I have written about the Buddhist emptiness before and thought I would see what comes up for me now.


The world to me, appears as consciousness. All content of experience is similar to a night dream. It’s empty of substance. It’s ephemeral. (To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am, so the world inevitably appears as consciousness.)


Then, there is a noticing that comes from comparing images of what’s here to images of what was or could be. This is a mental comparison. Here, I notice that this content of experience is empty of a separate self. This field of experience happens within and as what I am. Anything that could be taken as a self – this human self and ideas of being a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on – all happens within and as what I am. All of it comes and goes. None of it is a fundamental self. The content of experience is empty of a fundamental self.


There is another noticing that could be called emptiness. The world is inherently free of what my ideas tell me about it. It’s not touched by it. It cannot be captured by it. It’s different from and more than any idea I have about it, and also less.

Of course, in a conventional sense, a thought can be more or less accurate, and it’s important to use the more accurate ideas as a guide. Still, a thought cannot capture any final, full, or absolute truth. They are questions about the world.


This is just what comes up for me from that one word. It’s a naive approach and likely has little to do with how Buddhist teachings and teachers see emptiness. (Naive is not bad, it helps me notice what’s here for me instead of what “should” be according to some ideas about it.)

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Is this how awakening is?

Not really, but there is a grain of truth in it.

Awakening shifts our relationships with identities – as a human, a self, a man or woman, a victim, a doer, an observer, and so on. It helps us see that these are roles our human self sometimes plays. It’s not what we more fundamentally are. It helps us release, soften, or at least question our identification with all of these identities. We find ourselves as what we more fundamentally are, which is what all of this and everything else in our world happens within and as.

We realize we are inherently empty of any identification, which is what allows the appearance of any identification, and it allows us to take on and play roles for a while.

We are fundamentally nothing full of everything, full of the whole world, sometimes full of this particular human self.

In that way, we are inherently nothing. Although that realization can be a bit shocking to our human self and our habitual patterns, it doesn’t necessarily look like the cartoon above…! In my case, it was immensely familiar. It was like coming home. It was revealed as all I had ever known, without realizing it. My human self and psyche had reactions to it, and it was somewhat disorienting to my psyche, but not like in that cartoon.

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Being capacity for the world

I find I am fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me.


I am fundamentally what allows any and all content in this field of experience.

This capacity is everywhere in my experience. It’s as if it’s inherent in all experience. It’s as if it forms itself into any experience.

It’s as if it makes itself into consciousness itself, which in turn makes itself into any experience.


There isn’t much to say about it. It’s just something to notice, and not even notice but kind of touching on noticing since this is not directly content of experience.

It’s always here. Sometimes, it comes to the foreground of attention. Sometimes, it’s more in the background while attention is on something else. (And even then, it’s kind of noticed.)

Sometimes, it’s even more in the foreground and everything else goes into the background. In my case, it happens during some shifts in meditation. And it also happens when there is consciousness through dreamless sleep.


Words come short in describing it, as words come short in describing anything. (Not because it’s so unusual or mysterious or unfamiliar, but because of the nature of thoughts. Thoughts can only point to something, they cannot capture it.)

When I look for words here and now, I can say it’s absolute stillness, a kind of absolute stillness that’s in and takes the form of everything.


It’s not special. I assume any “conscious being”, to themselves, are consciousness, and also are capacity in this way. It’s likely universal. It’s difficult to see that it can be any other way.

Here, it’s been consciously noticed for about 37 years so this human self is used to it. It’s familiar to this human self. That too makes it not so much to talk about.


Is it important? It’s important since there would be no experience without it. It’s what allows any experience. It’s what takes the form of any experience. It’s even what seems to allow and take the form of consciousness itself. It’s kind of a scent that permeates everything.

Is it important to notice it? Or for it to kind of notice itself? Apparently not since it doesn’t seem to be something most consciousnesses focus much on. If it was important to life and existence, it would be noticed a lot more. It seems that it’s perfectly fine for it to be in the background and not consciously noticed or recognized so much.

For this consciousness, it’s fun and interesting to notice, and here too, it’s very rarely talked about. Very occasionally, there may be some words written to reflect it, and I don’t think I have talked to anyone about it unless briefly when it’s clear we both recognize it, as a kind of nod.


Finding myself as most fundamentally capacity also means I am not most fundamentally human. That’s fine. My human layer is one of many layers, and I am most fundamentally capacity for all of it. I am what forms itself into all of it.

Is this what Buddhists call emptiness? It may be. I see how the label could fit, but I prefer the word capacity which I think Douglas Harding used. It fits a bit more.

I used “as if” and “kind of” phrases above. I am sure I could find clearer ways of saying it, but it also works. It shows that the words here are just pointers and approximations. They are trying to reflect something that’s here in immediacy but is also a bit elusive.

The image was created by me and Midjourney.

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Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

This is a well-known phrase from the Heart Sutra.

At one level, it doesn’t really make sense to analyze it or even put words on it. It’s just how it is in direct perception. Words move away from the simplicity of direct noticing.

And if I were to try to put it into words, I could say…

What I am allows this content of experience that’s here, and it forms itself into the content of experience that’s here. It forms itself into the visuals of this computer, the table, the room and so on, the sounds, the smell and taste, and whatever happens within the sense fields.

The consciousness I am allows any and all experience, which our mental field can call “empty”. It’s inherently empty of any form, so it can take any form.

And it forms itself into the content of experience that’s here, whatever it is.

Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

Form is empty. It’s made up of the consciousness I am which is inherently empty of any particular form.

Emptiness is form. The consciousness I am forms itself into the content of experience that’s here.

The direct noticing is very simple. It’s beyond simple. And whenever it’s reflected in our mental field and made into words, it seems far more complicated and exotic than it really is.

There are also other ways to talk about it. For instance, any sense of “I” or “me” is not what I more fundamentally am. Yes, it’s here. The mental representation of an I or me helps this human self orient and function in the world. And it’s not what’s more fundamentally here. The consciousness I am is metaphorically empty of a fundamental I or me. It’s what allows the experience of it, and the experience of anything at all. It’s what allows the sense of I or me – in whatever forms it takes – to come and go. It’s what temporarily forms itself into innumerable versions of images of an I or me.

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Form is emptiness, emptiness is form

This fits my direct experience.

To me, it’s as if the world is a dream. It happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as the consciousness I am.

Just like a dream is without substance and solidity, the world to me seems without substance and solidity. It’s empty of substance and solidity.

Similarly, I find that what I am allows any content of experience. I am fundamentally empty of being anything, which allows the experience of everything.

Said another way:

The consciousness I am is empty. It’s fundamentally empty of form which means it can take on any and all forms. And it’s empty in the way night dreams are empty, without inherent substance.

And the consciousness I am is form, in that it takes on the forms of experience that’s here.

The quote “form is emptiness and emptiness is form” is a direct reflection of what I notice.


At one level, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works pretty well.

And in my own first-person experience, I find that I more fundamentally am something else.

I find I am capacity for the world. I am capacity for anything within my field of experience.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

This also matches what I find logically.

If I “have” consciousness, it means that I have to BE consciousness. And if I have an experience it has to happen within consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am.

Waking life, night dreams, and any state and experience happens within and as the consciousness I am.


Here, the statement reflects a direct and immediate noticing.

As consciousness, I am empty. I am inherently empty of anything. I am free to allow any and all experiences to come and go. It’s my nature. It’s inevitable.

