Perception of doership when we notice our nature

I find myself writing a short series of articles on how our perception of different things – distance, movement, time, and so on – may change when we notice our nature.

Here is one on our perception of doership.


In the world, it’s important for me to take responsibility for my actions, words, and choices.

It helps me live in a slightly more mature way. It’s more in integrity. And it helps me see things about myself more accurately which may lead to changes. (There is a lot of room for improvement.)

If I don’t take responsibility, I can notice it through some of the telltale signs (blame, victimhood, etc.) and I can use it to find the fear behind it. What’s the scary story? What am I afraid would happen if I took responsibility for my own words, choices, and actions in this situation? What’s the identity that’s threatened?


I can then find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I can find myself as that which the world, to me, happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am to myself.

Here, I notice that all content of my experience lives its own life – this human self, thoughts, feelings, choices, actions, other people, ecosystems, the wider world. It’s all living its own life. It’s all happening on its own.

Within stories, I can tell myself that everything has infinite causes stretching back to the beginning of time (if there is any) and the widest extent of space (if there is any).

And in my immediate noticing, it’s all living its own life.


In daily life, there are both.

I aim at taking responsibility for my own choices, actions, and life – and don’t always succeed. (Any time I go into a stressful story, it’s a sign I am not taking responsibility as much as I could.) This helps me live with a bit more integrity and it helps me mature a bit more.

And I notice that this human self is happening on its own like anything else. This takes some of the stress out of it and there is less interference from the idea of fundamentally being a doer.


As I have written about elsewhere, in an awakening process, there are often shifts that highlight certain aspects of what we are.

In this case, I experienced several shifts around fifteen years ago that brought the “this human self is living its own life” aspect to the foreground. These were shifts into a stronger disidentification with any content of experience, and they made it blindingly clear that this human self is happening on its own. (There were many similar types of shifts during that period.)

And these shifts have helped me notice it later on, even when this aspect is less obviously in the foreground.

Note: I have written similar articles on distance, movement, time, the physical, and this human self.

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This human self is happening on its own

When our nature notices itself, there is a sense that any and all content of experience – including this human self with its thoughts, feelings, experiences, words, and actions – is happening on its own. It’s all living its own life.

That’s how it always is, whether we notice or not.

When the mind identifies with the viewpoint of thoughts, it creates a sense of I and Other, and of being and doing whatever this human self is and is doing.

And when our nature notices itself, there is more of a release of this identification and it’s all revealed as living its own life. As it always and already does.

For me, this shift initially happened in my mid-teens so what it reveals is familiar to me. It’s the water I have swimmed in for a long time. And a part of me is still slightly unnerved when I bring attention to this human self happening on its own. Somewhere in me, there is still a part that assumes that there needs to be identified with or as a doer for things to happen, even if all the evidence shows the contrary.

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Byron Katie: We are not the doer. We can just watch

We are not the doer. We can just watch. Like, I invite everyone to notice where their hands are right now. Where their feet are right now and did you put them there? Did you plan it or was it a happening? You know, it could be that we are being done and everything else is just a story we’re believing and who would you be without your story? Not forever, but just right here, right now, in this moment, who would you be without your story?

– Byron Katie

The most direct way to notice this is to find what we are, in our own experience. When I find myself as capacity for the world, and what my field of experience happens within and as, I notice that anything in my field of experience – including this human self, thoughts, feelings, choices, actions – lives its own life. Even a sense of a doer happens within this field of experience and lives its own life. As does any sense of an observer. Or anything else.

Right here and now, I notice hands typing words on this screen. The hands move on their own. The words appear. Some thoughts appear on their own, the hands write them on the keys, and the words appear as black lines on the screen. There are sensations mapped on a mental image of the body. Thought of going out into the sun shortly. This is all happening. It lives its own life. Even saying that it’s happening within and as what I am is, in a sense, too much, even if it’s not wrong. Saying I am capacity for it all is the same, as is saying it’s all happening within and as awakeness. It’s all happening on its own and living its own life.

Doing vs allowing

When “I give a Vortex Healing session, I notice two different orientations I can operate from.

One is to gently use my intention to guide the process, notice what I sense and be receptive and adjust the session accordingly, notice that the divine is guiding and doing the healing, enjoy watching the process, and find gratitude for being allowed to be part of the process.

Another aspect of this is noticing that it all – the giver, the recipient, the channeling and everything else – is happening within and as the divine. The divine plays all the roles.

