Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view

Even if our culture often invites a snapshot view of things, a longer view can be far more informative.

LANGUAGE AND THE LONG VIEW

I remember my uncle would complain about changes to the language at family dinners.

Even as a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me. Language changes. It changes with each generation, and even decade by decade and year by year.

He has a snapshot view of language based on what he learned and was used to when he grew up. The generations that came before him would see his language as different and perhaps judge it as bad and wrong. And the generations after him will likely view his language as old-fashioned. That’s just how it is.

Our language today is the product of a language that has changed for not only centuries and millennia but over hundreds of thousands of years. I imagine even the ones who first used what we would think of as language were judged by the older generations. Why do they use these weird cryptic sounds instead of grunts and body language?

So when my uncle judged the language of young people today, and incremental changes to sounds and grammar, what would he use as a standard? What was, in his view, the correct language? Was it the one he grew up with, just because he happened to grow up with it? Does the world revolve around him and his generation? Or was it ten generations ago? A hundred? Did he want to return to a time before verbal language, when we used body language and other kinds of sounds?

For me, a long view makes more sense. It helps me be a little more informed, see things in perspective, and realize that language is supposed to change. People younger than me use a different language than me. Some would even pronounce my last name differently from how I do it. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. That’s the nature of language. That’s how we have the language we have today. That’s how we have language in the first place.

WOKE AND THE LONG VIEW

I love woke. Why?

Because the intention behind woke – the wish for kindness and inclusivity – is remarkable in a historical context.

Many if not most cultures have not been that inclusive. Often, certain people are excluded or oppressed for things they cannot change: their ethnicity, color of skin, sexual orientation, caste or socioeconomic status, and so on. Woke seeks inclusivity and that’s remarkable and something to be applauded.

Of course, woke can take somewhat immature forms. That’s the same with everything and it doesn’t disqualify it as something remarkable and something to applaud and support.

So why do I love woke?

It’s not because of the more immature expressions of woke. I am happy to speak up against those and encourage more balanced approaches.

It’s because I take a long view. I know how unusual and remarkable woke is. Strong forces want to suppress it, now and historically. Many with privilege, including white privilege, feel threatened by such inclusivity.

It’s because I know that inclusivity helps all of us. It creates a more vibrant society and culture. It allows me to be more who I am, since I too am outside the norm in different ways. (As we all are.) It helps me be more myself and embrace more of myself.

Also, it’s because I know that the anti-woke attitudes and orientation originate on the far right, even if it’s sometimes adopted – somewhat naively and misguidedly in my view – by some of the left. Why do some on the left adopt those views? Is it because they don’t have a long perspective?

PANDEMICS AND THE LONG VIEW

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised. I knew that another pandemic was due any time since they tend to come about once a century. (That may change now with continued human incursion into previously mostly intact ecosystems and changing climate. The first brings more human exposure to diseases previously limited to other species. A warming climate spreads previously tropical diseases to new areas.)

I was also not surprised by the pandemic measures implemented by governments around the world. Since I am familiar with epidemiology, I know what’s considered best practices in a pandemic: quarantine, limiting contact and exposure, vaccines, and so on. These are measures that have been shown to work historically. (Some went a little too far, like the Chinese government, and some didn’t do quite enough, like Trump and Bolsonaro.)

I was not surprised by the backlash to these from some. There will always be a backlash when the government implements restrictions, even if these are temporary and based on epidemiology. There are innumerable restrictions in our society that most people accept. (Laws against theft, killing, driving too fast, and so on.) Why do we accept these restrictions? Because most of them make sense and help society function better. When some reacted to the pandemic restrictions, I suspect it was largely because the restrictions were new. Many also seemed unfamiliar with epidemiology and common and effective responses to pandemics. They didn’t have the long view.

I was not surprised by the conspiracy theories that flourished in some subcultures. History shows that conspiracy theories flourish during any pandemic in just about any time and culture. That’s how people work. I assume it’s a way to deal with fear. Through conspiracy theories, some feel they have some kind of control, if only imaginary. (In reality, conspiracy theories distract from far more serious and urgent big-picture issues that we all know are happening, including global ecological overshoot.)

When it comes to vaccines, I also take a big picture and long view. We know from history and epidemiology that vaccines have had a huge and beneficial impact on our collective health in general. We also know that at an individual level, they occasionally lead to serious health problems and even death. That’s the case with all modern pharmaceutical medications. In rare cases, some individuals experience a strong reaction to a certain vaccine or medication. That’s to be expected and it’s widely known. That’s why I support vaccines in general, and why I am very selective in which ones I personally take and (often) don’t take. (Some anti-vaxxers seem to think – or pretend? – that this information is somehow hidden or not included in the equation when health authorities decide to approve or recommend certain vaccines or medications.)

ECOLOGY AND THE LONG VIEW

With nature, we also often operate on snapshots. This is called the shifting baseline syndrome.

We grow up with our ecosystem looking and functioning a certain way, and that becomes the baseline for us. We may not be aware of how much this ecosystem has changed due to human impact, and how far it is from a state not impacted by human activity.

For instance, as a kid I loved being in the forest near our house. To me, it was nature, it was wild. Later, I realized that it’s cut down regularly and the trees are replanted. That’s why the trees are all the same size. That’s why there is not more diversity and life there. This forest, like most forests in the world today, is very different from a more untouched old-growth forest. It’s close to a monoculture.

I remember the garden from childhood full of insects of all types. Badgers and hedgehogs. Swallows and many types of birds. Today, it’s very different. They’re is almost no life here. I imagine many young people don’t realize the change that happened over two or three decades. They see the absence of life as normal.

This is why it’s important to learn about how nature has changed over time, where we are, and in other places. Visualizing how it used to be and comparing it to how it is now can be a shock, and it’s a useful shock. It can encourage us to support or work on regeneration and rewilding, which benefits not only the wider ecosystem but also humanity and ourselves as individuals.

I make a practice out of imagining how nature used to be where I am (approximately), and also visualizing how it can be with some efforts into regeneration and rewilding. I do this in nature and rural areas, and also in towns and cities.

BENEFITS OF THE LONG VIEW

In all of these cases and many more, the long view helps me find a more sober, informed, and kind view.

In addition to the examples above, there is one that’s even closer to home. When I look at my own behavior, trauma, and so on, it helps to see it in terms of culture and evolution.

My trauma is not (just) mine. It comes from my parents. Much of it has likely been passed on through generations, in variations of the same essence. It’s shared, not just in my family but likely among many in my culture. The essence of it is likely shared by many around the world.

When I look at behavior patterns I may not be completely happy about, for instance the tendency for comfort eating, that’s not just from culture and family. The stage was set by evolution. I am biologically predisposed to like fatty and sweet food. In an environment where that was scarce, the ones who craved it were a little more likely to survive and have surviving offspring.

“Read more” to see what ChatGPT has to say about some of these topics.

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A secular view on awakening

Awakening has traditionally been understood in a religious or spiritual context.

All of existence is Spirit and the divine, and the awakening is Spirit becoming conscious of itself and its nature locally. It’s Spirit locally conscious of itself while operating through the vehicle of this particular human self.

These days, it makes sense to also use a more secular understanding of awakening. We live in a more secular society, so why not see it in a secular context? After all, awakening and our nature is not going away.

I have written about this several times before so I’ll make it short.

OUR MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

If we “have” consciousness, then what are we to ourselves? We are not primarily anything within consciousness, we are consciousness itself. There is no way around it. It has to be that way. Whether we notice or not, and independent of whatever conscious worldview we happen to use, to ourselves, we are primarily consciousness. Since the world, to us, happens within and as consciousness, it happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To ourselves, we are primarily conciousness.1 And the world – any content of consciousness – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

THE DREAMLIKE NATURE OF THE WORLD

That means that to us, the world is not so different from a dream. A dream happens within the consciousness we are while this human self is alseep. Waking life happens within and as the consciousness we are while this human self is awake.

ONENESS

Consciousess does not have boundaries. It doesn’t begin or end anywhere. It doesn’t have inherent dividing lines. There is no outside. It’s one. What we are is one. That means that the world, to us, is one whether we notice or not.

TRAINED ITSELF TO NOT NOTICE

Most of the time, the consciousness we are doesn’t notice this. It doesn’t need to. It trains itself to not notice, in a way, since most others don’t seem to notice. It trains itself to operate based on assumptions picked up from others: I am primarily this human self. Consciousness is a kind of add-on. Others and the world are separate from me. The world is more or less as it appears to me.

This is natural and innocent, and since the perception is out of alignment with reality, it comes with some inherent friction and discomfort.

WHEN WE NOTICE OUR NATURE

Sometimes, the consciousness we are may have glimpses of what it is and how the world, to it, is. We may feel or experience a connection with all. We may go into a flow state and forget our identity as this human self and of separation. This happens to many or most in daily life, at least now and then.

Occasionally, this is even more clear.2 There may be a shift so everything is revealed as consciousness. Consciousness becomes aware of itself as everything it’s experiencing and everything it has ever experienced. It becomes aware of itself as consciousness and of its world as happening within and as itself.

A SECULAR VIEW ON AWAKENING

Nothing “spiritual” is required to understand this. We don’t need to refer to God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman, or any of that.

We can understand it in a much more simple way, and a way that fits most (nearly all) worldviews: To ourselves, we are consciousness. The world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Sometimes, the consciousness we are doesn’t notice itself. (It’s lost in identifying primarily as this human self, as something within the content of experience).

Sometimes, it recognizes itself. When it does, we call it awakening.

It’s all a process. It’s an exploration. It’s something we can keep clarifying, deepening into, become more familiar with, and mature into and within.3

THE ESSENCE OF EACH VIEW

What’s the essence of the secular and spiritual views on awakening?

To me, it has to do with our nature and the nature of reality itself.

Both views see our fundamental nature as consciousness. That’s not in question since it makes logical sense and is something we can check out for ourselves.

The difference is that the secular view does not make assumptions about the nature of reality itself. It leaves it open. The spiritual view, on the other hand, assumes that our nature – consciousness – is also the nature of reality itself and all there is.

COMPLEMENTARY VIEWS

The spiritual and secular views on awakening are complementary. They fill in what the other is missing, and they each have upsides and drawbacks.

The secular view is compatible with just about any worldview. It’s compatible with the view of Western science. It doesn’t rely on anything mystical or magical. It doesn’t rely on belief. It’s something we can check out for ourselves. It fits with the descriptions from people (mystics) throughout history and across traditions. It helps us find the lowest common denominators of awakening. It can give us a language independent of traditions, and that can help communication across traditions. It can help us find the essence of awakening. It keeps it simple, sober and grounded. It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality itself and leaves it open. To me, these are all upsides. The downside is that it can seem a bit uninspiring to some.4

The spiritual view has more of a tradition. It may be more familiar to many. It may be more inspiring. On the other hand, it’s often bogged down in terminology, hierarchy, and misconceptions.

Which one is more accurate? The secular view is quite accurate in terms of our own experience and what we can check out for ourselves. And I suspect the spiritual one may be more accurate in the bigger picture. Many hints suggest it.5 (Although these can also be understood in other ways.)

NOTES

(1) I left out something that we even more fundamentally are. When we find ourselves as consciousness, we may also notice something else about our nature. At some level, I am this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works well in daily life and I have to include it to function in the world. More fundamentally, and in my own first-person experience, I am consciousness. Even more fundamentally, I find I am capacity for it all. I am capacity for any and all of the experiences that are here. I am even capacity for consciousness itself.

(2) In my case, there was a dramatic shift when I was sixteen. Everything without exception was revealed as God or the divine. This human self and anything connected with it was the temporary and local play of the divine. That language was the language this human self used to make sense of it at the time. Today, I would more likely replace “God” and “the divine” with consciousness.

(3) This process is not always easy. For instance, for most of us, our psyche is formed within separation consciousness and it has wounds that operate from separation consciousness. To align with the reality of what we are (consciousness, oneness), these have to surface and be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as consciousness. The consciousness we are has to recognize itself as it. That’s not always an easy or comfortable process. Depending on how much trauma we have, it can be overwhelming, confusing, and we may not always deal with it gracefully. (Speaking from own experience here.)

(4) What are some of these hints? Sensing and healing at a distance, relatively solid reincarnation stories, undeniable chains of extraordinary synchronicities, and so on. None of these have been examined well enough by Western science yet. Each one can also be explained in other ways. Still, together, they suggest that the spiritual view on awakening may be accurate in the bigger picture.

(5) There are definitely ways to make it inspiring while still grounding it in modern science. We can, for instance, bring in the Universe Story and the Epic of Evolution. In the words of Carl Sagan: We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We can call the wholeness of all there is for God.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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What comes together falls apart

What comes together falls apart. That’s how this world is. That’s how existence is. It’s not wrong. It’s not a mistake. It’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what creates space for something new.

Seeing this makes it all heartbreakingly beautiful. It helps me more fully appreciate what’s here. I can find gratitude for what’s here as it is, just because it’s part of life, it’s transient, it is something that came together and will fall apart. It’s only here now.

The photo is of Cañon del Chicamocha, taken two years ago. It’s a moment that will never come again – both the clouds and the view and my life as it was then. (Ale, Merlina, and I stayed at the house of friends in the neighborhood we are still in.) What’s here will never come again.

Are we living within a simulation? Some answers

A popular topic today1 is whether we live in a Matrix-like simulation or not2.

As usual, there are several answers.

AN EXISTENTIAL QUESTION?

If we take ourselves as primarily this human self or something else within the content of experience, then it becomes a vital and existential question. It becomes a matter of what we most fundamentally are.

Whether we’ll ever be able to find an answer is another question. I somehow doubt it.

OUR NATURE IS THE SAME IN EACH CASE

If we take ourselves as primarily what our experience happens within and as, it may still be an interesting question but it’s not existential in the same way.

Our nature is the same anyway, whether it’s a simulation or not.

To myself, I am what the field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am consciousness, and this consciousness forms itself into any content of experience.

THE SIMULATION IS ALREADY HAPPENING

As many point out: we already live within a simulation.

The consciousness I am forms itself into any and all content of experience. It creates a simulation of the world, and that simulation is all I ever know.

Said in a more limited and biological way, the brain takes sensory input and creates its world. We never experience the world directly. We experience a kind of synthesis created by our brain based on very limited sensory information.

A POINTER TO OUR NATURE

Do we live within a Matrix-like simulation?

To me, what’s most interesting and useful about that question is that it can serve as a pointer to our nature.

Everything we know may be a Matrix-like simulation. We may not fundamentally be humans at all. That is a very real possibility.

In either case, we know that the world we experience – including this human self – is created as a kind of simulation by the consciousness we are. (Or the brain if we like more biological language.)

What does that say about what we more fundamentally are? This helps us open the door for the possibility that we are not fundamentally this human self or anything within the content of experience, including a doer or observer.

So what are we, more fundamentally?

At a thought level, we may realize that what we are is consciousness – independent of any particular content of experience.

That may lead us to explore it in direct noticing, and explore how it is to live from and as it, and also getting and living from it more viscerally.

MAKING USE OF THE QUESTION

Questions like these can remain an intellectual curiosity. Something we cannot find any conclusive answers to, and they may seem removed from and irrelevant to our daily lives.

I prefer to make practical use of these questions. I know I cannot know the answer to whether I live in a Matrix-like simulation, and it doesn’t matter so much. Other sides of that question are more important to me. For instance, it’s a pointer to and reminder of my more fundamental nature.

DIFFERENT VARIATIONS

I should mention that there are different variations of this question.

For instance, when Chuang Tzu asked his question about butterflies and dreams, he pointed to our nature as consciousness. Night dreams and waking life both happen within and as the consciousness we are to ourselves.

When some today use the Matrix analogy and computer simulations, that’s a more updated version specific to our times and culture. It likely says more about us today than the nature of our world. And it too can be used to point to our more fundamental nature. (I suspect the Wachowski siblings were quite aware of that when they made the movie.)

(1) Among the few of us privileged enough to have the life and relative comfort to consider these things. Most people around the world have more immediate and important things to take care of.

(2) I regularly see articles on this topic even in mainstream media. The most recent one is from NRK in Norway: Flere anerkjente fysikere: Mener det er sannsynlig at vi lever i et dataspill (Several physicists say it’s likely we live in a computer game).

Image by me and Midjourney

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The big problem of consciousness & a simple and elegant solution that doesn’t fit our current worldview

I saw an article in Morgenbladet on consciousness research, Norsk filosof står midt i intens konflikt om bevissthetsforskning. I didn’t find the article itself so interesting, but it is an interesting topic.

A MATERIALISTIC VIEW OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Western science is struggling with consciousness, which is not surprising since it comes from a reductionistic and materialistic worldview.

From that worldview, consciousness is somehow created by the brain. Matter gives birth to consciousness.

It’s almost impossible to understand how that can happen. If you start with matter, just about any view on how it transforms into something as qualitatively different as consciousness seems contrived and unsatisfactory. (Systems views may produce the closest we have to something satisfying, but even that’s pretty contrived.)

A materialistic view creates the hard problem of consciousness. It’s inherent in that particular worldview, not in the topic of consciousness itself.

CONSCIOUSNESS AS PRIMARY

We can take a reverse view.

It’s easy for us to imagine matter within consciousness. It’s what happens when we dream. The world happens within consciousness. It’s also what happens in waking life. The world happens within consciousness. It’s what we are most familiar with. It’s our experience. To ourselves, we are consciousness. To us, the world happens within and as the consciousness we are.

That’s our own experience. What if we take a leap and assume it’s also the case for the world itself? What if existence is consciousness, and matter happens within and as consciousness?

Yes, it’s a leap, and it’s a leap that’s consistent with many traditions in the world. (The mystic ones.)

In this view, what we perceive as matter is a form of consciousness.

LOGICALLY SIMPLE

It’s a logically elegant solution to the big question of consciousness. It’s simple. It’s the obvious solution.

One reason it may seem unattractive is that it’s difficult to test and support with data. (That’s also the case with any materialist views on consciousness.)

Another is that it requires us to abandon a fundamentally materialist worldview, or at least place it in a different context. (Logically, this is not a problem since we collectively shift worldviews through history anyway, but it is a problem for some in terms of habit and familiarity.)

NOT MORE WEIRD THAN THE ALTERNATIVE(S)

This view is also not inherently any more weird than a materialist view. Whether matter or consciousness is primary seems equally weird. If anything, the consciousness-as-primary view is simpler and more logical.

It’s also far less odd than the biggest question: How come there is anything at all? How come there is something rather than nothing? That’s the big question that stops the mind. Anything else pales in comparison.

IF IT’S SO LOGICAL, WHY IS IT NOT TAKEN MORE SERIOUSLY?

If the consciousness-first view is simple and logical, why is it not taken more seriously in academia? Why is it still rare and on the fringes?

I suspect that has more to do with familiarity and what’s considered acceptable than anything else.

Most academics and Western philosophers are used to a materialistic worldview. For them, it’s a leap to seriously consider anything else. (Even if they know that our collective worldviews regularly change.)

