different models.

At the what level, it involves examining and questioning even our most core beliefs, those that seems so obviously true that most of the time it wouldn’t even cross our mind to question them in a sincere, thorough and experiential way. I am a human being. I am this personality. I am an object in the world. I am finite in space and time. I am an I with an Other. I am.

So at the who level, we find the wider world mirroring us in a very precise way. What I see out there is also in here, and the other way around. We deepen into the evolving wholeness of who we are, healing, maturing and developing.

And at the what level, the void awakens to itself, allowing all identifications to fall away. The Ground of who and all form awakens to itself.

Additional note: the third part here, in addition to projections and void, is of course to see this human self more accurately, including where it is in terms of lines and levels of developments. Working with projections does just that, allowing for a clearer view of what is, and the void also helps in seeing this human self clearer, as void itself.

Three reasons for practice

At another level, the retreat helped clarify three reasons of practice for me…

  • Awakening to what we are… the void awakening to itself, as wakeful, as form, inherently absent of any separate self.
  • Making it easier to be who we take ourself to be, allowing for some release from suffering, an opening for appreciation for life as it is, and so on.
  • Assisting development and evolution… the development of this individual at human and soul levels, as part of the evolution of the larger world of form.

The first is at the absolute level, the absolute awakening to itself even while still functionally connected with a human self.

The second is at the relative level, offering some (apparent) benefits of the practice even in those cases where there is not (yet) a full awakening of Big Mind.

And the third is also at the relative, form, level, allowing for a the human self to heal, mature and deepen into the evolving fullness of itself, and the soul level to deepen into its own evolving fullness. (I like to leave out the conscious evolution part as it is a great hook for inflation…!)

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Deepening into who and what we are (clarified)

When I refer to deepening into who and what we are, what does that really mean?

Simply put, it is the individual at the human and soul levels that deepens into itself, as who it is. And it is Ground noticing itself, as what it is. And then, the individual reorganizing within the context of Ground awakening to itself.

And within that simplicity, there is a lot of wrinkles and complexity…

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Widening circles of care, and beliefs

In writing the previous post, I thought again of the relationship between widening circles of care, compassion & concern, and beliefs.

Many developmental psychology models use a framework of ego- (individual) to ethno- (group) to world- (universal) to kosmocentric embraces in terms of our views (cognitive) and compassion (heart, empathy).

And in terms of beliefs, these reflect changes in (a) the content of the belief, and (b) how tightly it is held.

At earlier stages, there is more fear, a stronger sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, a more narrow, exclusive and immediate concern about ourselves and our group, and less concern about (and awareness of) the wider reaching and longer term impacts of our actions and decisions on ourselves and others. Our beliefs tells us we have to look out for ourselves and our own, that others are less important, that what is good for us may not be good for them and the other way around, that life is hostile, that people are looking for ways to take advantage of me, and so on.

At later stages, there is less fear, a reduced sense of separation between I/Us and Other/Them, and a wider embrace which includes awareness of and concern with far reaching and longer term impacts. Our beliefs tells us that all of life is interconnected, one seamless system, that our own life and well-being is intimately connected with that of the larger life system, that we are all in it together, that all life has inherent value, and so on.

Similarly, at the earlier stages, our beliefs tend to be held tightly and take an either/or form, excluding the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the belief. I am right, you are wrong. The mind/heart is generally more closed. The mind is less receptive, making others wrong. And the heart is less receptive, allowing for less empathy and even for dehumanizing the Others.

At later stages, the beliefs are held far more lightly and in a both/and context, with a receptivity to and interest in the grain of truth in all of the reversals of the initial story. The mind/heart is more open and receptive, acknowledging the validity in views expressed by others, and with a natural empathy for others, finding in ourselves what we see in them.

Most (all?) of us can find each of these in our lives, even in our daily lives, cycling from one to another in different situations and depending on what is triggered in us. And it can be helpful to recognize where we are coming from and what is going on, and also know a few ways to explore it further, allowing knots to untie over time.

The absolute & relative of meaning of life

As with anything else, we can look at the meaning of life from the emptiness and form sides.

From the emptiness side, there is an absence of even the question.

When we include form, and form is recognized as no other than emptiness, then what is, as it is, is the meaning of life. Put another way, it is God’s will. It is God manifesting and exploring itself. It is perfect as is, or rather, not touched by ideas of imperfection and perfection. It is emptiness dancing.

And from the form side, in the context of all form as God exploring itself, then we see that one of the many relative meanings of life is evolution and development, since this allows God to explore and experience itself in always new ways.

So meaning of life can take on many different flavors… Finding ourselves as emptiness, as awake void, there is an absence of the question. Finding ourselves as awake emptiness and form, the meaning of life is what is, as it is. What is, here and now, is God’s will. It is what comes out of and is made of the void. It is the local manifestations of the movements of the whole. And as form, evolution and development takes on meaning as well, as it allows God to explore and experience itself in always new and more complex ways. And finally, the meaning of life is what we make it to be, through our stories. When we believe a story about the meaning of life, either in general or for our own life, then that becomes our living reality. And that too, is God exploring and experiencing itself in just another way, another flavor.

Green and beliefs

I ran into a “green” friend of mine on the bus today, and was reminded of how the different value stages – or turns of the spiral of development – can, in a very simplistic way, be seen as a collection of beliefs.

At the green level, there is a belief in values such as diversity, pluralism and care for all life, and these are included at the wider turns of the spiral. Other beliefs, such as egalitarianism, may be modified at later turns of the spiral.

My friend is very concerned about the welfare of ordinary people (and animals and ecosystems), which is beautiful. But there is also a belief in “the system” and “government” as inherently opposed to the welfare of ordinary people, at least whenever they can get away with it. And this belief clearly colors her interpretation of society and even minor (and innocent) situations, such as a bus driver accidentally driving off with a father on the bus and his kids on the sidewalk. For her, it is a confirmation that “the system” does not care about the welfare of other people. Without that belief, it is just an innocent and unfortunate accident, and we can do whatever is needed to reduce the possibility of it happening in the future without vilifying anyone.

I guess this mix of beliefs determine whether an expression of a particular level is considered “healthy” or not.

If there is some space and flexibility around it, and the beliefs are held lightly, then it is more likely to appear as healthy. If certain beliefs are rigid and tightly held onto, and in particular if they vilify certain people and blind us to other interpretations, the expression is maybe less healthy.

As we become aware of and integrate more projections, we move along the spiral, including more and more in our circle of care, compassion and concern. And our view tends to embrace more as well, being more fluid among a multitude of perspectives. We are less stuck in just one interpretation or way of seeing a situation.

From the outside, this takes the form of moving along the phases of two of the main lines of development, values/moral (heart) and cognitive (head.)

The heart is more consistently open, in more and more situations, and towards more and more beings and phenomena. And the view is more inclusive, comprehensive, differentiated, and fluid among different perspectives.

