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.

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.

MAKING AN IDENTITY OUT OF A ROLE

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.

RECENT EXPERIENCE

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 UPSIDES & DOWNSIDES OF MAKING A ROLE INTO AN IDENTITY

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.

WHAT’S THE REMEDY?

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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Maps for the awakening path

Maps for the awakening path can be very helpful.

MAPS HELP US NAVIGATE IN UNFAMILIAR PLACES

After all, any time we enter a place that’s unfamiliar to us, maps, stories, guides, and fellow travelers can be invaluable. They help us orient, make better decisions, avoid some pitfalls, provide company and guidance on the way, and can make the whole experience generally more easy and enjoyable. We can learn from those who are more familiar with the place, and we can find support from others exploring it.

Of course, this depends on the quality of the maps, stories, guides, and fellow travelers.

It depends on how we relate to these sources of information and the journey itself.

And it depends on what we bring with us in terms of baggage, orientation, experience, and good sense.

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF MAPS

For all the many benefits of maps, they also have some limitations, and it’s good to be aware of and explore the characteristics of maps.

They are different in nature from the terrain. They are mental constructs and are different in nature from what they point to. (Unless they happen to point to other mental constructs!)

They simplify and leave a lot out. That’s why they are useful, and it’s also one of their limitations.

They may be more or less accurate. Sometimes, maps are misleading.

They inevitably reflect the biases of the one(s) making them. They reflect a certain time, culture, worldview, personal orientation, and sometimes even hopes and fears. That doesn’t make them less useful, but it’s good to keep in mind.

As with any story, they inevitably reflect and come out of a certain worldview. There are innumerable other existing and possible worldviews that may make as much or more sense, and fit the data as well or better. And these worldviews may produce very different maps of the same terrain.

Maps and stories in general cannot reflect any full, final, or absolute reality.

Reality is always more than and different from any map.

And any mental construct is a kind of map, no matter what form it takes. Whether it’s a book, a diagram, a teacher or fellow traveler sharing something, or our own mental images and words telling us something.

THE LIMITATIONS OF AWAKENING MAPS

Maps of a physical place have these benefits and limitations, and that goes doubly (or triply!) for maps of non-physical and metaphorical places like an awakening process.

Yes, there may be patterns in how the awakening process unfolds that we can detect and put into a kind of map. Many have done just that. For instance, Ken Wilber has collected and synthesized many of these maps into a more inclusive and comprehensive map.

And yet, life doesn’t follow our shoulds or our maps. Life goes its own way.

The process may be different for people in different cultures. Your process may be very different from mine. Each case is always different to some extent, and sometimes by a lot.

Also, maps about awakening are informal. They come from people’s own experiences, or what they have seen or heard from others. It’s not a topic that’s studied rigorously using scientific methods.

Maps of the awakening process are provisional at best, and likely only partially accurate.

In my experience, the process is not necessarily very linear, and the process itself tends to undo any and all fixed ideas I have about it or anything else.

HOW WE RELATE TO MAPS

How we relate to these stories and maps makes a big difference.

Do I hold onto some of them as true? What happens if I do? For me, I typically find it’s stressful. I need to hold onto, rehearse, and defend the stories. I make an identity for myself out of it. If my path is different from the maps, I feel something is wrong. And it’s generally stressful whenever life shows up differently from the “shoulds” of the maps, which it inevitably does.

How would it be to hold onto them more lightly? Here, I find it’s generally more peaceful. I find more curiosity. I recognize the maps and stories as pointers only, and as questions about the world. I am more open to exploring what’s here rather than being distracted by how a story tells me it should be.

USING MAPS TO FEEL BETTER (OR WORSE)

We can use maps, and especially stage maps, to feel better (or worse) about ourselves and our life.

We can use them to tell ourselves: I am at this stage in the awakening process. It means I am further ahead than these other people. It means those people are ahead of me. It means this will happen next. It’s all cleanly laid out and predictable, and I know how it is.

But do we actually know? Can we know if the maps are accurate? Can we know that we understand them well? Can we know that another worldview wouldn’t make as much or more sense, and bring about a very different map? And what about everything left out of the maps? Isn’t what’s left out far more than what’s included?

HOLDING IT ALL LIGHTLY

For me, and for all of these reasons, it makes more sense to hold these stories and maps lightly, and it gives me more sense of ease. It’s more aligned with reality.

Yes, I have found it fun and fascinating to learn about them. (Since my teens and for about three decades, I read everything by Ken Wilber. I read widely about stage models in general from psychology and spirituality. And I studied developmental psychology and stage models at university.)

Yes, they can be somewhat useful as something I keep in the back of my mind and sometimes check in with.

And it feels better to hold it all lightly. To not invest too much into it.

SCIENCE IN GENERAL

That’s how it is for me with science in general.

I love science and find it fascinating, fun, and helpful.

And yet, I know that the stories from science are maps. They reflect our current culture and understanding. They are provisional. Future generations will see our maps as quaint, at best as partially valid, and often as hopelessly outdated.

Perhaps most importantly, what they leave out is far more than what they include. What they include is likely an infinitely small part of what there is to discover. And what we discover may put what we already (think we) know in a completely different light.

Reality is always more than and different from any story we have about it.

[Read on to see what ChatGPT has to say on this topic.]

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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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“I went against God’s will”

I wrote about this before but thought I would revisit it to see what comes up.

FOLLOWING MY GUIDANCE

In my late teens and early twenties, I discovered I had a strong and clear inner guidance. When I followed it, things fell into place in amazing ways. The following path wasn’t always easy or carefree, but it felt deeply right and life brought me to places – including physical places and communities – that felt deeply right.

I explored following it in daily life, including in the smallest of ways to see what would happen, and also so I got to see what in me feared following it.

In what situations was it more difficult for me to follow it? Not surprisingly, it was typically when other people were involved and my social anxiety, desire for approval, fear of disapproval and anger, and so on came up.

In my mid-twenties, I studied psychology at the University of Utah on a student visa. (I am from Norway.) During a semester off, I went to Nepal and India and met someone literally from around the corner from me in Salt Lake City. (We had mutual friends so it wasn’t as much of a coincidence as it sounds like.) We got into a relationship, and when my student visa later ran out, we had a choice of splitting up or getting married. We chose to get married.

That felt OK, although the decision was confused by several emotional issues surfacing in me: Fear of being alone. (Although I loved that too.) Fear of losing the community at the Zen center I lived at in Salt Lake City. Fear of losing the cool things in the US culture I couldn’t find easily in Norway. (Including psychology classes on ecopsychology, environmental psychology, health psychology, and systems theories.) Fear of losing my beloved Rocky Mountains and desert. (I felt a profound belonging to that land.) And so on.

LEAVING MY GUIDANCE ON A MAJOR LIFE DECISION

But what felt very strongly not OK with my inner guidance was moving to Wisconsin. My wife got into the graduate program there, and I didn’t want to be the one preventing her from following her dreams. Here too, issues came up: I didn’t want to be selfish, I didn’t want to be the reason for her resentment if she didn’t follow her opportunities.

Although I loved a lot about being in Madison – the community, working with sustainability – it also felt deeply wrong to be there. My inner guidance was there always telling me that this was wrong. And that obviously also impacted our relationship. That too started feeling not right and not as aligned as I had wished.

Even after moving to Oregon, which felt far more right for me, the sense of something fundamental being off was there. My inner guidance told me that the relationship was not right. And I still stayed, likely because of a combination of convenience (it was good on the surface and comfortable in a conventional sense) and my issues (unprocessed fears). My guidance was still there, always, telling me that this was not right.

LEAVING THE SITUATION

After some years of this, I did move away and got divorced. And although my outer life now feels much more aligned, my inner sense of alignment is still not quite there.

I still feel an inner sense of being lost and I am not sure if that’s from childhood issues or going against my guidance for so long, or – more likely – a combination.

“I WENT AGAINST GOD’S WILL”

Throughout all this, the discrepancy between my inner guidance and my active choices was deeply uncomfortable and painful for me.

And I added to that discomfort by telling myself I had gone against God’s will. God had plans for me. God told me what to do through my inner guidance. And I went against it. I ruined my life. This was quite traumatic for me.

