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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Failing in basic meditation and finding what’s already here

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here in the field of experience.

FAILING IN BASIC MEDITATION

I try to notice and allow what’s here.

I notice I am unable to do it through intention or effort. At best, it’s a kind of approximation. My attention gets distracted, and I am unable to consciously allow every experience without sometimes go into struggle, avoidance, or reactivity.

As some meditation instructors will point out, that’s the point of that practice. We are meant to fail. Our human self cannot do it. Failure is built into it.

And through that failure, we may find another way.

NOTICING WHAT’S ALREADY HERE

We may notice that what’s here in our field of experience is already noticed and allowed.

It’s already noticed by consciousness even before it’s consciously noticed and reflected in thought. It happens within and as consciousness, so is inherently noticed.

It’s also already allowed – by space, mind, life, and existence. Whatever is here is already allowed. Putting effort into allowing is like trying to artificially create something that’s already here.

We can then rest in noticing that what’s here is already noticed and allowed. That’s much more simple. It’s closer to reality. It’s a noticing of what’s here and nothing needs to be fabricated. And since it’s already here, it’s something we can always return to. (When grace allows us to remember.)

SHIFT IN CENTER OF GRAVITY

Through this, we may find ourselves as what already notices and allows what’s here. We may find ourselves as capacity for anything that happens in our field of experience. We may find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

Over time, there may be a shift from noticing and seeing it to finding ourselves as it, both during these explorations in daily life.

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Why do most scientists and psychologists ignore our nature?

To me, there is something that seems clear, both from direct noticing and logic.

And that is what we are to ourselves, and what the world is to us. It’s our own nature, and the nature of the world as it appears to us.

WHAT I AM IN MY OWN NOTICING

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong, and it’s an assumption that helps this human self orient and function in the world.

And yet, in my own direct noticing, it is what I most fundamentally am?

When I look, I find I am something else.

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experience. I am what allows and takes the form of any and all of my experiences. I am what allows and takes the form of what happens in all of my sense fields, in sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and the mental field. (And any other sense fields we can differentiate out through our mental overlays.)

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

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

We can call this different things. For instance, consciousness.

And that brings us to the logic side of this.

WHAT I AM LOGICALLY

In our culture, most say that “we have consciousness” as if it’s a kind of appendix we happen to have. There is an assumption here that we are primarily a physical object and this physical object somehow has consciousness as it happens to have arms, legs, and physical organs.

This is a third-person view, and it doesn’t really matter in this context how accurate it is.

The more interesting question for me is: What are we to ourselves, in our own immediate experience?

Logically, if we “have” consciousness, we have to BE consciousness. There is nothing outside of consciousness somehow experiencing consciousness. What experiences and has the idea of consciousness is consciousness itself. Not anything outside of it.

Any experience happens within and as consciousness. It’s consciousness taking the form of that experience.

So to us, the world happens within and as consciousness.

The world, and any experience, happens within and as what we are.

We ARE consciousness and the world and any content of experience happens within and as consciousness, within and as what we are.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF WHAT WE ARE

Both direct noticing and (this particular) logic arrives at the same answer for what we are to ourselves, and it also arrives at the same answer for the characteristics of what we are.

What are some of the characteristics of what we are to ourselves?

What are some of the characteristics of consciousness?

To me, what I am has no beginning or end in space. It also has no beginning or end in time. Any experience of space and time happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am one. I am the oneness the world happens within and as. I am what my field of experience, which my mental field differentiates in many different ways, happens within and as.

To me, I am the world and the world is me. The world happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It’s like a dream in that way.

To me, any and all content of experience comes and goes. And this includes any ideas of what I may be within the content of experience (this human self) and what these ideas refer to. In some cases, I may not take myself to be this particular human self, for instance in a dream, and what I more fundamentally am is still here. What any and all experiences happens within and as is still here. (Including shifting ideas of what I am as an object in the world.)

When what I am notices itself, I find that my nature is what can be called love. It’s a love that’s not dependent on shifting states or emotions. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And this love is often obscured by separation consciousness, by dynamics and patterns created from when I took myself most fundamentally as a separate object in the world.

IS THIS WHAT I “REALLY” AM?

So is this what I really am?

Yes, it is. It’s what I am in my own direct noticing.

Outside of that, I don’t know. I don’t know what my nature more fundamentally happens to be from some kind of outside third-person view. And that’s also less important, at least in my daily life.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE?

If this is so obvious both in terms of noticing and logic, why don’t we always notice or take this into account?

Most likely, because we live in a culture and world where most don’t. When we grow up, we do as others do. We learn to take on and operate from separation consciousness. And that can be very convincing, at least until we start examining our assumptions – about what we are and what the world is to us – a little more closely.

IS IT IMPORTANT?

Yes and no. We humans obviously get by without noticing or examining our nature.

And yet, when the oneness we are notices itself, keeps noticing itself, and explores how to live from this noticing, it can be profoundly transforming.

It can be profoundly transforming for our perception, sense of fundamental identity, life in the world, and our human psychology.

WHY DO MANY OVERLOOK OR DENY THIS?

If this is so obvious, both in terms of noticing and logic, why do so many ignore or deny this?

Most people are not so interested in the question of what they more fundamentally are in their own immediate experience. That’s fine. They get by anyway. They have more immediate concerns to focus on and take care of.

And yet, for some people, this is their job. For scientists and especially psychologists, this is essential to their job and (I assume) interests.

So why don’t more of them explore this? Why don’t more of them take it seriously?

I am not sure.

The essential answer may be the same as above: We live in a world where we are trained in separation consciousness from we are born. It becomes the norm, so we don’t even consider questioning it. And if we do, we feel we are somehow transgressing and entering dangerous waters so we don’t take it very far or speak about it.

To elaborate a bit:

Exploring these things is a kind of taboo in our culture, especially in academic circles. It goes against our shared worldview. It goes against standard norms. (Although all of that is changing.)

Our western culture, and especially our scientific culture, value the more “objective” third-person view over first-person explorations. Again, this has been different in the past and will very likely be different in the future.

If you work as a scientist in academia or as a psychologist, you typically cannot stray too far from the mainstream. As a scientist, you risk losing (or not getting) funding. You even risk losing your job if you get too weird. And as a psychologist, you risk losing your license. (In Norway, psychologists have lost their license for exploring the possibility of past lives in therapy sessions, even if these explorations obviously deal with projections and don’t say whether or not the past lives were real or not.)

In short, cultures are systems and systems want to stay mostly stable. There are many mechanisms operating to preserve some kind of stability. There are many incentives to not explore this, and not so many opportunities or invitations to do so. (Which, again, is fortunately changing.)

At a more personal level, many people may not have the curiosity or passion for exploring this. They are happy exploring other things, and that’s fine. Not everyone needs to explore these things.

WILL THIS CHANGE?

Will this change?

It is already changing. More and more people, including in science and psychology, are interested in a more transpersonal approach and understanding.

I envision a future where the third-person and first-person approaches exist side-by-side and even hand-in-hand, including in science and psychology.

It will be a far more rich exploration of our human experience, and one that reflects a little more of the bigger picture.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE VALIDITY OF WHAT MYSTICS DESCRIBE

If or when this shift happens, something else will happen as well.

And that is an acknowledgment – in science and our culture – of the validity in what mystics across times and cultures have described.

If we look at the essence of what mystics describe, it’s exactly this.

We are consciousness, and the world to us is consciousness.

We are the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as.

Image: Created by me and Midjourney (AI image)

The logic of what we are (awakening)

There is a logical inevitability to what we are.

There is a logic to what we are in our own first-person experience.

There is a logic to what we find when we are guided, and when we set aside thoughts telling us what we are.

THE CONVENTIONAL VIEW & WHAT I FIND

The conventional view is that we are this human self in the world. I am a human being in the world that has consciousness. That’s not entirely wrong. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life.

But is this what I find when we take a closer look in my own immediate experience? Here, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experience. I find am what any experience happens within and as. And I find there is a logical inevitability to this.

THE LOGIC OF OUR WHAT WE ARE: THE SIMPLE VERSION

Why is there a logical inevitability to what we are?

The simple version is that if we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

THE LOGIC OF WHAT WE ARE IN MORE DETAIL

I’ll go into this in a little more detail.

(1) If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we have to BE consciousness.

Consciousness is not some appendix we happen to have. (The only way it can look that way is if we: (a) Assume we most fundamentally are an object in the world with consciousness somehow attached to it. And (b) don’t examine it very closely.)

If we “have” consciousness, it means that we perceive “through” that consciousness. It means that all our experiences happen within and as that consciousness. It means that what receives any and all experiences is that consciousness. And that means that, to ourselves, we have to BE that consciousness. There is no other option.

(2) The world, as it appears to us, then has to happen within the consciousness we are.

The world, to us, happens within and as consciousness. We are that consciousness.

That means that the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

And by “the world” I mean any and all content of experience including the wider, this human self, thoughts, feelings, states, and so on.

Anything that appears in any sense field – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought – happens within and as the consciousness we are.

(3) And we and the world, as it appears to us, have to have the characteristics of consciousness.

Here are some of these characteristics:

Oneness. The consciousness we are is one. And the world as it appears to us happens within and as the oneness we are. Our experience of anything and everything inevitably happens within the oneness we are. (If our system is invested in a perception of separation, we may not notice that oneness, but that’s another matter.)

Timeless. To ourselves, our nature is timeless. It just is. And since the world happens within and as what we are, that too is timeless to us. Time happens within and as what we are. It’s not fundamental to what we are.

Spaceless. Similarly, to ourselves, our nature is spaceless and the world appears spaceless. Any sense of space happens within and as what we are, it’s not fundamental to our nature.

Love. We can also say that our nature is love. Love is a natural expression of the oneness we are recognizing itself. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. (It’s always here but it’s dependent on not being too obscured by our separation-consciousness hangups to be expressed.)

Not a thing. As consciousness, we are not a thing. And since the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – is not a thing. It’s all happening more like a dream, within and as consciousness, than anything else. (Again, being caught up in separation consciousness can make the world appear very much as a thing, and there is some truth to that too.)

Ephemeral. Any and all experience is ephemeral. It’s gone before we consciously realize we have noticed it. In this way too, everything is dreamlike. (Any sense of permanence is created by the overlay of our mental field.)

Capacity. As consciousness, our more fundamental nature is capacity. We are capacity for any and all experiences. We are what allows it all. We are what all happens within and as.

Always here. Our nature is, inevitably, always here. It may not recognize itself, but it’s here. It’s what we already are.

NO IDEOLOGY OR SPIRITUALITY REQUIRED

No ideology or spirituality is required to explore this. It’s just what we find (or not) when we look.

What we find is what mystics throughout history and from any tradition have described. And yet, it’s not dependent on any religion, spirituality, or ideology.

If anything, it reveals that any religion, spirituality, and ideology is human-created, it’s created by our mental field. At most, and in this context, it reflects a direct noticing and can offer some pointers for how to explore it for ourselves.

HOW CAN WE EXAMINE IT FOR OURSELVES?

So how can we examine it for ourselves?

I’ll mention a few approaches I have found especially helpful.

Headless experiments and the Big Mind process are two of the most simple, direct, and effective approaches I have found so far.

Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Over time, we realize that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including what we may take ourselves to be. So what are we more fundamentally? Are we what it all comes and goes within and as? How is it to notice that? How is it to explore living from that noticing?

And there are also many approaches that support this noticing or support living from it, including other forms of inquiry (sense field explorations, Kiloby inquiries), heart-centered practices (prayer, tonglen, ho’oponpono, metta), training more stable attention (including body-centered practices), and ethical guidelines (reduces distractions, highlights what in us operates from separation consciousness).

WHY IS IT COVERED UP?

If this is our nature, why don’t we notice? Why is it covered up?

The simple answer is that as we grow up, we do as others do. We see others operate from separation consciousness, assuming they most fundamentally are an object in the world, so we do the same. And we don’t find a good reason to question or examine it. Or we don’t have access to good tools and guidance to examine it.

HOW IS IT COVERED UP?

How is it covered up? What are some of the mechanisms?

In short, it’s covered up when our mind holds onto mental representations – mental images and words – as accurately reflecting reality.

As soon as consciousness holds a story as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of that story. It becomes an “I” with an “other”. To itself, it becomes something within the content of experience. (1)

It temporarily takes itself to be one part within itself, and everything else as “other”.

That’s how separation consciousness is created, and it can seem very real.

If we grow up with separation consciousness, as most of us do, then many parts of our psyche are formed and operate from separation consciousness. That’s how emotional issues, traumas, hangups, ideologies, and so on are created.

Even when the oneness we are recognizes itself, it can still have many parts operating from separation consciousness, and it can take time to get all of these onboard with a more conscious noticing of oneness.

WHY DON’T MORE PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THIS?

Why don’t more people talk about this?

Well, some do. Many Asian spiritual traditions talk about this. Mystics from all traditions and times talk about it. Many spiritual coaches and teachers talk about it. Some psychologists and philosophers talk about it.

And yet, most psychologists and philosophers don’t talk about it, and few in academia explore it in any serious way.

Why do they ignore it even if it has logic to it? Why do they ignore it even if this has profound practical implications? Even if it can be profoundly transforming for anyone engaging in these kinds of explorations?

I am not sure.

Perhaps some lack curiosity or interest? (Which is fine. Our fascination is our calling, and there is no lack of things to be fascinated by.) Perhaps they haven’t investigated the conventional “have consciousness as an appendix” idea? Perhaps they are concerned to get lumped in with mystics, spiritual people, and weirdos?

I assume it’s not because this is not an important topic, because it is. It’s not for lack of information or guidance, because that can be found. It’s not because they cannot explore it for themselves, because they can. And it’s not because there is no logic to it, because there is.

IS OUR NATURE THE SAME AS THE NATURE OF EXISTENCE?

Is our nature the same as the nature of all of existence?

If we find our own more fundamental nature, it’s natural to assume that the nature of existence is the same. After all, the world to us happens within and as what we are, so it will appear that way.

And yet, do we know? Not really.

I cannot know for certain. I can find what appears as my more fundamental nature, I can explore how to live from that noticing, and so on. And yet, I cannot honestly say I know for certain that’s the nature of everything.

THE SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING

This is where I differentiate between the small and big interpretations of awakening.

This article is written from the small interpretation of awakening. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It’s about what we can find for ourselves through direct noticing.

It’s about our own nature, in our own first-person experience, not the nature of reality or existence.

From here, we can go one step further and say that our nature IS the nature of existence and reality. Reality IS consciousness. It is what we traditionally think of as the divine, as Spirit, as God.

Each of these interpretations has its place and value.

The small interpretation is more accessible to more people, it points more directly to what we can find for ourselves, and it goes to the heart of what mystics from different times and traditions describe. As I see it, it’s also more intellectually honest. And it may appear a bit dry and boring.

The big interpretation fits more what the main religions and spiritual traditions describe, it can be more inspiring, and it can open us up more. In some cases, it’s also a bit intellectually dishonest (presenting fantasy or speculation as reality), fanciful, and misleading. And there are several hints that the essence of it is more accurate in the bigger picture.

LILA – THE PLAY OF REALITY

All of this can be seen as play.

We can see it as the play of consciousness, reality, or even of the divine.

In the big interpretation of awakening…

It’s the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

It’s the one experiencing itself as many. It’s oneness experiencing itself as separate. It’s love experiencing itself as what looks like anything but love. It’s consciousnes experiencing itself as an object in the world. And so on.

It’s the dance of reality or Spirit.

In the small interpretation of awakening…

It’s much the same. It’s the oneness we are experiencing itself as separate. It’s the love we are experiencing itself as anything but love. It’s consciousness taking itself to be an object in the world.

And here, we can see it as play or something that’s just happening.

In either case, we can see it as the dance of consciousness, reality, or the divine.

And any ideas of purpose or meaning are ideas and not inherent in reality itself.