Shifting filters

I was just reminded of how Ken Wilber’s old model of the levels of development reflects these shifts of filters.

The conventional level these days is where the field is filtered into a strong sense of I and Other, and the I is placed on only a relatively small part of our individual self.

Then, the I is placed on more of our whole individual self (whole body/mind, centaur.)

Then, a sense of I is also out there, in the form of nature mysticism. There is a sense of I, yet also of an aliveness and intelligence out there.

Then, a sense of all as God. I am still here, and everything is also God (deity mysticism).

And finally, the field awakening to itself as awake emptiness and form, centerless and selfless, even as it is functionally connected with an individual.

It is all part of the field awakening to itself as a field, and filtering itself slightly differently at different phases of the process. At the same time, there is a corresponding reorganization and development of the individual, as these changing filters are taken into account and reflected in the life of the individual.

Summary of the shifts

Throughout the whole process, the field is already and always a field of awake emptiness and form, with no center, no separate I, yet also functionally connected with a particular human self.

After the typical childhood development, there is a strong sense of I here and Other out there, this sense of I is placed on this individual, and any immediate sense of awakeness and consciousness is placed on this I here (it takes a great deal of energy and resistance to filter out the sense of awakeness, which is already alive throughout the whole field, and place it on this I).

From here on, the sense of a separate I is reduced at each shift, and the sense of an “I” out there increases – in the form of a sense of aliveness, intelligence, love and consciousness out there… in nature, and then in all of Existence.

Finally, the whole sense of I and Other falls away entirely, revealing the field as everywhere awake emptiness and form, without any center, without any separate I anywhere.

Big Mind and indwelling God

Since the shift into a more alive presence of the indwelling God around Christmas, I have been interested in the relationship between Big Mind and the indwelling God. They seem to be mirror images of each other, and two ends of the same polarity.

Big Mind

Big Mind awakening to itself reveals itself as a field of awake emptiness and form (allowing any content, including what arises here and now), and the realization that there is no separate I anywhere in all of this. There is just the one I of the field as a whole, and no separate I, no Other. Big Mind is impersonal, and emphasized and in the foreground in nontheistic traditions (as far as I can tell.)

Indwelling God

The indwelling God is on the other hand very personal. In my experience, an alive presence, infinitely loving, intelligent, receptive and responsive, a guide, teacher and healer, and present in the heart region. And this seems to fit with how others describe it, including among diksha folks where this indwelling God, Antaryamin, is sometimes talked about.

It seems that the indwelling God is emphasized and often in the foreground in theistic traditions, such as Christianity (and probably Islam… the Sufis certainly seem to emphasize the personal quality in our relationship with God.)

Impersonal and personal

So where Big Mind is impersonal and everywhere, the indwelling God is personal and right here, in the heart space of the physical body. The experience of it, at least for me right now, is of a fragment of God for this particular individual soul and human self, and a fragment that includes and reflects the whole of God. It is not diminished in any way, yet also right here and for this particular individual.

Theocentric and Christocentric

I sat at a coffee shop for lunch and made a couple of notes about this, before reading a little further in the intro to Mystics of the Church by Evelyn Underhill. And a little further down the page, she wrote about just this (I can’t remember having read anything about it before, but I also may not have paid attention before, especially since the indwelling God has not been in the foreground much before.)

In a Christian terminology, a Theocentric orientation is a focus on God as Big Mind, and a Christocentric orientation is a focus on God as the indwelling God. She describes the two in very similar ways to what I have found, especially in terms of the impersonal and personal qualities, and the indwelling God as an alive presence, infinitely loving and intelligent, infinitely receptive… infinitely active when invited, and functioning as a guide and master.

Both are equally important, and one tends to be in the foreground for some people and during some periods, then the other, or they can both be very much alive and present at the same time.

Selfless individual

As a point of clarification, it is probably good to mention that even if there is an individual soul and human self here, and an aspect of God for and placed within this individual, there is still no I here. This individual, as all individuals and everything else, is inherently selfless. And that is exactly what Big Mind, and the Theocentric orientation, reminds us of – and make abundantly clear when it awakens to itself.

2nd, 3rd and 1st person relationships

With both Big Mind and the indwelling God, the three forms of relationship – second, third and first person – are each very much possible, and there is often a fluid shift among the three (and sometimes two or all three present at the same time.) Big Mind can be experienced as Other or You, and then as I, and then as It when we talk about it. And the same is true for the indwelling God… it can be You, then I, then It, and maybe two of those or all three at the same time.

Embracing both ends of the polarity

There is a very clear difference between Big Mind and the indwelling God, although they share – and are of – the same essence. To use some metaphors, we can maybe say that the indwelling God is a holographic fragment of the totality of God (Big Mind), or that the indwelling God is the drop and the totality the ocean.

And it is also clear how perfectly the two complement each other. Big Mind is impersonal, everywhere, all revealed as Spirit. The indwelling God, a very tangible alive personal presence, for this (inherently selfless) individual, a guide, receptive, active when invited.

One without the other leaves us only with half of what is possible, and half of what is already there… since they are both already there, waiting to be discovered, to awake consciously to itself.

Already here, and evolving

Both are already there, waiting to be noticed, but also evolving… in different yet related ways.

Big Mind is always already awake emptiness and form, independent of the particulars of form. At the same time, it evolves as form… in all the ways described by science and probably many more.

The indwelling God is similarly already here, as a fragment of God in and as this individual. And at the same time, this indwelling God seems to evolve as it is invited into our lives more consciously. More and more aspects of it is revealed. The dual relationship of the indwelling God as You and I is revealed in increasingly more depth. It evolves and changes as it is invited in, and as our individual soul and human self develops, matures and evolves. (At least, that is how it seems now.)

The birth of identification with identities

How does the identification with these identities, of a separate I and the details of this I, come about? There are probably many answers to this, and one seems to be pure imitation.

The field finds itself functionally connected with a particular human self, and this human self lives with other human selves that the field takes itself to be. So it is just natural for it to similarly identify with this particular human self. It happens all around, so it must be the way to do it.

The necessity of identities

Identities is crucial for the functionality of this human self. It cannot function very well in the world without it. It has to be able to recognize itself as distinct from everything else, and as having a more fleshed out identity as well, including name, age, gender, and so on.

The optional sense of I

But the identification with these identities, the sense of I place on top of them, is not inevitable. The field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, can awaken to itself as a field, inherently absent of any I, and still be functionally connected with this human self. And the human self can still function with and from all these identities.

Growing up without a sense of I

Although the field almost automatically (it seems) nowadays identify with the identities of the human self it is connected with, it is probably not inevitable. The field can be awake to itself as a field, while functionally connected with a particular human self, that grows up, and develops and elaborates on various identities for itself, and the field does not need to be identified with these identities. They are a “me” and not an “I”.

