Intimacy with all life

To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things.

– Dogen Zenji, ca. 1200-1253, founder of the Soto School.

An essence of healing and awakening is intimacy with all life, with whatever is here.


Awakening asks us to be intimate with what we notice. What am I in my first-person experience? What do I find when I am honest with what I notice? When I am willing to set aside, even for a moment, what others have told me I am? We are already intimately familiar with what we are, we may just not notice.

We are intimately familiar with ourselves as capacity for our experience, and what our field of experience happens within and as. We may just not consciously recognize or acknowledge it because we are so caught up in our collective and universal stories about what we are, and what I am.


Intimacy is also an important component of emotional healing.

Healing asks us to become intimate with our experience, and specifically to become intimate with contractions and emotional issues. To befriend them, get to know them, listen to them. Treat them with respect, kindness, patience, and gentle curiosity. Treat them as we would like to be treated when we are scared and confused. Notice that they happen within and as what we are. We share true nature.

In a very real sense, these issues are maintained because we tell ourselves they are different from us and that we can put distance to them. So the remedy is to notice the intimacy that’s already here, befriend these contractions, and find a different and more intimate way to relate to them.


There is already intimacy here – with what we are and with the contractions in us.

What we are is already what we are, and we are already familiar with it even if we may not notice.

And these contractions are already happening within and as what we are. They are not separate, even if we tell ourselves they are and we perceive and act as if they are, to the best of our ability.

Intimacy is already here. What we are asked is to notice, and to explore and become familiar with it.


It’s not always so easy. Our habitual patterns often move us away from intimacy, in the ways possible.

So one thing to become intimate with is the gatekeepers, the ways we hold ourselves back from intimacy.

What do I fear? What are the stressful stories?

Some I find for myself are:

It will never change… it’s hopeless. Distraction is easier… I can do it later. It’s too much… I can’t do it on my own.

What happens when I explore these? When I befriend these scared and scary stories? What happens when I find intimacy with these energies and contractions? When I find intimacy with these stories and what’s more true for me?


If there is already intimacy, how come we seem to be able to move away from what’s here?

Both are true in their own way.

We cannot escape any experience since it’s already here and it’s happening within and as what we are.

At the same time, we can perceive and act as if we can move away, and that creates the experience and consequences of moving away. This seems to happen because of (unloved, unexamined) fears and parts of us hold scary stories as true.

Our minds created those patterns, often early in life, in order to protect us. Today, from our adult perspective, we may know other ways. We may know more insightful and loving ways. So we can help these parts of us release and align more with love and reality.

There is an infinite amount to explore and discover and become more intimate with here.


As I have suggested, this is about more than intimacy.

Intimacy implies there is an “I” here becoming more intimate with something. That’s not wrong since it’s often part of our experience.

And yet, when we become more intimate and familiar with what we are, we see that this is more than intimacy. Our experiences happen within and as what we are.

Both are here and there is a fluidity between the two, at least for me for now.

Adyashanti: Profound freedom is a profound intimacy with life

Profound freedom is a profound intimacy with life.

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 57, Garrison 2017

What is freedom?

At an ordinary and universal human level, it’s the freedom of movement, freedom of access to education, freedom of access to healthcare, freedom of worship and speech, and so on.

At a more psychological level, it’s the freedom from being caught in beliefs, identifications, emotional issues, and trauma. When we are caught in these, they run us. We are caught in their separation consciousness and perceive and act as if the stressful thoughts behind them are true. When we are more free from being caught in these – because our relationship to them has changed and/or they themselves have healed – we have more freedom in how we respond to situations. (It still comes from conditioning but there is room for more flexibility, kindness, and acting from a larger view.)

Adyashanti talks about the freedom to experience our experiences as they are, without being caught in having to change them, avoid them, or transform them.

And there is the freedom that comes from noticing what we are, and from what we are noticing itself as all there is. When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and as that which all our experiences happen within and as, it’s all revealed as a seamless whole. And in this oneness, there is freedom. It’s freedom since there is no “other” that can impede freedom. All is movements within the one.

How do these freedoms give an intimacy with life?

The first freedom gives us a richer life and a life where we are more free to follow what’s right for us and our heart and inner guidance. The second allows us to respond more intentionally to situations and work with them instead of reacting to them and work against them. The third allows us to be with and find ourselves as whatever our experience is and gives us an intimacy with our experience as it is here and now. And the last one gives us intimacy with the world as it appears to us since it is what we are.

All of these freedoms – and probably many more – are important and valid. They contribute to the richness of life and function at different levels and areas of who and what we are.