(1) Said another way, the consciousness we are creates a lot of identities for itself and identifies with these. It takes itself as a human, a gender, an age, someone with certain characteristics, and so on. None of this is necessarily wrong, but it is limiting and it’s not accurate in a more real sense.

If we look more closely we may find another mechanism. The consciousness we are associates certain thoughts with certain sensations. The sensations lend a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. And the consciousness we are may create chronic tension in the physical body in order to have ready access to sensations lending substance to certain thoughts.

If we have chronic beliefs, about anything, it’s a good bet that these are connected with chronic tension somewhere in the physical body.

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How old am I?

I had a birthday yesterday, and it brings up the topic of age.

How old am I?

It’s a simple question, and if I take it seriously, it can reveal a lot about my nature.

THE AGE ON MY PASSPORT

In a conventional sense, I am the age my passport tells me. It’s the age in my official documents, and the answer most people expect if they ask the question. It’s not wrong, but it’s a small part of a much bigger picture.

MY BODY’S AGE

In another sense, my body has a certain biological age. Depending on genetics and lifestyle, it can be older or younger than my conventional age. This age has some importance in terms of my health. (And depending on how it’s measured and what criteria are used, it will likely change somewhat.)

THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE

In yet another sense, I am the age of this universe. According to current science, I am roughly 13.7 billion years old. This can sound like an answer that’s meant to be cute or clever, but it’s far more real than that.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of 13.7 billion years of evolution of this universe.

Every molecule is the product of this evolution, most having been forged in ancient stars blowing up and reforming into this planet which formed itself into all of us and this living evolving world.

Every dynamic in me is the product of the evolution of this seamless system we call the universe.

As Carl Sagan said, and I often quote: We are the ears, eyes, thoughts and feeling of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness.

Everything I am as a human being is the product of the evolution of this larger seamless system I am a local and temporary expression of.

In a very real sense, I am the age of this universe. Everything I am as a human is the age of this universe.

This age is important since it’s a reminder of the reality of the oneness of the universe. It’s a reminder of what current science tells us about our more fundamental identity and nature.

TIMELESS

All of that has some validity to it. And yet, am I most fundamentally this human self? Or even a local and temporary expression of this seamless and evolving larger whole?

If I look in my own first-person experience, what am I more fundamentally?

I find I am more fundamentally capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, including this human self and anything connected with it. I am capacity even for any thought or sense that I am fundamentally this human self.

I find that any experience – of the wider world or this human self – happens within and as my sense fields. (Sight, sound, sensations, taste, smell, mental images and words.)

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

This is my more fundamental nature, in my own immediate experience.

Here, I find I am what any ideas or experience of time happens within and as. My nature is timeless, allowing and forming itself into ideas and experiences of time and change.

LAYERED

My age is layered.

As a human being, I am the age in my passport and my body’s biological age.

As a local and temporary expression of this larger seamless evolving system, I have the age of this universe. (And that will change somewhat depending on what science says.)

And in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is timeless. I am the timelessness any ideas and experience of age happen within and as.

I love the richness of my age. I love that there are many answers and that some change over time.

I love that each one makes sense in its own way.

WHY DON’T WE USE OUR UNIVERSE AGE MORE OFTEN?

If science tells us we all are 13.7 billion years old, why don’t we use that age more often?

It may seem a silly question, but it’s actually a very important one. Science tells us our more fundamental age is 13.7 billion years, so why don’t we collectively take it more seriously?

It may be because this story is still relatively new so it hasn’t had time to sink in yet.

Also, we are used to using our age in our passport so most people stick with that. Much in society is dependent on separating us by age. (School, tickets, pension, and so on.) And many seem to like to follow that orientation.

For me, it’s beautiful and important that this is an age we all share. Everything that exists has the same age. That’s amazing and wonderful to me. It’s a reminder of what ties us together and that we are all local and temporary expressions of the same seamless evolving whole.

That’s far more fundamental and important than the age we happen to have as local and temporary expressions of this whole.

WHY DON’T WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR TIMELESS NATURE MORE OFTEN?

Similarly, why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often?

It’s not because it’s not here to be noticed. Based on my own noticing and what I hear from others, it seems we all have this nature. (It’s the nature of the consciousness we all inevitably are to ourselves.) (1)

It’s not even because it’s difficult to find. I assume most can find it with guidance and within minutes.

So why don’t more people acknowledge this?

I assume there are many answers here too. The obvious one is that we live in a society that tells us – directly and indirectly – that we most fundamentally are this human self, an object within the field of our experience. As we grow up, we see that this is what others do so we do the same. In our innocence, which is very beautiful, we train ourselves to do as others do.

There are also many misconceptions about this. Many traditions suggest that finding our nature is difficult or takes a long time, or that it’s for special people, or that it’s about something distant, or that it gives us special powers.

In reality, it’s right here. It’s not only what we are most familiar with, it’s the only thing we are familiar with. It’s what all our experience consists of.

Since it’s about noticing what we already are, it’s for all of us.

It doesn’t give us any special powers, it’s just a noticing of our nature. (And that can be profoundly transforming for our perception and life in the world.)

And with good guidance, most of us can find it within a relatively short time.

How can we find it? The best approaches I am familiar with (so far) are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Of course, finding it is just the first step. It’s just a glimpse. If we want to continue exploring it, we need to refind it here and now. We need to explore how to live from this noticing. We need to investigate anything in us out of alignment with it, anything created and operating from separation consciousness.

And that takes dedication, passion, and a lifetime. (Or more if there are more.)

(1) Why don’t we acknowledge our timeless nature more often? It’s not even because it’s illogical. Based on logic, we find that in our own experience, we have to be consciousness. If we “have” consciousness, we inevitably and most fundamentally have to BE consciousness in our own experience. And the world, to us, happens within and as the consciousness we are.

We have all of the characteristics of consciousness, and since the world to us happens within and as the consciousness we are, that too – to us – have those characteristics.

We are what’s inherently free of time and space and that our experience of time and space happens within and as. We are the oneness any sense of distinction and separation happens within and as. And so on.

This just says something about our own nature in our own first-person experience, it doesn’t say anything about the nature of existence or the universe. And that’s more than enough. If we are led – by existence – to take it seriously, that’s profoundly transforming.

Image: A look at the distant relatives we call the “Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.)

Reduced capacity to set emotional issues aside in an awakening process and from exhaustion

When we have a reduced capacity to set aside emotional issues, they tend to naturally surface.

And that can happen in several different situations.

FATIGUE AND DYSREGULATION

I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME), and this is far from regular tiredness. It’s a profound fatigue and dysregulation of the whole system.

When my system is extra fatigued, it’s no longer able to regulate very well. It has trouble regulating temperature (too hot, too cold), thoughts (difficult to think clearly and make decisions), emotions (more sensitive, reactive), and much more.

This includes difficulty regulating emotional issues. When my system has more resources, it can more easily set old emotional issues aside. (Although they will always color perception and actions.) And when it’s more fatigued, these old issues surface more easily.

That’s one reason I prefer to just go to bed when this happens and set aside any tasks or conversations for when my system functions a little better. (And often, I don’t have much choice. My system desperately needs that rest and anything else is automatically set aside.)

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

When our nature recognizes itself, something similar can happen.

For a while, it takes itself to most fundamentally be this human self, a separate being in the world. Or, at least, it pretends to do this since others do it.

And then, the oneness we are recognizes itself. It shifts out of its temporary self-created trance.

And, as Adyashanity says, this can take the lid off a lot of things, including anything very human and unprocessed in us. What’s unprocessed comes to the surface to be seen, felt, loved, recognized as love, and recognized as having the same nature as we do.

I am not sure of the exact mechanism, but here is my best guess: It takes active regulation for the oneness we are to pretend – to itself and others – that it’s a separate being, something specific within its content of experience. When it recognizes its nature, it is no longer actively regulating, and that (sometimes) means it’s also not actively regulating old emotional issues. It’s no longer setting them aside, so they surface.

This doesn’t always happen. It can happen a while after oneness first recognized itself. (In my case, it happened several years into the process.) And when it happens, the oneness we are can react with confusion, feeling overwhelmed, fear, and much more.

It’s humbling, it can be very messy. And – as Evelyn Underhill said – it’s a very human process. And it’s not necessarily easy. In my case, it’s been the most challenging phase of my life by far.

And it’s also necessary. For the oneness we are to live from consciously recognizing itself, our human self needs to be a good vehicle. And that vehicle needs tune-up and cleaning. Any remaining emotional issues (beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, traumas) operate from separation consciousness, and they inevitably color our perception and life even if they don’t seem activated.

So they surface to be seen, felt, loved, and recognized as part of the oneness we are. They surface to join in with the awakening.

OTHER SITUATIONS WHERE OUR REGULATION FALTERS

There are other situations where our system has trouble setting aside emotional issues.

The most obvious is when strong emotional issues are triggered, and our mind identifies with what comes up. Here, we take on the perspective and identity of the issue and actively perceive and act as if we are that part of us. We may not even try to relate to it in a more intentional or mature way.

I suspect it also happens in some kinds of mental illness, and under influence of some kinds of drugs. (Sometimes this happens when drinking alcohol.)

CHALLENGES & GIFTS

There are challenges and gifts in our system being unable to set aside old emotional issues.

I imagine the challenges are familiar to most of us. It’s uncomfortable. It can feel overwhelming. We may get caught up in the struggle with what’s surfacing. And we may get caught up in what’s surfacing and view the world and act as if we are that hurt and confused part of us.

There are also gifts here. When these issues surface, we get to see them. It’s an invitation to see, feel, and find genuine love for what’s here. It’s an invitation to examine these confusing and hurting parts of us. It’s an invitation to get to know them. It’s an invitation to recognize that and how they operate from (painful) separation consciousness and unexamined and painful beliefs.

It’s an invitation to find healing for our relationship with them and to find healing for the issues themselves.

All of this is can seem obvious if we are familiar with it, but navigating it is often anything but easy. It takes skill, dedication, experience, and time.

It’s not something that’s done and dusted. It’s an ongoing process.

It’s part of being a human being.

It’s part of being oneness taking on the role of this human being in the world and living that life.

And it’s also where awakening and healing become one process. Where the two are revealed as aspects of the same seamless process.

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The world in me

There are – at least – two ways the world is in me.

And I can find both here and now in my own direct experience.

FINDING A PART OF ME THAT MIRRORS WHAT I SEE IN THE WORLD

If someone asks me if I feel or experience something, I almost always can find it and say “yes”. (And in the past, before I learned to not assume that everyone understands this, that has gotten me in trouble.)

Why is that?

It’s because I find that my psychology has innumerable parts. Whatever I see in the world, I can find in myself here and now.

There is always one part of me that has the characteristics I see out there. There is always one part that right now is experiencing what I see out there. It may not be very strong but it’s there, and it’s there at the very least as a potential.

I discovered this first in my teens, and since then daily and over and over.

And it also makes sense. If I imagine a characteristic or experience in someone else, it’s because I can connect with it in myself here and now. I am already connecting with it as soon as I imagine it in others.

Sometimes, what I see out in the world may be somewhat unfamiliar to me. I am not used to finding it in myself, and then the exploration may have to be a bit more thorough and detailed. Sometimes supported by a form of structured inquiry like The Work of Byron Katie or the Kiloby Inquiries.

So the world mirrors me. I can find what I can see in the world in me here and now.

THE WORLD IN ME

There is also another way I can find the world in me. And that is to see that the world is literally in me.

In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s not wrong. And when I look more closely, I find I more fundamentally – in my own first-person experience – am something else. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I can also find this by examining my sense fields. I notice what’s in each sense field. (E.g. sound, smell, taste, sensation, thought.) I notice that any experience happens within one or more sense fields. (And that the sense fields are all one, the distinction between them happens only in my mental field.) I find that the world, to me, happens within and as the sense fields. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.

Said another way, and a little more from the logic side, to myself I am consciousness. If I think “I have consciousness” it means that to myself, I am consciousness. And that also means that the world, to me, happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as the oneness I am.

When someone says “I am not in the world, the world is in me” or talks about “oneness”, then that’s something I don’t need to take anyone’s word for. I can find it here and now in my own direct noticing.

THE EFFECTS OF NOTICING THIS

This is about noticing what’s already here. Nothing needs to be fabricated. We don’t need to tell ourselves any stories about it, or rely on or trust those stories. We can find it here and now.

Our imagination may tell us we are separate. We may have images of ourselves as separate, and those images are inherited from our parents, teachers, and ultimately the culture we live within. We are told we are separate, and that we most fundamentally are this human self, so in our innocence and from our kind heart, we take it on. We do as others do. We learn to pretend that’s how it is.

And that has consequences. We naturally feel somewhat isolated, alone, separate from others, perhaps separate from our body and nature, we learn to be defensive, and so on.

Noticing that the world is in me, in the two ways mentioned above, and noticing it here and now, also has consequences.

Using the world as a mirror helps me get in touch with more of the natural richness I am. It opens up for recognizing in myself what I see in others in more situations, and that opens for a natural empathy.

Finding the world in me helps me see I am not most fundamentally this human self. It helps me relate to any content of experience a little more consciously. It helps me live a little more from this noticing and from the oneness I am.

Mostly, this noticing is a kind of seed and who knows what comes out of it. There are no formulas here. It’s an adventure. It’s something parts of us already and naturally are curious about and even fascinated by.

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The fantasy of arriving

A common fantasy is of arriving.

THE FANTASY OF ARRIVING

At some point, I’ll arrive. I’ll be stable. I’ll have it all figured out. I’ll have enough money. I’ll have the house and family. I’ll have a good job. I’ll be respected. I’ll be loved. I’ll learn to love myself. I’ll find a state that’s peaceful. I’ll be enlightened. I’ll be in paradise. I’ll have found nirvana. God will love me.

There are many versions of having arrived and yours may be different.

This is the fantasy of the part of us that feels that something isn’t right, wants it to be different, and hopes that will fix a more fundamental sense of something not being right. And it’s perfectly natural and understandable.

And yet, it’s a fantasy.

It’s a fantasy of parts of us that are unexamined and often unhealed and unloved.

It’s a fantasy we seek refuge in so we can find some comfort and a sense of safety, if only in an imagined future.

And if we look a little closer, we may find it’s a fantasy that creates discomfort and fear when we fuel it. When we hold it as true and identify with its viewpoint.

EXPLORING THE FANTASY OF ARRIVING

So what’s the solution?

One is to examine this fantasy.

When I explore this for myself, I find it’s an image of an imagined future. It comes from a part of me scared of discomfort and uncertainty. It’s something I go into in order to find a sense of safety.

It’s out of alignment with reality since I cannot know anything for certain about the future.

And holding onto it is uncomfortable for just that reason: it’s out of alignment with what I already know – that I cannot know. I am not honest with myself, and that’s inherently uncomfortable.

Holding onto it distracts me from noticing that I have already arrived where I am now. Holding onto it may distract me from shifting how I relate to what’s here and now and find more genuine peace with it.

I can also connect with this fantasy and the part of me that wants to hold onto it.

Where do I feel it in the body? What images are connected with it? What (stressful) stories are behind it? How is it to dialog with this part of me?

What does it want to tell me? What would help it relax?

How is it to see that it comes from a wish to protect me? That it comes from love?

How would it be to meet it with kindness and patience?

How is it to give it – here and now – what it really wants? (A sense of safety, love, being understood, etc.)

How is it to notice that its nature is the same as my own? That it happens within and as what I am?

And so on. There are many ways to explore this.

WILL WE EVER ARRIVE?

Will we ever arrive?

The most honest answer is that I don’t know. How is it to find peace with this not knowing? I may as well since it’s here. I don’t know for certain and cannot know for certain.

At the same time, I can say “no” since everything is always in motion. The content of experience is always in motion, and often in unpredictable ways. There is nowhere to arrive.

I can say “no” because the idea of arriving somewhere is an idea. It’s created by the human mind. It’s not inherent in reality.