The materialistic worldview has existed in academia for some generations, and it comes with taboos. One of these taboos is to question the fundamental assumptions within this worldview. Most people in academia are willing to question a lot, but not the fundamental assumptions inherent in the academic world and modern traditions. It may seem too radical. It may seem too risky for their reputation and careers.

At the same time, I assume they know that any worldview is up for revision and will eventually change. They know that as long there is science, it will inevitably undergo a series of fundamental paradigm shifts. And they know that the ones leading the change will meet these taboos and will face a damaged reputation and ridicule, and perhaps even risk their career.

It’s up to each one if they want to deal with that. Some will. Many won’t, at least not until others have led the way and it seems more safe.

Some may also be concerned that it will open up a can of worms in terms of religious ideas and superstitions. That’s not necessarily true. We can use a scientific approach even if we consider the possibility that all of existence is primarily consciousness. There is no lack of examples, and I hope my writings fall into that category as well (as an example of a layman’s view on these things).

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

Why is it relatively easy for me to consider a consciousness-first view?

It’s partly because I read a lot about paradigm shifts within science in my teens, and also Eastern views on Western science. This was mainly through the books of Fritjof Capra and several of the ones he references.

It’s also because this shift happened with me when I was a teenager. The consciousness I am recognized itself and that recognition went into the foreground and stayed there. To myself, I am primarily consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. (Even more fundamentally, I am capacity for all of that, but that’s another topic.)

Is existence itself consciousness? I cannot know for certain. I have written about the small and big understandings of awakening in other articles, and I like to shift between those two views since each has its place and function. I love the small view since it provides a kind of common lowest denominator for talking about our nature and (ironically in this context) is compatible with a materialistic worldview. I also suspect the big understanding is more accurate. I have experienced too many things that point in that direction. (And I also know it can be understood in other ways.)

CAN NOT KNOW FOR CERTAIN

I love that I cannot know. I love that I cannot know anything for certain.

Thoughts are questions about the world.

They have a practical function only. They help me orient and function in the world.

And if they serve as pointers to anything, they cannot even begin to touch what they point to.

Image by me and Midjourey

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No awakening without dealing with trauma

There is no awakening without dealing with trauma.

At some point, the awakening process requires us to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us.

It seems inevitable given enough time, and it may not in all cases happen in this lifetime.

AWAKENING BEFORE DEALING WITH THE TRAUMA

Of course, our nature can recognize itself without dealing with trauma or anything else unresolved in us. It can keep noticing itself and even live from and as it through this human self in many situations. We can be in a temporary transcendent state. Our old psychological mechanisms may still be intact enough to push our traumas aside or keep them under the surface as much as that is possible.

In this situation, what’s unresolved in us will inevitably color our perception and life, and it will get triggered more actively in some situations and areas of life. It will always be with us and shape our life. 

It’s not a situation that can last forever. At some point, anything unresolved in our body-mind has to come to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as happening within and as what we are. We have to learn to relate to it more consciously and for what it is (scared and wounded parts of us) and invite in healing for it. 

TRAUMA AND WOUNDS LIVE IN SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

What’s the problem with traumas in this context, and generally what’s unresolved in us?

It’s not actually a problem. They are part of the process. It’s natural and even innocent. It provides material for exploration, grounding, humbling, maturing, and so on.

At the same time, these parts of us are out of alignment with the awakening. These parts of us were formed from separation consciousness and life within and from separation consciousness. And, as mentioned above, they will inevitably color our perception and life. As long as they are here, we will live partly from and as these parts of us.

WHAT MAKES IT EASIER AND MORE DIFFICULT

Some things make this process easier: We may have a relatively small trauma load, or just a little comes up at once. We may already have good habits in how to relate to it. We may already be relatively healthy, grounded, and mature. We may find ourselves among people who understand and support the process. In short, we have the resources to deal with it and what’s coming up may not be big enough to overwhelm us. 

And the reverse seems to make this process more difficult: We have a larger and more difficult trauma load. A lot is coming up at once. We may feel overwhelmed and not know how to deal with it. We may not be so healthy, grounded, and mature. We may not find ourselves in an understanding and supportive environment. We may not have the inner and outer resources to effectively deal with it, and what comes up overwhelms us. 

THE EMBODIMENT ASPECT OF THE PROCESS

This is really about embodiment, which is part of the awakening process.

It’s about bringing it into life in a more consistent, grounded, mature, and healthy way.

For that to happen, we need to deal with our trauma and anything unresolved in us, and it’s an ongoing process.

I doubt there is ever a finishing line, at least in this lifetime or as long as we are incarnated.

AWAKENING AS A PROCESS

The essential part of awakening is not technically a process. It’s our nature recognizing itself and that happens here and now.

And everything else is a process. What leads up to it, and how it unfolds within and as that noticing.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Is it worth it?

It is, in a way, a nonsensical question. It’s not up to us as an individual. What’s happening here locally is part of the process of all of existence. Everything has infinite causes stretching out to the widest extent of existence and the beginning of time.

Also, it depends on how we look at it. It can be tremendously difficult and painful, as I know from my own experience. It can seriously impact and complicate our lives.

Not dealing with trauma is not necessarily any easier. That comes with its own pain and challenges and it lasts a lot longer.

HOW IT HAS BEEN FOR ME

I am writing from my own experience here so someone else will talk about it differently.

For me, the initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen and didn’t go away. My human self lived in a kind of honeymoon state for about ten years where the unprocessed human stuff was set aside or buried. Not intentionally, since I was deeply fascinated by psychology (especially Jung and depth psychology) and did regular therapy. But my system had mechanisms in place to keep it manageable.

Then, a dark night started. First, through a profound sense of being off track in life (I made a life decision that went against my clear inner guidance and knowing). And then, about ten years later, through the “lid” being taken off what was unprocessed in my system. That seemed to have happened through a combination of (a) six months in a clear no-self state, (b) my body-mind being severely weakened by a chronic illness CFS), and (c) a “dangerous prayer” where I sincerely and deeply asked the divine to “show me what’s left” (a deep and overwhelming survival fear came up one or two weeks after). An aspect of this is that a lot has been falling apart in my life, over and over, sometimes because of the way I have dealt with the trauma.

I am still in that darker phase of the dark night, although the form of it keeps changing.

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I love tonglen

Tonglen has been one of my favorite practices since my late teens.

I use it towards myself, my parents, my brother, my partner, the people behind the neighborhood hotel project (which is so destructive in so many ways), the neighbors playing loud music the whole day, politicians, soldiers, humanity as a whole, animals suffering, all beings, and so on.

I visualize the person or group of people in front of me. I visualize their suffering as black smoke. I breathe in that black smoke. I see it transform into light. I breathe out that light and into the person. I repeat until there is a real shift in how I relate to and perceive the person. And I return to it2.

It’s a beautiful practice. I remember reading – way back in my teens or twenties – that some traditions within Tibetan Buddhism say it’s the only practice we need. That seems true enough to me.

In a way, it’s beside the point how it works1. It’s about the effect, and that’s something for each of us to explore and notice.

(1) That said, here are some things I notice: (a) It helps me recognize that my world is created within and by my own mind. It’s the consciousness I am forming itself into all of it, whether I imagine something or tell myself I experience it directly. (b) It helps me recognize what I see in the other also in myself, at a human level. I can find it here as well. That reduces any sense of separation or of being better/worse than the other. (c) It helps me see the potential in the other (and myself). (d) It helps me find genuine well-wishing and compassion for the other (and myself).

(2) Sometimes, I do tonglen with a series of people or groups. I do one breath with one and move on if it feels relatively open and without too much charge. After a while, I may return to whatever I feel needs more work. I wouldn’t recommend this more causal approach to someone new to tonglen. If you are new, it’s best to stick with the traditional approach and stay with one person or group for a while and deepen into it.

Image by me and Midjourney

The simplest view

There is a view that explains nearly all of the big questions humans have, and does so in a simple, logical, and elegant way.

That view is that all is Spirit, all is God, the divine, Brahman, Allah1.

The world and all of existence is the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. What we take ourselves to be is a local expression of the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself.

It explains just about all the big questions and does so in a satisfying way.

As a bonus, it also happens to fit our own immediate noticing when we find our more fundamental nature2.

It explains the question of evil, our relationship with the divine, what the meaning of life is, and much more3.

The main question it doesn’t explain is how there is something rather than nothing4. To me, that’s completely baffling. It stops my mind and I cannot find even the beginning of an answer.

It also doesn’t really explain what happens after the death of this human self. To myself, I am the timeless that time happens within, I am what the appearance of birth and death happens within and as. And yet, that doesn’t mean that the consciousenss I am continues after the death of this human self. It may continue and it may disappear with the body. I cannot know for certain. It’s tempting to say that consciousness continues but if I am honest, I have to admit I don’t know and cannot know.

It leaves some things open, which is how it should be. It leaves the things I don’t need to know now open. It leaves it to be discovered at another time, or not.

And, as any view, it’s a question about the world. It’s something for us to explore.

(1) To some with a Western materialistic mindset, it may seem fantastical and unnecessary. And yet, is it any more amazing that all is God than that all is matter? To me, they seem about equally improbable and fantastical, and the former is – in many ways – more logical. (This also has to do with what we mean by God and what images we have of God. I am not talking about the standard Christian or theistic God here.)

(2) I find I am what my field of experience happens within and as. I am the consciousness that forms itself into any and all experiences that happen here. To me, the world is the play of consciousness. It’s lila.

(3) Evil = part of the play of the divine. Our relationship with the divine = we are a part of the larger divine whole. The meaning of life = for the divine to experience itself as and through us and everything.

(4) Some say it’s because of God, but that’s not an answer since God is something rather than nothing. Some also say that it is all nothing, which is technically true in that all appears as consciousness and not a “thing”. That too is missing the point since there are still appearances. When I say “something” I include appearances, anything that’s not a complete absence.

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An Amma experience: no words

This is one of the more remarkable experiences so far in my process. Below is what I wrote just after it happened, and I’ll leave it as it is since it is quite raw and naked. I may write a more organized summary at some point. I’ll also add updates.

ORIGINAL POST

I have experienced quite a lot of distress today, from coming face-to-face again with the pattern of something very good happening in my life, and then it falls apart. I felt I was brought to my knees.

I wrote the main Vortex Healing teacher (Ric) about this pattern to see if he had any insights or pointers. (His pointers and insights are usually very helpful to me.) His response was that he could not find an emotional issue behind it, that it was likely karmic, and to pray for support.

My wife and I then asked Amma for help, while laying in bed.

First, I saw Amma in the distance. There were several light grey cutouts between me and Amma, so I asked her to remove all the obstacles.

She did, and was here in energetic form through and in and around my system, working on it.

She was no longer human. She showed herself in an energy form.

It shifted, and there was no division between Amma and my system. Amma was my system, my system was Amma. It was as if my system was made up of small diamonds.

There were many shifts for the next two hours or so.

I saw my system in infinite space and made up of small diamonds.

There were tears for most of the time and periods of strong breathing.

I saw and experienced what seemed like the real yantras that the drawings try to depict. My system was these yantras, and they were my system.

There was a cosmic phase. Infinite space. Stars.

There was a phase with the presence of aliens (!).

There was a softening and the aliveness and presence of this land was strong, along with infinite space, stars, and the center of the earth.

A lot of the time, I think I sounded like Ellie from Contact when she was going through the wormhole (!).

No words. I don’t know anything. Everything. Nothing. So beautiful.

During the cosmic phase and the stars: This is home.

I took a photo of myself after this was over, to send to Ric, and the photo looks very different from any other of me. During the process, Amma and I were no longer human. We were energies, space, and consciousness, and that shows in the photo.

My wife sensed the same as me throughout this process. She would report what I experienced.

Apart from the first few minutes, I experienced all as energies and infinite space.

This lasted from about 10 pm when I read Ric’s email to close to midnight.

It took some minutes for my human presence to return, and it’s mostly but not quite back an hour later.

It was as if everything that happened today led to this, including channeling into water to clear and protect the land, and sprinkling it along the edges of Finca Milagros. (The road and Camino Real.)

THE FOLLOWING DAY

A few words in the morning: I woke up with some sadness, maybe because of what’s happening in this neighborhood. My system feels quite different and familiar at the same time. Spacious and cosmic, in a way. I still have no idea what it was about. Was it a healing for this land? Was karma removed from my system? My wife says she feels it was a lineage that was created.

I remember that early in the process last night, I asked Amma if this was for me. After all, I have a lot of trauma and struggles at a human level. She waved it away as if she waved away a fly. It felt as if it was determined a long time ago.

From the middle of the process, or earlier, it was all very cosmic. It was as if the whole of the cosmos was here with stars, planets, beings from other places in the cosmos. Later, they were here with this land and the spirit and spirits of this land and the beings here.

Everything happened within and as energy and consciousness – the whole process, Amma, space, cosmos, stars, this land, this (“my”) system, the little diamonds making up this system.

The infinity and space was dark through the process, happening as energies and consciousness, with stars and the cosmos and what else was happening through the process.

Tears ran for just about the whole process. (And also this morning.)

Here is a summary I wrote for one of the Vortex teachers, asking if she could sense what happened: I am writing mainly because we asked Amma for help last night, and it started a two-hour profound process for me. A. sensed it too, and she sensed what was happening as it was happening. It was as if the whole cosmos was here, and everything was energies and consciousness. Anything human was left behind.

TWO DAYS LATER

Update two days later: I was very tired yesterday and rested and slept the whole afternoon and evening and slept through the night.

When I noticed some old personality patterns, they didn’t seem to fit so much anymore.

Looking back to the two-hour Amma process, what stands out is that Amma is not most fundamentally human and I am also not. (We are consciousness and energies, and Amma also revealed herself and me as emptiness and more.)

I remember the complete impossibility of living from what was revealed. (And the impossibility of not living as it since it’s what we are).

And also that there are no words. No words can even get close to describing any of it.

A thought can say that none of that is really “new”. I wrote the same in my teens from direct experience and noticing. And yet, it’s always new. And this version and packaging of it was also new to me.

THREE DAYS LATER

This is a reminder of why I am not so interested in psychedelics. This cosmic journey was as strong and profound as I imagine just about any psychedelic journey. Variations of these kinds of shifts and journeys have been part of my life since early childhood.

ONE WEEK LATER

It’s now one week later, and Amma is still here. In my experience, she appears within and as my system and within and as everything. She is also here in healing sessions and when I ask for healing and transformation for myself.

I find I like to rest in and as this noticing and giving everything that’s here, my whole field and system, to Amma and the divine. This is not so different from what I have done since my teens, but it is different in that the Amma quality is here everywhere now. It’s a different flavor of the divine.

When I do healing now, it also has a different flavor. A more cosmic flavor and all as Amma. It’s also happening from emptiness, which again is not so different from how it was even in my teens, but that emptiness somehow also has an Amma flavor now.

During the cosmic journey a week ago, Amma revealed herself in energetic form, as all of Cosmos and existence, and as the emptiness all comes from and which forms itself into all of it. It makes sense since everything is all of this, and she knows she is all of it.

ELEVEN DAYS LATER

I spent the day yesterday giving everything to Amma – this system, this life, anything in my system that still holds onto an experience of separation and being a doer or observer, and so on. Really, it’s just a noticing that that’s how it already is, and rest in and as that noticing.

In the evening, I started feeling very cooked and a lot of old trauma came up in my system. It was very uncomfortable. When that happens, I usually try to be on my own and not make any decisions. (Against my better judgment, I did send a message – saying something true – which created some trouble, partly because I didn’t have the full picture of the situation. That too is bringing up things in me. Including a family pattern of speaking up about something real and being met with anger.)

It’s now the morning after, and my system still feels very cooked, raw, and in turmoil.

It’s OK. I assume it’s part of a healing process. And it also impacts my daily life, of course.

TWO WEEKS LATER

It’s now two weeks later. What’s easier than anything else is to notice Amma as everything. I notice Amma as all there is without exception, including the most terrible things.

I pick something my personality doesn’t like – an experience, something in me, someone else, a situation – notice it as Amma, rest in and as that noticing, and allow it to work on me and transform me in whatever way it wants.

Of course, Amma here is equal to the divine, and this has very little to do with her human form or even her energetic form. This is Amma as the nothing that forms itself into everything. And I notice the Amma flavor in it all now, after what happened two weeks ago.

THREE WEEKS LATER

I find myself using “Amma healing” now instead of anything else. It seems far more powerful and that’s also what I hear from others. It seems I can quite easily connect with Amma – as cosmic emptiness, energy, and form – and ask her with healing for individuals, situations, and places.

I’ll keep exploring it. Or it will keep exploring itself with a tiny input from me.

Since that evening three weeks ago, my sleep pattern has been different. I used to get up at 4 or 5am and often remembered dreams. Now, I sleep until 7 or 8am and although I know there has been a lot of processing-kind of dreams, I don’t remember any.

I should also mention that since then, a lot has been coming up in my system. A lot of old energies and likely old traumas. It’s been very difficult, and it did shift two days ago. My system feels more open again now.

TWO MONTHS LATER

A couple of notes two months later:

I haven’t remembered dreams (apart from fragments from one night) since this experience. That’s very unusual for me. I feel it has to do with this experience since it shifted on that day.

I wonder if I went into a kind of “opening-closing” dynamic here. That’s something that happened often in my teens and early twenties. At a human level, I would open quite fully to the divine, and then there would be a phase where my system would go into a contraction and unprocessed things would come up. A few days ago, my system went into a kind of contraction, perhaps as a response to old unprocessed pain and anger surfacing.

Another way to talk about is that that “ups” are followed by “downs”. Our system opens to the divine, and then unprocessed material comes up to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as consciousness and/or a flavor of the divine. It seems to be a natural dynamic. It all happens within and as what I am, and sometimes my center of gravity is in that noticing and sometimes caught up in what’s coming up.

Health crisis & shifting the center of gravity into my nature as a safety valve

Close to summer solstice 2022, I found myself with sepsis and in acute septic shock and rushed to the hospital.

WHAT HAPPENED

I was in Ski, having just returned from the Andes mountains. A tooth broke followed by a strong infection in my jaw and face. I received antibiotics from the emergency dentist. (This happened on a weekend.) It didn’t seem to do anything. That Monday, I went back to the dentist for more work on the tooth, and on my way back to the house, I blacked out.

Somehow I was able to walk the ten minutes back to the house, but I cannot remember anything about it.

I came back to consciousness naked on the couch in the basement of my parents house, sweating profusely, ice cold, and shaking so strongly it was close to impossible to use my phone to contact anyone. With a lot of struggle, I was able to leave a message for my wife (who was sick with covid in the guesthouse) and my brother.

My brother eventually came, didn’t seem to take it very seriously (he disappeared into the bathroom for what seemed an eternity and didn’t tell me where he was), and eventually took me to the emergency room.

They relatively quickly suspected septic shock, called an ambulance, and I was rushed to A-Hus in Oslo. They put ten or fifteen tubes and cables in me, informed me that my kidneys had collapsed, and put me under observation for 24 hours. After that, I stayed in a corridor in the infection section of the hospital for a week. (With people screaming and dying in the rooms I was outside of.) It was quite an experience.

I wrote about this episode in a couple of other articles: It’s all a bonus and My recent health crisis.