As consciousness, I am also what forms itself into any and all experience. The consciousness I am forms itself into my experience of the world, as it appears here and now.

As consciousness, I am capacity (emptiness) and I am the field of experience (form) as it is here and now.

So form is emptiness. And emptiness is form.


This is how it always and already is.

So why does it sometimes appear differently?

When the oneness we are takes itself as (most fundamentally) an object in the world, then it seems that we are an object in a world full of objects.

And from here, the statement – form is emptiness and emptiness is form – doesn’t make much sense.

It seems abstract. Philosophical. Puzzling. A paradox. Nonsensical.

And when the oneness we are notices itself, the statement is just a direct reporting of what we notice.


The oneness we are can “get” this in different ways.

We can see it. We can get it more viscerally.

Our metaphorical “center of gravity” can be mostly in separation consciousness or shift into oneness. (This is what we viscerally take ourselves to be.)

We can get it more or less thoroughly. We may get it in a general and “global” way, and we can also get it when it comes to specific states and content of experience, and especially that which our personality habitually doesn’t like.


In my mid-teens, there was a oneness shift that happened “out of the blue” and this (form=emptiness) was something I directly noticed. I had no familiarity with Buddhism or spirituality in general, so when I tried to write about it in my journal, I used different words.

All, without exception, is God. Even a sense of being this human self is God, locally and temporarily, creating that experience for itself.

All is God, all is God’s consciousness. All is consciousness.

And if I had known about the empty/form language, I would perhaps have written:

Consciousness is inherently empty, and this emptiness allows it to take any and all forms.

And all the forms of consciousness, all experiences and the whole world, is inherently empty.

It’s all form and emptiness, just like a night dream.

It took several years before I found anyone who seemed to have had the same shift that turned everything upside-down and inside-out. The first time was reading a book of sermons by Meister Eckhart at the main library in Oslo.

Some while after that, in my late teens or early twenties, I got into Buddhism and heard this elegant reporting of direct noticing: form is emptiness and emptiness is form.

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Kurt Vonnegut: Everything is nothing with a twist

Everything is nothing with a twist

– Kurt Vonnegut 

This is a surprisingly accurate pointer, especially when it’s specified a bit. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what my passport tells me and how others see me, and I need to be able to play that particular role in order to function in the world. 

And when I look in my first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. 

Said another way, I find myself as consciousness. I am the consciousness the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the consciousness this human self and anything else happens within and as. 

All that is just to say that I am nothingness that takes the form of any and all experiences. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist. 

It’s not a metaphor. It’s not poetry. It’s not even science. It’s direct noticing. 

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The no-thing that allows all things

What is our more fundamental nature?

When I look for myself, I find that one aspect of my nature is capacity.


My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. Capacity for any and all of my experiences – of this human self, the world, and anything else. 

This capacity is nothing in itself which makes it possible for it to allow anything. 

Somehow, I am that capacity. We can say that it allows any experience. Takes the form of any experience. And can be found within any experience.


It’s timeless allowing time. This timelessness is here whether or not there is an experience of time. It’s what any experience of time happens within and as. And it’s present even when there is an experience of time.

It’s spaceless allowing space. This spacelessness is here whether or not there is an experience of space. It’s what any experience of space happens within and as. And it’s present even when there is an experience of space.

It’s stillness allowing conventional stillness and movement. This stillness is here whether or not there is an experience of conventional movement and stillness. And it’s present even when there is an experience of conventional movement and silence.

It’s absence of sound allowing conventional silence and sound. It’s the stillness that’s here whether or not there is conventional sound and silence. And it’s present even when there is an experience of conventional sound and silence.


We can go through the same with any content of experience.

My nature is the absence of color that allows color, forms itself into color, and is within any experience of color. And the same with shapes, sensations, thoughts, trees, people, the world, the universe.


When I explore my nature, I find it can be talked about in other ways too, using words like awakeness, oneness, even love, and that’s for other articles.


When I try to talk about this with words, it easily sounds convoluted and mysterious. Partly because I may not find the simplest and most immediate way to express it, and partly because of the nature of language.

And when I notice it, it’s simple, immediate, and obvious. It’s the most familiar to me. It’s always been here whether it’s been noticed or not.

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Seeing beautiful things or nothing

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.

– Camille Pissarro

After the initial awakening shift, I saw immense beauty everywhere. That was the main reason I got into art and photography, to see if I could capture the beauty I could see everywhere. At the time, the immensity of the beauty was almost painful, and these days it’s much more quiet.

There is an interesting turnaround to this quote.

Blessed are those who see nothing in (beautiful or not) things in (humble or not) places.

I notice myself as nothing, as awake nothing full of the world as it appears to me, and here, I notice all as nothing. Blessed are those who see nothing in anything, because it means they notice their true nature and all as having that same true nature.

When I write this, I am aware it can sound abstract, mysterious, or a fantasy. In reality, it’s what we all are in our own first person experience, if we notice. It’s already more familiar to us than we know.

I can find some truth in other turnarounds as well, for instance…

Cursed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.

Yes, if I assume they should see it, or if I take it to mean I am alone and isolated.

What does the Buddhist emptiness mean?

When they talk about emptiness in Buddhism, what do they refer to?

I am not really sure, but here is what comes for me:

In my immediate experience, it’s as if all experiences are “empty” like a dream. It’s all happening within and as consciousness. There is the appearance of substantiality, and this is created by the mind (by combining thoughts with sensations).

Since everything to me happens within and as what I am, everything – including this human self – is empty of any separate self. There is no real separation anywhere, and no separate selves.

I also find that any thought is empty of any final or absolute truth. Thoughts have validity in different ways, some are more useful than others in certain situations, and some may even be closer to reality in a certain way, but they cannot reflect any final truth.

What is Buddhist emptiness?

I thought I would briefly revisit this topic.

What is the Buddhist emptiness? I am not exactly sure what they refer to, and it probably varies a bit with tradition, teacher, and context.

Here are a few things that come up for me:

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I find I am no-thing full of the world as it appears to me. My true nature is open for the world. It’s empty allowing all these experiences as they are. My field of experiences happens within and as this awake no-thing.

When I find myself as capacity for the world, I find that all my experiences happen within and as what I am. To me, the world is one. Any ideas of separation and distinctions come from an overlay of thought. In my own experience, I am oneness and empty of any separate self.

This human self is still here, in my field of experience, but it’s not what I ultimately am. I am not any particular thing within this field, including any ideas of an “I” or “me” or “observer” or “consciousness” or “awake” or “emptiness”.

When I notice this, I also find that my experiences are inherently empty of substance. They happen within and as what I am. Just like a dream, my waking experiences happen within and as consciousness. (And it still hurts when I stub my toe.)

When I investigate my thoughts, I find they don’t and cannot hold any absolute or final truth. They are empty of any final or absolute truth. Reality is its own truth, and thoughts can only imperfectly point to it.

I am sure there are more ways to talk about emptiness in this context, but these seem some of the main ones.

Adyashanti: emptiness is… the bottom of separateness falling out

The funny thing about emptiness is that it’s not about an inner experience of being nothing, but it’s the bottom of separateness falling out. When you investigate one thing, you find everything else.

— Adyashanti

This is a very beautiful way to express it, and it clearly comes from lived experience.

As with some other words, I hardly ever use the word “emptiness” unless I am talking about specifically that words.

There are a few things in awakening that the word emptiness can be used to refer to.

