Life 101: Playing roles in life

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely Players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

– From As You Like It by Shakespeare

One of the Life 101 topics is playing roles in life and what happens if we identify with these temporary roles.


We all play many roles in life, and different ones at different times and in different situations. The roles may be of a son, daughter, parent, friend, lover, employee, employer, student, teacher, and so on.

These roles are temporary and we go in and out of them depending on the situation, and this is one way we make society work.


We can also identify with roles. We can create an identity out of a temporary role.

I not only take on the teacher role in the situation where I actually am in a teacher role. (When I work with students.) I take on the teacher role as an identity. It’s who I am, whether or not I am in that situation. I make my life into the stage where I am a teacher.

When this happens, it comes with several downsides. And it’s often a sign of trying to cover up or fulfilling a personal need. We use the identity to feel better about ourselves and feel safer.


I was recently reminded of this. Someone I have known for many years has recently taken on the role of a spiritual teacher, guide, and therapist. And when she is in situations where that’s expected of her, that’s appropriate.

I also get the impression that she has generalized this to other situations. For instance, when we speak these days, she seems to take on the role of a spiritual teacher and guide and place me in the role of a student. She seems to have taken on these temporary and localized roles as a more general identity.

For me, this feels a bit uncomfortable. We have been friends for a long time. We have had very good conversations as equals and fellow explorers. And now, she seems to create a distance by playing the role of a spiritual teacher, placing me in the role of a student, and offering guidance I didn’t ask for.

I don’t have anything against being in the role of a student. If anything, it’s a role I have created a bit of identity out of. I expect to always be a student and learn more. But in this situation, we meet as friends and fellow humans and I prefer to not have other roles on top of it.


The upside of making an identity out of a role is that it can make us feel safer. We know who we are. We know what’s expected of us. (At least, we know what we expect from ourselves.) We can feel better about ourselves, at least if the role is one we like. We can use it to cover up a sense of lack.

Doing this is natural and understandable and we all do it to some extent and in some situations and areas of life. They are also band-aids and come with significant downsides.

What are some of these downsides?

It can be disappointing or annoying to others. They expect to meet us as fellow human beings. And instead, they meet someone who is identified with a role and who places them in a matching role. They meet a role instead of a human, and they get placed in a role they don’t necessarily want in that situation.

We get stuck. If we are identified with a role, we lose flexibility. We are unable to drop it when we are outside of the situation where it’s appropriate. And that means we are also less available to take on other roles when they are appropriate.

It can be distressing when life doesn’t match our expectations. We expect to live out the role we are identified with and find ourselves in a situation where that’s not possible or doesn’t work. We don’t know who we are anymore. We cannot live out the familiar role we are so used to and had learned to rely on. This happens, for instance, when someone is identified as the role of a parent and the children leave home or otherwise cannot or won’t play the matching role.


So what’s the remedy?

The first step is to be aware of some of these dynamics.

Any role we take on is temporary and only relevant in a specific situation.

A role is really a verb. We are teaching. We are parenting. We are guiding. Our culture likes to make roles into nouns which encourages identity-making, and we can choose to not follow that. We can choose to say “I am teaching” and not “I am a teacher”. When we talk about roles as verbs, we are more honest and less likely to make them into identities. It becomes more clear that they are roles we take on for a while and in some specific situations, and then leave.

In general, we can intentionally go against the tendency to make the roles into an identity. We can talk about them as verbs and not something more solid. We can intentionally leave them behind when we leave the situation where we played them. We may even experiment with dropping the roles in situations where we are expected to play them, or we can experiment with playing them in a different and more human way. We can bring our humanity to the forefront and make the role more secondary. (The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more we tend to do just that.)

If we notice an impulse to make a role into an identity, we can explore what’s going on. What do I hope to get out of it? What lack or need am I trying to fulfill? Does it really work? What are the consequences? What are the downsides? What’s more real?

To support all of this, we can make an inventory. Which roles do I play in life? Which roles would I be more likely to make into an identity? (Parent, work, etc.) And then we can pay extra attention to these roles.

If we want, we can also take this a step further. The roles we play are not only the ones of being a child, parent, student, teacher, plumber, and so on. They are also the roles of being the outgoing one, the peacemaker, the happy one, the sad one, the victim, the fixer, or whatever it may be. These are also roles we can, and often do, make identities out of.

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Dream: I am African

I am with a group of people from around the world. We talk, and I happen to look down at my arms and notice my skin is dark brown. I realize I had forgotten and make a mental note that in the world, I am that way.

In the dream, it felt very natural, I just needed to remember. And if I had noticed I looked Asian or European, that would have been the same. I just needed to look and then remember.


For me, this dream is mainly a reminder that to myself, I am not inherently any of these things. I need to remember and then tell myself what I am. No label is inherent to what I am.

As I often write in other articles, I have a certain identity in the world. I have gender, nationality, education labels, profession labels, relationship status, address, political leanings, food preferences, and so on. None of that is wrong, and I need to know, remember, and play those roles reasonably well in order to function in the world.

And yet, what I am in my own first-person experience? What am I to myself? Here I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for my whole field of experience – which includes what thoughts can label the human self, others, the wider world, sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and so on. I am what all of it happens within and as.

Here, I have no inherent identity or label. I am inherently free of it all, and that allows all of it to come and go.


This dream also points to my inner African. Perhaps the dream is inviting me to be more in touch with these qualities and characteristics? Or that I am getting a bit more in touch with it?

What do I associate with being African? The ones I have met have been grounded, sane, enthusiastic, alive, and very much in touch with their body and movement. I also associate shamanic traditions, an emphasis on community life, dance, music, and so on. (I love many types of African music and have recently especially listened to the latest album from Sona Jobarteh.)


Something else also came up for me related to this dream.

To myself, I find myself as capacity and what the (my) world happens within and as. And then there are layers of identities from the more universal to the more unique.

And that’s how I like to see others as well. I assume they are like me. To themselves, they are primarily consciousness. They are open to the world. They are space for the world. And then they are an expression of the universe and life, a part of this living planet, human, and finally and more peripherally a certain gender, ethnicity, and so on.

Note: In the world and in waking life, I am Northern European.

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Books and identity

I had a conversation the other day about books, downsizing, and identity.

After my divorce some years ago, I had to downsize my book collection dramatically. Over a couple of decades, I had systematically built up a small library of books by and about mystics, psychology, shamanism, Native American cultures and mythologies, vernacular/natural/sustainable architecture and design, permaculture, art, and so on. I bought two or three books a week, mostly from amazing used-books stores in Madison, Eugene, Portland (Powell’s Books!!!), and the Bay Area. So I assume the collection was between two and three thousand books, and mostly books you won’t find in most libraries.

It was painful for me to lose these books. Partly because I had made extensive notes in many of them and planned to use them as references for my own future book on mysticism. And equally importantly, because I had used them to build up and reinforce a certain identity.

In my mind, I could tell myself: Look at this cool book collection! Look what a cool and interesting guy I am who has all these books and has read almost all of them!

Collecting books is not the most terrible addiction out there, and using them to build up a certain identity is also not the most terrible thing we can do. I still love books, but it is good to be aware of what we use to build up and reinforce our identity and see what’s behind it.