FEAR

Between regaining consciousness in my parents’ basement and receiving the diagnosis, fear came up. I realized something serious was happening. I had no idea what it was. I had fear of something seriously happening to me that would affect me for the rest of my life. And I also noticed that a fear of dying did not come up, that seemed OK.

GRATITUDE

I also had a profound gratitude to the nurses and doctors and the healthcare system in Norway. I could not have had a better experience. (Apart from the infection wing of the hospital being full due to a surge in covid, which has more to do with the priorities of politicians and voters than anything else.)

MY NATURE

It seems that the safety valve for my system is to shift the center of gravity more strongly into my nature.

During this whole process, I found myself strongly in and as consciousness. Consciousness was strongly in the foreground and whatever happened within and as consciousness – the symptoms, the events, the people, this human self, sensations, thoughts, and emotions – was all much more in the background. It was happening, but what it happened within and as was much more clear and strong.

That also happened when I had a heat stroke in Oregon several years ago. (Likely because my doctor told me to eat less salt, I was already eating very little salt, and it was a very hot summer.)

I also suspect it’s how the initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen. My human self was under a lot of stress at the time (to an extreme and overwhelming level), and I suspect my system dealt with it by shifting the center of gravity into consciousness itself.

Initially, when I was fifteen, there was a shift into an observer-observed duality where I found myself as consciousness (without having those words for it) and the whole world – this human self, others, thoughts, feelings, and so on – seemed very far away.

A year later, there was a shift into all – without exception – as God. This human self, thoughts, feelings, ideas of being this human self, ideas of separation, and so on, was all recognized as the play of God, as God taking all those forms. That was the language and interpretation of this human self at the time. These days, I would say it in a slightly different way. There was a shift of the center of gravity into consciousness, into the consciousness I am, and all content of consciousness was recognized as that, as happening within and as the consciousness I am.

SHIFTS IN CENTER OF GRAVITY AND ATTENTION

That initial oneness shift stayed. The shifts have more been in how much in the foreground or background my nature is. I have gone through phases where it has been very much in the foreground – the first ten years or so, during a period when the no-self aspect was in the foreground, and I would also say now. And in daily life, it also depends on where attention goes – to my nature or specific content of experience.

SAFETY VALVE

In my case, the shift into my nature recognizing itself did definitely not happen because I was especially noble or into spiritual practice or had prayed for it or anything of that kind. It happened because my human self was so messed up and needed a safety valve, and – for whatever reason – shifting the center of gravity into my nature turned out to be that safety valve.

My human self had absolutely no interest in spirituality at the time, and even now, I prefer to avoid language related to spirituality as much as possible.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

When we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it can mean at least two things.

It can mean that it’s subjective, which is true enough.

It also means something more fundamental. It means that we are the one who brings beauty to something. The way we see and perceive brings beauty – or not – to something.

WHAT MAKES SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO ME?

What makes something beautiful to me?

The more I am open to wonder and awe, the more it seems beautiful.

The more I know and understand about it, the more beautiful it is.

The more I realize we are intimately connected, the more beautiful.

The more I am free of stressful and unquestioned thoughts about it, the more beautiful.

The more awe there is that anything exists at all, the more beautiful anything is.

LAYERS OF BEAUTY

There are also layers in what makes something beautiful to me.

Something appears beautiful because of my biology, culture, and personality. I love certain landscapes, flowers, animals, birds, and people. Because of the conditioning of my human self, it’s easy to see the beauty in it.

Something or someone may also be beautiful in other ways. I love the vultures here because they are living beings like me, they are important in this ecosystem, they serve very important functions, they are often despised by others. To themselves, they are very likely consciousness like me. All of that helps me see their beauty. I love them for those reasons.

WHAT ABOUT THE TERRIBLE THINGS?

What about disease? Suffering? War? Death? The end of civilizations? The end of humanity? The end of all we know?

I can find the beauty there too, although it takes a little more transformation of my perception since it goes against what I learned from culture.

Death is necessary for life. Death is what allows anything to be. It opens space for something new. It creates the conditions for something new. The death of stars created the matter we and this living planet is made of. The death of species allows for new species. The death of individuals opens space for new individuals. The death of civilizations opens for new civilizations. The death of one phase of life opens space for another.

I have a chronic illness. Can I find the beauty there too? Yes. Now and then, I experience grief, sadness, frustration, fear, and so on in relation to it. And I also find the genuine beauty in it. It has helped me see that life moves in other directions than my personal wishes and desires, and that’s OK. It’s to be expected. It has opened up a lot for me. It has helped me release identification with the idea of me as productive, smart, someone who excels in academia, someone with a future in academia, and so on. It has opened up time for me. It has helped me find a genuine appreciation for rest. It has helped me be more sincere and transparent with others. And much more. There are many genuine gifts in it. (And I wouldn’t choose it, of course, if I had a choice.)

What about suffering? Suffering too has gifts in it. At one level, it shows me what to avoid in life. It shows me to avoid what brings physical pain and illness, noise, certain people and situations, and so on. It’s a guide built into me from evolution and my ancestors. At another level, it shows me when I hold onto painful and unexamined stories. It’s a pointer to painful stories and an invitation to examine them and find what’s more true for me. These may be stories holding me back from making necessary and kind changes, and it may be stories making me struggle with what is. I won’t choose suffering, and parts of me still don’t like suffering, but when it’s here, I can use it as a pointer and find genuine appreciation for it. I can see the beauty in it.

Is there beauty in war and violence? As terrible as it is, and as much as I want to prevent it, there is some kind of beauty here too. It’s a part of humanity working things out for themselves. It seems to be part of the process we are collectively living. It’s part of evolution. It’s part of how this living planet and how this universe evolves and explores itself through and as us.

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

So beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am the one perceiving beauty.

My mind creates the beauty I see.

And the more my heart and mind are open, the more I understand, and the more I examine my stories, the more easily I find beauty in anything, including what’s terrible according to my personality and what I previously learned from my culture.

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Awakening: Why is it difficult to put into words?

Why is it difficult to put awakening into words? Or anything related to our more fundamental nature?

There are a few different reasons.

IT’S NOT BECAUSE IT’S SO SPECIAL

It’s not because it’s unfamiliar, distant, or special, or for someone special.

It’s what’s already most familiar to us, whether we recognize it or not.

THE GIFTS & LIMITS OF LANGUAGE

Mental representations serve an important function. They help us orient and function in the world, and to communicate with ourselves and others.

They are questions about the world. They can serve as pointers.

At the same time, they have limits. Words cannot properly capture anything.

It’s the nature of words that makes it difficult to put our nature – and anything else – into words.

Our nature is not a special case.

WHEN WE ALREADY ARE THERE

Words and mental representations are maps.

They help us orient and navigate in the world, and they help us communicate with ourselves and others.

Say we have a map of a place we haven’t been to. The map can give us a rough and abstract sense of the place, but not much more. We fill it in with our imagination and past experience, and that imagination is bound to get a lot wrong. It’s bound to get everything a bit wrong, and some a lot wrong.

If we are there, then the map can help us explore it more in detail and discover more about it.

That’s another reason it’s difficult to put awakening into words. If someone is not there, no words are sufficient to describe or explain it. If someone is there, then words can help them explore new aspects within it.

Here, the limitations are in where we are, and that’s the same with everything. If we are familiar with it, then words can serve as practical pointers. If not, the words remain more abstract and we imagine more into it.

WORDS DIVIDE

Words operate on distinctions, they create imaginary boundaries and divisions. That’s how they are useful.

Our nature is one. It’s what forms itself into any and all of our experience, without exception. It’s all we have ever known.

That’s another reason why it’s difficult to put it into language.

Often, the best we can do is to say what it’s not and use poetic expressions to point to it.

IT’S NOT IN OUR SHARED CULTURE

If we lived in a culture where exploring our nature was common and a part of our culture, we would have more of a shared language for it.

In the Western world, we don’t live in that kind of culture (unless we are in the Bay Area!) and we don’t have a shared language, apart from what we borrow from other cultures and a few mystics from our own.

I am trying to talk about it in a language that’s natural to me, simple, mostly free of jargon, and that reflects my direct noticing as much as possible.

FAIL WELL?

I know I am bound to fail in trying to capture any of this in words.

In the best case, it may be slightly interesting, create a frame, or serve as a pointer or reminder.

It always falls short. That’s OK. That’s how it is.

There is a gift there. It’s a blessing that we cannot capture any of this – or anything at all – in words.

It leaves us with one option, and that is to experience it for ourselves. We have to explore the terrain for ourselves.

There is no substitute. The experience of others is not a substitute. Words – no matter how beautiful or apparently insightful – are no substitute.

That’s how I can attempt to fail well: I know words cannot capture it, and I know there is a beautiful blessing and pointer in just that.

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Understanding awakening independent of spirituality and most worldviews

How do we understand awakening?

Do we tie it to spirituality or a particular approach to spirituality?

Do we tie it to a particular worldview that’s incompatible with other common worldviews?

Or do we find the lowest common denominator in understanding awakening? Do we choose an understanding that’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews?

Personally, I prefer an understanding that’s honest, simple, has the fewest assumptions within it, and is compatible with the widest range of worldviews. (Including those free of spirituality.)

A SIMPLE UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

So what is this simple understanding of awakening?

We can approach it in two ways.

NOTICING: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can approach it through direct noticing.

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. But when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for all of it.

We can quite easily get at least a glimpse of this through different forms of inquiry, including the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

LOGIC: TO OURSELVES, WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

We can also approach this through logic.

In our culture, people often say that we “have” consciousness. That makes it sound as if consciousness is a kind of appendix, and that we are a kind of object somehow receiving info from this consciousness. That’s one take on a third-person view, which is fine, but here I am more interested in our first-person experience.

So what’s a first-person view?

If I “have” consciousness, then to myself, I have to BE consciousness.

Said another way: Any experience has to happen within consciousness. It’s consciousness forming itself into that experience. And what’s experiencing has to similarly be consciousness. None of it would be experienced if it all didn’t happen within and as consciousness.

What’s experiencing and what’s experienced are aspects of the same. All of it is consciousness.

Here, we may also find that…

If we ARE consciousness, then to us, the world – the whole field of experience – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

Consciousness is seamless. It doesn’t have borders or divisions or even an outer boundary. To us, the world happens within and as the oneness we are. (“The world” here means any content of experience, including anything associated with this human self – sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas of identities, ideas of being a doer, an observer, and so on.)

Understanding this logically can be interesting in itself, and it can be an invitation to explore it through direct noticing.

THE WORLD APPEARS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If the world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am, then – to me – the world appears AS consciousness.

If the world appears as consciousness, then it appears alive and conscious, and it’s very easy to call that the divine, Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on.

SHARED WITH MYSTICS ACROSS TIME AND TRADITIONS

Through logic and direct noticing, we arrive at what mystics through time and across traditions have described.

The essence is: I am consciousness. The world, to me, happens within and as the consciousness I am. The world, to me, happens within and as the oneness I am. The world, to me, appears as consciousness (AKA the divine, Spirit, God, etc.) since it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

Of course, the mystics use language that reflects their tradition, culture, and time, and they often interpret their direct noticing using a certain understanding and worldview. But the essence is the same.

FREE OF SPIRITUALITY AND INDEPENDENT OF MOST WORLDVIEWS

I like this approach.

It’s logical. It’s something we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s free of spirituality and spiritual traditions.

It’s compatible with a wide range of worldviews.

It’s a kind of lowest common denominator in understanding awakening.

That means it can be used by people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of worldviews. It can be used as a simple form of communication across traditions. It can be used by academics and researchers.

We are personally free to add whatever we want to it. We can add a wide range of worldviews and traditions if we want. And it can help us hold all of that more lightly. We see that they are add-ons and essentially questions about the world.

A FEW NOTES

SMALL AND BIG UNDERSTANDINGS OF AWAKENING

When I have written about this in the past, I have often talked about a small and big understanding of awakening.

What I outlined above is the small approach. It’s simple, stays close to our experience, doesn’t philosophize too much, and is compatible with a range of worldviews. We explore our own nature, and don’t assume that’s also the nature of all of existence. The downside of this one is that it can seem a bit boring. (Although it’s anything but.) The upside is that it’s a kind of lowest common denominator. It can be used as a universal language.

The big understanding of awakening is the more traditional one. Here, we assume that our nature is the nature of all of existence. All of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, God, Allah, Brahman, and so on. The downside here is that we may go into assumptions and fantasies beyond what we can check for ourselves. The upside is that it can be more familiar to many and it can seem more inspiring.

The small understanding is more accurate in the sense that’s it’s more sober, grounded, and honest. And I suspect the big understanding is more accurate in the big picture.

WHO IS USING THIS APPROACH?

If we mean a first-person exploration without too much philosophizing, it’s similar to the Headless Way, Zen, and Adveita.

If we mean using both a small (psychological) and big (spiritual) understanding of awakening, depending on what makes most sense in the situation, then I am not sure. I haven’t seen it myself, although I have also been out of the loop for 10-15 years due to my illness.

WHY ISN’T THIS APPROACH USED MORE COMMONLY?

As with so many things, I wonder why more people don’t use this approach. It seems simple, fits our modern views, and has many benefits.

We may be wedded to a spiritual tradition, and we may be used to a more spiritual language. We may prefer it, for whatever reason, even if it’s more exclusive and some of it goes beyond what we can check out for ourselves.

We may also want the comfort that certain ideas from spirituality give us. When I explore this, I find it doesn’t really give me comfort since I know – somewhere – what’s happening. I am indulging in a fantasy. One that’s possibly reasonably accurate, and one I cannot easily check out for myself or know for certain. Even if I have certain experiences, I know they can be interpreted and understood in many ways and they can fit into many different worldviews in different ways.

MY NATURE VS NATURE OF ALL OF EXISTENCE

Behind this approach – the small understanding of awakening – is a basic assumption: I can find and explore my own nature, and that doesn’t mean that the nature of all existence is the same as my nature. I cannot know for certain what the nature of all of existence is. I can assume it’s all the divine, Spirit, God, and so on, and there may be hints suggesting it’s like that, but I cannot know for certain. If I am honest with myself, I know I cannot know for certain.

For me, it’s more peaceful than trying to create, hold onto, and defend a certain worldview saying all of existence is a certain way.

ABOUT THE LOGIC

I wanted to add a few more words about the logical approach to understanding our first-person nature. I know that some will disagree with this logic, and I made almost no effort to make this particular presentation solid and tight. I just informally hit on some of the highlights.

I also know very well that this logic, in my case, comes from and reflects direct noticing. The noticing came first, and then the logic. It may be more difficult to go the other way, especially if we are already invested in another way of looking at it.

Also, I imagine some will say: Yes, it may be logical. To ourselves, we must be consciousness. But that’s not my experience, and I don’t think it’s possible to experience it. My brain won’t allow it.

That’s fair. And I would invite that person to check it out for themselves. The most effective way to explore it is likely to be facilitated by someone experienced in the Big Mind process. It may take just five minutes to get a real taste of it.

WHY AM I DRAWN TO THIS APPROACH?

I am not sure. Differentiating between a small and big understanding seems more honest. Using a small understanding is more inclusive. I like the fluidity in choosing a small or big interpretation depending on what makes more sense in the situation.

In general, I don’t like being wedded to just one way of looking at something since there is always validity in a range of views and they together give a slightly fuller and richer picture.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Why do we focus on climate change and not global ecological overshoot?

Why do so many focus on climate change these days?

It’s good that ecological issues get attention, of course, and it is an important topic.

At the same time, it is a kind of distraction.

GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT

The bigger overarching issue is global ecological overshoot.

We have been in overshoot for decades already, and we haven’t seen the real consequences of it yet since we have been living off the “savings” provided by our planet. (To not deplete our ecological “savings” we would need two Earths to support our global population, and more than five if everyone lived as Westerners.)

We have not yet reached the bottom of the savings account.

When we do, we can expect massive unraveling and collapse of ecosystems and human civilization.

There is no other way it can end.

WHY DON’T WE FOCUS MORE ON OVERSHOOT?

So why don’t more people focus on ecological overshoot?

After all, overshoot is easy to understand. It’s undeniable. It’s far more relevant and serious than climate change and just about any issue imaginable.

I honestly don’t know. A superficial answer may be that people don’t know about overshoot, which is true enough. But the fundamental idea of overshoot is very easy to grasp, it is something anyone with a bank account knows firsthand and relates to on a daily basis. And many in the world do know about it and talk about it, but it does not make it into mainstream discussion.

The real question is: Why doesn’t it make it into mainstream discussion? Why is there an apparent resistance to it? It’s obviously a hugely important topic, more so than just about any topic already in our collective mainstream dialog and conversation.

Maybe it’s too big? Maybe it’s obvious that our usual solutions are not enough?

Maybe it’s more comfortable to focus on something more peripheral and less serious?

That may be one reason why climate change is getting so much attention. It’s apparently more debatable, more peripheral, and less serious. We can tell ourselves it has easier and more peripheral solutions. (Of course, none of that is really true. Climate change itself is serious and requires a profound transformation of our civilization and the worldviews we operate from.)

THE ESSENCE

We live in an ecocidal civilization that assumes infinite nature – infinite natural resources and infinite capacity of nature to absorb waste and toxins.

One of many expressions of this is climate change.

Global ecological overshoot is far more fundamental and far more serious.

And the only real solution to all of it is a deep and thorough transformation of our civilization and our most fundamental assumptions about ourselves, nature, and our relationship to this living planet.

(One practical expression of that would be a transformation of our economic system to take ecological realities and the limits of nature into account.)

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Thoughts and feelings belong to the world

I was on a Headless Way Zoom meeting for the first time this Sunday, and Richard Lang mentioned what someone else had said: Thoughts and feelings belong to the world.

That’s one of the things I love about finding my nature as well.

Thoughts, feelings, sensations, moods, and anything connected with this human self, belong to the world. It’s out there in the world. It’s part of what comes and goes.

It’s part of the field of experience.

What I more fundamentally am is not touched by any of it. I am what allows it all to come and go. I am what momentarily forms itself into all of it. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

I noticed this first when I was fifteen and the world suddenly (around noon on January 1st) seemed to become very distant. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the wider world all seemed very far away.

My mind responded by thinking something was very wrong. Later, I saw it more as a basic observer-observed split. There was identification with the mental representation of an observer and a release of identification with any content of experience.

In any case, it made it very clear that thoughts, sensations, and so on belong to the world. It belongs to the content of experience. It comes and goes and lives its own life just like any other content of experience and anything else in the world.

This shifted into oneness about a year later, and it never went away. (Although it goes more in the background or foreground of attention depending on where my attention goes…!)

I have since explored this more thoroughly through different forms of inquiry – the Big Mind process, Headless experiments, traditional sense field inquiry, and modern versions of sense field explorations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

Does this mean I don’t have hangups, traumas, wounds, and so on? Does it mean my center of gravity never goes into these traumas and wounds?

Not at all. I have a lot of traumas and wounds, these parts of me operate from separation consciousness, they color my perception and life, and they sometimes come to the surface and take over for a while.

That’s OK. It’s very human. It’s part of the process.

