Keith Jarrett on CFS & music creation

I was saying to the disease: I know you are here and I have accepted your presence, but I am still going ahead with this work. To start it I have to make it as intimate as possible.

As soon as it got complex, I stopped. I wanted to stay close to the song, to sing it. So I was turning my disease into a song.

The disease taught me a lot. The greater the experience, the deeper the simplicity. Time is the most complex part of that simplicity.

– Keith Jarrett from the documentary “The Art of Improvisation”, 2005

In this quote, Keith Jarrett talks about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and how it helped him simplify and become more intimate with the music. He didn’t stop making music, he changed his relationship with making music.

I love what he says here. It mirrors how my relationship with spiritual practice shifted when my CFS dramatically worsened some years ago. I also had to simplify and become more intimate with it.

For instance, basic meditation is to notice and allow what’s here. Instead of intentionally noticing and allowing, I shifted into something more simple and intimate. I notice that what’s here in my field of experience is already noticed and allowed. It’s already allowed. (By space, mind, life, existence.) It’s already noticed by consciousness before any conscious noticing. I align with what is already here instead of trying to manufacture anything or achieve something through effort. It may not look like a very big shift, and yet it makes all the difference. And it is more closely aligned with reality.

I was aware of and explored this difference long before this happened, but the CFS motivated me to be more simple and intimate in this noticing, and more diligent in finding the most simple and effortless way to notice.

And that’s happened in other areas of life as well, including in my connections with others. I have had to drop a lot of pretense and facades and be simple and more intimate, especially in my more close relationships.

Nicolette Sowder: May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things

May we raise children who love the unloved things-the dandelion, the worms and spiderlings.

Children who sense the rose needs the thorn

& run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards sun…

And when they’re grown & someone has to speak for those who have no voice

may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things

and be the ones.

– Nicolette Sowder, May we raise children who love the unloved things

Nicolette Sowder is the creator of Wilder Child and Wildschooling.

And yes, I love this poem.

I love anyone who loves the unloved things.

I love finding love for the unloved things in nature, in people, and in myself.


For instance, it seems that any part of me that experiences stress, unease, discomfort, and so on, and goes into reactivity, does so because it’s unseen, unfelt, and unloved. Meeting it with love makes all the difference. I can meet it as I would like to be met when I feel that way. (When I identify with those parts of me.)

And to really meet it with love, I can do a bit more. I can dialog with it, listen to it, hear what it has to say, and see how I can shift my relationship with it to be more helpful. I can also find what’s more true than its familiar stressful stories, and help it find it for itself. And we can both notice that my nature is the same as its nature. We share nature. (AKA consciousness, we are both consciousness, we are the same, it happens within an as what I am.)


Finding love for the unloved – in people, nature, and ourselves – is crucial for our own well-being.

It’s crucial for creating a society that works better for everyone and especially those less fortunate.

And it’s crucial for the survival of our species and civilization. We are now facing the consequences of not doing this, and not speaking up for those without a voice, and life is showing us that our own survival depends on it.

Life is giving us a masterclass in finding love for the unloved and giving a voice to the voiceless.

It’s up to us if we realize what this class is about, and whether we learn and change and transform as needed.

C.G. Jung: The shadow is the first manifestation of our future inner wholeness


The shadow is the parts of us that don’t fit into our conscious self-image.

It’s not an entity or anything like that. It’s just whatever is here where we say “that’s not me”.

For that reason, we tend to see it in others and not in ourselves. When we see it in others, we are often annoyed by it. We dislike it.

So what we dislike in others, and obviously in ourselves, is a manifestation of our own wholeness.

It’s a part of the wholeness we already are, it’s just not yet the wholeness we consciously recognize, embrace, and relate to as part of ourselves.

In that sense, the shadow – and anything that annoys us in others – is a reminder of what can be our own future conscious wholeness.

It’s the wholeness we already are. And it can be the wholeness we embrace if we have the receptivity and willingness to explore and embrace it.

We push it away because it doesn’t fit our self-image, and it doesn’t seem desirable to us. And, in reality, there are great gifts in it. It helps us find more of our wholeness. And the essence of it is always useful in our life.