It took time for me to process this and clarify this more deeply. Through The Work of Byron Katie, I found more clearly that I hadn’t gone against God’s will. It’s not possible. What happens is the divine. It’s God’s will. Even going against my guidance was God’s will.

IT’S ALL TRUE

It’s not something I wish to repeat. It did create a lot of problems in my life. I did get off the track that felt deeply right for me. In some ways, it did ruin my life. I did go against my clear inner guidance. And yet, I did not go against God’s will.

All of this has validity.

The conventional view is true. And it’s true that I didn’t go against God’s will.

FINDING COMPASSION FOR MYSELF

I also find gifts in this.

I got to experience what happens when I go against my inner guidance on a major life decision. (It’s the same that happens when I go against it on smaller decisions, it’s just that it has a bigger impact on my life.)

I got humbled and humanized.

I got to see that it’s possible to recover from this. It’s possible to again follow my inner guidance and get my life back on what feels more deeply as a right track. (I am still in that process.)

I find compassion for myself. Yes, I made a mistake in a conventional sense. Yes, I did it from unprocessed issues. (Passed on possibly for generations.) Yes, it had consequences. And that is very understandable. I was caught up in issues. I didn’t have the outer and inner resources to make a better decision. How is it to meet that with kindness? How is it to meet what comes up in me around this with kindness?

More than that, it’s very human. I got to experience something very human.

And would I have done it differently if I could have? Yes.

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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Holding onto overly simplistic views for safety

It’s quite common for folks who get into healing and spirituality to hold onto simplistic views for safety.

We hold onto it to try to find some distance from the discomfort we are experiencing, created by deeper, more visceral, and stressful beliefs and identities.

PHYSICAL HEALTH AND EMOTIONAL ISSUES

One of these simplistic ideas is that our physical health challenges are created by our emotional issues.

I have this illness, so it must be created by an emotional issue. Working on that issue is the answer.

The reality is often far more complex. What happens locally is the result of movements within the larger whole. The small things we think we grasp are drops in the bucket of what’s actually going on. Innumerable things influence our health and our emotional issues are just one of those.

Yes, it makes sense to explore that aspect of it and see what happens. Most of the time, it won’t hurt, and it may help.

And it also makes sense to recognize that innumerable factors influence our health. Our health is an expression of what’s happening in far larger and more complex systems.

HOLDING ONTO SIMPLISTIC VIEWS FOR SAFETY

Holding onto views, identities, and stories for safety is inherently stressful.

I find it helpful to identify these and explore them.

What is the story? And some underlying and supporting stories?

What do I hope to get out of holding onto it? A sense of safety? Predictability? Having answers?

What happens when I hold onto it? In this case, do I overly narrow my options for how to explore and view my own health? Do I apply it to others and tell them their physical health issues are held in place by emotional issues? How does it impact my relationship with myself and others?

What’s the genuine validity in the reversals? Is it true that my physical health may have other causes as well? Or that the main cause could be something else?

How would it be to hold the initial story more lightly? How would it be to explore the emotional components and see what happens? And also explore other avenues? (Including finding more peace with my health and body as it is?)

WE ALL DO IT

In one way or another, we all hold onto overly simplistic views for safety. It’s what we humans seem to do, at least so far.

And, in reality, any view, identity, and story are overly simplistic.

Any mental representation is different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations.) The terrain is always different from and far more than any map.

What we think we grasp is a tiny part of what’s there, no matter what it’s about.

And what we think we grasp tends to change over time. It’s provisional. It’s not final or absolute.

Noticing our nature while holding onto images for safety

At some point in the awakening process, we may find ourselves in a kind of in-between state.

We notice our nature directly, at least when we pay attention to it.

And we also still hold onto some ideas about what we are and identify as these.

THE BACKGROUND

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

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

This oneness learns that it is this human self happening within itself. It’s this human self that it can only see in the mirror or in photos and videos, can only see partially directly, that others and our passport say we are, and that it senses and lives in the world through. This is how most onenesses operate.

At some point, this oneness may become curious about its nature. It may intuit itself as oneness and consciousness. It may have glimpses of itself as that. It may learn how to notice its nature, and to do so more often through daily life.

NOTICING AND HOLDING ONTO IMAGES OF ITS NATURE

At this point, it will often both notice directly its nature, at least when bringing attention there. And it will create and hold onto some mental representations of its nature.

These may be mental representations of oneness, void, capacity, love, consciousness, and so on. And perhaps even Big Mind, Brahman, Spirit, and more.

IT’S NATURAL

This is a natural part of the process. It’s innocent. There is nothing inherently wrong with it.

The oneness we are is used to holding onto mental representations of who or what it is. It’s what it has learned from others. It’s how it finds a sense of safety, although it also brings friction with reality.

Also, when it discovers its nature, it can feel like a treasure and vitally important, so it tries to remember and hold onto it by creating and holding onto mental representations of it and even identifying as these mental representations.

This too comes with inherent discomfort. It’s something we feel we need to remember, rehearse, and even defend. And that’s a motivation to explore further and find a bit more clarity.

SOME WAYS TO EXPLORE THIS

What are some ways to explore this?

We may need some structured guidance, and here are a few I find useful:

Headless experiments help me notice my nature as capacity and what the world, to me, happens within and as. Here, it’s easier to notice the contrast between a direct noticing and my mental representations of what’s noticed.

Kiloby Inquiries helps me explore any identifications still in my system, including of capacity, oneness, love, and all the other identifications we may create for ourselves.

And the same goes for The Work of Byron Katie. This too helps me identify and explore any ideas I have of what I am.

A SPECIAL CASE OF AN UNIVERSAL DYNAMIC

As suggested above, this is a special case of something much more universal.

The oneness we are notices its nature. It recognizes itself as all it knows. To the oneness we are, the world happens within and as itself.

And it will still, very likely, hold onto a variety of mental representations of who and what it is. It will, at least to some extent, identify as these.

As mentioned, this happens out of old habits and because it feels safe. It’s a natural part of the process. And it comes with discomfort which is an invitation to explore what’s going on and find a bit more clarity around it.

What are some of these mental representations? They typically include a wide range of relatively universal ones. For instance: Gender. Nationality. Political orientations. A sense of lack and not being good enough. A sense of separation. All sorts of shoulds about ourselves, others, and life. And so on.

These are not necessarily wiped out by our nature recognizing itself. Usually, they remain in our system.

And that’s part of the process and adventure.

They are inherently uncomfortable, so we are invited to explore what’s going on, find a bit more clarity around it, and shift how we relate to it.

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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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Jonathan Louis Dent: Imagine if we measured success by the amount of safety that people feel in our presence

I want to live in a society that values helping people feel safe. That’s how we all can flourish.

And this is not only about our personal interactions or what happens in groups. It’s also how we structure and set up our society. Do we have social safety nets so people can feel safe from a life in poverty? Do we support people to get the education they want? Do we encourage people to follow their deepest fascinations even if it doesn’t make personal sense to us?

FINDING IT FOR MYSELF

When I notice that wish in me, I know it’s advice for myself.

It’s an invitation to find ways to bring it into my own life.

I can find and choose to be with people who help me feel more safe.

I can help others feel more safe, as best I can.

And, perhaps most importantly, I can support my own inner community in feeling more safe.

HELPING MY INNER COMMUNITY FEEL SAFE

Growing up, I didn’t learn to consistently make my inner community feel safe. I didn’t learn to consistently support and be there for myself and all the different parts of me and my experience.

Why? Because I didn’t receive it from those around me when I was little. They didn’t know how to do it for themselves so they couldn’t do it for me.

So how do I learn to help my inner community feel safe and supported?

The first step is recognizing when parts of me feel unsafe and unsupported. How does it feel?

How do I habitually respond to it? Do I react? Perhaps with some form of avoidance? An avoidance that takes the form of fear, anger, compulsions, blame, shame, guilt, or something else?

What is my conscious inner dialog? How can I change it so it helps my inner community feel safe and supported? How can I do it in a way that feels honest? (Tricking myself doesn’t work.)

What happens if I do heart-centered practices on my images of others, myself, and different parts of me? If I do tonglen, ho’oponopno, or metta? Does something shift?

