Themes in an awakening process

I have been interested in the phases and stages of the awakening process for a while, and although these stage maps have value, I am also very aware of their shortcomings.

So I thought I would explore a different approach here that may complement stage models, and also loosen them up a bit, and shed a slightly different light on the process.

What are some of the themes in an awakening process? And how do they look in different phases of the process, and perhaps in some of the individual processes I know about?


Here are some of the themes that stand out to me.


If we are in an awakening process, we typically have some interest, fascination, and draw to it. We may feel called. We may respond to inner guidance or intuition. We may tell ourselves any number of reasons why we are interested in it.

This interest tends to stay with us through the process, perhaps with some periods where it goes more into the background.

An interest or fascination may be how it (apparently) starts for us. And other times, our fascination and interest come from an initial glimpse or shift. (For me, the shift came first.)


Just about all of us have at last some intellectual curiosity about the process, we wish to make some sense of our own process and experiences, and we read or listen to what others have to share about it.

This intellectual exploration typically follows us through the process. It doesn’t belong to any particular phase.

It can be very helpful in that it provides us with a map and a way to orient.

And the pitfall is that we can have our noses so deeply in the maps that we forget about the terrain. We may distract ourselves. We may get overly attached to certain maps, even when they don’t fit the terrain so well. We may temporarily forget that this is about the terrain, not the maps.


We also have the more direct and visceral exploration.

This may be a direct noticing of our nature, often guided by certain structured forms of inquiry and someone familiar with the terrain.

We may explore basic meditation and notice and allow what’s here, and then notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed and align more consciously with that. We may find that any and all content of experience, including anything associated with this human self, comes and goes. And that what we are is what all this comes and goes within and as.

We may train a more stable attention. We may engage in heart-centered practices. We may use body-centered practices or do energetic work. We may follow ethical guidelines mimicking how people tend to live when oneness notices itself.

We may explore how it is to live from all of this.

Not everyone starts with direct exploration, but it is an essential part of the process. And if we are on a sincere exploration, it tends to be with us for the whole process. There is always more to discover, clarify, deepen, and get familiar with.


At some point, we may have glimpses of our nature. We may intuit or feel some kind of oneness of existence. We may even recognize our nature as capacity for the word as it appears to us, and find ourselves as the oneness the world to us happens within and as.

We may experience different kinds of states highlighting and showing us aspects of our nature.

And these glimpes may show us something just a bit beyond what we already are familiar with.

This can happen at any phase of the process. Even after we notice our nature, there is always further to go, and we often get glimpses of what’s ahead. (At least, that’s how it’s been for me.)


We then have the more stable shifts.

Oneness may shift into more stably noticing itself, through the different states, experiences, and situations of daily life.

Oneness may shift from noticing itself to more viscerally experiencing itself as oneness, again through the different situations in daily life.

And so on. There are many of these.


We may go through several kinds of dark nights in an awakening process.

These are temporary states where we may feel lost or that we have lost something, we may have deep wounds and traumas surfacing, we may experience deep agony, and so on.

These are times when our old orientation and way of being may not work anymore. Old patterns wear off. And we get ready, whether we know it or not, for something else.

The more we struggle, the less pleasant this experience tends to be. And if we struggle, then that struggle is an integral part of the process for us and something we can learn from.

There are certain things we can do to make it a little easier for ourselves. For me, it helped to know that others have gone through something very similar. It helped to have the guidance and support of someone who had gone through it himself. Being in nature was a blessing and helped calm down my very frayed nervous system. Energetic work – Five Element acupuncture and Vortex Healing – has also helped. And heart-centered practices and inquiry has been a good support as well.

In my experience, this is something that lives its own life and has its own schedule. In many ways, “I” am just along for the ride.


Through the process, we may also explore living from what we discover and the shifts that happen.

We may explore living according to ethical guidelines, and notice what in us wishes to deviate from these. (Typically, wounded parts of us that need some befriending, understanding, love, and clarity through inquiry.)

We may do heart-centered or body-centered practices, and explore how to live from the shifts these bring about.

We may notice our nature, and explore how to live from that in different situations in daily life.

And we may notice what in us is still not yet on board with this, and gently explore and get to know those parts of us.


A part of this process is the reorganization and realignment of our human self and the many psychological parts of our human self.

This happens throughout the process. It happens at a conceptual level through our conceptual curiosity. It happens at a heart level through heart-centered and other practices. It happens as shifts in how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, life, and our experiences. It happens in terms of our identity and what we take ourselves to be. And so on.

Mainly, it happens in the form of a healing of how we relate to anything. And as healing of the different wounded parts of ourselves.

These days, I am mostly using the befriend & awaken process to explore this.


Some don’t feel moved to share much about this or their own process, and that’s perfectly fine.

And others are drawn to sharing, in some form or another. Even if it’s just occasional conversations with others on the path.

The sharing can be between colleagues exploring a similar terrain. It can be between a student and coach. It can be between someone familiar with this terrain and someone curious about it. And so on.

For me, the sharing mostly happens here.


Stage models obviously have their place and usefulness.

And I still love this focus on themes – or woven threads – in an awakening process.

It shows how themes may be present throughout the process. It shows how they may change in their expression through the process.

It complements the stage models, helps loosen them up a bit, and fills them in. And it’s fully possible to include a discussion of phases when outlining themes, or the other way around.

Note: I wrote an article using a theme orientation to outline my own process.

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Stage models, reality, and when the sequences are jumbled

For me, it was more about finding cosmologies that fit my experience. Specifically, that in my experience I am consciousness and the world to me appears as consciousness. (Whether that’s how reality actually is, is an open question but possible.) I had to go to Buddhism, Taoism, mystics from different traditions, etc. to find cosmologies that reflected this. (When the shift happened for me, I was an atheist living in a Christian culture so I wasn’t familiar with any of the cosmologies that eventually felt more like home.)

This was my reply when someone in an online “spiritual emergency” group asked about shifts and cosmologies.

In many cases, people will initially be interested in spirituality, read and hear about it, explore some practices, and so on. And if there is a real shift in perception and identity, it often comes some years into the exploration.

Most maps and models of the awakening process reflect this. First, there is an interest or draw to it. Then an exploration of maps and practices. And then a shift.

And, as we all know, maps are maps. They are mental representations of a part of life and life’s processes. They are more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They are always refined as we get more information and experience. They are simplifications. They leave a lot out. They are different in kind from what they refer to. And life is more than and different from any map.

Life operates independently of human maps. And if we have our noses too deeply into our maps, life will inevitably throw up surprises and remind us that it’s different from our ideas about it.

In my case, life didn’t follow the standard maps. This human self was an atheist, mostly interested in science, and saw spirituality and religion as a crutch of little or no interest. One night – while this human self was walking down a dark gravel road under a sky filled with stars and a big wind, out of the blue, and for whatever reason – oneness shifted into noticing itself, and the “center of gravity” shifted into oneness. And then this human self spent a long time playing catch-up and exploring the sharing from others who had recognized the same or similar, cosmologies, and different types of spiritual practices.

It took at least a couple of years before I found anyone who seemed to describe what seemed so obvious to me. I still remember it. I was still a teenager, standing in the man library in Oslo, in the religion and spirituality section, reading in an old book of Meister Eckhart’s sermons. And there, behind some layers of cultural differences and Christian language, I saw someone who had at least glimpsed the same.

Later, I found reflections in some Taoist writings, and also Buddhism and especially Zen, but all of it seemed hidden behind layers of tradition, cultural differences, and sometimes intellectualizing that deviated from actual immediate noticing. I found Jes Bertelsen, a fellow Scandinavian, who clearly knew what this was about. Some years later, I found Adyashanti who most clearly of anyone reflected what seemed so obvious to me but few talked about in a direct and simple way. After that, I also found the more modern Advaita and neo-Advaita folks who talked about the same, often in a clear and direct way, and also sometimes seemed a bit caught up in ideology.

If I am honest, I still feel I am playing catch-up to what was revealed back when I was sixteen and what is still shows itself to itself here. I still feel a bit like I was hit by a truck. I still work on helping my human self reorient and reorganize within it.

And when it comes to stages and models of the awakening process, I hold it all lightly. Yes, there are some common phases and elements of the process. And no, it’s not always sequential and especially not in a particular one-size-fits-all way. The phases may happen in different sequences. Sometimes, several phases – or elements of several phases –– happen at once. Sometimes, phases return in a different way.

To me, it all looks more like themes woven into each other and expressed in our life in different ways. The themes are recognizable. And they are always woven in an individual way.

Phases in an awakening process

What are some of the phases and themes in an awakening process?

It’s always individual, but there are also some common themes.

When we write about these types of things, we can do it from oneness or from the perspective of the apparently separate self. Either one has value. Here, I’ll switch from one to the other.


In the world, to others, and to ourselves when we take on that identity, we are a human self.

And to ourselves, in my own first-person experience, I find I more fundamentally am something else.

I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here – of this human self, others, situations, the wider world, and anything else. And this timeless now it all happens within is self-cleaning, always forming itself into something new and fresh.

I also find that any content of experience happens within my sense fields. It happens within and as what I am. To me, the world happens within and as what I am.

The oneness I am forms itself into the world as it appears to me.

This oneness can form itself into separation consciousness. It can take itself to be something in particular within the content of experience – typically a mental representation of this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

And it can “wake up” to itself as oneness and live from this noticing and visceral knowing.