What are some examples of this?

One thing that sometimes annoys me in others is being noisy. I see them as inconsiderate and unconscious.

When I can find that in myself, I see that I am often inconsiderate – for instance in my mind when I see them that way. I am often, and really always, unconscious. There is always a lot in myself I am not conscious of, and there is a vast amount I am not conscious of when it comes to others and the world. Most of what is – in the world, others, and myself – are things I inevitably am not conscious of.

When I have those thoughts about someone else, I am describing myself and I am describing myself as I am in that moment.

Also, how would it be for me to be more free to sometimes be noisy? Maybe it would feel liberating? Natural? Maybe I would find another side of myself I would actually enjoy, at least now and then?

Simone Weil: There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

There are two atheisms of which one is the purification of the notion of God 

– Simone Weil

One atheism is a rejection of there being any God or Spirit or anything divine. Typically, it’s actually a rejection of a certain image of God or the divine, or of a certain culture that goes with one or more religions, although it’s often presented as something more general.

The other is more discerning. It’s a differentiation between our mental representations of God from what these mental representations refer to. We can reject our images and mental representations without rejecting God or the divine. This is a purification of the notion of God.

The first is a belief. It’s a belief that there is no God or divine. We are attaching to ideas as if they are the reality. The second is a sincere exploration of the difference between our ideas and reality itself.


A conventional exploration of the second atheism is what I mentioned above.

We notice our images of God and the divine and reality as a whole. We get to know them. We recognize them as mental representations.

And we set them aside. We know that God and reality is always different from and more than our ideas and maps. We find humility here. We find receptivity. We find curiosity.

We ask God to reveal itself to us – in ways beyond and free from the limits created by our ideas and notions about God and reality and anything.

(Note: I should mention it’s been a long time since I actually read Simone Weil so I don’t know if this is how she would talk about it. This is me, not her.)


For me, this is how the second one looks:

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what others, my passport, and my thoughts sometimes tell me. It’s an assumption that’s not wrong and it works reasonably well. It’s also an assumption I need to learn and a role I need to learn to play in order to function in the world.

And yet, what am I more fundamentally in my own first-person experience? What do I find if I set aside my ideas about what I am and instead look in my immediate experience?

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for any and all experiences. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for whatever appears in my sense fields – in sight, sound, taste, smell, sensations, and mental representations.

I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what the world – this human self, others, the wider world, any experience at all – happens within and as.

I find myself as what thoughts may imperfectly label consciousness. I find myself as the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as. I find myself as no-thing which allows the experience and appearance of any and all things. I find myself as having no boundaries and no inherent characteristics, which allows the experience and appearance of boundaries and any characteristic.

I find that another word for the oneness I am is love. It’s a love that’s independent of any states or feelings. It’s a love inherent in what I am. It’s a love often obscured by my very human hangups, issues, and traumas.

To me, the world happens within and as what I am, within and as consciousness, within and as oneness, within and as love. To me, the world appears as what a thought may call the divine or God.

The small interpretation of this is that this is all psychology. As a conscious being, to myself I have to be consciousness, and the world as it appears to me has to happen within and as consciousness, within and as what I am. I cannot generalize from this and say that this is how reality or all of existence is.

The big interpretation says that everything is as it appears. Everything is consciousness and the divine. Everything is God.

If we call existence God, then this is the atheism that is the purification of the notion of God.

This is the atheism that differentiates our ideas about God, ourselves, and everything, from what’s here in our immediate noticing.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

– Nisgaradatta Maharaj

These type of pointers is meant as medicine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kurt Vonnegut: Everything is nothing with a twist

Everything is nothing with a twist

– Kurt Vonnegut 

This is a surprisingly accurate pointer, especially when it’s specified a bit. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist.

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. It’s what my passport tells me and how others see me, and I need to be able to play that particular role in order to function in the world. 

And when I look in my first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what any content of experience happens within and as. 

Said another way, I find myself as consciousness. I am the consciousness the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the consciousness this human self and anything else happens within and as. 

All that is just to say that I am nothingness that takes the form of any and all experiences. 

To me, everything is nothing with a twist. 

It’s not a metaphor. It’s not poetry. It’s not even science. It’s direct noticing. 