And I can say “yes” because we already have arrived. We are already here. This is it. For me, any ideas – about the past or future or arriving or not – happen here and now. I cannot find it anywhere else.

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C.G. Jung: The shadow is the first manifestation of our future inner wholeness

THE SHADOW AND OUR WHOLENESS

The shadow is the parts of us that don’t fit into our conscious self-image.

It’s not an entity or anything like that. It’s just whatever is here where we say “that’s not me”.

For that reason, we tend to see it in others and not in ourselves. When we see it in others, we are often annoyed by it. We dislike it.

So what we dislike in others, and obviously in ourselves, is a manifestation of our own wholeness.

It’s a part of the wholeness we already are, it’s just not yet the wholeness we consciously recognize, embrace, and relate to as part of ourselves.

In that sense, the shadow – and anything that annoys us in others – is a reminder of what can be our own future conscious wholeness.

It’s the wholeness we already are. And it can be the wholeness we embrace if we have the receptivity and willingness to explore and embrace it.

We push it away because it doesn’t fit our self-image, and it doesn’t seem desirable to us. And, in reality, there are great gifts in it. It helps us find more of our wholeness. And the essence of it is always useful in our life.

AN EXAMPLE

What are some examples of this?

One thing that sometimes annoys me in others is being noisy. I see them as inconsiderate and unconscious.

When I can find that in myself, I see that I am often inconsiderate – for instance in my mind when I see them that way. I am often, and really always, unconscious. There is always a lot in myself I am not conscious of, and there is a vast amount I am not conscious of when it comes to others and the world. Most of what is – in the world, others, and myself – are things I inevitably am not conscious of.

When I have those thoughts about someone else, I am describing myself and I am describing myself as I am in that moment.

Also, how would it be for me to be more free to sometimes be noisy? Maybe it would feel liberating? Natural? Maybe I would find another side of myself I would actually enjoy, at least now and then?

Oneness through my life

Oneness has been a theme of sorts throughout my life.

FLASHBACKS TO THE TIME BETWEEN LIVES

When I was little, before school age, I had several flashbacks to before this life – when I had no body, all was a golden light, time was a whisper in distance, there was occasional communication with other beings, and all was love, the divine, and oneness. Of course, I didn’t think of it like that at the time. I don’t remember thinking about it at all. It was just something that happened, and I sensed it was profoundly familiar and from before this life, and where I felt the most profoundly at home.

I AM THE LOCAL EYES, EARS, THOUGHTS, AND FEELINGS OF THE UNIVERSE

A few years later, when I was ten years old, I was deeply impacted by the Cosmos TV series by Carl Sagan. I remember going out in the garden after watching the last episode, looking at the night sky filled with stars, and viscerally experiencing that I was – quite literally – the universe bringing itself into consciousness. I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. Just like al beings are.

Shortly after this, I was in the mountains in Norway with my father and brother, and we slept out under the stars. It must have been in the fall since the night sky was dark, and again filled with stars. And this time too, there was a shift into a profound visceral sense of the oneness of the universe and all there is.

ALL IS GOD

At sixteen, there was again a shift, and this one didn’t go away. I walked down the gravel road to our house at night, again under a dark sky filled with stars, and a big wind going through it all. From one moment to the next, there was a shift into recognizing all as God. Everything without exception is God.

Everything turned inside-out and upside-down. This human self is God locally experiencing itself as that, and having for a while taken itself as most fundamentally that.

This shift is still here.

FORMS OF ONENESS

There are several forms of oneness.

We can see all of existence as a seamless system. This universe is a seamless evolving system, and galaxies, solar systems, planets, ecosystems, and us are part of that system. We are local expressions of this larger seamless evolving system. Everything is the universe expressing and exploring itself in always new ways, and – through beings – experiencing itself in always new ways. This is a story from science, and it seems accurate in a practical sense.

We can see all as the divine or God, as mystics describe it. God is everything, and everything that we see as distinct things are part of the oneness of the divine. It’s all the divine exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways. This is a story when it’s expressed and heard as a story, and it can also reflect immediate noticing.

We can talk about oneness in a more social or metaphorical sense. We as citizens of this nation are one, or we who belong to this political party are one. This is a limited oneness that has an other.

We can also find the oneness we are in our own immediate experience, independent of these stories. We can find it here and now.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world.

And when I look in my own first-person experience, I find something else.

I find I am capacity for my experience of the world. I am capacity for the content of my experience, whether it shows up as sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation, thoughts, or anything else.

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

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

We can explore this oneness through logic and stories, and we can also explore it in our own immediate noticing.

TWO BASIC FORMS OF ONENESS

In reality, there are only two forms of oneness.

One is the oneness found in stories about oneness, which can reflect science, logic, or immediate noticing.

The other is the oneness we can notice here and now.

THE ONENESS WE ARE

The oneness we are can take itself to be something it tells itself to be – a human self, a separate being, a doer, an observer, and so on.

The oneness we are can explore oneness through stories.

And the oneness we are can notice itself in immediacy.

None of these is inherently better than the other. They all have value and a function. But the final one is a bit more fundamental and has more potential for profound transformation.

Priorities & our ecological crisis

We all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not.

And our life and actions show us our priorities, whether they match what we think they are or not.

OUR COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

At a collective level, it’s clear that our priority is business as usual. We collectively behave as if nothing unusual is happening. We collectively behave as if we are not in the middle of a human-created ecological crisis of enormous consequences. We collectively behave as if the messages from scientists have little to no weight or importance.

Why is that? It may be for many reasons. Most people prioritize day-to-day activities and tasks. Most have a political identity and are reluctant to switch their vote to politicians that take ecological crisis more seriously. We see that others don’t prioritize it, so we assume the situation is not very serious and follow their example. Politicians typically operate within a timeframe of just a few years, not decades and centuries. Many people don’t take things very seriously unless they feel it in their own lives. Some may think we still have enough time, that we are adaptable and will manage. Some also go into denial, dismiss the collective warnings from scientists, and rationalize their dismissal.

WHAT MOTIVATES US TO CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES?

At both individual and collective levels, we continually clarify our priorities, reprioritize, and reorganize our life to align with these new priorities. It happens all the time and mostly in small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Major reprioritizing usually happens first when we viscerally get it as absolutely necessary. It may happen when faced with a serious crisis. When life shows us our situation has dramatically changed, or that we need to face a reality we previously ignored or downplayed.

It happens when life shakes us out of our habitual patterns and priorities.

A MORE REALISTIC SET OF COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

If we would take our ecological situation seriously, how would that change our priorities? What would a more realistic set of collective priorities look like?

Here is just one example, as it comes to me:

Take a long view on our situation and in politics. Plan for decades and centuries ahead. Make policies where we take into account the interests of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children.

Include the interests of all beings when we make decisions. Our fate is intimately connected, so this is in our own interest. Implement policies that take the interest of all life into account.

Future generations and non-human life are voiceless, so we need to speak for them. Not only for their sake, but for our own. Their fate is intertwined with our own.

If these giving voice to the voiceless was our real priority, it would in itself change a lot and put us on our path to a more sustainable civilization. Taking the big picture in terms of time and ecosystems does a lot. It would ripple into all areas of society, including the economy, philosophy, education, production, transportation, and everything else.

For instance, it would likely lead to assigning advocates for those without a voice – future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems. To give them real power in political and business decisions. To make the rights of future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems law.

It would transform our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Our current economic thinking is a fantasyland where nature is seen as only a resource for humans and a place to put waste, and it assumes an unlimited capacity for both. That fantasy is reflected in our current economic system. These new priorities, if taken seriously, would transform our thinking about the economy and our economic systems to be more grounded in reality, which is something we all would benefit from.

WHAT I AM DOING IN MY LIFE

What I am doing in my own life about this?

I look at my life to see my actual priorities. How do I spend my time? What does that say about my priorities? I take a sober look at this and try to be kind with myself. Being realistic about my real priorities, as reflected in my life and how I spend my time, is the first step and can in itself lead to changes and reprioritization.

I am also in a fortunate situation. I was able to buy a sizeable piece of land in the Andes mountains, and. we are now exploring how to use a small part of it for buildings and food production, and support the rest to rewild and return to a more vibrant and diverse state benefitting innumerable beings.

We are also exploring ways to be a little more self-reliant with the essentials. We are looking into solar energy. We are taking steps to collect and store rainwater and use this for our own use and food production. We may gradually expand food production over time. (In a social crisis, which will likely come as a consequence of the ecological crisis, being more self-reliant will alleviate the burden on the local government and it may also be that they won’t be able to reliably provide basic services to everyone.)

Our local community is our greatest resource, so we are also connecting and creating ties with neighbors. And especially those who are like-minded and those who grow food and know how to make and fix things. Self-reliance and resilience mainly happen at a local and regional community level.

We are preparing for a future where our ecological crisis, and all the social consequences of it, is far more acute and severe. And we are learning and plan on sharing what we learn with anyone interested.

We are also considering creating a small eco-community on the land. We’ll see. We need to get to know the land better first.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take these kinds of steps, so we are also keeping in mind supporting those less fortunate, in whatever small ways we can.

And this is not because we are very noble. We are very flawed human beings.

This is because we are aware that this is in our own self-interest. It’s in our self-interest to live in a more sustainable way and create ties with our neighbors. It’s in our own interest to support those less fortunate, in the small ways we can, since we all live in the same society.

And in terms of ecology, we all – all beings – share the same collective fate. We are all impacted by the thriving or deterioration of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

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Our human identity is not wrong, it’s just incomplete

For me, it’s convenient to talk about who I am as distinct from what I am.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As who I am, I am this human self in the world. I am the one others see me as and what my passport tells me I am. It’s the role I need to learn to play in order to function in the world.

As what I am, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. This is what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience.

DOES IT MEAN ONE IS WRONG AND THE OTHER IS CORRECT?

Not really. Each one has validity, it’s just a different kind of validity in each case.

In the world and to most others, I am this human self. That’s an assumption that works reasonably well, although if I take myself as exclusively this, it leaves a lot out and that comes with some inherent discomfort.

To me, in my own immediate noticing, I am capacity for the world and what the world happens within and as. This is my own private experience, and it’s very likely shared by all conscious beings – all consciousnesses functioning through and as a being – whether they notice or not.

We are very likely all capacity for our world, and what the world to us happens within and as. We are the oneness the world, as it appears to us, happens within and as. And it’s that way whether we notice or not.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WHO AND WHAT I AM

What’s the relationship between the two?

Obviously, the distinction is mind-made. It’s created by our mental representations. It’s not there in reality, or at least not as a clear dividing line with one thing on one side and the other on the other side.

To me, it’s all happening within and as what I am. My human self and any ideas I have about my human self happens within and as what I am.

That doesn’t make it wrong. It just means that if I exclusively take myself as my human self, a lot is left out. It’s just a part of a bigger picture.

It’s fine if that’s what I do, although it comes with the discomfort mentioned above. It’s somewhat out of alignment with reality as I am already living it. Whether I notice or not, I am already living my nature as oneness, so pretending I am not inevitably creates discomfort.

HOW CAN WE EXPLORE THIS FOR OURSELVES?

If the oneness I am is pretending to be exclusively this human self, and it has a curiosity to discover what’s more real, how can I go about it?

The essence is to discern our mental representations – of ourselves and what we are and life in general – from our immediate noticing. What’s here in my mental representations? How is it to notice that it is a mental representation and not reality? What’s here in my immediate noticing? What am I more fundamentally in my immediate noticing?

And to do that, some structured guidance can be very helpful, including any number of inquiry approaches like the Headless experiments, The Big Mind process, The Work of Byron Katie, The Kiloby/Living Inquiries, traditional Buddhist sense field inquiries, and so on.

Basic meditation – to notice and allow what’s here, and notice it’s all already allowed and noticed – is also helpful. It helps me see that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including anything within the content of experience I take myself to be. And something does not come and go, and that’s something that’s not a thing, it’s what it all happens within and as. It’s the awakeness it’s all already happening within and as.

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Simone Weil: There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

– Simone Weil

One atheism is a rejection of there being any God or Spirit or anything divine. Typically, it’s actually a rejection of a certain image of God or the divine, or of a certain culture that goes with one or more religions, although it’s often presented as something more general.

The other is more discerning. It’s a differentiation between our mental representations of God from what these mental representations refer to. We can reject our images and mental representations without rejecting God or the divine. This is a purification of the notion of God.

The first is a belief. It’s a belief that there is no God or divine. We are attaching to ideas as if they are the reality. The second is a sincere exploration of the difference between our ideas and reality itself.

A CONVENTIONAL EXPLORATION OF THE SECOND ATHEISM

A conventional exploration of the second atheism is what I mentioned above.

We notice our images of God and the divine and reality as a whole. We get to know them. We recognize them as mental representations.

And we set them aside. We know that God and reality is always different from and more than our ideas and maps. We find humility here. We find receptivity. We find curiosity.

We ask God to reveal itself to us – in ways beyond and free from the limits created by our ideas and notions about God and reality and anything.

(Note: I should mention it’s been a long time since I actually read Simone Weil so I don’t know if this is how she would talk about it. This is me, not her.)

ANOTHER MORE IMMEDIATE EXPLORATION

For me, this is how the second one looks:

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what others, my passport, and my thoughts sometimes tell me. It’s an assumption that’s not wrong and it works reasonably well. It’s also an assumption I need to learn and a role I need to learn to play in order to function in the world.

And yet, what am I more fundamentally in my own first-person experience? What do I find if I set aside my ideas about what I am and instead look in my immediate experience?

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for whatever appears in my sense fields – in sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations.

I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the world – this human self, others, the wider world, any experience at all – happens within and as.

I find myself as what thoughts may imperfectly label consciousness. I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as. I find myself as no-thing which allows the experience and appearance of any and all things. I find myself as having no boundaries and no inherent characteristics, which allows the experience and appearance of boundaries and any characteristic.

I find that another word for the oneness I am is love. It’s a love that’s independent of any states or feelings. It’s a love inherent in what I am. It’s a love often obscured by my very human hangups, issues, and traumas.

To me, the world happens within and as what I am, within and as consciousness, within and as oneness, within and as love. To me, the world appears as what a thought may call the divine or God.

The small interpretation of this is that this is all psychology. As a conscious being, to myself I have to be consciousness, and the world as it appears to me has to happen within and as consciousness, within and as what I am. I cannot generalize from this and say that this is how reality or all of existence is.

The big interpretation says that everything is as it appears. Everything is consciousness and the divine. Everything is God.

If we call existence God, then this is the atheism that is the purification of the notion of God.

This is the atheism that differentiates our ideas about God, ourselves, and everything, from what’s here in our immediate noticing.

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Spiritual stories vs what’s here in immediacy

Anyone into spirituality has all sorts of spiritual stories floating around in their minds. And most who are not into spirituality have these kinds of stories as well, they may just dismiss them.

For instance, if we are into mysticism or non-duality, we may have stories about the afterlife, karma, what awakening refers to, what awakening would mean for us and our future, the role of masters, the existence of non-physical entities and deities, and so on.

It’s helpful to differentiate mental representations and our immediate noticing.

MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

For me, all of these stories are mental representations. I cannot find them anywhere else.

Someone created those stories, told them to someone else, and then they reached me.

I may have stories about the source and whether it’s reliable or not. There may be research matching the stories to a certain degree. Some of the stories may even match my own experiences.

And yet, to me, they remain mental representations and stories. I cannot find them outside of that. I cannot find it in my immediate noticing.

DIFFERENTIATING MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS AND IMMEDIATE NOTICING

For all I know, reality may not be anything like what the stories describe.

That’s a sobering realization and an important one.

In life, it helps us stay grounded and it’s a kind of vaccination against going too far into spiritual fantasies.

And more importantly, it’s a part of learning to differentiate mental representations from direct noticing. It’s a part of learning to recognize mental representations for what they are, holding them more lightly, and also differentiate all that from a direct noticing of what’s here – which is our own nature.

The only thing I can notice directly is actually my own nature. Everything else is a noticing plus a story, a mental representation.

