My neighbors the Pentecostals

My neighbors here in Norway are Pentecostals. It’s a Pentecostal meeting house with one or two caretakers living there, and they have a gathering in their garden as I write this.

A part of me likes to think I am somehow “better” or “more advanced” than them. They are there believing whatever they are told, and I am here doing these advanced practices. They are maybe at red or blue in Spiral Dynamics, I am perhaps at the integral level. And so on.

A few things stand out to me: (a) This part of me that likes to think I am somehow “better” does so to make me feel better about myself. It tries to compensate for feeling less than, which has been a part of me since early in life. (b) There is a lot more to life than what spirituality or practices we do, or where we happen to be on the Spiral Dynamics model. (c) I cannot know. I cannot know any of this. Any ideas about better or more advanced are just that, ideas. They are ideas made up by this feeble mind having lots of questions about the world, and those ideas are questions too.

I really don’t know anything about them. Some of them may be doing far more good practical things in the world than me. Some may help others far more than I do. Some ar likely far more kind than I am. Some are likely more wise in a practical sense than I am. Some are likely far more human and genuinely humble than I am. Some may have healed far more than I have. Some likely have far more open hearts than I do. This is very likely true.

I am not better than them. The idea of “better” is created by this human mind, it’s not inherent in reality. And if I were to have ideas about better and worse, many of them would likely be far better than me in many very important areas of life.

It’s a burden to have ideas about being better, just like it’s a burden to have ideas about being worse. It’s a burden because it’s not aligned with reality. It’s an idea invested with a sense of being true.

When I find what’s more true for me, it’s a relief.

It relieves me from having to remind myself about the ideas of being better and trying to prop those up and defend them. It relieves me from having to mentally put on a mask created by ideas to try to feel better about myself. It relieves me from the separation created by holding these ideas as reality itself.

It helps me see myself in them. It helps me see we are all fellow humans and fellow creatures that essentially want the same. It helps me find love for them.

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Liberating parts of me: Recognize it as what I am & awake space

There is a quite simple exploration I have been drawn to for a while.

It feels like the right medicine for me, and it’s a variation of befriending & waking up.

THE ESSENCE

This is the simple version:

(1) Notice one of two things: (a) Something that feels like “other” or my personality doesn’t like. (b) Something that feels more like I or me. (Both come from a mental overlay and are “extra”.)

(2) Recognize it as what I am. It’s happening within and as what I am. It’s happening within and as my sense fields. To me, it’s happening within and as the consciousness I am. There is no I or Other inherent in my field of experience.

(3) Subtly shift into finding myself as that. This is not a big shift, just a shift in emphasis. I am that physical discomfort. I am the anxiety. I am the anger. I am the noise from the leaf blower or the loud music at 3am. I am my images of Trump and Putin. I am this sensation in the back of my mouth that somehow feels more like me. I am the sensations in the head area that feels a bit like me. Take on the that role, shift into being that.

(4) As that noise, what is my nature? As this discomfort, what am I made of? As this image of Putin, what’s my essence? As these sensations in my head area, what am I really?

IN REAL LIFE

In real life, it’s often more fluid and I use whatever seems a good medicine.

I notice something that either seems other or undesirable to this personality, or more like I or me.

I notice I have no head, the world as it appears to me happens within and as what I am, and I am even more fundamentally capacity for all of it. Am I also capacity for Trump? For this bodily discomfort? For these sensations in the back of my mouth? For the sense of being a victim? (This helps me go out of any habitual responses to it.)

How is it to shift into being it? How is it to be the noise? Trump? The anxiety? (This helps me go against the habitual pattern of seeing it as other or to try to push it away.)

As that, what am I made of? (Here, I notice that as the object, I am also awake space. I am what everything else is.)

I like to rest in and as these two. (Noticing that it’s part of the field of experience, and happens within and as what I am, is much more familiar to me. The last two seem more interesting these days.)

Depending on what it is, I may also…

Ask: Is it – whatever it is – an object in experience? Is it an object like any other object? (This helps soften or release identification with it, so it’s especially helpful with what seems more like I or me.)

If it’s a reaction from this human self – anxiety, anger, sadness, attraction, aversion, a compulsion – I may say: Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me.

And it usually ends where it began: Notice it’s all happening within and as what I am. What I am is capacity for all of it.

A FEW VARIATIONS

There are a few variations to this.

As mentioned, I tend to explore two types of things: (a) What seems “other” or my personality doesn’t like. And (b) what seems more like I or me. (Both come from a mental overlay and are “extra”.)

There are also two ways to do it: (a) I explore what’s here now. Or I (b) scan and take time with what seems to need this exploration. I scan through what my personality doesn’t like – people, situations, emotions, sensations, etc., or what seems like “other”, or what seems more like I or me.

There are two general approaches: (a) I sometimes use dialog and elements from the Big Mind process. (b) Or, more often, I just notice and shift in a more natural way. The first can be a little more clear and can bring out more, but also can feel slightly structured and artificial. The second is sometimes less clear but feels more natural.

MAY NEED FAMILIARITY WITH OTHER EXPLORATIONS

This is what I am drawn to these days.

Why? Because it feels like medicine. It feels like medicine for the subtle tendency – from old habits of this personality – to see something or someone as other, or undesirable, or more like I or me. It’s one step further than just noticing all as happening within and as what I am. It’s a slightly more thorough exploration. It invites more of me – more of my psyche – onboard with oneness.

I assume it may not work for everyone. It seems like an exploration for a particular phase of the path, one where our nature recognizes itself and parts of our human self are not quite aligned with it.

It rests on familiarity with our nature, and it also helps to have experience with some forms of inquiry and dialog.

And it is very similar to what others talk about. For instance, Pamela Wilson uses the welcome/thank you and notice it’s nature approach. Genpo Roshi with his Big Mind process, helps us shift into different aspects of what we are and explore ourselves as that – and Big Mind. I love both approaches. There is nothing new in the way I explore it these days, although it’s also inevitably always new and different.

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Shift into and notice what I am made of: a variation of befriend & awaken

I woke up noticing anxiety this morning. That has happened for some days now, and my sense is that this is old anxiety, perhaps triggered by things now.1

Through grace, I started exploring it.2

Thank you for protecting me. This is a reminder that it is protecting me. It is here to take care of me. It comes from love. It’s my psyche trying to protect me.

What are you made of?

I notice it’s made of the same as everything else in my world, consciousness. It’s easy to notice it consciously and “globally”, but not all parts of me know it (yet) so I take time noticing. I invite more parts of me to join in with the noticing.

This feels slightly, “outside in”, so I shift more intentionally into the anxiety. I feel it, become it, notice I already am it. Then I ask the question again. What are you made of? As anxiety, I notice what I am made of and rest in and as that noticing.3

This is just a subtle shift4, and it can make a lot of difference. It makes it more visceral. In the visceral is where the magic happens.

A VARIATION OF BEFRIEND & AWAKEN

It’s a slight variation of the befriend & awaken process.

I notice something come up, parts of me my habitual patterns may wish to push away.

I shift into and find myself as it.

I notice what I am made of.

I rest in and as that noticing.

I revisit it as those parts come up in daily life. It may be just a brief moment while I am doing something else, or it may be through setting aside one or a few minutes to explore.

NOTES

(1) When something comes up – anxiety, sadness, grief, anger, reactivity, compulsions of any kind – it’s worth exploring if it’s rooted in something old. Often, it is.

(2) Grace is what allows it to happen. Even habits come from grace. Remembering that it’s a possibility, and actually doing it, are both grace.

Distracting myself from it is more uncomfortable for a few different reasons: It doesn’t make it go away, it just stays in the background. I know what I am doing, and that it doesn’t really make sense. Going into distractions usually means I am doing something I otherwise wouldn’t, so I do something less meaningful and fulfilling and less in line with what’s more deeply rewarding to me. So I am always grateful when grace allows me to explore and be with it instead.

(3) The two first parts – thank you and what are you made of – is what Pamela Wilson and others talk about. The second part, shifting into being it, comes from certain approaches to parts work, including the Big Mind process and Genpo Roshi. Really, it’s just very natural and comes from the wisdom in each of us.

(4) The shift is a shift in emphasis and it intentionally goes against old habits. My old habits wish to push the anxiety away, so instead, I go into it and find myself as the anxiety.

This is a very simple practice, and it comes from a lot of time spent in other kinds of explorations: Basic meditation, headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and parts work and dialog in general. I am not sure if that’s necessary for this much simpler exploration. It probably isn’t. But it’s been part of my journey.

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The stories we put on weird experiences

What stories do we put on weird1 experiences?

What do those stories say about me and my worldview? How do they impact my life? How can I find more kind, accurate, and useful stories?

In many ways, those questions are as or more important than the “truth” about these experiences, and what we can find through regular scientific research into them.

I have experienced and gone through a number of states that can be called spiritual. If I took these as some kind of goal or place to get back into, I would create a lot of problems for myself. I would be on a wild goose chase. Instead, I chose to see them as highlighting aspects of what I am, aspects of my nature. I ask myself if I can find the essence of it here and now. That seems more kind, wise, and useful, and I am sure there are other ways to look at it that may seem even more insightful and useful.

I have periods with frequent and amazing synchronicities. I can try to figure what they mean as if there is some meaning inherent in them waiting to be found. That seems stressful since I can never know if I have found it, and it also looks like a wild goose chase. Instead, it seems to point to me being in a kind of flow state and following my inner guidance. I can see if that seems accurate. I can also see it as a question about reality: Perhaps all is connected in a far deeper way than it looks? Perhaps all these surface expressions are movements within a seamless whole? I can also take it as a reminder that the universe seems like a seamless system.

As a kid, I had what seemed like flashbacks to between lives. I shifted into a state of disembodiment and all as consciousness and love. I was profoundly at home, beyond anything I can imagine in this life. It brought up longing and some grief in me. I can try to figure out if this is how it really is between lives. I can try to tell myself I know this is how it is between lives. Again, that’s futile since I cannot know any of that for certain, and somewhere in me I know that. I cannot successfully deceive myself even if I try. Again, it seem more wise, kind, and useful to use it as a pointer for what’s here now. Can I find it here and now? (The answer is yes, I can find it here and now. The essence is the same although it doesn’t look exactly the same, and it’s generally much easier to find it than it has been at some points.)

I seem to be able to sense to some extent what’s going on in the system of others and invite in healing at a distance. Again, I could try to tell myself I know that this is how it is and perhaps even how it works. And again, that’s futile since I know I cannot know for certain. It’s far more comfortable for me to hold the questions and keep exploring. The sensing and healing seem to work, so why not keep exploring it?

I have precognitions, either through dreams or in waking life. Many of these seem accurate. I dreamt I would live in Oregon fifteen years before it happened2. I dreamt I would live in a neighborhood with a very particular schoolhouse in South America, and that happened roughly thirty-five years later3. I also often have a sense of how situations will unfold, and when that sense has a certain quiet solid feel to it, it often turns out to be correct. (Hopes and fears can muddle it, of course.) I find it useful to see these as questions more than anything else.

My nature seems to be able to recognize itself and this whole field of experience as happening within itself. I could tell myself stories about how this is awakening or enlightenment, or that it’s a full awakening, or that it’s some kind of endpoint. It’s the same with this as with the other examples. It seems obviously not true. Those are stories and I cannot know any of it for certain. On the contrary, it seems that this is an ongoing process of exploration, clarification, deepening, maturing, healing, and so on. I cannot find any finishing line. That’s far more comfortable and it seems more aligned with reality.

I seem to have what could be called insights. I could tell myself these reflect some final, full, absolute truth. That seems stressful and it would require a lot of work to try to talk myself into it. The reality is that I cannot know. They seem provisional and more like questions about the world than anything else. I am sure there are other ways to looking at it that would make more sense to me now or will in the future. Taking it that way is far more comfortable for me. It seems more aligned with reality. (And that too is provisional and a question.)

To me, waking life seems like a dream. It’s all happening within the consciousness I am, just like night dreams. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. These too are questions more than anything else. If I got caught up in the mental mirroring (representations) of it and told myself that’s how it is, it would distract from the actual alive noticing. Holding those stories as questions frees up attention to actually noticing.

I could tell myself that having weird experiences with the “spiritual” label on it makes me special. That too seems stressful because it’s not true. Many if not most people have unusual experiences once or several times. Many have had far more experiences than me. (It’s not a competition.) I didn’t choose or create any of these experiences, they just happened. I cannot keep them or make them come back. They live their own life. At most, some of them are pointers for aspects of what I am and what I can find here and now.

I have had ghost and UFO experiences. Again, I could make up stories about these and tell myself I know how things are. I don’t. I can explore and have questions about it, and that’s about it. That’s more interesting and aligned with reality, and allows me to keep exploring.

With the things that relate to something “out there” – ghosts, UFOs, synchronicities, and so on– I take it as only “out there” in the world. That way, I would miss out on the richness of also seeing it in here. I can notice that it all happens within and as my sense fields, and that my sense fields happen within and as the consciousness I am. I can identify my stories about them, turn these stories to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true.

These are all provisional stories, and I keep exploring to see if something else may seem more useful for me. Of course, to be useful, they also need to be as sincere, honest, and true as possible – in a conventional sense and in my experience.

NOTES

(1) When I say “weird” it means weird as seen in our mainstream culture. Something that doesn’t fit the mainstream materialistic worldview and the views of our current science. In some subcultures and in most other cultures, it will not be seen as weird. It fits their worldview. (For a couple of hundred years, our culture has worked to shed superstitions, and that’s good. Now, it may be time to include some of it again, and to do so in a more grounded and science-based way.)

(2) I was a teenager and lived in Norway at the time, and had absolutely no intention to go to the US. I didn’t like much about the US so it was very far down the list of places I wanted to visit and even less live in. Through a set of circumstances, I did eventually find myself in Oregon and in the setting described in the dream.