Ego as structure and sense of I

I am reading the first few pages of Facets of Unity by Almaas, and am as always very impressed by the clarity of his writing, and the realms he is exploring.

On page 7, he writes about the ego as being developed to compensate for loss of contact with Being (which I understand as human self + soul + Big Mind/Heart, which are all facets of Big Mind).

I am sure it will be clarified further into the book, but for now, I wanted to clarify for myself how I see ego (to more easily modify it as I read on)…

Ego as structure

Ego can be used, in a conventional psychological sense, as ego structures, as that which allows this human self to function and operate in the world. It is the personal voices in the Big Mind process. This form of ego is necessary for our human self to function, and its healing, maturing and development continues before and after awakening to realized selflessness.

To use a crude analogy, the Mars Rovers need software to function, and this software is continually developed and refined to allow them to function in more effective, and sometimes new, ways. The ego is to our human self what the software is for the Mars Rovers.

Ego as a sense of I

The other way the terms ego is used is as a sense of a separate I, placed on our human self.

Spirit, the field of awake emptiness and form, is functionally connected with a particular human self, and forgets about itself as a field, with inherently no center and no I anywhere, and develops a sense of a separate I, placed on the human self.

There is a perceptual center in the human self, and this perceptual center is made into an “I” center.

This is the version of ego that comes from and creates the illusion of I and Other, and creates all the drama, discomfort and stress.

Without it, when the field awakens to itself as a field, there is just awake emptiness and form, with no I anywhere. There is a sense of ease.

Ego structured in different contexts

Going back to the ego structures, and this is what I expect Almaas will write more about, we see that they come out differently depending on which context they are formed, or reorganized, within.

When formed and organized within the context of a sense of I, they are formed within the assumption of separation. They reflect, and operate as if, there is an I as this human self, and Other as the wider world. There is, by necessity, trauma here as well, to different degrees – reactiveness, habitual and obsessive patterns, and so on.

When the field awakens to itself as a field, realizing that there was no I there in the first place, these ego structures are invited to reorganize within this new context of realized selflessness. The reorganization is bound to happen to some extent, and it can be helped along with some conscious alignment with and facilitation of this reorganization process.

It will allow the human self, emotionally and in terms of view, to realigned within a realization of no I anywhere. It reorganizes, gradually and in a deepening way, to all as Spirit.

Emotionally, there is less reactiveness, they give a sense of fullness, and of ongoing support and nourishment. The view functions gradually more transdually, differentiating while reflecting a nondual realization.

And it is certainly also possible for the field to never forget itself as a field, even as it is connected with a particular human self. It stays awake to itself as a field, while the human self develops and matures. This may be more common as humanity evolves further, although who knows.

Planting seeds in the world of form

Seeds are planted in the world of form, and as form, allowing the field of seeing and seen to awaken to its own nature, inherently absent of I anywhere.

And seeds are planted in the world of form inviting the human self to continue to actively heal, mature and develop, before and after this awakening.

The field remains the same in its formless aspect, as emptiness and awareness. It is timeless, untouched by form. Yet, as form, it is not only never the same, it evolves.

And planting a seed in the human self, inviting it to continue to develop even after it is released from any sense of I, allows it to more consciously take part in this evolution. It allows it to continue to play the game, even after the field of seeing and seen has awakened to its absence of I anywhere.

It allows it to be more actively engaged in its own unfolding as an infinitely small aspect of the evolution of the world of form as a whole.

For the benefit of all beings

In Mahayana Buddhism, and maybe especially in Tibetan Buddhism, there is a strong emphasis on seeking awakening for the benefit of all beings.

And there is a pretty obvious reason for that:

If we attain awakening only for our “own” benefit, then that’s it. It stops there. (Not really, but that may be the attitude.) A seed is planted in our human self saying that Enlightenment is it, that it is a goal in itself, and that the continuing healing, maturing and development of our human self is not important.

On the other hand, when the invitation to benefit all beings is planted in our human self, it serves as a catalyst for this human self to continue to heal, mature and develop before and after realized selflessness. The intention comes from from, is form, and is a catalyst and guide for the unfolding of form.

It allows for Self-Realization as well as Enlightenment.

It allows for this human self to actively seek to heal, mature and develop, before and after realized selflessness, because it recognizes itself as a tool for benefiting others in the world of form, even as all these beings, including itself, are absent of any I.

It continues to play the game. It embraces the Absolute, the field of seeing and seen absent of I anywhere, and the relative, including the myriads of beings, the field mistakenly identifying as a finite being and experiencing suffering from it, and the possibility to help the field to wake up to its own nature as the Ground of seeing and seen, inherenly absent of I anywhere.

Drives and motivations

There is a common perception, probably with roots in different romantic views, that trouble drives creativity.

Driven by beliefs and the shadow

It seems true in a limited way. If there are strong attachments to certain beliefs, and a correspondingly strong shadow, then these beliefs and shadows can certainly be a strong drive in our lives. Neurotic drives, often coming from fear.

I believe I am not lovable, and spend my life trying to find acceptance through creating a certain persona and achievements. I believe the world needs my insights and ideas, and spend my life developing and sharing them with the world.

There can be wonderful gifts here, but also a good deal of stress.

Motivated by wholeness, enjoyment and empathy

As we work with examining beliefs and recognizing projections, these belief- and shadow-driven motivations weaken and have less force. The go more into the background, and some may erode away completely.

Here, the motivations that come into the foreground may include curiosity, interest, enjoyment in exploration and manifestation, compassion, empathy, and the enjoyable surprise in discovering what comes out of me in the different ways I engage in the world.

This may correspond roughly to the centaur level in KW’s framework, where we find ourselves as the larger whole of body and psyche. It may also correspond to the green and second tier level, characterized by less of the fear driven motivations.

Spirit flowering

Then, as we find ourselves as soul and the witness, and even more so if there is an awakening to realized selflessness, there is a sense of personal motivations eroding allowing clear space for Spirit flowering through and as our human life.

In realized selflessness, seeing and seen arises with no I anywhere, allowing Spirit a more free and full manifestation in our human life (although there may still be traces of old identities and beliefs that limits this flow somewhat).


At each of these transitions, our old and familiar drives and motivations are less potent and convincing, they go into the background and may erode completely. At the same time, the new motivations may not yet have emerged clearly. It may take a while to reorient, allow these new motivations to come to the foreground, and become familiar with them and how they function in our life.

Enlightenment and Self-Realization II

Using the distinction between what Ken Wilber calls horizontal and vertical Enlightenment, or Enlightenment and Self-Realization, it is interesting to see where different approaches and teachings fall.


Horizontal Enlightenment, or just old-fashioned Enlightenment, is realized selflessness, Big Mind waking up to its own nature. It is independent of the particulars of the content: whatever arises is recognized as Spirit, as emptiness dancing, absent of any I.