Image is created by me and Midjourney

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Earth from ISS

A suicidal / ecocidal civilization: Finding a more real, grounded, and kind way to relate to it all

All civilizations rise and fall, and ours is no exception.

An interesting twist is that ours is the first global civilization that rises and falls and we don’t know how that’s going to look.

INDEX

What comes together falls apart | A civilization fatally out of alignment with reality | Sudden change | Familiarity with systems dynamics | We have the solutions but do we have the collective will? | What will collapse mean? | What can we do individually? | Collapse acceptance | Power-over vs power-with | What’s my history with this? | Notes

WHAT COMES TOGETHER FALLS APART

How can we know that our current civilization will fall?

In terms of history, it’s because all past civilizations have risen and fallen. It’s what civilizations do and ours is no exception.

In the bigger picture, it’s because everything does. What comes together falls apart.

We can notice it here and now. Every moment, what was is gone and something new and fresh is here. And it happens at more obvious and larger scales, including at the scale of humanity, culture, Earth, and the universe. It will all be gone.

Everything we know – collectively and individually – has come together and will fall apart.

A CIVILIZATION FATALLY OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH REALITY

We can also look at specifics of how our civilization creates its own fall.

The most obvious may be that our civilization is fatally out of alignment with reality.

We operate on a worldview that’s out of alignment with reality. For instance, we assume and emphasize separation in a world where everything is intimately connected. We assume the superiority and rights of humans over other beings. We prioritize the current generations over Future generations. And, crucially, we assume that the Earth has unlimited resources and unlimited ability to absorb waste. (See more below under “Power-over vs power-with”.)

This is reflected in all aspects of our culture and all our systems. (1)

Let’s look at our economic system.

We have created an economic system that assumes an infinite ability of nature to provide resources and absorb waste, and that our health and well-being is not dependent on the health and well-being of the larger ecological systems.

We made those assumptions because it fits our general worldview, and because we practically could at the time it was developed.

At the time, our population was relatively small and our technology relatively simple so we didn’t receive immediate feedback from nature. For all practical purposes, nature was infinite.

We still use that economic system. The problem is that we now have a much larger population and a far more efficient technology, so Earth cannot keep up.

Globally, our ecological footprint would require two Earths to be sustainable. And for the Western world, our ecological footprint would require around five Earths to be sustainable.

We are also putting more waste into the Earth’s system than it can easily deal with. There are plastic particles and toxins in just about every living being. We are in the middle of an insect apocalypse because we (insanely) grow our good with toxins. Our climate is changing dramatically from all the heat-trapping gasses we release into the atmosphere.

We are in overshoot and we are not doing anything significant to change it.

And that overshoot has serious consequences.

SUDDEN CHANGE

Ecologically, we are doing the equivalent of living on our savings. If we lived on the interests – the surplus produced by the Earth – it would be sustainable. But we are digging into the savings. That looks OK for a while. We have what we need. Then we suddenly realize the harsh reality. We are out of funds.

Our climate is similarly set to undergo sudden change. Any system tries to maintain equilibrium for as long as possible. We put heat-tapping gasses into the atmosphere, the system maintains a kind of stability for a while. And at some point, it shifts into a new state, and that tends to happen quickly. In the case of climate, it shifts into a more chaotic and unpredictable state.

That’s what we can expect with our global ecological system as a whole. In the coming decades, we can expect to see a series of sudden and likely dramatic shifts. These shifts feed into the system to trigger a cascade of other shifts.

What may happen?

Several moderate changes are already happening: More extreme weather. Stronger storms. More drought. Heavier rain and flooding. Crop failures. Species extinction. Mass death of insects impacting the whole ecosystem. Mass human migrations away from areas that become unlivable from drought, flooding, and rising ocean levels (eventually tens of meters). This, in itself, is serious but manageable, at least initially.

We may also see more extreme changes: Changes in ocean currents may significantly impact regional climates. The oceans may die due to rising water temperatures, acidification, and low oxygen levels, and this – loss of oxygen production from plankton, etc. – will seriously impact land life. Forests may collapse in large regions due to drought or they may lose their ability to produce oxygen because of increased temperatures. And so on. These are all things experts in the field say can happen, and will likely happen if the current Earth changes go far enough. If any of this actually happens, it’s not realistically manageable for us. It may not be compatible with human life.

FAMILIARITY WITH SYSTEMS DYNAMICS

If we are not familiar with big-picture thinking or systems theories, we may assume a kind of linear and gradual progression. That means we have time. Things look mostly OK so far, so why change too much too soon?

If we are familiar with overshot and systems views, we tend to see it differently. Then we know that things may look mostly on for a while, then there is a sudden shift, and we are screwed. We don’t have time to wait. Changing things within our current sudden is not enough. We need a deep transformation of our civilization as a whole.

WE HAVE THE SOLUTIONS BUT DO WE HAVE THE COLLECTIVE WILL?

We have the solutions.

We know some (humane) ways to reduce our population. (Educate women, provide economic safety nets for everyone, and so on.)

We have many technological solutions that are part of the puzzle.

We know how to create an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and where what’s attractive and easy to do – individually and collectively – is also ecologically sound. (We have the big picture and know in what direction to move, and the details will be worked out.)

We have the worldviews necessary for a more sustainable civilization. Some elements may be ecospirituality within each of the major religions, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, deep ecology, systems views, integral views, and so on.

The question is: Do we have the collective will? Will we find it in time?

We are already too late to avoid massive changes to our planet which will impact all of us, so we have minus time in that sense.

Will we be able to create an ecologically sustainable civilization in time to prevent the fall of our civilization? We have to work towards it as much as we can, but it is unlikely.

What we tend to see at the end of civilizations is what we see in the world today: A few who recognize what’s happening, take it seriously and sincerely work towards creating a better and more functional civilization. Many who go into denial, continue much as before, or wait for others to do something. Polarization, infighting, distractions, and the privileged holding onto their privilege even if it’s suicidal. Of course, all of this is common anyway.

There is also a great deal of simplistic misdiagnosis of the situation. Ideas that focus on aspects of what’s happening within the system but not the system itself. Some blame greed, governments, or corporations. Some think there is a technological solution. Some assume it’s mainly about climate change. Some think we still have time because the changes will be gradual and incremental. And so on. All of it is simplistic and myopic. This misdiagnosis reflects and comes out of the worldview that created the situation in the first place. And the misdiagnosis is part of the problem.

WHAT WILL COLLAPSE MEAN?

I don’t know.

What we know is that it will look different from the collapse of past civilizations. They were regional and this one is global. People in those civilizations continued to live their lives, just in a slightly different context. A lot from those civilizations was passed on to other and emerging civilizations. In our case, we don’t have another place to go. We have destroyed our global life-support system to the extent that it may no longer be able to support us, or at least very many of us.

The best scenario may be significant ecological changes, a significant reduction in the size of humanity, and a new emerging civilization – hopefully with some lessons learned. This requires that the more extreme Earth changes – like the death of the oceans – don’t happen.

The worst, from our perspective, is the end of humanity. (Along with many other species and ecosystems.) The Earth’s system changes to the extent that it’s no longer compatible with human life. In this case, the end of humanity happens sooner rather than later. If the changes are as dramatic and rapid as some scientists – and especially those familiar with systems views – think, it may even happen within one or two generations.

In the bigger picture, these are not disasters. This is just what happens. It’s how reality is set up. Things come together and fall apart. Death is the price of life.

WHAT CAN WE DO INDIVIDUALLY?

The question then is: What can we do individually and in small groups?

We can do what we can in our own life.

We can find what we are most drawn to, and do that. Joanna Macy talks about three categories: Stopping actions. Creating and living alternatives. And developing and spreading new worldviews.

In my case, I eat organic and local as much as possible and do a few more things in my personal life. I used to be actively involved in local sustainability organizations. I do healing work for myself and others. I currently have 36 acres in the Andes mountains I am helping regenerate and make into a food forest. (I realize the last one is not everyone can do, and I didn’t expect it in my life.)

We can all find something we are drawn to that’s meaningful and a small part of the solutions. We may not be able to save the world. But we can save our world. We can save ourselves by doing something meaningful.

We can realize that we live within a *system* that’s not ecologically sustainable.

That means that what’s easy and attractive to do is not ecologically sustainable. We all, inevitably, contribute to the destruction of ecosystems, just by going about our own lives. That’s not our fault. It’s inevitable. We don’t need to beat ourselves up for it. (And we don’t need to use it as an excuse either.)

We can find ways to nourish ourselves through our connections with the larger whole.

We can explore the Practices to Reconnect (Joanna Macy), the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, ecospirituality, systems views, integral views, and so on. Whatever we resonate with.

We can spend time in nature. We can connect with and nourish our physical body and sense-oriented animal self.

We can get familiar with the bigger picture.

Through the Universe story, the Epic of Evolution, systems views, Big History, and so on, we can become familiar with the bigger picture.

We expect what comes together to fall apart.

During the end of a civilization, we expect an amplification of what we generally see in society: Polarization, infighting, distractions, denial, people holding onto privilege, and so on. It’s what humans do.

We also expect some to do the work to create a better functioning civilization.

And we expect to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a wide range of emotions as a response to what’s happening.

We can find more peace with death and change.

Change happens. What comes together falls apart.

It happens continuously, which we notice if we look closely. And it happens at a more obvious and larger scale, sooner or later.

Change and death are what allow something new to exist. It’s what opens up space for something new and different. It’s what allows experience. It’s what allows evolution. It’s how we are here. It’s what allows anything to exist at all.

Everything and everyone is born to die.

It’s meant to be. It’s perfect. It’s how this universe is set up.

We can find gratitude.

We can find the gifts in death and change. As I have mentioned above, it’s what allows anything to be at all. It’s what allows us as individuals to be. It’s what allowed humanity and our current civilization to exist.

It’s what opens the space for something new. When our civilization is gone, who knows what will come in its place? Perhaps some humans will survive and create something new, and even something more aligned with ecological realities. And when humanity is gone, who knows what will come in our place? Perhaps the descendants of the octopus will create a new and amazing civilization that would not be possible if we were still here.

We can allow and welcome our grief, anger, and other responses.

It’s completely natural to experience grief, anger, hopelessness, and a range of other emotions in the face of what’s happening with our world. And it helps to make friends with it and even welcome it.

It’s natural. It’s healthy. It’s something we can channel into action.

We are, in a very real way, a local part of the Earth grieving itself. We are the Earth grieving itself.

These are universal emotions. All humans experience it and many or most species likely experience it in one form or another. It’s one of the things that tie us together. Even what triggers these emotions is universal in its essence.

We can find gratitude.

There is a lot to find gratitude for here.

We are an expression of all of existence. We are part of this amazing and beautiful larger whole.

We are alive. We are alive at the peak, in some sense, of our civilization. We have the basics for life and often a lot more. Many of us live beyond what anyone could have imagined in the past, and better than 99.9% of all humans that have lived in terms of healthcare, food availability, convenience and so on.

We are aware of the larger context of impermanence and can allow it to inform us in sobering and beautiful ways.

By viscerally getting impermanence – including of ourselves and all we know – we can find deep and equally visceral gratitude for our life and what’s here now.

We can find kindness towards ourselves.

We can learn to relate to ourselves and our world with more kindness.

That, in itself, makes a big difference.

It makes our life easier, and we are giving ourselves something essential we all wish for. It’s what we often are really looking for when we think we are looking for something else.

It’s something our civilization doesn’t really teach us and something we don’t learn unless we are lucky with our parents and upbringing. So this work is also part of changing our civilization and our individual and collective worldview.

One of the things I do for myself is to aim at being a good parent to myself, especially when thoughts and emotions visit that it’s difficult for me to meet with kindness. And I also use the befriend & awaken approach.

We can find kindness towards others.

We all do our best with the cards we are dealt. When people go into denial, short-sightedness, and so on, it’s their way of dealing with living in this world. A lot of it, or all, comes from fear.

We can be of service.

We can find meaning and joy in being of service, in whatever form that takes for us. Whether it is supporting humans, non-humans, or ecosystems.

We can find fellowship.

We can find others like us. We can find and create communities. We can support each other.

I did this in the past and lost it to some extent (apart from what I carry with me) due to illness and other life circumstances. Now, it may be time to refind and rebuild community.

We can find our nature, if we are drawn to it.

What do I mean by our nature?

It’s true enough that I am this human self in the world.

And if I look more closely, I find that in my own immediate experience, I am more fundamentally what my field of experience happens within and as. I am, more fundamentally, what a thought may call consciousness, and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. This is what mystics across cultures and throughout time have described. (And talking about it this way is compatible with a range of worldviews.)

Just about anything is an invitation for us to notice and explore how it is to live from our nature. And these types of more dramatic and massive change even more so.

Of course, many won’t be drawn to it. But if you are, then there are ways to explore this. The ones I have found that seem most effective are: The Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Kiloby Inquiries. Basic meditation. And supportive practices like training a more stable attention.

What does this do for us? Not much, necessarily. But it does feel like coming home which is a relief. And it does change the context for everything.

COLLAPSE ACCEPTANCE

What does collapse acceptance mean?

It means accepting that what comes together falls apart.

This civilization will come to an end. Human civilization will come to an end. Humanity will come to an end. Each of those deaths will leave space for something else, which could be a new human civilization or new species eventually developing a new civilization.

It also means accepting the possibility of a more imminent collapse than many expect.

It’s a possibility, it’s not inevitable. We don’t know for certain.

To me, it also means using this to fuel our life – our gratitude, zest for life, engagement, connections, and so on. We can use it to deepen our conscious connection with our life, the life of others, and life in general. We can use it to be good stewards of our own life and life in general. It’s immensely precious as long as it’s here.

POWER-OVER VS POWER-WITH

A few more words about worldviews.

The worldview of our civilization (post-agriculture) has a power-over orientation where we seek power over ourselves, others, nature, and so on. We have a transcendent sky-god out there somewhere and not in or manifesting as everything, including ourselves, others, and nature.

That allows us to see nature – and ourselves and others – as primarily a resource and something to use (and abuse). This is internalized in all of us, and we can train ourselves to recognize it and support and emphasize alternatives ourselves and our culture.

The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves (different parts of our psyche), others, nature, and the universe. It’s also to see all of existence as sacred, as the divine or an expression of the divine. (This includes ourselves, others, nature, the universe.)

When this is internalized, it leads to a very different life individually and collectively. We’ll still need to use natural resources to support our own life, but we’ll do it from a different place. We’ll do it with more gratitude, reverence, and seek to find ways to do it that supports not only our own life but the larger living system, future generations, and life in general.

Of course, there will still be times when a more narrow view takes over – times of crisis or when we are caught in trauma, and we’ll make mistakes because we don’t know better – but that will still happen within a larger context of a general power-with and immanent Spirit orientation. And there will be systems in place to protect the interest of life – our own and the wider living systems – to prevent the worst anti-life behaviors.

This is not idealism. It’s what’s necessary for our own survival. It’s how we protect our own survival and the survival of our descendants.

WHAT’S MY HISTORY WITH THIS?

I loved nature from a very early age. As a child, I always said I wanted to become a zoologist. (What I really meant was ecologist but I didn’t know that word then.) I loved being in nature. I loved the hiking, skiing, and cabin trips with my family. I loved sleeping under the stars in the mountains of Norway. I loved the nature documentaries with David Attenborough and Sverre M. Fjelstad. I loved Cosmos by Carl Sagan, which had a huge impact on me and – in many ways – changed my life. (“We are the local ears, eyes, thoughts and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.”)

In my mid-teens, I got deeply into Fritjof Capra, systems views, and the people he references. I also got deeply into Deep Ecology (Arne Næss, a fellow Norwegian) and eco-philosophy, and I got deeply into Jung. I read all the books I could get my hands on from these authors.

Climate change became a big topic in my later teens, in the ’80s, and even then, I saw it as just one expression of the problems inherent in our civilization. We need to make the changes anyway, climate change or no climate change. (Discussing the details about it and whether it’s human-caused or not is a distraction and sometimes an intentional distraction.)

In my twenties, in the US, I read everything I could find about ecospirituality (from any and no particular tradition), ecopsychology, the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, and so on. I used the Ecological Footprint a lot in my work with sustainability. (I was the initial paid coordinator for Sustain Dane in Madison, Wisconsin.) I organized several projects where we used the ecological footprint as a central theme, and also several events and workshops (and one longer retreat) where we used the Practices to Reconnect and the Council of All Beings.

These days, I work on a regeneration project (15 hectares) in the Andes mountain. It feels deeply rewarding to help this land become more vibrant and healthy again and support the lives of innumerable beings. An integrated food forest will provide food for non-human beings and humans. And it may also eventually be part of local eco-tourism. We’ll see. Anything can happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are questions about the world, not answers.

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

Image by me and Midjourney

Connecting with people who recently died

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

And this also works for people who have recently died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image is by me and Midjourney

What we are never dies? Timeless is not the same as eternal

I saw an ad for a non-dual course that said: Find the part of you that never dies.

I understand it’s a hook, and I see it slightly differently.

The simple answer is: I don’t know for certain. I don’t know if what I am will never die or not.

And there is a longer answer that also points to something essential.

FINDING WHAT WE ARE

We find what we are – that which our field of experience happens within and as.

We find that time, change, and death happen within and as what we are.

We find ourselves as what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We can also imperfectly label this timeless since it’s inherently free of the passage of time. Change, time, birth and death, and so on happen within and as what I am.

This is our more fundamental nature, and it’s all we have ever known whether we notice it or not.

Our nature has all the characteristics that mystics through time and across traditions talk about.

That’s all fine. It’s something we can find for ourselves and check out for ourselves. It’s not even that difficult to have a taste of it with the right guidance. (To stabilize in it can take a little more effort and, ironically, time.)

STICKING TO WHAT I CAN SAY SOMETHING ABOUT

I like to stick to what I can say something about, which is my own nature as it appears to me.

I can say that, to me, the world happens within and as the consciousness I am. So everything inevitably appears as consciousness to me.

My nature is consciousness. And I cannot say anything about the nature of anything else. It appears as consciousness to me, but I don’t know if that’s its actual nature.

This view is grounded and honest to me. And it has the upside that it’s compatible with a range of different worldviews, including materialism, atheism, non-theism, theism, and more.

I love this approach for those reasons.

I cannot say anything for certain about what happens after the death of this human self. It’s possible that the consciousness I am goes with it. And it’s possible that the consciousness I am will continue free of this human self. Either option is compatible with my nature as I notice it.

In other words, timeless is not necessarily the same as eternal.

And as the Zen master said: I don’t know what happens after I die. I am not dead yet.

TAKING IT ONE STEP FURTHER

Some like to take this a step further.

We can assume that existence itself has the same nature as us.

To us, the world will inevitably appear as consciousness since that’s what we are. From here, we can assume that’s how the world actually is. The world and all of existence is consciousness AKA Spirit, the divine. God, Brahman, and so on.

This view fits with another assumption. And that is that what we are – the consciousness we are – will continue after the death of this human self.

There are two leaps of faith here. One is assuming that the nature of all of existence is the same as our own as we experience it. The other is assuming that it means that what we are continues after the death of this human self.