Early in life, the oneness we are forms itself into something amazing that helps our human self operate and function in the world. This is what we can call a psyche or ego in a psychological sense.

The psyche is a kind of operating system for the human self, it normally develops and matures over time, and a well-functioning operating system is essential for our human self to live in the world.

In itself, this has little to do with awakening or separation consciousness. Oneness can develop a relatively healthy and functional operating system whether it consciously notices itself (awake) or operates from separation consciousness.


In most cases, the oneness we are continues to operate from separation consciousness through the lifetime of its human self. There is nothing wrong in that.

Even here, there are times when oneness operates more from oneness and less from separation consciousness, for instance in flow states, when there is ease and enjoyment, and so on. This may be experienced as enjoyable, and oneness likely won’t consciously recognize what’s happening beyond that.

On the continuum from oneness recognizing itself versus functioning from separation consciousness, oneness often moves somewhere between the two. Occasionally, it may go more to one or the other extremes. Most of the time, it’s somewhere more in the middle. And it may never consciously recognize itself as oneness.


In some cases, oneness may have a stronger longing for finding itself again as oneness.

At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. (For me, this took the form of a strong longing through childhood and I had no idea what it was about until later.)

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under a vast open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)

Or we have glimpses and shifts and don’t see the use of it or it doesn’t grab us, so we leave it at that.

In many cases, this doesn’t go any further than a casual interest, and that’s fine too.


Oneness can then actively engage in an exploration of its nature.

We may explore and get to know maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

And we may engage in more direct explorations and some form of spiritual practice.

Some of these will help reorient us so we are more consciously aligned with how it is when oneness notices itself. (Heart-centered practices, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines.) This makes it easier to live from noticing oneness if or when that eventually happens. And in either case, it tends to make our life a little more comfortable and enjoyable.

And some explorations help oneness notice itself more directly. (Basic meditation, structured inquiry, pointers.)


Oneness may then notice itself more directly.

This can happen “out of the blue” without any obvious preparations and without any conscious interest in spirituality or awakening. (As was the case for me. It happened when I was sixteen, and I was an atheist at the time with no interest in spirituality.)

It can happen suddenly and without much warning after a shorter or longer period of practice.

And it can happen more deliberately through following structured inquiry and pointers. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process can both lead people to notice their nature relatively easily and quickly without much preparation.


The early noticing may come with or without bells and whistles. (The side-effects of noticing our nature, which can include strong states, unusual experiences, and so on.)

If it’s more neutral and free of bells and whistles, we may avoid distracting ourselves with the bells and whistles. The downside is that we may tell ourselves it’s too simple and familiar and we either abandon the exploration or keep looking for something else that fits our ideas about what it’s about.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Both happened in my case. I both noticed the essence of my nature when the shift happened in my teens. And I got somewhat distracted by states and experiences and ended up partly chasing states for a while.

Either way, this is not wrong and is often a temporary phase of the process.

The invitation here is to notice the essence of our nature. To find ourselves as capacity, and what the world to us happens within and as.


When oneness notices the essence of its nature, the invitation is to keep noticing.

We can learn to notice our nature independent of and through changing states and experiences.

Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

And when we get caught in separation consciousness, it’s an invitation to notice what’s happening. What painful identity or belief was triggered? What did I trigger in myself?


Through all of this, we are invited to live from noticing our nature, or our nature noticing itself as all there is.

How is it to live as oneness in this situation? How is it to perceive and live from my heart?

How is it to recognize even this experience, this uncomfortable one, as a flavor of the divine? How is it to notice that my nature and its nature is the same?


This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.


Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

In my case, I first went through one for a few years – maybe fifteen years after the initial shift – where it felt like “I” had lost it and I felt deeply off track. Then, there was a period of an absence of apparently any sense of separate self. And ten years after the first dark night, I was plunged into a much more dramatic dark night. This one was full of health challenges, loss in most or all areas of life, disorientation, a sense of deeper undoing of my human self, and intense and overwhelming primal survival fear and old trauma surfacing.


Our metaphorical center of gravity – what we viscerally take ourselves to be – tends to shift in this process. And typically more than once.

One of the major shifts is from separation consciousness to oneness.

It may seem as if we as the separate self notice our more fundamental nature as capacity, oneness, love, and so on. Even if we genuinely notice our nature, many dynamics and parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness, so that’s where our center of gravity largely is.

And when the separation consciousness dynamics are more worn out, it’s more clear that this is our nature noticing itself. Oneness notices itself as all there is. Love notices itself as all there is.


Exploring our nature and how to live from it is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.

There is always more to explore and get familiar with. There is always more healing and maturing for our human self. There are always more shifts, and these will tend to be both surprising and familiar.


And all of it is ultimately grace.

Our interest, effort, engagement, and so on is grace. It’s given to us. It’s life showing up that way through and as our life.

Any shifts are grace. We cannot make them happen, we can just prepare the ground to the best of our ability.

Whatever happens, whether a thought calls it a setback or progress, is grace. It’s the oneness we are exploring itself as whatever happens.

It’s life exploring, expressing, and experiencing itself in always new ways.


We can make different maps for any terrain, highlighting some features and leaving others out. And any map will reflect our own time and culture and what we are familiar with from our own process, and what we hear from others.

This particular map reflects my own experiences, biases, and limitations. Others will make other maps that may be equally or more valid than this one, and fit a bigger set of data better.


A summary of the phases outlined here could be: (1) No interest. (2) Interest. (3) Active and dedicated exploration. (4) Direct noticing. (5) Keep noticing. (6) Exploring living from it. (7) Transformation of our human psyche and life. (8) Dark nights. (9) Shifts in center of gravity.

These don’t necessarily happen in this sequence. Not everyone goes through all of them. And the last three are more themes or phases that can happen throughout the process.

This is always an individual process. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

For instance, all of these phases and elements have been part of my process, but not exactly in the order outlined here. (I was plunged into oneness first, and the interest and conscious exploration happened as a consequence of that.)

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Our nature: From conceptual understanding to noticing to finding ourselves as it, and living from it 

This is a variation on an often revisited topic for me, in these writings and in my life since my teens.

When it comes to exploring our own nature – and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience –there are several shifts that can happen. 

The main ones are from conceptual understanding, to direct noticing, to finding ourselves as it. And through it all, we have living from all of this as best we can and inviting our human self and psyche to transform within it.


We can have a conceptual understanding of our nature and what we are to ourselves, in our own first-person experience.

If presented in a down-to-earth way, it can make logical sense to many if not most.

Some may find it fascinating but of no practical value and nothing to keep exploring. Some may find it fascinating and continue to explore it conceptually, and that won’t bring any real or thorough transformation. Some may use it as a starting point for a more immediate exploration. And some may first notice or find themselves as their nature, and then explore and express it more conceptually.

And any conceptual understanding is refined through our own familiarity with the terrain, and that’s also what grounds it and keeps it real.


Then we may directly notice our nature. We notice it in immediacy.

We may notice our nature as capacity. Our nature is capacity for the world as it appears to us. It’s what allows any and all of our experiences to happen. It’s the nothing that allows all things.

We may notice that the world, to us, happens within and as what we are. Any experience – of this human self, others, the wider world, and anything else – happens within and as (what a thought may call) consciousness.

We may notice we are oneness and the world, to us, happens within and as this oneness.

We may find that another word for oneness is love. This is the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. And it comes from noticing and finding ourselves as our more fundamental nature, and it’s not dependent on states and feelings.

With some structured pointers, many if not most can notice this, and it can happen relatively quickly. Some will think it’s too simple and look for something else that fits their preconceived ideas. Some will find it interesting but not be drawn to explore it further or explore how to live from it. And some will get t and continue to notice and clarify and explore how to live from it in daily life.

In my experience, Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, and exploring my sense fields are practices that most effectively help me find and notice my nature, along with basic meditation.


Following this, there may be a shift into finding ourselves as capacity, oneness, and so on.

Our metaphorical center of gravity shifts into being our nature. This is what we already and always are, and now our conscious experience of ourselves is more aligned with our more fundamental nature.

These shifts are always grace. We cannot make it happen, although we can prepare the ground through noticing and clarifying and through our sincerity and receptivity. We can also prepare the ground through simple practices like inquiry and basic meditation.

It seems that there is always more to clarify and more to be revealed. Life keeps revealing more of itself to itself through and as us.


And through it all, we have living from what we notice or what we find ourselves as.

How is it to live from noticing my nature as capacity and oneness?

How is it to live as capacity? As oneness? As love?

How is that expressed here and now in this situation?

What in my human self needs to heal and mature so I can live more fully from and as this?

Living from and as our nature is greatly supported by inquiry and heart-centered practices, and also following some basic ethical guidelines which help us notice when we are out of alignment.

In general, the more our human self is psychologically healed and mature, the easier it is to live from what we notice – or find ourselves as – in more situations and areas of life.


All of this is happening within and as oneness.

In a purely conceptual understanding, oneness takes itself as primarily this human self and doesn’t notice itself or its nature. It may have an intuition or sense of what it is, which fuels an intellectual curiosity.

When there is a direct noticing, oneness still operates from identification as a separate self and the center of gravity is in this identification, while it also notices its own nature.

Finally, oneness rests in finding itself as oneness. Love rests in finding itself as love. Capacity rests in finding itself as capacity. The center of gravity has shifted more into its more fundamental nature.


How this looks is different in each case. This process is as individual as each of us.

Sometimes, the conceptual understanding is first and sometimes it comes after some of the other shifts.