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What you seek is seeking you

What you seek is seeking you

– attributed to Rumi

I imagine this has been expressed by many through time and across cultures and traditions. It’s an expression of perennial insight or wisdom.


It’s often used to mean that if we seek something essential – love, or truth, or home, or the divine / God, or our nature – then that seeks us. Or even that it’s seeking us whether we are seeking it or not.


In a practical sense, it seems accurate.

When we seek love, truth, the divine, our nature, and so on, and do so with sincerity, receptivity, honesty, and diligence, and with some good guidance, then things often move and fall into place in ways we didn’t arrange or made happen on our own, or couldn’t have. We invite grace. It’s as if what we seek is seeking us.

In some cases, that grace happens without us consciously seeking it. Something happens that puts us on the path. We receive guidance and pointers without asking. Our nature reveals itself to itself without any conscious interest or intention on our part. Here, it definitely looks as if what we seek is seeking us.


When what we seek is seeking us, and when grace happens, it can happen in many different ways.

It can be in the form of a glimpse or shift, meeting someone that puts our life in a different direction, finding a book, finding a guide or community that’s a good match, and so on.

And it doesn’t always happen in a way that our personality likes. It’s not always pretty. What puts us on a different course can come in the form of an illness, accident, loss, conflict, and so on.

It can come in the form of gentle or fierce grace.


We can also say that the quote is always accurate. Our seeking is always, in its essence, for the essential. And the essential is, in some ways, always seeking us.

Whatever it looks like we are seeking, we are really seeking something essential. We may think we are seeking comfort, love from another, approval, success, money, admiration, being understood, ice cream, and so on. And even here, the essence of the seeking is a seeking for love, truth, the divine, and our nature. (We can find this for ourselves by taking a surface desire, asking “what do I hope to get out of this”, repeat that question, and see what we are most essentially seeking.)

And even if we are caught up in surface seeking – which we all are at different times and in different ways – what we are essentially seeking is seeking us. Love, truth, the divine, and our nature is seeking us. It’s inviting us to notice the essence of our seeking. And it’s inviting us to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature making up our whole experience and reality.

Reality is set up so the invitation is always here. We are swimming in it whether we notice it or not. We are swimming in our seeking of the essential, even if it takes the surface form of seeking all kinds of things. We are swimming in the invitation to notice the love, truth, the divine, and our nature that’s all we know, whether we notice it or not.


We also have the usual bigger picture.

This is all happening within and as the consciousness we are. The seeking, the sought, the process, the apparent failures and successes, and so on are all happening within the consciousness we are. What seeks and what is sought happens within and as what we are. It’s the consciousness we are taking all of these forms.

It’s the oneness we are going into a trance forgetting itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to notice itself as oneness. It’s the oneness we are seeking to wake itself up from the trance.


I am very aware that this can sound abstract, distant, and convoluted.

That’s OK since this is not about the words. This is something we can find for ourselves.

In a conventional sense, we may appear to be this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that works relatively well, although it comes with some inherent discomfort.

And when we look in our own first person experience, we may find something else. I find I am more fundamentally capacity for the world as it appears to me, for any experience that’s here. I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.

This oneness is what goes into a trance of taking itself as someting within the field of experience and the rest as “other”. This oneness is what seeks to find itself. This oneness is what seeks to release itself out of the trance.

The essence of this process is to differentiate our mental representations about ourselves, the world, and anything from what’s here in our immediate noticing. The first may tell us we are something in particular within the content of experience. The second shows us we are what our experience happens within and as.

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Am I dreaming or awake, right now?

Whatever we come up with, we may find it difficult to justify the answer. We cannot come up with any watertight argument.

We cannot know for certain. And for a very good and important reason.

To us, dreams and waking life happens within and as consciousness.

They happen within and as what we are. To us, there is no difference between the nature of the two.

This doesn’t say anything about the nature of waking life or existence itself. It also doesn’t say that we shouldn’t take waking life seriously or not be good stewards of our life. It just says something about how this particular question appears to us when we look into it.

And it says something about what our more fundamental nature is, in our own first-person experience. Which, I assume, is why the question was created in the first place.