Do I have a sense – and identity – of not being enough? Am I trying to fill a sense of lack through books? Or in other ways including other collections, clothes, titles, and so on?

Would I rather have kept the books? Yes. Am I grateful I got to more viscerally get how I used – and partially still use – books to build up and reinforce an identity? And that I am doing so to compensate for a sense of lack and not being enough? Yes, of course. In the bigger picture, that’s probably far more important than having an impressive book collection. It’s less visible and potentially more transforming.

Do you like anime?

People sometimes ask these kinds of questions. Do you like rap? Classical music? French movies?

For me, those questions don’t make so much sense. I like some things within any category. It’s not about the category.

I suspect these types of questions are related to identity. We like to create an identity for ourselves based on what we like and resonate with, and in this case, categories of arts and entertainment.

One of the benefits of finding more freedom around this is that we can enjoy a much wider variety of music, literature, movies, and more. The label we put on it doesn’t matter in this context.

Byron Katie: As you lose identity, you discover yourself

As you lose identity, you discover yourself.

– Byron Katie

Yes, this is true in two general ways.

I assume Byron Katie talks about losing our identification with identities. We can use and relate to identities without being identified with them.

When we lose an identity – any identity – we find more freedom, fluidity, and flexibility as a human being in the world. We are more free to bring out sides of ourselves that didn’t fit our previous identity. We have a larger repertoire in how we live our lives and respond to situations. We discover more of who we are as a human being in the world.

As our identifications in general thin out, we may also more easily discover what we are. If we have many and strong identifications, the mind tends to be fascinated by and transfixed by identities and taking itself to be these, and that leaves less room for the mind to notice what it already is. It takes itself to be something within the content of its experience (usually this human self), and overlooks what it already is: that which all experiences happen within and as. We discover what we already are.

How do we lose identification with identities?

It can happen to some extent, and over time, through….

Noticing and becoming more familiar with what we are, for instance through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments. As we become more familiar with ourselves that which our experience happens within and as, identification as something within this content tends to soften.

Basic meditation, through noticing and allowing whatever happens in our experience here and now, and notice it’s already allowed (by mind, life). Again, we find ourselves as that which our experience happens within and as, and we notice that all content of experience comes and goes – including that which we habitually identify as. This allows identifications as something particular within content of experience to soften.

Heart-centered and projection-related practices like tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, and heart prayer. This too helps to soften our identification with our habitual identities.

We can also identify and investigate particular identifications, and especially our most central and habitual ones, through…..

The Work of Byron Katie. Here, we identify and examine beliefs to find what’s more true for us, and this helps identifications to soften.

Living Inquiries, where we examine how the mind creates its experience of identifications, compulsions, and fear. This is based on traditional Buddhist inquiry and similarly allows the glue of identifications to soften.

Vortex Healing where we invite in deep healing and unraveling of emotional issues and identifications.

These are obviously just a few of the approaches I personally find useful. There are many others out there.

Here are a few more notes on this topic:

We can’t choose to “drop” identifications. They soften and perhaps fall away through investigation and healing.

Identification means identification with or as a thought. The mind believes a thought, which means it identifies with the viewpoint of the thought, and makes it appear true for itself. This is also how emotional issues are created, so working on and finding healing for emotional issues helps soften identifications.

There is no “should” in any of this. We are free to explore this or not, and one is not inherently better than the other. It’s just that identifications – and beliefs and emotional issues – tend to be stressful and uncomfortable, so it’s more comfortable to invite identifications to soften.

There is no quick fix. This is a lifelong exploration and process. Even with the most effective tools and most helpful orientations, it takes time. And that’s completely OK. It’s a fascinating process.

There is not finishing line or endpoint. It’s an ongoing investigation. At least, that’s how it looks to me now, and I find it easier to have this as a general guideline for myself.

There are some orientations that support this process. For instance curiosity and sincerity, and a wish to befriend ourselves and our experience and the world as it appears to us.

That identity, that’s not who you are

All those identities you have, that’s not who or what you are

– paraphrased from a friend of mine (PG)

What he actually said was, and that’s not who you are in response to someone mentioning an identity they had for themselves.

In what way is our identities not who or what we are?

It’s not who we are, as a human being, because we are so much more than that. Any identity is very small compared to the richness and fullness of who we are. Even all our identities combined are small compared with the richness and fullness of who we are.

As what we are, we are capacity for the world as it appears to us. Any identity and what it refers to happens within and as what we are. They can, at most point to something. We are not the identity or any or all of the associations we have around that identity.

As respectively who and what we are, we are different from, more than, and less than, any identity.

We are different from any identity. Any identity comes from an overlay of thought. It can be wrong in a conventional sense. It’s certainly incomplete. And no matter how accurate it may seem, what it is meant to point to is different by nature from any thought.

The fullness and richness of who and what we are is far beyond any identity and all identities. What we are aware of or can name is a drop in the ocean of who and what we are.

We are also less than any identity since any identity comes from the addition layer of thoughts. It comes from an overlay of thoughts. It’s extra.

The more we explore this for ourselves and take in what we find, the more we tend to hold any identity we have – applied to ourselves or others or anything – more lightly. They are already questions, and we get to recognize them as questions and not anything final or complete.

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Adyashanti: Everything you define yourself as is an image

Everything you define yourself as is an image. Behind that is not a better version of yourself.

– Adyashanti

I couldn’t help laughing out loud when I read this. As so often, it’s funny because it’s true.

Everything I define myself as is an image. Everything I define anyone or anything as is an image.

And behind that image isn’t a better version of me or any version of me. Behind it is the silent awake mystery that everything – all my experience of myself, others, the world – happens within and as.

There is always a lot more to say about this.

My mind creates an overlay of images and words on my sensory experiences to make sense of it all. These images and words sort the world into me (this human self) and the wider world, and then continues sorting and creating labels and identifications on just about everything. This is essential for us to be able to orient and function in the world. We wouldn’t be here as individuals or a species unless the mind did this.

And yet, these images and words are questions about the world. Suggestions. If we take them as anything more, we misguide and mislead ourselves and create stress and suffering for ourselves and others (we serve as triggers for this in others). They are not complete since what they refer to are different from, more (far more qualities, characteristics, and fluidity), and less (silent mystery) than our words and images.

We can know this to some extent and understand it intellectually. And any time something in us is triggered – any time there is a charged reaction to something – it shows us that something in us doesn’t quite get it yet. That’s OK. It’s natural. It’s the human condition. And it’s good to be aware of.

And if we are so inclined, we can explore what’s happening through inquiry, parts work, energy healing, or any other approach we have access to and find helpful. For me, Living Inquiries (based on Buddhist inquiry), parts work (Voice Dialog, Big Mind process) and Vortex Healing, are the approaches I use most right now.

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Always coming back to here

I have noticed a slight disappointment recently. I have done and experienced a great deal, but always return here – to what’s here. It’s as if it all didn’t happen.

As Adyashanti points out, there may be a reason it’s like this. There may be a few different reasons, depending on how we see it.

What’s here, this, is the one constant. What any experience happens within and as – aka consciousness, awakeness, presence etc. – is the one constant. It’s what’s here independent of any particular experience or state. It’s what we are and everything is. It’s also what has the potential to create identification as as something within it’s content, for instance this human self.