(3) I almost fell out of the car when I saw that schoolhouse while we were in the process of buying the land. At some point, we had given up since it seemed impossible – there was no road access – but the dream suggested that it would happen. Now, I can see that school from our tiny house.

Image by me and Midjourney

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A shift in identity

I saw the thumbnail for a video from Adyashanti called The shift in identity1.

Is awakening a shift in identity?

As usual, the answer for me is yes and no and it depends.

SHIFT OUT OF IDENTITY

The simple answer is that awakening is a shift out of identity. It’s a shift from identifying with and as mental field representations (thoughts) and into our nature recognizing itself. The consciousness we are recognizes itself and shifts out of identification with and as ideas. It shifts out of identification with and as parts of its content, and into the field it already is which allows and is all of its changing content.

In that way, it’s not really a shift in identity, it’s a shift out of identity.

A KIND OF SHIFT IN IDENTITY

Of course, you can say that it’s a shift in identity, in a more loose and approximate sense. It’s just that the identity it shifts into is of a different kind. It’s not an identity that’s created by the mental field. It’s more a visceral conscious being of what we already are.

Of course, this can be reflected in ideas in the mental field, which makes it possible for us to communicate with ourselves and others about it. (A side note: The consciousness we are can then take another step and identify with that idea. It can make it into a mental identity for itself, a kind of head on top of the head as they say in Zen.)

For me, this is more of a shift in our center of gravity. I wouldn’t really say it’s a shift in identity since it can easily be misunderstood.

YES & NO & IT DEPENDS

So, yes, in a loose sense OR if you take consciously being what we already are as a kind of visceral identity independent of ideas.

No, since it’s a shift out of identifications.

And as with most things, it depends on how you want to talk about it.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

In the oneness shift in my teens, this was all in the foreground, and recognizing it was unavoidable. What I am what any content of experience – this human self, the world, any ideas about any of it, any identification with any of it – happens within and as.

That continued. At the same time, this psyche and system has some of its old dynamics and habits. Parts of my psyche still operate from separation consciousness. These parts identify with ideas and identities. And that will color perception, choices, and the life of this human self in the world. It seems inevitable.

That’s why I have continued to explore all of this through meditation and different forms of structured and organic inquiry. It’s a process of inviting more parts of me more deeply and viscerally onboard with the general and “global” recognition of this.

CAVEAT

I haven’t watched Adya’s video so don’t know how he talks about it. From what I know about him, I suspect the essence is similar although a lot more clear and insightful than this! As I have mentioned in other articles, I haven’t been able to take in much in terms of teachings for about fifteen years now. That’s partly because I was full, similar to having eaten too much food. Mainly, it’s because CFS and brain fog make it difficult to take in any information that requires more than minimum processing. The upside is that I am brought more fully back to myself, my own noticing, and what’s live for me here and now.

NOTES

(1) Sorry, embedding of that video is disabled from YouTube’s side.

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René Magritte: People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image

People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it. They are afraid. By asking what does this mean?’ they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things.

– René Magritte

That’s how it is in life as well. A part of us wishes to eliminate mystery by telling ourselves we understand, we know what’s going on.

Why? Likely in the hope of finding safety. We think telling ourselves we understand makes us safe.

If we don’t reject mystery, we have a different response. We ask other things.

We know we don’t know. We cannot fully know. We live in and as mystery.

We can still use stories. We can still understand in a conventional sense. We may even be an “expert” on something in a conventional sense. And yet, we don’t know any of it for certain. We know the limits of stories. We rest in and as mystery.

This is not just about our conscious view. Many parts of us hold stories as true even if we consciously tell ourselves we don’t. That’s where inquiry comes in. It can help us identify and examine these stories parts of us still hold as true.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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What are you painting? It’s a self-portrait

A man walks up to Tove Janson painting a dramatic nature scene.

What are you painting?

It’s a self-portrait.

I am watching Tove, a movie about Tove Janson, the Finnish author and artist who is the mother of the Moomins. I love it so far, and especially that scene.

Whatever we create is a self-portrait, even if it’s just walking down the street or drinking a glass of water.

More than that, anything in our world is a self-portrait.

The way I interpret and perceive something says something about me. It reflects my background, experiences, biases, orientation, dreams and hopes, hangups, and so on. (It reveals something about me.)

Whatever story I have about it, I can turn it around to myself and find specific and genuine examples where it fits. I can find any dynamics and characteristics I see in the wider world also in me. (I find The Work of Byron Katie very helpful here.)

To me, it’s happening within and as what I am. My world is happening within and as the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. In that way too, anything is a self-portrait. (This comes from my nature noticing itself.)

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The nature of different parts of reality

Whether we notice or not, we all operate on assumptions about the nature of reality.

So why not make our assumptions, often absorbed from our culture, conscious?

Why not explore what’s more true for us?

THE NATURE OF WHAT I AM

The nature of what I am to myself is the most immediate. It’s the only one I can check out for myself.

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world, the way many others see it and my passport tells me. It’s an assumption that works relatively well, although there is some inherent stress in it. It’s stressful to be an object in a world of objects. And it’s stressful to hold onto assumptions not aligned with reality.

When I look, I find that to myself, I am more fundamentally something else. I am what this whole field of experience happens within and as. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

A thought may call this consciousness, and as this consciousness, I have a lot of characteristics described and pointed to by mystics through time and across traditions.

For instance, I cannot find boundaries and that can be called oneness. When the oneness I am notices itself, the way I relate to all is a kind of love independent of feelings or states. (Which can easily be covered up by the hangups of this human self.) Waking life and night dreams both happen within and as the consciousness I am. All I have ever known is my own nature, taking different forms.

I also find that I even more fundamentally am something else. I am capacity for all of it. I am capacity for consciousness and for this consciousness forming itself into the field of experience that’s here.

See articles tagged who and what I am for more on this.

THE NATURE OF THE WORLD

So what’s the nature of the world? Of this Earthly world with people and nature and culture?

I cannot know for certain, but it makes sense to me to assume it’s more or less as it appears. This human self lives in a world full of other people and nature. (Any other assumption tends to create weirdness and unnecessary complications.)

THE NATURE OF OTHERS

What’s the nature of others?

Again, I cannot know for certain. Based on logic and reports, I assume their nature is the same as mine.

To themselves, they are likely consciousness. They are likely what their world happens within and as. They are likely capacity for all of that.

That goes for all beings that we say “have” consciousness. If they have consciousness, then to themselves, they inevitably have to BE consciousness and the world, to them, happens within and as that consciousness.

THE NATURE OF REALITY

What’s the nature of all of reality?

Here too, I cannot know for certain.

I know how it appears to me. It appears as consciousness. And I know why it appears that way. The consciousness I am notices itself, and it notices that the whole field of experience happens within and as the consciousness it is, so everything inevitably appears as consciousness. That doesn’t mean that is the nature of all of existence.

I find it useful to assume that the universe and all of existence is a seamless evolving whole. It’s a dynamic system with wholes and parts and the parts are themselves wholes. (Holarchy.)

Whatever the nature of this whole is, I call it reality and even the divine. To me, the wholeness of reality as it is – which I cannot know for certain – is God.

I am open for materialism being true. Perhaps our most fundamental nature, in a third person view is this body. Perhaps the consciousness we are to ourselves somehow comes out of this body. It’s possible.

It’s also possible that all of existence is consciousness. Some signs hint at this, for instance, distance sensing and healing, precognition, persistent series of undeniable synchronicities, and so on. (These can also be explained in other ways.)

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

As I mentioned, I have done a lot of inquiry on inherited assumptions about reality.

When I was sixteen, there was a shift into oneness and perceiving everything without exception as consciousness. The consciousness I am noticed itself and that it forms itself into any and all experience.

At first, it made the world appear very unreal and it was quite disturbing to this human self. After a while, after some years and decades, it became a new normal. All appears as a dream since it’s all happening within and as the consciousness I am, and that’s fine.

I have been lucky (?) enough to just assume that the world is mostly as it appears filled with people and other beings. At a human level, I just live normally. (I know some can get into weird ideas here.)

I have taken some time to take in others as consciousness to themselves and to include all beings. This is something that needs to be absorbed and unfolds and deepens over time, and there is further to go.

When it comes to the nature of all of existence, I find it interesting that it’s not more common to differentiate between how it inevitably appears to us (all is consciousness) and reality itself. To me, it seems helpful to make that distinction. It makes me freer in how I think about things and how I can talk about it with others. Sometimes, I can take a more materialistic view. Other times, I can take the view of all as consciousness. Both have value and I enjoy being fluid with it. (See posts on the small and big interpretations of awakening.)

The essence of this is that the only thing I can explore for myself is my own nature. The rest are questions and assumptions, something to hold lightly, and it makes sense to be fluid and pragmatic about which assumptions I use.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Action gives hope

Action gives hope. When I act to support life and create a more life-centered civilization, in however small ways it may be, it gives me hope. I feel I can make a difference. I feel we all can make a difference.

This is one of those things that seems obvious when we know it from our own life and may not occur to us before we experience it.

As usual, there are a lot of wrinkles here.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH

It’s also helpful to come to terms with death – the death of ourselves, our loved ones, this civilization, and even humanity. What comes together falls apart. Death is what allows anything to be. Death and impermanence is what gives space and birth to all we know, and all that was and will be. We wouldn’t be here without it. For all the grief and pain we may experience because of it, it’s also an immense and immeasurable blessing. It helps to let all of that sink in.

COMING TO TERMS WITH DEATH + FINDING HOPE

We can come to terms with death, even the possible near-term death of our civilization and humanity, and also find hope. They are not mutually exclusive. We contain multitudes.

And we don’t know what’s going to happen. We can only put one foot in front of the other and do our best. We can be a good steward of our own life and our role in the world.

NOTICING OUR NATURE

When we notice our nature, and examine our relationship with thoughts, hope is not as important anymore as it may have been before. We don’t really need hope. We have here and now, which is more than enough, and hope is revealed as a story about the future we cannot know anything for certain about.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS

I have explored these things since my teens.

I have taken action to make my life more life-centered and sustainable in different ways, and also worked on community projects (through Sustain Dane and other organizations). Even small actions make a lot of difference. These days, I find myself helping to reforest and regenerate 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, which is immensely meaningful to me.

I have spent quite a lot of time coming to terms with death and impermanence, and finding genuine appreciation for it. (Although it often also brings up grief, sadness, and despair in me.)

I have explored my relationship with thoughts, including within the context of my nature noticing itself and through structured inquiry.

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Do more awaken these days?

I have written about this before and will briefly revisit it:

Some folks seem to think that more people awaken these days compared to the past.

IS IT TRUE?

It’s impossible to know if it’s true or not.

To know, we would have to (a) have a solid and reliable definition and way of sorting people into one category or the other, and (b) have done global studies at different times through history using representative samples. We would also have to assume that all of this yields solid data, which is unlikely.

That has not happened, and likely won’t happen unless there is a major shift within academia and our collective worldview and priorities.

WHY MAY IT APPEAR THAT WAY?

What are some reasons why it appears that more awaken these days?

It may be selection or confirmation bias.

(a) We know about more people who awaken than before because of global communication and the internet. Anyone these days can have a blog like this one, or join the many online groups and communities on these topics.

(b) Also, the vast majority of the ones who were awake in the past are likely unknown to us. Information about them is lost to time. We only know of the rare few who happened to become public personalities and whom we still have records of. (Today, a very small fraction of the many who awaken are publicly known, and there is no reason to think that was different in the past.)

There are more people in the world, so it makes sense if more awaken. The percentage may be the same or similar to before, which means a higher number.

More may actually awaken for whatever reason. For instance, because there is easier access to teachers and effective methods these days. If we are in a situation where our system is primed for awakening, there are more resources to help shift the system into that state.

MAKING USE OF THE QUESTION

As usual, I am less interested in the conventional answer to the question and more interested in how I can make practical use of it.

The question is an invitation for me to think about it soberly. To identify my hopes and fears and biases, and think about it in an honest and grounded way, as much as is possible for me.

It’s also an invitation to look more directly at my stories and projections.

As mentioned, it may be wishful thinking. Do I hope it’s that way? What do I hope would come out of it? If I tell myself more awaken, what do I find when I examine that thought? If I tell myself it would be better, what do I find when I examine that thought? What am I afraid would happen if it’s not true?

It can also be another form of projection. It may happen here, and I may not notice it fully, so I imagine it in the world instead. I imagine in the world what’s happening here.

WHO OR WHAT AWAKENS?

I am writing about awakening here as someone who awakens.

That’s understandable and not wrong, and yet it’s also not the whole picture.

To most, it may look like someone who awakens. It’s lived through and as a person. And if the other is identified primarily as their human self, then they’ll tend to see others that way as well. To them, it looks like a person who awakens.

To ourselves, it’s a release of identification out of being anything in particular within content of consciousness. What we are awakens to itself and out of these more limited identifications. It’s the consciousness we are, or the wholeness we are, that awakens to itself.

I would say that it’s the consciousness we are that awakens to itself. It’s consciousnesses awakening to itself, or not.

Another side to this is that it’s not one or the other. It’s a process with a lot of nuances and wrinkles.

I tend to see it more as a degree of awakeness in a system. It’s more or less stable through daily life and different situations. More or less of our psyche is on board with it. Our center of gravity is more or less in our nature recognizing itself. We have more or less maturity in how we live from and as it. Our human self is more or less healed and mature in a conventional sense. And so on.

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A story about ears & earbuds and really about the mind

For the last few weeks, I have thought I was losing hearing in my left ear. I haven’t noticed it in daily life, but when I use earbuds, and specifically when my head is on the pillow and I use only one, I notice that I need to turn the volume on the left ear up two steps.