Sometimes, we explore living from and as this through different spiritual practices before there is any direct noticing or taste.

Sometimes, the noticing or being is far ahead of living from it. While others may live from love and clarity based on a good heart and maturity, and perhaps only an intuitive sense of their nature. 


There is always further to go in all of this. There is no finishing line.

We may intentionally explore all of this and put effort into it. And anything that happens – any interest, fascination, exploration, guidance, and anything else including apparent setbacks – is ultimately grace. 

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The logic of awakening & the inevitability of what we are and how it plays itself out

This is another topic I feel drawn to revisit.

What are we in our own first-person experience? What are we to ourselves? What is the world to us?

We can explore this in our own direct experience, and that can be profoundly transforming for our perception, life in the world, and our human self.

And we can also explore it logically, which can lead to and possibly support a more immediate exploration.

When I explore it logically, arriving at what we are – our nature – seems inevitable. And perhaps it looks that way since I have explored it in my immediate noticing since my teens. I shape the steps to fit what I notice in immediacy.


What are these logical steps apparently arriving at the inevitability of what we are?

Here is one version:

  1. There is consciousness.
    • This is indisputable, as far as I can tell.
  2. This consciousness has content.
    • We label this content this human self, others, the wider world, and so on.
    • All our experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else – are content of consciousness.
  3. To ourselves, we are consciousness.
    • All the content of our experience comes and goes. Nothing stays.
    • This also applies to our human self and any ideas we have about our human self.
      • This human self is more ephemeral than we may tell ourselves. This human self comes and goes. For instance, in a dream we may be someone else or not present at all. Our experience of this human self, including our ideas about it, is always changing.
    • To ourselves, we are more fundamentally consciousness.
  4. The world, to us, happens within and as what we are.
    • To us, the world happens within and as consciousness, what we are to ourselves.
    • Our nature forms itself into the world as we experience it here and now.
  5. We are capacity.
    • One characteristic of consciousness is capacity.
    • Consciousness is capacity for any and all of the content of its experience.
    • We are capacity for the world, as it appears to us.
  6. We are oneness.
    • Any content of experience happens within and as consciousness.
    • This consciousness forms itself into any and all content of experience, including this human self, others, the world, and so on.
    • Consciousness is one, no matter what experience it forms itself into.
    • To ourselves, we are oneness.
  7. Separation consciousness
    • Consciousness can take itself to primarily be one particular part of its content.
    • Consciousness can take itself to be this human self, a doer, an observer, and any concept.
    • This is how separation consciousness is created.
  8. Awakening
    • Consciousness can notice itself as consciousness.
    • This is what some spiritual traditions call awakening.
    • It can happen through intention, practice, or without any conscious work or desire.
    • The noticing happens here and now, and learning to keep noticing, clarifying, deepening, and living from it is a process.
    • This process is ongoing and has no finishing line.
  9. Universality
    • The essence of this has been described by people across time and cultures, it seems universal.
    • Mystics from all the major spiritual traditions, and outside of any tradition, talk about finding themselves as capacity (“God-head”), oneness, and so on. And they speak in very similar ways about the process leading up to noticing, and the process of living from this noticing.
  10. A psychological understanding of awakening
    • This is a more psychological understanding of awakening.
    • It doesn’t rely on spirituality or spiritual terminology, although what it describes is the same.
    • It says something about what we are in our own first-person experience.
    • It doesn’t say anything about the nature of reality. It doesn’t rely or depend on words like Spirit, God, or Brahman.
    • That makes it more accessible to people independent on their existing worldviews.
    • And it can also provide common ground for people who are exploring and finding this, independent on whatever spiritual tradition or religion – if any – they belong to.

I realize that some may have arguments with some or all of these steps. That’s the job of the mind.

For instance, someone may agree that to ourselves, we are consciousness, oneness, etc. And yet, they may not see it as possible for consciousness to “wake up” to itself in this way because it’s outside of their current experience and the worldview they are familiar with.

I also realize that this can seem abstract and intellectual if we haven’t tasted it for ourselves, in our immediate noticing. (In my case, the noticing came before finding this apparent logic.)

And I am sure there are other ways of phrasing this that are more to the point and make more sense.


I thought I would say a few more words about separation consciousness and awakening since that’s of particular interest to me.

For me, the essence of how separation consciousness and awakening plays itself out also has a logic in it. Although there is a wild diversity in how each is expressed and lived out, there is also an apparent inevitability in its essence.


The oneness we are can take itself as fundamentally something in particular within the content of experience. Typically, this human self, a doer, an observer, and so on.

This happens, at least partially, through social learning. We are taught to take ourselves to be, most fundamentally, this human self. So we are good boys and girls and play the game so well we overlook our nature.

The specific ways separation consciousness unfolds is individual and always different.

And yet, there are some universals that inevitably come with separation consciousness.

This game of separation consciousness comes with inherent struggle and stress. Seeing ourselves as most fundamentally an object in the world, at the mercy of innumerable other objects, creates struggle and is stressful. And operating from a view out of alignment with reality does the same.

We also tend to operate from several blind projections. We see characteristics in others and the world and not in ourselves, and the other way around. This comes from and reinforces a sense of fundamentally being an I with an Other.


We don’t completely forget. Our nature is, inevitably, what’s most familiar to us. It’s all we ever know.

Here are some typical phases of the awakening process, and with the benefit of hindsight, the process looks relatively logical.

Initial interest

We may have a longing for finding ourselves again as oneness. At the surface, it may take the form of a longing for love, truth, reality, Spirit, or God. For me, it was a profound longing for coming home.

We may hear about awakening and it resonates with us.

We may have glimpses or shifts that drive us to explore further. (I had a profound sense of being one with the universe when I was around ten years old, sleeping under an open sky filled with stars in the Norwegian mountains.)


We may engage in spiritual practice and explore maps from others more familiar with the terrain.

In the best case, this helps reorient us so it’s easier to notice our nature and live from this noticing.


We then notice our nature. Oneness notices itself.

If it’s without bells and whistles, it’s possible we’ll tell ourselves it’s too simple and obvious and keep looking for something else.

If it’s with bells and whistles, we may get distracted by these, assume that’s what it’s about, and try to experience those particular bells and whistles again. We may end up chasing a state that’s by nature ephemeral, and overlook the much simpler essentials of our nature.

Keep noticing

We then realize this is about keeping noticing our nature. We can learn to notice it independent of and through changing states and experiences. Oneness notices itself independent of what content of experience it changes itself into.

Living from it

Here, we explore how to live from this noticing. How do I live from a conscious noticing of oneness in this situation?


This process involves a transformation of our fundamental identity, our perception, our life in the world, and our human self and psyche.

Many parts of our human self and psyche were formed within separation consciousness and still operate from separation consciousness. These will color our perception and life even if we consciously notice our nature.

An essential part of learning how to live from noticing our nature is to invite in healing for these parts of us.

Dark nights

Many go through one or more dark nights in this process. These are periods where we more strongly rub up against parts of the old separation consciousness so it can wear off and be seen through.

We may wonder if something has gone wrong. It will often bring us to our knees. Some dark nights may be intensely uncomfortable and overwhelming. And, in hindsight, we may see them as an essential part of the process.

Always individual

This process is always individual. Oneness winds itself up in separation consciousness in an individual way and unwinds in an individual way.

This is just an idealized and generalized outline. For instance, I have gone through or lived each of these steps or aspects, but not in the order outlined here.

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The loops of consciousness creating a sense of separation within oneness 

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I notice some of the ways oneness creates an experience of separation for itself. This seems to happen through several metaphorical folds or loops.


In one sense, I am a human being in the world. That’s how I appear to others, and it’s not wrong. 

And yet, is it what I more fundamentally am in my own first-person experience? 

When I look, I find my nature more fundamentally is capacity for all of my experiences – of this human self, the wider world, and anything else. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. 

Thoughts can label this oneness, consciousness, love, or Big Mind. Or even, if we are so inclined, Spirit, the divine, Brahman, or something else. 

It may not be the nature of all of reality. But it clearly seems to be what I am in my own experience. 

It’s what I more fundamentally am than a human self, or a separate being, or an I or me or observer or doer or anything else. All of that happens within and as what I am. 


So how does this oneness create an experience of I and Other for and within itself? 

An early loop seems to be consciousness being conscious of being conscious of something. 

Consciousness is inherently low grade conscious of everything it creates itself into, and this is a loop of oneness being conscious of being conscious of something within itself. 

This early loop sets the stage for several other loops. 


One of these is a reflection of an experience in mental representations including mental images and words. 

Thoughts can reflect experiences, and – as we know – consciousness can create all sorts of other mental representations that don’t directly reflect an experience. 


From the reflection and thought loop, consciousness can create a sense of separation for itself. 

It can create a sense of observer and observed, of being a human self in the world, and so on. 

It creates an experience for and within itself of being something within its content of experience (an I and me) and not being the rest (the wider world, the background). 


This, in turn, sets the stage for all the dynamics created by separation consciousness. 

It sets the stage for all the drama we know from our own life and from humanity in general. 

It sets the stage for what we find when we ask ourselves: “What happens when I believe this (any) thought?” How do I perceive myself and the world? What emotions come up? What choices do I make? How do I live my life? 


And this sets the stage for a possible return. 

The oneness we are creates a sense of separation for and within itself, and may then find itself in a process of rediscovering itself – and its whole world – as oneness. 