One is capacity. We are capacity for the world as it appears to us. For this human self, the wider world, and any content of experience. Said another way, we are emptiness full of the world as it appears to us.

It’s not abstract or a metaphor. It does seem like capacity, or void, or “emptiness” that’s full of all content of experience. All experience happens within and as this capacity or void.

Another is empty of substance. When all is recognized as this awakeness or capacity, it all seems empty of substance. Since the world as it appears to us happens within and as consciousness, it doesn’t have more substance than consciousness. Even the most physical is substanceless although it still behaves as matter the way we conventionally see it. If I stub my toe, it still hurts, even if the toe, what I stubbed it against, and the pain all happens within and as consciousness.

And yet another is empty of separateness. This is what Adya refers to. All content of experience happens within and as what we are. It happens as a seamless whole that’s empty of separateness and any final I anywhere.

There may be the appearance of things and beings having an I but that’s a provisional I and is created from a mental field overlay. It’s all happening within and as what we are. It’s all happening within and as capacity for it all. It’s all empty of separateness and any real I.

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Adyashanti: deep in the belly [emptiness] is centered and grounded 

We bring awareness down into the belly where we have our deepest fears and also an access to courageous stability.

Down in the gut, deep in the belly, emptiness is experienced with a greater kind of density and weight. Up in awareness it is spacious and open. Deep in the belly it is centered and grounded.

It is the domain from which courage arises, which will be important when it comes to embodying and expressing what we have realized. Let your body experience that deep groundedness and courage.

– Adyashanti, The Way of Liberating Insight

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Adyashanti: Whatever the image of yourself, it’s a mask


Whatever the image of yourself,
it’s a mask and it’s hiding

– Adyashanti, My Secret is Silence

Whatever image we have of ourselves, it’s a mask. It’s imagined in the sense that our image of ourselves is made up of mental images and words associated with sensations. The sensations lends a sense of solidity and reality to the imaginations, and the imagination lends a sense of meaning to the sensations. It’s a mask since it’s not what we really are.

And it’s hiding emptiness. What we really are is this awareness (or consciousness) that our whole experience is happening within and as. Our experience is awareness (consciousness) itself.

What we are is empty of solidity and materiality. Any sense of solidity or materiality is created by the mind through associating stories with sensations which makes the stories appear solid.

It’s also empty of any identities or stories that are real in any final or absolute sense. What they point to are only real in a very limited and conventional sense.

There is a lot more to say about this. For instance, sensations appear solid and substantial only because the mind has stories about them which makes them appear solid and substantial. And these stories about the substantiality of sensations appear real and solid because these too are associated with certain sensations.

When it comes to the emptiness of identities and stories about ourselves, it’s similar. These too appear solid and real to the mind only because they are associated with sensations. Without sensations lending them a sense of solidity and substance, they would just be recognized as imaginaitons. They may be helpful in a limited and practical sense, helping us to orient and function in the world. But they don’t have meaning or substance beyond that.

This may seem quite naive and simplistic. I realize that. But it’s possible and within the grasp of most people to investigate this for themselves. Working with a faciliator of the Living Inquries, or learning how to apply the Living Inquries for ourselves (or the Buddhist inquiries the LIs are based on), is one way. It usually doesn’t take that much to see this for ourselves, although it does take more work before it is more present in our experience in daily life.

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Emptiness feeling

Many experience a feeling of emptiness. I remember it especially from my late teens and early twenties, and I still have feelings of lack come up now and then (which is a type of emptiness).

I would guess it comes from some sort of neglect early on in life. And most of us have experienced that at some point in time, in one or more areas of life. We didn’t get our needs met. Even if our parents were caring and healthy, we may still have experienced a sense of neglect at some point.

Parts of us feel neglected because they were, usually by others when we were small and felt dependent on them. And these parts may still feel neglected because we continue to neglect them. We try to distract ourselves from them when they come up, because they feel uncomfortable, and we do so through work, entertainment, analysis, food, love, sex, and so on. We continue the pattern of neglect, which continues the sense of lack, or feeling of emptiness.

There are a few different things we can do when the emptiness feeling is here.

We can meet our needs, in an ordinary and conventional way. If I feel alone, I can seek company. If I feel unloved, I can seek out someone who loves me. If I feel un-nurtured, I can do things that nurture me. This is very natural, and very sensible.

Another is to reverse our tendency to neglect this neglected part of us. I can meet it. Allow it. Notice it’s already allowed. Rest with it. See its innocence. See that it comes from love. See it’s worried love. Find love for it.

I can also do explore it through inquiry. While resting with it, I may notice sensations as sensations, the images connected with it as images, and the words connected with it as words. I can ask simple questions about these. For instance, does the sensation really mean what images or words says it means?

 If I only do the first, the neediness behind it may create trouble. If I only do the second or third, I am neglecting some very basic human needs. If I do the second without the third, I may continue to perceive the emptiness and lack as real, solid and true.


When I wake up in the morning, I often experience a profound sense of emptiness. It’s been that way for the last few years.

It’s not emptiness in the Buddhist sense. The Buddhist emptiness can be taken as absence of a real separate self inherent in reality, or absence of experience of being a separate self. (Absence of identification as a self – or with images or words which tends to create identification as a self.)

It’s not emptiness in an ordinary psychological sense, meaning an unfortunate sense of lack of meaning or richness in ones life.

It’s more of an “energetic” emptiness. An absence of movement. A deep silence and stillness. It scares my mind still, since it projects it into my human self and the future. It creates images of an inability of this human self to function in the world, and complete lack of initiative. I often take time to experience the emptiness, and sometimes meeting and feeling the fear. Thanking it for protecting me. Thanking it for it’s love. Finding love for it, as it is. As soon as I get up and start doing things, this sense of emptiness goes into the background. (Although I can still find it, even now.) As soon as I can find genuine love for this emptiness and the fear that comes up in response to it, something may shift. I suspect I may notice everything as this stillness more and throughout the day, and also that what’s noticing is the stillness itself.

Without knowing, I suspect that the Buddhist emptiness may refer to two things. One is the absence of a real separate self anywhere, and the realization of this. Another is the deep stillness which comes into the foreground as all there is. The stillness recognizing itself as all there is. (This may be what’s happening in the mornings these days.)

Nothing will come from nothing


I mean, what you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing. 
You’re going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing! 
Always look on the bright side of life! 
Nothing will come from nothing. You know what they say?
– From Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Life of Brian 

There are two ways of looking at this…

First, within (the story of) time. There was a time when none of this was here. No me, none of the ones I know, no humans, no living planet, no solar system, no galaxy, no universe as we know it. And there will be such a time again, so nothing is gained and nothing is lost. 

Then, here now. It all happens as the play of awakeness. Insubstantial. Ephemeral. No traces. 

The first one happens within stories, wihtin the creations and play of the mental field. The second can be an immediate noticing and realization outside of the mental field. (Although guided by and later reflected in/expressed through the mental field.) 

In both cases, it can be sad initially. There is a loss of the story of something happening. 

But then it is freeing. Since all of this will be gone, why not act in ways that align with what is really important to me? Why not follow my heart? And since it is all the play of awakeness itself, why not do the same? 

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Nothing ever happens

I mean, what you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing. 
You’re going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing! 
Always look on the bright side of life! 
Nothing will come from nothing. You know what they say?
– Eric Idle’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Life of Brian 

A common phrase among teachers is that nothing ever happens

It may seem like an absurd statement. Something clearly is happening. And when we are identified with mental field creations, it even seems quite substantial and real. 