I made a plan to set up an appointment with an ear doctor, and yesterday while in the car, I also had a thought: Maybe I should check the earbuds first? I did, and it turned out that the problem was with the earbuds and not my ears.

It was comical, and it’s a story about the mind.

One of the functions and gifts of the mind is to make assumptions, to create a connection between A and B. It helps me function in daily life and the wast majority of these assumptions are innocent and turn out to be correct. (Assumptions about physics etc.)

At the same time, it’s good to check out some of those assumptions when I can, especially the ones about myself and others that may not be correct and have consequences for how I live my life.

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What is trauma?

A common definition of trauma is that it’s what happens when our system cannot process what’s happening with us. It becomes overwhelmed and deals with it by creating trauma.

TRAUMA AS A COPING MECHANISM

That makes sense to me. Trauma is clearly a coping mechanism, as is any hangup or emotional issue. In the situation, it’s the best way our system knows how to survive and manage.

HOLDING A THOUGHT AS TRUE TO FIND A SENSE OF SAFETY

We can look at it through the lens of beliefs. Our system creates painful beliefs in order to find a sense of safety. A situation is overwhelming and scary, it creates some beliefs for iself to find a sense of safety, and those beliefs are often painful.

Why do beliefs seem safe? I assume it’s because they give us a sense of certainty. Our mind can tell itself it knows. It knows how something is. That may seem preferable to not knowing and being at the mercy of life.

THE REALITY OF IT

It seems a little silly when it’s laid out like this.

Holding a thought as true doesn’t provide any safety at all. If anything, it makes us less receptive and flexible. It creates a fixed view and identity which makes us rigid and less able to respond well to life and situations. In many ways, that’s less safe than knowing that we don’t know for certain.

Holding a thought as true is also inevitably uncomfortable. It creates friction, stress, and distress. Life will inevitably rub up against any belief and identity we have, and that’s stressful. Also, our mind needs to spend a lot of energy to maintain it. It needs to remind itself about it. It needs to prop it up. It needs to defend it. It often elaborates on it. It needs to look for evidence for its truth. And so on.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE TAKE A THOUGHT AS TRUE?

What happens when our mind holds a thought as true? It identifies with the viewpoint of the thought. It creates an identity for itself out of the thought. In a sense, it becomes the thought. It perceives and lives as if it is the thought.

EXAMINING WHAT’S GOING ON

All of this is hidden from the mind unless it takes a closer look and examines what’s really going on. We live it without realizing what’s going on. When we take a closer look, we can relate to all of this a little more intentionally. A thorough examination may even lead to some of these identifications to fall away. The thought is still here, and recognized as a thought and not true in the way our mind initially saw it.

DIFFERENT SUBPERSONALITIES OPERATE ON DIFFERENT BELIEFS

I should also mention that it’s not that straightforward. Different parts of our psyche tend to hold onto different thoughts as true. Several parts of me believe thoughts that I – as a whole – do not subscribe to, and they inevitably color my perception and life. That’s why a practice to identify these beliefs can be helpful. If I notice something triggered in me, it’s helpful to identify the thought or thoughts behind it, see if I can find related and underlying thoughts, and then investigate these.

EXPLORING THROUGH THE SENSE FIELDS

Of course, there are many other aspects to trauma and many other lenses we can use to understand it.

For instance, we can still explore beliefs and identifications, but we can examine it through our sense fields. We can look at how our mind associates certain thoughts with certain sensations, and how the sensations give a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts, and the thoughts give a sense of meaning to the sensations. As we keep peeking behind the metaphorical wizard’s curtain, the illusion tends to lose it’s reality.

BODY TENSION

Exploring the sense fields in this way also gives us some hints about how traumas – and emotional issues in general – tend to create body tension. Our mind needs sensations to lend a sense of solidity and truth to thoughts, so to have those sensations available it seems to tense up certain muscles to create tension and sensations that go with certain thoughts. Each thought has its own tension pattern, and these seem to have a mix of universality and individuality. If a belief or set of beliefs is regularly activated and perceived from and lived on, it’s likely that it’s associated with a chronic tension pattern in the body.

RIGHT CONTAINER

If we are to explore this, and we have trauma in our system (as most of us do), it’s important to do it in a good setting: Guided by someone experienced, and someone we like and trust. Having enough time to explore, process, and settle after. Knowing we can stop it ourselves at any moment, and be encouraged to do so. Doing it in very small portions at a time. Doing it in an atmosphere of safety, understanding, and support. Avoid overwhelming our system again.

EXPLORE FOR OURSELVES

If we are drawn to it, this is something we can explore in different ways.

I find The Work of Byron Katie to be very helpful in identifying and examining stressful beliefs. The Kiloby Inquiries (KI) is excellent for exploring how it all unfolds in the sense fields. Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) is an excellent way to release chronic tension from the body. I also know that many love Somatic Experiencing (I have less experience with that approach although have found the books useful).

Personally, I have mostly used the three first approaches. I started with The Work of Byron Katie almost twenty years ago and did it daily for many years. I have been the client and facilitator for many KI sessions over the years, including with many clients. And I have used TRE regularly for several years, and still use it off and on.

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The princes in the tower: Buying into Tudor views on Richard III and what it says about us

I have been following Philippa Langley’s work for about a decade now, after initially hearing about her fascinating story of how she found Richard III in a car park in Leicester. Yesterday, I listened to a Gone Medieval podcast episode where she talks about her research into what happened with the princes in the tower.

For centuries, historians and the public at large have largely bought into Tudor propaganda about Richard III, including that he had the princes in the tower killed because they were rivals to his throne. While all the time, there was an absence of contemporary documents suggesting they died at that time, and other documents strongly suggesting that the princes lived for years later.

WHY IS THIS INTERESTING?

Why am I interested in this?

It’s not because I am particularly interested in Richard III, although I am generally interested in history.

It’s because it says something about us – individually and collectively.

BUYING INTO PROPAGANDA RATHER THAN LOOKING AT REALITY

In this case, we have the Tudor family that violently took over the throne of England. They were concerned about their perceived legitimacy, so they wanted to bolster their image by depicting Richard III – the king they disposed of – as a shady character. They received support in this project from many who saw the benefit of being on their good side, including Shakespeare.

Historians apparently largely bought into this propaganda, including the story of Richard III having the princess in the tower killed. They were happy to base it on works of fiction and the popular view without closely examining the data supporting or contradicting that story.

WE ALL DO IT

We all do this. We all buy into certain stories because it’s a popular view or because it gives us something. We often do it without closely examining the stories and what supports or contradicts them.

We do it collectively, and we do it in our own life.

Fortunately, we all also have a Philippa Langley in us. We have a part of us willing and able to investigate to find what’s genuinely more true for us.

WHAT ARE SOME COLLECTIVE EXAMPLES TODAY?

I’ll give a couple of examples of how we collectively seem to be doing this today. These are my typical bee-in-the-bonnet examples (!).

WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

One popular view is that we most fundamentally are this human self. We are fundamentally this person, a doer, an observer, and so on. Even most philosophers and psychologists seem to buy into this view without apparently examining it very closely through phenomenology or logic. It may or may not be accurate in a third-person view, but is it what we most fundamentally are in a first-person view?

What I find is that to myself, I am more fundamentally consciousness and the world to me happens within and as that consciousness. And I am capacity for all of that – I am capacity for the consciousness I am and all that it forms itself into.

We can find the same through logic. If we “have” consciousness, then to ourselves we must BE consciousness. And if the world to us happens within and as consciousness, it happens within and as the consciousness we are. The consciousness we are forms itself into our whole field of experience. It’s all we have ever known. This consciousness has no outer edge. To us, we are oneness and the world happens within and as oneness. We are even more fundamentally capacity for all of this. And so on.

GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT

Another is a set of collective assumptions about our ecological crisis. For instance, that it’s mostly about climate change, we still have time to deal with it, someone else will do it, and we can solve it through technology or peripheral tweaks to how we collectively organize ourselves.

This is obviously a naive view. We have been in a global ecological overshoot for decades. We would need more than two Earths to support our current collective consumption. That means that we are spending from our ecological “savings account”. This looks more or less OK for a while until we hit the bottom, and then our lifestyle collapses. In this case, it’s the planet’s ecosystems that collapse and our civilization with it. It’s inevitable when we are in ecological overshoot. There is no other way it can end.

WHY DO WE BUY INTO THESE STORIES?

Why do we collectively buy into these stories even if the data is available to show us something else?

I assume it’s similar to why historians have bought into the Tudor propaganda about Richard III.

It’s the popular view so it’s more convenient and comfortable to buy into it. We may be socialized into these views and don’t find a reason to question them.

Going against it is often inconvenient and uncomfortable. We’ll find ourselves in the minority. We’ll meet resistance. Our views may be dismissed and ridiculed.

We may not feel we have the time or energy to investigate closely. Something else seems more important, interesting, comfortable, and so on.

We have other priorities. We may prioritize agreeing with the popular views and being included. We may prioritize living our life without adding extra revolutions and changes. We may prioritize something else over what we would find is more true for us. We may prioritize comfort.

HARNESSING OUR INTERNAL PHILIPPA LANGLEY

How can we find and harness the Philippa Langley in us?

One is to examine our priorities. What’s most important to me? To hold onto my views or to find what’s more true for me? To stay with what’s familiar or to open myself up to something new and different and something my mind may not be able to predict in advance?

Another is to examine my fears around it. What do I fear would happen if I prioritize what’s more true for me? What do I fear would happen if that happens? And so on. How likely is it to happen? Am I willing to have it happen? Would I be able to deal with it?

In general, I find that inquiry is very helpful here combined with sincerity and a willingness to prioritize reality over my personal preferences and wishes and fears. Of course, that’s not something I can always do in all areas of life. But I can investigate one area and one line of assumptions at a time, and do it with as much sincerity I can find in me. And I can use my experience of friction – discomfort and stress – as a pointer to when and where I am holding onto assumptions that are out of alignment with reality. In find that the Work of Byron Katie is very helpful here, as are the Kiloby Inquiries.

Why would we do this? Isn’t it more comfortable to just go along with our current ideas of how things are?

It may seem more comfortable. What I find, through examination, is that it’s actually more comfortable to find what’s more true and honest for me. Living is a fantasy is inherently uncomfortable. It’s something my mind needs to create and defend. It’s out of alignment with reality so there is inevitably friction between my views and reality. Finding what’s more true for me is more peaceful since there is less to defend and there is less inherent friction. (There will always be some friction since there is always more layers and and more to examine.)

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

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

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

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

WHAT MAKES SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TO ME?

What makes something beautiful to me?

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

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

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

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

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

LAYERS OF BEAUTY

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

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

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

WHAT ABOUT THE TERRIBLE THINGS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

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

My mind creates the beauty I see.

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

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Wanting to be saved, waiting to be saved

Hindus have been waiting for Kalki for 3,700 years.
Buddhists have been waiting for Maitreya for 2,600 years.
The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah for 2,500 years.
Christians have been waiting for Jesus for 2,000 years.
The Sunnah has been waiting for Prophet Issa for 1,400 years.
Muslims have been waiting for a Messiah from the line of Muhammad for 1,300 years.
The Shiites have been waiting for the Mahdi for 1,080 years.
Druze have been waiting for Hamza Ibn Ali for 1,000 years.

Most embrace the idea of a “savior” and claim that the world will remain full of wickedness until this savior comes and fills it with goodness and justice.

Maybe our problem on this planet is that people are waiting for someone else to come and solve their problems, rather than doing it themselves.

– Imtiaz Mahmood

Why do we feel a need to be saved? It must be because what’s here is uncomfortable, sometimes even apparently unbearable. If we envision something as big as divinity saving us, it must be because our discomfort appears equally big. (I am obviously talking very generally here.)

SAVED BY SOMETHING OUT THERE

It’s also interesting how our human mind often wants to be saved by something “out there” – somewhere else and/or in the future. It’s understandable, of course. It would be nice. And most of us did experience something similar in infancy so it is perhaps deeply ingrained in us.

There is some truth to it too. We may find something or someone that makes us feel better for a while. We may find some comfort, love, safety, and so on. That’s wonderful.

And yet, it comes with some inherent drawbacks. It won’t last. It’s dependent on circumstances. It doesn’t go quite as deep as we really wish for. And it may not happen in the first place.

SAVING MYSELF HERE AND NOW

So what’s the solution?

I can only speak for myself and as it looks to me now, and as so often, the answer may appear a bit boring and sobering.

The answer is that I am my own savior. I am the one I have been looking for. My mind is projecting this part of myself out there in space or time, while it’s here all along.

Why can it seem like a disappointing answer? It may not seem true to us. We may think there is some truth to it, but we don’t know how to do it. We try and it doesn’t seem to do much. Or perhaps our mind has invested so much energy into images of saviors out there that anything else seems pale in comparison.

Yet, it is true in my limited experience. (Our experience is always limited, no matter how much we have explored something.) And it’s also what others report.

HOW DO I SAVE MYSELF?

How do I save myself?

It depends on the situation, to some extent.

In some situations, action is required to make a change. In this case, I can (partially) save myself by taking action or asking someone to take action on my behalf. Sometimes, I save myself by asking for help.

And parallel with that, it’s in how I meet my own experience.

When I experience distress, I often ask myself: How would a good – wise, kind – parent comfort a child in this situation? What would she or he say? How would he or she meet the child? And then relate to the suffering parts of myself in that way.

These parts of us are here to try to protect me. So I say: Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. You are allowed to be here. Stay as long as you want.

I sometimes dialog with these parts of me. How do they see me? What function do they have? How would they like me to treat them? What do they need from me? The Big Mind process is very good for this.