The other is to be caught in the “doing” of it. Whether it’s the minimal “doing” of using my intention, sensing what’s happening, and adjusting my approach based on that feedback. Or a more course “doing” of feeling “I” am responsible for the outcome, or overly question or be self-conscious about the process, or something else.

The first tends to come with a sense of flow and ease, and the second with stress and exhaustion. A gentler touch is not only much easier but it, most likely, allows me to be more of an open channel and not get in the way of the process.

As so often, this applies to other situations and life in general. It’s stressful and can be exhausting to be caught up in the “doing” and being a “doer”. And there is often a sense of ease and flow when we have a gentler touch and can step out of the driver’s seat in the mind.

How can we explore this more intentionally? One quite effective way is through inquiry, for instance the (Buddhist-informed) Living Inquiries. Here, I get to see how my mind creates its own experience of being a doer, how the charge in it is created (making it seem important to be a doer, and making it seem real), and perhaps the fears in stepping out of this role.

Other approaches I am familiar with is Breema which allows for this exploration and stepping out of (thinking that we are in) the driver’s seat. And the Big Mind process and Headless experiments which gives us a taste of what we are. And I assume it does tend to come naturally, over time through Vortex Healing and the feedback and awakening inherent in that process.

In general, any approach that allows for some awareness and exploration of this dynamic is likely helpful, as is any approach that invites in awakening – and healing of whatever in us thinks it needs to be a doer to stay safe.

Finding the doer

There is a faint sense of a doer somewhere here.

Where is the doer? If there is a doer somewhere, we should be able to find him. Really look for him.

Look at the word “doer”. Can those letters do something?

Look for the doer. Do you find him in images? Can those images do anything?

Feel the sensations that seem connected with a doer. Can those sensations do anything?

And so on, looking at whatever words, images and sensations come up. Leaving no stone unturned.

Just noticing that the words, images and sensations are unable to do anything is a revelation.

It’s simple. It reveals what’s already here. And it shifts my perception, even if it seems just slightly.

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Doer and control

Identification with the idea of control, and as a doer, comes from a desire to protect the image of me. It’s from love and it is love.

What do I find when I look at these images more closely?

I find that there is (the appearance of) control in an ordinary and limited sense. I chose to take a sip of tea. I chose to write these words. I make plans for later this afternoon. There is some control here. I can chose to be a good steward of my own life, as Adya suggests.

And yet there is no control. I really don’t know what will happen the next minute or the next second, and even less tomorrow or next year. My future is, quite literally, imaginary. Another way I see there is no control is that everything has infinite causes. For anything that happens, I can find another cause, and then another. And that includes what seems the most personal, such as choices and perceptions and actions. The whole universe – in its extent and reaching back to it’s earliest beginning – is behind anything happening. The chain of causes reaches out to the widest extent and back to the earliest beginning. (At least, that’s how it appears in my world of images.) There is really no room for control in a personal sense, or a separate person who could have “control” in the way we sometimes think of it.

There is the thought of a doer, a me that does things. And that’s valid enough in an ordinary and conventional sense.

At the same time, I see that the doer is imaginary. It’s an image of a doer. Something happens and a thought says “I did that”. There is an image of something happening in the future, and a thought saying “I will do that”. There is an image of this body doing something now, and a thought saying “I am doing that”.

There is nothing wrong in any of this. Reality may be different than how it sometimes appears to me, and that’s fine. That too is from a desire of this mind to protect this imagined me. It comes from love, and it is love.

I see something else too. A thought may say there is identification here, and that’s another imagination. A thought may say there is identification here, and at the same time no identification, and find valid examples of both. They seem to both be here.

If I can imagine them – whether I imagine them in others or the past or future – are they not here now? Is it true they are not already here? And is it true they are, in my world, anything other than images? Anything other than imagination? Read More

Allow, change, notice

rambling draft….

When I explore, I can allow, change or notice, and those three are really facets of the same. Only the emphasis is slightly different.

I allow experience, and notice what happens. There may be a shift from being identified with resistance, to identification with that which (already) allows all experience as is it, including the resistance and identification with various images w/in content of experience. In allowing experience as is, there can also be a shift out of identification with a doer, and a noticing of this doer as an image of a doer causing thinking, decisions, shifts in attention, and action to happen.

I can change something. For instance, I can invite in a shift from resisting to allowing experience. And notice that is really just a shift of identification, of what I temporarily take myself to be. As first-aid, I sometimes visualize stuck energy going down my legs and into the center of the earth and invite a shift that way. I may inquire into  belief to find what is more honest for me than the belief, and allow time for it to sink in, to feel it and who I am without the belief, and allow it to sink in. This doing is a thought, a choice, a shift of attention, perhaps an action in the world, a story of how these go together and one leads to another, and perhaps identification with the doing – as a doer, or just noticing that the doer is a story and an image, happening within content of experience.