Cartoon: Drawing by Schulz, text attributed to Stephen LaBerge.

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Byron Katie: If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

If the voice in your head is you, who is the one listening to it?

— Byron Katie

This is a very good question, and it can be difficult to explore without some guidance.

Most people would answer “me” without examining very closely what that actually means.

If we explore it, we may find that we refer to an image of ourselves, and often a set of different images, and often images connected with certain words and sentences and that these images and words are associated with sensations in the body.

What the question points to is what all of this is already happening within and as. It refers to what the world to us – any content of experience – happens within and as. To ourselves, that’s what we more fundamentally are. That’s our nature.

And to find that, we typically need more guided pointers and explorations.

Byron Katie, of course, gives people these pointers in the form of The Work.

We can also do other forms of guided and structured inquiry like the Kiloby (Living) Inquiries, based on traditional Buddhist inquiry.

We can use Headless experiments or the Big Mind process.

We can explore Basic Meditation regularly over time, and find that any content of experience – including the images, words, and sensations we may take ourselves to be – come and go. And we may eventually find ourselves as what it all happens within and as.

And so on.

And here, when it’s noticed, there is an invitation to keep noticing and explore how it is to live from this noticing. And also keep exploring any hints of our mind continuing taking itself as images, words, and sensations in new and more “spiritual” or “awake” ways. (As “emptiness”, “consciousness”, “love”, “oneness” and so on.)

I don’t know the context for Byron Katie’s words, but they were probably said to someone ready to hear them and make use of them. Someone ripe for noticing.

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I am held by something older than time

I am held by something older than time

– a social media friend of mine in one of her posts

That’s my experience too.


I am held by something older than time in the sense that it’s more primary, more fundamental, and goes before time. It’s what any sense of time happens within and as. It’s what any sense of space happens within and as.

And that something is my nature. When I look, I find I am what any and all content of experience happens within and as. It’s what time happens within and as.

To me, it’s what time happens within and as.

It’s not something far away or for special people. It’s not something particularly mysterious in a conventional sense. It’s what I am already most familiar with. It’s what takes the form of any and all experience, including time.

My nature is older than time. It’s what metaphorically goes before time. It’s what time happens within and as. It’s the timeless taking the form of time.


This is what holds any and all experience. It’s what holds any experience of this human self. It’s what holds itself.

My nature holds itself and any and all experience, including of this human self and anything associated with it.


We can have an intuitive sense of this. We can sense there is something here that seems older than time. That’s often what’s expressed in poetry and by some mystics.

We can notice and find it more directly. We can notice our nature as capacity for any and all experience, including time and space. And we can explore how to live from this, and invite the different parts of us – formed within and still operating from separation consciousness – to join in with this noticing and living from it.

And we can, also through grace, viscerally and undeniably find ourselves as that which any and all experience happens within and as, including time and space. And live from and as it, and invite the different parts of us to join in with this.

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Byron Katie: When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love

When you walk in a dream and know it’s a dream, that’s love.

– Byron Katie

Night dreams and waking life both happen, to me, within and as the consciousness I am. In that sense, waking life and dreams are not very different.

And waking life, to me, is interpreted by my overlay of stories making sense of it, from the most basic stories that outline, differentiate, and label, to the more elaborate ones that tell intricate stories. This too is a kind of dream, it’s a layer of stories created by my own mind.

When I recognize waking life as happening within and as consciousness, as happening within and as what I am, there is love. It’s all happening within and as oneness. It’s a love that comes from recognition and is not dependent on feelings or states.

Similarly, when I recognize my stories as stories, and viscerally get that they are stories, it opens for love. It opens for receptivity, curiosity, and love. And this goes for any stories – about myself, others, situations, the world, life, the divine, my nature, and anything else.

Quote: Maybe you are searching among the branches

Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.

– attributed to Rumi on the internet

This obviously applies to many things in life, including psychological healing and awakening.

In terms of healing, we may try to find resolution through focusing on surface manifestations and single issues.

And for any real healing to take place, we often need to go deeper. We may need to find the essential story behind the issue. We may need to address a whole network of issues supporting a particular issue. We may need to address underlying issues and assumptions supporting the issue. And we may need to address the whole life situation of the person as well.