WHAT I AM LEFT WITH

Any story about who or what I am is a story. Any story about the content of experience is a story. Any story about reality is a story.

And what I am left with is a direct noticing of my nature and that any and all experience happens within and as what I find myself as.

IT’S ALL I KNOW

When I learn to differentiate the two, I also notice more clearly that all I know is my own nature. Any content of experience happens within and as what I am, within and as my nature. Even the nature of mental representations is my nature.

To me, the nature of everything is my nature, whether I notice or not.

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What you seek is seeking you

What you seek is seeking you

– attributed to Rumi

I imagine this has been expressed by many through time and across cultures and traditions. It’s an expression of perennial insight or wisdom.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

It’s often used to mean that if we seek something essential – love, or truth, or home, or the divine / God, or our nature – then that seeks us. Or even that it’s seeking us whether we are seeking it or not.

IS IT ACCURATE?

In a practical sense, it seems accurate.

When we seek love, truth, the divine, our nature, and so on, and do so with sincerity, receptivity, honesty, and diligence, and with some good guidance, then things often move and fall into place in ways we didn’t arrange or made happen on our own, or couldn’t have. We invite grace. It’s as if what we seek is seeking us.

In some cases, that grace happens without us consciously seeking it. Something happens that puts us on the path. We receive guidance and pointers without asking. Our nature reveals itself to itself without any conscious interest or intention on our part. Here, it definitely looks as if what we seek is seeking us.

NOT ALWAYS THE WAY WE WANT

When what we seek is seeking us, and when grace happens, it can happen in many different ways.

It can be in the form of a glimpse or shift, meeting someone that puts our life in a different direction, finding a book, finding a guide or community that’s a good match, and so on.

And it doesn’t always happen in a way that our personality likes. It’s not always pretty. What puts us on a different course can come in the form of an illness, accident, loss, conflict, and so on.

It can come in the form of gentle or fierce grace.

IT’S ALWAYS HAPPENING

We can also say that the quote is always accurate. Our seeking is always, in its essence, for the essential. And the essential is, in some ways, always seeking us.

Whatever it looks like we are seeking, we are really seeking something essential. We may think we are seeking comfort, love from another, approval, success, money, admiration, being understood, ice cream, and so on. And even here, the essence of the seeking is a seeking for love, truth, the divine, and our nature. (We can find this for ourselves by taking a surface desire, asking “what do I hope to get out of this”, repeat that question, and see what we are most essentially seeking.)

And even if we are caught up in surface seeking – which we all are at different times and in different ways – what we are essentially seeking is seeking us. Love, truth, the divine, and our nature is seeking us. It’s inviting us to notice the essence of our seeking. And it’s inviting us to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature making up our whole experience and reality.

Reality is set up so the invitation is always here. We are swimming in it whether we notice it or not. We are swimming in our seeking of the essential, even if it takes the surface form of seeking all kinds of things. We are swimming in the invitation to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature that’s all we know, whether we notice it or not.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

We also have the usual bigger picture.

This is all happening within and as the consciousness we are. The seeking, the sought, the process, the apparent failures and successes, and so on are all happening within the consciousness we are. What seeks and what is sought happens within and as what we are. It’s the consciousness we are taking all of these forms.

It’s the oneness we are going into a trance forgetting itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to notice itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to wake itself up from the trance.

FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

I am very aware that this can sound abstract, distant, and convoluted.

That’s OK since this is not about the words. This is something we can find for ourselves.

In a conventional sense, we may appear to be this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works relatively well, although it comes with some inherent discomfort.

And when we look in our own first person experience, we may find something else. I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any experience that’s here. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

This oneness is what goes into a trance of taking itself as someting within the field of experience and the rest as “other”. This oneness is what seeks to find itself. This oneness is what seeks to release itself out of the trance.

The essence of this process is to differentiate our mental representations about ourselves, the world, and anything from what’s here in our immediate noticing. The first may tell us we are something in particular within the content of experience. The second shows us we are what our experience happens within and as.

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What does “oneness” mean? Some examples of different forms of oneness

What comes to mind when you hear the word “oneness”? That it always refer to the same? That what it refers to is something mysterious? Something that belongs to certain religions or New Age thought? Something not grounded in reality? Something real you cannot check out for yourself?

The word oneness can refer to several different things and it’s helpful to differentiate.

THE ONENESS WE ARE TO OURSELVES

We may take ourselves to be this human being in the world, and that’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. 

And yet, if we look more closely in our own first-person experience, we may find something else. We may find that we more fundamentally are capacity for the world – for any content of experience – as it appears to us. And we may find that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. 

Said another way, we may find that we inevitably are consciousness and that the world, to us, happens within and as this consciousness. 

We can also say that we are oneness, and the world happens within and as this oneness. 

This is the oneness we are and we can explore in our own experience, especially if we are guided by a structured inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain. 

ONE IN A MORE CONVENTIONAL SENSE  

In mainstream culture, we sometimes say we are one – whether that comes from poetry, politics, science, religion, or something else.

We are one in an ethnic or political sense.

We are one in terms of our shared history, either as a group or as humanity.

We are one in terms of our evolution and shared ancestry, either as humanity or all Earth beings.

We are one in that the essence of what we want is the same and shared by all beings. We all wish for comfort and happiness and to avoid suffering.

In some cases, it can be a dangerous rhetoric if it sets “us” up against “them”. And it can be beautiful and healing to the extent it is inclusive.

ONE IN A SYSTEMS SENSE 

We can take this one step further and find oneness in a systems sense.

We are all parts of a seamless system. All of humanity, all of this living planet, all of this evolving universe, all of existence. All of existence is part of a seamless system. 

As Carl Sagan said: We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. 

ONE IN A SPIRITUAL SENSE 

It’s also possible that all of existence is God or the divine or Spirit. Spirit takes the form of all there is and all we know, including everything connected with this human self. 

It’s all the play of the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways, as all there is. 

All of existence is divine and one. 

SEVERAL DIFFERENT ONENESSES 

We can find several different onenesses. 

To ourselves, we are the oneness the world happens within and as. 

We are one in several different social, historical, biological, and evolutionary ways. 

We are parts of a seamless system. 

And all can be seen as expressions and explorations of Spirit. 

THE VALIDITY OF EACH 

Each of these ways of talking about oneness has validity, and the validity is slightly different in each case.

I can check the first one for myself. I can find myself as that oneness.

The two next ones make sense within the realm of stories, and I include science here since science produces stories that help us function and navigate in the world.

And the last one is what mystics from all traditions describe. We can say that they found the first kind of oneness and then over-generalized and assumed that their nature is the nature of all of existence. And there are also hints beyond that suggesting that the “all as Spirit” view is valid in itself. (See articles on the small and big interpretations of awakening for more on this.) 

Image: Enso / Zen circle by Sengai

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What is it that doesn’t come and go?

In basic meditation, we notice and allow any experience that’s here.

We notice it’s already allowed and noticed.

And we may notice that any and all experience comes and goes, including what we take ourselves to be.

So what is it that doesn’t come and go?

If we are asked that question, our mind will likely look for something within the content of experience. After all, that’s what we are used to looking for, and the word “what” may also suggest we are looking for a kind of thing.

But this what doesn’t refer to a thing. It refers to what our experiences – the world as it appears to us – happens within and as.

And although it’s what we inevitably are most familiar with, it’s also ephemeral and unpinnable. It cannot be pinned down by thoughts or concepts.

Our mind will create mental representations of this and call it oneness, love, consciousness, or something else. Our mind may also mistake these mental representations for what they point to. So it’s helpful to be aware of these mental representations and examine them and notice that these too happen within and as what we are.

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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Taking refuge in a story to make ourselves feel better

Am I going into a story in order to feel better? To distract myself from an uncomfortable story and associated feelings?

Do I notice any of the telltale symptoms of doing this?

This is an ongoing exploration for me.

TAKING REFUGE IN A STORY

When I hold a story as true, I do it to find a sense of safety in it. At some level, it feels safer to hold a story as true than admitting I don’t know for certain.

This is a habitual pattern, and learned from others as we grow up. We do as we see.

These can be any story. They may tell me I am better or worse than others. They may tell me I know how I am or the world is. They may assign blame. They may take the form of ideologies, whether polticial, spiritual, psychological, or anything else.

When I hold a story as true, I identify with the viewpoint of the story and the identity created by it. I take myself as that, and not as what’s left out even if that’s also here.

The safety I seek is the safety from being faced with one of more of my uncomfortable stories and their associated feelings.

Seeking refuge in stories has many consequences. I need to remember, prop up, defend, and elaborate on the stories. They are always at risk of being disproven and shot down by my own mind or others or both. It creates contractions of body and mind. It limits the ways I have for exploring the world in my imagination and life.

There is no real safety in taking refuge in stories. The stories can be disputed. They are literally imaginations. And uncomfortable stories and feelings are still here.

THE ALTERNATIVE: BEFRIEND AND FIND PEACE WITH

There is another way to find refuge that’s more aligned with truth and reality.

And that is to explore the stories with some sincerity.

To examine the specific stories and find what’s more genuinly true for me. (That I cannot know for certain, and the limited validity in the story and its reversals.)

And to recognize the inherent characteristics of stories. (They are pointers and here to help me to orient in the world. They are different in nature from what they point to. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Reality is always more than and different from any story about it.)

And befriend and find peace with the stories and experiences that are here, as they are. (For instance, through inquiry, dialog, heart-centered practices, noticing that stories and feelings happen within and as what I am, and that their nature is the same as my nature.)

IN DAILY LIFE

Knowing about this is a first step, and its real value is in exploring it in daily life.

I notice the symptoms of holding onto a story. (Defense, rejection of views, reactivity, contractions, obsession with ideologies, any form of compulsion, and so on.)

I identify the story I find refuge in.

I examine it and find what’s more true for me.

I explore how it is to hold it more lightly.

I find the validity in other views and its reversals.

I find in myself what I see in others.

I find in myself the reverse of the identity created by the initial story.

Perhaps most importantly, I find the discomfort in me I used the initial story as a defense against.

I explore the uncomfortable stories and their associated sensations.

Here, I often use some version of the befriend and awaken process.

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Our ecological bottleneck and personal decisions

Since my teens, I have been passionate about sustainability, deep ecology, simple living, and so on. (And worked in that area for several years.)

For decades, we have known that we are creating an ecological bottleneck for ourselves and what we have seen so far is only the beginning. We are entering an era of continuous ecological crises with extreme weather, continued extinction of species, unraveling ecosystems, famine, mass migration, and so on. And a lot of people will die, perhaps most of humanity. (And, as usual, those already worst off will be hit the hardest.)

So what do we do at a personal level?

In my case, there is a lot of grieving, also from seeing the loss of ecological vibrancy and diversity in the areas I know the best, including at the cabin in Norway which is in the middle of a large forested area. (Which soon hopefully will become a national park.)

I have chosen a relatively simple life, relying on less than most people do. (Although I do travel, and I love delicious simple food.)

I have learned to grow my own food, build with local materials and traditions, and so on.

And I am planning for the future. My partner and I have land in the Andes mountains where we can cover most of life’s essentials locally. We are building using local materials and building techniques. We have water and will provide for more natural water storage. We’ll grow food. We are creating good connections with the neighbors and the local community, which is our greatest and most essential resource. We live in a place where heating and cooling is not necessary. (Especially with good building design.)

We are very fortunate in that we have resources to choose where to live, buy land, build a house, and do all of this. Most people in the world are unable to do that, either because they don’t have the resources or because they are tied to where they already are for family or work reasons.

In addition to this (and perhaps it’s a bit excessive), we are going to a place in Europe next week to check it out. It’s a place that’s geographically isolated. They have plenty of water. The soil is very fertile. It’s relatively protected from sea level rise. (Which will be several meters or tens of meters this century.) And here too, there is no need for heating or cooling. It may be another place to live as the current ecological and humanitarian crisis worsens.

Personally, I cannot do much about the bigger picture. But I can make good decisions for myself and my family. And I can create mutually beneficial ties with those in the local community. And that’s perhaps enough.

There is also another thing I am doing, and that’s what I typically write about here. The less I am caught up in issues and traumas, I am better able to deal with change, and I am hopefully able to make slightly better decisions.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT OUR HUMAN-MADE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

Why are we in this situation?

And why does it seem unlikely that we can prevent massive ecological and social problems?

Many like to talk about greed, blame others, and so on.

To me, it looks different and much simpler.

We live in a system where much of what’s destructive for our planet is easy and inexpensive to do, at individual and collective levels. So just by living our daily lives we contribute to the destruction of our ecosystems. (And our future.)

Why did these systems come in place? Not because of any malevolent intention, but because they made sense at the time they were created. They come about centuries ago when nature, for all practical purposes, was unlimited. It was an unlimited source of resources, and it had an unlimited capacity to absorb waste.

What’s the solution?

The solution is to create systems – economic systems and systems of transportation, production, energy, and so on – where what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for our ecosystems. It’s very possible to do this. Many people have developed and explored ways to do it.

What we need is the collective will.

Are we going to find this collective will? Certainly not soon enough to avoid a lot of problems, because that “soon enough” was several decades ago.

Will we find it at all? I am not sure.

As long as we misdiagnose the problem (through blaming greed, others, etc.), we won’t find the real solutions. And as long as we assume that piecemeal solutions (recycling, electric cars) are enough, we won’t find the collective will.

My guess is that most of humanity will have to die off before the ones left collectively seriously address the real causes and start implementing real solutions, and even then we may not since our reduced numbers again allow us to use human systems that don’t take ecological systems into account.

It’s all very simple. Our human systems exists within, depend on, and are part of the larger ecological systems. That means that our human systems – at all levels – need to take ecological realities into account.

If they don’t – and if we have a large population and powerful technology– we will inevitably damage and destroy large parts of the ecological systems we are part of and depend on.

Why don’t more people do more about it?

I suspect many feel they can’t do much on their own so they choose to focus on their own day-to-day lives instead. They may trust that if their leaders don’t take it seriously, it’s because it’s not necessary (yet). Politicians are typically elected for just a few years at a time, so they focus on that timeframe rather than a timeframe that goes over decades or centuries.

I also suspect that more are concerned about this than is sometimes apparent. To others, it may appear that I too am just living a day-to-day life without too much concern about this. (Which is partially true.) What they may not know is the grief I am experiencing over what’s happening with the ecosystems and what will happen with humanity. And they may also not know that when we bought land in the Andes and are building a house there, and are also considering buying something in a location in Europe, it’s with this in mind.

Why do I call it ecological bottleneck?

Because we are in a metaphorical bottleneck right now, and it will continue to tighten in the next decades and perhaps centuries. It’s a bottleneck created by our current economic and other systems which do not take ecological realities into account. Many species won’t survive. (Many are already lost.) Many ecosystems will be severely degraded and damaged, and some will be gone. And as mentioned above, I suspect much of humanity won’t make it through either.

Post-doom

In a sense, the doom is certain. We are already in it and it will get worse. The question is how we will deal with it. I suspect many countries will close down their borders, perhaps even within the EU. A lot of collective and individual resources will be used to deal with an ongoing series of ecological crises. And as usual in a time of crisis, many will focus mostly on their own survival while some will look at the bigger picture and try to find solutions that work for everyone, and there will likely be an increased polarization between the two.

Waking up issues, parts, and subpersonalities

I enjoy using the befriend & awaken process these days, as I have written about in other articles. (It’s a process that draws on elements from a range of approaches, others have come up with similar processes, this one is one I have developed for myself since it seems to work the best for me, and I don’t think anyone else calls it “befriend & awaken”.)

One of the last steps in that process is to awaken issues or parts and subpersonalities.

What does it mean to awaken issues? Or awaken parts and subpersonalities?

THE PROCESS

When I do this part of the process, I go through a few steps.

I connect with the issue or subpersonality through the previous steps, feel the sensation aspect of it, connect with the painful story behind it, and so on.