What are the stressful stories creating a feeling of lack of safety and support? What do I find when I examine these and explore what’s genuinely more true for me? What are my stressful stories about not feeling safe and supported? What am I most afraid can happen?

What do I find when I dialog with the parts of me that feel unsafe and unsupported? How do they experience the world? How do they experience me? What advice do they have for me? How can I best be a friend and ally to these parts of me?

How is it to notice that these parts and experiences have the same nature as I do? That I am fundamentally capacity for it all? That they are happening within and as what I am? How is it to rest in and as that noticing?

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

As mentioned, I did not grow up around people who knew how to consistently do this for themselves. So I didn’t feel all that safe and supported, and I didn’t learn to do it for myself. And that means doing it for others is also lacking, in spite of my best intentions. So this requires a lot of work and attention from my side. It takes time. I still feel I am just a beginner when it comes to this.

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From seeing to visceral

For some years, inquiry was the center of my focus and something I did daily, whether it was The Work of Byron Katie, the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, the Big Mind process, or just old-fashioned Buddhist sense field exploration inquiry. (This was mostly from around 2000 to 2018.)

I’ll still do more formal inquiry when I am drawn to it, but my focus these days is more on direct noticing and energy healing.

And I also notice a shift. For instance, when I did The Work on a topic in the past, it was sometimes a seeing of what was more true for me a certain topic, and my visceral experience hadn’t quite caught up. These days, I more often notice the visceral experience.

I imagine it may be more of my system catching up to the seeing, and it happens and deepens over time.

For instance, I saw the “I know everyone loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it” quote from Byron Katie this morning, and I notice it resonates viscerally with me. Not with all of me since there are still psychological parts that don’t realize it, but more of me get it viscerally. The overall experience is of getting it more viscerally. When I first saw that quote many years ago, I remember seeing the truth of it but not getting it so viscerally.

And, of course, there is always further to go. There is a lot I haven’t examined yet, and there are many parts of me that have not caught up with the seeing.

May your inner voice be the kindest voice you know

Through intention and new habits, it can be.

Most of us have an inner voice that’s a mix of the voices we heard growing up – from our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, schoolmates, and so on.

And for most of us, not all of these voices as kind. We learned to speak to ourselves in unkind ways, especially in some situations and areas of life.

WHAT UNKIND VOICES DO TO US

What do these unkind voices do to us?

Mainly, they create an atmosphere that feels uncomfortable and unsafe.

At any moment, our inner dialog can turn harsh and unkind.

And this distracts us from our natural kindness, wisdom, and engagement.

It also makes it easier for us to speak to others in unkind ways. The way we speak to ourselves tends to color how we speak to others. We pass on the ways others spoke to us early in life.

HOW DO WE CHANGE THIS?

The first step is to be aware of what’s happening.

What is my inner dialog?

In what situations do the unkind voices come in? In what areas of life?

Then we can learn to see through and replace these voices. We can find where they come from and who spoke to us in that way early in life. We can examine what they are saying and find what’s more true for us. We can intentionally speak to ourselves in a more kind and supportive way.

THE INNER DIALOG WE ARE NOT CONSCIOUS OF

This applies to our conscious inner dialog, and it also applies to the inner dialog that’s here and perhaps not so conscious.

The part of our inner dialog that’s conscious is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest colors our experience as much if not more.

How do we be more aware of this inner dialog? What can we do about it?

The most effective way to explore this may be through different forms of inquiry.

Here, we can identify this inner dialog and learn to see through it. Fortunately, we have a clear sign that unkind voices are operating in us: a sense of discomfort and stress. And structured forms of inquiry can help us with the rest.

If we keep at it over time, our unkind inner dialog will lose its power and be replaced with a more naturally kind, wise, and pragmatic voice.

And there is always more to explore. There are always voices we haven’t seen yet. There are often more essential underlying stressful stories, and more stories in the wider network of stories.

For this, I especially like The Work of Byron Katie for finding underlying stressful thoughts, and the Kiloby Inquiries can do the same, as do many other approaches including cognitive therapy.

AREN’T SOME UNKIND VOICES TRUE, NECESSARY, AND HELPFUL?

That’s what the unkind voices tell us, and when we explore this for ourselves we may find something different.

I find they are not as true as my mind sometimes tells me. There is often some validity to them, but they are definitely not the whole picture, and the fuller picture is typically far more kind.

They are not necessary. We don’t need unkindness or even stress to act.

And they are not that helpful, especially if compared with the alternative of clarity and kindness.

THE OTHER TYPE OF INNER VOICE

I use the term “inner voice” here since that’s what the quote calls it, and it does work.

The term “inner voice” can refer to two different things.

One is our inner dialog, which is what this article is about.

The other is our inner guidance which sometimes but not always takes the form of a voice. Our inner guidance is calm and clear and available for us to listen to and follow or not. It’s neither kind nor unkind, it just offers guidance.

Image: A meme from social media, source unknown (to me).

“I don’t know” is the only true statement?

“I don’t know” is the only true statement the mind can make

– Nisgaradatta Maharaj

These type of pointers is meant as medicine.

In this case, it’s medicine for the tendency to take thoughts – or some thoughts – as true.

And as with any thought, it’s not entirely accurate. It leaves something out.

Mental representations are questions about the world, whether we notice or not. They are maps of the world and help us orient and function in the world. They are different in kind to what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations.) Reality is always more than and different from these maps. And they cannot contain any full, final, or absolute truth.

And that goes for Nisgaradatta’s statement as well. His statement also has limited validity, and there is validity in its reversals.

We can know certain things. We can notice our nature directly. (Our nature can notice and “know” itself in that sense.) We can know things in a provisional, limited, and conventional sense, although these are not final or absolute truths.

His statement is not the only true statement. It doesn’t hold a final or absolute truth any more than any other thought.

In general, I find it helpful to explore pointers in this way and especially pointers from the non-dual world. What are they meant as medicine for? What’s their validity? In what ways are they not so valid? What’s the validity of their reversals?

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I am my own final authority

I find that I am my own final authority, and it’s always that way whether I notice it or not.

CHOICES AND ACTIONS

In terms of my actions and choices, I am my own final authority.

I may tell myself I am doing something because of circumstances, or someone told me, or I was forced to, and so on. And, in reality, I am the one making the decisions. Nobody makes them for me.

Even if I think I did it because others told me to, or because of circumstances, or because I was forced, I was still the one making the decision.

NOTICING MY NATURE

Similarly, when it comes to what I more fundamentally am, I am my own final authority.

Others can tell me. I can read things in books. I can make up any number of worldviews and maps telling me different things.

And I am my own final authority. My own noticing is my own final authority.

What do I find if I set aside what I have been told, and what I am telling myself?

What am I more fundamentally?

What am I in my own direct noticing? What am I when I look in my first-person experience?

A LIBERATING REMINDER

I find it’s liberating to notice I am my own final authority.

I don’t need to get too caught up in blaming circumstances, others, life, and so on for my own choices and actions. I did it. I chose it.

And I don’t need to get too caught up in what others tell me my more fundamental nature is supposed to be. I can look for myself.

GUIDES FOR FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

How do I discover and clarify this for myself?

For me, different forms of inquiry have been very helpful.

The Work of Byron Katie really brings it home to me that I am my own final authority in my choices and actions.

And the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, along with the Kiloby/Living inquiries and The Work, help me notice and explore living from my more fundamental nature.

Religion and invisible friends

Some memes get popular because there is a grain of truth to them. They point out something we already know and most don’t talk about – even to ourselves – because it’s not polite.

In this case, it is true that many treat their images of God and divine entities as their invisible friends.

And it’s true that many religious people argue that they have the best invisible friend, whether to themselves within their own thoughts or also out loud.

WE ALL DO IT

There is nothing wrong with that. It’s natural – with the mind, biology, and culture we have – to imagine gods and divine entities, to take our images as reality, and even to assume that our images are the better ones.

It’s a way to find comfort and a sense of safety, although it’s also a very precarious project. Somewhere in us, we know what we are doing. We know these are images and imaginary friends. We know it doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. And we may feel we need to prop up and defend these images, including by arguing with others about who has the better images and invisible friends.

It’s understandable and a bit silly.

And we all do it in our own way. If we don’t do it with religion, we do it with something else or perhaps just about everything else.