I have done a lot of heart-centered practices, including towards myself and these painful parts of me. Two of my favorites are ho’o and tonglen.

What I am trying to be saved from is typically stressful thoughts and associated unpleasant sensations, so I can identify and investigate these thoughts (The Work of Byron Katie) and notice and allow the sensations. I can also investigate more thoroughly how thoughts and sensations combine, and how the mind creates identifications out of it, for instance through the Kiloby Inquiries.

I invite in healing for these parts of me – the wounded, scared, traumatized parts – in whatever ways work for me.

I notice my nature and rest in and as it. I can notice that these parts of me, the scary thoughts and uncomfortable sensations, have the same nature as me. It’s consciousness, the consciousness I am, forming itself into all of it. What happens if I rest in and as that noticing?

There is usually an immediate shift from these explorations. And my experience is that it also takes time. My system mirrors a culture and family that trained me to look outside myself for solutions and did not always show me how to meet myself and my experience with kindness. So it takes time to turn the ship. It’s ongoing. But it does get fuller, deeper, and richer over time.

SAVING MYSELF IN A VARIETY OF WAYS

None of these are mutually exclusive. I can save myself in a variety of ways.

If I find some of what I am looking for in someone or something, I can enjoy that. (Knowing it depends on circumstances and may not last.)

And I can also give myself more directly what I need and be my own savior in that way. I can take action, and I can be a better friend and parent to myself and my own experience.

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My nature and the nature of thoughts reveal each other

What I have seen – over and over – for the last 35 years is that my nature and the nature of thoughts reveal each other. When my nature recognizes itself, the nature of thoughts is revealed. And when the nature of thoughts is revealed, my nature recognizes itself.

It’s that simple, and not that simple. And the exploration and living from it is an ongoing process.

RECOGNIZING MY NATURE MAKES IT EASIER TO RECOGNIZE THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

When I find myself as what the field of experience happens within and as, identification is released out of the content of experience. More accurately, it’s released out of thoughts. Out of identifying with the viewpoint of a thought, and holding the thought as true.

That makes it easier to recognize the nature of thoughts. I recognize thoughts as thoughts. They live their own life. They are questions about the world. Their function is to help this human self navigate and operate in the world. They cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

RECOGNIZING THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS MAKES IT EASIER TO RECOGNIZE MY NATURE

I can also examine the nature of my thoughts and use that as a way to clarify how I notice my nature.

A general intellectual understanding is not going to do much. The magic happens in specific, grounded, and thorough examination of my most cherished thoughts.

I have often used The Work of Byron Katie to identify and examine specific thoughts and find what’s more true for me.

And I have also used sense field explorations to see how the mental field creates outlines, labels, and so on about everything to help my mind make sense of it, and to thoroughly examine specific identifications. I find the Kiloby Inquiries especially helpful here.

Both of these tend to reveal my nature, although it can take time and require a thorough examination of my most basic assumptions and priced thoughts and identities.

THE MUTUALITY

In my experience, these two explorations go hand-in-hand and mutually benefit each other.

Finding my nature helps me recognize the general nature of thoughts, and resting in and as my nature while exploring specific identifications can help the charge to release out of these.

Examining my thoughts helps to clarify my nature and to live from it in more situations. There will always be parts of me holding onto certain (often painful) thoughts as true. These inevitably color my perception and life and are sometimes triggered more strongly. So it helps to examine these more thoroughly. It reduces the “separation consciousness” load in my system.

A FEW MORE WORDS

I thought I would add a few words about my nature and the nature of my thoughts, even if I have written about it in other articles.

MY NATURE

It’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. This particular human self has a special relationship with what I more fundamentally am.

And I am more fundamentally something else. (I don’t even need to look because it’s right here.) I am more fundamentally what it all happens within and as. To me, the content of the field of experience – this human self, others, and the wider world happen – happens within and as what I am.

Said another way, I am consciousness, and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness.

This is not just an idea. It’s a direct and inescapable noticing.

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

The nature of thoughts is also what anyone would say who has looked into it.

Thoughts are here to help me orient and navigate in the world. This mind creates mental representations as a kind of map of the world and uses that to help orient which, in turn, helps this human self function in the world.

Thoughts are questions about the world. They are different in kind from what they point to. (Unless they happen to point to other mental representations.) They function as a kind of map of the world. They are abstractions. They are more or less valid and accurate in a conventional sense. They inevitably highlight, distort, and leave out. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth – that’s not their function.

The world is always more than and different from our ideas about it, and also less.

And this goes for any and all mental representations, even the ones we may take the most for granted like ideas about who and what we are, this human self, that there is a doer and observer here, that matter exists, that we and the world are – more or less – as we think they are, that others did something to us, our needs and desires, and so on. They are all questions about the world, here to help us orient and guide.

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Thinking for ourselves?

I sometimes see people talking about the importance of thinking for ourselves.

What does it mean?

CONVENTIONAL SENSE

I was into it too in my mid-teens, as most teenagers are. (It was a big topic in my middle and high school to the point where it became an ongoing joke.)

It’s natural for us to branch out and explore ideas, information, and worldviews outside of what we grew up with. It’s part of growing up. And it’s good to examine and re-examine our own ideas, assumptions, worldview, and the information we operate on.

What’s typically happening is that we exchange one set of ideas, orientations and sometimes worldviews for another, and one that better matches us and our situation. We adopt views, orientations, and worldviews from other subcultures and sometimes other cultures.

In this sense, it’s not possible to completely “think for ourselves”. It’s always influenced by others and our wider culture and civilization.

EXAMINING THOUGHTS THEMSELVES

We can also examine our thoughts themselves, for instance, through inquiry.

We can learn to identify and examine our thoughts and beliefs and find what’s more true for us. The Work of Byron Katie is excellent for this.

We can also examine how our mental field creates an overlay on the world which helps us orient and navigate, and how our mind associates certain mental field representations with certain sensations. The thoughts give meaning to the sensations, and the sensations lend a sense of solidity, reality, and truth to the thoughts. We can use traditional Buddhist sense-field inquiry to explore this, or modern versions like the Kiloby Inquiries.

Through these kinds of explorations, we can find the nature, gifts, and limits of thoughts, and that can be very helpful. We recognize that thoughts – including our most basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world – are questions about the world. They are here to help us navigate and function in the world. They can be more or less accurate in a limited and conventional sense. The world is always more than and different from our assumptions about it, and also less. And thoughts cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

BIASES

In general, it’s good to be aware of our biases.

Our personal experiences, subcultures, culture, biology, evolutionary history, and so on all color our perceptions, views, values, worldviews, and life.

We cannot escape it, and why would we? It’s part of the richness of the world. But we can be aware of it. We can be aware that everything about us and our history shapes our perception and orientation. We can also be aware of how our biases color some specific views and orientations, especially when we compare ours with those of others.

THOUGHTS LIVE THEIR OWN LIFE

We may find that we are never “thinking for ourselves”.

Thoughts happen. They live their own life as anything else.

We can notice a thought appearing. Where did it come from? Then it goes away. Where is it going? They just seem to happen and live their own life.

This is easiest to notice when identification releases out of content of experience and we notice what we more fundamentally are. (That which any content of experience happens within and as.) When identification releases out of thoughts, we notice they happen on their own and live their own life.

We can explore and get a taste of this through inquiries like the Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

INFINITE CAUSES

We may find that anything appears to have infinite causes. We can always find one more, and one more, stretching back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of space.

In that sense, “we” are not thinking. It’s all of existence thinking locally here in and as this mind.

ALL TOGETHER AND MORE

This all comes to mind when I hear people talk about “thinking for ourselves”.

In a conventional sense, it means to explore and examine and variety of ideas, assumptions, information, and worldviews, and find the one(s) that makes the most sense to me now. This is all always up for revision, of course. It’s good to notice that it’s all coming from somewhere else, we are not really “thinking for ourselves”.

It means to be aware that we have innumerable biases and be on outlook to identify some of them and how they color our perception and life.

It means to examine thoughts themselves. What’s their function? Their gifts? Their limits? What do I find when I examine specific thoughts and assumptions? What do I find when I explore the mental field and how it interacts with the other sense fields, and especially body sensations?

How is it to notice that thoughts live their own life? That they happen on their own?

How is it to notice that they, like anything else, have infinite causes? That it’s really all of existence thinking here, locally?

Image created by me and Midjourney

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“I love you, but I love our ecocidal civilization more”

For decades, we have been in a global ecological overshoot.

If we continue, it can only end one way: A dramatic ecological collapse, and with it the collapse of our civilization. (We are in an escalating phase of that ecological collapse now.)

So why don’t more people take it seriously?

Why do so many, in effect, say to their children: “I love you, but I love our ecocidal and suicidal civilization more”?

THE CRUX OF THE SITUATION

The crux of this situation is not – as many think – greed, corporations, governments, lack of technology, or similar. These all exist within a system that’s out of alignment with ecological realities. People are just fulfilling their roles in this ecocidal and ultimately suicidal system.

The crux is the system itself and the worldview it comes out of.

We have a civilization out of alignment with ecological realities.

For instance, our economic system assumes unlimited natural resources and an unlimited ability of nature to absorb our waste and toxins. This system was developed at a time when we had few enough people and simple enough technology so we could make those assumptions. These days, with billions more people and far more advanced and effective technology, it’s ecocidal and suicidal.

What type of worldview does this come out of? We have a worldview that assumes separation. We don’t viscerally get that our own health and well-being is intimately related to the health and well-being of our larger social and ecological whole. We assume, as mentioned above, unlimited nature while we live as part of a limited planet.

Even more fundamentally, we have a civilization that reflects a power-over orientation. We seek power over ourselves (just look at the orientation in many self-help books), others, and nature. And one that assumes that divinity is a sky-god removed from us, nature, and the universe. By removing divinity from ourselves and nature, we open it all for abuse.

The alternative is a power-with orientation where we seek partnership and cooperation with ourselves, others, and nature. And seeing divinity in nature and the universe, which leads to relating to it all with more reverence, respect, and gratitude.

There are workable alternatives. It is fully possible to have an individual and collective worldview that treats ourselves, others, and nature with reverence. And it’s very possible to have a system where what’s easy and attractive to do, individually and collectively, is also what supports society, ecosystems, and the lives and well-being of other species and future generations of all species. It’s a matter of priorities and collective will.

WHY DON’T WE TAKE IT MORE SERIOUSLY?

So why do so many – through their words and actions – prioritize supporting this clearly suicidal civilization over the lives and well-being of their children and grandchildren? Why do they continue to vote for the same politicians? Why do they feed themselves and their children food grown with poison? Why do they clean their houses with toxins? Why do they use pesticides in their garden? Why do they have a sterile lawn instead of a natural garden that supports life? Why do they continue to live as if we are not in a massive ecological crisis?

As usual, there are many possible answers.

We live within this system so it’s difficult to break out of it and live very differently. Our system makes what’s easy and attractive to do also, often, damaging to our life-support systems.

Many have enough with their daily lives. We don’t feel we have the resources to deal with the bigger picture or long-term thinking.

It requires intention and effort to change our worldview, way of life, and who we vote for with our money and ballots. It’s easier to put it off.

The change required may go against our identity. We have built up an identity around a certain political orientation and way of life, changing it all requires us to go outside of that identity, and that seems difficult and scary.

We live in denial in different ways. We tell ourselves that…. nothing is happening, we have time, others will take care of it, we’ll find a technological solution. We distract ourselves (being busy, entertainment, scapegoating, going into harebrained conspiracy theories, and so on.)

Many misdiagnose the situation. As mentioned above, they think it’s about greed, human nature, corporations, governments, lack of technology, and similar things existing within the system. In reality, it’s about the system itself and the worldview it reflects. Some also seem to think our crisis is mostly about climate change while it’s far more fundamental than that. In theory, we can solve climate change, and we’ll still go into ecological collapse if we don’t solve the overshoot problem itself.

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

I don’t know. We can just do our best and see how it unfolds.

Our current civilization will end, as they all do. In the best case, it will transform into a more ecologically sound civilization.

Very likely, we’ll have to live through a massive ecological collapse first. It seems difficult to avoid, considering how far we already are into it, and how most people distract themselves with literally anything else.

And that means a massive loss of different types of species, and – again in the best case – a massive reduction in the size of humanity.

So what do we do individually?

SOME THINGS WE CAN DO

Here is some of what I have done.

I have educated myself about the situation. Early on in life, I learned about overshoot and ecological footprints, studied systems views, and so on.

I aim to orient myself to reality. I try to take a sober and informed view of our situation while also knowing I cannot know for certain how it all will unfold.

I find joy and meaning in my connection with the larger whole, through the Universe Story, the Great Story, the Epic of Evolution, Deep Ecology, and the Practices to Reconnect.

I am working on transforming my worldview – intellectually and viscerally – in the same way, and also through different forms of inquiry.

I have made myself somewhat familiar with what happens when civilizations decline and end. What we see in the world today is partly typical for our civilization, and partly what we would expect when it’s in decline. (That includes people distracting themselves with conspiracy theories, or attaching to super-optimistic views of a coming golden age, lots of people waking up, and so on.)

I take small actions in my daily life. I eat organic, local, low on the food chain, and with the seasons as far as possible. For many years, I only bought (very cool and high-quality) second-hand clothes. When it’s possible, I buy food from local farmers. And so on. Doing this helps me feel that it’s possible to change and that I am contributing, in a small way, to the solution.

I have also been involved in other ways. For several years, my self-created job was to coordinate a relatively large group of people with a passion for sustainability. We used a consistent partnership-oriented and solution-focused approach. These days, I am the steward of 15 hectares in the Andes mountains and we work on a long-term regeneration project there to help the land back to a more diverse and vibrant state.