Buber’s I & Thou and inquiry

Buber’s main proposition is that we may address existence in two ways:

  1. The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience.
  2. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.

One of the major themes of the book is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships. In Buber’s view, all of our relationships bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou.


I haven’t made many connections between traditional philosophy and inquiry here, but I thought I would mention a few (pretty obvious) things. For instance, Martin Buber’s I and Thou and how it relates to inquiry.

As I mentioned in the post about the client and her dog, inquiry can soften any sense of boundaries which in turn opens for a natural sense of intimacy. This intimacy can be with ourselves, our immediate experience, others, the wider world, life in general, and presence (aka God, Spirit).

As we explore how our mind creates its experience of objects, beings, separation, boundaries, and any fears or compulsions created from this sense of separation and boundaries, our experience of these changes. It becomes much lighter, less invested with emotional energy. And that opens for a sense of intimacy.

Reduced charge and intimacy

A fellow inquiry facilitator said she had done inquiry to see how her mind created its experience of her dog. It led to a reduced charge on the different images and words she has about her dog. I asked if her relationship to the dog changed, and after some consideration, she said yes, it’s more intimate.

When we explore anything that seems real and solid in this way, there is often a greater sense of intimacy. And we can explore any of our ideas such as me and you, dogs and human, and whatever else creates a sense of solidity and separation.

Inquiry and intimacy

A client mentioned that she had done inquiry on her dog. She explored how her mind creates its experience of the dog, which allows her to hold her perceptions about her dog more lightly. Some of the sense of solidity had gone out of it. I asked her if her relationship with her dog had changed, and she said it’s more intimate.

That’s my experience as well. As I continue to explore how my mind creates its experience of me, others, life, and more, there is a deepening sense of intimacy with myself, others, and life.

The boundaries created by the mind has less charge and seem less real and solid, so there is naturally a sense of intimacy.


The fruition of truth

I come into alignment with truth as who I am, in my personal life and with myself and others, and as what I am and what everybody and everything is.

When I come into alignment with truth – and it comes to fruition in my life and experience – it has a richness to it.

Truth opens for intimacy, trust, aliveness, passion and exitement. It gives a sense of intimacy with myself, the other, and existence, of trust in my connection with myself and the other, and of aliveness, passion and excitement.

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Dream: Orcas in the water


I am on a beach and wade out to a small island of sand. As I arrive, a large group of orcas of different sizes stream around both sides of the island. I am drawn to them and experience a sense of intimacy with them, but there is also some fear coming up.

This seems very familiar in my daily life. I am drawn to something and experience a sense of intimacy, but there is also a little fear coming up, a slight hesitation. In the dream, as in daily life, the attraction and warmth envelops and is there in more abundance than the fear.

In daily life, this dynamic comes up towards people and groups, sometimes towards specific activities, and also towards shadow/disowned parts of myself.

Individuation and connections

As we mature and develop, we naturally grow beyond conventional identities, and eventually beyond identities themselves. First, we shed the conventional ones of gender, age, social norms, and so on. Eventually, our identification may go out of identities altogether, finding ourselves as awake emptiness allowing a fluidity of any and all identities.

Increasingly lonely

As this happens, we find ourselves increasingly alone, at least in a certain way…

  • We cannot find belonging or comfort through group identities or by blindly following social norms (nor in breaking them)
  • Our views and experiences are often not aligned with conventional views
  • We don’t play the game of narrow identification anymore
  • We don’t play the game of splits so much, seeing me as right and you as wrong
  • The typical human drama, with all its variations, has less and less charge for us (which sometimes makes us dull, although understanding, companions for those caught up in it)
  • We have to stand on our own feet

This process has many rewards, and we do find companions on the way. Freed from much of the drama, there is a new clarity and new aspects of existence and our human life opens up to us.

And deepening sense of belonging and connection

And although it may leave us lonely in some of these ways, not being able to believe in group identities and less caught up in the human drama, it also brings a deepening sense of belonging and connection.

As I learn about what I see in you in myself, as more and more of what I am is included in my conscious view on myself, I deepen into my own humanity, which is also our shared humanity. I find myself in you, and you in me. We are perfect mirrors for each other. There is a deepening into the sweetness, and sometimes pain, of our shared humanity.

And as identification goes out of identities altogether, finding myself as awake emptiness and form, and as emptiness as the Ground of it all, there is another deepening into intimacy. This one, as an intimacy with my life, with Existence itself. First, as a growing sense of no separation, as oneness. And then through the falling away of the core identity as a separate self, allowing wide open space for anything arising, without any sense of separation.