This awakening is the final release from the suffering of the story of I, it is the final coming home, the Ground of the seeing and the seen awakening to itself.


Vertical Enlightenment, or Self-Realization, has everything to do with the particulars of the content, specifically where the universe is in its evolution, and where this individual soul and human self are in their development.

It especially has to do with the healing, maturing and development of this soul and human self, this individual Being which in this particular case is the vehicle for Big Mind awakening to its own nature.

This being which arises as everything else, and as everything else is inherently absent of any I, yet also functions as a vehicle for Big Mind in the world of form, and is an aspect of the evolution of the world of form.

Self-Realization is never complete. It is a work in progress. It evolves with and as the world of form.

What we miss out of if there is one, and not the other

If there is only, or even mainly, a focus on Enlightenment, the healing, maturing and development of our human self may freeze to some extent, or at least not unfold as much as it is invited to within this new context of realized selflessness.

And although working on Self-Realization alone can certainly be rewarding, it never gives the same sense of completeness and finality as horizontal Enlightenment. There will always be a sense of something missing, which is true: realized selflessness.

Some examples

So where do some of the many approaches fit in this framework?

Of the ones that work mainly on Enlightenment, we find traditional Advaita and Zen, and the Center for Sacred Sciences.

Of the ones working mainly on Self-Realization, we find western psychology (at its best), self-help approaches, shadow work, energy work, body-centered practices, various forms of yoga, and so on.

And of the ones including both, we find the Big Mind process, The Work, Adyashanti, Ken Wilber, and most of the folks associated with the integral institute (they are at least interested in or moving towards addressing both).

The Big Mind process helps with integration, healing, maturing and development at our human level, and also with Big Mind awakening to its own nature.

The Work allows beliefs to unravel, allowing our human self to heal, mature and flower, and also, eventually, and if we take it that far, revealing Big Mind and the Ground.

Adyashanti, while mainly focusing on realized selflessness, certainly also addresses and encourages the flowering of Spirit in our human life.

The Projection Line

There are innumerable lines of development (even a cooking line!), so why not a projection line?

The Projection Line (PL) would reflect how sophisticated we are in our understanding of projections, and especially how this is lived in our daily life.

It is a line that depends on the cognitive line (need to be aware of it before we can get some insights into it), and feeds many other lines, such as the spiritual, moral and interpersonal.

Widening circles of awareness and the PL

As we move along the cognitive line, our circle of awareness widens, and this makes it possible for us to move further along the PL.

Widening circles of empathy and the PL

And as we move further along the PL, our circle of care, concern and compassion widens.

Initially, we see only a few people as in the same boat as ourselves. Then more and more people, then all beings, then all of Existence.

How does it look?

  1. I am aware of somebody/thing triggering attraction or aversion in me. (Cognitive line.)

  2. My PL kicks in and I recognize this as the sign of a projection. I find in myself what I see out there (spontaneously, or through the 3-2-1 shadow process, The Work, Process Work or another of the many shadow techniques out there).

  3. I recognize in myself what I see out there. I see myself in the other, and the other in myself, and from this recognition comes empathy. I am in the same boat as the other, and my circle of concern and compassion now more easily includes the other. (Moral, emotional and interpersonal lines.)

The coin of awakening: exploring both sides

(Somewhat long and rambling…)

There is a coin of ignorance and a coin of awakening.

Coin of ignorance: what we are and mechanisms of samsara

One face of the coin of ignorance is ignorance of what we are, and the other face is ignorance of the mechanisms of samsara.

Coin of awakening: emptiness and form

And one face of the coin of awakening is emptiness, and the other form. Or we can, more loosely, say context and content, Ground and phenomena, absolute and relative, and more specifically – in our case, Big Mind and human self.

When Big Mind awakens to its own nature, when there is realized selflessness, both are naturally present, inseparable, revealed as two sides of the same coin. One is not more or less real or present than the other.

At the same time, there can definitely be a difference in emphasis, and this has to do with how our particular human self is put together, and also the culture and traditions it functions within and is influenced by.

Emphasizing the absolute

So for instance Joel, at the Center for Sacred Sciences, tends to emphasize awakening as a release from our human self, which is completely valid. There is a release from blind identification with our human self, and the drama that comes with that identification.

In general, he tends to emphasize emptiness, Ground, the context of a sense of I or realized selflessness, Big Mind. And he tends to de-emphasize form, phenomena, the content of this universe and the human self, and our particular human self. He certainly acknowledges this face of the coin, but it is not emphasized. He also tends to leave out the evolution aspect of the world of form, including the interpersonal and the healing, maturing and development – along the many lines and their levels, of our human self.

Since Big Mind is emphasized, it can appear somewhat detached and impersonal. It can even appear as an escape more than anything else, although it is an escape from misidentification into what we already really are.

Since the particulars of our human self is somewhat in the background, the healing, maturing and development of our human self is also in the background. As Ken Wilber points out in his dramatic language, an awakening – and the practice up to it, can even “cement” the human self in place to some extent, including its dysfunctions and current levels of development.

Including the relative

Others, such as Genpo Roshi, Saniel Bonder, the other teachers associated with Ken Wilber, and I am sure many others, emphasize more strongly an inclusion of the relative.

For Genpo Roshi, it means to become more fully human. For Saniel Bonder, the many forms of mutuality and embodiment.

Here, the evolution of form, and the development of this particular human self, is emphasized as much as the awakening itself. And the awakening of realized selflessness is just one step in this process. It is not by any means an end point. It may be “final” as it is a Ground awakening, yet it is not final at all in terms of the continuing unfolding, evolution and development of the world of form in general, and of this human self in particular.

One aspect of the awakening can still be seen as an “escape” from blind identification with this human self and the suffering that comes with it. But as much as an escape, it is an opportunity and invitation to allow this human self to heal, mature and continue to develop in a richer, fuller, deeper, wider way.

Development within two contexts: a sense of I and realized selflessness

The world of form is change and continues to evolve, and this human self too continues to change and develop.

When this human self changes and develops within the context of a sense of I, there is an identification with some aspects of this human self and a disowning of other aspects. It is a house divided against itself. There are varying degrees of drama and struggle in this process, which in itself brings various dysfunctions, lopsided developments, and so on.

On the other hand, when this human self changes and develops within the context of realized selflessness, there is an invitation to a much fuller, richer, deeper, wider, more balanced and integral healing, maturing, and development.

This human self naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this process can be aided and greased. And the relationships that this human self has to others and the wider world also naturally reorganizes within this new context, and this too can be encouraged and helped along.

Nothing new, yet a difference in emphasis

Most (or all?) mature traditions and teachers acknowledge this. But there is certainly a difference in emphasis. As many suggests today, it seems that our current phase in human evolution, and the way awakening is expressed, is one of emphasizing the inclusion of the relative, including the healing, maturing and development of our human self and its many relationships to the wider world.