BEING HONEST ABOUT IT

Taking those leaps is fine. It may be comforting. It may fit what traditions say. It may fit some reports from some people. (Including me since I had memories of my time before incarnation as a little kid.) And it’s good to be honest about it.

It’s good to be honest about it being an assumption and not something we can easily check out for ourselves before this human self dies.

For me, it’s much more comfortable to be honest about all this.

Yes, I know my own nature to some extent. I have been swimming in that water for more than three decades now. I know what traditions say. I have my own memories of the time before this life. (Similar to what people describe from near-death experiences.) I have often checked in with people after they have died and what I sense has matched what others have sensed. (What I pick up about them is surprisingly varied, ranging from immense confusion and turmoil to peace, relief, and joy.) I know what the few studying this scientifically say.

And yet I cannot know. I cannot know for certain what will happen after this life. Anything is possible. I’ll see when that time comes.

THE UPSIDES OF A MORE GROUNDED VIEW

Taking a more honest and grounded view on this has many upsides.

I don’t need to create, uphold, and rehearse stories.

I don’t need to defend stories against anything that may seem threatening to them.

And it gives me more zest for this life. I have no idea what comes next. I have no idea how long this human self is here for. So why not make the most out of it? Why not enjoy what’s here now?

Why not even see if I can find enjoyment in it even if it’s something my personality may not like?

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE DIFFERENTIATE?

Why don’t more people differentiate in this way?

Why do some mystics and non-dual folks assume they know what will happen after death? Why do they assume that the nature of all of reality is the same as their own? Why do they assume that timeless means eternal?

I am not sure. Maybe they just latch onto what others have told them. Maybe they haven’t noticed the difference between finding their own nature, and assuming that’s also the nature of all of existence? Maybe they don’t notice the two leaps of faith they have to make? Maybe they find comfort in it? Maybe it’s a kind of wishful thinking? Maybe this differentiation is a more modern (?) way of looking at it, and many still stick with traditions?

SCIENCE

To me, what happens after death is a question for science.

It’s something we can, to our best ability, study. And some do.

And even then, we cannot know for certain. There is always more than one way to understand the data.

DON’T KNOW

Which brings us back to don’t know. We cannot know for certain.

I cannot know anything for certain.

And I find it most comfortable to admit that and rest in and as that. It’s closest to reality.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Conspiracy theories – why people get into them & a few more reflections

I see people getting caught up in things that – even if true – are typically far less important than what we know is happening in the world. We know our civilization is in the middle of a massive ecological crisis. We know our civilization is currently ecocidal and suicidal. We know we need a deep transformation to survive. So why choose to get caught up in something more peripheral?

I have written about conspiracy theories before and thought I would briefly revisit the topic.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Why have I taken time to write about conspiracy theories?

There are several reasons.

If a number of people are caught up in (poorly supported) conspiracy theories, it threatens our collective ability to make grounded and informed decisions.

Conspiracy theories generally distract us from far more important issues. What we know is going on in the world today – unraveling ecosystems, massive overuse of Earht’s resources, grotesque social inequalities, and so on – is far more important than what most conspiracy theories are about.

The phenomenon is interesting from historical, social, and psychological perspectives. It tells us something about how we function individually and collectively, including in times of crisis.

Analyzing conspiracy theories is a great way to learn history, psychology, valid reasoning, scientific methods, evaluating the solidity of data, and so on.

What I see in people, including those caught in conspiracy theories, mirrors something me. It mirrors dynamics I can find in myself. It won’t take the same form, but the same dynamics are inevitably here in me. It’s an opportunity for me to discover more about myself.

Questioning my judgments about conspiracy theorists helps me find clarity around those and similar thoughts, and find what’s more true for me. This helps me relate to myself, others, and conspiracy theories in the world in a more clear and effective way.

SOME EXAMPLES OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

What are some of the conspiracy theories?

Here is just a small selection of the old, recent, or current ones:

Flat Earth. This ignores a huge amount of data that shows that the Earth is round, including people flying and sailing around the world, the curved horizon and things disappearing behind the horizon, the simple stick-and-shadow experiment of Eratosthenes that anyone can do for themselves, the shape of the shadow of Earth when it falls on the moon, the shape of all other large objects in space and what gravity inevitably does to large masses (make them round), and so on. It also ignores that a huge number of people will have to be in on the conspiracy, including pilots, sailors, astronomers, astronauts, and so on.

The Covid vaccine is designed to kill off most people in the world. It hasn’t happened yet, and there is no reason why it should.

Covid doesn’t exist. It’s a variation of a well-known type of virus. There is nothing about it very much out of the ordinary. Also, pandemics happen about once a century so this one was right on schedule. There was nothing surprising about a pandemic coming about this time.

The pandemic measures implemented by governments are designed to remove people’s freedoms and will not be reversed. These are common-sense pandemic measures that we know from history work. They are standard recommendations from epidemiology. There is nothing unusual or surprising about them. And there is absolutely no reason to assume they are anything but temporary. (Most if not all have already been removed.)

Climate change is not happening, or it’s not generated by human activities. What we see in the world today closely fits climate change models from the early 1970s. Nothing about it is surprising. The general physics is also simple: We collectively put a lot of gasses into the atmosphere that allow sunlight in, this light is converted to heat when it hits the Earth, and these gasses then trap that heat. That’s why they are called greenhouse gasses, it functions like a greenhouse.

The sexual allegations against Russel Brand are staged to discredit him since he speaks truth to power and is a danger to those in power. What he says is nothing new and nothing unique. It’s pretty banal and he is often missing the bigger picture. And no matter what, he is certainly no threat to the current system. There is no need to fabricate any allegations against him. Also, what happened was broadcast and captured on tape minutes after it happened. And fueling these kinds of conspiracy theories only makes it more difficult for women to speak up against sexual abuse, and it’s already more than difficult enough for them.

Vaccines are dangerous. This is perhaps not in itself a conspiracy theory but it’s often mixed in with them. Yes, of course, vaccines are dangerous. All medications are. Some bodies react strongly to vaccines, as they likely would to the actual virus, and they can get seriously ill or even die. Anybody who is minimally informed knows that. It’s a matter of weighing the risks and benefits and making up your own mind. Nobody is forcing you to do anything. It’s up to you to be informed and make the best choices for you.

The Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t work. Again, not exactly a conspiracy theory in itself but often mixed in with them. If you live in the uninformed illusion that vaccines always prevent a disease 100%, then I understand why you may see it that way. But in the real world, they definitely work. They prevent serious illness, which innumerable studies show. They protect the ones most at risk for serious illness and death.

Anti-woke views are similarly not a conspiracy theory in itself but are often mixed in with them. They come from the far-right and are adopted by some who generally have a left-wing or progressive orientation.

I know very well that any and all counter-arguments or counter-data to these conspiracy theories are expected by the ones into them and they have their own counter-counter arguments and counter-counter data. The question is, how solid is the logic? How solid is the data? Would it hold up in a court of law? If not, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong, but it may be good to examine it more closely and perhaps hold it more lightly.

Of course, some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. When conspiracies have been revealed in the past, it’s been through the work of diligent reporters and historians. And they have been uncovered through finding a good amount of solid data that can be verified by anyone.

WHAT DO I SEE IN CONSPIRACY FOLKS?

What do I see in people caught in conspiracy theories? What are my judgments? What do I imagine is going on?

Here are some examples, and not all apply in all cases.

Some seem not very well informed about history. For instance, we know from history that times of collective crisis tend to fuel conspiracy theories. Pandemics inevitably lead to conspiracy theories. There is scapegoating and attempts to blame someone for the pandemic. There is denial – it’s not happening or it’s not as serious as people say. There is resistance to the common-sense measures implemented to reduce the impact of the pandemic. All of this is typical and predictable, and yet people repeat patterns from history without knowing that that’s what they are doing.

Some may go into conspiracy theories to feel better about themselves. They can tell themselves they know, while others don’t. They know something most others don’t. They see through the scam while others don’t. In this way, they can boost their self-esteem.

Some may prefer a simple answer over the complexity, unpredictability, and messiness of the world, even if that simple answer is a stressful story. They prefer to have someone to blame rather than admitting that a lot of problems are systemic and we are all part of it, or that life sometimes is just random.

Some may go into conspiracy theories because it fits their identity. They have created an identity for themselves as an outsider, against the mainstream, critical of power, and so on. Conspiracy theories fit into this, so they adopt them because they fit and reinforce their familiar identity. (Conspiracy theories become mainstream to them.)

Some may want to poke at the “elite”. Their main motivation is to go against the political, academic, and scientific community and get a reaction. That’s more important to them than reality and grounded arguments and data. Reactivity trumps reality. (They don’t bother doing the work to argue against the “elite” in a more grounded and solid way that actually could bring about more lasting change.)

Some may follow someone they trust. They may know and look up to someone, for instance, a media personality, teacher, or friend. That person goes into it. So they go into it too.

Some may have a desire to split apart communities. For whatever reason, they seek to split apart families, friend groups, organizations, and even whole countries. This may come from reactivity. It may be a strategic political reason. Or a combination.

Some may paint themselves into a corner, and find it difficult to back out. They may realize, at some point, some of the craziness of the conspiracy world, and they find it difficult to leave. They would have to leave a community. They would have to admit they allowed themselves to be duped. They would have to admit they based it on poor data and reasoning. They would lose a certain identity. And so on.

Some may not be very familiar with the dark side of how the world works. They take little pieces of information that are new to them and blow up their significance. They don’t see it in perspective and the bigger picture. For instance, corporations and commercial media are obviously in it for profit. That doesn’t mean they are part of some grand intentional conspiracy to mislead people. Biases and misleading people inevitably happen anyway for a variety of reasons.

Some want to blame individuals and organizations instead of looking at our systems. A lot of what’s happening in the world comes out of the way our systems are set up. There is no need for individuals and organizations to do anything intentionally to make it happen. For instance, our economic system was set up at a time when nature was – for all practical purposes – limitless. With our current numbers and technology, this system is inevitably destructive to nature and suicidal to ourselves. Similarly, our social system (politics, economy, education, etc.) is set up to largely preserve the status quo, including the privileges of the already privileged. That’s how any system works. No grand scheme is needed. (And all of it can and will change, that’s inevitable too.)

Some may wish for community. They find a community of like-minded conspiracy folks. They feel they belong. They feel seen and understood. (Even if the seeing and understanding are mostly just people reflecting conspiracy theories back to each other.) They have an outer enemy which reinforces and justifies their community and cohesion.

Some may go into conspiracy theories for entertainment, either consciously or because they are compelled to seek entertainment (and distraction from something in themselves or their life). They like the sense of discovery, drama, and excitement.

Some may feel their mind has been opened up to things outside of the “mainstream”, so they get into anything outside of what they see as mainstream. They don’t realize they have joined a new mainstream.

Some base their arguments on weak data without realizing how weak the data is. They latch onto outlier data and assume these are true while 99.9% of other research and data are not. They ignore that outlier data exist in all fields of science and that these are 99.9% of the time based on faulty data and interpretations. Or they find articles that sound and look scientific but are written by non-experts in the field and published on questionable websites and then pretend these are more solid than research and articles done by experts and published in reputable journals.

Some seem unfamiliar with valid reasoning and logical fallacies. They typically commit a series of well-known logical fallacies in their reasoning. For instance, some said that limited and common-sense pandemic measures (that we know work from history) are a violation of human rights. Human rights have nothing to do with wearing a mask or quarantining yourself if you are sick. You already accept a large number of guidelines and laws created to make our society work. These are just a few minor and temporary ones, so why get upset about them?

Some use pieces of information from science without understanding how little they understand. They pick up bits and take them as solid data or solid logic because they are not familiar with the bigger picture. They are not experts in the field. They don’t know how to examine data well. They don’t know how to detect fallacies in the arguments. They don’t examine the source well enough. They don’t have the maturity in the field to realize how little they know. In short, they assume they understand more about a field than experts who have devoted decades of their lives to it

Some may not be aware of the inconsistencies in their views. If they need their car repaired, they go to a car mechanic. If they need a kidney transplant, they go to a kidney specialist and surgeon. If they need a bridge designed and built, they go to an engineer. And yet, when it comes to whatever their conspiracy is about, they suddenly distrust a whole field of experts. They don’t trust climate scientists if they are into a climate change conspiracy. They don’t trust epidemiologists about pandemics. They don’t trust geographers (and many other fields of science) if they think the planet is flat.

Some may start with the conclusion. They fit whatever comes up into their existing conspiracy worldview. For instance, someone pointing out weaknesses in their logic is obviously brainwashed or part of the conspiracy.

Some seem to live in an apparently horrific worldview. For instance, how do you experience the world if you assume that normal airplane condensation trails are meant to poison people? (And that pilots, airlines, and so on are in on it.) Or if vaccines are meant to kill people? (And again, where a large number of people are in on it. In this case, diverse governments around the world, WHO, pharmaceutical companies, and perhaps even doctors and nurses.) What kind of world is that? What kind of view do you have on humans?

Some may not personally know the types of people they have conspiracy ideas about. If they knew more of these people, they would probably realize that they are people just like them, and most of them would never agree to be part of anything like it. It’s easy to project the shadow onto a mostly blank slate, and far more difficult if you actually know these kinds of people. (And these kinds of people are the normal kinds of people, like you.)

Some don’t realize the immense privilege they have, and that the privilege allows them to go into certain views and conspiracy theories. For example, we live in a society (relatively) free of many serious diseases because of vaccines. And the people currently holding anti-vaccine views benefit hugely from decades of vaccines without apparently realizing it.

Some may be caught up in blind shadow projections. They imagine terrible things in the world without recognizing it’s a projection. They don’t recognize the characteristics and dynamics in themselves. (Of course, it’s often in the world too, one way or another, although perhaps not exactly the way we imagine it.)

Some may use conspiracy theories as a distraction. They get into conspiracy theories because they are compelling and distracts them from their own discomfort and what they don’t like about their own life.

Some may use conspiracy theories to intentionally mislead others. Either because it gives them some personal satisfaction. Or as a more intentional strategy to confuse a social issue and create division between people. (Sowing doubt is often effective in preventing or slowing down collective action. We see that with climate change, as we saw it with the tobacco industry a few decades ago. Polarizing a population is an effective way to weaken a country, as we see with Russian troll farms targeting the US and Western democracies.)

Several conspiracy theories and certain related views (anti-vaccination, anti-pandemic measures, anti-woke, etc.) start at the far right and are then adopted by people with a traditional left-wing or progressive orientation. This is well known, and people still adopt these views as if they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know that they, in many cases, are intentionally being duped and manipulated. (See “Everything you have been told is a lie!” Inside the wellness to fascism pipeline,
The dark side of wellness: the overlap between spiritual thinking and far-right conspiracies, and other articles on this topic.)

Finally and more to the point, I see people getting caught up in things that – even if true – are typically far less important than what we know is happening in the world. We know our civilization is in the middle of a massive ecological crisis. We know our civilization is currently ecocidal and suicidal. We know we need a deep transformation to survive. So why choose to get caught up in something more peripheral?

WHAT DOES THIS MIRROR IN ME?

The question then is, how does this mirror me? How and when do I do the same?

The short answer is that I can likely find all of this in how I see and relate to conspiracy folks

Just writing this list helps me recognize when I do something similar.

I have done more systematic inquiries, mostly using The Work of Byron Katie, and plan to do more.

Images: Created by me and Midjourney with the exception of the cartoon

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I am not this body?

Some folks like to say: I am not this body.

I imagine why they say it. They may want to make a point, and it can be meant as a pointer. But it can also be misleading.

To me, it’s more accurate to say that I am not most fundamentally anything within the content of experience, including this body. I am more fundamentally what it all happens within and as. I am what it all comes and goes within and as.

And it is also accurate to say I am this body in a couple of different ways.

In a conventional and pragmatic sense, I am this body. That’s what my passport says. It’s what most people see me as. And that’s completely fine.

I am also this whole field of experience, including this body. What I am forms itself into its own content of experience, including this body and the wider world. I am all of it while it’s here.

There is some validity to each of these views and many more.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Others are likely like me: we are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world with all sorts of characteristics, identities, and so on. And yet, when I look, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am more fundamentally what this field of experience happens within and as. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am capacity for it all.

A thought may call this consciousness. To myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And that’s likely the same for others as well.

If a creature “has” consciousness, then to themselves they ARE consciousness. And the world, as it appears to them, happens within and as the consciousness they are.

The only difference is the particular body-mind this consciousness operates through and as. It may be another human being. It may be a bird. It may be an insect.

To me, this is very beautiful. Even if they may not consciously recognize their nature, I can recognize it. I can imagine it based on what I find here.

Why the halo or nimbus in these images? Why the circle around the head or body?

I can find three reasons.

One is tradition. In European and Asian art, it’s traditionally used to indicate sacredness.

It’s also something we can see. I have seen energies around people and any living and even non-living thing since my mid-teens. (I first saw it around the leaves of a birch tree.)

And it’s also metaphorical. Here, I used it to suggest consciousness and that we all fundamentally are consciousness to ourselves, whether we notice or not.

I made these images with Midjourney, and they are really created by our collective humanity and the existence as a whole just like anything expressed through each of us.

Divine awareness is in all things?

Divine awareness is in all things

– NW in a Vortex Healing forum

These kinds of simple statements can be fertile ground for exploration.

MENTAL & PERCEPTION

When people say these things, it can come from two places.

It can come from a mental representation, often formed by exposure to what others say and write.

And it can come from a direct noticing.

In this case, I know the person who wrote it so I assume it comes from a combination. He directly perceives it and is also guided by what he has heard others say.

WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

Where does that perception come from?

Rationally, we see that we are consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then – to ourselves – we ARE consciousness. And that also means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We can also find this in direct perception. Yes, in some ways, I am this human self in the world as others see it and my passport suggests. When I take a closer look, I find something else. I find I more fundamentally am what this whole field of experience happens within and as. I am what – to me – the world and this human self and any content of experience happens within and as. And that can be called consciousness.

When the world, to me, happens within and as what I am AKA consciousness, then the world, to me, appears to be made up of consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into the whole field of experience, including of the wider world. The world, to me, appears as consciousness. It appears as a night dream since both night dreams and waking life happen within and as consciousness.

And from there, it’s easy to also call it the divine or Spirit. The world, to me, inevitably appears to have the characteristics of the divine. It’s one. It’s consciousness. It’s “alive” in that sense.

SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS

So what’s really going on here?

If the world, to me, inevitably APPEARS as consciousness, does that mean the world, in itself, IS consciousness? That it is what we can call Spirit or the divine?

Most mystics will say so, and many spiritual traditions say so as well. But that’s just what someone says.

There are also many hints suggesting all is Spirit. For instance, sensing at a distance, distance healing, seeing energies, amazing synchronicities, reports of near-death experiences, memories from before this life, and so on. All of this fits into seeing all as Spirit, but it can also be understood in other ways. It’s not conclusive.

So for me, it makes sense to use two different understandings of what’s going on.

One is the small interpretation. It’s based on what’s described in the previous section: to ourselves, we inevitably are consciousness, and the world, to us, inevitably appears as consciousness. That’s all we can say for certain. Anything else is speculation and assumptions, although some views may be more compatible with the data than other views.

