God is sometimes referred to as personal and impersonal. How do I find that in my own experience?

God is impersonal in that God is reality, what is, what’s here now. God is experience and what experience happens within and as. (Including confusion, identifications etc.)

God is personal in that this “I” can connect with infinite love and intelligence, there is a personal communication between this appearance of an I and me and God as infinite love and intelligence.

And that I and me, and the infinite love and intelligence, are all expressions of the impersonal God.

So God is impersonal and personal, and neither since all of that are just labels and mental overlays.

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Personal and collective

In a couple of recent conversations, the topic of personal and collective material (shadow etc.) has come up.

The distinction makes sense in a conventional sense, and may be useful in daily life.

But what’s real for me is something else.

The thoughts arising here are universal. What happens when I take them as true is universal. The tendency to take them as true is universal. What I find when there is more clarity is universal.

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Personal and collective

One way of exploring what is personal and not, is to look at beliefs. Which ones are personal? Which ones collective?

On the surface it appears that some are more personal and some are more collective. Some are not shared by so many, and some are shared by most.

At the same time, I find that stories are personal and collective. As soon as they appear here, they are personal. And when they are taken as true, their essence and dynamics is shared.

I may believe that Obama is a better president than Bush, and not everyone will agree, so it looks like a more personal belief.

As soon as that story is taken as true, certain dynamics come in. I tell myself it is true. I am right, and others are not. I need to defend this point of view and the identity created from it. And so on. And those more essential beliefs and dynamics are shared, including by those who believe that Bush was a better president.

None of this matters much in a practical sense.

I notice a belief, and inquiry into it.

The process is the same for idiosyncratic beliefs, those shared within a culture, and those shared by (almost) all of humanity.

My cat is smarter than other cats. (Personal.) People should take off their shoes indoors. (Cultural.) Something is right and something is wrong. There is good and evil. (Cultural/universal.) I need love, acceptance and approval. I am a separate I. I am something I can imagine. (Shared by almost all of humanity.)

The process is the same for each of these. I notice discomfort, find the belief behind it, and inquire into it to find what is more true for me.

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Personal and not

Sometimes, we differentiate the personal and not personal, and it can be useful and convenient to do so.

But when I look a little closer, I find that boundary too to be only a construct.

I can say that everything related to this human self is personal... any experiences, thoughts, emotions, preferences, actions and so on.

And I can equally well say that none of those are personal.

Thoughts, emotions, preferences, identifications, actions – anything experienced – just happens. They all live their own life, on their own schedule.

And if I look at it through the filter of cause and effect, I find innumerable possible causes for each one. There is always one more, in a chain going back to the beginning of the universe and out to the widest reaches of the universe.

So in both of those ways, there is nothing personal about any of it. It just happens, and each one has infinite (apparent) causes.

This can easily co-exist with the conventional views. I will still take responsibility for my actions and whatever appears connected to this human self. But I can also look a little further, and notice it is all impersonal.

In the headless terminology, I can say that finding myself as capacity for the world, it is all impersonal. And as what I appear as to others, as this human self, it is personal in the everyday sense.

From private to shared

In life in general, and through practices such as the Big Mind process and The Work, there is a shift from taking something about our human self as intensely private and personal, to it being revealed as universal and shared.

With any belief, there is an identification with a particular view and identity. And when there is identification with it, it is taken as “I”, as personal, and sometimes as quite private… especially when we have shoulds around it. It becomes something to hide, to let out only when it seems safe, to protect, and so on. We take it all very seriously.

When the identification goes out of it, we see that it is universal and shared and the sense of it being private falls away. It is no longer something to protect. There is a sense of freedom around it.

This shift happens in many different ways. It can come about from just knowing that it is similar for other people. Or from seeing it as universal through the Big Mind process. Or allowing attachment to it to fall away through The Work.

So say I am uncomfortable in some social situations and take it as very embarrassing and private. I am closely identified with that role, and with beliefs and identities around it. It becomes something to hide, and only mention in especially safe situations. Yet, as soon as I realize that this is universal and shared, and both see and feel this, or the attachment to beliefs and identities around it fall away, this all changes.

There is a sense of release, relief and space around it. It is still personal, in the sense that it is happening to this human self, but it is not longer private or something I need to tiptoe around. Instead of being something that separates me from others, something that makes me special and different, it becomes something that connects and is shared.

It is seen and felt as universally human, happening here with a particular flavor as it does for anyone else.

Personal and impersonal

There are many ways to explore the personal and impersonal, and one is in terms of how we experience what we take to be ourselves… in short, it seems that when there is a belief, the belief itself and what it relates to tends to be taken as personal, and when the belief is seen through, they are both revealed as impersonal… as universally human, as the inevitable appearance when there is a belief in the particular story, as nothing other than void itself taking a temporary appearance.

If there is the belief in the story people shouldn’t lie, and an identity as someone who doesn’t lie, then any lies here (which there are bound to be) will be experienced as intensely personal and private… the fact that I lie, and what I lie about, will both seem very personal and something to hide from others and maybe even myself. I would be mortified if they were revealed.

But if the belief in that story is investigated, revealing the limited and relative truth to that statement, the truths in each of its turnarounds, and even the gifts of lying (sometimes), the attachment to the story may fall away. And now, the story, the identity it creates (as someone not lying), and what it refers to (what is lied about), is not taken as so personal anymore. It is easier to see how it is universally human to (sometimes) lie, how a belief in the story creates the dynamics I just experienced, how the story itself is impersonal in the sense that it is shared in our culture (and many others), how it is just a thought which has no substance, and even how the story, the belief, the consequences of that belief, and what it refers to, all are temporary appearances of the void itself.

This all sounds quite complicated and convoluted, but the experience itself is simple. First, when there is a belief in a story, an identification with it, it seems personal and private, something to hide and protect. And when that identification falls away, for whatever reason, it is all revealed as impersonal… as universal, universally human, an appearance created from a belief, as anything else arising without identification with it (clouds, mountains), as a temporary face of void itself.

In practical (and relative) terms, as long as there is an identification with the story, and so also what it points to, it is difficult to own it and take responsibility for it. We try to push it away and deny it, and it shows up in our life in ways that only amplifies the sense of drama and struggle. But when there is an disidentification with it, it is actually easier to own it, take responsibility for it, be honest about it, which also changes how it shows up in our life. There is more integrity and a more conscious relationship with it, which makes it easier for ourselves and others.

This disidentification helps who we take ourselves to be (this human self), and it also helps in creating some space for recognizing what we are… an opening in the cloud cover created by beliefs.