Why settle for just a Ground awakening when there is so much more to explore within this new context of realized selflessness. When there is an opportunity for this human self to engage more actively in the evolution of the world of form, particularly through its own healing, maturing and development.

Realized selflessness changes the context only: this human self continues to be part of an evolving universe and continues its own development. So it may as well actively engage in that process.

Evolution is, after all, one of the faces of God. It is what God appears to do in its form aspect.

Leave that out and there is still realized selflessness, which is of course fine. But it also leaves out the fun that this human self can have by more consciously engage with and grease its own process of unfolding and reorganizing, and that of the larger whole.

Big Mind doesn’t care either way. But engaging in this way can certainly be more fun for this human self. At least for this human self.

The Work greasing the spiral?

Ken Wilber talks about meditation as greasing the spiral. Apparently, meditation is the only practice shown, in studies, to help people move faster up through the spiral of development.

I would be surprised if not The Work greases the spiral in a similar way. It would make a good research project for somebody.

There are at least two aspects to this greasing…

The Work, identity and the self-line

One is what the work does with our identity. It widens and deepens, embraces more, becomes more porous, less tightly held. Then it shifts out of the seen into the seeing itself. And eventually, or so they say, it can release into realized selflessness.

Beliefs is what our identity is created from, and by allowing beliefs to be seen and fall away, our identity also falls away, one belief at a time. What is left is wakeful space, inherently absent of any characteristics, allowing them all to come and go as part of the seen. And with no I anywhere.

So in this way, The Work greases the self-line, from identification with the seen (this human self) to the seeing, to realized selflessness.

The Work and widening circles

The Work also seems to grease any lines that tends to go from egocentric to ethnocentric to widening worldcentric, such as the cognitive (view) and empathy (ethics, circles of care, concern and compassion).

As more of what is seen out there is also seen in here, there is naturally a widening of our view and circle of care, concern and compassion. We recognize in ourselves what we see out there. Less and less out there is foreign to us. I see myself in more and more of what used to be wholly other: in more and more people, in all beings, ecosystems, the Earth, past and future generations, and eventually Existence itself beyond and including all polarities.

There is a deepening sense of recognition. What I see out there is also in here. What I see in you, I recognize from myself.

And there is a deepening sense of belonging. What used to be so completely other is not so anymore. The boundary of I and Other becomes more porous. More and more, I see the seamless whole that these boundaries are placed on top of. There is a deepening sense of belonging… to humanity, to this life, to Earth, to Existence beyond and including all polarities.

With recognition and a sense of belonging, the circles of my view and compassion naturally widen, and widen, and widen.

Wilber-Coombs Lattice: stages, states and self-line

There is much about Ken Wilber’s framework, or rather its content the way he presents it, that is sometimes fuzzy for me.

WC Lattice: Stages and states

One is the Wilber-Coombs lattice, with the stages vertical and states horizontal.

It is simple enough, and fits my own experience and what I see in other’s life as well. We all develop along the many lines and levels, and at any point have access to a range of states – including waking, dream and sleep, or nature mysticism, deity mysticism, causal (witness) and nondual. It is simple, common sense, nothing too controversial.

Stages and self-line

It seems that the confusion for me comes in because I have used a similar framework on my own, long before hearing about the WC Lattice, and it is relatively similar although also not the same. This one is the relationship between the stages of human development and the sense of self, or the self-line of development.

So the stages are still along one axis, but the sense of self is on the other.

Our human self develops along its lines and their levels.

And our sense of self develops from identification with the seen (our human self, gross physical, and individual soul, subtle) to the seeing itself (witness, causal), to realizing the absence of I in both seen and seeing. These are not merely states, but a relatively stable center of gravity. There is a stable experience of I as human self, as soul, as witness or absent.

And these two forms of development are relatively, although not completely, independent of each other.

My human self continues to develop, independent on where my sense of I is centered.

My sense of self can be in my physical human self, and this human self can continue to develop in all its lines of cognitive, relational, ethics and so on. And there can be realized selflessness, and my human self will still continue to develop along any and all of these lines. And anything in between, and any other combination, is also possible.

Resolution: state vs. stage along horizontal

So in the WC lattice, they have states along the horizontal axis, and in the model I made for myself, the self-line is along the horizontal axis.

Yet, the content of the two are in a way the same. It is gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness, and nondual in both cases.

In one, it is a temporary state, a glimpse, a peek (!) experience as they say. In the other, it is a more stable center of gravity, it is the stages of the sense of self, the self line.

The two versions of the horizontal lines are the same in content, different in that one is a state and the other a stage, and – in a way, we can say that one leads to the other.

The states leads to stages.

I am plunged repeatedly into the subtle state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into it. I am plunged repeatedly into the witness state, and my sense of I gradually shifts into that. I am plunged repeatedly into nondual states, and the center of gravity shifts into that.

When my sense of I shifts into the subtle state, I experience myself as soul, as energy, as bliss, as fullness. And this is a relatively stable experience. It is where I am most, if not almost all, of the time.

When my sense of I shifts into the causal witness, I find myself as seeing itself, and this is where I find myself most or almost all of the time.

When my sense of I falls away completely, the center of gravity is in the nondual, and that is where it is most or all of the time.


The WC lattice is in a way a cleaner model. It has stages along one axis and states along the other, and that is it.

The model I made up for myself a long time ago is not quite as clean. It has stages along one axis, and stages within one particular line along the other.

Yet, this horizontal line has the same referents: gross physical, subtle soul, causal witness and nondual. In one, as states, and in the other as where my sense of I is centered.

One leads to the other, over time.

Self as seeing (or absent), me as this human self, and other as the rest of form

Another pretty obvious thing for those following KWs work:

I as seeing, me as human self, other as the rest of the world

When the sense of self shifts from the seen to the seeing, what is seen is divided up in two parts: me – as this human self, and other – as the rest of the world of form.

I am the seeing. Me is this human self. And other is the rest of the world.

Pretty simple.

And at the same time, the me and other is clearly seen as segments of the seamless fluid world of form. The dividing line between me and other is just for convenience’s sake, for practical reasons, as an aid for this human self to function and orient in the world of form. There is a demarcation line, for practical reasons, but it is just an abstract overlay.

I am the seeing that the world of form happens within.

Realized selflessness, and still me as human self and other as the rest of the world

Then, there is the realization that I am the Ground the seeing and the seen happens within and as, and there is no I inherent in any of it.

Even here, in realized selflessness, this human self is still me and the rest of the world other.

And here, it is even more clear that there is no inherent difference among any of these. It is all Ground in its many forms, Spirit playing, emptiness dancing.

The only difference is a practical one: there is still a functional connection with this particular human self. So, for purely practical reasons, it is labeled me.

And as the rest of the world of form continues to evolve, this human self continues to develop.