Any past experiences or accomplishments are gone. They are here only as a memory. An image or thought, sometimes connected with a sensation. They are truly gone.

Any identity, anything we see ourselves as, similarly only exists as a mental image or thought sometimes connected with a sensation. We may have built up identities and roles through past experiences, but they don’t exist as anything more solid or substantial than a mental image or words associated with certain sensations.

If we take “here” as a more neutral state, as it has shown up for me in the moments mentioned above, then this more neutral state has gifts. It allows me to notice that just about any state is already here. It’s here as a potential, and also – often – as a trace. Also, a more neutral state makes it easier for me to notice what’s here in terms of what “I” already am – what these experiences and states happen within and as. There may be a reason why, for most of us, this more neutral state is the “default” state and what life tends to return us to. It gives us an opportunity to notice what’s here – in terms of traces and what we are – without the distractions of stronger experiences.

So there are many reasons why I return to “here”. It’s all there is. It’s what’s left and here when I notice the past as an image, and identities and roles as images. If it’s a more neutral state, it’s what allows me to notice what’s already here.

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Shifting center of gravity into more universal identities

In some ways, any challenging life situation is an invitation to release identification with more superficial identities (roles, work, gender, preferences etc.) and shift the center of gravity into more universal ones.

– from a previous post

This is a part of healing and awakening, and – to some extent- sustainability and creating a society that works better for all, including future generations and ecosystems.

We all have a mix of different identities. Some set us apart and some are more universal. Some are conscious and some are less so. Some have strong identifications and some not so much. And they come from culture, family, and personal experience (sometimes reactivity).

Life tends to challenge the identities that set us apart, and the more strongly we are identified with them the more stressful and dramatic we may experience those challenges. For instance, we may be identified with being young but we inevitably get older. We may be identified with being healthy, strong, and active, but get sick. We are identified with a political orientation but realize something else makes more sense. And so on. The identities that set us apart typically have to do with roles we play in life, whether it’s relationships, work, age, gender, or different political, religious, or other orientations.

There is nothing wrong with these identities. They all serve a function. We couldn’t live without them. But when life challenges them, as it tends to do, it is painful to have invested them with too much energy.

And that’s an invitation to notice and question these identities, and perhaps shift our center of gravity into more universal identities. These more universal identities include being human, part of life, part of the Universe, being awareness, that which all happens within and as, and so on.

As usual with these type of things, we cannot consciously shift the center of gravity into more universal ones. Any shift requires a ripening that largely operates outside of our conscious awareness and largely comes from influences far outside of us as individuals. And yet, we can invite it to happen through various practices or explorations.

We can identify and question identities through inquiry (Living Inquiry, The Work). We can engage in practices that come from and help us shift into more universal orientations such as heart centered practices (ho’o, jesus prayer, all-inclusive gratitude practice). We can help more universal identities come alive for us through Epic of Evolution type experiences and practices (Practices to Reconnect). We can do energy work that tends to, over time, shift identifications into more universal ones (yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Vortex Healing etc.). And there is a great number of other approaches that similarly helps us shift our center of gravity to more universal identities.

Note: When I say “influences far outside of us as individuals” I mean influences from the past and from the wider social and ecological wholes. Anything that happens has innumerable causes, and these stretch back to beginning of time and out to the furthest reaches of the universe. And that includes any ripening that happens in us and any shifts in identifications.

I am not useful?

Sometimes, we feel we are not useful. Maybe even that the world would be better without us in it.

Inquiry. This comes from thoughts, and it can be good to investigate these thoughts.

The Work. What stressful stories do I have about myself? How others see me? What the world expects from me? How I should be to be useful? What do I find when I examine these thoughts through The Work?

Living Inquiries. What does it say about me that I am not useful? Make a list. Find the statement that has the most charge and examine it. See what thoughts (images, words) and sensations make up this identity. If guided through this process by someone experienced in this form of inquiry, it can help release the stressful charge behind it.

Lila. Also, if it’s real to us, it can be helpful to remember lila. It’s all the play of the divine. The universe and us within it is life – the Universe, the divine – expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself. We are the play of the divine. Our life – as it is right now – is the play of the divine. Nothing is out of order. Nothing is wrong. There is no lessons to be learned. Nothing we are placed here to achieve.

Don’t know. We may discover this through inquiry, or we can remind ourselves, that we don’t really know. All my stressful stories and thoughts about myself and the world are stories and thoughts. They don’t reflect an inherent or absolute truth about myself or life.

The two last reminders – lila and don’t know – can be helpful reminders if they remind us of something that’s real to us. Something discovered through a spiritual opening or awakening, or through inquiry. Otherwise, they may be a pointer, something to explore for ourselves, for instance through inquiry.  Or it may be something not so useful for us right now.

TRE, Breema, Vortex Healing. I should also add that other tools can be helpful if we feel that we are not useful, our lives don’t matter, or that the world is better off without us. TRE can help release the tension, stress, and traumas behind it or created by it. Breema can help us find and experience the wholeness are already are. Vortex Healing can help clear the identities, beliefs, and traumas creating these experiences.

And there are, of course, innumerable other approaches that can help release the charge in the identities and beliefs behind this pattern, and help us (re)find our clarity. The ones I mentioned above are just some of the ones I have found most helpful.

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


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

– Adyashanti, My Secret is Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is who you are not

I am often a nine on the enneagram. I am an Aquarius with the moon in Leo. I score high on openness to experience. I have many identities in the world, from conventional to more fringy sources.

And that’s all what I am not.

It may be how I appear in the world. Some of it may point to how I operate as a human being. And yet, it changes. It changes over situations and with time. And it’s not who or what I am. It doesn’t limit me, unless I believe the identities and live from them as if they are true. Also, if I look for the peacemaker, or the Aquarius, or the one open to experience, can I find that one? Can I find that one, outside of my own images, words, and associated sensations?

It’s not either/or. These identities may fit, to a certain extent, in terms of how I am in the world. And yet, they are unable to limit me or anyone or anything. Life is not bound by our labels. And when I look, I cannot find any of these identities as a real tangible thing. It’s unfindable.

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The pitfall of good identities and ideals

In Territory of Freedom, Adyashanti mentions how Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side because of love. He turns to the dark side because of something generally seen as good, as an ideal. Of course, the real reason he turns to the dark side is that he believes his thoughts. (I need Padmé. I need to prevent her from dying. Something terrible will happen. Padmé is more important to me than anything else. I am willing to do anything for her.)

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Michael Jackson at Motown 25th anniversary

Pure genius in action. Tight and organic, as if dance, music, rhythm and facial expressions all are squeezed out of the same source, and in a way that seems authentic, playful, charming and spontaneous. (Look at 2:45-2:55.) There is a huge amount of practice behind it, which is partly why it seems so tight and organic.

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Emotions and identity

I keep coming back to this one as well…

When emotions come up and I notice there is an emotional attachment there, I can ask myself:

What is the story that trigger this emotion? (Story, memory, scenario.)

Which identity is threatened by this story?

Which identity is inclusive of that story? Which identity fits with it?

And then shift into allowing that identity. Feel into it. Feel it in my body.