It’s possible that the materialistic view is correct. In an outside and third-person view, we and the rest of existence may fundamentally be matter and it just appears to us as if all things are consciousness.

It’s also possible that all is Spirit, and our nature and the nature of all things is the same. We cannot know for certain. We hold the possibilities open.

The upside of this view is that it’s honest. It allows for a range of possibilities when it comes to the nature of all things. It leaves the door open for anyone to explore their own nature independent of their existing worldview. (A Marxist or materialist can do it as well as a Christian or Hindu.) The downside is that it can seem a little dry. (Although not to me, I find it fascinating.)

The other is the big interpretation. The nature of reality itself is the same as my own nature. Not only does all things appear as consciousness, it also IS consciousness. It’s all Spirit, the divine, Brahman, Allah, and so on. The upside of this view is that it’s inspiring, and it’s familiar and fits what mystics and many spiritual traditions say. The downside is that it can put some people off, and it taken as is, it may not be entirely honest.

USING BOTH VIEWS

To me, what makes the most sense is to use both of these views. They complement each other. Each one has upsides and downsides. And it just feels more comfortable and honest.

The small view is more inviting for a wider range of people, and it also fits better in an academic context. It makes it easier to study awakening and the experience of mystics in an academic setting.

The big view is more familiar to many, fits many traditions, fits more data, and is often more inspiring.

As I see it, the small view is more honest to our own experience. And the big view may be more accurate in the bigger picture.

WHY IS THIS MORE INCLUSIVE VIEW NOT MORE COMMON?

Why don’t more people differentiate between these two views? (I actually don’t know of anyone who does, although I am sure there must be many out there. This is just something that makes sense to me.)

This view seems so obvious to me and makes so much sense, so I am honestly a little baffled why others don’t seem to talk about it.

The obvious answer is that many do, I just don’t know about it. I have been out of touch with these kinds of explorations in the wider world for several years due to my health.

Also, some may talk about it outside of the public view. They may see it as a refinement not necessary for most explorers, and something that may confuse people starting out on their own exploration. (I see it as something that could clarify and guide.)

Some may use these views for themselves without speaking about it very much. (I usually don’t mention it apart from in these writings.)

Some may find comfort in using the traditional language and ways of talking about it.

And some may not have explored this very much. They may not find it interesting or useful. (I obviously find it both useful and interesting. Also, exploring the sense fields and projections has been a central part of my path since my teens so this may come more naturally to me. I am biased in this direction.)

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Many and one onenesses

I like to differentiate between a small (psychological) and a big (spiritual) understanding of awakening. Each view adds and highlights something important.

For instance, are we one or many?

BIG UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY

From a big or spiritual understanding of awakening, we can say that the divine is one and yet takes innumerable forms, including as any and all beings.

There is nothing wrong with that view. That’s how I see it too.

SMALL UNDERSTANDING OF ONE AND MANY

And a small or psychological understanding of awakening adds something important.

Here, we focus more on our own experience and don’t assume that existence as a whole is as it appears to us.

To myself, I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am. This consciousness and experience of the world is one. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

I assume it’s the same for others. They too are fundamentally consciousness, operating through whatever body and psyche is there. They too are oneness to themselves.

From this view, we are all one. The world inevitably appears as one to us. We are many onenesses.

We can also say that existence, most likely, in itself is one. We can add the view from science, which tells us existence is one in that it’s a seamless system. And we can add the view from the big understanding of awakening, telling us it’s all one in that it’s all Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on.

MANY AND ONE ONENESSES

In a sense, we are many and one onenesses.

In my immediate experience, I am one, and the world to me happens within and as that oneness.

From a small understanding of awakening, I assume others too are fundamentally consciousness to themselves. They too are a oneness and the world, to them, happens within and as that oneness.

From science, it makes sense to see the universe and all of existence as one system and a seamless whole.

And from a big understanding of awakening, I see all as Spirit. It’s all the play of Spirit or the divine, including when it takes the local form of this being and all beings.

MY STORY

How has this played out for me?

The initial oneness shift happened when I was sixteen. In my direct perception, all was one. And to make sense of it through my mental representations, I definitely fell into the big understanding. I saw it all as God and Spirit taking any and all forms, including anything about this human self.

I was already into systems views (I loved Fritjof Capra’s writings which I discovered when I was fourteen or fifteen). So intellectually, I saw the universe as one seamless system. A holarchy made up of innumerable holons.

The small or psychological understanding of awakening was there, somewhere in the background, but I didn’t emphasize it so much and I didn’t differentiate the two as clearly as I do now. That came more over time, especially as I saw how useful it can be to make that differentiation.

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The banality of awakening

There is a certain banality to awakening.

THE BANALITY OF IT

It’s what we are noticing itself. It’s our nature awakening to itself. And our nature is completely ordinary. It’s all we have ever known and all we will ever know.

When our nature recognizes itself and gets used to it, it becomes ordinary. It can even, at times, seem a bit banal. (That’s part of how our human self may relate to it.)

It’s also banal in that it’s not so difficult to notice. Through guidance and pointers, just about anyone can notice it and get a taste of it. The most effective approaches I have found are The Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. These can give a direct taste within minutes or seconds. The Kiloby Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist inquiry) are also effective, although it’s often a slightly longer process.

So it’s banal in that it’s our nature – what we already are – noticing itself. It’s banal in that this too gets ordinary over time. And it’s banal in that it’s not so difficult to find and notice, with the right guidance.

AWAKENING

What’s awakening about?

In a conventional sense, we are this human self living its life in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that works relatively well. It matches reality well enough. And the ways it doesn’t match is where it that assumption creates discomfort and unease and perhaps even suffering.

More fundamentally, we are something else.

In my own immediate experience, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what the whole field of experience, all content of experience, happens within and as. This human self and the wider world happen within and as what I am.

Logically, I find the same. If I “have” consciousness, it means I – to myself – AM consciousness. And it also means that, to me, the world happens within and as what I am. I am this field of consciousness any and all experience happens within and as. Logically, it cannot be any other way.

When we find ourselves as more fundamentally consciousness, we also notice what mystics across time and cultures describe. We find oneness. We find that the world, inevitably, appears as consciousness, and if we are so inclined we may call that the divine, Spirit, God, Brahman, and so on. (The world appears as consciousness to me since, to me, it happens within and as the consciousness I am. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the nature of all that exists.) We find a love that’s all-inclusive and doesn’t depend on emotions or shifting content of experience. (And which may be covered up or sidetracked by the hangups and biases of this human self.)

What’s my connection with this human self? There is a special connection with this particular human self. I receive sense information through the physical senses of this human self. It seems that thoughts and emotions are connected with – and perhaps generated by – this human self. This human self is around all the time during (what we call) waking consciousness. This human self is what many others see me as. In a way, it’s my vehicle in the world. And it’s not what I most fundamentally am, in my own experience.

THE EXTRAORDINARINESS OF IT

There is also something extraordinary to it.

There is something extraordinary in that anything exists at all. How come there is something rather than nothing? How come there is consciousness? How come there is an apparent world? That’s completely baffling to me and the question stops my mind. (1)

If the oneness we are has taken itself as something in particular within its field of experience (this human self, an observer, a doer, etc.), and it recognizes its nature, then it tends to be experienced as amazing and extraordinary. It’s typically both very familiar and feels like coming home and it’s something we have always, somehow, known, and it also seems completely amazing and extraordinary. And it does become ordinary after a while, which is good since it allows us to focus on something else instead of being distracted by our experience of the extraordinariness of it.

As with just about anything else, there is no end to wrinkles and intricacies of awakening and how to explore and live from it. In that sense, it’s anything but banal.

MY EXPERIENCE

When the oneness shift happened when I was sixteen, it did seem absolutely amazing. It turned my (experience of) the world and myself inside-out and upside-down. My human self and psyche responded to it by seeing it as amazing and extraordinary for many years, even as I kept exploring it. (My nature, how it interfaces with my human self, how to live from and as it, and so on). It took some years before I found anyone talking about this or describing it, and although what I found at first was filtered through a culture different from my own, I found it fascinating to see how people talked about it.

After a while, it became more ordinary – and sometimes even banal. This took a couple of decades in my case (!), perhaps because this human self tends to be fascinated by the mystery of it all. It’s an ongoing process that’s always new and fresh and keeps revealing new sides of itself.

I am still baffled that anything exists, and I continue to be fascinated by the intricacies and the ongoing exploration process. (Part of that exploration process is to invite more of my human self and psyche to align with the awakening. This too is an ongoing, and sometimes challenging, process.)

(1) Some misunderstand and say: “It’s because it’s created by God”. But God too is something rather than nothing.

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Secular and spiritual understandings of awakening

I find differentiating a secular and spiritual understanding of awakening intuitive and helpful.

OUR HUMAN SELF AND WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

First, some background.

In one sense, we are this human self in the world. That’s how (most) others see us, what our passport tells us, and what our own thoughts may tell us. It’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

Is that what we more fundamentally are? What do I find when I explore in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for any and all experience. And I am what any content of experience happens within and as. (AKA consciousness.)

WHAT IS AWAKENING?

To ourselves, we are consciousness. And to us, the world happens within and as this consciousness.

The consciousness we are may take itself to most fundamentally be this human self. It takes itself to be a particular content within itself, and mainly a set of identities created by our mental field.

This likely happens because we do as others do. Most onenesses connected to humans do this today, so that’s what we see and we do the same.

When the oneness we are recognizes itself, that’s what some call awakening. And that’s just the start of a new exploration – of keeping recognizing it, exploring how to live from and as it, and allowing our human self and psyche to transform within this new context.

A SECULAR UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

We can understand it in a secular way.

To ourselves, we are consciousness, and the world to us happens within and as this consciousness.

If we “have” consciousness, then we ARE consciousness in our own experience, and the world to us happens within and as that consciousness. And the consciousness we are has the characteristics mystics of all times and traditions describe. It’s one. It’s love. (A love that comes from recognizing oneness and is independent of changing states, moods, and feelings.) There is a quiet bliss there. And so on.

This is phenomenology. It describes our experience and how it is for us. (And inevitably any consciousness connected with any type of being.)

It doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence itself. It may well be that in a third-person view, we are most fundamentally a physical human self. And yet, to ourselves, we are inevitably consciousness.

It’s an understanding that fits with a range of different worldviews, including atheism and materialism.

And we can still explore and learn a lot from the many spiritual traditions in the world and their pointers and practices. The essence of all of it is valuable.

A SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING OF AWAKENING

We can also understand this in a spiritual way.

To ourselves, we are consciousness. That means that the world, to us, inevitably appears as consciousness.

That’s where the secular or psychological understanding of awakening ends.

And in a spiritual understanding of awakening, we take this a step further.

Here, we assume that the nature of all of existence is the same as our nature. All of it is as it appears. All is consciousness AKA Spirit, the divine, God, Brahman, and so on.

WHAT ARE THE UPSIDES AND LIMITATIONS OF EACH?

Each of these understandings has upsides and limitations.

The secular understanding helps us find the lowest common denominator and the simple essence of what awakening is about. It can be a common language for people from different traditions. It can help people from different traditions to recognize the essence more clearly. It can make (the idea of) awakening interesting to a wider range of people, including atheists and materialists. In a sense, it’s also more honest since it keeps it simple and stays with our immediate experience.

It also strips away a lot of cultural baggage from different spiritual traditions, which is both an upside (simplifies and brings focus to what’s essential) and a limitation (may lose out on a lot with cultural and practical value). And some may find it slightly mundane and uninspiring. (Which, to me, is an upside since I prefer a sober approach.)

The spiritual understanding of awakening may be more familiar to many. It may be more inspiring. There is a lot of cultural, social, and practical value in the different existing traditions. And a spiritual understanding may, ultimately, even be more accurate. (There are hints in that direction, including synchronicities, sensing and healing at a distance, precognition, and so on, although this can also be understood in other ways.)

The downside to a spiritual understanding is that it may put some people off any interest in exploring it for themselves. The essence often gets mixed in with cultural and traditional baggage and it can be difficult to tell what’s what. And some traditions may fuel fantasies and misconceptions about awakening.

A NOTE ABOUT LANGUAGE

When I have written about this before, I have often called it “psychological” and “spiritual” understandings of awakening.

To me, “psychological” here just means that it’s within the domain of psychology. It’s phenomenology.

When I on rare occasions have mentioned “psychological understanding” to others, they have responded with: “It depends on what framework of psychology”. To me, that’s missing the point and it confuses the topic. So I may just call it “secular understanding” from now on.

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When teachers of meditation and yogic practices are not informed about spiritual emergencies and trauma

Yesterday, I learned that a family member of a friend committed suicide immediately following a tantric retreat.

I don’t know what happened, obviously. But it’s not a stretch to imagine that something got triggered in him from the practices in the retreat, possibly deep trauma, it was overwhelming and unbearable to him, he lacked the support he needed, and saw no other way out of it at that moment. Possibly, if he had some forewarning that this could happen, if he had felt he could go to someone with what was happening, and if he had received support, he could have weathered it and come out on the other side.

To me, this highlights what fortunately many talk about these days: It’s important for anyone working with energies, meditation, yoga, and awakening to be aware that these explorations can trigger spiritual emergencies and deep traumas, and how to deal with it the best way possible. And this goes tenfold for anyone in the role of teacher, coach, or instructor.

It’s important to…

Inform potential participants before they sign up for any class, workshop, or retreat.

Do a screening for trauma so you can give them extra attention, modify the approaches with them, and perhaps recommend that they instead use another and more gentle approach.

Give them an outline of what may happen, what the typical symptoms are, and how to recognize it. (Usually not so difficult since it can be quite strong!)

Go slow and in small portions. Even apparently gentle practices like tai chi can trigger spiritual emergencies and trauma in some.

Create a safe and encouraging space for them to follow their own guidance, intuition, gut sense, and body, and slow down or sit out of anything that feels like it could be too much for them or too activating.

Create a safe and encouraging space for asking questions about this or asking for guidance.

Know how to best deal with what may come up and support them through it.

Be available following the event in case they need support.

I know that this can seem like bad marketing since it may scare some away. But it’s far worse marketing to have people have a bad experience, go into psychosis, or something similar. And if people are scared away because of this emphasis, then perhaps that’s exactly what needed to happen. Something in them likely knew that this could bring up more than they were ready to handle.

This type of trauma-informed practice is going to happen. It’s inevitable that it’s brought more into these types of events and practices. So why not be slightly ahead of the curve?

And it does make you look more professional, especially if you are actually trained in dealing with the possible fallout of these practices, which is also a good thing.

An online search on “trauma-informed mindfulness” will bring up resources on this topic. I have also written some articles on emergency tools.

NOTE: PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I have some experience with this myself, both as a student/client and coach.

When I did the training in Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) in Oslo, I did a private session with one of the trainers. After five or ten minutes of shaking, I told her that it felt like it was enough for me. Anything else felt like too much. She said: “No, it’s fine, don’t worry, just keep going, we still have forty minutes left”. I did as she said, against my inner guidance. And it triggered a huge amount of energy and previously dormant things in my system. I didn’t sleep more than a few minutes at a time for more than ten days following this and was unable to function apart from doing the basics. It was uncomfortable beyond most of what I have experienced. And it’s hard to see that it was worth it, apart from as a lesson in what NOT to do as a coach or guide. She went against two of the main principles of this kind of work, which is to do it in very small portions in the beginning, and also to always encourage the client to follow their own guidance even and especially if it means taking a break or ending the active part of the session early. (After this, I did the rest of my training in the US where the trainers seemed far more professional.)

As an instructor, I have encouraged people to do just that: Follow your own guidance and sense of what’s right for you, above anything I say or any sense of expectation from anyone else. And do the practice in small portions, especially at first, and especially if you feel a bit raw and vulnerable.

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Contraction and expansion happen within a bigger picture

How do I relate to contracted parts of me?

Do I get caught up in them? Do they fill my metaphorical field of vision?

Or do I recognize them as part of a bigger picture?

And what happens when I do?

THE ESSENCE: IT’S ALL HAPPENING WITHIN A BIGGER PICTURE

It’s all happening within a bigger picture.

Any sense of contractions – bodily and mental – happens within who I am, and who I am is much more than this and much more diverse than this.

Any sense of contractions or expansion happens within and as what I more fundamentally am. It happens within and as the consciousnes I am. It happens within and as consciousness, just like any other content of experience.

And when I notice that, there is a softening of identification with the contracted parts of me. My center of gravity shifts more into the whole of who I am as a human self. And it shifts more into what I am, as this field of consciousness any and all experience happens within and as.

CONTRACTED AND RELAXED PARTS OF ME

My muscles contract and relax, and there are some chronic contractions in some areas. (Mostly shoulders, and a bit in calves and jaw.)

My mind also contracts at times. Part of me takes stressful thoughts as true and are contracted. Other parts are more relaxed and expansive. And different situations trigger one or the other or a mix and bring them to the surface.

AT MY HUMAN LEVEL, IT’S HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ME

At a human level, all of this is happening within me.

Some parts of my body are relaxed. Some are more tense and contracted.

Some parts of my psyche are relaxed. And some are more contracted and tense.

It’s all happening within a bigger picture.

AT A MORE FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL, IT’S HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

And more fundamentally, it’s all also happening within and as me.

At one level, I am this human self in the world. That’s how most others see me, what my passport tells me, and so on.

And more fundamentally, I find I am something else. In my first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally capacity for all my experiences. I am capacity for this field of experience as it is now.

I am what the sense fields – sights, sounds, smell, taste, sensations, mental imaginations – happen within and as.

To myself, I am consciousness, and the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as this consciousness.

I am what any and all experience happens within and as.

I am what any sense of contraction, relaxation, or expansion happens within and as.

WHEN I DON’T NOTICE THIS

If I don’t notice this, it’s easy to get caught up in whatever happens to be most on the surface.

A physical contraction gets strong and comes to the foreground of experience, and it fills my experience.

A mental contraction gets triggered and comes to the foreground, and I get caught up in it.

I get lost in what’s most salient and miss the bigger picture. I get caught up in it and perceive and live as if it’s all there is.

WHEN I NOTICE THE BIGGER PICTURE

And when I notice the bigger picture, it’s different.

A contraction may be strong and in the foreground, and I notice it as part of a bigger field.

At my human level…

I notice it’s a part of my body, and other parts are more relaxed.

I notice it’s a part of my psyche, and other parts perceive things differently and are more relaxed.

I notice it happens as one of many parts of who I am as a human being.

This helps me not get so caught up in it. I notice it as an object within the content of experience. I can relate to it more intentionally.

As what I more fundamentally am…

I notice it’s happening within and as the consciousness I am.

I notice it’s happening within and as what I more fundamentally am.

I notice I am fundamentally capacity for it.

This too helps me not get so caught in it. It helps me recognize that its nature is the same as the nature of everything else in my field of experience. It helps soften and release identification out of it.

PSYCHOLOGY AND BEYOND

This is something we use in conventional psychology and therapy. It helps us when we are reminded of the bigger picture. When we notice that contracted parts of us are parts of us and not all of what we are. It gives us a mental distance to it, and it’s a little easier to not get caught up in it.