Spiral of problems and resolutions

If we look at the lines of development as spirals or widening circles, as many do, then it seems that one of the drivers of development is a spiral of problems and resolutions.

In a line, each level of development creates particular problems, often in the form inherent contradictions and unpleasant feedback from the world, and the next level of development is a partial resolution of these problems, which in turn creates new problems, and so on.

Lots of people have of course explored this in detail, yet I am aware of very little of it. But if we are going to give some local presentations on the aqal model, it is probably good to look at this a little more and find some examples.

Let’s look at value memes from Spiral Dynamics, and a few examples of problems of resolutions as we move into widening circles…


This is an individualistic and ego-centric level, and an example is the terrible twos, or the cowboy of the wild west, or rebels of any stripe.

The problem here can be a form of rampant and ego-centric individualism, which in the end hurts everybody.

And the resolution is, yes, rules, conformity, and an emphasis on authority, community and tradition. This is…


An example here, well known in the US, is a Christian fundamentalist, or an Muslim fundamentalist, or any form of absolutism or fundamentalism. Rules, authority, tradition, law and order, rule. There is an emphasis on the group, and this is the first ethno-centric circle.

For the Christian fundamentalist, the problems inherent in amber may take the form of lack of individual freedom, choice and expression, and also problems explaining the inherent contradictions in the scripture (if the Bible is the word of God, why are there two creation stories, and so on) and contradictions between science and the Bible (where do fossils come from, and how come millions of scientists around the world are so wrong, and if there is micro-evolution why not macro-evolution?).

The resolution here is…


Which again has an emphasis on the individual, but now in an early world-centric context, realizing the importance of universal human rights, a more equal access to opportunities and so on.

I am an individual, with certain rights and freedom to choose and express myself within some limits, and that is the case for others as well. And, by the way, the same is the case for businesses as well.

An example here is the typical westerner, well educated, embracing science and rationality as their guideline and consumerism as not only a good idea but a right.

The problems created by orange today are building up quickly and are difficult to ignore: Climate change, toxins and more due to an industry that does not take long-term effects into account, rampant consumerism not bringing the satisfaction it promised, sprawl creating reliance on cars and petroleum and reducing a sense of community, corporate globalization eroding human rights and quality of life for the poor, wars to protect remaining oil resources. Hierarchies in state, businesses and religion where those on top take advantage of everyone else. The news media gives plenty of examples daily.

The resolution is…


Green is egalitarian, value certain forms of diversity, and is even more world-centric than Orange. Its circle of care, concern and compassion expands to not only include all humans, but all life and future generations. This is where the web of life is beginning to be realized: we are all intimately connected, not only humans but all of life, and not only all of us alive today but past and future generations as well.

Community becomes more important than individual achievement. Taking care of life more important than consumerism. Consensus more important than the hierarchies of Amber and Orange.

One of the downfalls of Green is an over-emphasis on egalitarianism and consensus. Projects may fall apart because consensus is not possible, sometimes even for practical reasons such as getting everyone together to arrive at consensus, or because people get tired of it. Ideology can go before practicality here.

Also, the diversity is nice, but also a little fragmented. Isn’t there some larger patterns here somewhere?

And an inherent contradiction in the Green view is an appreciation of diversity in some forms, such as ethnicity and age, yet a distinct lack of appreciation of the diversity of the spiral as a whole and of of non-green turns of the spiral in particular, maybe especially Amber and Orange.

So then we have…

Second tier

Where there is an appreciation of the spiral as a whole, and of each turn of the spiral. I can see each of them in the foreground in different phases of my own life, and I can see each of them in my own life right here and now as well.

The first tier segment of the spiral becomes a toolbox for me. I can take each one out and use them as the situation invites me to, and I can connect with others at the various phases of the spiral because I know and are familiar with these in myself.

This also means that a more integral view becomes possible. One that sees the connections among the diverse views from Green, and the diverse insights and approaches from the various turns of the spiral.

Other examples

So this is the value line of development, and we can probably find a similar dynamic in the other lines. And it seems that for many lines, the process goes from egocentric via ethno- or groupcentric to widening worldcentric. It is a process of widening circles. A spiral where each turn is a resolution to a previous dissonance, in itself creating a new dissonance.

:: Self line, who am I?

For example, in the Self line, we may start out with no particular sense of self.

But then we realize that there is a correspondence with certain inner movements – such as thoughts, and the movements of this body which seems to be around all the time. Hm… maybe that means I am this body? Yes, that must be how it is.

So I am this body, which has sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts. And these seem to organize in a particular way, creating a personality. So I must be this personality as well, complete with a particular worldview and a particular identity.

But wait a minute. I realize that all of this, this whole human package, is seen. It comes and goes. Yet it seems that something does not come and go. What is it that does not come and go? It seems to be the seeing itself. Or maybe this space and awareness that all of this content happens within. Yes, I must be the seeing, the witness, pure awareness.

OK, so I am the seeing itself. But where is the line between I as the seeing and me and Other as the seen? Can I find that line anywhere? Where do seeing end and the seen begin? Hm… The seen does not really appear that different from the seeing itself. That too seem to be awake space. Also, there was no I in the seen, so maybe there is no I in the seeing either? There seems to be only this Ground of awake space, taking the appearance of seeing and seen when filtered through the idea of I. It is only this Ground of awake space, temporarily appearing as seeing and seen, and with no I inherent anywhere.

So the sense of self goes from absent, undifferentiated and nonfunctional, via a sense of self as a part of the seen, to a sense of self as the seeing, to a realization of an absence of I yet – typically – highly differentiated and functional, able to make use of everything explored through identification at the earlier turns of the spiral.

Cannot see zone #2 from zone #1 realm? Yes and no

In slowly reading Integral Spirituality by Ken Wilber, I see that 99% of what he writes about goes straight in. It rings true, which just means that it fits nicely into my experiences and conscious worldview. It fits with how this personality is organized right now.

The one percent

And then there is that one percent where the question comes up: Is this true? It isn’t, of course, in any absolute sense. But is is true in a relative way, as a useful model that fits available information? That is where the mind goes, as it does when beliefs does not fit what the world comes up with. We are drawn to it, trying to make some sense of it. Trying to find a resolution. At least if it is important enough.

One of these is the question of seeing zone #2 stages/structures in meditation or contemplation.

Zone #1 and #2: immediate awareness and stages of development

Zone #1 is whatever is alive in immediate awareness. It is what we explore through techniques such as mediation, self-inquiry, contemplation and so on. Zone #2 is the structures and stages of development, along any line of development, and these are commonly explored through studies of a number of people over time, first by finding the stages/phases of development within a certain line, then the sequence among them.

KW says that nobody has ever seen any stages in mediation or contemplation. It is true, in that these are theoretical constructs. (Which means that they can appear as a thought in mediation or contemplation, but that is a little different!)

At the same time, it may not be the whole picture.