So where does that statement come from? 

It comes from what happens when the volume of emptiness is turned up and it is more in the foreground. Here, it is obvious that nothing ever happens. It is all no-thing appearing as something, yet never becoming anything else than no-thing. It is all the play of awakeness itself. It is appearance without substance. 

And any of us can explore it here now, through the sense fields. I can first look at the mental field. What is it made up of? Does it have substance? Are there any traces of what just left, apart from another story about it? Is it awakeness itself? 

When I get a taste of this in the mental field, I can explore the same in the other sense fields. What is sensation made up of? Does it have substance? Are there any traces of what just left? Is it separate or different from awakeness itself? 

And what do I find when I explore sound? Taste? Smell? Sight? Is each one different from the mental field in these ways? In being insubstantial? Having no trace of what left? Being awakeness itself?  

(When doing this, it is best to come from a more open-ended place of receptivity, curiosity and don’t know. These statements are no more than pointers, suggestions, questions to explore in own experience. And what is found may well be different from this, even if it is just a refinement or clarification… because it can be realized and expressed more clearly and simply than this.)  

At the same time, something does happen. Something does happen in all of these sense fields. There are all sorts of appearances. When the mental field overlay is identified with and taken as true, it all seems very substantial and real. And when the mental field overlay is recognized as just a mental field overlay, it is all revealed as insubstantial, ephemeral, as no thing appearing as something. As the play of awakeness itself. 

As Eric Idle so elegantly pointed out, nothing will come of nothing. 

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As insubstantial as a thought

Emptiness – in this case refering to insubstantiality – can be explored through the sense fields…

When I explore the mental field, I notice images, verbal thought, and in general mimicking of each of the other sense fields. (Sensations, sound, smell, taste, sight.) What is a thought made up of? How long does it last? Where does it come from? Where does it go? I may notice that thoughts are insubstantial and ephemeral. They appear, quite literally, as no thing appearing as something. They are similar to a hologram: form without substance.

And as I explore appearances in each of the other sense fields, I can ask myself the same questions. What is it made of? Where does it come from? Where does it go? How long does it last? Again, I may find that whatever appears in each of the sense fields appears insubstantial and ephemeral. As no thing appearing as something.

I can then explore the gestalts created from an overlay of the mental field on top of the other fields. I can close my eyes and visualize my body and the room I am in, then open the eyes and notice that the mental field overlay is still there even with my eyes open. Or I may notice an image coming up as an overlay of sound, with a suggestion of what created that sound. Or memories from tastes and smells. Or a sense of a separate I, an I with an Other, a center with periphery, a doer, observer, overlaid on sensations in the head area.

And here too, I can notice that in immediate experience it is insubstantial and ephemeral. A no thing appearing as something.

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Both sides of the street?

Sometimes, someone will talk about both sides of the street and the importance of including both. 

I imagine that they are talking about emptiness and form. Or, said another way, who (our human self) and what (that which experience happens within and as) we are. 

So what do I find if I explore this for myself? 

First, form and emptiness are always here, so that part is easy. And in daily life, my human self and what I am is here too. (I am not going into this much here.) 

When I explore it through the sense fields, I find that what happens in each (and as gestalts) is awakeness itself appearing as form. Whatever happens is empty-awake-form. Empty as in insubstantial, nothing appearing as something. Already awake. Appearing temporarily as form. 

Also, before and within awakening it is possible to temporarily emphasize one, the other, neither or both, and these are all ways God manifests, experiences and explores itself. 

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Buddhist four phase map of awakening

[…] After a while, and it can vary for different people, one will have gone through many cycles—with what will appear to be an underlying cycle beneath these surface cycles. When the underlying cycle comes to completion, the surface cycles and deeper cycle converge with a fruition, and there is a dramatic shift in perception where one begins to see what is meant by emptiness, now in real-time. This shift, which is the 3rd stage of enlightenment, has to do with seeing the empty, selfless nature of reality upon mere reflection. Where once emptiness was contained in the discontinuity experience at the end of an insight cycle, it now permeates all of experience. It comes obvious, for those of 3rd path, what is meant by the lines from the Heart Sutra, “form is emptiness.”

The time between 3rd path and 4th path tends to be the longest yet. Ingram breaks 3rd path into early and mature phases. In the early phase one is still looking for the cycles to bring further progress, whereas in the mature phase emptiness is so ordinary and integrated into one’s experience that the inquiry turns away from the cycles and toward the last subtle hints of duality, which remain.

Finally, there is another radical shift in perspective, in which the sense of a separate center-point, observer, or doer is completely undone. Apparently this realization can occur and then fade for some time, until finally the shift is permanent (i.e. nothing can interrupt this centerless perspective). This is the opening of the “wisdom eye”, the attainment of arhantship, and as Ingram says is the end of insight path: “For the arahat who has kept the thing open, there is nothing more to be gained on the ultimate front from insight practices, as ‘done is what is to be done’.” It’s also interesting to note that it’s difficult to predict how long it will take from 3rd to 4th path. It tends to be the longest path, though I have so little data (even anecdotal) that it’s really hard to say. […]

A great overview from Vince of a four-phase model of awakening, drawn from Daniel Ingram’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, in turn drawn from traditional Buddhist teachings.

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Emptiness of…

Four ways we can recognize emptiness…

I can recognize emptiness of the world and not of myself. I can recognize emptiness of myself and not the world. I can recognize neither. Or I can recognize both.

This comes up since my wife now seem to realize (or at least taste) the emptiness of self but not of the world. And for me, it is reverse. I clearly realize emptiness of the world but still get caught up in some stories and emotional attachments. (Although when I look, it is easy to notice the emptiness of those as well.)

Of course, the two are not only not separate, they are really the same in several ways. The world and (my human) self both arise as content of experience. And if the emptiness of world/self is not clearly recognized, it just means that one or more stories are still taken as true.

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Nowhere to lay his head

Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” – Luke 9:58

Again, this can be understood in several ways.

It can be taken literally. Jesus was a wanderer with no home to call his own. He gave up his family, career, house and everything else to give his life to God and teaching.

Also, as human beings none of us have a place to lay our head. All is in flux. There is no solid ground anywhere. Everything is a guest – this body, the house we live in, this planet, this universe.

Finally, when we recognize the emptiness of everything, there is clearly nowhere to lay ones head. All is awareness itself. All is ephemeral. Insubstantial. Similar to a holograph where there is form but no substance. There is quite literally nowhere to lay ones head, and there is no head to lay anywhere.

The experience of this may be of the bottom falling out of everything. The sense of “ground” that comes from taking stories are real and substantial, and what they refer to as real and substantial, falls away. What is left is all as awareness itself. No-thing appearing as something, yet without ever being anything but no-thing. A brilliant emptiness everything arises as. The ground falls away, revealing all as Ground. The Ground of awareness, of no-thing appearing as something.

It may sound strange and far removed from how most people experience existence. But it is really there in all of our experience all the time. It is just temporarily covered up by taking stories as substantial and real.

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Deep time & Big Mind

I have been reminded of deep time this last week, from attending the archeology film festival, reading an article about the life and death of the solar system, to watching some snippets from Cosmos online. It is a revisiting of an interest I have had since childhood in these themes which are, in some ways, next door to Big Mind.