And it’s also something we explore when we investigate what we more fundamentally are. Here too, the bigger picture helps soften identification and shift our center of gravity into the bigger picture.

Exploring who we are (psychology) and what we are (spirituality) is not so different here. We find very similar dynamics.

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Coming to my senses

Why do we say “coming to our senses”?

Likely because there is a sanity we can find by literally coming to our senses, and people throughout time have noticed it and found the expression useful and insightful.

GOING OUT OF OUR SENSES

We inflict suffering and discomfort on ourselves by going into fantasies and taking them as true. We imagine a painful past, a scary future, something uncomfortable happening somewhere else. We even put a layer of interpretation on what’s right here.

Right now, I am sitting in a quiet room with sunlight through the window, a candle on the table, and a cup of warm tea. And I can imagine painful past experiences and childhood. I can imagine something terrible happening in the future. I imagine others living a better and more happy and fulfilling life. And I can imagine that all of those imaginations are real and true and define who I am, and I can get lost in all of it.

COMING TO MY SENSES

Instead, I can come to my senses. I can notice the room I am in. The textures, colors, flickering light, smells, the sensation of my legs on the seat and my feet on the floor.

I can notice what’s here in my senses. I can notice what’s here in my imagination. And I can notice the difference between the two. I can notice that what’s here in my mental field is literally imagination. It’s a collection of labels, interpretations, stories, and so on. It’s full of questions about the world. It’s not reality itself. (Although it can become a reality for me if I get lost in it.) None of it is a final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always different from and more than my imaginations.

That brings a kind of sanity. It helps me ground in what’s here. It helps release charge out of the imaginations.

EXPLORING IT MORE THOROUGHLY

And it may help to investigate this more thoroughly. I can explore what’s in each of my sense fields and how my mental field creates an overlay of labels, stories, and so on, and how those are all questions about the world to help me orient and navigate. They are not anything more. I can also investigate specific stories more thoroughly and find what’s already more true for me (and more peaceful).

THE WISDOM IN COMMON SAYINGS

There is something a lot of wisdom in common expressions.

In this case, “coming to our senses” is a direct pointer to how we can ground, find more sanity, and be more kind to ourselves and others.

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States highlight characteristics of who and what we are

We always experience different states.

Anything we experience – the fullness of our experience – is a state. It always changes.

And each of these states highlights characteristics of who and what we are.

WHAT THEY CAN TELL US ABOUT WHO WE ARE

Some of what we experience tells us something about who we are as a human self in the world.

For instance, I am in a situation that brings up anger in me. What’s behind the anger? Is it an energy I use to get things done and protect myself or someone else? Does it come from an unquestioned painful story? Does it come from love and a wish to protect, perhaps with some layers of confusion on top?

Or I notice I am drawn to something. What is it about it I am drawn to? What do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? What’s the essence of what I am drawn to? How can I bring that into my life? How can I give it to myself here and now? How can I rearrange my life to bring it in more often?

WHAT THEY CAN SHOW US ABOUT WHAT WE ARE

And some of what we experience tells us something about what we more fundamentally are.

Here are some examples from my own process:

When I was fifteen, my system was shifted into a strong observer-observed duality. I experience the world, including anything connected with this human self, as very far away. I was what observed it all. (To me, this was distressing since I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to a lot of doctors and specialists to figure out what was going on, but they didn’t find anything.) This showed me – clearly and at a visceral level – that I am not, most fundamentally, anything within content of experience. (At the time, I wasn’t really consciously aware of any of this, but my system got it at a deeper level.)

A year after, there was another strong shift and this one into oneness. Everything without exception was revealed as God. This human self, and any tendency for the mind to take itself as this human self, was revealed as the play of God. It was God temporarily expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself that way. (These days, I would say “consciousness” instead of God.) This was especially strong for the first few years, and the oneness aspect of what I am was in the foreground and unmissable. It showed me the oneness aspect of what I am so clearly so I can notice it through shifting states and experiences.

Some years later, in the mid-2000s, my system was shifted into a strong no-self state. No-self was already part of the oneness shift, but for about six months, this particular aspect of what I am was brought into the foreground. This period highlighted something about what I am that’s undeniable and I can now more easily notice through shifting states and experiences.

There has been many shifts and states like this, highlighting features of what I am. One that followed the previous one was a shift into noticing what can be called the luminous dark or the divine feminine. I experienced a luminous dark aspect of the divine peering out through and as all forms. It’s difficult to describe but this also highlighted something that it’s now more easy for me to notice.

A small synchronicity: When I re-read and pondered “anything we experience is a state” the lyrics of the song I listened to said “What we feel now”. (Got to be real by Cheryl Lynn.)

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The universality of consciousness

When we see another being, how do we see it?

Do we see it mostly as an object in the world?

Or as consciousness operating through and as that form?

WE SEE OTHERS AS WE KNOW OURSELVES

My guess is that it depends on how we viscerally experience ourselves.

If we viscerally take ourselves to fundamentally be this human self, we’ll tend to see others primarily as a form and an object in the world.

And if we viscerally find ourselves as the consciousness we more fundamentally are, we tend to recognize others as that too. We see them primarily as consciousness.

FINDING OURSELVES AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If we “have” consciousness, it means that to ourselves we ARE consciousness.

And if we are consciousness, then the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the world happens within and as what we are. It happens within and as the oneness we are. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

It’s inevitable from a logical view. And it’s inevitable in our own direct noticing when we explore our own first-person experience.

THE UNIVERSALITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

And that’s likely how it is for any conscious being.

Just like me, they are likely consciousness to themselves, and their world happens within and as the consciousness they are. (Whether they consciously notice it or not.)

THE UNIVERSAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

When I explore what I am, I find certain characteristics.

I find I am fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what can form itself into and as any experience – what a thought may call sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations, or emotions and states, or this human self, others, and the wider world.

As mentioned above, I find that the world to me happens within and as what I am.

I find that the consciousness I am is one, and the world to me happens within and as the oneness I am.

I find that the world, to me, is similar to a dream. Just like a night dream, it happens within and as the consciousness I am.

And I assume it’s like that for any other consciousness as well, based on reports and what makes the most sense.

EXPRESSED THROUGH AND AS A UNIQUE SELF

This consciousness I am is expressed through and as a self in the world.

In my case, it’s expressed through and as this particular human self.

The world and all beings to me happen within and as what I am. And at the same time, there is a special connection with this particular human self. The consciousness I am receives sensory information from this human self, and other people take the consciousness I am to be this human self.

I assume it’s like this for all other conscious beings.

To themselves, they are most fundamentally consciousness, whether they notice or not. And this consciousness has a special connection to that particular self in the world. The consciousness they are operates through and as that particular self.

And that self has unique characteristics. It has a unique body with a unique sensory and nervous system. It has a certain size and lifespan. It operates in a certain environment. It may look like a beetle, a butterfly, a swallow, an eel, a rat, a human being, or any other type of conscious being.

In the world, the way we appear is unique and different. And to ourselves, our fundamental nature may be the same.

TAKING OTHERS AS CONSCIOUSNESS

If we take ourselves and others as primarily an object, we literally objectify ourselves and others. We perceive and live as if we are all primarily objects.

If we viscerally find ourselves primarily as consciousness, we tend to perceive others as that as well.

How can I take that in more deeply? How can I allow it to work on me?

If the other is primarily consciousness (whether they notice or not), how would I treat him or her?

How would I treat non-human species?

Image: Created by me and Midjourney

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Byron Katie: “I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

“I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

– Byron Katie

There is a lot to explore in these types of quotes.

I DON’T KNOW

It’s accurate that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain.

Any story is more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They fit the data more or less well.

Even if they seem relatively accurate, they highlight some features and leave a lot out.

They always come from a certain perspective and worldview. And there are inevitably many other perspectives and worldviews that make as much or more sense. Some would make as much or more sense to us now if we knew about them. Some may make as much or more sense to us in the future, with a bit more experience. And some of these would even turn our perception upside-down and inside-out.

Stories are different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations). And that means they are inherently imperfect in terms of capturing anything in its fullness or in a very accurate way.

Reality is always more than and different from any map. (Any story – any mental representation whether it’s a mental image or words – is a map).

Stories cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

Any story I have about the world is provisional and a question.

It’s here to help me navigate and function in the world.

That’s why it’s helpful to examine any story we hold as true at some level in our being. And it’s good when we are able to hold them lightly.

THE FREEDOM OF “I DON’T KNOW”

“I don’t know” gives me freedom.

It frees up more of my natural receptivity and curiosity. It gives me the freedom to explore the validity in a range of different stories about the same topic.

It gives me the freedom to relate to these stories more intentionally and make use of them in whatever way makes the most sense in the situation.

WHAT I KNOW

At the same time, I know some things.

In a provisional and conventional sense, I know certain things.

I know what name I go by in this world. I know some about my history. I know how to read and write. I know, to some extent, how to take decent photos and make decent drawings. I know a few things about meditation and many spiritual practices, both from my own experience and from what others say about it. I know some things about the world. I know some things about ecology and sustainability. I know some things about what I feel and think and experience here and now. I know some of my preferences and likes and dislikes. And so on.

I can have an inner knowing or intuition. This too is a question about the world. (Although it often turns out to have wisdom and kindness in it.)

Also, it’s possible to know some things about my nature. I directly perceive something about what I more fundamentally am. I find myself as capacity for the field of experience, and what this field of experience happens within and as. And that is also provisional and a question. I know that this too can be turned upside-down and inside-out at any moment. I know there is always infinitely further to go.

WHEN IT’S USED TO HIDE

“I don’t know” can also be used to hide.

We can use it to hide from others what we know. We say “I don’t know” when we actually do know something but don’t want to share it for whatever reason. Or we just stay silent when it would be more appropriate to share something.

And we can use it to hide from ourselves what we know. We know something we don’t want to know, and pretend to ourselves we don’t know. Or we distract ourselves from it, perhaps by going into compulsions.

In my case, a part of me wants to hide in general to feel more safe. This is a response to challenging situations from early in life, and I still live out that pattern in some situations and areas of life. For instance, I don’t use my name on this website, and I very rarely talk with anyone about the topics I write about here, even if they are central to my life. (I hide to stay more safe, but it doesn’t work. If anything, it just leads to frustration in the long run.)

In some situations, we can use “I don’t know” as a shield or a weapon. (And when that happens, we know.)

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Is it possible to directly perceive change?

I remember my old Zen teacher (GR) saying that meditation helps us directly perceive impermanence.

But is that true?

As so often, the answer may be yes and no and it depends.

YES

At some level, basic meditation does help us recognize impermanence. We notice that all content of experience, including what we take ourselves to be within the content of experience, comes and goes.

Over time, we may get a more visceral sense of impermanence. We know it with our being.

As mentioned in a previous article, this can help us appreciate what’s here since everything is a guest, it can help us orient so we can find more peace with the changing nature of everything, and it also points to our more fundamental nature.

NO

This one is equally interesting to me.

When I explore this in my own experience, I realize I cannot have a direct perception of impermanence. It’s always filtered through my mental field.

Any sense of change or impermanence comes from comparing my images of what’s in my sense fields now with images of what was in my sense fields a moment ago. It comes from comparing mental representations.

Of course, I directly perceive these mental representations. But I am not directly perceiving change or impermanence. That’s something that only comes through comparing different mental images.

Without this overlay and comparing of mental images, what’s here is just what’s here without any ideas of past, future, or even present, and without any idea or sense of change.

During meditation, there have been times when this mental overlay drops away and any sense of continuity or even of change falls away with it. For instance, I had music on when this shift happened, and the music fell away. There was just a sound here and now without any experience of continuity or past notes. This state highlighted certain aspects of how my mind works and motivated me to later explore it more intentionally through inquiry.

IT DEPENDS

So it depends.

We can certainly have the experience of directly noticing impermanence. And we directly perceive the concepts that give us an experience of change and impermanence.

At the same time, when I look a little closer (or when it’s shown to me through shifting states), I realize I cannot directly perceive change or impermanence. I can only get a sense of it by comparing mental images – labeled now and then – happening in immediacy.

It depends on what we mean. Do we mean a more general and somewhat unexamined experience? Or do we mean what we find when we look a little closer?

Note: I can’t remember hearing anyone talk specifically about this, but I am sure it must be a common noticing. People may not talk about it very much because other things are more important, or because this is something we discover for ourselves in time. To me, it is somewhat important since it shows me – through direct noticing – something about how my mind works.

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The future of awakening

There are many ways to envision the future of awakening.

We may explore how it fits into maps of the mind and society (integral maps). We can see it as a part of the evolution of the universe. We can explore ideas of collective awakening. And so on.

Here is how I imagine it may look in society, if or when awakening is commonly accepted and is an ordinary part of our collective life.

I’ll write from the perspective of someone living in that world.

ACCEPTED

Awakening is commonly accepted as real and valuable. Since scientists and academia accept it, and many know people who have benefited from exploring it, most people in society also accept it.

Of course, people are interested in it to varying degrees, as with anything else. That’s good since we need people to specialize in different things.

UNDERSTOOD IN DIFFERENT CONTEXTS

And there are a few different ways to understand it, which is also good.

Some see it in a spiritual context, or in the context of their own religion.

Others understand it in a more secular and psychological way.

And for those interested, there is a lot to learn from each of these perspectives. Each of them contributes something valuable and unique, at least to some extent and in some areas.

DEMYSTIFIED

Awakening is also generally demystified, at least to the extent that anything can be demystified.

Most people understand the general theory behind it.

The general understanding is a variation of this:

We don’t “have” consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we ARE consciousness. It can’t be any other way.

Similarly, to us the world happens within consciousness. It happens within and as the consciousness we are.

To us, the waking world is similar to night dreams in that it all happens within and as consciousness.

The consciousness we are is one. It’s a seamless whole. So to us, the world and all of our experiences happen within and as oneness. (We may not notice since we get caught up in mental representations of boundaries, but the reality that’s always here for us is oneness.)

The consciousness we are is a no-thing that allows our experience of all things.

The consciousness we are may take itself to be an object within its field of experience, and as a separate self in the world. Or it can recognize itself and metaphorically “wake up” to itself as consciousness and oneness, and what the world – to itself – happens within and as. And its metaphorical center of gravity can shift from the first to the second, often over time and through intentional exploration and living from this noticing.

Of course, most may not be interested or familiar with all of the intricacies here, but they have a very general and rough understanding of it.

THE ESSENCE OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

It’s also generally understood that awakening is what mystics across times and cultures have described.

The essence of awakening is the same, and the way it’s talked about varies across traditions and cultures.

AVAILABLE TO ANYONE

Awakening is available to anyone. As much as playing the piano or learning any skill is available to anyone.

It’s something we can explore. It’s something we can have a taste of for ourselves. And having a taste is not necessarily very difficult or something that takes a lot of time. It can happen easily and within minutes, if guided by someone familiar with the terrain and effective techniques.

And as with anything else, getting proficient with it takes dedication and time. Those drawn to it can get very familiar with the ins and outs of the awakening process.

COACHES

In the past, awakening was typically the domain of certain religions and spiritual traditions.

These days, it’s treated more as learning anything else. Depending on how we approach it and what our intention with it is, it’s treated similarly to learning a sport, painting or drawing, playing an instrument, or even learning a profession.

We approach it with a combination of theory and practice, typically with the guidance of a coach, someone familiar with the terrain and how to guide others. And exactly how that looks depends on how much in-depth we wish to go, and if it’s for our own sake, to use as an element in our profession (therapy, education, etc.), or if it’s part of training to become a coach.

We have a collective exploration of which approaches and techniques are most effective and appropriate to different groups and individuals. Coaches are generally expected to keep up with this and to learn and apply current best practices. There are, of course, individual differences and flavors, and some specialize in some aspects of awakening, in working with particular groups, or in using and developing some particular approaches.

This process is also, to a large extent, demystified and secularized.

The traditional approaches are still around and available, although just as the secular approach is informed by the traditions, the traditions are now often informed by the secular approach. They often include some of the approaches and techniques developed by the secular approach.

RESEARCH AND ACADEMIA

Awakening is generally studied by a few different branches of academia, including psychology, medicine, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. Most universities have also created departments specifically to study awakening, and these are typically interdisciplinary and use an integral approach.

They study any and all aspects of awakening: Psychology. (Mechanisms and dynamics, common phases and aspects, challenges, benefits, how it can transform people’s perception and lives, and so on.) Biology. (Changes to the brain and nervous system, changes to any part of the body.) How do most effectively coach and support people in the process. And so on.

EDUCATION AND ECOLOGY

Meditation and approaches to give students a taste of awakening is incorporated in many schools. For most schools, it’s one of many topics the students explore, and other schools specialize in it and make it more central. Students who want to go deeper have electives or can find classes and coaches in the community.

Awakening is also often used as an aspect of sustainability and understanding of ecology. It helps people have a direct taste of oneness, which tends to transform how we perceive and relate to the wider world.

THE BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF DEMYSTIFYING

There is also an ongoing discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of demystifying awakening and approaching it in a more secularized way.

The benefits are obvious: It makes awakening available to more people. It removes some of the old misconceptions about awakening. It grounds our understanding and approach.

And it does have some drawbacks. The traditions do have valuable insights and ways of doing things (praxis) that may not be picked up by the secular approach. Some assume that secular understanding is accurate and sufficient and limit their perception and explorations.

That’s why there is a smaller movement to revive and support the traditional approaches, and this is very helpful in the bigger picture. The traditional approaches are (in)valuable aspects of the larger exploration of awakening.

ABOUT THIS VISION

What are some of the limitations and benefits to envision these kinds of futures?

One of the limitations is that we cannot predict the future. This particular vision is an extrapolation of what we are already seeing in some western cultures, especially on the west coast of the US. (Where I lived for a while and was involved in these types of communities.) It assumes a kind of linear progression, and what unfolds is rarely linear.

If one thing is (mostly) certain, it’s that the future won’t be like this. Reality is far more messy. For instance, we may see this in some subcultures and some areas of the world, while other subcultures and other areas of the world may be completely different. That’s the diversity we have seen so far through history so we can assume it will be like that in the future as well.

This is not about predicting the future. This is about envisioning itself. It’s about bringing up in me what I would like to see in the world. It’s a way to inspire me to help bring it about, even if it’s in very small ways.

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Does all time happen now? Yes, to us it does

I remember having this experience in my teens, following the oneness shift. It was as if I could see, for my inner eye, all of time happening now, and I imagined that’s how time is to God. This was one of the early side effects of the shift, and it changed as I found more clarity about what was going on.

Since then, I occasionally talk with people who share a similar experience, often relatively early in the awakening process.

Is this topic important? Why do people experience it this way? And how can we explore it for ourselves?

IS IT IMPORTANT?

At a philosophical level, it’s about as important as other abstract philosophical topics. For most of us, it’s not very important in our daily life.

If it’s an experience – or a sense or intuition, then it’s often important for the ones having it.

And as a topic to explore in our own direct noticing, it can lead us to notice our nature. It can lead us home, to the home we already are whether we notice it or not. And for us, nothing may be more important than that.