THE NONDUAL VERSION

Even nondual folks do it.

We may recognize the more common images in mainstream society and see that people hold onto them for a sense of safety. And we may overlook that we are doing the same, just with different images.

Instead of images of God and angels, we may have images of oneness, capacity, consciousness, love, and so on. We may mistake these images for reality and what they point to. We hold onto them for a sense of safety. And we may even spend energy propping them up and defending them, whether in our own minds or also out loud.

In addition, nondual folks are like anyone else and have more universal images they may hold as true, including of being a doer, observer, this body, better or worse than others, have lack in certain areas, and so on.

That too is natural. It’s how our minds work.

And it’s good to notice. It’s good to take some time exploring these images and see what’s happening.

The essence of finding our nature is to differentiate our images from our direct noticing. What’s here in my images? What’s here in immediate noticing?

NOTE: Yes, I know it’s very unfair by whoever made the meme to use an image from the IRO, the Inter-Religious Organization. It seems they are doing very good work and promote inter-religious understanding and cooperation. (Not arguing about invisible friends!)

Synchronicity: Losing my wallet

Eleven years ago, I went to Findhorn for an inquiry workshop on money.

The workshop was led by two experienced facilitators in The Work of Byron Katie which I was deeply immersed in at the time. And I went partly as an excuse to experience Findhorn, a place I had heard and read about since my teens, and partly because it was an opportunity to do inquiry with others.

Findhorn is an intentional eco-community that developed in the 70s and 80s and it has a near-mythological status among many in the new age and eco-community world. I loved being there and hope to visit again.

To get there, I flew to Inverness and then took the train to the closest train station to Findhorn where I was picked up by the small Findhorn buss. At Findhorn, I met one of the workshop holders, signed in, and as I was about to pay, I discovered that my wallet was gone. This was quite stressful for me since I was traveling and had my money and credit cards there.

The facilitator gave me excellent advice: Before doing anything else, sit down and put all your stressful thoughts on paper. As I was about to finish this list, the bus returned to Findhorn from another run. I looked under the seat I had used, and found my wallet hung up on some of the metal under the chair. (It was placed so it was safe from others, and only I – who knew where to look – would have found it.)

I spent the workshop doing inquiry mostly on the juicy stressful thoughts on that list.

For me, this was a beautiful synchronicity. I lost my wallet just as I was arriving to an inquiry workshop on money. I wrote down my real and juicy stressful thoughts about losing the wallet and my money. And I got to use that as food for the workshop.

“It’s so easy to be tricked by our senses”

I just heard someone say this, and it is true enough in a rough conventional sense.

We may perceive something that’s not accurate and often do. Most of the time, we may not even notice. And sometimes, life shows us the error in our perception.

A MORE CLOSE LOOK

And yet, it’s not exactly what’s happening.

Our senses don’t trick us, they are innocent.

It’s our stories – about what we sense and anything else – that tricks us.

And it’s not even our stories that trick us. They too are innocent.

We trick ourselves when we naively hold these stories as true.

And we don’t really trick ourselves because, somewhere, we know what’s going on.

EXPLORING WHAT’S GOING ON

We have the wisdom in us, and we can find it by looking a little closer at what’s going on.

We can idenitify the stories we hold as true and find what’s more true for us.

We can explore our sense fields and how our mental representations combine with the other sense fields to create our experience of the world.

We can learn to differentiate our mental representation and what’s here in immediate noticing.

We can notice that our mental representations may be more or less accurate in a conventional sense. That they are different in kind to what they point to. That they help us orient and function in the world. That they cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. And that reality is always different from and more than our ideas about it.

DIFFERENTIATING OUR STORIES ABOUT WHAT WE ARE AND DIRECT NOTICING

We can also explore the difference between our ideas about who and what we are, and what we notice directly. In a conventional sense, we are this human self in the world, and that’s not entierly wrong. And when we look more closely, we may find what we more fundamentally are what the world to us happens within and as.

We are the field all our sense experiences, including our mental representations, happen within and as.

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

How is it to live from that noticing, and as that?

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Set aside looking for God and explore your own experience instead

There are many paths to God, and the two main ones may be devotion (prayer, surrender) and inquiry (investigation). Each one may be important at different times in our process. Both are equally valid and important. Each one offers something unique. And each one can be medicine for the other.

The statement above reflects the inquiry approach, and how the inquiry approach can be medicine for some of the potential pitfalls of an exclusively devotional approach.

WHAT WE MAY MISS ON A DEVOTIONAL APPROACH

If we are exclusively on a devotional path, we may look for God as something far away and out there, unfamiliar and extraordinary. We may get caught up in ideas about God, reality, and ourselves, and perceive and live as if they are true. And we may miss out on recognizing how our mind creates its own experiences.

INQUIRY AS MEDICINE

One medicine for this is inquiry. Through inquiry into our own experience, we may clear up a few misconceptions. We may explore what we more fundamentally are in our own direct experience, and find something we can call Spirit and qualities we associate with the divine.

WHAT WE MAY FIND THROUGH INQUIRY

We may find ourselves as what the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as oneness and the oneness the world, to us, happens within and as. We may find ourselves as without any inherent characteristics allowing for the experience of any and all characteristics and experiences. And so on.

We may realize that our nature is already what we can call Spirit, and it has always been what’s the most close and familiar to us, and for that reason also the most ordinary. We may find that all we have ever known is our own nature since the world to us happens within and as what we are.

TWO WINGS OF A BIRD

Clearing up this, we may still enjoy a devotional approach. The two are not exclusive.

As they say in Buddhism, devotion and inquiry are like two wings of a bird.

THE REVERSE – AND GENERAL ORIENTATIONS

We can also find this in the reverse. An exclusive inquiry approach can be one-sided and a devotional approach can be the cure.

And there are some general orientations that guide and support both devotion and inquiry: Receptivity, curiosity, sincerity, diligence, authenticity, and so on.

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The multiverse of sanity: Healing through alternate realities

The idea of alternate realities – alternate history, parallel worlds, the multiverse – has been popular in fiction for a while and sometimes also in imaginative science.

And we can make use of alternate realities for healing as well.

Here are a couple of examples from my own process:

NEW PARENT DYNAMICS

In our consensus reality, my parents have been married since well before my birth.

And for a while now, it has come to me to imagine my parents as divorced for a long time and with new families, and explore how that is for me and how I am in that context.

Here, I find myself new as well, and I am enjoying it. I feel lighter. Freer. With input from more adults in my life. With a richer and more varied extended family. More people to connect with. More free from the strong dynamic between my parents that has been difficult for me since my childhood.

I enjoy feeling into it and allowing it to work on me and perhaps even transform me.

As with so much else, this exploration is something that emerged on its own and I have consciusly joined in with it. It may have emerged because I have inquired into how it would be if my parents divorced early in my life. I imagine it would be OK and perhaps even good for me in some ways.

Since I don’t live with them, my inner world is where they mostly live. And in my inner world, they can be anyone. So why not choose something that feels healing and live in that world for a while and allow it to work on me? (And, in reality, to me it’s all in my inner world no matter what.)

HEALTHY SCHOOLMATES

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was in a class with a good deal of bullying – mostly of the psychological variety. And I experienced being on the receiving end of it, along with others. (Including my favorite teacher who had a breakdown and disappeared for several months.)

This impacted me and created or reinforced social anxiety, general anxiety, low social self-esteem, and so on.

So it’s something I have been working on, including through a kind of alternate reality.

I see and feel myself back in elementary school. I visualize the bullies, and I visualize them as completely whole and healthy, and kind and wise. I visualize them as the most whole and healthy and even awake version of themselves. (This is a potential they have in them so it’s not that much of a stretch.) And I interact with them and dialog with them here and listen to what they have to say.

For instance, some of them talk about having a difficult situation at home, and they take out their pain on others, including me since I seemed to have a much easier life. (I was good at school, I could answer the teacher’s questions, my family had money and resources, we had a good house, I was athletic, fast and strong, and so on.) Others talk about feeling intimidated by the same people, and joining in with them in the bullying so they themselves would avoid being a target. They all say they love me, are genuinely sorry for what happened, and see the potential in me for full healing from it.