Staying with it. Allowing my self-image to reorganize and realign to include that identity.

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Emotions as invitation to let go of identifications

The friction between my stories of what should be and what is, is an invitation to let go of taking those stories as true. It is an invitation to let go of identification with those stories.

And since that friction creates emotions, those emotions come with the same invitation. An invitation to let go of identification with stories and identities.

Whatever they may be, and however subtle they may appear, emotions created from that friction is a very real invitation to let go of identification with identities. (Those emotions may be fear, anger, sadness, regret, hope, etc.)

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Feeling more real

It can be fascinating to create and read lists such as “25 random things about me”, “music I like” and other ones popular on facebook and other places.

It helps others learn more about us. And when there is a mutual sharing of interests, there is an opportunity for all to expand what we are familiar with.

It is also an expression of the richness of human experience. Here is another way of experiencing the world, another flavor.

But it can also be another way to feel more real. A way to create and refine a particular identity, and then identify with it, take it as who I am, or even as what I am.

There is nothing wrong in that. And if I notice, I can investigate.

What happens when I identify with this identity? (Do I make it right? See it as better? Experience separation? Something to protect?)

Who would I be without identifying with it? (Enjoying what I like and dislike, without seeing it as anything more than that? Interested in other views? Recognizing how our likes and dislikes are products of each of our history?)

In what ways are the reversals of that identity also true about me? (For instance, if I am honest I see that I like just about any type of music, including music that may seem very different from that on the list.)

All the world’s a stage


All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts
– Jaques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (2/7)

This is true in the way Shakespeare points out. As a human being, we all play different roles throughout the day and throughout our lives.

And as usual, to the extent we identify with these roles, we get into struggle when life shifts the roles around. Some roles go, other roles come, and some needs to be played another way. (And we don’t always get a say.)

But we play more basic roles as well.

We have the roles of a human being, but there is also the basic role as a human itself. Two legs. A head. An animal with bodily needs and instincts. A cultured being living within a world of interpretations.

Then there is the role of a doer in its many flavors of a doer in the world, a decider, an observer.

And the even more basic role of an I with an Other. A separate I with a center and periphery, and an inside and outside.

All of these are roles, and as what we are – that which all form and experience happens within and as – we play these roles. Or we could say that the roles play themselves, whether there is a sense of a separate I there or not.

To the extent we identify with roles, there is drama. (Which is entertaining, although not always so comfortable.)

And to the extent they are recognized as roles – as temporary roles playing themselves out, with their own location in time and space, their own perspectives and views – it is all recognized as a play.

Even in the midst of whatever is happening, there is an enjoyment of the play. There is a recognition of an enjoyment that seems to always be there, inherent in experience itself.

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Exploring “politically correct”

I sometimes come across someone who sees “politically correct” as undesirable, so I got curious and wanted to explore it a little further.

There is the official definition of politically correct:

Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term applied to language, ideas, policies, or behavior seen as seeking to minimize offense to gender, racial, cultural, disabled, aged or other identity groups. Conversely, the term “politically incorrect” is used to refer to language or ideas that may cause offense or that are unconstrained by orthodoxy. [Wikipedia]

And then politically correctness in a more general sense, as avoiding what may offend others.

Obviously, in that general sense, whether we are politically correct or not depends on our company. For instance, if we pride ourselves on not being politically correct, and are in a group of people who agree, then that becomes politically correct…!

As soon as we make something into a belief and identity, we automatically find ourselves doing that which we try to exclude. I try to be politically incorrect, find others who agree, and suddenly realize that being politically incorrect is now what is politically correct.

Then there is the limitations we put on ourselves if we make it into a belief. As soon as I take on an identity as someone who is not politically correct, I limit my views and actions. I have to spend time and energy making sure I don’t say or do things that could be perceived as politically correct, and I try to control – and sometimes cut myself off from – impulses that naturally would like to move freely among the terrain of what can be perceived as politically correct or incorrect.

I cut myself off from views and actions that may benefit myself and others.

In my case, I have asked for ethical/sustainable gifts for Christmas, and my wife and I are going to give ourselves the gift of sponsoring a child in need. If I had an identity that excluded being politically correct, I may have had difficulty doing either of those things. It is too fashionable. Too much the thing to do. And a family may not have received a goat. A child may not have received money for food, clothes and education.

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False identities

Whenever a story is taken as true, I take on a false identity.

At my human level, I have a range of identities including age, gender, occupation, and also how I am and what I like. All of these can be very helpful. They me us function in the world.

Yet, as soon as I take any of these identities as true, I (try to) limit who this human self is. Any identity excludes something else, and what is excluded is very often already here. This means that I need to spend time and energy on fleshing out, living within and defend the identity. Whenever I identify with an identity, it takes a lot of time and energy to keep it up, and it creates stress and tension as well.

And something similar happens at the level of what I am.

As soon as I take an identity as true, I am firmly identified as an object within the world of form. I take myself as within form, so all I see is form. And since stories are taken as true, I am distracted by them so it is not so easy for what I am to notice itself. I overlook the obvious: that which all form happens within and as, which is what I – already and always – am.

This is one of many examples of how the distance between psychology and spirituality can be very short. In this case, the only difference is in what type of identities we explore. In psychology, it is all the usual human identities. In spirituality, it is the identity of an I with an Other, an identity as an object within form, an identity with the story of I.

Through exploring false identities, I also find an appreciation for what they do.

At our human level, they portion out what we get familiar with in ourselves, taking it one step at a time instead of all at once. I have a limited identify for myself, so get to be more familiar with what is inside of that identity.Then, the identity may shift or expand and I get familiar with new territory. And so on.

And at the level of what we are, they make it all more interesting. It is a way for emptiness/awakeness to not only experience itself as form, but to identify as that form. Experience itself as limited. Live the drama of being an I with an other, a vulnerable object in a world of innumerable other objects. Temporarily, at least.

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Relating to a specific thought

Here is an example of ways to relate to a specific thought…

One of the things our culture (sometimes) teaches us is not OK is to be stupid. We are trained by our culture to see it as undesirable. To create and defend an identity that (as much as possible) leaves out stupidity. And to react a certain way if that identity is threatened.

So say there is the thought that I am not very smart.

What do I find when I explore this thought and the dynamics around it?

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Identification with identities

Again a familiar topic, but something worth coming back to…

Which identities am I identified with? Which stories – about myself and the world – do I take as true? Which are unquestioned? What happens when I identify with them? How does it limit the life of this human self? What happens when I feel I need to defend that identity? How does it limit how I live in the world? How does it create a sense of an I with an Other, and inside and outside, a center and periphery? What happens if there is a release of this identification? What becomes available to me?

Identities are of course very useful. They have temporary practical value. They tell us the gender, age and different roles of this human self, and those roles give practical guidelines for how to live and act in the world. But are those identities who and what I really am? As a human being, I can find in myself whatever I see in others and the wider world. And I can also find myself as that which all of this happens within and as.

This came up for me again through a recent online conversation with someone who seemed to take “politically correct” as undesirable for himself. (That is my story.) Not having that particular identification myself, it is easy to see how such an identification is limiting and stressful. It takes energy to first decide if something is politically correct or not, and then make sure what I say and do doesn’t fit into that category.