I remind myself of what I am grateful for. At times, I have done a daily all-inclusive gratitude practice. (Write and send a list to a partner that includes what it’s easy to find gratitude for and what’s challenging, this helps open the mind to find the genuine gifts in anything that’s happening in my life.) Other times, it happens more spontaneously in daily life.

I know that endings, change, and death is what opens space for something new. The early relatively uniform state of the universe gave way for particles and matter. The death of stars provided more complex molecules that formed themselves into this planet and us. The death of species opens space for other species. The death of previous civilizations created space for ours. The death of individuals creates room for new individuals. Another civilization may come after ours. Eventually, after humanity is gone, other species may develop their own civilization. And so on. I know this intellectually and am deepening into a visceral knowing of it.

I have sought out communities of like-minded people. I was involved with an amazing sustainability organization in Madison, Wisconsin. I was active in natural building and permaculture groups. I did a work trade at an organic CSA farm in Wisconsin.

I notice my more fundamental nature. I bring my more fundamental nature to the foreground of attention. I find myself as what the world – to me – happens within and as. I find myself as capacity for it all. That helps to release some entrenched identification with this human self, a sense of doer or observer, and so on. I sometimes use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process to explore this further. In the past, I did a lot of basic meditation (notice and allow what’s here in the field of experience) to invite my more fundamental nature to notice itself and rest in and as that noticing. This too is something my system is viscerally deepening into.

I have done a lot of inquiry on stressful beliefs and identifications (The Work of Byron Katie), and on my sense fields to soften the charge in identifications (Kiloby Inquiries).

I use heart-centered practices to help shift how I relate to whatever is here – thoughts, emotions, sensations, others, situations – and so on. Mostly ho’oponopono and tonglen.

I have done a lot of body-centered practices like taichi, chigong, yoga, and Breema. This helps shift how I relate to my body and myself and life and helps me find more nourishment and grounding.

I have also done a lot of practice to train a more stable attention. Mostly, bringing attention to the sensations in the nose from the breath.

I have done and am doing healing and trauma work to help shift how I relate to whatever is here in experience and invite healing for issues in themselves. I find Trauma and tension Release Exercises (neurogenic tremors and movements) very helpful. And these days, I mostly use Vortex Healing.

I am sure there is a lot more that doesn’t come to mind right now.

Helpful contexts for my life

I find I have a few contexts for my life that seem helpful

I can also call them pointers or reminders.

Here are some of them, as they look to me now.

DON’T KNOW & QUESTIONS

I don’t know anything for certain, and mental representations are questions about the world.

The nature of thoughts is that they help me navigate and orient in the world. They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. They are questions about the world.

The map is not the terrain. Stories are different in kind from what they point to, unless they happen to point to other thoughts. The world is always more than and different from any stories about it, and also less than any story.

To explore: The Work of Byron Katie. Philosophy of science.

MY MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

In one sense, I am this human self in the world, just like my passport and how most people see me.

And I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the field of experience – this human self, others, the wider world – happens within and as.

I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as this consciousness. The consciousness I am forms itself into all these experiences.

To explore: Big Mind process. Headless experiments. Basic meditation (over time!).

WHAT WE MOST FUNDAMENTALLY WANT

I can’t speak for all other beings, but I have found some things I – and the different parts of me – more fundamentally want. It’s variations of love, acceptance, connection, safety, belonging, coming home, and so on. If I take a surface desire for anything at all and trace it back to something more essential, I tend to arrive at one of these.

These seem essential and I suspect they are quite universal, based on what I see in the world and what others say.

There is something even more fundamental, and that’s a wish to find our nature, to consciously come home to what we already are. That gives us, in one sense, all the things we look for.

And that doesn’t mean that our human self doesn’t have wants and wishes that we can find the essence of and find ways to fulfill – mainly by giving it to ourselves here and now, and also in life.

To explore: Inquiry, tracing our wishes back to their essentials. What do I hope to get out of it? What do I hope to get out of that? And so on.

THE WORLD IS MY MIRROR

The world is my mirror. Whatever characteristics and dynamics I see out there in others and the world is also here. I can take any statement about anyone or anything, turn it to myself, and find more than one genuine example of how it’s true. (Including true at the moment I have the thought about someone or something else.)

This is wonderful in several ways. It means I can use my thoughts about others and the world to discover more about myself. It means I can find more of my own richness in myself and in how I live my life. I can explore outside of what I thought were my limits and boundaries, created by identities and ideas about myself. I can more easily recognize myself in others. And so on.

To explore: Projection and shadow work. The Work of Byron Katie.

OVERSHOOT

Our civilization is in overshoot. We are using far more resources than the planet can generate, and we are putting way more waste and toxins into the planet’s circulation than it evolved to deal with.

We would need two planets to provide for the resource use of humanity as a whole, and five or more to provide for the resource use of the Westernized and industrialized world.

This cannot continue.

That’s serious enough in itself, but there is something more serious. This is like spending money from our savings without replenishing it sufficiently. It looks fine for a while, until it’s empty and our lifestyle comes crashing down.

In our case, it’s not only our lifestyle that comes crashing down. It’s likely our whole civilization.

Will we be able to transition into a new and more ecologically sound civilization? How will the crash impact us? How many will die? How many species and ecosystems will die in the process?

We don’t know but it will likely be very challenging for us and any other species.

To explore: Articles and books on overshoot and the ecological footprint.

DEATH GIVES LIFE

What comes together falls apart.

That goes for this universe, this living planet, our current civilization, humanity, each of us, and everything we know.

Our mammalian psyche may have a problem with that, but it’s actually wonderful.

It’s how anything is here in the first place. It’s how we are here.

We are here because all the states the universe has gone through have come and gone. Stars died and provided most of the matter making up this amazing planet and us. Species died and made space for us. Individuals died and made space for us.

Death opens up space for something new. Death is how we are here. Death is how anything is here.

Impermanence is even how we can experience anything at all. Each moment is gone and opens space for a new one.

Our civilization will be gone, perhaps opening space for a new one. Humanity will be gone, opening space for other species to perhaps eventually create their own civilization. This universe will likely be gone, opening space for a new one.

It’s all a kind of a dream. What’s here is gone, opening the space for something else.

To explore: The Universe story, the Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History.

HAPPINESS, CONTENTMENT, MEANING & GRATITUDE

Happiness comes and goes. Often, what creates happiness are small things in daily life. Holding someone’s hand. A hug. A kind word. Ice cream. A good meal. A beautiful sunrise. And so on. We can set up our life to create moments that spark happiness.

Contentment can come in different ways. We may live a life in integrity and be in relative peace with ourselves. We may relate to ourselves – and especially our distressed parts – with kindness. We may find our nature, our more fundamental home, and find contentment there. We may have been lucky with our parents and upbringing, naturally relate to ourselves and live our life with kindness and wisdom, and find contentment that way.

Meaning is again something else. We can find meaningful activities in our life, and those are often about creativity and expression, being of service to others and the larger whole, or a combination of the two.

Finding gratitude can contribute to each of these. I can find gratitude for the things my personality naturally is inclined to find gratitude for. (I have shelter, water, food, family, friends, a beautiful day, the song of birds, a kind word, and so on.) I can also do a more radical gratitude practice where I find gratitude for everything in my life, whether my personality tends to like it or not. This can bring about even more profound shifts.

To explore: Psychology that addresses these topics. See also this book.

KINDNESS TO OURSELVES

Some of the essentials I seek are love, understanding, safety, and so on.

I can give those to myself. I notice a distressed part of me, and I can meet it as a kind and wise parent would a child.

If our parents didn’t consistently do this for us, we likely didn’t learn to consistently do it for ourselves, so this can take intention, attention, and practice. It can be a lifelong process and more than worth it.

To explore: Resources on reparenting ourselves. Heart-centered practices like Ho’oponopono and tonglen directed toward ourselves. Self-compassion. The Befriend and Wake up process I have written about in other articles.

EVOLUTIONARY CONTEXT

I like to see behavior in an evolutionary contest. It helps me find useful and kind stories to understand myself, others, and other species.

We just traveled with our cat to a new place, and she was hesitant to drink the water. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. In a new place, it’s important to be careful with the water. Don’t drink if it’s not moving or if you don’t see others drink from it. I filled a glass with water, slurped some with delight while she was looking, and she happily drank (a lot!) from the same glass. (This is likely also why cats often like to drink water from the same glass as their humans. They trust it’s safe to drink if they see others drink it.)

I don’t have to beat myself up for having sugar cravings now and then. I understand why. It’s because my ancestors evolved to crave sugar because it helped them and their offspring survive. Sugar was found in rare and nutrient-rich foods like fruits, and the cravings helped them prioritize seeking out and eating these foods. In our modern world, this impulse has been hijacked by the food industry to sell products. I don’t have to be too hard on myself for having these cravings or even following them now and then, these cravings helped my ancestors survive. (And I can find practical strategies for dealing with them. For instance, only buying what’s on my shopping list, and having someone to be accountable to.)

When I am sick, I know that most (nearly all?) of my symptoms evolved to help me heal. The general fatigue and illness feeling motivates me to rest, which helps my body heal itself. Fever – increased temperature – helps my body kill pathogens. Diarrhea flushes out pathogens or undesirable food. And so on. This shifts how I relate to what’s happening when I am sick. I find more appreciation and even gratitude for my symptoms. (It also highlights one of the strange things some do in our culture, which is to try to counter or stop the natural self-healing processes of the body like fever, diarrhea, and so on.)

I have a fear of heights. That too is very understandable from an evolutionary perspective. My ancestors likely survived partly because they had some fear of heights, and the ones who did not were more likely to die young and not pass on their genetics. I can still work on this fear so it doesn’t stop me from doing the things I want.

To explore: Evolutionary psychology.

MY CONNECTION WITH THE LARGER WHOLE

How am I connected with the larger whole? Am I a separate being or is something else more true?

When I find my more fundamental nature, I find that the world – as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. Already there, the ideas of separation break down, at least in how it all appears to me.

Through science, we also find stories of oneness and connection, and these inform our perception, choices, and life in the world.

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

The universe is one seamless system. It has evolved and temporarily formed itself into you and me and our experiences and everything we know. It will continue to evolve and change itself into something new. (And that may not always conform to our ideas of “progress”!)

Our planet is one living system. Our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of this larger living system.

This helps me feel more connected as a human being, see myself as an expression of the larger whole, and behave in ways that (are more likely to) take care of this larger living system I am a part of.

To explore: Systems views, Universe Story, Great Story, Epic of Evolution, Big History, Deep Ecology.

Image by me and Midjourney.

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Thoughts and feelings belong to the world

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

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

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

It’s part of the field of experience.

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

MY HISTORY WITH THIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image is created by me and Midjourney

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Free will?

I have seen articles about a neurobiologist (Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University) who spent decades arriving at the conclusion that we have no free will.

With these types of things, the process of exploration is often more interesting and rewarding than what we arrive at.

And yet, to arrive at that conclusion doesn’t need to take decades.

INFINITE CAUSES

Everything that happens has infinite causes. We can always find one more, and one more, going back to the apparent beginning of time and stretching out to the widest extent of existence.

So where is there room for free will?

OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

Also, the experience of free will only seem to happen when there is identification with and as the mental representations of an I, doer, free will, and so on. When this identification is softened or released, and our nature recognizes itself more clearly, our human self happens within the content of experience as anything else. Our human self lives its own life. It’s happening on its own. There is no experience of free will. Similarly to above, there is no room for free will. The idea of free will or not seems irrelevant.

THE EXPERIENCE OF FREE WILL

We may have the experience of free will. Our mind uses mental representations to create a sense of I and free will and a me that operates according to that free will. That requires a lot of mental gymnastics, but it can appear convincing. This human self does something, and there is a thought saying: “I did that”. There is the experience of free will, but that doesn’t mean there is free will.

The experience of free will can only seem valid to the extent there is identification with these mental representations. It happens as long as our nature doesn’t recognize itself very clearly and doesn’t recognize the nature of thoughts. And it’s reinforced by a worldview telling us we are separate from the larger whole.

ASSUMING WE HAVE FREE WILL

On the other hand, it seems good for us to think and experience that we have free will. I imagine that helps many of us to be slightly better stewards of our lives.

And, of course, whether we experience that we have free will or not is not really up to us. It happens or it doesn’t. Each one has innumerable causes.

IN MY CASE

I don’t want to leave this too abstract so I’ll include a few words about my own experience.

When I was fifteen, it was as if the world became very distant. This human self, thoughts, emotions, sensations, and the wider world all became infinitely distant. It seemed to happen far away. This human self obviously got scared by this and went to a number of doctors and specialists who couldn’t find anything.

In hindsight, I realized what happened. There was a release of identification with the content of experience. There was no “I” within (most of) the field of experience. The only sense of “I” that was left was as an observer. There was a simple observer-observed duality.

Of course, at the time, there was no conscious reflection of it like that. It just seemed like something had gone very wrong.

Just about a year later, there was another shift, equally sudden as the first one. From one moment to the next, there was a shift into oneness. There was no “I” anymore, only (what this mental field interpreted as) God. This was simultaneously immensely familiar and obvious, and also a great shock to this human self who was a die-hard atheist at the time with absolutely no interest in spirituality. Any idea of I, me, observer, observed, and anything else was recognized as created by the mental field and not inherent in reality.

Although this mind didn’t recognize it at the time, the first shift showed me that this human self happens on its own. He lives his own life. And the second shift showed that while putting it in a larger context. All is God (Spirit, the divine, Brahman). The question of free will was revealed as the creation of the mental field, just like the experience of free will is.