Deep time, the long now, infinite causes and effects, evolutionary spirituality, the universe story, the epic of evolution, the great story… all of these are in many ways one step away from Big Mind, they can lead us into it from the form and emptiness sides.

From the form side, contemplating the evolution of the universe and our place in it, almost requires shifting into Big Mind to hold it all… And from the emptiness side, realizing the utter impermanence of it all is an invitation to a shift into emptiness, the void, which is what is left when everything else is gone.

To really grasp for instance the universe story requires a shift into Big Mind, and to really grasp the impermanence of it all requires finding ourselves as the void. At least to some extent. It requires dipping into it, tasting it. And is an invitation to explore it further.

I am actually surprised not more Buddhist teachers use the universe story (and deep time, the long now, etc.) in that way… as a nudge, an invitation into Big Mind and finding ourselves as the void. It seems like a perfect teaching vehicle.

I would have jumped on it right away if I was in their position, and I guess many will in the future… maybe through a combination of multimedia and experiential activities such as the practices to reconnect and the Big Mind process.

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Aspects of emptiness

Integral Options Cafe’s speedlinking for yesterday linked to a post on emptiness. Before I read it, here is what comes up for me on the topic.

Emptiness (shunyata) can be used in several different, although relatively closely related, ways…

  • As the Ground, the void everything arises from, within, and as.
  • As awake emptiness and form, Big Mind… which is emptiness dancing as form
  • As what is being inherently empty of any separate self, anywhere. It is just one field of awake emptiness and form, absent of any separate self… there is doing, but no doer.
    1. It is empty of separate self because it is emptiness dancing. (The void is just the void, no separate self there, not even when form is included).
    2. And it is empty of any separate self even within form. The world of form is a seamless whole. Everything happening has infinite causes and infinite effects. It is the local manifestations of the movements of the whole.
  • And finally, as absent of beliefs. Empty of believing in the stories of I and a particular identity. Empty of taking relative truths (stories, thoughts, maps, frameworks) as absolute.

I am sure there are other forms of emptiness here, but these seem to be the main ones.

And the funny thing is that these are not intellectual fabrications. It is not something thought out (although it can be thought out, and it can make sense, to some extent, within the realm of thought).

It not only comes from what is alive in immediate experience, but what is alive in immediate experience for all of us… right here now. If we look, investigate for ourselves… using pointers from the Big Mind process, headless experiments, or other forms of inquiry.

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Separate self

Some of the ways there is, and is not, a separate self…

Finding ourselves as emptiness, there is an absence of a separate self… and anything else for that matter. The void is void.

Finding ourselves as awake emptiness and form, and form as no other than awake emptiness itself, there is also an absence of a separate self. There is just one field of awake emptiness and form, with no more or less identification with any part of it. This human self senses, thinks, acts in the world, but there is only the doing and no doer there. It all happens on its own, as part of the field.

Within form, there is also no separate self. There is just a seamless field of form, with infinite causes and infinite effects to anything happening locally… including anything happening to, within and as this particular human self.

And finally, within form, there is a separate self. This human self exists within the world of form. It is a whole as well as a part of a much larger whole. It is a holon in a holarchy. And in that sense, there is a separate self, or rather a separate individual living, relating and behaving in the world.

It is just that this separate self is not really separate from the wider world of form, nor is there a local doer there, nor is it anything else than emptiness itself.

All together, there is emptiness awake to itself and the inherent absence of a separate self in anything. There is the seamless whole of the world of form, with everything local having infinite causes and effects. And there is also the differentiation of this human individual from the wider world, allowing it to function in the world with a particular identity (an identity used for differentiation only, seen as only a relative, utilitarian, limited and temporary, truth.)

Inherent neutrality

We can explore the inherent neutrality of anything happening from its emptiness and its form sides.

From the emptiness side, it is emptiness dancing. It is awake emptiness itself taking various forms, in an unending stream. There is nothing inherently good or bad, or desirable or undesirable, in it. Just the play of the void.

From the form side, we can explore the many stories about it and their reversals and find the grain of truth in each of them. This reveals that they are all only relative truths. In a sense, they all cancel each other out, revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

Together, there is a more thorough exploration of the inherent neutrality of anything happening, gradually allowing us to release identification with more and more stories, including our core ones. Which, over time, allows Ground to start noticing itself, more and more, in our daily lives.

A tough one III: the dark nights of the soul and senses

There are many forms of dark nights… In a more technical sense, there are two of them, and in a loose – daily – sense, lots of them.

The two formal ones are…

  • The dark night of the senses, which is an initial stripping away of beliefs and identities, enough to notice all as God, to notice that everything is a field of awakeness, of consciousness, even of awake emptiness. It can be painful, maybe an experience of being pulled apart, dismembered, even of dying. What dies is really only beliefs and identities, but when we are identified with these, when we take ourselves as that, the experience is of being dismembered and dying. For me, this was a very intense time, but there were lots of rewards in the middle of it as well. It was painful, but also immensely blissful.
  • The dark night of the soul, which is similar but goes more to our core beliefs and identities, and specifically the one of a separate self, of someone that this is all happening to. Here, any and all beliefs are stripped away, and it often happens through a profound disillusionment. Everything that we found comfort in is stripped away, taken away from us, and none of our practices have meaning or even work anymore. Nothing is left. God is gone. Any sense of accomplishment is gone. Any ideas of being special, or chosen, are gone. There is no place to anchor any of those beliefs anymore. They get stripped away, whether we want or not, and most often we desperately cling to them as long as we can, making the torment even stronger for ourselves.

Having cleared out some space through the dark night of the senses, the soul realm is revealed. Bliss, clarity, alive presence, all as God, inspiration, luminosity, and so on.

And having cleared out even more, including the sense of a separate self, through the dark night of the soul, the emptiness is revealed in its completeness. When I am gone, emptiness is revealed, as the Ground of it all… of awakeness itself, of the soul level, of mind, of form. It is all emptiness dancing, already and always absent of any trace of any separate self anywhere.

Our core belief, and core identity, of a separate self is greatly diminished through the dark night of the senses, and that is exactly what allows the soul realm to be noticed and come more into the foreground. Here, there can be a sense of no separation, of all – absolutely all – as God, as divine, as consciousness, as the divine mind, there can even be a sense of oneness, but there is still a trace of a sense of a separate self here. And this serves as an anchor for a sense of being special, privileged, of having accomplished something, of being chosen.

The dark night of the soul takes care of that. Every reason for feeling special, privileged, of having accomplished something, of being chosen, is taken away. And none of the practices or tools that at one point work so easily and so well, have any use anymore. They are all broken.

Where the dark night of the senses is more of a dismemberment and a sense of dying as a human being, the dark night of the soul is a deep existential falling away… my most core identity of being something at all, separate from anything else, is wrestled away… leaving just emptiness. No angels. No luminosity. No bliss. Nothing special. Just emptiness. The emptiness that allows, and is, the dance of everything.

The dark night of the senses leads into an amazing awakening, with lots of bells and whistles… God in all its glory. Alive luminosity. Guidance. Inner God, and all as God. Amazing insights. Amazing abilities to do things in the world. Amazing energies.

The dark night of the soul leads into nothing at all. At the threshold of it, it appears thoroughly boring, neutral, like nothing. And inside of it, there is the Ground of all, that which allows the dance of everything. It is nothing special. Just what is, here and now, always.