The question is of course, where do I do the same? And one pointer is noticing when I experience stress, and then which identity or belief I feel a need to protect.

Allowing and owning

There is a beautiful complementarity between allowing and owning whatever arises.

As awakeness itself, we already and always allow whatever arises. Shifting into finding ourselves as awakeness, there is a release of identification with whatever resistance there is to it. We can now hold whatever arises and the resistance to it, without blindly taking ourselves as either one. There is a passive allowing of it all. It is just a noticing of what is already and always here. (Although the shift into noticing it is often active.)

Yet at our human side, it is also important to actively own whatever arises. To actively become familiar with it, see that it is part of me, widen my conscious identity to include it, explore how it already shows up in my life, explore what it asks of me, discover how it supports the life of this human self, bring it into the active repertoire of how this human self lives in the world. This includes noticing a part of this human self that was already around, actively bringing it into my conscious identity at my human level, and actively exploring it in and bringing it into my daily life.

And as so often, there is a mutuality between the two. One supports the other.

Allowing whatever arises helps me more easily actively own it. I can release identification from any beliefs and identities that stopped me from seeing it as part of my human self, and I can now more wholeheartedly embrace it and find its gifts.

And actively own it helps me release identification with old beliefs and identities that previously kept it as “other”, which in turn makes it easier for me to find myself as awakeness itself, already allowing it all.

The allowing is the enlightenment part, finding myself as awakeness and everything arising to and within awakeness as no other than this awakeness itself. And the owning is the self-realization part, the healing, maturing and development of this human self.

Or we can say that the first is the Self-realization, and the other is the self-realization. It is the realization of the Self, as Big Mind, Brahman, the divine mind, or whatever fancy name we have for it. And it is the realization of the self, of the wholeness of who this individual self is and can be.

There are as many examples of this as there are experiences.

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“Not gay” and flawed thinking

The Republican Senator Larry Craig insisting that he is “not gay” reminds me of some of the flawed thinking about these things that seems to be out there.

The polarization into either gay or heterosexual seems, even on the surface of it, pretty suspicious. Why should it be either/or? In most of these type of cases, it is more often both/and.

This polarization and either/or thinking seems to be a product of taking on an exclusive identity as one or the other. I see myself as either heterosexual or gay, so then filter myself, and my impulses and attractions and even my behavior, through that identity.

If there is an attraction or action that doesn’t quite fit with my conscious identity, I can always dismiss it as something else.

These attractions are not really what they seem to be, or they are, but I can’t be the one experiencing it, so it must be somebody else. My actions are not really an indication of my conscious identity being too narrow. And, to prove it to myself and others, I may reinforce my identity as “not gay” even more.

And finally, these identities in general do not take circumstances into account. They assume that there is something inherent in our personality that is always that way, independent of circumstances, which again is a dubious assumption. In the right situation, I would guess that any one of us can experience and act either way, even if it doesn’t match our conscious identity.

It seems that it makes more practical sense to see all of us as bisexual, and what comes up for us, and is lived in our lives, depends more on circumstances than anything else… such as culture, subculture, who is around, and more.


Initial draft…. 

I listened to the authenticity program from To The Best of Our Knowledge last night, which takes an appropriately post-modern look at the cult of authenticity.

As with most things, it can be a useful idea/filter at times, but also creates some problems if taken as reflecting something solid or real inherent in the world.

What is authenticity? How does it look?

In a conventional sense, it means to be true to who I am, whatever I take that to be. It may mean being honest – in how I speak and live – about emotions, beliefs, my history, and so on. It could also mean being consistent over time, in terms of keeping my word, and staying with the same or similar beliefs and identities. Similarly with non-human objects, it may mean being honest about its composition, history, and so on.

That sounds good, pretty straight forward, and maybe even desirable to some extent.

But even scratching the surface of this, it all quickly breaks down.

  • I can be honest with my experience as it is, here now, but it quickly changes into something else and never repeat.
  • Emotions arise, here now, but they are nothing solid or fixed. They are in flux. My experience of them can be filtered in innumerable ways, and if they are not resisted they turn into something that I cannot label even if I wanted to. And I can express them in any number of ways, depending on how the experience of the emotions are filtered and how the expression of them are filtered.
  • I can be honest about my beliefs. Yet these too change. And if I look, I see that each belief has infinite causes… family, friends, media, subculture, culture, evolution of the species, and much more. I can be honest about the beliefs being here, but they are not “mine”.
  • I can be authentic with my identity, yet this identity is made up of stories, and they have infinite causes and are not “mine”. This identity, of this human self, is not created by this human self. At most, it is maintained locally by this human self, although it is really maintained by the whole of existence.
  • I can be authentic about beliefs and identities, yet when I look I find that they are simply thoughts and have no reality or substance beyond being just an ephemeral thought.
  • If I am to be authentic in relation to my culture, then which aspects of this culture, and from what time? Again, there is an infinite of aspects and flavors, and an infinity of points of time to choose among. Also, if I look at what is typically considered the most authentic parts of my own culture, I find that most or all of it came from other places, it was all imported at one point. Even if I find something that originated here, it has been influenced and colored by everything else.
  • I can be honest about my experience, but this experience is filtered. I experience anger, have an identity as not angry, so it must be someone else who is angry. My authentic experience of myself in that situation is of not being angry, yet if I “own” that anger, then that is what is more authentic.
  • I had an opinion in the past, but that was then. Beliefs, identities, interests, passions change over time. The person I was is not the one here now. Am I more authentic if I try to stay consistent over time, or if I go with what is true for me now?
  • Everything has infinite causes and effects. (What is “mine” is not really mine.)
  • Everything is in flux.

So it all breaks down if I take a closer look at it, which means two things. First, it gives me a freedom from the whole idea of authenticity, and also from ideas of solidity and consistency over time. And this is also a freedom to use the term authenticity in a conventional way, in ways that have a limited and practical function, knowing that it is nothing more than that.

– infinite causes, what is alive here now (always), beliefs (what comes out of), identity (what take oneself to be),
– mutability/change, always new/different (anything… ecosystems, food, individuals, etc.)
– own what is here (vs. disowning, denying, although if disowned, then that authentic)

Defense and fear

The more I explore beliefs, the clearer the basic pattern and dynamics become…

  • There is a belief in a story.
    • It is taken as somehow intrinsically true.
    • It is seen as reflecting something inherent in the world.
    • The grain of truth in its reversals are downplayed or ignored.
  • An identity is formed from this belief.
    • There is an identity as someone having that belief.
    • And the belief itself creates an identity. (E.g. if the belief is that “people shouldn’t lie” then an identity as someone not lying may be created from it.)
  • There is a split into I and Other
    • A split into right and wrong, true and false.
    • A split into a separate self and the wider world.
    • From this split comes a sense of separation, alienation, not being quite at home, unease, discomfort, and so on.
  • There is a need to defend this belief and its corresponding identity.
    • There is a need to maintain the appearance of truth in the belief, and to ignore the grain of truth in its reversals.
    • There is a need to behave in accordance with the identity formed by the belief.
  • Supporting beliefs are created.
    • A whole army of other beliefs is created and maintained to support and defend the initial belief.
    • These beliefs form a network of supporting beliefs
    • This network consist of groups that are relatively consistent among themselves, although they may not always be so consistent with beliefs in other belief groups. They don’t have to, since groups are often activated more or less separately from each other.
  • Fear comes up, from a sense of having to defend a belief, identity and separate self.
    • This fear provides motivation for maintaining and supporting the initial belief, and its supporting beliefs.
  • The body serves an important function with beliefs, in at least two ways.
    • It tenses up, and the breath often becomes more shallow.
    • It serves as a location in space for a sense of I, and the tense muscles provide sensations serving as this anchor.