HEALING THROUGH ALTERNATE REALITIES

As mentioned above, to me the world and the past happen within me. So why not explore some alternate realities? Why not feel into how it is for me and how I am in that world? Why not stay with it for a while, revisit it now and then, and allow it to work on me and see what happens?

This is a kind of exploration that reflects and is reflected in our culture’s current interest in alternate realities, alternate history, parallel worlds, and multiverses.

A FEW ADDITIONAL NOTES

I imagine some may see this as “just fantasy” and for that reason not having any effect or being a flight from reality.

For me, it’s different.

It certainly has an effect when I imagine it and explore how I am in that reality and allow it to work on me. It may not be enough in itself for deep and thorough healing, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It pulls in the right direction. It creates a new context that’s very conducive to deep healing.

And it’s not that separated from this version of the world. My parents very well could have been divorced. And these classmates had and have the potential for being whole, healed, kind, wise, and even awake. I am just connecting with those versions of the world.

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Spirituality as indulging in fantasy vs exploring reality

We can define spirituality in several different ways.

I’ll here focus on two very general orientations – indulging in fantasies vs exploring reality.

INDULGING IN FANTASIES

One broad category is the type of spirituality where people indulge in fantasies.

We imagine all sorts of things – about nonembodied beings, spiritual teachers, life after death, karma, and so on. We may even try to pretend it’s true even if we don’t know for certain and cannot check it out for ourselves.

This pretending is not completely successful since we know, somewhere, what we are doing. We know we are trying to trick ourselves, and it doesn’t really work.

And this is also why many view religions and spirituality with – well deserved – skepticism.

EXPLORING REALITY

Another broad category is spirituality as a sincere and honest exploration of reality.

What am I, most fundamentally, in my own first-person experience? What do I find? How is it to explore living from this noticing?

What do I find when I explore how my sense fields combine to create my experience of the world?

What do I find when I explore any mental representation – in words or mental images – I hold as true?

Can I know anything for certain?

THEY BOTH SERVE A FUNCTION

Both orientations serve a function.

The upside of fantasies is that they can serve as a carrot for us. Although they may not be grounded in reality and our own direct noticing, they can give us motivation and a sense of direction. They are also projections, showing us something about ourselves and what’s already in ourselves.

The downside is that they are fantasies. Somewhere in us, we know that we cannot know for certain, so they are not completely fulfilling to us. Something is missing.

So the fantasy approach can be helpful in the beginning of our exploration and tends to thin out as we go along.

The upside of the reality orientation is that it keeps us more grounded and focused on our immediate experience and noticing. It’s more real to us, so it’s also more fulfilling. Especially as we start noticing and living from a noticing of our nature.

OFTEN A MIX

In practice, there is often a mix of the two.

We may indulge in some fantasies, and also engage in sincere practice and exploration of our relationship with the divine, or our nature.

And if we have a sincere orientation, I assume we tend to move away from initial fantasies to a more dedicated exploration of reality.

THE ROLE OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS

Religions and most spiritual traditions inevitably have an element of fantasy, and often a strong element of fantasy. They encourage fantasies.

That’s why, if we have a sincere interest in exploring reality, we have to – at least internally – be willing to question and examine it all and hold it all lightly and place our own immediate exploration and noticing first.

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE

Science has a particular content which reflects our place in time and culture and changes over time, and it also has a methodology that is more universal.

The methodology of science is a kind of systematization of common sense and can be a great support in our spiritual explorations. Learning about the history and methods of science, logic and logical fallacies, and so on, can all be valuable. It can help us avoid some of the pitfalls on the way.

THE FANTASIES

The fantasies come in a couple of different forms.

There are the ones mentioned above.

They are the typical spiritual fantasies – mental representations of something we cannot check for ourselves or cannot know for certain. For instance, what happens after life, karma, angels, avatars, heaven and hell, and so on. It may be ideas of what awakening means and how it will change our life, that it’s a kind of permanent state. It may be ideas about spiritual teachers and how they are and what they can or cannot do for us. It may be ideas about what actions or practices will do for us in the future, or won’t do for us. And much more.

These are often a kind of wishful or fearful thinking. We use them to feel better about ourselves and life, or to scare ourselves. And what they refer to may or may not be real in a conventional sense.

In a more basic sense, these fantasies include any mental representation. For instance, of space and time, past and future, who and what we are, and so on.

These mental representations help us orient and function in the world and test out possibilities.

TWO WAYS OF RELATING TO THESE FANTASIES

We can relate to these fantasies and mental representations in a couple of general ways.

We may mistake them for reality. We don’t recognize them as mental representations and assume they are how reality is.

When that happens, they often have a charge for us. They mean something special to us and we feel something related to them. And as mentioned above, we use them to feel better or worse about ourselves, and they often become wishful or fearful thinking.

We use them to feel safer by telling ourselves we know, whether that is something we see as desirable or undesirable.

We can also recognize them for what they are. We can recognize them as mental representations. We can recognize what these mental representations can and can’t do for us.

They help us orient and function in the world. We cannot know for certain how accurate they are in a conventional sense. And they cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth.

We can notice that we cannot know for certain how accurate they are in a conventonal sense.

We can notice that we cannot find safety in mental representations. It’s not in their nature.

TYPICAL FANTASIES OF THE REALITY-ORIENTED APPROACH

There are some common fantasies in the reality-oriented approach.

For instance, as we begin to notice our nature, we will inevitably form mental representations of our nature. We have mental representations of oneness, consciousness, love, and so on, and ourselves as that.

That’s not wrong or inherently problematic. It’s natural and helps us navigate and talk about it.

And yet, it’s also easy to mistake our mental representations for a direct noticing, and it’s good to examine this and learn to recognize the mental representations for what they are.

MY ORIENTATION

I inevitably have a mix of the two as well, although I have a strong affinity for the more reality-oriented approach.

This is likely influenced by the culture and family I grew up in. (A culture that is secular and largely non-religious, and a family that was focused on science and art and the practical.) And likely because I, before the initial awakening shift, was deeply fascinated by science and a self-proclaimed atheist since I saw religion and spirituality as indulging in fantasies. (Not wrong since most who are into spirituality do that to some extent, in some phases of their process, and in some areas of life.)

Note: This article is an example of what happens when I have stronger brain fog and when my energy goes more into the physical than the mental. It has little flow and is not nearly as succint as it could be.

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Does our timeless nature mean we live forever?

I sometimes hear people say:

My timeless nature means I’ll live forever.

My physical body happens within me so I’ll live beyond this physical body.

For me, it looks a bit different.

TIMELESS IS NOT THE SAME AS ETERNAL

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

I find myself as the timeless that time happens within. I find myself as the spaceless that space happens within. I find myself as what this physical body and the rest of the world, as it appears to me, happens within and as.

And that doesn’t mean that I – meaning this oneness the world to me happens within and as – will live forever, or continue to live beyond the death of this physical body.

IDEOLOGIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

Yes, there may be many religions, spiritual traditions, and ideologies that say that we’ll live beyond this physical body.

There is even some research pointing to that.

And that’s all second-hand information. It’s not something I can test out for myself. I cannot know for certain.

MEMORIES ARE NOT THE SAME AS REALITY

My whole life, from early childhood, I have had what seems to be a memory from between lives and before this life.

When I look, I see that this apparent memory consists of mental images and words, associated with some sensations in my body.

Those mental representations and sensations are just that. They may not point to anything real. Again, I cannot know for certain.

BEING HONEST

I notice that if I tell myself I’ll live forever, or beyond the life of this physical body, it’s stressful.

I tell myself something I cannot know for certain. I tell myself that what to me is imagination is reality.

I know I cannot know for certain.

And that’s stressful. It’s also stressful to have to remember that imagination, recreate it, enhance it, support it, defend it, and so on.

What’s more honest for me is that I don’t know.

I’ll get to see when that phase of the adventure comes.

What I can find here now is my nature. I can find myself as what any content of experience – including time and space and this physical body and the world as it appears to me – happens within and as.

And that’s enough.

There is a joy in being aligned with reality.

In being honest with myself.

The dreamlike quality of reality

To me, the world seems like a dream.

It’s as if I can put my hand right through anything.

And I have some guesses of why it appears that way.

The world as it appears to me – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as what a thought may label consciousness.