This is what we call an awakening process, and it often goes through several phases: An early interest. Early glimpses. Investing in fears and hopes. Going into a more dedicated exploration. Finding itself and its whole world as oneness. Exploring how to live from this. Inviting in healing for our human self and psyche so we more easily can live from oneness in more situations and areas of life. Going through dark nights. And so on. 


This is a map, and any map is a simplification and highlights some things while leaving other features out.

It may also be mistaken in certain ways. I am sure others have far more detailed maps based on more detailed examinations and more familiarity with the terrain.

This is just how it appears to me right now, and it’s a very simplified version of even that. 

Photo: One I took in Cañón del Chicamocha

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Phases in the awakening process, and maturing in spirituality

We can come up with any number of maps and models for the awakening process. Many of these fit much of the data we have, and they also tend to reflect our own biases, experiences, tradition, and culture.

I’ll outline a few general phases many seem to go through. And this fits, more or less, my own process as well. (I did skip the two first phases, see the last section.)

As with any phase model, any one individual process may look different. Some will skip some of these phases. Sometimes, a phase is baked into other phases. The path for some may look nothing like this. And many may not go further than the initial one or two phases.


Casual interest. Many have a casual interest in spirituality. Something in it is fascinating to us and we are drawn to it, and we may enjoy going to some events or reading some quotes or books. And that’s about it. This may progress to more serious interest, or stay like this, or fade.

Either one is perfectly fine.

Fascinated by what’s bright and shiny. Early on, we may be drawn to the bright and shiny. We may be attracted to teachers, teachings, and traditions that are charismatic, appear confident, and tell us what we want to hear. This can especially happen if we haven’t had a taste of what it’s about.

Engaging in more serious practice. At some point, which may be right away, we are called to engage in more serious practice. We devote time and energy to following pointers and practices from certain guides and traditions.

Here, we tend to focus more on the content than the packaging, and our discernment hopefully improves with experience and maturity.

A taste. We may have a taste of oneness, all as the divine, and so on. If the taste happened more spontaneously, it can function as a carrot, and, for a while, we may get caught up in chasing the experience.

If the taste comes from guided inquiry – like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process – several things may happen. We may find it interesting and not do anything more with it. We may feel it’s too simple and obvious, and it doesn’t fit our preconceived notion, so we dismiss it. Or we may engage in continued finding and exploration of what we are.

Learning to find and live from. When we more reliably can notice our nature, our invitation is to keep noticing in more situations in daily life and exploring how to live from it. Over time, this becomes a new habit.  

Inviting the human self to transform within it. Here, we may notice that many parts of our human self still operate from separation consciousness. These color our perception and life. And when they are triggered, we may get caught up in them for a while. We get caught up in the insanity of these scared parts of us instead of noticing and living from our nature.

An important part of this process is to notice these parts of us and invite them to join in with oneness and transform within oneness.

Dark nights. It’s common to experience different types of dark nights during an awakening process. We may have found the divine as all, and then it goes away and we respond with despair and loss. We may realize that none of what we believe is true the way we took it, including about spirituality, and have a kind of crisis. Our mind and heart open, and it also opens to anything unprocessed in us which then comes to the surface. (And this can feel disorienting, scary, and overwhelming.)

There are many other variations than the three I mentioned here. Common to them all may be that they help wear off some of our more cherished and essential assumptions about ourselves, life, and awakening. And although I inserted the dark night section here, it’s somewhat arbitrary. We can have dark night phases during any part of the awakening process.

Deepen into oneness and transformation. If we keep noticing, keep exploring living from it, and invite more of our human self to align within oneness, we may find that all of this gradually clarifies, deepens, and becomes more natural. We may also recognize that this is all ongoing and there is no endpoint.  


In addition to phases, there are also aspects or characteristics of the path.

Religion vs. spirituality. Some may go into or stay within a religion. They may do it for the community, comfort, and promise of some kind of salvation, or to engage in serious practice. Some may go into a more general spirituality that’s open for pointers and practices from many different traditions or that’s outside of any tradition.

Ideology vs pragmatics. We may engage in wishful or fearful thinking, believe whatever a teacher or tradition tells us, and go into ideologies. Or we may take a more pragmatic approach, hold whatever we are told lightly, engage in a serious practice, and see what works.

The world as a mirror. We may take the world as “out there” and more or less as it appears. Or we can use it as a mirror. We can use it by turning our stories about the world to ourselves and find specific examples of how it’s true. We may that, to us, it happens within and as our sense fields. We may find that our stories about the world, including the most basic assumptions and labels, come from an overlay of our own mental images and words. We may find that the world – any content of experience – happens within and as what we are.

Relationship with thoughts. We may take our thoughts as true and saying something real about the world. Or we may recognize thoughts as thoughts, as questions about the world, as serving a pragmatic function, as often only partially correct in a conventional sense, and as unable to hold any full, final, or complete truth.

This is an ongoing exploration since our system usually holds some thoughts and basic assumptions as true even if it doesn’t match our conscious view. These inevitably color our perception and life. And we may not be aware of these until one or more of them are triggered.

Finding effective tools. We may stay with the tools given to us by a guide or tradition. (Which may work fine or very well.) We take a more pragmatic approach, find what works for us, and learn which tools do what and apply them as needed. Or we do both, staying with the tools of a certain tradition and also exploring outside of this tradition.

Recognizing our own authority. Some may be tempted to give away their authority, especially early in the process. After a while, we may realize that we are always the final authority when it comes to our own choices and actions. Even when we pretend to give away our authority, we are our own final authority.

States vs our nature. For a while, we may experience unusual and amazing states, assume it’s about states, and chase states. At some point, we realize that this is about our nature, not states. And we can notice our nature here and now, independent of whatever states or experiences are here. (Unless they are very strong, our noticing is not so strong, and our attention gets distracted.)

Living for ourselves vs the larger whole. We can go overboard in either direction here, or life places us in a situation where we get to explore one more than the other. Over time, we may find more of a balance in a conventional sense, and look a little deeper and find where one is the other. (For a while, I tended to ignore my own needs and instead serve others, which doesn’t work especially in the long run and comes from some issues and hangups. Then, life placed me in a health and life situation where I had no choice but to focus on and take care of myself. The situation was too urgent and I didn’t have the energy or resources for anything else.)

Growing and waking up. As many talks about these days, both are important. We can work on healing and maturing as a human being. And also notice our nature and live from this noticing. They go hand-in-hand, and if there is an awakening, life tends to put us in situations where we need to grow up. (That happens no matter what, but it seems to get intensified in this process.)


When we are presented with a map of phases, it can be helpful or not depending on how we use it.

It can be of help when we personally are going through certain phases. When I was in the darkest dark night, I listened to Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism, and especially the chapter on the dark night, over and over. Just about everything in it matched my experience, and it gave me some comfort knowing that others had gone through something similar. I felt a kinship to these people she wrote about, and I also went to some of the sources she used.

When we are in earlier phases, it can be moderately helpful to have a general map of the process. It gives us some idea of what to look out for, and it can help us avoid some of the pitfalls. (Although knowing about pitfalls is often not enough to avoid them, and we may need to gain our own experience.)

And as an awakening guide, it’s helpful to have a general map of the process. I assume just about anyone on this path eventually forms a map in their own mind of the process. And this map is often based on their personal experience, what they have seen from others, and maps created by others.

The idea of phases can also be less helpful.

It’s not so helpful if we use it to want to get to the next one. It’s better to just keep doing our practices and see what happens.

It’s not so helpful if we get caught up in placing ourselves and others in the different phases to see who is more “advanced” and so on. Life is more complex than that and there is a lot more going on than what’s described in any one model.

And it’s especially not helpful if we assume it has to be that way for everyone including ourselves. There are always cases that don’t fit a certain map or model. Life is always richer than any model. It’s always more than and different from any model.

As with so much, maps and models may be most helpful when we hold them lightly, use them for specific practical purposes, and know that reality is different.


It may be important to say a few words about my own process since it explains some of my biases. And it’s also an example of how life doesn’t always conform to the map. My own process doesn’t fit all of the phases I listed above.

In my case, the initial awakening shift happened spontaneously in my mid-teens. I didn’t go through an initial casual fascination phase. On the contrary, I was an atheist and saw religion and spirituality as impractical, something people seek for comfort, and something to avoid.

Since it happened outside of any tradition, I have felt free to explore any tradition. And I also tend to take a pragmatic approach and find and use what works for me whether it’s from a tradition or outside of traditions.

As mentioned earlier, I have gone through a relatively dense dark night. For me, it had to do with a lot of primal fear and trauma surfacing so it could join in with the awakening. It hasn’t been so strong recently, but it’s still very much a focus for me. It’s a process of allowing it to work on me. Healing my relationship with it and life. Inviting in healing for the trauma itself. And recognizing it all as flavors of the divine.

My main focus these days is to invite the different parts of me to join in with oneness.

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Why the spontaneous awakening shift?

When I was fifteen and sixteen years old, there was an awakening shift in two phases.

Why did it happen?

And was it as spontaneous as it seemed?


As an early teenager, I was an atheist although I had some interest in parapsychology. I was interested in the mysteries of the world in general. I had no interest in spirituality or religion and saw it as a crutch for people who otherwise had trouble dealing with life.

At age fifteen, my sense of self was absorbed into what I now can label witnessing. From taking myself as primarily this human self, my whole sense of self became witnessing – a witnessing of this human self and the wider world and any and all content of experience.