WHY DO SOME HAVE THIS EXPERIENCE?

Where does the “all time is happening now” experience come from?

It comes from noticing reality. Not necessarily some absolute reality out there but the reality of our own experience.

To us, any content of experience happens within our sense fields. Any experience happens within one or more sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation, mental representations, and so on.

And that includes our experience of time. Any ideas of past, present, and future, and any ideas of what’s in each of these, happen within our mental field. It all happens here and now.

Any sense of all time happening now also happens within our sense fields. It happens as a combination of certain mental representations (of a timeline and past, future, and present) and certain sensations in the body. Our mind associates the two so the sensations seem to lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations give a sense of meaning to the sensations.

That means that to us, all time happens now. It’s inevitable. It’s always been that way.

So if we experience that all time happens now, it’s because it does – to us. It was always that way. It cannot be any other way. It’s just that we don’t always notice.

And that doesn’t mean that this is how reality itself is. It’s just our inevitable experience because of how our mind works.

DIFFERENTIATING OUR OWN EXPERIENCE FROM REALITY “OUT THERE”

It’s important to differentiate the two.

To me, all time happens now. I cannot find the past or future, or even the idea of the present, outside of my mental representations. And they all happen here and now.

And that doesn’t say anything about reality itself. It doesn’t tell me how existence in itself is. What we call “time” is a mental overlay on (our mental overlays of) existence.

It says something about my own experience.

A POINTER TO MY OWN NATURE

More importantly, it says something about my own nature.

It’s a pointer to what I more fundamentally am, in my own first-person experience.

If I notice a sense of all time happening now, it’s an invitation for me to take a closer look. How does my mind create this experience?

This can be an invitation to explore our sense fields. To explore what’s happening in each, and how the mental field combines with physical sensations to create a sense of solidity and reality out of imaginations and sensations. (These imaginations are essential for us to orient and function in the world so there is nothing wrong with them, it’s just good to notice what’s happening.)

And this may lead me to find what I more fundamentally am. I may find that I more fundamentally am capacity for anything appearing in the sense fields. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

How can we investigate this for ourselves?

There are many approaches out there and what works depends on the person and situation. Here are a few I have found helpful.

Traditional Buddhist sense field explorations. For instance, pay attention to one sense field at a time and what happens there. Notice what happens in the mental field. Notice how the mental field interprets what happens in the other sense fields, how it interprets what’s not here in any other sense field, and perhaps even how certain sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to some mental representations (give them a charge) and how certain mental representations give a sense of meaning to certain sensations.

The Kiloby Inquiries is a modern take on this traditional Buddhist inquiry. This inquiry usually requires a facilitator, at least unless we are trained and have some experience with it for ourselves.

The Work of Byron Katie can be helpful, especially if we explore this specifically.

Apart from sense field explorations, the most direct ways to explore this may be the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. Here, we get a direct taste of any ideas of past, future, and present as happening here now, and happening within and as what we are.

Basic Meditation can do the same, although it tends to be a slightly slower process. Notice and allow what’s here. Notice that it’s already noticed and allowed. Notice how any content of experience comes and goes, including any ideas of past, future, and present. So what am I more fundamentally?

ALL OF TIME DOES HAPPEN NOW

So yes, all of time does happen simultaneously. To us, it does. It’s inevitable since time can only be found in our mental representations, and these happen here and now. I cannot find time outside of my present experience.

That doesn’t tell me how reality itself is.

And it’s an invitation for me to take a closer look, which may lead me to find my own nature.

Although much is important in life, we may find there is no greater treasure than that.

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Does explaining through psychology remove the mystery and magic from life?

I saw a post on social media about how psychologizing everything removes the magic and mystery of life.

That’s not how it is for me.

WHEN UNDERSTANDING REMOVES THE MYSTERY

Yes, if you assume that your psychological explanations are correct and true and all there is, then it does remove a sense of mystery and magic. But that’s out of alignment with reality. That is pretending that our maps are more than they are. It goes against common sense and the essence of science.

WHEN UNDERSTANDING GOES HAND-IN-HAND WITH THE MYSTERY

For me, exploring through the lens of psychology – as I do in most of my writings – goes hand-in-hand with mystery.

It’s an exploration.

What comes out of it are maps with all of the benefits and limitations inherent in maps. They are different in kind from what they are about. They highlight some things and leave in infinite amount out. They are guesses about the world. They have a practical function only, to help us navigate and function in he world. They are provisional and have temporary value only. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any map.

This context is more aligned with reality.

And it keeps the mystery and magic in life.

APPLIED TO AWAKENING

I write about awakening in some of these articles. And when I do, I often create a map of some aspects of awakening.

For instance, both in direct noticing and through logic, we find we are consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness. The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as the consciousness we are. The world, to us, appears as consciousness. The consciousness we are is one. So we are the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as.

This fits what mystics across times and cultures describe.

It’s a psychological way to understand awakening, and it fits perfectly with a wide range of worldviews – from materialism to a spirituality that sees all of existence as the divine.

Does this remove the mystery or magic from awakening? Or from life?

It could… if I pretend I know that this is how it is and that this is all there is. But I would have to do a lot of pretending for that to be the case.

In reality, it’s a guess. It’s a map for practical and temporary use only. It opens for and fits a wide range of worldviews. And it’s compatible with a more spiritual understanding of the world.

It’s open to the mystery and magic of awakening and existence.

Waking up parts of our psyche: Become & wake up

I have written about a “befriend & wake up” process in other articles, to help different parts of our psyche wake up and align with reality and our nature.

A variation of this is a “become & wake up” process where we take on the role of a part of us, notice our nature from the view of the part, and rest in and as that noticing to allow that part of us to align with reality.

WHY IS THIS NEEDED?

Even if we generally and “globally” recognize our nature, that doesn’t mean that all the different parts of our psyche are on board with it.

Most of these were formed within separation consciousness, and many of them will still operate from separation consciousness.

They color our perception and life in the world and sometimes get triggered more strongly.

That’s natural and there is nothing wrong with it, but it is uncomfortable and there seems to be an equally natural process in us to have these parts of us surface so they can join in with the awakening.

BECOME & AWAKEN

So how does this work?

I assume there is any number of specific ways to explore this, but the essence is the same.

Preliminary step 1: Identify a part of the psyche. Notice a part that’s operating from separation consciousness. A part that we can call a wound, hangup, or emotional issue, and is operating on an unexamined belief. A part that has taken on, and even been created by, a story. A part that goes into reactivity, defense, and contraction. A confused and stressed subpersonality. Many parts of us are, to some extent, like this. They are suffering and wish for liberation.

Optional step: Get to know the part. Examine this, if you like. Dialog with this part. Take on its perspective and get a sense of how it is to perceive and live from this view. Identify and examine its painful stories and find what’s more genuinely true for you. Thank it for protecting you. Thank it for its love for you. And so on. This can be a helpful preliminary step but is not necessary for this particular process.

Preliminary step 2: Notice your nature. Notice your nature. Find what you more fundamentally am. (Capacity for the word, what the world happens within and as.) Use headless experiments or the Big Mind process to shift into this, if needed. This is so noticing our nature comes more into the foreground.

Main step: Become & awaken: Shift into and become the part. Take on its view. And notice your nature as that part of you. Notice your nature as capacity and what the world happens within and as. Rest in and as this noticing. Allow you – as this part – to realign and shift within this noticing. Take your time. Allow it to sink in.

IDENTIFYING PARTS WITH A CHARGE

When it comes to identifying parts of me with a charge, I have a couple of favorite approaches.

One is to scan my timeline.

I go through the timeline of my life and find situations that light up, that still have a charge on them, where there is still something unresolved. Then I shift into that role, I become myself as I was then, and explore from there.

In this case, I explore awakening – noticing my nature – as the one I was then, rest in that noticing, and allow it to work on that part of me.

The past me in these situations is still a part of me. They are still here. And I find that scanning the timeline is an effective way to identify subpersonalities that still suffer and wish to join in with the awakening.

The other approach is to use others as a mirror.

Others are a mirror for me, as is anything “out there” in the world.

Whatever I see in them is something I can find in myself. I can take whatever story I have about someone or something “out there”, turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true. (It may not look the same as what I see in the world, but the essence is the same.)

I identify someone that has a charge for me, whether this is a real or fictional person or someone from a night dream. (The charge shows me that there is something unresolved there for me.) I then take on the role of that person. I imagine myself as that person.

As that person, I find what I more fundamentally am. And I rest in that noticing, allowing that part of me to align more closely with reality.

A COMPONENT OF MANY APPROACHES

I assume the “become & awaken” approach is a component of many approaches to awakening, whether it’s directly and explicitly or indirectly and implicitly.

When we do tonglen or ho’oponopno, we invite parts of us to heal. (The world is my mirror.) And, in the process, we invite them to wake up, at least if there is a general and global noticing of our nature here. We invite them to join in with the awakening.

When we do Basic Meditation, parts of us not aligned with the awakening will naturally surface. If given space, they will be recognized as having the same nature as ourselves and align with that noticing.

It’s definitely implied in the Big Mind process, and it happens indirectly as part of that process. (Some may also do it explicitly, I am not completely updated.)

In the most recent Vortex Healing class, the main teacher used a similar approach: Become the confused part of you. Do a mantra to prepare it to wake up. And as that part, ask yourself the question “What am I?” Stay with the question until something shifts and the place where the question makes sense falls away.

Using therapy as part of our process also supports this. The more we heal as human beings, the more parts of us are available to align with the oneness we are noticing itself.

Also, when we talk about embodiment in this context, it typically means to live from noticing our nature, or from the oneness we are noticing itself. And the more parts of us are on board with the awakening, the more we have the possibility to do this – more thoroughly and in more situations and areas of life.

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Finding healing for our relationship with a wound vs finding healing for the wound itself

When we talk about healing psychological wounds, there are two sides to it.

Most people think about healing the wound itself.

And yet, in my experience, healing my relationship with the wound is equally if not more important.

HEALING MY RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOUND

If I struggle with a wound – if I see it as a problem, just want it to go away, go into reactivity to it, identify with it and perceive and live as if I am it, and so on – then my relationship with it is not yet healed.

So how do I find healing for my relationship with a wound?

Exploring the wound itself tends to help me shift my relationship with it. I may identify the painful story (stories) behind it, examine these, and find what’s more true for me. I can dialog with the wound (from the perspective as the wound) and see what it has to say, how it experiences my relationship with it, and how it would like me to relate to it. I can find how it’s trying to protect me and see it comes from care and love. And so on.

I can also use heart-centered practices to shift my relationship with it. My favorites tend to be ho’oponopono and tonglen. I can use tonglen with the wound or myself having the wound, and also with my reactivity to the wound and myself having that reactivity.

I can examine my stressful thoughts about the wound. What stressful stories do I have about it? What do I fear may happen? What’s the worst that can happen? What do I find when I examine these stories? What’s more true and real for me?

Similarly, I can examine my self-talk around the issue. What do I tell myself about it? What’s a more kind and constructive (and real) way to talk with myself about it? How is it to explore that? How is it to make it into a new habit?

I can find the need behind the wound. What does that part of me need? How is it to give it to the wound and myself here and now? (Mostly, the need is something essential and universal like safety, support, understanding, and love.)

I can be open about it with myself and others. Yes, I have this wound. This is how it has affected me and my life in the past, and this is how I have related to it in the past. Now, I am finding a different relationship with it and I am exploring how that is. (And I may, and probably will, still go into the old patterns now and then. I wish to be patient and kind with myself and this process.)

I can notice that the wound – and my reactivity to it – is happening within my sense fields. I can find it in my sensations, as physical sensations in the body, and in my mental field as labels, interpretations, and stories about it. This helps deconstruct it and see how my mind creates its experience of it all. I also get to see that it’s all happening within my sense fields and I cannot find it any other place.

That helps me notice that I am capacity for it all, I am capacity for all of these experiences as I am capacity for any and all experience. And it’s all happening within and as what I am. Its nature is the same as my nature.

I can then shift into the perspective of my wound (become the wound for a while) and notice my nature as the wound. And I can shift into my (painful) relationship with the wound and notice my nature as that relationship. This helps the wound and my painful relationship with it to wake up to its nature and realign with oneness. And that tends to take some of the charge out of it.

THE EFFECTS OF SHIFTING MY RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOUND

When I am caught up in a struggle with a wound, it’s stressful, uncomfortable, and painful. The sanity and kindness that’s here in me, and all of us, become less available.

And when I shift my relationship with it, it may still be here but it’s also different. It’s easier to recognize it as a part of me, as an object within consciousness. I can relate to it with a little more intention and awareness. I am less caught up in it.

And, after a while, it may be like an old friend coming to visit. Hello, you are here again. Thanks for visiting. You are welcome to stay. We are here together. You and I have the same nature.

When my relationship with the wound shifts, the wound doesn’t have to shift. It can come and go and it’s OK.

Read on for an AI take on this topic.

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Exploring identities and finding what we more fundamentally are

There are several ways for us to notice what we more fundamentally are.

VIA POSITIVA AND VIA NEGATIVA

We can explore it directly through, for instance, the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. (Via positiva.)

And we can explore what we are not, which leaves just one option for what we more fundamentally are. It brings us to the threshold of noticing what we more fundamentally are. (Via negativa.)

EXPLORING WHAT WE ARE NOT

How do we explore what we most fundamentally are not?

There are several ways.

One is to explore subpersonalities.

I can identify and explore a wide range of subpersonalities in myself. Whenever I notice a reaction in me, that comes from a subpersonality. I can also explore universal subpersonalities. And I can use the world as my mirror – whatever I see “out there” mirrors parts of myself.

I can shift in and out of the perspectives of the different subpersonalities and notice how it is to perceive and live from that perspective.

By doing that, I notice that I am not most fundamentally any of those. I am each of them, in a certain sense. And more fundamentally, I am not any of them. I am not any identity because I can shift in and out of the perspective of each and any identity.

So if I am not any particular identity, what am I?

Another is Basic Meditation.

This works in a similar. We notice and allow what’s here in our field of experience, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. (It happens within and as consciousness so it is, in a sense, noticed by consciousness even before it’s consciously noticed, and it is already allowed by life, space, and consciousness.) We notice it all comes and goes. Any content of experience comes and goes, including ideas about what we are and what these ideas refer to.

I may also notice that in my dreams, I may be either absent or a different character than in my daily life.

If all of this is coming and going, I cannot most fundamentally be any of it.

So what am I, more fundamentally?

BRINGING US TO THE THRESHOLD

These kinds of explorations remove options for what we are. It removes any identity and anything within the content of experience as an option for what we most fundamentally are.

And this brings us to the threshold of noticing what we more fundamentally are.

So what is the remaining option? It may be difficult to notice and accept since it’s a whole different category than what we are used to. It requires a fundamental shift in what we are noticing and looking for.

What I find is that I am, more fundamentally, capacity for the world. I am capacity for any and all content of experience, and any and all identity and what these refer to.

I am what it all happens within and as. I am what allows it all to come and go.

I am what forms itself into all of these experiences, including of taking myself to be something within my content of experience.

THE BRILLIANCE OF THE BIG MIND PROCESS

I learned the Big Mind process more than two decades ago, when Genpo Roshi first developed it, and I keep noticing how brilliant it is.

In this context, it does two essential things very well.

It helps us explore any number of views, perspectives, and subpersonalities, and how it is to experience the world from their viewpoints. This allows us to notice that we are not, most fundamentally, any of these. Identities are fluid. We can shift in and out of any of them.

And then, it helps us notice directly what we are. It helps us find ourselves as Big Mind / Big Heart.

It brilliantly combines via negativa and via positiva.

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The relationship between who and what we are (our human self & consciousness)

What are some of the relationships between who and what we are? Between our human self and consciousness (AKA Buddha mind, Big Mind, Spirit).

It’s obviously a big topic so I’ll mention just a few things here, based on my own experience.

PARTS OF THE SAME

The first answer is that they are part of the same.

It’s thoughts that differentiate the two. I can’t find any diving line outside of my mental representations.

I can also say that to me, my human self happens within and as what I am.

Who I am happens within and as what I am. They are not two.

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

To me, everything happens within and as my field of experience.

That includes any human self, they all happen within my field of experience. To me, they all happen within and as the oneness I am, as does anything else.

And there is also a special relationship with this particular human self.

It’s around a lot more than any other humans and most or all other content of experience.

And this consciousness perceives through and as this human self. What I am experiences the sense fields of this human self – sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts, movement, acceleration, and so on.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE DOES NOT RECOGNIZE ITSELF

When our nature does not recognize itself, our human psyche tends to operate from separation consciousness. It tends to assume that what we most fundamentally are is an object within the field of consciousness. It perceives, lives, and acts as if this is how it is.

That’s how it was for me too. In my childhood, my psyche was formed within separation consciousness and many parts of me learned to function from separation consciousness.

That’s also how hangups, identifications, emotional issues, traumas, and so on are formed. They are expressions of and operate from separation consciousness. If they didn’t, they would align with reality and find healing.

OUR HUMAN SELF WHEN OUR NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

When our nature notices itself, there is an invitation to keep noticing, explore how it is to live from this noticing, and for our human self to transform within this new context.

All of this is ongoing. The noticing, exploration of how to live from it, and the transformation is ongoing.

It’s all happening within and as the oneness we are, just like anything else.

COLORING OUR PERCEPTION AND LIFE

Even when the oneness we are notices itself, many parts of our human self and psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts of us will inevitably color our perception, choices, and life in the world. And they will get triggered more strongly in some situations.

THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS

The transformation process can also be difficult and messy at times, especially as deep issues surface to be seen, felt, befriended, loved, and recognized as love and part of the oneness we are.

When this happens, our habitual responses to our deep and painful issues tend to come up as well, with an invitation for us to see, feel, and befriend these too.

In periods, what’s unprocessed in us may be mostly under the surface, although they will color our life and some issues tend to come up. This can happen during a kind of honeymoon period after an initial noticing or oneness shift.

In periods, they may come up in mostly smaller portions and now and then. This allows us to explore and befriend painful parts of us without feeling too overwhelmed.

And in periods, the metaphorical lid may be taken off and a huge amount of them come up at once. When this happens, it can feel overwhelming, confusing, scary, painful, and even unbearable. This happened for me some years ago, and I am still in this phase although it has quieted down a bit.

In general, the more trauma we have, the more this process can feel difficult, overwhelming, and messy. And the less trauma we have, the more manageable it may feel although still with its challenges.

WHY IS THE TRANSFORMATION PROCESS HAPPENING?

There are a couple of answers:

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, what’s out of alignment surfaces so it can heal, transform, and align with oneness noticing itself.

When our general system recognizes itself as oneness, anything in our human self still operating from separation consciousness distorts the expression of oneness. They are out of alignment. They need to transform and realign so the oneness we are can express itself more clearly in more situations and more areas of life.

To me, this seems a natural and perhaps even inevitable process.

And it’s certainly not always comfortable. For me, it’s been the most difficult, messy, and humbling phase in my life by far, and I have not always dealt with it gracefully.

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