I can notice what is already here. I can notice shifts. What happens when I take a story as true. What happens when I find what is more honest for me. What is happening within each sense field, and how overlays of images tie them together and create gestalts. What happens when I take myself to be something within (an imagined boundary within) content of experience, and what happens when I notice myself as that which already allows all content of experience, and its play in the form of this field of experience.

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Free will

I came across a new blog called Freedom or Necessity, which is an exploration into the question of free will.

It is an eternal question for us humans, and interesting to explore in our own lives.

The first thing that comes up for me is a set of additional questions: what does free will mean? For whom may there be free will? Who or what is choosing, if there is free will? Is there an entity choosing? Someone or something somehow set apart from everything else? Is that possible? On what basis are these choices made? What are the influences on these choices? What are the restrictions on these choices? If there are influences and restrictions, to what extent is it free?

My take on it is very simple-minded, and not so different from what I have explored earlier in this journal.

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Imagining sight

I am still exploring what happens when there is identification with the image(s) of a doer and/or observer.

There is obviously identification with a story, in this case the doer/observer images.

It is localized in space, in my case in and around the head area. The sensations here serve as “anchors” in space for the doer/observer images.

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Exploring the doer and observer

A few things I notice in exploring the doer and observer….

The doer and observer are both made up of sensations (in the throat/head area) and images of a doer and observer. 

They function as “middle-men”, or as they say in Zen, a head above the head. 

Something happens and the doer gestalt is taken as the doer of it, through an image of doing. 

Something happens and the observer gestalt is taken as the observer of it, through an overlay of an image of observing. 

What is overlooked is that whatever happens happens on its own (no doer needed), and whatever happens is also awakeness itself (no additional observer needed). 

There is an image of something happening, an image of a doer and observer, and an image of doing and observing connecting the two, all happening within my own world of images. 

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…. this is the principle: To deem oneself exalted is to claim copartnership with God. As long as you have not died and become living through Him, you are a rebel seeking a realm for your copartnership. 
– Rumi, Mathnawi IV 2763-67. [In Chittick’s The Sufi Path of Love, p. 183] 

This pointer is the homework for our CSS group this week, and also the section of the reading that most speaks to what is going on for me these days. 

I recognize this here and now. “All” is recognized as God, awakeness, form with no substance. And yet, there is also a sense of a separate I here as a doer and observer. Sometimes, it is taken as more real and substantial. And when attention is brought to it, it is recognized as the same as everything else: Content of awareness. Awakeness itself. Form with no substance. 

Taking this separate I gestalt as real is to set it up as a copartner with God, and when it is taken as real it is identified with and taken as what I am, so “I” then appear as a copartner with God. Since it is a lie, it is a precarious situation, and it generates friction which invites attention and questions, which in turn may allow this to be recognized as it happens. (Friction between “my will” – stories of shoulds, and “God’s will” – stories of what is.) 

When there is this copartnership, there may be a sense of being one with God, a separate I (as doer and/or observer) one with God. And when the separate I gestalts are recognized as they happen, there may be a shift into oneness, God as all including any gestalts temporarily appearing. 

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Shifting refuge

A shifting refuge….

First, we take ourselves to be a me. This human self and its body, identities and roles in the world. There is an inside and outside, and it all seems real and substantial.

Then, we may notice that the me is content of experience, it comes and goes as any other content of experience, and it is not what I am. There is a softening or release of identification with the me. This process can appear as a dark night of the senses, called so since there is a release of identification with the senses. The temporary outcome is an absence of a sense of inside and outside, a recognition of all as awakeness itself or God, and possibly insights, clarity, bliss, a clear inner direction and so on.

The remaining refuge here is the separate I and the spiritual joys mentioned above.

Finally, we may notice that the separate I is content of experience as well. The doer, thinker, chooser, owner, observer – all of those – are content of experience just as anything else. That too comes and goes. That too is not what I really am. As I keep noticing this, maybe first in formal practice and then in daily life, there is the possibility of a softening and release of identification out of these. This process is called the dark night of the soul, experienced as a death of the core of what we take ourselves to be.

When identification is released out of the separate I, what is left is doing without doer, thinking without thinker, observing without observer and so on. Everything is as before, although now all content of experience – including the doer and observer – is recognized as living its own life. The center falls out, and the bottom or ground falls out.