This was obviously unsettling and confusing, and I went to a series of medical specialists for an answer. They found nothing. The idea that this had anything to do with anything that could be called spirituality didn’t even enter my mind.


About a year later, when I was sixteen, there was a shift into recognizing everything – without exception – as God or the divine. This human self, and any sense of fundamentally being a separate self, was all the play of God and the divine. It was all revealed as the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in all of these ways.

This never went away, and I have explored it since. It was a bit like being picked up and plonked down in a very different land and having to get to know this new and previously unfamiliar place. For many years, this happened on my own without others who seemed familiar with the same terrain.


So why did this happen?

I had done no practices to invite it in. I had no interest in religion or spirituality.

My best guess is that there was a good amount of “psychological pressure” building up at this time for me, from my version of the common teenage angst. Angst made up of a mix of social anxiety, fear of not knowing how to be an adult, insecurities passed on from my family, and so on.

This pressure needed to find an outlet, and the safety valve in my case turned out to be a shift into awakening.

It could have gone any number of other directions. In my case, the most likely would have been a continued freeze. It could have led to some kind of breakdown which would have allowed me to rest and remove myself from the situation. In other cases, or perhaps even in my case, it could have gone in the direction of insanity or substance abuse. And, for whatever reason, in this case, it went in the direction of awakening.

It seemed spontaneous. And, most likely, it wasn’t.

Most likely, the conditions were ripe for just this shift at that time. The psychological pressure was there. Perhaps also genetics, general psychology, and more. And this may include a ripeness that comes from previous lives if there are any.


To us, it seems that awakening shifts sometimes happen without much leading up to it. Other times, it happens following a lot of practice and exploration. Sometimes, it’s a sudden shift. Other times, it’s more of a gradual slide. Often, it’s a combination of several of these at different times.

And, in reality, we ultimately don’t know why it or anything else happens. We can have educated guesses. We can have stories that seem to fit the data. And if we are honest, we don’t really know. We cannot know for certain.

What we can say is that everything has innumerable causes. We can always find one more, and one more.

We can also say, in the words of Carl Sagan, that we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

Our life is the local expression of movements within the whole of existence. We are the whole locally expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as us and our life.

What’s happening here may appear as the result of our own individual effort, and that’s not entirely wrong. And, more truly, it has innumerable causes stretching far beyond us as individuals. The apparently individual effort, the shift itself, and how we respond to it are all local expressions of what’s happening in the whole, within existence as a whole.

Similarly, it’s not an individual that wakes up. It’s existence that locally wakes up to its more fundamental nature.

Photo: Midsummer at Nesoddtangen.

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The problem with stages

Although I love Ken Wilber‘s integral model in general, there are several sides of him and the integral community I find a bit troublesome. This includes green-bashing (vilifying the ones they see at the green level of development), Wilber’s tendency to misrepresent the views of others (straw man arguments), and the tendency of the integral community to adopt both the good and bad sides of Ken Wilber’s personal approach.

I would also include an over-emphasis on stages, and especially the stages described in Spiral Dynamics. Of course, these models can be useful in some contexts and to some extent, if they are held lightly.


Why is there such an emphasis on stages in the integral world? One reason is obviously that they see the difference between first- and second-tier orientation as important and fascinating. (Very roughly, this is the difference between seeing your own view as right and other views as wrong versus appreciating the validity in each one and being curious about how they fit together in describing the world in a more rich and nuanced way.)

I can’t help wonder if there isn’t more going on.

Stage models offer neat ways of dividing up the world and understanding people. They are generally easy to understand. We can put them on top of just about anything and tell ourselves we understand what’s going on. They give us a jumping-off point for easy analysis.

They can be attractive because they give us a sense of understanding and that we grasp something important about the world, and many want to feel they understand.

Also, they can be used to boost our self-esteem. If we understand and like a model, it’s often because we imagine we are pretty high up on the hierarchy.


At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind some things about stage models of human development.

Stages are not inherent in reality. They are imagined and put on top of something we observe. These imaginations can fit the data well, and help us orient in the world, and they are still imaginations.

If we have a set of observed data, we can find innumerable imagined overlays that fit this data – more or less well. In the future, we’ll likely come up with models that seem to fit the data, and new data, better, and models we may see as more useful in helping us orient.

What we observe largely depends on what we look for and expect to find. We already operate from assumptions and use those to determine the setting for gathering data, the data we gather, and how we interpret those data. To some extent, we see what we expect to see. It’s easy to imagine alien anthropologists or psychologists coming here, studying us, and highlighting and understanding what they see in a very different way from us, and it may be equally valid and useful as what we are familiar with.

We all operate from different parts of us in different situations and settings. What comes out in one situation may be different from what comes out in another. There is a richness, complexity, and fluidity here that may not be well captured by models.

We are rich and complex, and stages will by necessity only look at one or a few of the aspects of who and what we are. As Ken Wilber says, there are several lines of development. (In reality, there are innumerable since we can divide this up in as many or as few as we want.) Stage models tend to (over?)simplify and overlook the complex ecology of interactions within this organic richness.

We tend to develop stage models of what we value and where we, as culture and individuals, are high up or on top. In another culture, they may see something else as valuable and would develop stage models of that. In these models, they are likely to be closer to the top since they live in a culture where that particular development is valued, encouraged, and supported, and we may be further down. (These could be stage models of being in tune with the natural environment, hunting skills, shamanic development, valuing the interests of the group over self, living from a sense of deep time, and so on.)

In general, stage models can be over-emphasized and held too tightly.

Life is far more complex and rich than any model. Models and thoughts are different in type from what they refer to. Life is always more than and different from our thoughts about it. And our models tend to reflect – and reinforce – our own culture, orientation, and values.

Stage models can still serve as valuable guides for certain things and in certain situations. It’s just helpful to see the bigger picture, be aware of their limitations, and hold them lightly.

Note: I wrote this from what came to me, I am sure others have done a far more thorough and insightful analysis of the limitations of stage theories.

Do I have to become somebody before becoming nobody?

You have to become somebody before you can become nobody.

I recently heard this again and thought I would say a few words about it.

As far as I understand, it means that we need to develop a healthy psyche before we can start exploring what we are and how to live from that.

Is it true? As usual, the answer may be yes, no, and it depends.


Yes, it’s generally good advice if you are unusually ungrounded, unable to take care of your life very well, are dealing with a lot of trauma, and so on. In these cases, taking care of this goes before most other considerations, including exploring what we are.


No, in most cases you don’t have to wait. If you are normally unhealthy and dysfunctional, you can do both. Seek out approaches that invite in healing for you at a human level, and also helps you find what you are and live from that.

There are a lot of tools out there that does both, including different forms of inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), heart-centered approaches (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta, prayer), body-centered approaches (yoga, taichi, chigong), training a more stable attention (good all-around), basic meditation (notice + allow), and more.


And it depends. It depends on what you mean by somebody and nobody, the person, the situation, what you are interested in, and so on.

I assume by somebody, they mean a healthy and functioning human self. The operating system works reasonably and normally well. By nobody, they may mean finding what we are, which is what allows this somebody and all our other experiences.

Who we are happens within and as what we are, so finding what we are doesn’t at all exclude who we are. On the contrary, finding what we are can allow our human self in the world to function in a more authentic way, with more flow, and it often starts a process of a deep healing of our human self. That healing process can be challenging, which is why it’s typically easier and safer if we start out normally dysfunctionally healthy.

What can go wrong? Nothing is inherently wrong since whatever happens becomes part of our process. But there are some typical challenges that can happen if we explore what we are while our human self is unusually unstable or we are dealing with a lot of trauma.

If we have a lot of trauma in our system, and whether we know about this trauma or not, it can get released through meditation and other forms of spiritual practice. And this can be frightening, overwhelming, disorienting, and we may respond to it by creating new traumas. It’s important to work with a guide or instructor who is familiar with trauma work and signs of trauma, and knows how to help you deal with it. At the very least, the person needs to be aware of what may come up, the signs, of it, and who to send you to for further assistance.

We may also react to our pain by wanting transcendence, or by going into disassociation. We may want and hope that awakening will help us leave our human self and the pain we associate with being this human self. If this is the case, it’s good to address this early on. Finding what we are is not really about transcendence, it’s more about finding a different context for our human life.

And we cannot avoid whatever is unprocessed in our human self. It’s always there, it will always color our perception and life, we’ll always be in reaction to it one way or another, and it tends to surface on its own because it too wants release and healing.

In some cases, people may get fascinated by what they are – or the idea of what they are – to the exclusion of living and taking care of their life in the world. That happens with other things as well, including – I assume – stamp collecting. If this happens, it’s natural and to be expected if it’s relatively mild and not too long-lasting. And there may be a component of avoidance there, especially if it is extreme, and something to look at and find healing for.

In general, it’s good to focus on healing parallel with any focus on noticing and living from what we are. And it’s good to examine any beliefs we have about awakening and what we think we’ll get out of it.

Many who get into exploring what they are do so partly because they want to escape something. Again, there is a lot of potential for finding clarity around our painful beliefs here and finding healing for how we relate to our own discomfort and for the unhealed parts of us. The motivation is not wrong, it’s a pointer to something in us we can find healing for.


So do we need to become somebody before becoming nobody?

In some cases, yes. If we are unusually unstable, have a lot of trauma, have a strong tendency to disassociation, and so on, it’s good to address this first. That’s true in general, even outside of this context.