I notice my own nature and that I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am. (I find myself as what a thought may call consciousness, and that the world to me happens within and as consciousness.)

I notice that the nature of the issue or part is the same as mine. It happens within and as what I am, so it – by necessity – has the same nature as me.

I rest in that noticing.

I invite the issue or part to recognize its own nature and rest in that noticing.

I invite whatever shifts to shift, to reorganize within this conscious noticing of what’s already here.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

How does this work? What is it that happens?

As mentioned, this is all already happening within and as what I am. Any issue, part, and subpersonality – and any content of experience – already happens within and as what I am. It already has the same nature as I do.

When they were formed, they were typically formed within separation consciousness. They were formed when the whole of me, or most of what I am, operated from separation consciousness. And they still function and operate within separation consciousness. That’s why they are issues. That’s why they seek some form of resolution.

By consciously noticing their nature, and resting in and as that noticing, I – as a whole – recognize their nature. This shifts how I relate to them. I recognize them as myself. I recognize them as having the same nature as I do. This is part of the befriending. This helps me shift out of reactivity and reacting to them from habitual patterns, which also come from separation consciousness.

I then invite these parts of me to notice their own nature and rest in that noticing. This shifts how this part of consciousness relates to itself. It wakes up to its own nature. It wakes up to itself having taken the form of the issue or the part and subpersonality. And that sets something in motion. The part tends to reorganize and align with a more conscious noticing of itself as oneness. (AKA healing.)

On the one hand, it all happens here and now, and any ideas of past, future and present happen here and now. And on the other hand, this is a process. The more time I spend resting in this noticing, and resting in inviting these parts of me to notice their nature, the more there is a realignment.

Exactly what happens is always a bit of a surprise. It lives its own life. I – as the whole – just notice it shift, unravel, and realign.

And, as so often, the way this is presented makes it sound like a clean and orderly process. It’s often not. It’s often messy. These parts of us are tied up in knots, and the unknotting process isn’t always so tidy or clean.

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The field

How do I experience myself?

Mainly, as a field. The field my experiences – right now of this room, this body, the computer, the sounds of the keys, and so on – happen within and as.

Sometimes, the focus goes more into the human self. I am the field, and there is a kind of focus on the human self. It stands out a little more.

And I am also very aware that many parts of my psychology still operate from separation consciousness. They too happen within and as the field, and they seem to assume they are separate.

All of that is part of the richness of what’s here.

SEEING VS VISCERAL EXPERIENCE

This is also where the difference between seeing and a visceral experience comes in.

For me, it’s inevitable to find myself as this field in terms of seeing. That is the visceral experience most of the time. And sometimes, when parts of me operating from separation consciousness are triggered, the visceral experience shifts into a sense of being separate.

That too is part of the richness that is here. The field takes that form too, sometimes.

COLORING

And when I look more closely, I find that these parts of my psychology experiencing and operating from separation consciousness color everything even when they are not triggered. It may appear to not be very obvious, but it’s here.

Until all parts are liberated, the whole is not fully liberated.

And that’s OK and more than OK. It’s all how the field and the whole expresses, explores, and experiences itself. It’s part of the richness.

THE FIELD

What is this field?

It’s what I most fundamentally am. It’s what takes the form of all content of experience – the whole world as it appears to me. It’s more familiar to me than any particular content of experience. In reality, it’s all I have ever known since it’s what takes the form of all content of experience.

Thoughts can label it consciousness, or oneness, or love, or Big Mind / Big Heart, or – if we want to be more fanciful – Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on. And as with anything else, labels can only point to it.

How can we find it for ourselves?

In one sense, we are this human self in the world. It’s how most others see us, it’s what our passport tells us, it’s what our own thoughts may tell us since we have learned it from others. It’s not wrong and it’s an assumption that works reasonably well. Although it does have some inevitable drawbacks since it’s partially out of alignment with reality. (It tends to create an underlying sense of something being off, and – to the extent our system pretends it’s true – it tends to create discomfort.)

And yet, is that what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience? And how can we explore this for ourselves?

We can explore it through basic meditation. Notice and allow what’s here in this field of experience, and notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Through this, we may get a visceral sense of how any and all content of experience comes and goes. And yet, something doesn’t come and go. What is that? Is that what I more fundamentally am? How is it to find myself as that?

We can explore it by investigating our sense fields, and especially how our mental field combines with the other fields to make sense of the world and help us function in the world. (And how it also can create a sense of fundamentally being something within our field of experience, this human self, even if that’s not the full picture.)

We can perhaps most easily and directly explore it through guided noticing. The most effective approaches I have found are Headless experiments (from Douglas Harding) and the Big Mind process (Genpo Roshi).

Ways of knowing our nature

There are many ways of knowing in general.

And there are many ways of knowing our nature.

WHAT IS MY NATURE?

What is my nature?

Are I this human self? To others, in my passport, and to myself when I take on that identity, that’s true enough. It’s an identity that works well. (Although it comes with some inherent stress since it’s not completely aligned with the reality as it appears to me.)

And when I take a closer look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally somehting else.

I am more fundamentally capacity for my experiences – for the world as it appears to me and any content of experience.

And I am more fundamentally what the content of my experience happens within and as. What the world as it appears to me – including this human self, others, the wider world, and any states and experiences – happen within and as.

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

This is a direct noticing. It’s not primarily a philosophy, although it will inevitably appear that way when reflected in words. It’s not a “mystical” view since it doesn’t require any adherence to any religion or form of spirituality or anything else. It just requires noticing.

It also doesn’t suppose anything divine, any God or Spirit or anything of that sort. All I can say about it is that there are experiences here. That points to consciousness. No matter what that consciousness rest on in some third-person or objective sense – whether it’s created by this human body and nervous system or whether it’s a part of a divine reality or God or Brahman – to myself I am this consciousness. And to me, the world happens within and as what I am, and I am capacity for the world as it appears to me.

To myself, I am inevitably consciousness, the world happens within and as what I am, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me, and I am the oneness the world to me happens within and as.

WAYS OF KNOWING MY NATURE

So what are some ways I can know my nature?

I can have mental concepts – ideas, maps – about it. Whether I notice my nature or not, and no matter where my visceral “center of gravity” is, I can have these concepts.

And no matter what, it’s helpful to identify, explore, and question these concepts. They may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense, and they are ultimately all wrong and somewhat misleading. Reality is always more than and different from our ideas about it, and ultimately – to us – also simpler. And so also with our nature.

This investigation also helps me differentiate noticing ideas versus noticing what the ideas point to, which are two very different things and sometimes – when it comes to apparently ephemeral things like our nature – it can be easy to mix the two up.

I can notice my nature more directly. Popular misconceptions says this is very difficult, can take lifetimes of practice, and so on. And, in reality, it can be sinple and quick – especially if we are guided by someone familiar with the terrain, familiar with guiding others in noticing their nature, and who is using effective structured pointers – for instance Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Noticing once is helpful. And in terms of transformation – of our perception, sense of what we most fundamentally are, and of our human self and life in the world – keeping noticing is where it’s at. This requires a deep interest which helps us prioritize it over most or all else, and which keeps us coming back to it through the day.

This ongoing noticing helps me be more familiar with the terrain – the terrain of what I am, the transformations that happen through this ongoing noticing, and how it is for this human self to live in the context of this noticing in daily life and through different situations.

The more we actively investigate and explore these different parts of the process, the more familiar with will be with this terrain. And we’ll have different fascinations and ways to explore it that gives us all different levels of familiarity with different parts of this vast and infinite terrain of who and what we are and the process of noticing our nature and living from it.

Through this process, the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be will shift. What we viscerally experience ourselves as, without having to shift our attention anywhere, will shift.

An initial noticing of our nature may or may not shift our visceral experience of what we more fundamentally are. If the noticing comes through guided inquiry, it may not shift too much at first. The shifts happen over time as we keep noticing and exploring.

If the noticing comes more spontaneouslly, or following long practice and exploration, the shift may be more dramatic and immediate.

And, in most cases, there are many shifts like this. Our nature keeps revealing new layers of itself to itself.

So we have a conceptual knowing. We have the knowing that comes from direct noticing. We have the knowing that comes from exploring and becomning more familiar with the terrain over time. And we have the knowing that comes from viscerally finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, love, and so on.

IN MY CASE

This is not always sequential.

In my case, the initial noticing and shift of center of gravity happened at the same time and without any apparent warning or preparation.

I was a nerdy and angsty teeanger, walking down a path at night with a big wind blowing through the landscape and the night sky littered with stars above me. And from one second to the next, my visceral sense of identity went from this awkward human being with social anxiety to the oneness all of existence happens within and as. The consciousness that all happens within and as.

Previous to this, I had less than no interest in relgion or spirituality. I had decided I was an atheist in elementary school since religion seemed mostly absurd to me and a crutch.

This was a visceral shift that never went away. And most of the insights I write about here came immediately or over the first short period after this shift.

At the same time, it has taken a long time to get more familiar with the landscape and how to live from it. My human self continued to have many of the same issues, and it takes time – at least in my case – to find healing for these.

And it also took a bit of time to reflect the noticng and my experiences in some preliminary and provisional maps. For instance, I loved Ken Wilber’s integral model when I discovered it later in my teens.

And there has been several shifts since. For instance, some years ago, there was a much stronger shift into the oneness and “no self” aspect of my nature which helped me viscerally differentiate my nature versus shifting experiences more clearly.

And there has been shifts into what can be called the divine feminine or a kind of soft fertile darkness aspect of my nature.

This is all an ongoing process and exploration.

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The 80-20 rule in spiritual practice: Most of it is about transformation, and only a bit is about awakening

The 80-20 rule says that 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time, and the remaining 20% takes 80% of the time.

That’s often roughtly accurate in my experience. I often find that most of the work is done relatively quickly, and it’s the final bits that take a lot of time to finish up and get right.

And so also when it comes to spiritual practice.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

Contrary to popular misconceptions, it’s not that difficult for most of us to notice our nature. If we have a guide familiar with the terrain, who is using an effective series of pointers, most of us can get it – the essence of it – in a relatively short time. And that means minutes, not hours, days, months, years, or decades. In these cases, the noticing itself can be 1% of the work or less.

We can get it, although many won’t see the value in it. It may seem interesting. A fun party game. But of little or no practical value. So we let it go and move on to something else.

Or we may value awakening, but what we find when guided doesn’t fit our ideas so we keep looking for it somewhere else. We may be looking for something exotic, distant, and mind-blowing in a crude way. And what we are shown is deeply familiar, never left, and without any fanfare or fireworks. It seems just too simple, so we move on and keep looking for the exotic and unusual.

RETURNING TO NOTICING OUR NATURE

If we find it and value it, then that’s where the work starts. It takes a deep and visceral interest – enough to prioritize and return to it – to keep noticing it through daily life. This is 10 or 20% of the work.

TRANSFORMATION

And then there is the transformation of our human self and psychology and life in the world. This too takes a deep and sustained visceral interest and passion.

This transformation can happen, to some extent, through different types of sincere and dedicated spiritual practice even if we don’t notice our nature.

And it can happen within the context of oneness noticing itself as all there is, and aligning our human self with this conscious noticing.

In my experience, this is the majority of the work and the 80% from the 80-20 rule.

NOT ABOUT THE NUMBERS

When I give numbers to the different aspects of the process, it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. Each case is individual and it will vary a lot. And it’s not really possible – and easily misleading and a bit absurd – to assign numbers in this way.

So why am I doing it? Just to highlight that, in my experience, the noticing costs very little. Sustained noticing requires more of us. And the transformation requires a lot more – and really everything – from us.

Finally, what are some of the structured pointers that can help most of us notice our nature so quickly? Two approaches I personally enjoy are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

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Themes in an awakening process

I have been interested in the phases and stages of the awakening process for a while, and although these stage maps have value, I am also very aware of their shortcomings.

So I thought I would explore a different approach here that may complement stage models, and also loosen them up a bit, and shed a slightly different light on the process.

What are some of the themes in an awakening process? And how do they look in different phases of the process, and perhaps in some of the individual processes I know about?

THEMES

Here are some of the themes that stand out to me.

INTEREST

If we are in an awakening process, we typically have some interest, fascination, and draw to it. We may feel called. We may respond to inner guidance or intuition. We may tell ourselves any number of reasons why we are interested in it.

This interest tends to stay with us through the process, perhaps with some periods where it goes more into the background.

An interest or fascination may be how it (apparently) starts for us. And other times, our fascination and interest come from an initial glimpse or shift. (For me, the shift came first.)

CONCEPTUAL EXPLORATION

Just about all of us have at last some intellectual curiosity about the process, we wish to make some sense of our own process and experiences, and we read or listen to what others have to share about it.

This intellectual exploration typically follows us through the process. It doesn’t belong to any particular phase.

It can be very helpful in that it provides us with a map and a way to orient.

And the pitfall is that we can have our noses so deeply in the maps that we forget about the terrain. We may distract ourselves. We may get overly attached to certain maps, even when they don’t fit the terrain so well. We may temporarily forget that this is about the terrain, not the maps.

DIRECT EXPLORATION

We also have the more direct and visceral exploration.

This may be a direct noticing of our nature, often guided by certain structured forms of inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain.

We may explore basic meditation and notice and allow what’s here, and then notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed and align more consciously with that. We may find that any and all content of experience, including anything associated with this human self, comes and goes. And that what we are is what all this comes and goes within and as.

We may train a more stable attention. We may engage in heart-centered practices. We may use body-centered practices or do energetic work. We may follow ethical guidelines mimicking how people tend to live when oneness notices itself.

We may explore how it is to live from all of this.

Not everyone starts with direct exploration, but it is an essential part of the process. And if we are on a sincere exploration, it tends to be with us for the whole process. There is always more to discover, clarify, deepen, and get familiar with.

GLIMPSES

At some point, we may have glimpses of our nature. We may intuit or feel some kind of oneness of existence. We may even recognize our nature as capacity for the word as it appears to us, and find ourselves as the oneness the world to us happens within and as.

We may experience different kinds of states highlighting and showing us aspects of our nature.

And these glimpes may show us something just a bit beyond what we already are familiar with.

This can happen at any phase of the process. Even after we notice our nature, there is always further to go, and we often get glimpses of what’s ahead. (At least, that’s how it’s been for me.)

MORE STABLE SHIFTS

We then have the more stable shifts.

Oneness may shift into more stably noticing itself, through the different states, experiences, and situations of daily life.

Oneness may shift from noticing itself to more viscerally experiencing itself as oneness, again through the different situations in daily life.

And so on. There are many of these.

DARK NIGHTS

We may go through several kinds of dark nights in an awakening process.

These are temporary states where we may feel lost or that we have lost something, we may have deep wounds and traumas surfacing, we may experience deep agony, and so on.

These are times when our old orientation and way of being may not work anymore. Old patterns wear off. And we get ready, whether we know it or not, for something else.

The more we struggle, the less pleasant this experience tends to be. And if we struggle, then that struggle is an integral part of the process for us and something we can learn from.

There are certain things we can do to make it a little easier for ourselves. For me, it helped to know that others have gone through something very similar. It helped to have the guidance and support of someone who had gone through it himself. Being in nature was a blessing and helped calm down my very frayed nervous system. Energetic work – Five Element acupuncture and Vortex Healing – has also helped. And heart-centered practices and inquiry has been a good support as well.

In my experience, this is something that lives its own life and has its own schedule. In many ways, “I” am just along for the ride.

EXPLORING LIVING FROM IT

Through the process, we may also explore living from what we discover and the shifts that happen.

We may explore living according to ethical guidelines, and notice what in us wishes to deviate from these. (Typically, wounded parts of us that need some befriending, understanding, love, and clarity through inquiry.)

We may do heart-centered or body-centered practices, and explore how to live from the shifts these bring about.

We may notice our nature, and explore how to live from that in different situations in daily life.

And we may notice what in us is still not yet on board with this, and gently explore and get to know those parts of us.