That’s the same with dreams. They too happen within and as consciousness.

Does it appear different when the mind identifies as a human self, as something particular within the content of experience? Does the world appear more solid? I almost can remember since the shift happened so long ago, but I assume so. I have heard from several in an awakening process that they notice this dreamlike quality of the world, and it seemed more solid before.

From inquiry, I am familiar with how the sense of solidity of physical objects is created by the mind.

Certain physical sensations combine with thoughts so the sensations lend a sense of reality, solidity, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give meaning to the sensations.

This is how the mind creates anything that seems unquestionably true, including the solidity of physical objects. (This is not about the nature of the physical world, just how the mind is creating its experience.)

Note: This article is originally from one of the Brief Notes posts.

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“I am picking up feelings that aren’t mine”

Some people on a spiritual path experience that they are picking up feelings that aren’t theirs, and feel some distress around it.

In a limited and conventional sense, it may be true they are picking up something from others.

We can sense what’s going on with others, to some extent. Either through picking up signals or even at a distance without any obvious connection.

If this is a pattern and feels overwhelming, there are several ways to work with it. We can practice respecting the boundaries of others, and setting our own boundaries more clearly. We can explore different ways of grounding. We can energize our system so it’s in better condition to deal with what’s happening in our surroundings. We can strengthen our etheric field. (The energy field closest to the body.) And so on.

And there is also another side to this.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever story I have about someone else, or even a particular feeling, I can turn it to myself and find specific examples of how it’s true – here and now and in the past.

When this happens, it’s an opportunity to get to know more sides of myself, and often sides I have shunned in the past.

BEFRIENDING

When people say these things, it’s often because they find the feeling uncomfortable.

So this is an opportunity to get to know the feeling and whatever stories we have about it.

How is it to meet and allow the sensations?

What does this part of me want to tell me? How does it see me? In what way is it trying to help me? What advice does it have for me? How can we find a better partnership?

What story do I have about the feeling? What do I find when I examine this story?

EXAMINING STORIES

Beyond this, what stories do I have about the other person? The one the feeling supposedly comes from? What do I find when I examine these?

Is it true the feeling comes from the other person? What do I find when I examine this story?

What other stories do I have about this situation? And what do I find when I examine them?

HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

Whatever happens in my world happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens in others or the wider world, to me happens within and as what I am.

Whatever happens here in this human self happens within and as what I am.

Most fundamentally, I am capacity for all of it and it’s all happening within and as what I am.

All of it has the same nature. It’s all what a thought may imperfectly call consciousness, Spirit, and so on.

It all has different forms and it’s all “one taste”.

Note: This article is originally from one of the Brief Notes posts.

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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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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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Byron Katie: No one really knows what they are doing

No one really knows what they are doing.

– Byron Katie

I don’t know about others, but it’s true for me. I find I don’t know anything for certain. I am mostly just winging it in life and in whatever I am doing. And from what others report, it seems it’s similar for them.

It’s interesting to explore this a bit further.

I obviously know, to some extent, what I am doing in some areas of life. I know how to write these words. I know how to create a new post here. I knew how to start the computer. I seem to know how to get out of bed in the morning, make breakfast, talk with people. And so on.

And at the same time, the larger picture and the context for my daily life activities is not knowing. I don’t know anything for certain.

I don’t know the wider consequences of my actions. I don’t know the bigger picture of my life and my actions. There are innumerable contexts for how to look at my life that may be as or more valid to me than what I am currently familiar with. I don’t know to what extent my assumptions – about anything including what appears the most obvious – are valid.

And that’s fine. It’s the water we all, I assume, swim in.

The more you feel your feelings….

The more you feel your feelings, the easier it is to understand them.

As usual, I would say ”yes“ and ”no” and ”it depends”.

What do we mean with feelings? For me, it’s anything with a sensation component – what we call physical sensations, emotions, emotional and physical pain, and also states and contractions.

Crucially, beliefs and identifications also have a physical sensation component and a story component, and may be called feelings, pain, states, a contraction, and so on.

I assume the quote mainly refer to sensations and emotions we experience as uncomfortable or undesirable, although it goes for anything with a sensation component.

WHEN IT DOESN’T HELP TO FEEL OUR FEELINGS

We may feel our feelings and emotions in a quick and somewhat reactive way, and that won’t help us understand them. (Or anything else.)

We may feel our feelings and emotions without identifying the painful stories behind them. This won’t help us understand where the feelings come from or what keeps fueling them.

We may feel our feelings and emotionsand get caught up in and actively fuel (some of) the painful stories behind or elated to them, and that won’t necessarily help us examine these painful stories to find what’s more true for us.

BEFRIENDING AND EXAMINING IN A MORE SKILLFUL WAY

And we may feel our feelings and examine what’s going on in a more skillful way.

We can feel the feelings as physical sensations. Notice where in our body we feel it. Notice that they are physical sensations. Rest in that noticing. Notice the (infinite) space they are happening within. And so on.

We can welcome them. Allow them. Notice they are already allowed. (By mind, space, life, existence.)

We can shift how we relate to them through heart-centered practices like ho’oponopono and tonglen. (We can do ho’o towards the emotions or us experiencing them, and we can do tonglen towards ourselves experiencing them.)

We can dialog with the feeling or emotion. How does it experience the world? How does it experience me? How does it see me relating to it? What function does it have? What’s the deepest intention behind it? How can it genuine help and support me? How can I relate to it differently so we can have a more beneficial partnership?

Through dialog – and evoltionary psychology and our own experience – we can come to find the value in the energies of feelings and emotions. Anger, when used in a less reactive way, has energy that helps us get things done and change situations. Sadness helps us contemplate and examine past situations and our painful stories around it, and if used wisely, it may help us find a deeper resolution. Happiness shows us what our personality likes and encourages us to do more of it, and we may also discover that gratitude gives us a deeper sense of contentment and happiness independent of situations. And so on.

We may identify the story components associated with the feeling, see if it’s a painful story, and examine it and find what’s more true for us. (Which is typically far more peaceful.) .We may identify and explore different kinds of stories. For instance, the story which labels the physical sensation creating the appearance of an emotion or physical contraction. The stressful stories creating the contraction. And the stories that create a reaction to the emotion or contraction.

Through these story-level explorations, we may find that the emotions and feelings are here to protect us. They come, ultimately, from love and are an expression of love. And that may make it easier for us to meet them with kindness, befriend them, and get to know them. It makes it easier for us to genuinely thank them for protecting us and for their love for us. And it makes it easier to identify and explore the painful stories they often operate from, which are an expression of confused love, and find what’s more true for us.

We can sit with the feelings and emotions in basic meditation, noticing and allowing them as any other experience. We notice them. Feel the physical sensations. Notice they are already allowed. Notice they come and go as any other content of experience. And perhaps even use it to find ourselves as what doesn’t come and go, as the no-thing that it all happens within and as.

It’s not wrong that I am a human being in the world. That’s what the world, my passport, and my own mind may tell me, and it works relatively well in a practical sense. And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? What I find is that I more fundamentally, to myself, am capacity for the world as it appears to me and what the world happens within and as. I find I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousenss. That seems to be my nature. And when I explore feelings and emotions, I find that they are the same. They have the same nature as I do. They happen within and as what I am, so we share nature. This too shifts how I relate to these feelings and sensations.

In all of these ways, and many more, I can explore and get to know feelings and emotions. I can recognize them as physical sensations with a story component. I can identify and examine the story, and find what’s more true for me. I can make use of the energy within the emotion. I can notice it’s content of experience and comes and goes and changes as any other content of experience. I can use that to find myself as what they happen within and as and find my more essential nature. And I can notice that the nature of the feelings and sensations is the same as my own nature, and rest in that noticing and allowing it to work on me.

This may sound simple when written out this way, and it is simple in a way, but it can also be challenging since most of us learn to avoid certain feelings and emotions from an early age. We learn to ignore them. Pretend they aren’t there. Distract ourselves from them. React to them so we won’t need to feel them or acknowledge them. And so on. The way we react to them can take a wide range of forms, but it’s always compulsive. It can take the form of compulsive work, entertainment, relationships, sex, food, talking, thinking, going into ideologies, going into blame, shame, and victimhood, and much more.