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Tail of the ox

An ox passes through a window. Its head, horns, and four legs all pass through. Why can’t it’s tail pass through?

This is a koan that has come up for me now since it reflects immediate experience.

The ox passes through the window. The world and this human self is recognized, in immediacy, as awakeness itself. As no thing appearing as something.

Yet the tail does not pass through. There is still identification with the doer and observer. Even as the doer and observer is recognized as awakeness itself, even as it is recognized as a gestalt made up of sensations and images, there is still some remaining identification there.

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Boundary between I and other

Sometimes, it is said that awakening means the boundary between I and Other is recognized as imagined

That is true and a helpful pointer. It helps us see that boundaries are created in the mind. They are, quite literally, imagined. This is a good starting point. 

And it is just that, a starting point, because it leaves something out. It can be taken as saying that the boundary may be imagined, but the I and other is real. There is an I here and a wider world, but it is part of the same seamless whole. 

The truth is more radical than that. So the next pointer is to say – as many do – that there is no separate I, no other, no world, no boundaries. All of those are imagined. All of those happen within our own world of images. 

This is an invitation to notice not only boundaries as imagined, but any object is as well. They all happen as a mental field overlay on the sense field. They all happen within our own world of images. And this includes the wider world as well as any sense of doer and observer. They all happen as content of awareness. They all come and go, on their own schedule. They are all gestalts, made up of mental field overlays on each of the sense fields. 

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Mindfulness, including of doer and observer

Something simple about mindfulness….

In mindfulness practice, I can notice what is happening in the different sense fields. Sensations. Sights. Sounds. Smell. Taste. Mental field activity. 

And included here is noticing the doer and observer. What is it that appears to be doing this practice? What is it that appears to be observing? For me, I find a set of sensations in the head area, and a set of images in the mental field. The doer and observer too is content of awareness, just as any other content of awareness. 

In this way, mindfulness practice shifts into and includes atma vichara, self-inquiry, and becomes even more inclusive and helpful. 

If the doer and observer is left out, mindfulness practice may only reinforce an unconcious (pre-conscious) identification with the doer/observer gestalts. When the doer and observer is included in what is noticed, they may be found to be content of awareness just as anything else, and identification may release out of them. 

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Whatever the “I” is doing…

At some point on the process, quite late, we paint ourselves into a corner.

There is a sense that whatever this “I” is doing is not going to do it. It can’t touch what I am and everything is.

And there is also an acute sense of the irony of this “I” trying to get rid of itself.

In both cases, this “I” is only spinning its wheels. And gradually wearing itself out.

This “I” as a doer/observer is a gestalt, a fabrication, and it is wearing itself out. (Or more accurately, wearing identification with it out.)

And it is completely innocent. A part of the play of God.

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Exploring the gestalt of a doer…

Where is the sense of a doer located? Head area? Somewhere else?

Can I find sensations as part of that gestalt? If so, which sensations? Do muscles contract to create more stable and noticeable sensations?

What images are part of that gestalt? A center? A small person?

Form the intention of lifting the arm. Then lift the arm.

How is the gestalt of a doer related to this intention and movement?

Is there a series of stories? Of intention leading to lifting the arm? Of a doer responsible for the intention and then the lifting of the arm? Of those stories being true?

Can I really find a connection there? Is there a connection between intention and lifting the arm? Can I see the causality? Is there just correlation, and then a story of causality?

Is there a connection between intention/lifting the arm and the doer? Is that too a story?

What happens when I explore this? What happens to that sense of a doer?

What happens when I explore this innocently, over and over? What happens in daily life?

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Welcoming the feeling of a doer

I am enjoying a simple exploration these days…

Notice a sense of a doer – in whatever form it takes here now. (Observer, thinker, chooser, explorer.)

Where is it in the body? What are the sensations?

Quietly meet the sensations. Welcome them as they are. Stay with it. Explore with a gentle curiosity. Friendly interest. An appreciation for these dynamics as they are, and the mystery behind it. The beauty of it.

Notice if it shifts. Then stay with that.

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Exploring a sense of doer

One of my practices lately has been to explore the sense of doer.

How does it appear when I shift into Big Mind or headlessness? I find that even the sense of doer happens within and as what I am. There is a release of an exclusive identification with a sense of doer and into the field that allows and is whatever is happening.

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Oneness v. selflessness: a world apart

At one point, we come to realize that oneness and selflessness are a world apart.