HUMAN SELF ALIGNING AND REORGANIZING

A part of this process is the reorganization and realignment of our human self and the many psychological parts of our human self.

This happens throughout the process. It happens at a conceptual level through our conceptual curiosity. It happens at a heart level through heart-centered and other practices. It happens as shifts in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, life, and our experiences. It happens in terms of our identity and what we take ourselves to be. And so on.

Mainly, it happens in the form of a healing of how we relate to anything. And as healing of the different wounded parts of ourselves.

These days, I am mostly using the befriend & awaken process to explore this.

SHARING

Some don’t feel moved to share much about this or their own process, and that’s perfectly fine.

And others are drawn to sharing, in some form or another. Even if it’s just occasional conversations with others on the path.

The sharing can be between colleagues exploring a similar terrain. It can be between a student and coach. It can be between someone familiar with this terrain and someone curious about it. And so on.

For me, the sharing mostly happens here.

UPSIDES OF A THEME ORIENTATION

Stage models obviously have their place and usefulness.

And I still love this focus on themes – or woven threads – in an awakening process.

It shows how themes may be present throughout the process. It shows how they may change in their expression through the process.

It complements the stage models, helps loosen them up a bit, and fills them in. And it’s fully possible to include a discussion of phases when outlining themes, or the other way around.

Note: I wrote an article using a theme orientation to outline my own process.

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Stage models, reality, and when the sequences are jumbled

For me, it was more about finding cosmologies that fit my experience. Specifically, that in my experience I am consciousness and the world to me appears as consciousness. (Whether that’s how reality actually is, is an open question but possible.) I had to go to Buddhism, Taoism, mystics from different traditions, etc. to find cosmologies that reflected this. (When the shift happened for me, I was an atheist living in a Christian culture so I wasn’t familiar with any of the cosmologies that eventually felt more like home.)

This was my reply when someone in an online “spiritual emergency” group asked about shifts and cosmologies.

In many cases, people will initially be interested in spirituality, read and hear about it, explore some practices, and so on. And if there is a real shift in perception and identity, it often comes some years into the exploration.

Most maps and models of the awakening process reflect this. First, there is an interest or draw to it. Then an exploration of maps and practices. And then a shift.

And, as we all know, maps are maps. They are mental representations of a part of life and life’s processes. They are more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They are always refined as we get more information and experience. They are simplifications. They leave a lot out. They are different in kind from what they refer to. And life is more than and different from any map.

Life operates independently of human maps. And if we have our noses too deeply into our maps, life will inevitably throw up surprises and remind us that it’s different from our ideas about it.

In my case, life didn’t follow the standard maps. This human self was an atheist, mostly interested in science, and saw spirituality and religion as a crutch of little or no interest. One night – while this human self was walking down a dark gravel road under a sky filled with stars and a big wind, out of the blue, and for whatever reason – oneness shifted into noticing itself, and the “center of gravity” shifted into oneness. And then this human self spent a long time playing catch-up and exploring the sharing from others who had recognized the same or similar, cosmologies, and different types of spiritual practices.

It took at least a couple of years before I found anyone who seemed to describe what seemed so obvious to me. I still remember it. I was still a teenager, standing in the man library in Oslo, in the religion and spirituality section, reading in an old book of Meister Eckhart’s sermons. And there, behind some layers of cultural differences and Christian language, I saw someone who had at least glimpsed the same.

Later, I found reflections in some Taoist writings, and also Buddhism and especially Zen, but all of it seemed hidden behind layers of tradition, cultural differences, and sometimes intellectualizing that deviated from actual immediate noticing. I found Jes Bertelsen, a fellow Scandinavian, who clearly knew what this was about. Some years later, I found Adyashanti who most clearly of anyone reflected what seemed so obvious to me but few talked about in a direct and simple way. After that, I also found the more modern Advaita and neo-Advaita folks who talked about the same, often in a clear and direct way, and also sometimes seemed a bit caught up in ideology.

If I am honest, I still feel I am playing catch-up to what was revealed back when I was sixteen and what is still shows itself to itself here. I still feel a bit like I was hit by a truck. I still work on helping my human self reorient and reorganize within it.

And when it comes to stages and models of the awakening process, I hold it all lightly. Yes, there are some common phases and elements of the process. And no, it’s not always sequential and especially not in a particular one-size-fits-all way. The phases may happen in different sequences. Sometimes, several phases – or elements of several phases –– happen at once. Sometimes, phases return in a different way.

To me, it all looks more like themes woven into each other and expressed in our life in different ways. The themes are recognizable. And they are always woven in an individual way.

Dune and fascination with saviors

I watched the recent Dune movie and although it seemed technically flawless, I also wasn’t too moved or captured by it. (Although I will certainly watch part two when it comes out.)

I was reminded of the fascination with saviors we collectively have, some more than others. And, in this case, a predestined and prophesized savior.

WHY ARE WE FASCINATED BY THE SAVIOR?

Why are we fascinated with saviors and the savior archetype?

One answer is obvious. We may feel we need to be saved, sometimes and in some areas of life. Life seems too difficult. We may experience a lack of direction or meaning. We may want someone else, or life, to save us instead of doing it ourselves.

Another answer is that outer saviors mirror ourselves. We have that savior in ourselves. And a fascination with saviors in the world, stories, or in the past or future, is an invitation to find that savior in ourselves. A fascination with saviors “out there” is, in the best case, a stepping stone for shifting into saving ourselves. We are the predestined savior of ourselves and this may or may not come to fruition here and now.

BEING OUR OWN SAVIOR

How do we save ourselves?

We can save ourselves in the way we wish to be saved by someone else. If I had a magic wand and could be saved by someone else in exactly the way I wish and long for, how would it look? And how would it be for me to give that to myself?

Here are some possibilities I find for myself when I explore this:

I can give myself advice as I would a good friend. I can ask for help when I need it. I can notice and follow my inner guidance, the small inner voice. I can learn to befriend myself through the kind of self-talk a good parent or friend would give me. I can learn to meet my experiences with allowing, kindness, and curiosity. I can be a good steward of my life. I can find healing for how I relate to my world – whether I call it myself, my experiences, others, situations, or life in general. I can give myself the chance to do what I have always wanted to do, or have a calling to do. And so on.

FINDING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

And we can save ourselves by finding what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience.

In the world, I am this human self. And if that’s all I am aware of, it will feel incomplete since it is. It will feel like something is off because it is. I haven’t noticed most of what I am.

More fundamentally, I am something else in my own immediate experience. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. And I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

And here, I find that I am – in a sense – already and always saved. Oneness doesn’t need to be saved. Anything related to being saved or not happens within and as oneness. To me, the world is already saved since it happens within and as oneness. (And that’s just one part of the picture since there is always saving to be done in a more conventional sense.)

I find the wholeness that my apparently broken self happens within and as. I find the inherent health that my illnesses happen within and as. I find the wholeness our apparently broken world happens within and as. And so on. And that doesn’t mean I won’t seek healing for my broken self, or treatment for my illness, or – as mentioned – seek healing for our society and ecosystems.

EXPLORING THE SAVIOR DYNAMIC

So I may notice our collective fascination with the savior archetype, even if it happens in a story like in Dune.

I can find this fascination in myself. I find examples of when and how I wish to be saved. When I dream of a savior to come and rescue me. (In periods of distress, I certainly notice it.)

I can identify more specifically how I wish to be saved, in specific situations when this comes up.

I can find ways to give it to myself.

I can find my more fundamental nature and where the ideas of saved or not don’t apply.

And I can still engage in support and metaphorical saving in a more conventional sense, as needed.

This is not about “doing it all myself”. This is more about finding my savior in myself, and sometimes that savior will ask others to help me.

THE BEFRIEND & AWAKEN PROCESS

These days, I find myself drawn to what I call the befriend & awaken process.

I notice a contraction in me. Contractions are uncomfortable, so these parts inherently wish to be saved and some other parts of me wish to save them.

I notice the physical contraction and where it is in my body. I rest with it. I notice it’s already allowed.

I notice it’s here to protect me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

I find what the contraction wishes for, what it more deeply wants. I may try out a few possibilities, give each one to it, and see how it responds. For instance, love, a sense of safety, support, being seen, and so on.

I notice my nature, and that the nature of the contraction is the same. It happens within and as what I am. In another language, I see it as a flavor of the divine.

I invite the contraction to notice its own nature and rest in and as that noticing.

I take time with each of these explorations. I rest with it. I notice how the contraction responds and how it relaxes and unwinds when I find something that resonates with it.

This is one way to deeply “save” the parts of us that may feel they need saving.

Note: There will always be parts of me that don’t want to save these other parts of me, and they themselves are contractions that can be explored in this way.

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Several onenesses and one oneness

There seem to be several onenesses and one oneness, depending on how I look at it.

SEVERAL ONENESSES

If we use the small or psychological interpretation of awakening, we focus on our first-person experience of what we more fundamentally are. We find our own nature as what we can call capacity for the world and the oneness that the world to us appears within and as. And we don’t make the leap of assuming that our nature is the nature of all of existence. (Even if it will inevitably appear that way since the world, to us, happens within and as what we are.)

This view is compatible with the essence of what mystics of all times and traditions, and outside of traditions, have described. And it’s also compatible with a range of worldviews or assumptions or guesses about what our fundamental nature is in a more outside or objective view, and what the nature of reality is.

For instance, it is compatible with a guess that we most fundamentally, in an objective sense, is this physical human self and that consciousness somehow is created by the biology. To ourselves, we will still be what a thought may label consciousness, and to us the world will still happen within and as consciousness. We will still find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and as the oneness the world to us happens within and as.

Here, we can talk about several onenesses.

I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, appears within and as. You find yourself as the oneness the world, to you, happens within and as. And it’s fair to assume – or guess – that this is the case for all conscious beings. If they “have” consciousness, in conventional language, then to themselves they are consciousness. They are capacity for the world as it appears to them. And, to them, the world appears within and as what they are.

These onenesses may live from their nature, and the dynamics of the being they have a special connection with, without being consciously aware of it. (This may be the case for most species.) They may get caught up in a much smaller identity for a while. (Typical for humans.) Or they may notice their nature and live from this noticing. (AKA awakening.)

ONE ONENESS

At the same time, we can say there is one oneness.

Same kind of nature. Our nature – as capacity, oneness, and what we can call consciousness – seems the same for anyone who has reported about it. And, again, it’s fair to assume it’s the same for all conscious beings.

In that sense, there is oneness. There is an oneness of all beings consciousnesses since we seem to have the same kind of nature.

Oneness in perception. To us, all of existence happens within and as the oneness we are. This is another kind of oneness. A oneness in perception.

One system. At a story level, we can see all of existence as a seamless system. Everything is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy with holons within holons.

All as Spirit. And we can also take the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening and assume – or guess – that the nature of all of existence is the same as our nature. It not only inevitably appears that way to us, it actually is that way too. There are certainly many hints suggesting this, including synchronicities, distance healing, sensing at a distance, and so on.

SEVERAL ONENESSES AND ONE ONENESS

So from a psychological interpretation of awakening, we can say there are several onenesses. Each being is a oneness whether they notice or not.

And we can say there is one oneness. All beings are one in that their nature is of the same kind. We perceive existence as one when we notice our nature. We can see existence as a whole as a seamless system. And the spiritual interpretation of awakening may be accurate, and all of existence is Spirit AKA God, Brahman, and so on.

All of it seems to have a certain validity in its own way.

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Nondual but dismissing the human?

Some nondual or neo-Advaita folks seem to dismiss or downplay the human aspect of what we are and say things like “I am not this human”, “there is no self”, “I don’t exist”, and so on.

I understand where they are coming from. As our nature, we are not primarily this human self. There may be a human self in a conventional sense, but there is no inherently separate self here in my own experience. As capacity for the world as it appears to me, I don’t really exist.

They may want to emphasize the capacity and oneness aspects of our nature and downplay the human aspect, perhaps to compensate for others (or themselves!) viscerally over-emphasizing the human aspect out of habit.

At the same time, it does seem one-sided and perhaps a bit like an ideology. It can be quite misleading to others not familiar with that terrain. And it’s not terribly nondual. They seem to mentally create a split where there isn’t one and where it’s not strictly necessary.

HOW IT APPEARS TO ME

I find myself as….

Capacity for the world as it appears to me. As what allows it all to happen within my experience. As what forms itself into any experience.

As oneness. As what the world, to me, happens within and as. As the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as. (And with “the world” I mean any content of experience, anything seen here, heard, smelled, tasted, sensed, and thought.)

A part of oneness is this human self, as he appears in my sense fields including my mental representations. He is as much part of it as anyone and anything else that’s here.

And there is a special connection with this human self. This oneness has inside information from this human self in the form of all his sensory input. Others take me as him. And this oneness plays the role of and as him in the world.

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Phases in an awakening process

What are some of the phases and themes in an awakening process?

It’s always individual, but there are also some common themes.

When we write about these types of things, we can do it from oneness or from the perspective of the apparently separate self. Either one has value. Here, I’ll switch from one to the other.

HUMAN SELF VS WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

In the world, to others, and to ourselves when we take on that identity, we are a human self.

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

I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here – of this human self, others, situations, the wider world, and anything else. And this timeless now it all happens within is self-cleaning, always forming itself into something new and fresh.

I also find that any content of experience happens within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as what I am.

The oneness I am forms itself into the world as it appears to me.

This oneness can form itself into separation consciousness. It can take itself to be something in particular within the content of experience – typically a mental representation of this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

And it can “wake up” to itself as oneness and live from this noticing and visceral knowing.

BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE

Early in life, the oneness we are forms itself into something amazing that helps our human self operate and function in the world. This is what we can call a psyche or ego in a psychological sense.

The psyche is a kind of operating system for the human self, it normally develops and matures over time, and a well-functioning operating system is essential for our human self to live in the world.

In itself, this has little to do with awakening or separation consciousness. Oneness can develop a relatively healthy and functional operating system whether it consciously notices itself (awake) or operates from separation consciousness.

CONTINUED SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

In most cases, the oneness we are continues to operate from separation consciousness through the lifetime of its human self. There is nothing wrong in that.

Even here, there are times when oneness operates more from oneness and less from separation consciousness, for instance in flow states, when there is ease and enjoyment, and so on. This may be experienced as enjoyable, and oneness likely won’t consciously recognize what’s happening beyond that.

On the continuum from oneness recognizing itself versus functioning from separation consciousness, oneness often moves somewhere between the two. Occasionally, it may go more to one or the other extremes. Most of the time, it’s somewhere more in the middle. And it may never consciously recognize itself as oneness.

INITIAL INTEREST

In some cases, oneness may have a stronger longing for finding itself again as oneness.

At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. (For me, this took the form of a strong longing through childhood and I had no idea what it was about until later.)

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under a vast open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Or we have glimpses and shifts and don’t see the use of it or it doesn’t grab us, so we leave it at that.

In many cases, this doesn’t go any further than a casual interest, and that’s fine too.

ACTIVE EXPLORATION

Oneness can then actively engage in an exploration of its nature.

We may explore and get to know maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

And we may engage in more direct explorations and some form of spiritual practice.

Some of these will help reorient us so we are more consciously aligned with how it is when oneness notices itself. (Heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines.) This makes it easier to live from noticing oneness if or when that eventually happens. And in either case, it tends to make our life a little more comfortable and enjoyable.

And some explorations help oneness notice itself more directly. (Basic meditation, structured inquiry, pointers.)

DIRECT NOTICING

Oneness may then notice itself more directly.

This can happen “out of the blue” without any obvious preparations and without any conscious interest in spirituality or awakening. (As was the case for me. It happened when I was sixteen, and I was an atheist at the time with no interest in spirituality.)

It can happen suddenly and without much warning after a shorter or longer period of practice.

And it can happen more deliberately through following structured inquiry and pointers. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can both lead people to notice their nature relatively easily and quickly without much preparation.