In most cases, no. If we are just ordinarily unhealthy and dysfunctional, we can do both. Especially if we use tools and approaches that support healing, noticing what we are, and living from this noticing.

And as usual, it depends. It depends on who we are and what we are dealing with. It depends on the situation and what support we have. It depends on our motivation and what we are really seeking. If we just want some relief from discomfort, then healing may do the trick. If we are genuinely drawn to what we more fundamentally are, and also seek deeper and more thorough healing, then awakening is the ticket.

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Spiritual practices mimic awakening

Many spiritual practices mimic awakening.

Some mimic noticing what we are, which helps us actually notice.

And some mimic living from noticing what we are.


Pointers that help us notice what we are tend to mimic what we naturally notice when we notice what we are.

This may sound obvious, but there is more to it.

Some pointers help us notice some of the characteristics of what we are. We may notice that what we are does not have a boundary, it’s timeless, it’s what space and time happen within, it’s what our experiences happen within and as. Looking at each of these, one at a time, we get a sense of what we are. It becomes more familiar, easier to notice, and the center of gravity of what we take ourselves to be can shift more into this. The Big Mind process is an example of these types of pointers.

Some help us relate to the content of our experience a certain way, and through that notice what we are. We find that the content of our experience happens within and as what we are. Some Headless experiments do this, and some of them do the first one.

In awakening, we notice the characteristics of what we are, and that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. And these pointers help us notice this here and now. We find it for ourselves. We notice what’s already here, and notice that we notice.


Basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here.

Notice and see how it is to allow it. See if you can notice it’s already allowed – by space, mind, life.

See if you can notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed.

This helps us find ourselves as capacity for our experience as it is, as that which our experience happens within and as.

It softens identification with the content of our experience. We get to see it all lives its own life. And this allows us to more easily find ourselves as what we are.


When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, we notice that all our experiences happen within and as what we are. Another word for this is oneness.

There are two aspects to living from oneness. One is living from it here and now, to the best of our ability. And that includes inviting the parts of us still operating from separation consciousness to join in with the awakening.

When we notice what we are, several things tend to happen.

We find that the world, to us, is one. We are oneness.

Another word for oneness is pragmatic love. It’s a love not dependent on states or feelings, and it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

We recognize thoughts as thoughts. They have a valuable pragmatic function in helping us orient and function in the world. And they cannot reflect any final or absolute truth.


Several practices mimic how it is to live from oneness, and they mimic the characteristics mentioned above.

Heart-centered practices help us shift how we relate to ourselves, others, situations, and existence in general. (Tonglen, ho’oponopno, metta, inner smile.)

Some forms of inquiry help us see through beliefs, identifications, and what creates and upholds separation consciousness patterns in us. (The Work of Byron Katie, Living Inquiries.)

Body-centered practices help us shift how we relate to our body and the sensation-component of beliefs and identifications, and through that life in general. (yoga, tai chi, chigong, Breema.)

Guidelines for living help us avoid distractions and notice what in us is not yet healed or aligned with oneness. (Precepts etc.)

Whether or not we notice what we are, these practices help transform our human self to be more intentionally and consciously aligned with oneness.


The practices that mimc awakening seem to have a few things in common.

They tend to be more universal, simple, and essential. Variations of them are found in many spiritual traditions. They are not overly complicated. And they focus directly on the essentials of awakening and embodiment.

They also tend to be useful through the awakening process – whether it’s preparation, noticing what we are, living from this noticing, or supporting the unawake parts of us in joining with the awakening.

See below for a couple of drafts where I lost focus and they got overly intricate. I chose to include them to show the process, and since they have relevant pointers not included in the final version.

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Spontaneous awakening: Big Mind as a safety valve

Why do spontaneous awakenings happen? Why did it happen “out of the blue” when I was sixteen?

In my case, it happened without any preparation or previous interest. I had an atheist worldview, although I was interested in parapsychological phenomena and had read books about the topic since I was in my early teens or earlier.

One answer is that I had a strong case of the usual teenage stress and angst at the time, and my psyche needed an outlet or release. Some find it through drugs, or they may develop more serious psychological problems. In my case, and some other similar cases, it seems that the outlet was to shift the center of gravity out from who I am and into what I am.

This happened in two phases. First, the center of gravity shifted from the content of my experience – and taking myself to be this human self – and into observing the content of my experience. The whole world, including thoughts, emotions, sensations, and so on, seemed very far away. This was unfamiliar and disturbing, and I went to several specialists to find an answer but they didn’t have any.

Then, about a year later, there was a second shift into what I am, which we can call Big Mind. I have described this other places so won’t go into details here.

So why did Big Mind become the safety valve and not some of the other, and perhaps more usual, options? I am not sure. Perhaps it has to do with deeper inclinations in my system? Biological and psychological predispositions? Past lives? I don’t know.

When I talk about spontaneous awakening here, I mostly refer to when it comes out of the blue without any apparent preparation. There is a way that all awakenings are spontaneous. Even if they are set up through guidance and practice, they are also – in a sense – spontaneous. But that’s a topic for another time.

The phases of awakening: healing and embodiment

A very general map of the awakening process goes through four phases.

I’ll focus on the third one here – the healing and embodiment phase – since it’s the one most relevant to me and the one I find it most interesting these days.


First, we live and operate within and from separation consciousness. We take ourselves to be inherently separate and an individual, and may be curious about something more or have glimpses of it but that’s about it.


Then, there is a more clear noticing of what we are. What we are notices itself. We find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, and what our experiences – all of them – happen within and as.


Within this awakening, parts of our human self still operating from separation consciousness come to the surface to join in with the awakening. They come with an invitation for us – the awakeness – to notice these too as awakeness and the divine.

I’ll say more about this below.


This is a more stable awakening where issues surfacing are more readily notices as who and what we are, and a flavor of the divine.

We have a more intentional relationship with them, and have more skills and experience in how to create a fruitful relationship and invite them to notice themselves as the divine, wake up, and find healing.


I’ll write a few more words about phase three here since it’s the phase that currently interests me the most.

As usual, there is a lot to say about this.

In some cases, it’s as if the “lid” is taken off our unresolved issues and trauma and a huge amount of them surface at once or in rapid succession. This can be experienced as a particular form of dark night. I tend to think of it as a dark night of trauma. 

If this happens, we can feel completely overwhelmed, desperate, and brought to our knees, and it really helps to have someone help us through this phase. Just knowing that others have gone through it can be of great help. For me, that’s what helped me more than any techniques or particular insights. 

Other times, the unresolved issues and traumas come up in a more “normal” fashion and more as a result of triggers in daily life. 

We are invited to shift our relationship to what surfaces. Our habitual response may be to avoid it one way or another – through distractions, pretending it’s not there, compulsively trying to fix it, attempting to transcend it, and so on. 

The invitation is to reorient to meet what comes up, get to know it, and listen to what it has to say and how it experiences me and the world. 

See it comes from an impulse to protect this separate self, and that it’s innocent and comes from love. Find love for it. 

See it’s part of me as a human being and it makes more sense to get to know it and embrace it than pretend it’s not here. Find the genuine gifts in partnering it with it. 

Recognize it as what I am. As happening within and as what I am. As – if I resonate with any of those labels – consciousness, or the divine, or a flavor of the divine. 

From here, these parts of us have a better chance to heal. They have better conditions for resolving themselves, healing, and aligning with oneness. 

Why does this “phase three” process happen? 

It’s part of the overall process of aligning more consciously with reality. We may notice generally how all happens within and as what we are, so the next step is to notice specifically that each of these parts of us – still operating from within separation consciousness – also are who and what we are, and expressions of love. They are, if we want to see it that way, a flavor of the divine. 

It’s an important part of the awakening itself. And it’s also an important part of embodiment, of living from the awakening. 

When we still have parts of us operating form separation consciousness, we tend to be hijacked by them when they are triggered and we – as a human being in the world – tend to operate from them, or perhaps in reaction to them. 

So reorienting towards them, and perhaps inviting in some healing for them, helps us live from the awakening in more situations in life. In the situations that previously would have triggered these issues and, to some extent, hijacked us, we can now relate to the situation and what they trigger in us, if anything, in a more conscious way. 

Why do we have these bubbles of separation consciousness in our system? 

They are emotional issues formed when we operated from separation consciousness, so they reflect and live within separation consciousness. 

Some or many of them are in our system even within a general awakening. 

One way to look at it is that these parts of us are beings. Suffering beings still caught in delusion, painful stories, and separation consciousness. They come up because they want to be liberated from their suffering. They come to us as devotees seeking a guru. 

And that’s our opportunity to support them, guide them, be a good friend or guru to them, and invite them to wake up and align more consciously with reality.


When it comes to these phases, reality is often more messy. It looks a little different for each of us, and sometimes a lot different. The phases get mixed up. The sequence may be a little different. We may not be distinguish the phases until we have been through it.

The idea of phases is just an overlay of thought over the complexity and mystery of life. It’s not by any means inherent in life or the processes we go through.

And what I call phase three here is equally an aspect or facet of the process and it’s a part of our process from the beginning of noticing what we are.


I won’t go through the whole story since I have written about it elsewhere. I am currently mostly in the third phase, and have been for a few years now, which is why this is the one most interesting to me.

In the beginning, I had the “lid taken off” experience which was the most difficult thing I have every experienced. I felt completely overwhelmed, desperate, could hardly sleep, and couldn’t find much solace or ability to deal with it in any constructive fashion.