In terms of awakening, it’s common early in the process to get caught up in and search among the content of experience. We may look for states and particular experiences. We assume that what we are looking for is “out there” somewhere.

And as we find more maturity in the process, we recognize that what we are looking for – our nature – is here across and independent of changing states and experiences. It’s something that can be found and noticed here and now. We don’t need to go looking for any particular states or experiences.

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Zig Ziglar: The chief cause of unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want now

The chief cause of unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want now.

– Zig Ziglar

Combined with a dream I just had, this quote – which I just saw on social media – helps me see that I have a pattern of doing just that. I have often traded “good enough” or things that are easy and attractive enough for what I really want.

In my twenties, I abandoned a life I deeply loved and that felt deeply right in order to support my new wife in her career and ambitions. Looking back, I see ways I could have done both but I didn’t.

In that process, I abandoned a prestigious PhD (equivalent) program in clinical psychology which deeply felt like the right track for me. Again, I could have taken a short break and picked it up again, but didn’t and waited too long.

These days, I often feel I miss a spiritual community of like-minded people. I have tried out different groups with at most moderate success. At the same time, I know there are groups I resonate deeply with, for instance, Jes Bertelsen’s Vækstcenter in Denmark and the international Headless community, but I have not followed up on either of those. I can easily join online meetings in the Headless community and haven’t so far. (I plan to in the near future.) I can also attend courses at Vækstcenteret relatively easily.

I love Breema and it feels deeply nourishing and whole-making for me, and I haven’t done it much for the last several years, mainly for lack of a local community of practitioners. (I used to live in Eugene, Oregon, with a very active community and was much more involved there.) There is no reason I can’t join the online offerings, plan on going to the Breema Center again, and also offer classes where I am.

I sometimes meet people I feel a resonance with and want to get to know better, but don’t nurture these connections for whatever reason. Sometimes, I think they won’t be interested in hanging out with me and that I am not “good enough”.

It’s not that my life feels deeply off track (as it has at times in the past due to my own decisions based on fear). It’s more that some adjustments are needed, as my dream this morning showed me as well.

So what’s most important to me? And how can I bring more of it into my life?

The most important: Finding my nature and living from this. Truth. Love. Authenticity. Sincerity.

Other important things: Nature and be in nature. Community of like-minded people. Taking care of relationships that feel right and good to me. Meaningful activities – art, community work, sustainability. In short, nurture nurturing relationships and activities.

Also, very important: Being a good steward of my life. Making good decisions for me now and for my future self (as best I can from what I know now).

And some that come to mind appear superficial but there is more to it than meets the eye: Wearing clothes I really like. (I sometimes “save” these and wear OK clothes instead.) Eating the best quality food. When I bring things into my life, choosing high-quality things I really like. (Relatively good with that one.)

What it comes down to is clarifying my priorities with honesty and sincerity. (And setting aside for a while what my personality considers practical or possible.) And living from sincerity and authenticity.

Note: Several things this morning came together to nudge me to take a closer look at this. A friend from the Zen center in the US moved to an affiliated Zen center in The Netherlands a year ago, is very happy with the decision, and encouraged others to follow their dreams. A quote by Sting said something about being willing to risk. And the dream was maybe the main nudge. (In the dream, a Danish woman in Portland, Oregon – which is one of my favorite places – invited us to live in her beautiful house. And I met another woman I felt a deep resonance with who wanted to join our marriage and it felt deeply right for all of us.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beginner’s mind

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.

– Shunryu Suzuki

Suzuki here talks about a beginner’s mindset, which all of us can benefit from in any area of life. In many ways, it’s our natural state of mind. It’s what we see in healthy children and adults. And yet, we sometimes leave the beginner’s mindset. Why? And what can we do about it?


What Shunryu Suzuki talks about is a beginner’s mindset of receptivity, curiosity, and a readiness for learning.

In a conventional sense, we are somewhere on the beginner-expert scale in any field. We may be more or less familiar with a field than others. We may have more or less knowledge. We may be more or less skilled. And we can still adopt and benefit from the mindset of a beginner.