The ways zone #2 shows up in meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation

For instance, through mediation or forms of self-inquiry, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion show up quite clearly. They are hard to avoid, as they permeate my whole human self – from view to emotions to interests to behaviors, and they are highlighted by whatever ethical guidelines my tradition has set up. These guidelines tend to be world-centric, so anything in me at ego- or ethno-centric levels will be highlighted and stick out as a sore thumb.

I find that for myself, these questions naturally come up in mediation and self-inquiry: Do I act in ways that only take myself, my human self, into consideration? Only my group? The whole of humanity, the earth, future generations?

These are questions that – I will guess – a majority of spiritual practitioners and teachers will be very much interested in. How do I show up now, in terms of my circle of care, concern and compassion? How wide are the circles, in my view, my emotions, my behavior?

Also, I may find that there are shifts over time. I may have acted mostly from the egocentric phase earlier, and am now on ethnocentric, with some worldcentric. And this will show up. I will notice the change.

The way it looks for me is that the zone #1 techniques may very well yield zone #2 insights and realizations. Although in doing so, these zone #1 techniques use a zone #2 methodology, so in a way – they become zone #2 techniques.

So it means that it is true, mostly, that zone #1 investigations do not see zone #2 levels. Yet what we see as zone #1 techniques can also be used as zone #2 techniques. They can, in a rough way, discover some of the zone #2 characteristics – some of the broad stages and how there is a shift from one to another over time.

Teachers discovering zone #2 in working with students

The same is most likely true for spiritual teachers. If they didn’t notice some of these stages of development in themselves, they will see them in their students.

They are bound to notice the changes among students, and in students over time. In the stream of students passing before them, year after year.

Some may move through these faster, other more slowly, and other again maybe not at all. But move through them they do, and it will show up in their worldview, their interests, how they experience their world, who and what they have compassion for, and how they live their lives.

A rough map with zone #1 techniques

So it seems that a rough map of stages of development is very much possible in the context of meditation, self-inquiry and contemplation.

At the very least, the widening circles of care, concern and compassion will be relatively obvious, going from the small circle of myself, to the wider circle of my group, to the even wider circle of all humanity, all life, future generations, the whole of existence, and reflected in any aspect of my life and experience.

Other lines of development may also be relatively obvious, at least in a general way: for instance the spiritual live of development, and maybe also the emotional and interpersonal, depending on what the specific tradition emphasizes. And different spiritual traditions do of course include different stages of development, at least in one or a few lines.

Detailed explorations with zone #2 methodologies

KWs point may be that zone #2 methodologies, as developed in modern psychology, is needed for a more detailed exploration and mapping of zone #2, and that is of course right.

But it does not mean that zone #1 and its techniques is blind to it, oblivious to the relatively obvious changes and maturing in at least some lines of development.

Our Development

One of the characteristics of inquiry – in most or all (?) of its forms – is that it inherently works with where we are at. We look at what is alive for us right now.

Byron Katie sometimes says don’t pretend yourself beyond your evolution. Meaning, I assume, don’t take what you hear and pretend it is your own insight. Go with what is true for you, right now, no matter if it fits what you have heard or not. Live from where you are at.

I may still have beliefs relating to my current situations, and act as if they were true – because they are true for me, now, in my own experience. It is as simple as that.

And when stress comes up, I can identify a belief behind it and inquire into it. Life itself will show me where I still have work to do, and it will do so at the rate and sequence right for me. The unraveling starts where I am right now.

Nurturing Development

There is really no inherent reason to want to develop faster through the SD spiral, or move beyond an attachment to ideas in general and to the idea of I in particular, or include more of Other into I and us.

Yet, it is painful to experience the world through the filter of I and Other. It is painful to experience the split that comes from that filter, because it is not aligned with what is. So we are naturally motivated to move through the spiral, move up the levels, to allow what is to awaken to its own nature (of I everywhere and nowhere) while still functionally connected to this human self.

Since this motivation is as natural as anything else, we have developed a large number of strategies to either temporarily avoid the pain of the apparent split (entertainment, romance, sex, money, vacations, food) or to move towards a more radical solution (awakening to what is with no I inherent anywhere).

And if integrating projections is a big part of this process, then The Work may be one of the faster ways of nurturing development (along with more traditional approaches and other new ones such as the Big Mind process).

Enlightenment, God Realization & Maturing

There seems to be more and more interest for a combination of Enlightenment, God Realization and maturing.

Enlightenment – meaning realizing selflessness, what is realizing that everything is inherently absent of any “I”. This is Big Mind waking up to its own nature, and the nondual level in Ken Wilber’s framework.

God Realization – meaning the awakening and flowering of the heart. This is Big Heart awakening, with a subtle distinction of I and Other within a context of everything as God. This is what is awakened at F8 (deity mysticism) in KW’s framework.

Maturing – this is the level of our human self, which can continue to heal, mature and develop before and after the two flavors of awakenings. Within the context of Big Mind/Big Heart awakening, its healing, maturing and development is part of it being increasingly finely tuned as an instrument in the world, as a vehicle in the world of form and phenomena.

In today’s world, when there is so much availability to all three, why leave any one out?

And there are more and new frameworks and approaches being developed which includes these three as well.

In terms of frameworks, Ken Wilber’s AQAL one is probably the most well developed right now.

In terms of approaches, the Big Mind process is a great example of one that works at all three levels from the consciousness side. And diksha is an example of one that works at all three levels from the energy side.

And of course, in just years – and certainly decades – all of these will seem very outdated. Cutely quaint. The pioneering efforts of a more inclusive approach which may be taken mostly for granted in just some decades. Who knows.

One Mountain, Many Peaks

Almaas and Wilber both point at how our filters shape our world, including in our spiritual practice. We have views, interpretations and guidelines for practice, either from a particular tradition or more-self created, from own experience and a range of traditions.

In either case, these frameworks shape what happens in – at least – two ways:

Interpretation and vocabulary

The obvious one is in our interpretation of what arises in the present. We may be faced with a very similar landscape (although it is obviously never quite the same), but how we see it and the meaning we add to it is filtered differently for each of us – and for each one of us at different times.

So the landscape may be quite similar, yet the wording and interpretation of it may still be quite different.

Shaping actions and content

The other is how our filters shape our practices themselves, which in turn shape the landscape.

If we focus on compassion, then an heart opening and infinite compassion is likely to become central in our experience of the divine and awakenings. If we focus on a nondual awakening, then the ground – emptiness dancing – may be central. If we focus on divine love, then our relationship with the divine may be at the center (2nd person). If we include energy practices, then the energy aspects of existence may stand out in our experience and view of it.

The general landscape may be similar, but the particulars can be quite different. And it seems that there is an infinity of possible variations of this landscape, always revealing itself to us differently and in a new way.

It is different for each of us, and also different for each one of us over time.

One mountain, many peaks

So it seems that one metaphor that may fit this view is that of one mountain and many peaks.