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From personal to universal

Often when I explore beliefs through inquiry, or am with emotions, I notice the shift from a sense of it being very personal to not personal at all.

It makes sense. When we believe in a story, it becomes our identity. I am wrapped up in the story, and become the story to some extent. And more than that, my identity becomes wrapped up in the whole conglomerate around the story, such as emotions created by it and behavioral patterns triggered by it. The stronger the belief and identity, the more it all seems intensely personal and private. If people or situations poke at it, there is reactivity. If people probe into it, there is defensiveness. And there may be an impulse to hide it from others and even myself. It is just too personal, too private, too sensitive, to allow it out in the world.

When this knot unravel, through inquiry or being with the emotions, or in other ways, the identification unravels along with it. Now, what used to appear so personal and private, is seen – and felt – as universally human, nothing to hide or protect, and not personal or private at all. Everything around it is seen as coming from merely a thought, and that is all.

Dream: transplants (all the time)


Someone is receiving transplants for just about every organ and body part, in continuous rotation. He even receives a transplant for his head, which makes me slightly uneasy as I realize that there is no fixed identity there. Even the gender changes. It is all OK as he takes a research approach to it, studying the effects of the continuous transplants.

The little guy is having every part of him replaced, continuously, including the head and sexual organs. There is no fixed bodily identity possible. I am a little uncomfortable seeing this, but then realize that it is OK since he uses it as a research opportunity, including how it is to live with an absence of (an easily) fixed identity.

After waking up and staying with the dream, I realize that this is a very clear representation of my experience of myself… of seeing any identity in flux, always changing… both in terms of the conventional identity itself such as masculine, feminine, physical appearance, smart, not so smart, and so on, and in terms of the identification with any of these identities. It is all in flux. Nothing stays the same. And I see this here now, and also how it changes over a day.

I had this dream during our trip to Eastern Oregon, after we had spent our first evening at Crystal Crane Hot Springs in the desert near Burns, and sharing the facilities with a bunch of cowboys and gals on motorcycles.

I noticed that there was a continuous shift for me between having an identity as different from them (and experiencing separation) and finding a shared identity with them (no separation), and a slight discomfort in both cases… first, due to the sense of separation, then, due to finding myself as the same as someone I habitually have seen myself as different from. The discomfort in the dream was similar or the same as this one. A sense of having no solid ground to stand on in terms of identity. It fluctuates with the situation, and also in terms of what attention focuses on.

First, I see myself as a liberal city-dweller, different from these cowboys and gals in many ways. And then, I see how we are no different… we all enjoy the food, the water in the hot springs, good company, we all have hopes and fears, dreams and nightmares, we all take care of those within our circle of concern, we all do the best we can, we all try to live up to certain ideals and follow certain guidelines in our lives.

The essentials, the shared human qualities, are all the same. At most, it is only the superficial strategies that are slightly different, but even here not so much.

And in falling into this, and the sense of no separation, there is a slight sense of discomfort, of disorientation, since the old habitual identity has temporarily fallen away or far into the background of attention.

Headlessness and identity

Whenever there is a clash between our stories about what is and what should be, or life and our beliefs, or circumstances and identity, what happens can be interpreted in two main ways.

First, from headlessness (Big Mind, awake void awake to itself), we are what arises, yet there is an identification with a story and an identity which does not fit what we find ourselves as. Of course, as soon as there is this identification, we don’t realize that we inevitable are what arises, but filter it through a sense of I here with a particular belief and identity, and Other out there which clashes with I in here. What arises is split into an inside and outside, and the two appears to not get along very well.

It is a comical situation, especially when we see this directly.

We have no choice but to become and be what arises, because that is what we are. We are this awareness and its contents, this wide open space full of the world as it arises here and now. Yet when this is split into a sense of I and Other, we are sometimes shocked by it and struggle with it, resist it in every way we are able, because it does not fit with who we take ourselves to be.

The other way to look at this, is through a more conventional view, taking who we take ourselves to be – a separate self, an object in the world, a small region of content of awareness – as real and substantial.

Here, we can also say that life shows up in a particular way that does not fit with our beliefs and identities, or rather the stories and identities we are identified with. But now, life reminds us of something in our human self that does not fit these beliefs and identities.

Our beliefs and identities has shadows, which is the truth in the reversals of the beliefs and ourselves as also what is outside of our conscious identities. And life reminds us of these shadows, which brings up discomfort, and a filtering of anything in our shadows as only out there and not (also) in here, in our human self.

Either way, a sense of resistance to what is is an invitation to find in ourselves what we see out there.

When there is resistance, or rather, identification with resistance, a taking of it as I, it is a reminder to find ourselves as headless and Big Mind. And it is also an invitation to find in our human self what we see out there.

The first invites Ground to notice itself.  The second allows this human self to become a little more part of humanity, to find our shared humanity right here in ourselves, and see that we are all in the same boat.

Both opens for some wisdom and a more open heart.

There is a seeing all as phenomena arising, inherently free from an I and Other, which in turn opens for natural love and compassion. And a finding in this human self any quality and characteristic I see out there, in others and the wider world, which opens for seeing myself in others and, again, a natural empathy and compassion.

Feeling not quite at home

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed (again) the sense of not quite belonging to any one group or place or role or position in life. And there are several good reasons for this.

First, it is that way, I assume, for all of us. As who we are, or take ourselves to be (this human self/soul), we are far too rich and diverse to fit nicely into any one group. Some parts of us fit and are nurtured and acknowledged, and other parts left out, or even apparently at odds with the orientation and culture of the group.

Then, for myself I see a belief in a story of being an outsider, and an attachment to that identity, which automatically comes up – at some point – when I am in any group, no matter how well the match is. With that belief and identity, I look for evidence to support it, and it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with me acting as an outsider, which provides me with even more evidence for the initial story.

And finally, as long as there is a belief in the core story of a separate self, of an I with an Other, something will always feel off. No matter how good the situation is, how well it matches our beliefs and identities, there is a subtle sense of something being not quite right. There is a sense of not being quite at home. And when the situation is at odds with our beliefs and identities, it is obviously not right.

The sense of not quite being at home, of something being just slightly off, is only resolved when the story of a separate I is resolved, when the I with an Other falls away, revealing the utter simplicity of what is, arising as this awake void and form always and already absent of any I with an Other.

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What I take myself to be, is how I experience the world and others

I wrote about this earlier (as with so many of these topics), but it comes up again…

What I take myself to be, in my immediate experience, is how I experience Existence in general… the world, others, and even God.

If I take myself as an object, then that is how I see the rest of existence, including even God in some cases.