How have I explored sensations and emotions and how I relate to them? Through all of these ways and more over a few decades – basic meditation, evolutionary psychology, Process Work, Big Mind dialog, the work of Byron Katie, Kiloby / Living inquiries, and more recently through the Befriend & Awaken process which is a combination of these.

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Reactions to noticing our nature / finding ourselves as our nature

When the oneness we are notices its nature, what are some of the typical reactions?

In my experience, it depends partly on how and in what context we notice our nature.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

We can notice our nature in a relatively undramatic fashion, for instance through guided inquiry. (Headless experiments and the Big Mind process among other approaches.)

Oneness notices itself.

And because of assumptions and emotional needs, may see it as too simple, too familiar, and not exotic or dramatic enough. It’s not what it thought it would be, so it keeps on looking somewhere else.

Or it may find itself intrigued and fascinated by it and keep exploring its nature. It keeps returning to noticing its nature. It keeps exploring how to live from it. And so on.

The upside of a simple noticing is that it’s often undramatic and simple and we are less likely to be distracted by dramatic experiences. It’s a little easier to notice the essence of our nature – capacity, oneness, love, and so on. And that it’s not about any particular content of experience. Oneness can notice its nature here and now through shifting states and experiences.

The downside is that we may see it as too simple. We expect something more dramatic or exotic, so dismiss it and continue to look somewhere else. Eventually, after some wild goose chases, we may realize that our nature never went anywhere and by neccesity is simple and familiar to us, and we may return to this simple noticing.

FINDING OURSELVES AS OUR NATURE

The oneness we are may also find itself as itself in a more wholesale way, with or without any particular preparation or intention.

This is often a sudden shift, although some seem to experience it as a gradual shift.

The upside of this is that our nature is undeniable. It’s strongly in the foreground of our noticing and experience, and it’s impossible to miss or explain it away.

Even the most dense atheist, like me when this happened, can’t dismiss it.

The downside is that we can easily get caught up in the associated states and side-effects of these more dramatic shifts with fireworks and bells and whistles. We may end up chasing states for a while and miss the simplicity of our nature that’s here across changing states.

MY EXPERIENCE

In my case, the shift happened without conscious preparation and intention and was dramatic, wholesale, and lasting.

Although my nature did notice itself relatively clearly, the drama of the initial shift and the side-effects and states (which my personality found very enjoyable) made me also chase experiences and states for a while. At some level, I was a little confused.

Later, I came to appreciate the simplicity of a simple noticing of my nature – especially guided by the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

The simple noticing helped me clarify the essence of my nature and what this is really about.

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Therapy, motivation, and change

I saw an article referencing studies finding that therapy may have a desired effect for only about half of the clients.

The article frames this as a surprisingly low number, although I tend to be surprised it’s that high.

The number will obviously depend on how it is measured, and it also depends on what people wish to work on and what methods they use.

For instance, there are effective methods for phobias, while depression and trauma may be more difficult and take a longer time.

Also, over time, many psychological issues dissolve or lift on their own anyway.

What I have seen is that motivation is key. If we are highly motivated to change, we’ll find a way. A good match with methods and therapists is obviously important, but if the motivation is there we often find a way no matter what. And if we lack motivation, even the best methods, the best therapists, and the best match is not enough for change and transformation.

I have also found that for more general and deeper shifts in how we relate to life, certain daily practices are often more effective than most forms of therapy. For instance using heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono, or all-inclusive gratitude practices. A sincere daily practice obviously requires motivation.

So where does the motivation come from? What creates a strong motivation?

The main answer, which is not so satisfying in itself, is that it comes when we are ripe and ready.

How can we become ripe? Often, it’s through life experiences over time and through being sincere and honest with ourselves.

And we can invite some of that ripeness and readiness by investigation.

For instance…

What am I afraid would happen if this changed or I was transformed?

What I am afraid could happen if I explore it?

What am I afraid would happen if I found healing for it?

What’s the effect of living as I do? What are the specifics? How does it show up in the different areas of my life? How does it impact my relationship with others? How do I act and live my life with this issue?

How would it be if it wasn’t here? How may my life be?

As with so much, taking an honest and detailed inventory of what’s happening is often a prerequisite for real change.

When we viscerally get that the pain and discomfort of staying the same is greater than the pain and discomfort of change, we tend to be ready and ripe for change.

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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.

Perception of the physical when we notice our nature

How does our perception of the physical change when we notice our nature?

Here is what I find for myself.

CONVENTIONAL SENSE

As a human being in the world, I use and relate to objects as anyone else. I move around. Try to avoid walking into things. Make use of objects. Enjoy experiencing certain things with this body. And so on. All the ordinary and usual things humans do.

CONSCIOUSNESS

And in terms of what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience, this looks a bit different.

To myself, I am consciousness. And the world to me – any experience at all – happens within and as consciousness.

That includes this physical body and anything physical. It happens within and as consciousness, and within and as what I am. It’s as if I can put my arm through it.

A night dream is created by consciousness, and it is made up of consciousness. And so also with this body and the physical world. My experience of it is created by consciousness. And it’s made up of consciousness.

To me, my nature is the nature of my body and any physical object.

If we are so inclined, we can say that all inherently is consciousness AKA God, Spirit, the divine, Brahman, and so on. And if I take a slightly more grounded and sober approach, I’ll say that to me, I am consciousness, and to me, the world happens within and as consciousness. It happens within and as what I am.

IN DAILY LIFE

In daily life, I operate in the physical world as anyone else.

And I also notice the dreamlike quality of the physical world. It’s created by consciousness. It’s content of consciousness. It’s made up of consciousness. This helps me hold it all a bit more lightly.

SHIFTS HIGHLIGHTING THE CONSCIOUSNESS NATURE OF ALL

When I was fifteen, there was a shift where it felt like the world – including this human self – was very far away and seemed like a dream. In hindsight, I see this as a shift into a simple observer-observed duality and a perception of all as consciousness. (It was terrifying and confusing to me at the time. A year later, this shifted into oneness and the perceptions I write about in many of these articles.) This shift gave me an early visceral sense of the physical as consciousness.

Later, I have continued to notice and explore this, including through inquiry and sense-field explorations.

When I explore how my mind creates its experience of my physical body, I find that it’s a combination of mental representations and sensations. In general, certain mental representations (mental images and words) are associated with certain physical sensations, and the mental representations give meaning to the sensations while the sensations give a sense of solidity, substance, and reality to the thoughts. That’s how a sense of a solid physical body is created. And when this is explored in some detail, we see through the illusion and the sense of solidity softens. (Living / Kiloby Inquiries is a good way to explore this.)

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

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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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Grant Barrett: If you find yourself angry or irritated by something… it’s probably because you don’t have enough data

If you find yourself angry or irritated by something about language, it’s probably because you don’t have enough data. 

– Grant Barrett, A Way With Words, episode 1594 Familiar Strangers, about 12 minutes in

Yes, the more we understand the background for variations and changes in language, the more we’ll tend to find appreciation for it rather than being annoyed.

For instance, I remember my uncle being upset about changes in the Norwegian language over his lifetime. If we know that language always changes from generation to generation, and that’s why we have different languages and don’t speak the same as our ancestors, we’ll tend to be more at peace with it. It’s just how it is. Language changes with how we collectively change and it’s how we adapt to new places and conditions. We may find that annoyance gives a place for fascination.

That’s how it is in life in general as well.

If I find myself angry or irritated by something, it’s probably because I don’t have enough data. 

I may not know enough about the other person and her or his background and history and current situation, and what they struggle with and how they deal with it. 

I may not know enough about my own patterns and dynamics, and how I deal with the parts of me struggling and in pain. I may not have thoroughly enough found love for what’s been unloved in me, or seen what’s been hidden. 

I may not know enough about the bigger picture. I may not recognize thoroughly enough how everything is happening within and as what I am. I may not know enough about the bigger picture of life and the play of life. 

When it comes to language, we find there is an innocent and often fascinating and perhaps even beautiful reason why language is as it is and changes as it does. 

And in life, the more I understand and examine it, I find the same. There is often an innocent, ultimately impersonal, and fascinating reason why things are as they are. I may even find it beautiful, and sometimes also heartbreaking. 