Note: We can also take a more limited psychological approach to arriving at the conclusion that we have little or no free will. Our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, choices, and behavior are influenced by a huge amount of things outside of our conscious awareness. We are not aware of how our brain takes sensory stimuli and creates an experience. Many are not so aware of how the different sense fields combine to create an experience. Many are not very aware of how our biology, evolution, culture, and personal experiences color our perception and behavior. And so on. Most of what influences us happens outside of our conscious awareness, so how can there be much free will?

Image created by me and midjourney.

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Patterns in misophonia & sound sensitivity: humans vs nature

Since I was little, I have had misophonia and sensitivity to sounds. The misophonia is mostly triggered by chewing and paper and plastic rustling, and the sound sensitivity mostly to loud sounds and noise.

GENERAL PATTERNS

I have noticed some general patterns.

My system is more sensitive when I am exhausted or stressed, and it’s much easier if I am rested and relaxed.

The misophonia and sound sensitivity is triggered more easily when the sound is ongoing. The reaction builds up over time.

And I get more stressed if I think I am unable to do something about it. If I cannot do anything about the source, if I don’t have anything to put in my ears (often tight earbuds with music), or if I cannot remove myself from the sound. (That’s why traveling with others in a car, bus, train, or plane can be stressful for me.)

If I am more resourced, the sound doesn’t last too long, and I can do something about it, it’s much easier to deal with.

THE SOURCE OF THE SOUND

And there is also a difference depending on the source of the sound.

If the source of the sound (for instance, chewing sound) is a non-human being or a baby, it’s usually completely fine with me. I may notice a small reaction far in the background, but it’s OK.

If the source is a human that’s not a baby, that’s when the misophonia is triggered.

And it’s the same with noise sensitivity. If the source is humans, it can feel overwhelming. If the source is nature, it’s typically fine.

For instance, I am currently in the countryside in the Andes mountains (El Caucho outside of Barichara). Yesterday, there was construction noise nearby which I noticed bothered me. This morning, a neighbor had the radio on loud, which bothered me. (Especially since it’s Sunday at 5:30 am), while the guacharacas loudly crowing much earlier didn’t bother me at all.

WHAT THIS SUGGESTS

This suggests that my reaction is mediated by my mental field.

If the source is “innocent” as my mind sees it, there is less reaction.

And if I have stressful thoughts about the source, the reaction is stronger. Some of the thoughts I have identified and explored are “they should know better”, “the sound is aggressive” and “this is a symptom of our destructive civilization” (loud machines, chain saws, leaf blowers), “he is inconsiderate”, and so on.

WHAT I CAN DO ABOUT IT

These patterns give me several cues for what I can do about it.

I can continue to support my system to rest and build up energy. (I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome so this is important for me in general.) I can make sure to get good sleep. Eat well. Rest before, during, and after any activity, and extra. Take my vitamins and herbs. (Vitamin D, Siberian Ginseng, and Echinacea seem especially helpful.) Receive energization with Vortex Healing. (Amazingly helpful.)

I can continue to find ways to manage the situation when it happens. I have earbuds with me. For longer travels, I bring noise-canceling earphones. If I am about to travel with people in a car, let them know in advance. If I am in a public space and people close to me are loud, I go somewhere else. And so on.

I have found it helpful to ask myself some questions. Is this too the voice of the divine? (I notice it directly so it’s not a “trick” and I’ll still do the other things.) How I would respond if the source was a baby or non-human being? Are not humans and human civilization also nature?

I can also explore mental representations triggered by these sounds, what they mean to me (underlying assumptions, associations), how I relate to them, and what’s more true for me. I have already done this with The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby Inuiries, and it has helped a lot, and there is more to discover.

WHAT’S THE CAUSE?

What’s the cause of misophonia and sound sensitivity?

I am not sure. It’s likely a combination of several things:

My stressful thoughts about the sounds and what they mean.

How resourced my system is.

We evolved in a generally much more quiet environment than many of us live in today, and this likely puts a lot of stress on our system. It’s not surprising if some of us are extra sensitive to sounds and noise.

And it doesn’t matter so much. I have some ways to work with it anyway.

Image by me and Midjourney. And, no, I won’t keep going on with black-and-white woodcuts forever! It’s just what I am drawn to right now.

How we notice change and impermanence: Comparing images

It’s tempting to say that we can notice two types of change and that we notice it in two different ways.

IMMEDIACY AND STORIES

We can notice change and impermanence in immediacy. What’s here now is fresh and different from what just passed.

And we can notice change and impermanence in stories. I have a mental representation of a timeline and how things are different at different points in that timeline.

When I look more closely at what’s happening, I find that those two are not that different. They are essentially the same.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING WITHIN MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS

Even when I notice change in immediacy, I do it by comparing images of what’s here and now with what just passed. (The images of “here and now” is also, in reality, about what just passed.)

So how do I notice change and impermanence? My mind creates a timeline and compares two or more points on that timeline, even when one of those points is what thoughts call “here and now”.

HELPS ME SEE IT (MORE) FOR WHAT IT IS

Is this useful to notice? I don’t know. But I do find it fascinating to notice as it happens.

It helps me recognize that my mental representations of time, a timeline, points on a timeline, and even the ideas of change, all happen as and within my mental representations. It’s an overlay over the world as the world appears to me.

The image – a polyptychis with different scenes – is created by me and Midjourney.

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

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

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

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Why have I taken time to write about conspiracy theories?

There are several reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOME EXAMPLES OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

What are some of the conspiracy theories?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT DO I SEE IN CONSPIRACY FOLKS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT DOES THIS MIRROR IN ME?

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

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

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

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

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

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What does non-dual mean?

I hardly ever use the word non-dual even if I have been familiar with it for a few decades. I prefer to describe my experience using more ordinary words.

So what does on-dual mean? What does it refer to?

ESSENCE

Here are a couple of versions:

Reality is a seamless whole. Only thoughts divide. And reality is always more than and different from any thought or set of thoughts.

To ourselves, we are consciuosness and the world to us happens within and as this consciousness. We are oneness and the world to us happens within and as that oneness. Again, thoughts divide and cannot capture the reality of what we are, or reality as it fundamentally appears to us.

We are non-dual and reality as it appears to us – before mind gets caught up in our stories about it – is non-dual.

WHAT DOES DUALITY REFER TO?

Another approach is to focus more explicitly on our relationship with thoughts.

Duality – the experience of duality – happens when our mind assigns exclusive truth to a thought.

This thought is true, that thought is false. Buddhism is true, Christianity is not. I am right, you are wrong. I am this human self and not the wider world. I am something within the content. of experience, and not what it all happens within and as.

Non-duality involves – but is not limited to – recognizing the limited validity in a range of different perspectives and stories, and seeing the bigger picture that holds them all.

HOW THE MIND RELATES TO THOUGHT

Said another way, this has to do with how the mind relates to thoughts.

If my mind gets caught up in holding thoughts as true, then duality is created.

When I recognize my own more fundamental nature, and the nature of thoughts, the non-dual is revealed.

It’s pretty simple, and yet there are innumerable wrinkles here which makes it interesting.

HOLDING THOUGHTS AS TRUE

What happens when my mind hold a thought as true?

The obvious is that I’ll perceive and act as if it’s true, to the extent possible.

Also, when my mind gets caught up in holding a thought as true, then an experience of duality is created.

Each thought creates a view, and the mind identifies with and as that view. A sense of I is created around the view. I become that particular view.

That, in turn, creates a sense of I and Other and identification with the former.

That’s how an experience of duality is created.

RECOGNIZE THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

So what’s the nature of thoughts?

They are here to help us orient and navigate in the world. They have a pragmatic function. Their function is not to hold or reflect any final, full, or absolute truth.

They are pointers. They hold limited validity, and the way they are valid varies.

RECOGNIZE MY MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. And when I look more closely, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

More fundamentally, and to myself, I am what my field of experience happens within and as.

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

This involves a release of identification with content of experience, including a human self, doer, observer, and so on. And, more precisely, it involves a release of identification with mental representations of all of these things.

Here, it’s easier to recognize the nature of thoughts. Recognizing my more fundamental nature makes it easier to recognize the nature of thoughts. It’s easier to hold them all more lightly. To see that they have a pragmatic function only.

IN REAL LIFE: A MIX

In real life, it’s of course not always so clean cut and simple.

Our nature may generally rest in recognizing itself and thoughts are generally recognized for what they are. And at the same time, parts of our psyche holds onto certain (painful) thoughts as true. These are wounded and traumatized parts of us. And they inevitably color our perception and life.

We may also generally recognize or nature and the nature of thoughts, and sometimes more obviously get hijacked by painful thoughts and identifications.

Or there may be areas of life where we hold onto limited and painful thoughts and identifications, perhaps even without recognizing because it’s so familiar to us. It may be obvious to others but not so much to us, at least for a while.

MY EXPERIENCE

As I have mentioned a few times before, there were a couple of big shifts when this human self was in his teens.

The first one was when I was fifteen. Mid-day on January 1st, it was as if the world became distant. The whole field of experience became distant – the world, this human self, emotions, thoughts, everything. Later, I understood that it was if any sense of “I” became absorbed into observing. The observing became an I and what this consciousness was temporarily identified with and as. My human self at the time had no ideas about this and just felt something had gone terribly wrong. This lasted for a year.

Almost exactly a year later, between Christmas and New Year, there was a shift into oneness. Into all as the divine, Spirit, God. This shift didn’t go away.

All of this made it unavoidable to see the general nature of thoughts. They are here to help us orient and navigate in the world, and not so much more. They cannot capture any full or absolute or final truth.

They happen within and as what I am, as anything else. They live their own life, as anything else.

As is not unusual, many parts of my psyche were formed within separation consciousness, were wounded and perhaps traumatized, and these continued to operate from separation consciousness and wounds. They color my perception and life. Some of these have found healing, and some still wait for healing.

When it comes to my mental field and mental habits, it was shocking to to this part of me when the oneness shift happened. I was a self-identified atheist since elementary school so definitely hadn’t expected – or even heard about – it. My mental field was used to operate from duality, so it took some time for it to reorganie and be more aligned with oneness. And that’s an ongoing process.

How have I supported my mental field in realigning? I read a lot of systems views and deep ecology books in my teens and early twenties. I read a lot of Taoism in my late teens and twenties. I read a lot of Buddhism in my twenties and thirties. I read a lot of general mysticism in my twenties and thirties. And equally or more importantly, I have done quite a bit of different types of inquiry – especially the Big Mind process, The Work of Byron Katie, and the Kiloby Inquiries.

BIG MIND ON NON-DUALITY

Hi Big Mind.

Hello.

Can you say something about non-duality? How does it look to you?

Non-duality is a term some humans like to use. It looks about as useful as it’s not. Some get very caught up in the idea of it, in their mental representations of it, instead of using it as a pointer for finding it for themselves.

Non-duality is what I am, what you are, what every conscious being inherently is. It’s not something mystical or distanced or weird. It’s what we already are and are most familiar with.

It’s really all we ever know.

At the same time, mind is very good at creating the experience of something else. Of creating the experience of duality.

It’s part of how I explore and experience myself. There is nothing wrong about it. It’s natural. And it can be interesting to explore.

Duality is the experience we create for ourselves when we take ourselves to fundamentally be a human self or anything else within the content of experience.

It’s just an experience. It’s a filter. It’s not inherent in what we are or reality.

What we are and reality is one. It forms itself into everything within content of experience. And that includes a temporary experience of duality.

When I form myself into an experience of duality, it creates a sense of discomfort. It’s out of alignment with my nature and reality so it’s inherently uncomfortable. It can also create a longing, and that longing is ultimately for me to recognize my nature.

I should also say that recognizing my nature and being temporarily caught up in duality are inherently equal in a certain way. The former is more peaceful and the latter is more uncomfortable and creates more challenges for this human self and other beings. And my nature is also the same in both cases.

Image by me and created with Midjourney to hint at non-duality AKA oneness. Lots of things inside a circle.

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Shapeshifting and what it says about our more fundamental nature

I am reading The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images and love the content and format, and just about every paragraph is a pointer for several types of explorations.

For instance, there is a chapter on shapeshifting. (One expression of this is shamans experiencing themselves as a jaguar, condor, bat, or whatever it may be during their shamanic journeys.)

A REMINDER OF OUR MORE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE

For me, that’s a reminder of our more fundamental nature.

Yes, in one sense I am this human self. And more fundamentally, I am consciousness. I am the consciousness that this whole field of experience – the wider world, this human self, and anything else – happens within and as.

I can take on any perspective.

I can create an identity out of any perspective and mental representation. I can imagine myself as it, and perceive and feel as if it’s true.

Most of the time, the consciousness we are is identified with and as our human self. Why? Because that’s what others do, and when we grow up we do as others do. If we were connected with the body of a different species, and we grew up in a society where people had that type of body, then that would be our typical identification.

This identification works pretty well in daily life, so most of us don’t have any strong incentives to question it. (It does come with inherent friction and stress since it’s somewhat out of alignment with reality, but most of us don’t realize the root cause of that discomfort.)

The ones who tend to move outside of this typical identification are the outsiders in society, the insane, mystics, and shamans.

HOW WE CAN EXPLORE IT

How can we explore this for ourselves?

The Big Mind process is perhaps the most direct and effective way to explore this. We can explore taking on a wide range of perspectives. If we can imagine something, we can imagine into that perspective. We can explore what happens when we identify with and as a particular perspective. We can even find our more fundamental nature and explore how it all looks from there.

We can also get a taste of our more fundamental nature through the Headless experiments, and explore identities and how we are not – more fundamentally – any of it.

We can dismantle of identifications through The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore how our mind creates perspectives and identifications through the sense fields and how they combine, for instance, guided by the Kiloby Inquiries.

And there are many other approaches. Just find the one(s) that resonate with you.

MY EXPERIENCE

My path into this was perhaps a bit unusual and had some shamanic elements.