They may seem similar from a distance, but when we have a taste of each, we see how profoundly different they are from each other.

Oneness is a sense of being one with all, with God, life, oneself, others. There is a realization, either a seeing or feeling, of all being cut from the same fabric, maybe of all being God. A veil is lifted. The boundary of I and Other, placed within content, is softened or becomes more transparent. It is all one, one field, one substance, one life, one consciousness. Yet, there is still and I here that sees this, experiences this, is one with everything else. There is still a sense of center, of being a drop one with the ocean. The basic sense of I and Other is still present. There is still a doer around.

Realized selflessness is quite different. Here, the basic sense of I with an Other is lifted, seen through, seen as just coming from a thought. The whole world of content is a seamless field as before. It is all consciousness, as before. It is all God, as before. But now, there is no center. No hint of an “I” that has even a subtle “Other”. It is the ocean awakening to itself as the ocean, even as the drop is still living out its life. This human self and everything about it is living its own life, revealed as already and always free from a doer.

In one way, the two are not so different. They are both an awakening of the field to itself, tasting all as God.

In another way, they couldn’t be more different. One retains a basic sense of I with an Other. The other sees through it thoroughly. One has a center, the other does not.

And of course, the content of awareness doesn’t have to change for either to happen. There is still all the sensory inputs from this human self. Still thoughts, as before. Still pain and joy. Still this human self living its life, doing its things in the world. No (major) changes here are needed in either case. It all has to do with the lifting of the I-Other boundary, or rather, with a release of identification from it. A clear seeing of it as just being thought-created.

Two different things: letting go of identification, and changing the content

The dream about the Nazis was a reminder of something that has been coming up for me consciously as well: the need to differentiate between (a) surrendering of identification with the content of awareness, and (b) changing the content itself.

Until there is a full letting go of identification with content (realized selflessness), there will be a confusion and slight mingling of the two.

Our conscious attitude is to want, or aim, to release identification with content, which – when it really happens – allows any content to be exactly as it is. It happens independent on the particulars of the content.

But this conscious attitude is also exactly that which (apparently subtly) does change the content itself. This attitude itself is an identification with content, in this case with a wish to surrender identification with content (and wake up.) So it automatically changes content. In my case, it brings an (again apparently subtle) disowning of an active and engaged attitude.

It is all OK, and maybe even an inevitable part of the process, but also good to notice.

Disowning a sense of a doer

This is similar to, and another variation of, what sometimes happen when we begin to realize selflessness. We have a taste of it, or intuit it: there is no separate self here. Only the doing, and no doer. And before this is more fully and clearly realized, it may lead to a disowning of a sense of a doer.

The sense of a doer is pushed in the background, or maybe even the doing itself is reduced (we do less, so there is less sense of a doer!)

This comes from confusion, and can create a good deal of confusion as well, but when it happens, it may – again – be a necessary part of the process. It is one of the ways we explore, learn about, and gradually become more familiar with this terrain.

Eventually, as this is worked through and clarified, there is a differentiation between the two: there is the noticing and realization that there is no doer here, only the doing. And this doing is now free to include being passive and disengaged, or active and engaged, in the world. There can be lots of doing there, but still no doer.

Cardboard Cutout

I tend to use “downtime” such as lying in my bed before sleeping and after waking up, to explore the sense of “I”. I find whatever appears as a possible “I” – sensations, feelings, thoughts, sense of perceptual center, sense of awareness center and so on – and see how each one of these all are just a segment of what is. They all arise within space & awareness.

And in this, I also see how the sense of “I” is really (as they say) just an overlay of abstractions. It comes from a belief in a thought, it comes from a belief in the idea of “I” superimposed on something transitory happening in space.

A couple of nights ago, the image came up of (mentally) carrying around a cardboard cutout representing the idea of “I”, and then putting it on now one thing arising in space and then another thing arising in space, in a futile race trying to keep up with all the changes. That is really how silly it all seems.

I see how much energy it takes to place this cardboard cutout on one phenomena after another, and trying to believe in it to create a sense of solidity and “I”. doAnd how fragile and unnecessary it really is.

We make a doer out of the doing. A seer out of the seeing. And through this, make ourselves appear as something transitory happening in space – with all the anxiety and struggles that brings with it. While what is really here, in our immediate experience even, is just the ground which everything happens within and as.

There is that which can be taken as an “I” – for instance our human self and awareness – but no “I” inherent in it. There is seeing, but no seer. Doing and no doer. Thinking and no thinker.

It is very simple, when the veil of the belief in “I” is seen through as just a veil.