The void that never changes, and allows all change. The no-thing that allows all things. The absence of everything which allows the fullness of everything. The groundless ground, which already and always allows every fruit.

The bottom falls out of everything. Leaving only the dance of emptiness, with no separate I anywhere.

Hierarchy of no-thing and things

This is another thing that keeps coming up for me, especially as I am exploring the soul level more actively these days…

  • Ultimately, there is void. Emptiness. Nothingness. And awakeness and form all show up from, within, and as this emptiness. For a while, it sounds abstract, but then becomes a living reality (even obvious).
  • Then, there is awakeness, as nothing other than emptiness itself. It is awake emptiness. In itself, this awakeness takes the form of pure seeing, pure awareness, pure witness.
  • Then, the soul level, alive presence, which can be filtered in innumerable ways… as alive luminosity, alive presence in the heart area (indwelling god), fertile darkness, luminous blackness, and so on. All of these too arise as emptiness, void, as emptiness dancing. The void is right there in it, and they can exist only because of and as this void.
  • Finally, the world of form as we typically think of it. All the contents of awareness, from physical objects to energies to sensations to thoughts. These come and go and live their own life, and these too are no other than emptiness. Their ground and essence is the void.

More about each

So we have the void, which is the ground of all there is. It is the one thing that does not come and go, because it is no thing. It is just pure emptiness. It is what allows anything else to be, to come and go.

Then, awakeness… timeless, spaceless. This too, a no-thing.

Then, the soul level… also timeless and spaceless… Sometimes as a field without center and any particular location, but also sometimes with a particular location, as the indwelling god. The soul level comes and goes in different ways, and especially in our awareness. We may notice it, or not. It is present, or not, to us. And it seems that it can be present or not, in different ways, beyond that as well.

Finally, the form level… obviously in time and space, and actually that which creates any experience of time and space. Very much coming and going, as a stream of form.

And all of it arises as emptiness, as insubstantial, transparent, as awake emptiness itself.


Needless to say, what we take ourselves to be within all of this hugely influences our experience.

  • If my center of identification is in the world of form, I am at the mercy of the world of form.
  • If my center of gravity is in the soul level, I find myself as the fullness here, deeply nurtured, guided, and at home. (Breema)
  • If my center of gravity is in the awakeness, I am the witness, the seeing of it all, detached yet also (apparently) free from the comings and goings of everything else. (Sitting practice)
  • If the center of gravity is in emptiness, then there is only the Ground allowing all of it to exist and come and go on its own… allowing awakeness, the infinite realms of soul, and the infinite richness of the world of form. (Headless experiments)

As form, I am at a particular location and the rest of the world is out there. As soul, I am formless, timeless, spaceless. Something, yet nothing. As awakeness, I am seeing itself, with the seen as slightly Other.

As Ground, it is all revealed as, always and already, absent of any separate self. The seeing and the seen has one ground, one nature, they are not two… only a field of seeing-seen.

Fear of nothingness and infinity

I did a phone session with Karen this afternoon, and one of the things that came up for me was the fear of nothingness… and of infinity in all direction without a center…

It is one of those gateless gates that seem so real and substantial before we step through it, yet when we are on the other side and turn around, the gate is not there… it wasn’t there in the first place. It was there only in appearance, mind made, and since it was taken as real, I lived as if it was real. And still do, for that matter, to some extent.

Sometimes, we need to go through it many times, to become more familiar with the terrain, and also to really see that it isn’t there – over and over, until it sinks in more.

It is only natural to have a fear of nothingness and infinity. If we take ourselves to be something and finite, which most of us do (until we don’t, as Byron Katie says), then it is a terrible thing to be nothing and infinite. We die, or are stretched into spaghetti and die then too.

Either, I am here, something and finite. Or I am emptiness and infinity (and dead.) Not both. Or at least, so it seems.

Exploring two parts of the terrain

There are at least two areas of exploration here.

One is to become familiar with the terrain of emptiness and infinity, dipping into it, first noticing it as an Other, and then finding myself as it, tasting it.

The other is to become familiar with the fear around it, and the identities which appear mutually exclusive to emptiness and infinity, at least as long as I am identified with them…!

So we explore what we already are, directly, and we also explore the box which keeps us as a finite thing here and that as emptiness and infinity out there.

And at some point, it is all clarified enough so the boundaries are revealed as transparent, insubstantial, not very real, and then fall away altogether.

Finite and infinite, thing and no-thing

Now, there is still this human self here, as a finite thing in the world. That didn’t change. It didn’t die, or explore, or get stretched out into spaghetti.

Yet, at the same time, there is… and I am… emptiness. It is emptiness taking the temporary form of this human self and its surroundings. Emptiness dancing, as this human self and whatever else is happening.

There are lots of identities, of being human, male or female, of a particular age, liking strawberry ice cream, voting republican, and so on.

Yet, at the same time, there is no identification with these identities. They define who this human self is, in a relative sense, and that is essential for its life in the world. But they do not define what ultimately is… and what I ultimately am… emptiness.

Together, there is a far wider embrace. It is closer to what already is… an emptiness as a ground of all… an awake emptiness as the seeing… forms arising, as no other than this awake emptiness itself.

Looking at knots from the emptiness and form sides

Knots are the whole complex of a belief in a story (as absolutely true), and the accompanying emotional and behavioral patterns. It brings identification into the content of awareness, and comes from and props up a sense of a separate self.

To see what is already more true for us, we can explore these knots from the emptiness side and the form side.

Exploring from the emptiness side

From the emptiness side, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and see that all of it – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – are nothing other than this awake emptiness. We can explore and become more familiar with this through the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or other forms of inquiry.

Exploring from the form side

From the form side, we can look at the effects of holding onto a particular story as absolutely true, what would happen if it was not attached to in this way, and finding the grains of truth in the reversals of the initial story. Through this, we discover that what we held as an absolute truth is really only a relative truth, which allows the grip on it to relax and identification go out of form and back into the field of awake emptiness (often just experienced as more spaciousness and a sense of peace.) The Work and different (other) forms of shadow work are good ways to explore the form side.

Differentiating the relative and the absolute

Another way to put it is that knots come from taking the relative (stories) as absolute (absolutely true), and the resolution is to differentiate the relative and absolute, seeing the stories as only relative truths, and finding ourselves as the absolute – as awake emptiness, and form as no other than awake emptiness itself.

The experience of the absolute changing over time

In real life, it doesn’t always look exactly like this of course. The exploration of the form side of the knots may not change so much over time, although it may become more clear and differentiated over time. But the experience of ourselves as the awake emptiness and form may change over time. Initially, just as a sense of release, spaciousness, ease and peace. As we go along, more as a clear noticing of the awake void that all forms dances within, to and as – a field inherently absent of any separate self anywhere.

What I take myself as, is how I experience Existence in general

It seems that whatever I take myself to be, is how I experience Existence as a whole as well.

If I take myself as a thing, everything else also appears as things. Specifically, if I take myself as this solid object called my human self, then all other form also appears as solid, real, substantial.

Similarly, if I find myself as awake void full of the world, then this world appears as nothing other than this awake void. Forms appear as less solid, less substantial, as emptiness itself, or maybe even (for me now) as a thin insubstantial surface of form on the vast awake emptiness.