At age, fifteen, something shifted so it felt like the world – any content of experience including this human self, feelings, thoughts, states, and so on – felt very distanced. It all felt very far away. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in spirituality (I was a self-identified atheist), what happened was scary and didn’t make any sense, and the doctors and specialists couldn’t figure out what was going on either.

Already here, life showed me my nature. It showed me that I wasn’t fundamentally anything within the sense fields, within the field of experience. Because of my background, I didn’t get it which is normal and fine.

Almost exactly one year later, there was another shift. This time into oneness. Here, all was revealed as God, Spirit, the divine. The whole field of experience and the consciousness it happened within and as was revealed – as consciousness, Spirit, the divine, or whatever we want to call it.

This didn’t go away and led to an intense process over several years for my human self.

I have continued to explore this – through Buddhist practice, Taoist practice, Christian practice, parts work, several forms of inquiry, energy work, and so on. I even dipped into shamanism a few times, but not seriously. (Although I love it and am very happy people go into it deeply.)


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Divine awareness is in all things?

Divine awareness is in all things

– NW in a Vortex Healing forum

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

MENTAL & PERCEPTION

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

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

And it can come from a direct noticing.

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

WE ARE CONSCIOUSNESS

Where does that perception come from?

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

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

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

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

SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS

So what’s really going on here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USING BOTH VIEWS

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

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

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

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

WHY IS THIS MORE INCLUSIVE VIEW NOT MORE COMMON?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A simple exploration for finding trust in the wisdom of our human self

Byron Katie has a simple exercise: When you wake up in the morning, don’t get up. Wait and see what happens, and find some curiosity about it. (Paraphrased.)

When I do this, I find that my human self gets out of bed on its own, and at the right time. It has an innate wisdom that makes it get up when the time is ripe. It happens without any conscious planning or effort or use of will. And it’s often surprising. One moment I was in bed, the next standing on the floor, and there was no planning or effort or will involved.

This helps me see that my human self lives its own life and that it has innate wisdom and kindness.

And I can do this in other areas of life as well. I can wait, notice with curiosity, and see what my human self does on its own.

When I get out of my own way, my human self is more free to live from wisdom and heart.

There is, as usual, a lot more to say about this.

For instance, our human self is always living its own life. It’s just that our mind adds a layer of identification so we think and feel that “I” did it. When we find what we more fundamentally are, it’s more obvious that our human self is living its own life. Words happen. Actions happen. And there is no involvement of an “I”.

The only difference is that the strange loop that creates a sense of “I” or “doer” goes away, or at least is not invested with a sense of reality. The charge goes out of it.

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A cat looks male and then female: mental field overlays

A neighbor cat has been visiting for the last few weeks, and I assumed he was a male at first. It now looks more likely that she is a female.

I notice very clearly the mental field overlays here. When I thought he was a male, he looked male. My mind created a male overlay on the cat, and that made him look male to me. My mind interpreted his features as male. And now that I think she is a female, she looks female. My mental field overlay makes her look female to me. My mind interprets her features as female.

This is, of course, in addition to all the other mental field overlays my mind creates: Cat, boundary between cat and what’s not-cat, ideas about this particular cat, ideas about me and my relationship with cats, and so on.

Update: I learned that he is actually male and is called, very appropriately, Simba. So now he looks male again, through some of the cultural associations I have with being a male and a male cat.

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If we lived for eons, would awakening be inevitable?

Through having lived as many lives I have, I notice that all sorts of experiences and states come and go. I have experienced millennia of mostly “ordinary” states with times of profound despair, mind-shattering pain, and amazing bliss. I have noticed that what I am is that which all this happens within and as. Experiences come and go and what I am doesn’t come and go. Of course, I am whatever state is here but it doesn’t last. Only being capacity for all of it runs through it all.

If you want to call that awakening, be my guest. But it’s really very simple. It doesn’t require fancy words, or rituals, or mythology, or even labels.

– from Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos

To me, it seems that awakening is inevitable (?) if we just lived long enough, perhaps for centuries or millennia. And it wouldn’t seem like anything special. It would just be a natural part of maturing and having lived for a while.

Over time, we get to see that any and all content of experience comes and goes, including anything we think we are, and any identifications we may have. We dream, and are someone different. We have an identity for ourselves and in the world, and something happens and it goes away. We think we are something in particular, and those thoughts go away for a while and we are still here.

So if we are not fundamentally anything within all this that comes and goes, what are we?

What are we more fundamentally? When I look, I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the experience of all of this. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as.

This is what we may discover through basic meditation, and also what we may – inevitably? – discover if we would be around for a few millennia.

Basic meditation is, in many ways, a condensed micro-version of this. We compress what would happen naturally, over many many years, into minutes, hours, days, and months.

And we can support that process through other explorations, including inquiry.

Here are two dialogs on this topic: Dialog with someone who has lived innumerable lives in many places in the cosmos | Dialog with one who has lived eons and has a mystic streak

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The only thing I can know for certain and what it says about my nature 

What can I know for certain?

CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

When I explore this, I find I cannot say anything for certain about anything within the content of my experience. I cannot say for certain anything about the world, others, God, or even myself. I cannot even know for certain I am this human self in the world that others, my passport, and my thoughts say I am. (That person could, for instance, be a dream or fantasy or simulation.)

I can say something about how something appears to me, but not anything for certain about what or how it is in itself.

And that’s OK. I can still navigate the world and be as good a steward as possible of this life and what’s in my life.

THERE IS CONSCIOUSNESS

So is there anything I can know for certain?

Yes, there is. I can know for certain that there is consciousness. There is consciousness that is conscious of all this content of experience.

If I said “I am conscious”, it would go beyond what I can know something about for certain. This “I” would be an assumption and something within the content of experience – a human self, an observer, a doer, or something similar. I can just say that there is consciousness and something happening within that consciousness, some kind of content of experience.

HOLDING IT ALL LIGHTLY

Intellectually, we can take this as a curiosity or something interesting or fascinating.

And it also has some practical real-life implications.

For instance, it means that it’s wise of me to hold any ideas I have about anything and anyone more lightly. I cannot know for certain that any of it is accurate.

This especially applies when I notice a tendency in me to hold a certain story as true, when it has a charge for me. The charge doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means there is a charge. It just means a part of me holds it as true, and that there is some identification and an emotional issue there.

And, as mentioned above, I can still navigate and function in the world. I can use my experience, discernment, and best guesses and make the best choices I can. It’s just about holding it all a bit more lightly.

EXPLORING MY NATURE

There is also an invitation here to explore what I more fundamentally am in my own experience.

If I cannot say anything for certain about this human self, or even that it is who or what I am, what does that mean? Can this human self be what I most fundamentally am? Perhaps I more fundamentally am something else?

When I look, I find that to myself, I am more fundamentally something else. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. I am what this metaphorical field of experience happens within and as. I am capacity for the experiences that are here.

Said with other words… To myself, I am consciousness and the world, to me, happens within and as this consciousness. All I know is consciousness, and it takes all the forms of the content of my experience. In this sense, night dreams and waking life are not so different. They both happen within and as the consciousness I am.

This consciousness is capacity for any experience here. It forms itself into any experience. It’s inherently one. It can take apparently infinite forms. It can even pretend it’s something within itself – for instance this human self or a more abstract doer or observer – with an “I” and “other”.

The word “consciousness” is just a pointer. My nature is something that can just be pointed to and not captured by words or mental representations. (And in that, it’s the same as anything else.)

EXPLORING IT FOR OURSELVES

We can explore this in different ways.

We can investigate it intellectually, which helps align our conscious view a little more with reality.

And we can explore it in our own direct noticing.

We can investigate any thought we hold as true and find what’s more true for us, for instance using The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore our sense fields and what’s in each one, and how the mental field functions as a kind of overlay to make sense of the world. We can use traditional Buddhist inquiry or modern variations like the Kiloby Inquiries.

And we can explore our nature more directly using pointers from, for instance, the Big Mind process and Headless experiments.

Our nature can notice itself and metaphorically wake itself up from the dream of being most fundamentally something within its content of experience, whether this happens to be this human self, a doer, an observer, or something else. It can make this noticing into a habit. It can explore how to live from and as this noticing. It can allow and support this human self to reorganize within this conscious noticing of its nature. And so on.

This is an ongoing exploration, and it can be profoundly transforming for our perception, human self, and life in the world.

IN MY CASE

This was revealed in the initial awakening shift in my teens.

All was revealed as consciousness, without exception. And any sense of fundamentally being anything in particular within the content of experience – the world of form – was revealed as the temporary play of consciousness.

At the same time, many parts of this psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. And that’s why it’s been helpful with these types of explorations and inquiries. It helps get more of me on board and aligned with it.

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Byron Katie: Believing what you fear makes it true for you, and that doesn’t make it true

Believing what you fear
makes it true for you,
and that doesn’t make it true

– Byron Katie

At a general intellectual level, this seems obvious: Holding a thought as true and experiencing it as true doesn’t make it true.

And yet, for many parts of me, it seems not obvious at all. Many parts of my psyche operate as if holding a thought as true makes it true. They mistake mental imagination for what it supposedly points to.

Any time there is any charge on a thought, any time there is reactivity, defensiveness, and so on, it’s a sign that a part of my psyche holds a stressful thought as true.

And to explore that, it helps to have a structured process preferably guided by someone familiar with the terrain. The most effective approaches I have found so far are The Work of Byron Katie and the Kiloby Inquiries (based on traditional Buddhist sense field inquiry).

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Taking the role of a spiritual teacher: Upsides, downsides, and pitfalls

I admire people who take on the role of spiritual coach or teacher.

It’s a role that comes with many challenges and downsides.

THE UPSIDES

The upsides are well known:

You get to share something that’s important to you with others.

Others get to benefit from it. (Hopefully!)

You get to learn from it. You learn from exploring it more thoroughly on your own. You learn from students. You learn from situations. You inevitably learn about yourself and your own blind spots.

You pass on what may have been passed on to you. You get to be a part of the chain.

You may follow a genuine calling. That, in itself, gives a sense of rightness and satisfaction.

There may also be some more mundane benefits, and some questionable benefits.

Depending on the circumstances, you may get lodging, food, and expenses covered, either for a while or in the long run. You may make money on it. You may be able to make it a living. You may be admired. You may get the apparent (!) benefits that come with being in a respected and admired position.

THE DOWNSIDES

There are also many possible downsides, and some are intrinsically part of the apparent benefits.

You have to deal with the many misconceptions people have about awakening and what it means and does. Many of these are ingrained in the culture and in individuals.

You have to deal with the many projections people will put on you. They will have an image of how a spiritual teacher should be, and compare you with it. They may imagine you as a savior. They may swing to the other side and see you as a villain. And so on.

You have to deal with what the role may bring up in you. Your mind may be tempted to tell you that you know and that you are right. (Overlook that we don’t know anything for certain.) You may be tempted to use the role to tell you that you are important. (Compensate for a sense of lack.) You may buy into the projections from others. (They mirror your own and you may reinforce them for yourself.) You may be tempted to take advantage of your position. (Go overboard with money. Get into relationships with your students. Have affairs. Shut down people who criticize you and how you use your position. And so on.)

I see this in many or most spiritual teachers, in one form or another, and it can lead to people going down in flames.

AVOIDING PITFALLS

We cannot really avoid pitfalls. If we are predisposed to get into them, we most likely will, with an invitation to notice one or more of our blind spots.

But we can be aware of some of them, and we can do some things to reduce the risk and minimize the fallout.

If we are part of a tradition, there are often things in place to prevent the worst excesses. Our own teacher will continue to mentor us. Our peers will hopefully give us feedback. And so on.

How do we relate to the role? If we take on the role as an identity, we set the stage for psychological inflation and abuse of power. We may use the role as a shield to protect against our own sense of lack and criticism from others. If we instead recognize it as a role, we can have a more healthy relationship with it. We recognize it’s a role we take on in a limited situation and that it otherwise doesn’t apply. We also recognize that it’s a superficial role. Even while in the role, we are more importantly a human being like anyone else with flaws and warts and all.

How do we label ourselves? If we see ourselves as a teacher, and if we take it on as an identity, we set the stage for psychological inflation and abuse of power. If we see ourselves as a coach, similar to a sports coach, we’ll tend to take a more pragmatic approach, and it’s easier to see that it’s a role we play in only some situations and leave it behind otherwise. Even better, we may see ourselves as primarily a fellow explorer and student, one that shares as the others share, and where the learning goes both ways.

How do we see ourselves in relation to the students? Do we put ourselves on a pedestal? As the one who knows while the others don’t? (If so, it’s likely a defense mechanism.) Or do we see it as a shared exploration?

Do we actively seek to learn from the others? Do we actively seek to listen to and learn from the students and our fellow explorers? Do we recognize that many of them inevitably have more experience and insights into some parts of the terrain and some phases of the process?

How real and transparent are we? Do we try to present and live up to a certain image? Or are we real and transparent about what’s going on with us?

Are we conscious of our priorities? Have we examined our priorities? What are our conscious priorities? Is it to help people find their nature? (If so, are we actively seeking out, learning, and sharing the most effective methods?) Is it to pass on our tradition? Is it to help people befriend themselves and their experiences? Are we explicit about our priorities? Also, what are the priorities we are less conscious of? What are our priorities connected with our hangups, wounds, and sense of lack?

What’s our motivation? Does it come from a genuine calling? Something we cannot help? Something we are asked to do by our own teacher? Or does it come from a desire to deal with our sense of lack? Or a combination? How is it to be honest about this? One way to explore this is to ask: What do I wish to get out of being in the role? And what do I wish to get out of that? What do I find when I follow that chain to its essence?