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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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Exploring the world like a dream

I like to explore the world similar to how I would explore a dream.

Why?

The simple answer is that they both mirror me at a human level. And, to me, they both happen within and as what I am.

DREAMS AND THE WORLD MIRRORING ME

Any content of my experience is a mirror for me.

My experience of dreams and waking life both show me what’s happening in my mental field. It shows me my assumptions, stories, and beliefs about others, myself, and the world.

I can take my story about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find specific and genuine examples of where and how it’s true.

Anything within my experience, whether it’s a dream or waking life, mirrors parts and dynamics in myself at a human level.

DREAMS AND THE WORLD HAPPENING WITHIN AND AS WHAT I AM

Dreams and waking life both happen within my experience.

They happen within my sense fields. They happen within and as this consciousness.

They happen within and as what I am.

In a conventional sense, and to others, I am this human self in the world. And when I look more closely in my own first-person experience, I find my nature is more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I am what any content of experience – night dreams and waking life – happen within and as.

HOW I EXPLORE DREAMS AND WAKING LIFE

I won’t go into this in detail here since there are many other articles on this topic.

Depending on the approach, I explore what comes up in me in relation to something in a dream or waking life, or I use dreams or waking life as a mirror to identify and explore parts of myself.

I typically use some form of inquiry. For instance, The Work on painful stories related to what’s happening. Or sense field explorations (Living/Kiloby Inquiries) on anything coming up or mirrored including identities, anxiety, or compulsions. Dialog with parts of me triggered or mirrored in dreams or the world. Heart-centered practices towards someone in the world, dreams, or parts of me (tonglen, ho’oponopno). I may identify issues and work on them with energy healing (Vortex Healing). And so on.

And I use some forms of structured inquiry – Headless experiments and the Big Mind process – to find myself as what the world to me happens within and as. (Some like to use lucid dreaming to notice that night dreams happen within and as consciousness, and then see if they can notice that in waking life as well. In my case, I prefer a more direct approach.)

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What are we in our own first-person experience? What do we find in immediate noticing? What do we find through logic?

What are we to ourselves, in our own first-person experience?

This is a question that, quite literally, is central to our existence.

We can explore it in two basic ways.

We can explore it in our own immediate noticing. To the extent we keep noticing and exploring how to live from this noticing, this can be profoundly transforming for what we take ourselves to be, our life in the world, and our human self.

We can also explore it through logic and thought. This, in itself, can be interesting. Although it’s not very transforming. And if we have a deeper interest, it can lead us to explore it in our own immediate noticing.

WHAT ARE WE IN OUR OWN FIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE?

What are we to ourselves, in our own first-person experience? What do we find if set aside any thoughts and ideas about this, and look more directly?

Many of us may not know how to even start this exploration, so it’s helpful to have some structured pointers and a guide who is familiar with the terrain and guiding others in noticing.

The most direct and effective approaches I have found are the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process. These guide us in noticing what’s already here and in finding what we more fundamentally and already are in our own first-person experience.

What I find is that I am this human self in the world, in a conventional sense.

And more fundamentally, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. And I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

I am what this human self, the wider world, and any experience, happen within and as. And a thought may label this consciousness. It’s a rough pointer and works for some purposes.

Noticing this once may give me a kind of reference.

And it’s transformative to the extent I keep noticing it. Explore how to live from it. And invite more of my human self to align with this noticing. (Many parts of my human self and psyche are formed within and still operate from separation consciousness, so a part of this process is to learn how to invite these parts of me to align with oneness noticing itself.)

WHAT DO WE FIND WHEN WE EXAMINE IT THROUGH LOGIC?

We have all adopted a conscious worldview that tells us who we are in the world.

In this context, these worldviews don’t matter so much. (We may tell ourselves we most fundamentally are a physical human self and consciousness is somehow created by the biology. We may tell ourselves we are a soul. We may be a spark of some kind of universal Spirit. We may think of ourselves as having a soul or consciousness as some kind of appendage, without considering the specifics of how that may work. And so on.)

Seeing that aside, what are we to ourselves in our own first-person experience? Can we find something that’s simple and essential, and perhaps even so fundamental that it’s independent of these worldviews?

Here is a set of statements that, to me, make logical sense.

  • There is consciousness.
    • We experience something and that means there is consciousness.
  • There is content of consciousness.
    • Something is experienced and this is the content of consciousness.
    • This content typically consist of this human self, anything connected with this human self, and the wider world.
    • To us, whatever happens is within consciousness.
    • To us, this human self and the wider world happen within consciousness.
  • To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • Even if we – in some objective and third-person sense – most fundamentally are a physical being of flesh and blood, to ourselves we have to be consciousness.
    • To ourselves, we have to be the consciousness that all our experiences happen within and as.
    • Whether we notice or not, we are consciousness and the consciousness the world – to us – happens within and as.
  • To us, the world happens as consciousness.
    • The wider world happens within and as consciousness.
    • This body and human self and anything associated with it happens within and as consciousness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as the consciousness we are.
  • To us, we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness.
    • To ourselves, as consciousness, we are a seamless whole and the world happens within and as this seamless whole.
    • Thoughts create imaginary lines within this oneness so we can orient and navigate.
  • Our nature is more fundamentally capacity.
    • We are capacity for the world as it appears to us.
    • We are capacity for all our experiences.
  • We can also take this a step further…
    • In many cases, we as consciousness take ourselves to most fundamentally be a separate self in the world. This is an experience created by and within the oneness we are, and it’s often quite functional although also inherently stressful. Although it’s not wrong in a conventional sense that we are this human self in the world, assuming that this is our most fundamental nature is out of alignment with our reality.
    • As oneness, we can notice ourselves as oneness and even learn to live from this noticing. This is typically a long process because of our previous habit of taking ourselves as most fundamentally a separate self.

This is just one way to outline it, and I suspect I’ll find a more clear and succinct way to do it at another time.

The essence is that, to ourselves, we have to be consciousness. To us, the world has to happen within and as consciousness. And to ourselves, we are inherently oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

This doesn’t say anything about our more “objective” nature or the nature of all of existence, and it’s relatively independent of worldviews. It may fit within a wide range of worldviews. This is all about what we are to ourselves in our own first-person experience.

NOT FOR EVERYONE

If this question is central to our existence, why is it not central to more people?

Most people have enough with their daily life. They may not be drawn to this exploration. They may not see it as important to them. They may not see any practical use for it. And so on. And that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone needs to collect stamps. Not everyone needs to be interested in this.

If it’s so logical, why is it not recognized logically by more people?

I am not sure. Perhaps they haven’t thought about it this way. Perhaps they are more interested in some “objective” third-person reality rather than our own first-person experience. Perhaps it’s not as logical as it appears to me?

If this is what we already are, why don’t more people (AKA onenesses) notice it?

Here too, I am not sure. Perhaps it’s because we live in a culture that doesn’t encourage this kind of exploration. We are trained to take ourselves as most fundamentally this human self in the world. And we are not trained to explore or prioritize our first-person experience.

A FEW MORE WORDS

This is just a brief outline, and there is a lot more to say about it.

For instance, there is a wide range of practices designed to help us notice our nature and live from this noticing, and to support this exploration.

Basic meditation helps us notice the always-changing nature of the content of our experience, which – in turn – helps us find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

Heart-centered approaches help us shift our relationship with ourselves, others, and the world, and align more with the oneness nature of it all.

Some forms of inquiry help us explore any mental representations (thoughts, identities) we identify with and find a more conscious relationship with these, and it may even invite these identifications to soften or release.

Parts work help us get to know the different parts of us, relate to them more intentionally, and invite them to align more consciously with oneness. It can also, as in the Big Mind process, help us shift into noticing and finding ourselves as our nature.

Training more stable attention helps us with all of this and just about anything in our life.

Body-centered approaches help us relax and ground and train more stable attention.

Ethical guidelines help us notice when we are out of alignment with living from oneness.

Relationships, social engagement, and living in the world, and any reactivity and discomfort this brings up in us, help show us “what’s left”.

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Maybe the day had a shitty you

I love this meme circulating on social media.

We may think we had a shitty day. Is the reverse also true, or more true? That the day had a shitty me?

Was it more about how I was and related to the day than the day itself?