Forms of emptiness

Some forms of emptiness…

The emptiness from impermanence. The world of form is flux, always dying as what it is and reborn as something else. As soon as it is reflected in ideas, images and thoughts, it has moved on to something else. There is nothing fixed here. All forms are empty of anything that is fixed, permanent, anything that can be labeled and stay true to the label (not that it could even if it was fixed).

The emptiness from interconnectedness. Existence is a fluid seamless whole, with no inherent boundaries anywhere. Anything we differentiate out is inherently absent of separate existence. It is just a temporary local manifestation of the whole.

The emptiness from absence of I. There is no separate I inherent anywhere, no I and Other. There is only the appearance of it, coming from a belief in the idea of a separate I, placed on a segment of the world of form. For us, this sense of I is typically placed on this human self. Since this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, is functionally connected with this human self, and this human self is a perceptual center for this field, it becomes the most natural candidate for being an anchor for this sense of a separate I.

The emptiness of awakeness. Awareness is empty, and the content of awareness is no other than awareness itself. So awake emptiness and form is inherently empty.

Before this is an alive experience, it cannot so easily be conveyed. But when this awake emptiness notices, and awakens to, itself, it is obvious.

Awareness has no form, is not finite in space and time, is timeless and spaceless, is that which all forms arises within, to and as, is not touched by the always changing forms, is no different from its own content.

It is empty of substance, empty of change, yet is also any substance arising and any flow of change. It is similar to a hologram in that there is form, but these forms are empty of substance. There is just crystal clarity there, empty awake crystal clarity temporarily arising as always changing form.

It is its own subject and object, it is the seeing and the seen, the field of awake emptiness and form.

And just about impossible to talk about in any way that makes sense if this is not already alive in awareness, if awareness has not awakened to itself as awareness, empty awakeness and form.

There are also the existential forms of emptiness, those arising from and within a context of a sense of I. These are the emptiness of longing, of a sense of something missing, of lack. And this emptiness is no other than a reflection of the emptiness of Existence, the emptiness of awakeness.

The existential emptiness can only be resolved, completely, when the emptiness of awakeness awakens to itself, becomes familiar with itself, allowing any sense of a separate I to dissolve, and seeing that it is also the fullness of all form.

By finding ourselves as nothing other than awake emptiness, any sense of I and Other falls away, we are filled up by the world of form, and find ourselves as nothing other than the fullness of the world of form. The world of form is no other than awake emptiness, inherently absent of any I and Other, and that is what we already and always are.

Even as we misidentify with a segment of Existence, there is also the (subconscious) knowing that we are awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of I and Other. And this discrepancy is what gives rise to the longing, the feeling of lack, of something missing. Something is missing, and that is to wake up to ourselves as always and already this field of awake emptiness and form, where there is no I and Other anywhere.

This field that is temporarily and functionally connected with this individual human self and soul, which has this human self as a vehicle in the world of form, as a perceptual center, and this too inherently absent of an I. It is just the local manifestation of the field as a whole.

Hara, energetic hole, scoliosis and endarkenment

I can’t remember if I have mentioned it here, but I have noticed for some time the relationship between energetic holes, physical problems, psychological tendencies, and now also the three soul centers.

For me, the main one is in the hara.

Since the initial awakening in my teens, I have been aware of an energetic hole in my navel area, specifically located at and near my spine. At the same area, I had a noticeable physical deformity as well, an odd stacking of the vertebrae diagnosed as scoliosis.

At the time, I did a lot of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, both because I wanted more grounding and embodiment, and also to fill up this region.

A couple of years ago, I found Breema which also specifically works with the Hara region, and I have experienced a great deal of fullness, warmth and nurturing in the belly from Breema. Slowly over these couple of years, the energetic hole has filled up, and the spine has reorganized so there is only a slight stacking oddity now (helped along with massage in that area).

With the more recent belly awakening, the endarkenment, there is a sense of a deep luminous velvety blackness and also a new level of nurturing, and a new feeling of everything as Spirit.

This feeling of everything as Spirit, and the reorganizing of the emotional level within the context of all as Spirit, was exactly what was missing in the initial awakening. The head and heart centers were awakened, but not (yet) the belly one. So although I saw, and even loved, all as Spirit, I didn’t feel all as Spirit. The emotions lived their own life, and there was a good deal of turmoil there, partly as a consequence of the intensity of the awakening and its implications.

So there was an energetic hole in the hara region, a physical deformity in the spine at the level just below the navel, and a lack of grounding and emotional turmoil.

This energetic hole then gradually filled in, the physical deformity reduced greatly, and then there was a sudden shift into endarkenment, an early belly awakening into feeling all as Spirit, allowing the emotions to reorganize to all as Spirit, and a new sense of deep nurturing and being held by the velvety luminous blackness.

It is also interesting to note that Hameed Ali (A. H. Almaas) writes about these things in ways very close to my own experiences (although from far more experience and with more precision.)

The closest to immediate experience

I realize that many of these terms, such as fertile darkness, luminous blackness, alive luminosity, crystal clear quality, and so on, can be seen as poetic inventions. In a way, they are, but they are also what seems closest to immediate experience.

There is an immediate experience of the fertile smooth rich darkness, the alive luminosity, the luminous blackness, the crystal clear quality, and more. These are the terms that are most close to how each of these appear, when arising in awareness.

They are metaphors, but the closest to experience that we, or at least I, can get. The words themselves come from the thinking mind, but the thinking mind is only of assistance in putting it into words, as close to experience as possible. It has a secondary and minor role. Experience is primary, putting it into words secondary.

Emptiness filtered through head and belly centers

For instance, emptiness, then filtered through the head center, or even thought about in abstract terms, could be called fertile. But it is a stretch. Its empty quality is in the foreground, and the empty quality of all forms are in the foreground. The experience is that forms are emptiness, that they are inseparable. To say that form comes out of emptiness, and emptiness in that way is fertile, is possible, but a stretch from the immediate experience. It is an intellectualization.

But emptiness, when filtered through the belly center, does have a sense of fertility about it. It is black smooth full rich and fertile, and a fertile ground of form. In our immediate experience, it appears as fertile, as brimming with potentiality.

So to call emptiness fertile is more of an intellectualization if filtered through the head center, and an immediate experience when filtered through the belly center.

The mutuality of emptiness and form

This came up again when I read a quote by Jnaneshvar:

Unity becomes strengthened by the expansion of diversity.

The more emptiness is realized, the more we can wholeheartedly engage in form, and the more we wholeheartedly engage in form, the more we need and are invited to realize emptiness.

Emptiness is the awake emptiness that is here now, reading these words. Timeless. Unchangeable. Unstained. Always already. Distinct from form, yet also arising as form.

And form is the world of form, and in our case, specifically this human self and its wider world.

Identified as this human self, and resistance

When this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, takes itself as a segment of itself, there is immediately resistance.

It identifies as this human self, there is a sense of I and Other, there is a sense of an exclusive and comprehensive identity, and there is something to push away and something to hold onto.

There are experiences, people, places and situations to hold onto, and there are experiences, people, places and situations to push away. In short, there is resistance – to what is, to what may be.

There is drama, confusion, and resistance.

And with resistance, there is a holding back, or a pushing forward.

I hold back from engaging, from experiencing. I try to distract myself, change the situation, modify my experience. I am ambivalent. Half-hearted.

Or I push forward, I push into situation, into experiences, into the world. Which is just another way of resisting.

Field awakening to itself, realizing emptiness and allowing engagement in form

If this field of emptiness, awakeness and form awakens to itself as this field, absent of I anywhere, it all changes.