The mountain is the realization that all is God, all is consciousness, and the realization of selflessness, that there is no I inherent anywhere. The peaks are the various ways this mountain arises in our experience, with some aspects highlighted and others in the background or left out.

We all climb the same mountain in various ways, independent of tradition and filters. Yet we also arrive at different peaks. Folks following the same practice may arrive at the same general peak, yet at different locations on that one peak. And folks following quite different practices may arrive at different peaks.

Of course, this is a mountain that is not static. It is always created, always new, always different. Always changing with the continuing evolution of the form aspect of God.

Soul & Big Mind

This is of course very basic, but a topic that has come up for me more strongly over the past few weeks.

Among the many ways of slicing the continuum of being is body, mind, soul and spirit.

Body, mind, soul, spirit

The body is our physical body – a fluid and temporary pattern of matter and energies. And this body shows up at our individual level, as our human self, and it also shows up as the whole of this universe – as the body of the divine mind or Big Mind. (F1 in KW’s framework).

The mind is the psyche, the emotions and thoughts at our human level. As with our physical body, these are universal patterns with a unique flavor in each of our case, and in time as well – always showing up in new and fresh ways. (F2-F6)

The soul is that part of us that goes on between physical incarnations. It is that which evolves, matures, develops over longer time spans. When brought into awareness, it gives a deep sense of richness, fullness, guidance, meaning, intimacy – in short, soulfulness. It is the middle ground between our human self and Big Mind. (F7-F8)

The spirit is the ground of it all, and also that which forms itself into all these other phenomena. It is the divine mind, Big Mind, Buddha Mind, Brahman, Dao and so on. It is completely impersonal, allowing all the manifestations to occur within and as itself. (F9, nondual)

Leaving out the soul or not

In Zen and the standard Big Mind process, the soul level is mostly left out and there is an emphasis on our human self and Big Mind. There are good reasons for this, mainly to avoid distractions from realizing Big Mind (selflessness) and living from this realization.

At the same time, it leaves out the deeply nurturing sense of soulfulness which comes from bringing the soul into awareness. When I ask to talk with the soul in the Big Mind process, there is a presence there which is quite different from any of the other voices – including that of Big Heart.

When I lived in Norway, all levels were quite strongly present – including the soul and Big Mind, and there was a tremendous richness of it all. In Utah, living at the Zen center there, the soul aspect got de-emphasized and gradually left my attention and awareness. And now, it seems time to bring it back in. Apart from the fullness it offers, it also gives a sense of responsibility for the evolution of this soul – for allowing it to mature through bringing it into awareness. And through that, participating more fully in the evolution of the form aspect of the divine mind, of Big Mind.

Evolution of soul and selflessness

In some ways, it is easier when only our human self and Big Mind/Heart are into the picture. It does simplify it. It brings attention to the ground awakening, to realizing selflessness and living from that. When the soul is into the picture, it is both fuller and a little more complex.

There is a dual emphasis on the evolution and maturing of this soul, as well as realizing that the soul too is part of the world of phenomena – that too is the temporary manifestations of the divine mind, of Big Mind. That too is ultimately selfless.


The deeksha process does seem to help people awaken to the nature of mind – and then to Big Mind. Using Ken Wilber’s integral framework, this must mean that the development along the spiritual line is speeded up dramatically. Still, it seems to occur in a very grounded way. For me, the unfolding seems the most natural in the world – grounded, comfortable, gentle, and quick.

The other lines of development will (mostly) stay where they are, although they may mature faster now that they exist in a different – transdual – context. And the deeksha process also have a healing component which may help each of the lines of development to heal wherever they are at.

As they point out themselves – the awakening is a beginning as much as it is an end. It is the beginning of the process of deeper healing and integration on a personal level, clarification, deepening and evolution on a transpersonal level, and a deepening integration and richness of relationship between the two.

Liberation & Awakening to Big Mind

As mentioned in past postings, there are many awakenings – its a continuing process.

  1. Matter
    Existence emerge as matter.

  2. Life
    Matter reorganize into life – which we can say is a form of awakening. Initially, life operates through instinctual biological processes.

  3. Local Awareness
    Life awaken into awareness. First, this awareness is quite dull and very local – mostly tied to instinctual biological processes.

  4. Self
    Then, awareness awakens to the self – independent of which species it is – as a separate entity, separate from other selves and objects. It is exclusively identified with the self, and caught up in the processes of the self. Here, awareness functions in a dualistic way. The self tries to fix itself, which only has limited and temporary success. It is not a satisfactory situation.

  5. The Nature of Mind
    From here, awareness can awaken to its own nature, as spacious awareness – distinct from its content and the personality. As it comes to its own nature in more and more situations, this realization becomes more stable, and clarifies and deepens. This is the process of liberation. From being blindly caught up in the processes of the self – the habitual patterns of emotions/thoughts/behaviors – it is now released from them. This allows for an even deeper and more intimate engagement with the self and the world.

  6. Transdual
    When awareness awakens to its own nature, it also starts to function in a more transdual way. It awakens to the Absolute, distinct from the Relative world of phenomena. And from this “ground” it sees all phenomena – beyond dualities – as parts of a seamless fluid whole.

  7. Big Mind
    The awakening of awareness into Big Mind is an emergence from the two previous awakenings. Awareness awakens into a fully transdual view – embracing the Absolute and Relative. The self becomes a vehicle for Big Mind.

  8. Rehumanized
    From here, awareness can rehumanize – reawaken to the humanity of the self. In the terminology of the Big Mind process, it learns to freely manifest through transpersonal and personal voices. It is not stuck, there is no fixed identity on any level.

  9. Evolution etc.
    Somewhere along the last few awakenings, there can also be an awakening into evolution. An awakening into conscious evolution – of being a part of the evolution of humanity, the Earth, this universe, and the relative aspect of Existence as a whole. The relative aspect of Existence becomes fuller, richer, more complex – while the Absolute is what it is, beyond simple. Big Mind becomes fuller and richer, while always having the same “ground”.


There seems to be a beautiful symmetry…

The whole wants to experience itself through its part. And the parts want to experience themselves through the whole.

Existence/God/Spirit/Buddha Mind/Big Mind seems to “want” to experience itself through the small selves, and everything experienced by/through the small selves – including all the delusion, confusion and suffering. Otherwise, it would not be. All the human experiences are just as they should be, because they are. Everything is perfect as it is. Even in our deepest suffering and confusion, it is Existence expressing and experiencing itself perfectly. Nothing is missng.

And the other side of the coin is that Existence seems to “want” to evolve. When it experiences itself in confusion and suffering, it naturally seeks clarity and equanimity. When it is expressed in an awareness that functions fragmented and dualistically, it naturally seeks to function more transdually. There is work to do and room for improvement.

Both seems to be there, in a beautiful and rich symmetry.