Are we trying to give guidance on everything? Or do we limit our guidance to practicalities relating to practices and ways to navigate certain phases in the process? In the first case, we may be buying into the stereotype of a spiritual teacher who has answers to everything, and we are likely doing ourselves and our students a disservice. (There will be a great deal others know more about and are more qualified to say something about. We are all our own final authority and it may be more helpful to invite the students to find their own answers. And we set ourselves up for inflation and the students up for projecting something superhuman onto us.) In the second case, we set the stage for a more sober and grounded approach. 

Do we actively work on our own beliefs, hangups, and projections? Do we use effective methods to work on our own wounds and projections? Are we guided and facilitated by others (preferably outside of our own community) in this?

Do we give the power to the students? Do we emphasize that we are all our own final authority? That we cannot blame anyone else for our own choices and actions? And that we cannot take anyone’s word for anything? That we need to check it out for ourselves?

Do we point out the typical misconceptions about awakening and spiritual teachers? Are we pointing out the downsides of buying into those ideas?

Do we give the students effective tools for finding their nature? Do we use approaches like the headless experiments and the Big Mind process? If not, why are we withholding it? Why are we not democratizing that part of the process?

Do we give the students pointers to recognize typical projections? Do we address the typical projections from students to teachers? Do we point out the typical pitfalls for students and teachers? Do we address how psychological inflation looks? Do we focus on shadow work?

Do we give them the tools to deal with it? Do we give them effective tools to work on projections? Do we explore these tools together? Do we create safe containers for applying them to ourselves?

Do we have a genuine system in place for checks against abuse of power? If we are part of an organization, is there an independent organ to deal with concerns, complaints, and abuse of power? Are they genuinely independent? (They should not be our students.) Do they have real power?

Of course, many of these reflect my own culture and times.

MY RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS

What’s my relationship with all of this?

I share here, and I sometimes share informally with a few friends, and that’s all.

I have not gone into the role as a guide or a teacher, for a few different reasons:

(a) I have not followed any one teacher or tradition long enough to become a teacher in a particular tradition.

(b) I am very aware of my own shortcomings and the downsides and pitfalls inherent in the role.

(c) I am not sure if I am called to it. I seem to be called to share here (it just comes out of me), but I have not noticed a calling to share formally in a group. (Apart from as a Breema instructor, TRE provider, and inquiry facilitator, but that’s a sharing that’s more specific to the modality.)

(d) I have some personal hangups and wounds that make it difficult for me. A part of me strongly dislikes to be seen and be the center of attention. This is likely a family pattern combined with personal experiences in elementary and middle school.

If I did share more in groups, it would likely be as a coach for a specific approach, and as a fellow explorer. That’s something I would be more comfortable with.

A CAVEAT: I DON’T HAVE THE INSIDE EXPERIENCE

One obvious caveat here is that I haven’t lived this experience of being a teacher or guide. I don’t know it from the inside.

The lived experience is always meatier than, and different from, imagining it.

It has unexpected wrinkles.

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Contraction and expansion happen within a bigger picture

How do I relate to contracted parts of me?

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

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

And what happens when I do?

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

It’s all happening within a bigger picture.

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

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

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

CONTRACTED AND RELAXED PARTS OF ME

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all happening within a bigger picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHEN I DON’T NOTICE THIS

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

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

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

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

WHEN I NOTICE THE BIGGER PICTURE

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

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

At my human level…

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

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

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

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

As what I more fundamentally am…

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

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

I notice I am fundamentally capacity for it.

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

PSYCHOLOGY AND BEYOND

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

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

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

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Marina Bajszár: Thoughts, just because you hear them, does it make them yours?

When I look, I find that words are imagined sounds. They are something I hear. Just like I hear the sound of birds, cars, and the wind, I imagine hearing words. They are all sounds.

I also find that words can be mental images. They are something I see. Just like I see a tree, the sky, and houses, I imagine seeing words. They are all images.

When I notice this – when I notice words as sounds and images – it’s easier to recognize them for what they are. They are imagined sounds. They are imagined images.

And this also helps me notice that they are imagined. They are imagination. This is often a useful imagination. It helps me orient and function in the world. And they are imagination. They are fantasies.

What happens when I notice this? What happens when I notice that thoughts that have a charge for me are sounds, images, and imagination? What happens when I rest in and as that noticing? There is a softening of the charge. There is less identification with their viewpoint. There is a curiosity that comes in. Maybe they are not as true as my mind, in its innocent confusion, took them as?

It can be helpful to use a structured exploration here, especially when it comes to thoughts with a strong charge. I have found the Kiloby Inquiries – a modern version of traditional Buddhist sense field explorations – to be the most effective for this. (Marina and I are both trained in that approach.)

And as usual, there is a lot more to explore here.

Why does my mind assume that some imaged sounds and images are actively created by me? It’s usually because they align with my conscious view. The sounds of cars, birds, and waves are obviously not created by me. Some random thoughts without much charge may also not appear to be created by me. But some familiar thoughts with a charge seem to be created by me. It feels like “I” am actively thinking them. And that feeling and assumption is created by the mind. When I explore it, I find it comes from another thought. It comes from mental sounds and images that tell me “I am actively creating those thoughts”. In reality, they are sounds and images like anything else.

I can also notice this more directly. I can notice thoughts – imagined sounds and images – as they appear. They come out of nothing and dissipate into nothing. (And are even made up of what a thought can label nothing.) They live their own life.

Who is that “I” thinking these thoughts? When I explore it, I find the same. I find a collection of mental images associated with certain physical sensations. I cannot find an “I” or “me” outside of this. It’s all happening within the sense fields. It only takes on the meaning of “I’ and “me” through thoughts telling me that’s how it is.

Even if I generally and “globally” get this, there will still be certain thoughts with a charge, and the charge means there is some identification there. A part of me hold those thoughts as true. So it’s worth exploring and investigating them and see what I find.

“I am tired”?

In a previous post, I wrote “I am rested” and “I am tired” even if it’s not really accurate.

It’s more accurate to say that my body is tired, my brain is tired, my system is tired. Or even that this human self is tired.

It’s something happening within the content of experience, within the sense fields.

It’s happening within and as the consciousness I am. It’s all happening within and as what I am.

In daily life and writing, I tend to switch between a more conventional and a more accurate way of talking about it. It just depends on the situation.

The first way of talking about it eases communication since it’s more familiar, and it also tends to reflect and invite identification. If I say “I am tired” I present it as if I – what I more fundamentally am – is tired.

The second way is more accurate and it invites curiosity, exploration, and perhaps even a softening or release of identification. It’s happening to something within my content of experience. It refers to something happening within and as the consciousness I am.

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The beauty of common expressions (AKA “thought-terminating cliches”)

I saw this quote posted on social media, and thought I would explore it and see what I find.

What the quote calls “thought-terminating cliches” I prefer to call “common expressions”.

HOW IT IS FOR ME

In general, I love taking idea fragments – from quotes, book titles, or common expressions – and using them as a pointer for my own exploration.

I assume it’s like that for many of us, and for most or all of us sometimes.

I hear or think of a common phrase, and see what I find. Typically, I find the validity in it, in the reversals, in other ways to look at it and the bigger picture, and also that all of that are questions about the world here to help us orient and navigate in the world.

SOME COMMON EXPRESSIONS

What do I find if I explore the phrases in the quote?

It is what it is. For me, this is a beautiful expression. It reminds me that reality is what it is, and my experience of it and ideas about it are very limited. It is what it is, and I cannot know for certain anything about it. My thoughts are questions.

It’s in God’s hands. Yes, in a way everything is in God’s hands. Everything happening locally is the expression of movements in the larger whole. Everything has innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of time and the widest extent of the universe. It’s good to be reminded of this now and then. (And not use it as an excuse for inactivity or harmful actions.)

YOLO. This too is a wonderful expression. I only live once. This moment will never return. What’s here in my experience is something I will never experience again. It’s something nobody has ever experienced before and nobody will ever experience it in the future. This moment, as it is, is infinitely precious. And it’s also all I have. My world is all I know, and I can only find the past, future, and somewhere else in my fantasies (sometimes very useful fantasies) happening here and now.

THOUGHT-TERMINATING CLICHES

What do I find when I explore the idea of “thought-terminating cliches”?

There is a valuable reminder in the idea of “thought-terminating cliches”, and that is that reality is always different from and more than our ideas about it. Reality is always far richer.

At the same time, the idea of a “thought-terminating cliche” can in itself become a thought-terminating cliche. We can agree with it and overlook the value and beauty of common expressions. We can overlook or reject the wisdom in them. We can overlook their value as a short hand to ease communication. We can overlook their value as a pointer and seed for our own exploration.

Perhaps most importantly, if someone hears or thinks of a common expression and doesn’t explore it further, then it says something about them. Not the common expression itself.

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Own inquiry: My body shouldn’t be so tired

It’s been a while since I have shared formal inquiry explorations here, including The Work of Byron Katie, so I thought I would restart that. (I used to write a lot more explorations.)

STATEMENT & SITUATION

Statement: My body shouldn’t be so tired.

Situation: Lying on the sofa five minutes before an inquiry session. (The Work on Zoom.)

INQUIRY

1. Is it true? Yes, in that situation it feels true.

2. Can you know for certain if it’s true? No, I cannot know for certain.

3. What happens when you believe that thought?

I feel extra tired. I notice the symptoms of tiredness. The tiredness comes to the forefront. It feels overwhelming. A part me of wants to cancel. I imagine others judging me. I judge myself. I see myself in the session unable to follow the question and inquiry. I see myself not being able to talk clearly and coherently. I see images of the facilitator judging me. I feel ashamed. I feel I am to blame. I tell myself I could have prevented it (through more resting, different food, taking more herbs). I blame myself for not being “more perfect” in how I take care of myself, especially the last days. I compare myself with others and how I used to be, and how I imagined I would be. I see them as energetic and active, and myself lying here unable to even do inquiry.

4. Who would you be without that thought? How would you be if you were unable to think that thought in that situation?

I notice myself as whole. I am curious about the inquiry and what will come out of it. I am looking forward to the inquiry. I notice excitement. I notice my thoughts and words come from more clarity. I feel lighter.

Turnarounds

TA1: My body should be so tired.

(a) It is. That’s how life unfolds. There are likely innumerable causes for it, and I am aware of only a tiny fraction. It’s how the whole of the universe moves locally here.

(b) It helped me do this inquiry. I had initially planned to do another one, and noticing the tiredness and this thought shifted me to do this inquiry.

(c) It has helped me do a lot of inquiry into identities, identifications, beliefs, and so on. It’s helped me examine the beliefs in my culture around this, as they are here in my own mind.

(d) It has helped me be more real with others.

(e) It has helped me understand and accept others as they are, especially if they have health challenges, and also more in general.

TA2: My thinking shouldn’t be so tired.

(a) I notice that unexamined thinking makes me feel tired, and when I examine and find what’s more true for me, I feel more clear, lighter, and engaged. I often find energy.

(b) The “should” thoughts are old and worn out. They are old and tired, in that sense.

TA3: My body shouldn’t be so energetic.

(a) I had sorted and organized earlier in the day and got into a slight adrenaline rush. I surfed on adrenaline, which is likely why I felt tired in the hour before the session. I am aware of this, and counteract it with rest and slowing down, but there is room for improvement.

(b) Also, looking at this thought makes it even more clear that the two complementary thoughts – my body shouldn’t be so tired / my body shouldn’t be so energetic – are both thoughts. They are literally imaginations.

REFLECTIONS

I did this inquiry during the session, and it was very helpful. I found a lot more than I wrote down here.

In the past, question three and the turnarounds were the most interesting to me, and I often couldn’t find so much with question four. These days, it seems that question four is the most powerful one. In this case, sitting in it felt rich and transforming.

I haven’t done The Work in a structured way for a while, and with a facilitator, so it feels good to come back to it. It feels more fresh and real, and something has shifted. (Especially really enjoying question four and what comes up there.)

Nothing matters, everything matters

We can explore this in different ways.

CAN APPEAR AS A PARADOX

If we take thoughts as holding exclusive truth, then this can seem a paradox. (1)

How can both be true?

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

If we recognize thoughts as thoughts, this seems different.

Thoughts are questions about the world. They are here to help us orient and navigate in the world.

Thoughts cannot hold any full, final, or absolute truth. That’s not their function. (2)

Here, we recognize that everything and nothing and matters are all ideas. They are mind-made and not inherent in the world.

THE VALIDITY OF BOTH

And there is validity in both.

When I explore this, I find…

Nothing matters

To matter is an idea. I cannot find it outside of an idea. It’s not inherent in reality. Nothing matters because I cannot find “to matter” outside of my ideas of it.

Everything matters

To me, everything happens within and as the consciousness I am. It’s literally me taking all these forms. Everything matters because to me it’s all me.

Also, as a human being, I love this world. I love nature. I love all the ways reality shows up. I love how the universe has formed itself into all we know. I am part of this world so everything matters to me.

It’s all true in its own way.

NOTES

(1) To get to this point where thoughts seem true AND mutually exclusive, we have to do a lot of mental gymnastics. We have to convince ourselves, against overwhelming contrary evidence, that our thoughts somehow are true. (Whatever that means.) And we have to convince ourselves, again against overwhelming evidence, that whatever validity is in different thoughts is mutually exclusive.

(2) Our ideas about the world highlight some features and leave other things out. They leave out an infinite amount, and we mostly don’t even know what’s left out. They are different in nature from what they point to. They reflect our unique viewpoints and biases. The world is always more than and different from our ideas about it.

Coming to my senses

Why do we say “coming to our senses”?

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

GOING OUT OF OUR SENSES

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

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

COMING TO MY SENSES

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

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

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

EXPLORING IT MORE THOROUGHLY

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

THE WISDOM IN COMMON SAYINGS

There is something a lot of wisdom in common expressions.

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

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