Now, there is a realization of being awake emptiness, inherently free from the world of form, unharmed by it. Always here, timeless.

There is also the realization of being form, not just this human self but all form, this whole seamless field of form. Anything arising is this field itself. It is just another expression of this same field.

And there is the realization that awake emptiness arises as this field of form. Form arises within, to and as this awake emptiness. They are not two, although they can be discerned as two.

So in that sense, there is full engagement in the world of form since the field realizies it is not separate from form. It is awake emptiness and form. It is beyond full engagement. It is it.

At the same time, and more interesting here, is what happens for this human self. It is realized as having no inherent I. It is just an aspect of this field of awake emptiness and form, which has no I in it anywhere (or we could say it as a whole is an I).

This means that there is no longer anything to resist. With the absence of I and Other, there is also absence of resistance. It falls away.

And this allows for a more wholehearted engagement in the world of form for this human self. It can more wholeheartedly engage with its experiences, and it can more wholeheartedly engage with the wider world.

With no resistance, a more full and wholehearted engagement, all around.

Mutuality of emptiness and form

So the more fully emptiness is realized, the more wholehearted our engagement in the world of form can be. And a more wholehearted engagement requires and invites a more full realization of emptiness.

Engagement without realizing emptiness is painful. The only solution is realizing emptiness, and when emptiness is first tasted, a more full engagement – and the tastes of pain that comes from not fully realizing form as also emptiness, invites and encourages us to more fully realize emptiness, and form as emptiness.

The two go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. They mutually invite and encourage each other.

Inseperability of Ground and Phenomena

When there is a realization of selflessness, there is also the realization of the inseparability of Ground and phenomena. Any and all forms are Ground themselves. Ground temporarily taking a particular form.

One of these phenomena is of course our human self, so our human self – along with anything else – arises within and as Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman.

The Ground, awareness, emptiness, Buddha Mind, Spirit, Brahman is naturally in the foreground. Anything arising is inherently and primarily this. The particulars of the form itself, and especially its names and associations, are secondary although easily available.

Nothing needs to change in content. Ground allows anything to arise as and within our human self. Yet, an awakening to selflessness also allows our human self to reorganize and realign to this new context.

There is a sense of infinite distance to this human self, of absence of any identification, of any sense of I there. It arises as everything else arises. Sensations and thoughts comes and goes as everything else comes and goes. It lives its own life, as everything lives its own life. It does, but there is no doer there. It chooses, but there is no chooser there. This human self, its experiences, its actions, just happens, as everything else just happens.

At the same time, there is a sense of intimacy – even more intimate than any intimacy since there is an absence of I and of Other. This human self arises as Ground. There is an absence of separation. An absence of I. An absence of Other. An absence of distance. It is more intimate than the most intimate. It is on the other side of intimacy, since there is an absence of all of this.

Suction, Emptiness & Surrender

I did a Process Work session with myself on a combined feeling of (a) gripping on my shoulders and (b) a sense of emptiness in the stomach/solar plexus region. The gripping has a sense of pushing to it as well, having me lean forward and slouch a little. And the emptiness has a sense of void and suction to it.

Going into it further, I see that the gripping/pushing is pushing me into the emptiness, the void, in the stomach region. I become the gripper/pusher, and want him (my usual identity) to vanish into the emptiness there. And as the void, I see that I pull him into me – allowing him to vanish completely in emptiness.

Going into this vanishing in/as the void, there is first a sense of trepidation, and then tremendous relief. There is a full surrender here, a full letting go, a full vanishing of any resistance – including the resistance of wanting to be someone or something. Everything is let go of. Nothing is left.

And this emptiness then turns into fullness, the fullness of this human self and the rest of the world as it is, although now with an absence of resistance – including the resistance of having any particular identity. Surrender to what is through absence of resistance and identity.

There is a sense of tremendous freedom here. A freedom of allowing everything to be just as they are. A freedom of not having an identity as someone or something. A freedom from resistance.

Lack & Void *

I am enjoying reading The Void by A. H. Almaas, where he outlines a process of: sense of lack > experience of hole in body image > awareness of space > awareness of the emptiness of space > awareness of the fullness of space.

Space is often initially experienced as “other” and the experience of it is resisted, then after resistance falls away or is reduced, space is more immediate and still “other”, then – the process of dissolving conventional identity starts, space may be experienced as “I”, and eventually there may be just the emptiness and fullness of space with no I anywhere.

This is of course a variation of what mystics from many traditions say: our conventional sense of emptiness, lack of meaning, or lack in general, is a yearning for awakening – for finding ourselves as not lacking anything.

Somewhere, there is the knowing of what we are. Yet, our conventional identity prevents us from seeing this. Everything we are which does not fit into this identity is placed “out there” by a story added onto it. And in the awakening, we see that we already have – or rather are – everything we are looking for.

All of this – the nature of who (or rather what) we are – is already alive in our immediate experience. We already know ourselves as it. But then we place a number of stories on top of it, creating an identity of an isolated “I”, an identity of this not that, and it is temporarily obscured. So no wonder there is the conventional sense of lack and emptiness. We are missing a conscious knowing of who we already are, in our fullness. We consciously know ourselves only as a little fragment of what we are, although the rest is right there under our noses. As the Sufis say, we are like a fish looking for the water – which is already there surrounding it.

Simply said, we are everything arising right now – in this very moment, absent of I anywhere. This is the divine mind, Buddha Mind, Spirit, emptiness dancing, right here already. Right under our noses, yet appearing so far away when there is the holding onto an identity of “I” as a fragment of this.

I also find it interesting how Almaas is using an approach in unfolding the initial, conventional sense of lack and emptiness into an awareness of ourselves as space. It is very similar to the unfolding process in Process Work, although PW has not (yet) gone quite as far into the nondual. They are still at the edge of it, exploring the edge in different ways, peeking occasionally over at the other side, curious about it. (They seem to be at the edge as a group, individuals may well go further).


Hearing other’s reports of how they experience themselves help me see what is going on for me. They reflect what has been for me, what is alive now, or what may be.

For me over the last several months, there has been a phase of a sense of neutrality and space. Mostly, there is just space – within which everything happens. There is little or no boundary between this human self and the rest of what is happening, it is just one field of space and phenomena – none of which appears solidly as I, or Other for that matter.

For this physical body where there are just a few disjointed sensations appearing here and there in space, some emotions now and then, and some thoughts now and then. There is a vague sense of center around the head and upper chest area, but it goes away when I look at it – it is just revealed as phenomena arising in space just like everything else. If I don’t look, there may be an equally vague sense of “I” here at this “center”, and if I look, both vanish – literally – in space.

Whenever I do Breema, either giving or receiving, there is a similar sense of space and a few sensations. The whole from which I can find a body and psyche is very clear, as a whole – as space within which sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts arise (although it seems that only the sensations seems localized in space, the feelings, emotions and especially thoughts just seem to happen – nowhere in particular in space, not really connected with this human body or not).

The word fragmentation came up in a conversation this morning, and I realize that I cannot find that so easily in my own experience now. There is just space and then everything happening within and as this space. I can see that I can heal, mature, develop and so on as a human being, but it is also beyond fragmentation or no fragmentation.

Over these months and within this space, there has been a sense of dryness and flatness, of neutrality, a sense of fatigue, and punctuated by periods of watching stressful thoughts and images arising, and other periods of seeing some of the old exitement coming up.