I did know someone (BMS) who had gone through it himself, and talking to him gave me some comfort and sense that I could get through it. (Although it felt like it would go on forever and that there was no way out or through.) I also went for long walks in the forests, and listened to Adyashanti.

I am still mostly in phase three – with some elements of phase one and perhaps four – but it’s mostly more calm. Things come up in a slightly more normal way, although it’s still a parade of one thing after another coming up to be seen, felt, listened to, loved, and so on.

I am not always so good at it. But I do have the intention, and I ask for help with some of the more challenging bubbles of separation / old emotional issues.

I also find that it’s difficult to have a good sense of to what extent these bubbles are resolved. I can test it out through triggering myself, as far as that’s possible. And channeling Vortex Healing for it gives me a sense of what’s left.

And yet, I don’t know for certain and I don’t really need to know. Life will show me.

I mostly just need to pay attention to what life brings up for me.

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The role of states in the awakening process

Awakening means what we are noticing itself as that which our content of experience happens within and as. And a more stable awakening happens when this noticing goes through changing states and is independent of any particular state. (Although we can say that this noticing is a state of noticing.)

So what is the role of states in the awakening process?

Some states may function as a preview of awakening – as a taste, or a guide. There can be a taste of oneness, or all as the divine or God, and this can function as a preview or direction for us for a while until the awakening is more clear, stable, deep, and mature.

These preview states can also function as a carrot, as can any state we see as spiritual (bliss etc.). They can keep us going. In an awakening process, it’s common to have previews and then chase these previews or states, and although it’s ultimately misguided it can serve an important function of keeping us interested, fascinated, motivated, and consciously on the path. (Although we are on the path no matter what.)

Some states highlight aspects of what we are – it can be Big Mind, Big Heart, the divine feminine, bliss and so on. These then become an invitation for us to keep noticing this aspect of what we are through the changing states, including when these more dialed-up states are gone.

And in general, changing states – which we experience all the time – is an invitation to notice what we are. It’s an invitation for what we are – that which all our experiences happens within and as – to notice itself. This invitation is always here.

So although awakening is not ultimately about any particular state (apart from the state of noticing), states of all types can serve an important role in the awakening process. Some function as pointers and guides. Some as carrots. Some as an invitation to notice aspects of what we are through changing states. And all of them – spiritual or not – function as an invitation for us to notice what we are.

What’s my experience with this? The initial awakening was a oneness awakening with a lot of side-effects (bliss, stable focus and so on). And I did chase some of these states for a while. It was one of the motivations for doing hours of prayer, meditation, and body-centered practices each day for several years. It felt really good to do it because it amplified the oneness and these blissful states. It functioned as a carrot for me, and although I could see what was going on, I was also compelled to dial up some of these states. (Probably to fill a hole in me, to try to make up for a sense of lack.)

It took some years with little or no spiritual practice and a dark night of the soul for a shift to happen out of the slightly obsessive chasing of states. I am still doing it to some extent as most of us do – even if it’s just in very ordinary everyday ways – but it feels more relaxed and less essential.

Why did I leave my spiritual practice? And what was the dark night of the soul? It’s a story better suited for a longer article. In short, I made a major life decision against my inner knowing, and this made it hard for me to continue my spiritual practice.

Each time I sat down for meditation or prayer, I was connected with the still inner voice guiding me to something that was very difficult for me, which was painful, so I ended up avoiding it. This lead to several years where I was more engaged in the world and didn’t do much spiritual practice. It was also the beginning of a dark night of the soul that has gone through several phases. It was mild for several years and took the form of feeling deeply off track, and then got much stronger and brought up a lot of old trauma.

Somehow, in the process, the state-chasing got softer and less relevant.

The prayer I mentioned was Christ meditation (visualize Christ in front, back, on each side, over the head, under me, and in the heart), and heart prayer (Jesus prayer). The meditation was basic meditation for training a more stable attention, and basic meditation for noticing and allowing whatever is here. And the body-centered practices were tai chi, chi gong, inner Taoist practices (Mantak Chia and similar), and some yoga.

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Reasons for the dark night

I have written about this before, but wanted to revisit it for my own sake.

There are a few possible reasons for a dark night of the soul:

It’s a common stage in an awakening/embodiment process. It seems to be part of the process, for many or most.

It’s a part of natural swings. After a “high” there is a “down”, and the dark night of the soul sometimes comes after a honeymoon phase, an initial “high”.

With these swings, the invitation is to see, feel and love it all as awareness (Spirit, love), and to find ourselves as that which already is and allows it all.

It helps us see what’s left in terms of unloved and unexamined wounds, trauma, fears, beliefs, and identifications. It’s an invitation to find a new wholeness as a human being, and for identifications to (continue) to wear off.

It seems the dark night happened because I left my guidance. I went against my knowing and my guidance on a major life decision, and didn’t leave the situation even if it continued to not feel right. This led to a sense of being deeply off track, and eventually fatigue and collapse at many levels.

All of these may be part of the picture. It’s a natural phase, it’s an expression of natural swings, it’s an invitation to see/feel/love all as what I already am, it shows me what’s left, and it happened the way it did because I left my guidance on a significant life decision.

What are some possible reasons for an especially long and/or intense dark night of the soul? And, in particular, what may be some reasons in my case? (I am thinking of DNs that last 10-15+ years.)

It followed a long and intense initial awakening phase. The unusually high high was followed by an unusually low low. (Respectively 10+ years, followed by a transition, and then 10+ years.)

I may have special difficulties in finding love for what’s here, and examine it thoroughly. Perhaps due to trauma? In my case, it seems that it’s been difficult for me to allow it – the love, trust, understanding, insights – to deeply sink in and work on me at a deep(ish) level.

I continued to go against my guidance for several years, which deepened the sense of being off track, brought fatigue, and led to eventual collapse. I stayed in a situation that didn’t feel right, at a deep level.

On the topic of stages, here are some as described by Evelyn Underhill and Adyashanti.

Evelyn Underhill’s stages: Initial interest, dark night of the senses, illumination, dark night of the soul, unitive life.

Adyashanti’s stages: Calling, awakening, trails and tribulations, abiding tranquility, transfiguration, relinquishment, transmutation.

To me, it makes sense that a dark night of the senses leads to a more abiding tranquility. It seems that the only (?) way through it is to find a deep love for what’s here, including the deepest pain, and recognize it too – including at a felt level – as awareness and love. And it makes sense if this leads to a deeper sense of ease with what’s here, whether it’s easy or difficult, pleasant or painful, “light” or “dark”. It’s a deeper level of “one taste”, one that’s not only seen or loved, but also felt.


I am adding these points which came to mind:

A year or two before the dark night of the soul happened, I prayed for full awakening no matter what it would cost (for days, in front of the main altar in Bodh Gaya of all places). This is a type of “dangerous prayer” which may give us what we ask for, but not in the way we expect or (think we) want.

About six months before the darkest phase of the dark night, I received diksha (energy transfer) which led to about half a year in a (simple, easy, unremarkable) nondual state. This was followed by sudden fatigue and collapse at almost all levels. It’s possible that this was a response to the diksha. It may have tried to push or force a natural development that is better left to unfold in its own time. (Of course, this became part of my process and how it all unfolded.)

A couple of weeks before the absolutely darkest phase of the dark night (two years after the diksha event), I said another dangerous prayer. I asked to be shown what’s left, and was plunged into about nine months of primal and immense dread and terror.

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Recognize nature of reality and illusion

Here are some phases I see in my own process:

First, recognizing the nature of reality. A though may say that Spirit recognized all as itself, or that consciousness and it’s content was recognized as the same. It was an awakening out of identification as a separate object. Out of identification as a part of content of experience. Out of identification with words and images which previously created the experience of separation. This happened uninvited and early in life, before the “ego” in a psychological sense had formed in a mature way. (Some would say a little too early, but life obviously didn’t see it that way.)

Then, recognizing the nature of illusion. I am still in this phase, and for me, this includes exploring the nature of illusion through different forms of inquiry. How is the experience of separation created? What happens when there is identification with and as certain words and images, certain viewpoints? What are the consequences? How is it experienced? (For many, this phase goes before recognizing the nature of reality, or the two go hand in hand.)

Along with this, there is a more stable meeting of what’s here. A more stable meeting of any experience, as it is. The two previous ones makes this a little easier. This is also a building of capacity in meeting what’s here. And inquiry can certainly help. Is it true it’s overwhelming? Is it true these words, these images, these sensation can harm me? What words and images are stuck to these sensations? How is it to examine these, so I can feel the sensations as they are, recognizing them as just sensations?

And through this meeting of what’s here, more and more of what’s previously unmet, unfelt, unloved and unexamined is met, felt, loved and examined. At some point, many of the largest chunks have been met, felt, loved and examined, although – I assume – there will always be more to met, feel, love and examine.

So there is a recognition of the nature of reality, a recognition of the nature of illusion, a more stable meeting of what’s here, and of more and more of what’s here being met, felt, loved and examined, and all of these go hand in hand. There is no end point for any of these. They happen here and now. It’s fresh. And a thought may say each of these keep opening up and reveals more of itself. A though may say that life (reality, Spirit) keeps revealing itself to itself.

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Teachers and audience

There seems to be little correlation between how clear or mature and teacher appears to be, and the size of their audience.