If I take myself as a particular identity, narrow even in human terms, then I tend to put others and Existence in general into equally narrow identities.

If I see myself as primarily human and anything in me as universally human, I tend to see others too as primarily human and what comes up in them as universally human.
If I find myself as soul (alive presence), I experience others and the world in general as soul (alive presence).

If I experience myself as timeless, the world appears as happening within the timeless.

If I find myself as void, then the same thing… I see whatever arises as awake void and form.

Of course, these have nothing to do with surface beliefs, those we play around with at an intellectual level… these are the deeper beliefs we operate from, those typically outside of our attention (including those held at the emotional level).

Beliefs as protection


I talked with a friend yesterday about how beliefs seem to be created as protection… and it certainly seems true in several ways.

Ultimately, beliefs protect this separate self. They flesh it out, define it, create the boundaries separating it from the wider world, protect its identity, shoots down what puts these boundaries and identities in doubt, and do so as a continuous process. Beliefs protect the sense of a separate self against changing too much, and also from not existing (which is a very real threat, since it really doesn’t).

But what about that core belief of a separate self? Is that too a defense against something? I am sure there are many theories and models, and even accounts of direct perceptions, of how and why this belief forms in the first place (and sadly, I am not aware of that many of them). And each of these probably have some good points.

But to me, it seems simple: for most of us, when we were infants, everyone around us believed in a separate self. So we too, innocently, did the same. We too created a belief in a separate self, because that was obviously and clearly the thing to do.

So the primary belief in a separate self may have been formed since it was the thing to do. And the secondary beliefs (an attachment to any other story) aids in bolstering the primary one.

And it all comes from innocence. Although the results, in our own experience, may not appear so innocent.

The gifts of a ceiling

Most approaches to discovering who (individual human/soul) and what (Ground) we are have a particular focus… somewhere within our levels of being, and often just aspects of certain levels. If they acknowledge other levels and aspects, and are transparent to them, it is easy to see the benefits… it allows for a more thorough familiarity and investigation with whatever their area of focus happens to be.

But what if they are closed to other approaches? If they don’t appreciate their contribution or validity? What if they, for instance, use a language that creates a ceiling, floor or walls blocking off other levels and aspects?

One of the practices I am involved (appears to) do exactly that. It is great for the centaur (body/mind) and soul levels, but closed off from the Ground, from what we are. It seems closed off from it in terms of their views of what is possible and how existence is put together, in the terminology they use (for instance “no separation” which assumes an I not separate from an Other), and also some of their practices (by all means not all… other practices can go right into Ground, into what we are).

It is an example of an approach that does not so much have a floor or walls, but do have a very obvious (to me) ceiling.

Although I know I am just coming up against my own beliefs and identities around this, it has been difficult for me to relate to. I want to stay involved, because their approach is by far the best one (for me) I have found at centaur and soul levels. And staying involved means that I have to face the friction between life and my beliefs & identities. I have to live with it, until it resolves one way or another.

One way of working on this is to explore the genuine gifts in their version of the ceiling… What are the genuine gifts there, for me?

I can easily find the same gifts there as for any approach that have a limited focus (which is all of them)… they focus on the centaur and soul levels, which means they become very familiar with that landscape… they can explore it in great richness and depth, which is obviously very valuable.

And what about their lack of transparency into Ground? That too is a gift, as it invites me to work with it… rephrasing (for myself) their words… It helps me explore that particular area in far more depth. It also means that I don’t so easily take that area for granted. I have to work a little more consciously at it.

Finally, the friction between their approach (what life brings up for me) and my beliefs and identities invites me to look at and investigate those beliefs and identities. I cannot pretend they are not there anymore. I have to work with them.

The initial gift is the same as if they were transparent to Ground. And in addition, there are two more that comes from the ceiling.

All in all, a pretty good deal…. if I stay with it, take the friction seriously and use it as an opportunity to see what is already more true for me, behind my surface beliefs and identities.

Resistance to Ground, etc.

Just a quick summary of what I am exploring these days, as it happens in immediate awareness. What came out below is not very well organized…

  • The Ground, here now, is the field of awakeness, of awake emptiness and whatever arises. It is inherently free from any center and any separate self. It is just one field, beyond and embracing seeing and seen, awareness and its content, this human self and the wider world of form.
  • This Ground is is what is here now, for each of us, only absent of a sense of I and Other. Imagine the content of your awareness, and the awareness itself, as it is, only with a sense of I and Other subtracted from it.
  • When there is resistance to Ground as this field, there is an appearance of I and Other.
  • This happens when there is a belief in a story, when thoughts are taken as anything more than innocent questions, when they are seen as absolutely true.
  • A story becomes a belief when another story is added to it, saying it is true.
  • A story becomes a belief, also when it combines with a sensation. Sensation+story=belief.
  • When a sensation is combined with a story, it gives a sense of a center located at a particular place in space, specifically at the sensation, somewhere within the physical boundary of this human self.
  • This center also allows for a split of space, and a sense of I here and Other out there.
  • This split allows for placing one end of any polarity here, somewhere in this physical body, and the other end somewhere out there in the wider world.
  • This placing of ends of a polarity here and out there, is also how projections work. If, according to how I place a polarity (which in turn is decided by beliefs and identities), one end of a polarity should be out there, then when it arises, it is interpreted as out there. For instance, if I believe I shouldn’t be angry, and have an identity as someone who is not angry, then when anger arises, I have now choice but to filter it so it appears out there in the wider world, placed on appropriate targets (the ones I place it on may indeed experience and act from anger, which only makes them better projection objects).
  • Any belief automatically creates resistance… to the truths in its reversals, and what doesn’t fit the identity that goes with it.
  • The split of space allows for resistance to what is. It filters the appearance of what is allowed and not allowed into different locations of space… what is allowed appears to be in the region where there is a sense of I, and what is not allowed appears as if in another region of space. (What is allowed/not allowed is determined by beliefs.)
  • The sensation a story is combined with serves as a base for a split of space into I and Other (providing a fixed point in space to define the boundary), and also for resistance to parts of what is arising.
  • The sense of density, substance and reality of a sensation provides a sense of the same, of density, substance and reality, to the story it is associated with.
  • If a belief needs to be amplified, it can be amplified in two ways. One is to amplify the sensation it is placed on, which in turn allows for a stronger belief, a sense of more substance to the belief, and a stronger sense of split between I here and Other out there. Another is to engage in and develop supporting beliefs.
  • If a story needs to be combined with a sensation (to create a belief and a split in space), and an appropriate sensation is not available, muscles tense up to create appropriate sensations.
  • A belief also amplifies tension, because it creates a sense of I and Other, and something to protect (a truth or an identity), which in turn creates mental and physical tension.
  • Any belief creates a split in space, of something that is true here and false somewhere else, so also a sense of I and Other.

Two ways of losing a belief: friction and investigation

There are two ways to lose a belief, and they often go hand in hand.

One is through friction.

I have a belief telling me how life is or should be, and an identity telling me what I am and am not. In both cases, I split life right down the middle, allowing one region of the landscape and not the rest.

When life inevitably shows up outside of my belief or identity, there is a friction between my belief and life, which is experienced a uncomfortable… as stress, something being off, suffering, anger, fear, and so on.