This is the deep homecoming. The final release of any sense of I and Other.

Increasingly lonely on the surface, and increasingly at home in the depth

So there is a process of being increasingly lonely on the surface of it, in society. Not being able to wholeheartedly play along with the games of separation anymore.

There is a process of a deepening and more intimate connection with oneself and others, through a widening embrace of who I am as a human being.

And a process of any sense of separation falling away, leaving only the wide open space for anything to arise, the void already and always allowing it all.

Levels of oneness: all as Spirit, and everything I see out there is also in here

Some levels of Oneness…

All as Spirit

Ultimately, it is all Spirit. The field of seeing and seeing is Spirit, absent of any I. The Ground of seeing and seen is Spirit, absent of any I.

And we can have a glimpse of this, maybe interpreted as an experience of oneness between I (as this human self) and Other (as nature, God, Spirit).

We can have an intuition or a sense of it, again typically interpreted as a sense of Oneness of I and Other.

There can be an immediate and more stable experience of this Oneness, that it is all Spirit.

Also here, there can be a sense of I and Other overlaid on the sense of Oneness. The volume of both can be turned up or down, one going into the foreground and the other in the background, shifting back and forth.

Finally, there is a realization that the field of seeing and seen is inherently absent of an I. There is no I anywhere, just a field of Spirit as Ground, seeing and seen. The sense of center falls away. The sense of subject and object falls away. Spirit as the field of seeing and seen, as a whole, is its own subject and object.

It is not touched by oneness and multitude, yet arises and can be seen as either and both.

And it is still functionally connected with a particular human self, which now arises as anything else. It is just part of the field, living its own life, just like clouds moving across the sky, cars passing on the street, other people living their own life, the world living its own life. It is Spirit as form, unfolding on its own, absent of any I anywhere.

Human level: deepening into knowing myself as an individual

Since Spirit, in our case, is functionally connected with a particular human self, and lives through and as this human self before and after awakening to itself, the forms oneness takes in our human life is also interesting.

At the ultimate level, all is Spirit independent of its particulars as form.

And at our human level, everything I see in the world is also here in me. This is a deepening of knowing myself as a human being.

Every quality and characteristic I see out there, in the world – in the universe, in the Earth, ecosystems, animals, plants, humans, cities, stories, mythologies, movies, fantasies, dreams, they are all also in here, in my own human life.

It is a deepening of knowing myself as a human being, and also a deepening of the realization of all as one. In my human life, all I see in the wider world is also right here, closer than my own breath.

At the most disowned, Spirit can recognize all arising as Spirit, but still see some qualities arising in other human selves and not in this one. This makes for a less complete, less human and more frozen way for this human self to function in the world. It makes for a less healthy and mature vehicle for Spirit in the world, even as Spirit has awakened to itself.

A little less disowned, Spirit can recognize all arising as Spirit, recognize in this human self what is sees in the wider world, but not be much familiar with it in this human self. It is acknowledged, but there is not much familiarity with it. Again, it limits how this human self can show up in the world, it limits its repertoire and what is familiar to it.

As these aspects become more owned, as they move from “it” to “me” and “mine”, there is greater and greater familiarity with it, not only out there, but also in how it shows up in this life.

It becomes known in a far richer way, and with a different (more conventional) sense of intimacy. It becomes part of the daily repertoire of the human self, available when needed.

There is a sense of deepening humanity, a more intimate connection with others, and more juiciness in life in general.

It is even a part of developing skillful means, since this human life is the tool of Spirit in the world, even after it awakens to itself.

Human level: deepening into knowing ourselves as us

Spirit also shows up as Us, as the multitude of beings and all of our many relationships, and this is another deepening into oneness.

When Spirit awakens to itself, what does that mean for all of the relationships of this human self to other people, to animals, plants, ecosystems, the Earth as a whole, past and future generations?

What does it mean to relate to those where Spirit has not (yet) awakened to itself? What does it mean for groups where Spirit has awakened to itself, to varying degrees, in many of us?

Again, as with the deepening into seeing everything in the wider world also in my human self, this is an infinite exploration process. As long as there is the world of form, and a vehicle in this world of form, it has no end. It continues to richen, deepen, mature, develop, evolve and change.

Deepening intimacy

In all of these ways, there is a deepening intimacy.

At the Spirit level, it is beyond intimacy since it is all Spirit. It is the most intimate.

At the individual human level, there is the deepening intimacy of finding and knowing in myself, in greater and greater richness and depth, any and all of the qualities I see in the wider world.

At our collective human level, there is the exploration of the infinite ways Spirit shows up as Us, in all of our many and varied relationships.