Some may be quite clear and/or mature and have a relatively large audience, such as the historical Buddha, the Dalai Lama, and even Byron Katie. These people live their insights, and they present it in a way that’s inviting and helpful for a large group of people. They are interested in and able to express it in a way that meets a wide range of people where they are. They may also be somewhat charismatic, or be good business people. All of this helps them reach a wider and larger audience.

Some may be less clear and/or mature, and still have a larger audience (some popular new age authors come to mind). They meet people where they are, and do so in an engaging way.

This is also very good. It’s a stepping stone, as any teaching or insight is. There is always further to go. It can always be more clear. It can always sink in a bit further. As it’s lived, there is always more to discover.

Some may be quite clear and/or mature and have a smaller audience, even a very small one – just their family and friends. I assume most lives where reality awakes to itself in a relatively clear way fits this category. They may be content with a simple life. They may not have the human packaging to be a teacher or reach a wide audience. They may not be drawn to it. They may be clear it’s not needed. And that’s very good too. Reality awake to itself is lived in any number of ways, including as just an ordinary person living an ordinary life.

When I wrote clear and/or mature, it’s because I suspect that levels of clarity and maturity may be only moderately correlated. Some seem clear and less mature (Ken W. comes to mind), others seem quite mature and somewhat less clear (the head Breema teacher), while some appear clear and mature (Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Bonnie G., Barry). Of course, if there is clarity and it’s allowed to sink in, that does provide fertile ground for maturity at a human level.

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Transition experiences

In shifting from taking ourselves as an object in the world to awake void & field of form (Big Mind), there can be many transition experiences, either as glimpses or more stable phases.

One way to organize these is by the three aspects of Big Mind: void, awake, and form. It works to some extent, but there are also lots of overlaps here (by necessity, since those three are really the same thing/no-thing). Also, what I list here are mostly things I am familiar with from my own process, so a lot is left out.

  • Void… a sense of form as transparent, translucent, insubstantial, dream-like, absent of I and Other, absent of identification.
  • Awake… a sense of the wider world (beyond the human self) as somehow awake, conscious, animated. (Leading to experiences akin to nature and deity mysticism.)
  • Form… a sense of form as a seamless whole (from shifting the center of gravity into the witness, pure seeing), as transparent and insubstantial (from sensing it as void), and as awake or consciousness itself (from seeing it in its awakeness aspect).

And then a fourth area which comes up to different extents: the soul. It enriches the process tremendously, can appear as a stumbling block if taken as anything final or attached to for any other reason, and can also be a guide into an awakening of the void to itself.

  • Soul… a sense of clear luminosity, of alive presence, of smooth, full, round, luminous blackness, and of this body and all form as void combined with any or all of these. (For instance, a sense of alive presence in and as this body, or the smooth luminous blackness as what all form arises from, within and as.)

More specifically, transition experiences can include a sense of no separation, of oneness (a vague I here, one with the wider world), of synchronicities (the content of form out there mirroring what is going on in here), of one’s inanimate surroundings as consciousness (and not really separate from this consciousness), and much more.

Eventually, it leads into a sense of a separate self falling away, and what is left is just the field of awake void and form, the form including this human self and its surroundings (whatever arises in the field of consciousness), and all inherently absent of an I with an Other. It is all just a field… void, awake and as form.

Why haven’t we awakened yet?

It seems that lots of folks on the spiritual circuit wonder why they haven’t awakened yet. There is a resistance to what is (which happens to be what holds it, the appearance of non-awakening, in place.)

So why haven’t we awakened yet?

The immediate and technical reason is the resistance itself, which creates a sense of I and Other, splitting the seamless field of awakeness down the middle. This comes from a belief in a separate self, which in turn is propped up by innumerable other beliefs. The initial sense of I and Other is elaborated through lots of different identities which define exactly how this I is different from the rest of what is.

Another reason is that it is all the play of emptiness. It is all the spontaneous expression and manifestation of God in the form realm. It is lila, the dance of God. God manifesting, experiencing and exploring itself as and in form, including taking itself to be just a segment of this form.

Any experience, independent of its content, is God experiencing itself. Awakened or not, it is still God exploring and experiencing itself in its vastness and immense richness.

Specifically, there is a tremendous richness in the exploration and experiencing of being a separate self. Why would God let that go right away? There is so much more to explore and experience there, so it makes sense to allow the exploration to continue a little longer.

It may not always be what our human self wants, but that too is part of the game.

So if we take ourselves as this human self, and have stories about why we haven’t awakened, then exploring the genuine gifts of not having awakened may help.

It takes some of the charge out of our initial stories, allowing us to see that they are only stories, and revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

It also helps reduce resistance to what is, or rather identification with and fueling of this resistance. This in turn eases a sense of something being off. And it also allows for an easier noticing of what already and always is. A field of awake emptiness and form, seamless, with no center, sometimes with a sense of a separate self and sometimes not.

Edge effect


(Thanks to Tom for suggesting fractals as another example)

In ecosystems, and most other systems, the edges are often the most rich and fertile.

We have the land ecosystem, and then the ocean ecosystem, and at the edge between the two there are representatives for both, and for the edge as well. Instead of characteristics from only one system, there are three: one, the other, and whatever emerges uniquely in the intersection of the two.

And so it is with awakening as well.

We have one system which is the awakened one. Another, which is the deluded one (taking oneself as a separate self). And at the edge of the two, there are characteristics of one, the other, and the uniqueness of the edge.

We get to explore a rich landscape, spanning all three ecosystems.

(In systems language, the awakened and deluded situations are attractor states, habitual states the system falls into… but in in this ecosystem analogy, it fits better to think of them as different landscapes or systems.)

Beliefs, no beliefs, and freedom to play

Writing the previous post on ideas about mass awakenings, I realize that it was slightly one-sided (as usual)…

A more inclusive way to look at it is to see that we have, at least, three ways of relating to stories.

First, as a belief. We take the relative truth in them as absolute, and the grain of truth in their reversals is denied or overlooked. They fall into the shadow of the belief, and as any belief also creates an identity, they fall into the shadow of our identity as well.

Then, as freedom from beliefs, and abandoning stories for the most part, resting in the wide open space of not-knowing mind. Stories may surface, as essential for the daily life of this human self, but they are seen as only stories and not engaged in much.

Finally, there is a freedom to play with the stories again, much as before the awakening, but now in a completely free way. We can engage in, explore, develop, use, play around with them, in great detail, yet knowing full well that they are only stories. Only surface ripples on the vastness of awake emptiness, and – at best – with only temporary, limited, and purely practical (instrumental) use.

Here, the stories are often used as pointers to not-knowing mind and that which is inherently free from (belief in) any stories. And if they are used to describe something in the form realm in addition to that, there is usually an emphasis of the purely relative truths in the stories and the grain of truth in all their reversals, inviting others to see the inherent neutrality of the situation and not get too caught up in any stories.

Three relationships with the reversals of views

Related to the previous post, but also a little different…

I see how I cycle among three relationships with an awareness of the reversals of views.

One is happily oblivious, using or attaching to a view without much awareness of the grain of truth in their reversals.

The other is releasing views. Having seen how each view has innumerable reversals, and they all have limited and relative validity, I become more cautious. I release from them, as much as I can. There may even be ambivalence here, because I see that I cannot continue in my certainty of particular views anymore, but I am also not quite able to play freely with them either. So I hold back. And I investigate.

The third is a free play with views, first using one, then another, then a third, the a view that includes some of them all, being able to find the truth and validity in each of them, and also seeing the limitations of each. This comes from a more thorough investigation of particular views and each of their reversals. There is a more finely grained familiarity with the terrain, so also more freedom.

Examples and flavors

There are many flavors to this.

One is in terms of views in general.

Another is with shadow projections, where I am first blindly caught up in it, then learn to recognize the symptoms and become more cautions, and then more free around it as we become more familiar with the process.

And yet another is in the belief of a separate self. Initially, we take it for granted. Then, when we see that too as just another idea with relative truth, we may get a little stunned and hold back for a while while investigating further. And finally, there is a freedom around it, a free play, allowing it to be there when it is, yet also seeing the insubstantiality of it.

The three relationships play themselves out in each of these situations, and many more than involves views and beliefs.

Briefly: transition experiences

What are some common transition experiences during awakening?

Here are some I have noticed for myself, and also heard from others:

Within form…

  • A sense of no separation between “I” here and the rest of the world out there
  • A sense of oneness with all of Existence. I am here, yet one with all.
  • A sense of the world of form as a seamless whole, with no separation between this human individual and the wider world
  • Noticing synchronicities – the outer world mirroring the inner, as if one seamless field.

Within awareness…

  • A sense of “I” as awakeness, as witness, pure awareness, pure seeing.
  • A sense of awakeness out there, in the wider world… in plants, trees, objects, the universe. it all seems mysteriously and inherently awake somehow.

Within emptiness…

  • A sense of awareness itself as a void, as empty, insubstantial.
  • A sense of all forms being insubstantial, transparent. Almost like a dream.

With the sense of a separate I…

  • The sense of a separate I weakens, becomes more transparent. There is just what is, content of experience staying much the same, yet with an absence of a separate I. And this becomes gradually more clear.

And it makes sense.

If what we are is awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of a separate I, then that is what comes through, in different ways, during the awakening process. We may take ourselves as an object in the world, but what we really are breaks through… as an intuition, a sense, a glimpse.

It is Big Mind gradually becoming more familiar with itself, as it already and always is. Only temporarily filtered through taking itself as an object within form.