This friction, if it continues, slowly wears off (and out!) the belief. Over time, constantly at odds with life, it has to go, in spite of even the most persistent resistance. It is just too obvious that life is more than my belief, and I more than the identity. My personality may not like it, especially at first, but there is not much choice there either.

The other is through investigation.

I notice the warning signs of holding onto a belief or identity (stress), I identify the belief or set of beliefs behind it, and investigate its effects, what would be without it, and the grain of truth in each of the reversals of the initial story. This too allows it to fall away, although it can be faster and less painful, even fun.

In the first case, I take the side of my habitual beliefs and identities, and it may be a drawn out and painful affair.

In the second case, I take the side of life inviting the belief to go, and it becomes more playful, have a sense of more ease, and can even be fun and enjoyable.

Although most of the time, there seems to be a mix of the two. There is the friction between life and belief, and the stress and resistance that comes with it. And there is the ease of the investigation, when that is finally engaged with.

Being on the inside of stories and this human self

When I believe a story, taking it as an absolute truth, my world is narrowed in as defined by the story. In a sense, I find myself on the inside of the story. Similarly, any belief creates an identity which defines who I take myself to be. And any belief also creates a sense of a separate self, which needs to be anchored somewhere – usually in this human self. So I also find myself on the inside of this human self. So there is a sense of a separate I, existing on the inside of this human self, inside of a particular identity, and inside of a belief in a particular belief about life.

As soon as I start exploring this, I find myself also outside of all of this. I am outside, looking in. So right there is some distance, some release.

And if there is a thorough and sincere exploration of what is already more true for me than the belief, it falls away… The belief in the story falls away. The identification with the identity it creates falls away. And the sense of a separate I defined by and existing on the inside of the story, identity and this human self falls away.

There is a taste of spaciousness, and even of Big Mind.

Now, I am that which all of this… stories, identities, this human self… arises within, to and as. This awakeness it arises within, to and as. This awake nothingness all things happen within, to and as.

Shadows: examples, and going from demonic to gold to neutral


Shadows of random beliefs and identities…

  • arrogance > inferiority, stupidity, not knowing (even in a relative sense)
  • knowing > not knowing (in an absolute sense, seeing all stories as only having a relative truth, and a relative sense, knowing that our relative knowledge is always limited)
  • skilled > unskilled
  • human > not human (leaving out the rest of the seamless field of form, and also awakeness and emptiness)
  • separate self > no separation, and also absence of a separate self
  • good > bad, evil (seeing both out there, in the wider world, and also in here)
  • in control > out of control, and also absence of control
  • masculine > feminine (and the other way around)
  • awake > asleep (in any sense of the words, for instance seeing how the field of awakeness and form – absent of a separate self – naturally arises as both)
  • deserving > not deserving (canceling each other out, as all of the other polarities do)
  • civilized > uncivilized and also noncivilized (independent of civilization)
  • good taste > bad taste (canceling each other out)
  • healthy > disease, unhealthy, and also nonhealthy (being that which is independent of health and disease)
  • thing > no thing (void, emptiness)

All of these beliefs and identities split the field, creating a sense of a separate self here and Other out there. When the shadow is seen simultaneously with the belief and identity, we notice the inherent seamlessness of the field… in a relative sense, finding both out there and also in here, and in a more absolute sense the one field, inherently neutral, and always and already containing both.

For a while, it takes work to discover this, and it may sometimes feel like more of an intellectual exercise, seeing it more than it is deeply felt and sensed. Then, it may become more and more alive and immediate… alive in immediate awareness even without much prompting, at least most of the time. Still requiring a more thorough exploration of remaining areas.

Initially, it may all feel like a big drama. We cling onto beliefs and identities, and experience what is outside of these as scary and undesirable (even as demonic, sometimes.)

Then, as we become more familiar with this landscape, the gifts of what was left out becomes more clear. What appeared as undesirable and even demonic is now revealed as pure gold. And then, as we get even more familiar with it, the inherent neutrality in all of it becomes more and more visible.

The beliefs and their shadows cancel each other out, as identities and their shadows do, revealing the inherent neutrality of all of it… the beliefs, identities, shadows, effects, and the ground it all arises within and as.

Shadow of arrogance

As I continue to work with projections and the shadow, many aspects of it become more and more immediate and alive as it happens. One way it manifests is having the shadow of a belief or identity come up along with the belief and identity.

A belief arises, and right there is the shadow of that belief. An identity arises, and right there is also the shadow of that identity. Or at least parts of the shadow.

So when arrogance arises, along with it arises inferiority, stupidity, not knowing, and whatever is left out from an identity which gives rise to arrogance. I see both out there, in others and the world, and also in here in this human self.

Together, there is a fuller picture, a wider embrace of what is. And it is all revealed as inherently neutral. The initial identity is neutral, what is left out is neutral, and the landscape (always) including both is inherently neutral.

Of course, our personality may not see it as neutral. It sees different parts of all of this as desirable or undesirable, mature and less mature, good or bad. But that too is inherently neutral.

Self-conscious = belief conscious

As long as there is a sense of a separate self, I am self-conscious. And the stronger the sense of a separate self, the more self-conscious I am.

(For me, the sense of being self-conscious drops away when I am in nature, or do Breema, or am around people I am comfortable with. All situations that tends to reduce any sense of separation. And it comes more into the foreground when I am around people who are quite different from myself, or themselves are very concerned with holding up a particular image, or when I find myself in a situation that brings me outside of the boundaries of my habitual identities and how I define myself.)

Self-conscious in two ways

I am self-conscious in the sense that I am conscious of (apparently) being a separate self, and I am also self-conscious in the conventional way… conscious of how my desired identity fits with how I appear in the world… wondering how other people see me, if what I am about to do or say fits in with the image I want to build up for myself, and so on.

First, there is a story about a separate self. Then, this simple story is elaborated through various other stories about this separate self, defining what and who it is in the world. And there is a comparison between my stories of what should be, and of what is.

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What it comes down to: seeing what is already more true

So when we start letting go of some of the identities that I described in previous posts, what is left? What, if anything, is revealed?

For me, it has to with simply seeing what is already more true for me, in immediate experience, without knowing in advance what I will find or am looking for, and doing it for its own sake.

If I think I know what I’ll find, I am creating another box for myself. I have an agenda. Receptivity to what is really there goes out the window.

If I do it for some other motive, to find release, to get rid of discomfort, to get somewhere, then I am creating yet another box. Again, there is an agenda there. And again, receptivity – or even interest – in what is really there, goes out.

Thinking I know what to find, and doing it for a particular result, is just another way for me to limit myself, to box myself, life, existence, and even God, into a far smaller space than where it already is. It may look safe for a while, but is in the long run nothing but a dead end.

I think I’ll get something or somewhere by doing it, but all I am doing is boxing myself in. Staying put.

What it all comes back to, and down to, is doing it for its own sake. I engage in inquiry, for the sake of doing inquiry. I engage in headlessness, for the sake of headlessness. I am with experiences, for the sake of being with experiences.

And seeing all the parts of me that is not doing it just for its own sake, is part of it as well. Allowing even that. Being with even that. Seeing even that, as what is, right here and now. For its own sake.