EARLY NOTICING: BELLS AND WHISTLES

The early noticing may come with or without bells and whistles. (The side-effects of noticing our nature, which can include strong states, unusual experiences, and so on.)

If it’s more neutral and free of bells and whistles, we may avoid distracting ourselves with the bells and whistles. The downside is that we may tell ourselves it’s too simple and familiar and we either abandon the exploration or keep looking for something else that fits our ideas about what it’s about.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Both happened in my case. I both noticed the essence of my nature when the shift happened in my teens. And I got somewhat distracted by states and experiences and ended up partly chasing states for a while.

Either way, this is not wrong and is often a temporary phase of the process.

The invitation here is to notice the essence of our nature. To find ourselves as capacity, and what the world to us happens within and as.

KEEP NOTICING

When oneness notices the essence of its nature, the invitation is to keep noticing.

We can learn to notice our nature independent of and through changing states and experiences.

Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

And when we get caught in separation consciousness, it’s an invitation to notice what’s happening. What painful identity or belief was triggered? What did I trigger in myself?

LIVING FROM AND AS IT

Through all of this, we are invited to live from noticing our nature, or our nature noticing itself as all there is.

How is it to live as oneness in this situation? How is it to perceive and live from my heart?

How is it to recognize even this experience, this uncomfortable one, as a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that my nature and its nature is the same?

TRANSFORMATION OF OUR HUMAN SELF

This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

DARK NIGHTS

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

In my case, I first went through one for a few years – maybe fifteen years after the initial shift – where it felt like “I” had lost it and I felt deeply off track. Then, there was a period of an absence of apparently any sense of separate self. And ten years after the first dark night, I was plunged into a much more dramatic dark night. This one was full of health challenges, loss in most or all areas of life, disorientation, a sense of deeper undoing of my human self, and intense and overwhelming primal survival fear and old trauma surfacing.

OUR CENTER OF GRAVITY

Our metaphorical center of gravity – what we viscerally take ourselves to be – tends to shift in this process. And typically more than once.

One of the major shifts is from separation consciousness to oneness.

It may seem as if we as the separate self notice our more fundamental nature as capacity, oneness, love, and so on. Even if we genuinely notice our nature, many dynamics and parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness, so that’s where our center of gravity largely is.

And when the separation consciousness dynamics are more worn out, it’s more clear that this is our nature noticing itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is. Love notices itself as all there is.

ONGOING PROCESS

Exploring our nature and how to live from it is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.

There is always more to explore and get familiar with. There is always more healing and maturing for our human self. There are always more shifts, and these will tend to be both surprising and familiar.

ENGAGEMENT AND GRACE

And all of it is ultimately grace.

Our interest, effort, engagement, and so on is grace. It’s given to us. It’s life showing up that way through and as our life.

Any shifts are grace. We cannot make them happen, we can just prepare the ground to the best of our ability.

Whatever happens, whether a thought calls it a setback or progress, is grace. It’s the oneness we are exploring itself as whatever happens.

It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

HOW WE SLICE THE CAKE

We can make different maps for any terrain, highlighting some features and leaving others out. And any map will reflect our own time and culture and what we are familiar with from our own process, and what we hear from others.

This particular map reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. Others will make other maps that may be equally or more valid than this one, and fit a bigger set of data better.

AN INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

A summary of the phases outlined here could be: (1) No interest. (2) Interest. (3) Active and dedicated exploration. (4) Direct noticing. (5) Keep noticing. (6) Exploring living from it. (7) Transformation of our human psyche and life. (8) Dark nights. (9) Shifts in center of gravity.

These don’t necessarily happen in this sequence. Not everyone goes through all of them. And the last three are more themes or phases that can happen throughout the process.

This is always an individual process. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

For instance, all of these phases and elements have been part of my process, but not exactly in the order outlined here. (I was plunged into oneness first, and the interest and conscious exploration happened as a consequence of that.)

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My nature is all I know and all I have ever known

When we discover our nature, we also discover something else: Our nature is all we know and all we have ever known.

How can that be possible?

WHAT I AM

In one sense, am this human being in the world.

And when I look a little more closely, I find I am more fundamentally something else in my own first-person experience.

I find my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature is what allows any and all experiences – whether it’s of this human self, others, the wider world, or anything else.

I find that the world, to me, happens within and as my sense fields. It happens as sight, sound, sensations, mental representations to make sense of it all, and so on.

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

And here, I find that all I have ever known is my nature. My nature has taken all the forms making up the content of my experience – whether it’s sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, or thoughts. And whether thoughts label it this human self, others, situations, or the wider world.

Everything I see, smell, taste, sense, think, feel, and so on is my nature. It happens within and as what I am. It’s made up of what I am.

Here is another way to say it: To myself, I am consciousness and the world to me happens within and as consciousness. All I know is consciousness. All I know is what I am forming itself into any and all experiences.

If the oneness we are operates from separation consciousness, then this seems weird, or an abstraction, or imagination, or amazing. And when oneness notices itself, then this seems inevitable. It’s difficult to imagine it could be any other way.

Note: What I write about here is a visceral knowing from direct perception and from living it. It’s not an intellectual or conceptual knowing. I assume that’s clear from how I wrote about it, but it doesn’t hurt to clarify.

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“I don’t know anything for certain”

When I was a kid, I would ask the repeated “why” question as most other kids.

My father would give an answer. I would ask why. He would give another answer. And so on.

I assume I did this partly from a genuine curiosity and interest in learning, and partly to see the limits of my father’s – and the adult’s – understanding and knowledge about the world.

At some point, I would also ask: Are you sure? Are you sure it’s like that?

He answered: I don’t know anything for certain.

I must have taken it to heart. It’s been one of the guidelines in my life.

I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING FOR CERTAIN

Here is how I came to see it a few years later and still see it:

Thoughts are questions about the world. There is always a question mark after each thought, even if we don’t notice it.

They are here to help me orient and function in the world. They are maps. They help me communicate with myself and others.

They have different degrees of validity in a conventional sense. And they each have validity in one form or another. (At the very least, as a mirror for something in us.)

They are always provisional in a conventional sense. They are always up for revision.

They can be pointers. They can point to certain things we can explore for ourselves.

They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. Why? Because they are different in kind from what they refer to. (Unless they happen to refer to thoughts.) They are simplifications. Reality is always more than and different from any map. And reality, as it appears to us, is also simpler in its essence.

This applies to any kind of mental representation, whether it’s a mental image or words (visual or auditory). And it applies whatever the thought apparently is about, whether it’s ourselves, others, a situation, the world, science, philosophy, God, or whatever it may be.

I love that we have thoughts. And I also want to be sober about their limits.

HOW I HAVE EXPLORED THIS

As I mentioned, I must have taken this to heart when I heard it from my father when I was four or five (?) years old.

When there was a shift into oneness at age sixteen, I also saw this directly. I could easily see the limits of thought.

In my teens and early twenties, I also delved into the philosophy of science and I loved and devoured the writings of people like Fritjof Capra, Arne Næss, Gregory Bateson, and David Bohm.

And later, I got into The Work of Byron Katie, Buddhist inquiry, and modern versions of Buddhist inquiry like the Living / Kiloby Inquiries.

Photo: An image of my father when he was young, perhaps a few years before I was born.

Our nature: From conceptual understanding to noticing to finding ourselves as it, and living from it 

This is a variation on an often revisited topic for me, in these writings and in my life since my teens.

When it comes to exploring our own nature – and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience –there are several shifts that can happen. 

The main ones are from conceptual understanding, to direct noticing, to finding ourselves as it. And through it all, we have living from all of this as best we can and inviting our human self and psyche to transform within it.

CONCEPTUAL UNDERSTANDING

We can have a conceptual understanding of our nature and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience.

If presented in a down-to-earth way, it can make logical sense to many if not most.

Some may find it fascinating but of no practical value and nothing to keep exploring. Some may find it fascinating and continue to explore it conceptually, and that won’t bring any real or thorough transformation. Some may use it as a starting point for a more immediate exploration. And some may first notice or find themselves as their nature, and then explore and express it more conceptually.

And any conceptual understanding is refined through our own familiarity with the terrain, and that’s also what grounds it and keeps it real.

DIRECT NOTICING

Then we may directly notice our nature. We notice it in immediacy.

We may notice our nature as capacity. Our nature is capacity for the world as it appears to us. It’s what allows any and all of our experiences to happen. It’s the nothing that allows all things.

We may notice that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. Any experience – of this human self, others, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

We may notice we are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as this oneness.

We may find that another word for oneness is love. This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And it comes from noticing and finding ourselves as our more fundamental nature, and it’s not dependent on states and feelings.

With some structured pointers, many if not most can notice this, and it can happen relatively quickly. Some will think it’s too simple and look for something else that fits their preconceived ideas. Some will find it interesting but not be drawn to explore it further or explore how to live from it. And some will get t and continue to notice and clarify and explore how to live from it in daily life.

In my experience, Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and exploring my sense fields are practices that most effectively help me find and notice my nature, along with basic meditation.

FINDING OURSELVES AS IT

Following this, there may be a shift into finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, and so on.

Our metaphorical center of gravity shifts into being our nature. This is what we already and always are, and now our conscious experience of ourselves is more aligned with our more fundamental nature.

These shifts are always grace. We cannot make it happen, although we can prepare the ground through noticing and clarifying and through our sincerity and receptivity. We can also prepare the ground through simple practices like inquiry and basic meditation.

It seems that there is always more to clarify and more to be revealed. Life keeps revealing more of itself to itself through and as us.

LIVING FROM IT

And through it all, we have living from what we notice or what we find ourselves as.

How is it to live from noticing my nature as capacity and oneness?

How is it to live as capacity? As oneness? As love?

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

What in my human self needs to heal and mature so I can live more fully from and as this?

Living from and as our nature is greatly supported by inquiry and heart-centered practices, and also following some basic ethical guidelines which help us notice when we are out of alignment.

In general, the more our human self is psychologically healed and mature, the easier it is to live from what we notice – or find ourselves as – in more situations and areas of life.

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS ONENESS

All of this is happening within and as oneness.

In a purely conceptual understanding, oneness takes itself as primarily this human self and doesn’t notice itself or its nature. It may have an intuition or sense of what it is, which fuels an intellectual curiosity.

When there is a direct noticing, oneness still operates from identification as a separate self and the center of gravity is in this identification, while it also notices its own nature.

Finally, oneness rests in finding itself as oneness. Love rests in finding itself as love. Capacity rests in finding itself as capacity. The center of gravity has shifted more into its more fundamental nature.

INDIVIDUAL PROCESS

How this looks is different in each case. This process is as individual as each of us.

Sometimes, the conceptual understanding is first and sometimes it comes after some of the other shifts.

Sometimes, we explore living from and as this through different spiritual practices before there is any direct noticing or taste.

Sometimes, the noticing or being is far ahead of living from it. While others may live from love and clarity based on a good heart and maturity, and perhaps only an intuitive sense of their nature. 

ONGOING PROCESS

There is always further to go in all of this. There is no finishing line.

We may intentionally explore all of this and put effort into it. And anything that happens – any interest, fascination, exploration, guidance, and anything else including apparent setbacks – is ultimately grace. 

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Some aspects of what I am: Capacity, oneness, human self, etc.

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find a few different aspects.

CAPACITY FOR THE WORLD

I find that my nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am most fundamentally capacity for any and all experience that’s here and now. I am capacity for what’s happening in my sense fields.

I am capacity for any content of experience, whether it’s what a thought calls this human self, others, the wider world, or anything else.

There is a big difference between (a) understanding this conceptually, (b) noticing this as my nature, (c) finding myself as this capacity, and (d) deepening in finding myself as this capacity.

CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE ESSENCE OF ALL EXPERIENCE

I find myself fundamentally as consciousness. To me, the world happens within and as what I am, it happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

The essence of any and all experience is consciousness. The nature of any and all content of experience, to me, is consciousness.

As some say, whatever we experience – including what our personality finds the most unpleasant and uncomfortable – is a flavor of the divine.

Again, there is a difference between (a) understanding it conceptually, (b) noticing it in a general way or when my mind is calm, (c) noticing that triggers and what’s triggered is also consciousness, and (d) finding myself as this consciousness that forms itself into all of this, including more reactive patterns.

ONENESS

All my experiences happen within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am.

To me, the world as it appears to me in immediacy happens within and as what I am.

To me, I am oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

Here too, there is a difference between (a) understanding it at a story level, (b) noticing it, (c) keep noticing it when my psychology gets more reactive, and (d) finding myself more fundamentally as this oneness forming itself into all content of experience.

LOVE

When I find myself as oneness – and oneness forming itself into the world as it appears to me here and now – leads to something else. It leads to finding myself as a love that’s not dependent on any states or feelings. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

Here, the difference is also between (a) conceptual understanding, (b) noticing it, (c) finding myself as it, and (d) how wholehearted the intention and willingness to live from this is. And how our human self is put together also plays a big role. The more healed and mature this human self is, the easier it is to live from this love. This love that comes from noticing and finding ourselves as oneness, and is independent on states or feelings.

THIS HUMAN SELF

In a conventional sense, to (most) others, and to myself when I mentally take on that identify for myself, I am this human self in the world.

In a practical sense in the world, I am one part of the content of my experience. I am this human self as it appears in my sense fields, including my mental representations.

It’s not what I more fundamentally am when I look in my own first-person experience. But it is what I am in a conventional sense and to most others, and it is an interesting and fascinating identity and role to play.

Here, the difference is in how I live from the noticing above. What would love do? What would oneness noticing itself do? How is it to notice that this contraction and discomfort is a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that what’s here now, including triggers and reactivity, is happening within and as consciousness? How is it to find myself as that consciousness? And so on. This can get more and more finely grained.

SEAMLESS WHOLE

What these words point to is all a seamless whole.

This differentiation only happens through an overlay of mental representations.

It can be done in many other ways, and the way I do it here reflects my culture, the subcultures I am familiar with and resonate with, and my current noticing and not-noticing.

ONGOING EXPLORATION

This is all an ongoing exploration.

I am very aware that I have much further to go here, especially in more consistently finding myself as all of this in challenging situations, and living from it in those situations.

And I am aware that although practices and conscious exploration are important, they only go so far. Grace is what allows for noticing and finding myself as this, living from it more consciously, and what allows old conditioning to soften and fall away so it’s easier to more consciously live from it.

This is ultimately life and consciousness exploring itself. Life and consciousness forms itself into all of this. Life and consciousness shifts when it’s ready. And these shifts are typically surprising and familiar and it takes time to get used to the new terrain that life reveals itself (to itself) as.

There is no finishing line. There is always more to clarify and deepen into. There is always more to find healing for. There is always more maturing that can happen. There are always more shifts in perception and identity that can and will happen.

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The logic of awakening & the inevitability of what we are and how it plays itself out

This is another topic I feel drawn to revisit.

What are we in our own first-person experience? What are we to ourselves? What is the world to us?

We can explore this in our own direct experience, and that can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and our human self.

And we can also explore it logically, which can lead to and possibly support a more immediate exploration.

When I explore it logically, arriving at what we are – our nature – seems inevitable. And perhaps it looks that way since I have explored it in my immediate noticing since my teens. I shape the steps to fit what I notice in immediacy.

THE INEVITABILITY OF WHAT WE ARE

What are these logical steps apparently arriving at the inevitability of what we are?

Here is one version:

  1. There is consciousness.
    • This is indisputable, as far as I can tell.
  2. This consciousness has content.
    • We label this content this human self, others, the wider world, and so on.
    • All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – are content of consciousness.
  3. To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • All the content of our experience comes and goes. Nothing stays.
    • This also applies to our human self and any ideas we have about our human self.
      • This human self is more ephemeral than we may tell ourselves. This human self comes and goes. For instance, in a dream we may be someone else or not present at all. Our experience of this human self, including our ideas about it, is always changing.
    • To ourselves, we are more fundamentally consciousness.
  4. The world, to us, happens within and as what we are.
    • To us, the world happens within and as consciousness, what we are to ourselves.
    • Our nature forms itself into the world as we experience it here and now.
  5. We are capacity.
    • One characteristic of consciousness is capacity.
    • Consciousness is capacity for any and all of the content of its experience.
    • We are capacity for the world, as it appears to us.
  6. We are oneness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as consciousness.
    • This consciousness forms itself into any and all content of experience, including this human self, others, the world, and so on.
    • Consciousness is one, no matter what experience it forms itself into.
    • To ourselves, we are oneness.
  7. Separation consciousness
    • Consciousness can take itself to primarily be one particular part of its content.
    • Consciousness can take itself to be this human self, a doer, an observer, and any concept.
    • This is how separation consciousness is created.
  8. Awakening
    • Consciousness can notice itself as consciousness.
    • This is what some spiritual traditions call awakening.
    • It can happen through intention, practice, or without any conscious work or desire.
    • The noticing happens here and now, and learning to keep noticing, clarifying, deepening, and living from it is a process.
    • This process is ongoing and has no finishing line.
  9. Universality
    • The essence of this has been described by people across time and cultures, it seems universal.
    • Mystics from all the major spiritual traditions, and outside of any tradition, talk about finding themselves as capacity (“God-head”), oneness, and so on. And they speak in very similar ways about the process leading up to noticing, and the process of living from this noticing.
  10. A psychological understanding of awakening
    • This is a more psychological understanding of awakening.
    • It doesn’t rely on spirituality or spiritual terminology, although what it describes is the same.
    • It says something about what we are in our own first-person experience.
    • It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality. It doesn’t rely or depend on words like Spirit, God, or Brahman.
    • That makes it more accessible to people independent on their existing worldviews.
    • And it can also provide common ground for people who are exploring and finding this, independent on whatever spiritual tradition or religion – if any – they belong to.

I realize that some may have arguments with some or all of these steps. That’s the job of the mind.

For instance, someone may agree that to ourselves, we are consciousness, oneness, etc. And yet, they may not see it as possible for consciousness to “wake up” to itself in this way because it’s outside of their current experience and the worldview they are familiar with.

I also realize that this can seem abstract and intellectual if we haven’t tasted it for ourselves, in our immediate noticing. (In my case, the noticing came before finding this apparent logic.)

And I am sure there are other ways of phrasing this that are more to the point and make more sense.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS AND AWAKENING

I thought I would say a few more words about separation consciousness and awakening since that’s of particular interest to me.

For me, the essence of how separation consciousness and awakening plays itself out also has a logic in it. Although there is a wild diversity in how each is expressed and lived out, there is also an apparent inevitability in its essence.

SEPARATION CONSCIOUSNESS

The oneness we are can take itself as fundamentally something in particular within the content of experience. Typically, this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

This happens, at least partially, through social learning. We are taught to take ourselves to be, most fundamentally, this human self. So we are good boys and girls and play the game so well we overlook our nature.

The specific ways separation consciousness unfolds is individual and always different.

And yet, there are some universals that inevitably come with separation consciousness.

This game of separation consciousness comes with inherent struggle and stress. Seeing ourselves as most fundamentally an object in the world, at the mercy of innumerable other objects, creates struggle and is stressful. And operating from a view out of alignment with reality does the same.

We also tend to operate from several blind projections. We see characteristics in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. This comes from and reinforces a sense of fundamentally being an I with an Other.

THE AWAKENING PROCESS

We don’t completely forget. Our nature is, inevitably, what’s most familiar to us. It’s all we ever know.

Here are some typical phases of the awakening process, and with the benefit of hindsight, the process looks relatively logical.

Initial interest

We may have a longing for finding ourselves again as oneness. At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. For me, it was a profound longing for coming home.

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under an open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Practice

We may engage in spiritual practice and explore maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

In the best case, this helps reorient us so it’s easier to notice our nature and live from this noticing.

Noticing

We then notice our nature. Oneness notices itself.

If it’s without bells and whistles, it’s possible we’ll tell ourselves it’s too simple and obvious and keep looking for something else.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Keep noticing

We then realize this is about keeping noticing our nature. We can learn to notice it independent of and through changing states and experiences. Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

Living from it

Here, we explore how to live from this noticing. How do I live from a conscious noticing of oneness in this situation?

Transformation

This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

Dark nights

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

Always individual

This process is always individual. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

This is just an idealized and generalized outline. For instance, I have gone through or lived each of these steps or aspects, but not in the order outlined here.

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Noticing our nature vs our nature noticing itself

Sometimes I write “noticing our nature” and sometimes, “our nature notices itself”.

The difference may seem small but it’s crucial and significant.

So what’s the difference?

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When I write about “noticing my nature” I am intentionally using a language closer to conventional ways of talking about it. It’s a language that assumes a separate self noticing something.

The upside of this is that the language is more familiar to most people. And the downside is that it’s not all that accurate.

OUR NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

When I write “our nature notices itself”, it may sound less familiar and it’s also more accurate.

This is what’s happening. Our nature notices itself. Our nature notices itself as all there is. It notices the world as itself. Our nature notices the world as happening within and as what it is. Our nature notices this human self happening within and as itself, like anything else.

We can also say that love notices itself as all there is. Truth notices itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is.

CAN SEEM LIKE ONE, THEN THE OTHER

Initially, it may seem to us as if we notice our nature. There is still an idea here of a separate self noticing its nature. In reality, it’s our nature noticing itself and assuming there is a separate self here doing the noticing.

After a while, and especially if we keep exploring, there may be a shift. Here, it’s clear that it’s our nature noticing itself. Our nature is noticing itself as all there is, even if there is still (what a thought may call) a human self here in our sense fields. Any idea of a separate self is recognized as an idea, as something happening as a mental representation.

If there is still a sense of a separate self doing the noticing, how can we explore it?

We can notice that our nature is capacity for it as it is capacity for anything else. Our more fundamental nature is capacity. It’s what allows any experience, including of this human self and any sense of someone doing or observing.

We can notice that any content of experience happens within and as what we are, including this human self and any sense of someone who is a doer or observer. Our more fundamental nature is what it’s all happening within and as.

We can also explore how the sense of someone doing the noticing is created in our sense fields. We can notice how certain sensations and mental representations combine to create ths experience. We can rest in noticing the physical sensations making up the experience. We can then rest in noticing the mental representations. And this, in itself, tends to soften the mental “glue” holding the two together. It allows us to see through the illusion, even as it may still partially be here.

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Real Zen is not about Zen

Real Zen is not about Zen.

WHEN ZEN IS ABOUT ZEN

When Zen is about Zen, it’s about the identity of Zen. It’s about the tradition, rituals, specific practices, and so on. There is nothing wrong in this but it’s good to be honest about it. There is a lot of value in Zen, and when Zen is about Zen, this can be passed on to new generations.

WHEN ZEN IS NOT ABOUT ZEN

Real Zen is not about Zen. It’s about the exploration. It’s about finding what we are and exploring how to live from it. The essence of this is inherent in who and what we are, and in reality, and it’s not dependent on any traditions.

Many traditions have insights and pointers for exploring this, and no tradition has any monopoly on it. And if we are too identified with a particular tradition and its particular approach, we may miss out on practices and pointers that could be very valuable to us.

SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS IN GENERAL

The seed of this article came from a brief comment I made about Zen on a friend’s social media post, so I wrote it about Zen. But this is far more universal. This is about spiritual or awakening traditions in general.

They each contain valuable pointers, practices, guidelines, and insights.

Since they are traditions, their main priority is inevitably to maintain themselves. In practice, this means that for many within a trdtiion, they will set their tradition on part with or sometimes above what the tradition is explicitly about or initially was about.

And it means that if we are sincere about finding what we are and living from it, we lose out on valuable pointers, guidelines, and practices if we stay too rigidly within the tradition for too long.

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Would it hold up in a court of law?

This is the question I ask myself when I am faced with a piece of information.

Would it hold up in a court of law?

If yes, I assign it a little more weight in a practical sense. It’s a bit more likely to be somewhat accurate.

If not, I put it on the “likely nonsense” shelf. Or, if I feel generous, the “maybe” shelf.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND UFO STORIES

Nearly all conspiracy theories fall short of this test. They are typically founded on bad logic and bad data, and would not hold up in any court of law.

The same goes for most UFO stories and similar. A few are supported by multiple sources of apparently solid data. (For instance, the Ariel school phenomenon and the US Navy UFO sightings in recent years.) And most would not hold up in a court of law.

WHAT ABOUT AWAKENING?

So what about awakening? Would it hold up in a court of law?

Maybe. And, in reality, no. And that’s not a bad thing.

Maybe, because it’s been reported by many people across times and cultures. If described logically and without relying on too much jargon, it makes sense to a receptive mind. And it’s something we all can check out for ourselves with some guidance. (Sometimes even relatively quickly, for instance using the Big Mind process or Headless experiments.)

And likely not. It’s not something that can be “proven” outside of logic and our own immediate noticing. It’s not something widely accepted in our culture, which also plays a role. And it hasn’t been thoroughly explored and described by science yet, although that can and maybe will happen in time.

In many ways, it’s a blessing that it likely wouldn’t hold up in court. It means we have to rely on our own explorations and check it out for ourselves. We cannot take anyone’s word for it.

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Paradoxes: Awakening-shifts and how initial paradoxes may appear different when we are more familiar with the terrain

I have written about this elsewhere but thought I would revisit it briefly.

In an awakening shift – and after we notice our nature or our nature notices itself as all there is – many things may initially appear as paradoxes.

They appear as paradoxes because we are not familiar with the terrain and because our thinking patterns still largely operate from separation consciousness.

As we get more familiar with the terrain, and our thoughts have time to adjust, what initially appeared as paradoxes now appear more inevitable.

At least, that’s how it was for me and I assume that’s not an unusual process.

I’ll go through a few examples here.

HUMAN AND SPIRIT

I am both a human self and Spirit.

In the world, in a conventional sense, and to most others, I appear as a human self.

And to myself, in my first-person experience when I set aside what I am told we are, we are Spirit. My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what a thought may imperfectly call consciousness.

They are two different things, and both are valid in their own way.

NOTHING AND SOMETHING / EVERYTHING

I am nothing and something and everything.

My nature is capacity for the world as it appears to me. In this sense, my nature is and I am nothing.

This capacity takes the form of all content of experience.

It takes the form of this human self, which I am in the world and in a conventional sense.

And it takes the form of any and all experience. It takes the world of the world as it appears to me here and now.

Again, these are different things and each one is valid in its own way.

WHAT WE ALREADY ARE & REQUIRES NOTICING

I already am capacity and what the world to me happens within and as. It’s inevitable and inescapable. None of us, to ourselves, is ever anything else.

At the same time, this requires noticing. Arriving at that noticing can require some effort, discipline, guidance, and skill. And to consciously notice and live from it, and allow this noticing to work on us and our life in the world, we need to keep noticing it.

What we are is always here. And for it to be consciously noticed and lived from, we need to notice it. Again, it’s two different things and both are valid.

NOT PARADOXES BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS

For me, these and other polarities are not inherently paradoxes.

They are separate and distinct from each other, and they both are valid in their own way.

They only appear as paradoxes if we are relatively unfamiliar with the terrain, and if our thought patterns still mostly operate from separation consciousness.

Spirit – aka reality and what we are – includes and is more than any and all polarities. And it’s up to us to differentiate within and navigate it all.

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Some aspects of what we are – oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on

I sometimes use words like oneness, love, bliss, capacity, and so on.

How do these appear in my own immediate noticing? In what ways do they relate to each other?

OUR HUMAN SELF

In a conventional sense, we are a human self in the world.

It’s not wrong, although it may also not be the whole picture.

What are we more fundamentally, in our own first-person experience?

What do I find when I look, perhaps guided by some pointers or basic meditation?

CAPACITY

In basic meditation, we may notice that all content of experience is always changing.

Am I most fundamentally something within this changing content of experience? This human self? Any idea of being a me or I or observer or consciousness?

Or am I more fundamentally capacity for all these experiences?

How is to keep noticing this aspect of what I am?

How is it to live from this noticing?

ONENESS

When I find myself as capacity, I also tend to notice that the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am.

I can also explore my sense fields, and find that my world happens within and as my sense fields. And from here, there is a small shift to find that my world happens within and as what I am.

My nature is oneness. It always was, it just didn’t notice.

In my first-person experience, this human self and the wider world happen within and as what I am.

WHY DON’T WE ALWAYS NOTICE OUR NATURE?

Why don’t we always notice this?

Perhaps because of the way our mind relates to its own overlay of thoughts and ideas on the world. Thoughts and ideas differentiate, and that helps this human self orient and function in the world. And when the mind holds some of these thoughts and ideas as true, it identifies with the viewpoint of these thoughts and ideas.

And this creates a sense of an I and Other. It creates a sense of being something or someone within the content of experience. It creates a sense of most fundamentally being this human self with identities and roles.

It creates separation consciousness.

DIFFICULT TO PUT INTO WORDS

This is difficult to put into words.

Not because it’s mysterious or we don’t have words for it.

The function of thoughts and ideas is to point to something within the content of experience, and this is not anything within the content of experience.

The function of thoughts is to split and differentiate, and this is what allows it all and takes the form of it all.

It’s difficult to put into words because the function of words is different. Words cannot capture the simple wholeness of what we are since they are aimed at describing things within the content of experience. Their function is to split.

LOVE

How does love come into this?

Love is what happens when we live from noticing what we are.

Love is what happens when oneness notices itself and lives from this noticing through and as this human self in the world.

It’s a love inherent in what we are, and it’s not dependent on any states or feelings. (Apart from noticing what we are and aiming at living from it here and now.) It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a pragmatic love.

This will always be somewhat imperfect since it’s filtered through this human self with its remaining hangups, wounds, traumas, and so on.

BLISS

There is a quiet bliss in noticing our nature and what we are. Or, more accurately, in what we are noticing itself.

I am not sure where this bliss comes from. It seems inherent in what I am.

Perhaps it’s the quiet joy in our nature noticing itself as all there is.

TRANSFORMATION

For most of us, most or all parts of our psyche is formed within separation consciousness. They are formed at a time when we take ourselves to most fundamentally be a separate human self.

So when we notice our nature and keep noticing it, our human self is invited to transform.

The different parts of our psyche are invited to shift from separation consciousness to oneness.

This is not always a pleasant process. It involves meeting – seeing, acknowledging, feeling, allowing – all the different parts of us operating from separation consciousness. And this includes what we label hangups, wounds, and trauma.

It’s not necessarily what we, as an imagined separate self, thought we signed up for. But it’s what we get, and it’s ultimately what allows us to live from noticing our nature in a more free, clear, and mature way.

HOW DO WE NOTICE?

How can we explore our nature? How can we find what we more fundamentally are in our own first-person experience?

What I have found most helpful is…

Basic meditation. Notice and allow my experience as it is here and now. Notice it’s already noticed and allowed. Aligned with the noticing and allowing that’s already here before any intention or stories come in.

Headless experiments. What am I in my own first-person experience? What do I find when I engage in these playful and simple experiments?

Big Mind process. What do I find I am when my attention is guided by a series of simple questions? Do I find I am without any beginning or end? That time and space happen within and as me? That the world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am?

Sense field explorations. What do I find when I explore what happens in each sense field? What do I find when I see how the mental field (mental images and words) labels, interprets, and creates stories about what’s happening in the other sense fields? How is it to be aware of the mental field activities as innocent questions about the world and not any final or full or absolute truth?

Living inquiries. What do I find when I explore how the mind associates certain sensations and thoughts (mental images, words) so the sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations? What do I find when I trace this back to my first memory of experience a specific association? What do I find when I explore underlying assumptions and see how my mind creates its experience of those? What do I find when I explore the most basic assumptions – about myself and reality – that I operate from?

Note: I wrote this on January 8, 2022, and didn’t publish it. I found it while searching for something else and thought I would publish it now. (I often don’t publish what I write here.)

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