The expert mindset comes in two forms.

One think it knows and closes itself off from new discoveries and learning. It’s immature. And, really, it’s caught up in scary stories about what it means to be receptive and more aligned with reality. This is the one Suzuki refers to in the quote.

The other is more mature and less caught up in fearful stories. It allows the natural receptivity and curiosity of the mind to come out, and it’s consciously more aligned with reality. This is the real expert’s mind. It’s the mind of the ones who are real experts.


Similarly, beginner’s mind comes in two forms. It can be more or less mature and skilled.

An immature beginner may think she knows more than she does. She may think she’ll learn what there is to learn quickly. She may think there is an endpoint and finishing line.

A more mature beginner knows how little she knows. She knows it takes time. She knows there is no endpoint and no finishing line. We can learn anywhere and from anyone. There is always more to learn, explore, and get to know about anything.


We can leave beginner’s mind in several different ways. In each case, we miss out on discovering or learning something – whether it’s about a topic, others, ourselves, the world, or reality.

For instance, we meet someone who is more skilled at something than we are, this trigger a sense of lack in us, and we react to that sense of lack by telling ourselves we are an expert. We go out of receptivity, curiosity, and interest in learning.

We may be more skilled than the ones around us, they tell us we are an expert, so we tell ourselves we know. We have arrived. And here too, we go out of receptivity, curiosity, and an interest in ongoing learning.

We find ourselves in a situation where something is presented at a basic level, we tell ourselves we know better and have nothing to learn from it, so we miss out.

We find we are naturally gifted at something, float on this for a while, and miss out on real progress.

We can leave beginner’s mind in yet another way.

We tell ourselves we are no good at something, so we don’t even try.

We tell ourselves “she or he won’t like me” so we don’t even try getting to know them.

In my case, I have a pattern of telling myself “it’s too obvious and boring” when it comes to my own insights or familiarity with what I write about here. I often do it with these articles (which is a reason one of three remains unpublished even if finished). Or when I consider sharing these things in another way.


If a beginner’s mind works so well, and it’s what we see in healthy children and adults, why don’t we adopt and function from it more often?

The main answer lies in our fears. We have unmet fears and unquestioned painful beliefs. Instead of befriending and exploring these, we react to them. And we react to them by telling ourselves we know and that there is safety in knowing.

We seek a sense of safety in tell ourselves we know. We feel we have something solid to rest on, even if it’s true in only a very limited sense. And this tends to close our minds. We are less open to continuing to learn.

Said another way, we take on a protective identity. Any time we identify with an identity, it’s for protection purposes. We tell ourselves that’s who we are. We find a sense of more solid footing, even if this identity may be painful. And we close down our mind by doing this. We are less receptive to what’s actually here and available to us.


Any time I notice I adopt the mindset of someone who knows, it’s a sign I go into a protective identity. I am reacting to my own fears and unquestioned beliefs. And when I notice this, I can explore it in any way that works for me.

For instance, I can use a version of the befriend & awaken process which includes elements from a range of approaches. I notice the contraction in me. Feel the physical sensations. Thank it for protecting me. Notice the painful beliefs and identities behind it, and find what’s more true for me. Explore what this part of me really needs (love, safety, being seen, support?) and give it to it. Notice that my nature is its nature. And so on. And rest in and take time with each of these.


I suspect Suzuki wasn’t only giving good life advice in the quote. He pointed to an essential orientation if we wish to explore what we are in our own first-person experience.

If we are to notice our nature, we need to set aside what we think we know about what we are. We need to set aside what we tell ourselves about what we are. And instead, notice.

And that requires beginner’s mind.


Why does the mindset of a beginner work? Why does it help us learn?

The surface answer is that receptivity, curiosity, and an open mind creates the conditions for real learning.

And the more basic reason is that it’s aligned with reality.

There is always more to learn. It’s an ongoing process.

What we think we know is always provisional and up for revision.

There is always someone else who knows more than us about a field or parts of a field.

Even beginners can know more about certain things than we do and we can learn from them.

What we humans collectively know is a drop in the ocean of what there is to know and get familiar with.

Any map – any mental representation – is a question about the world. It’s different in kind from what it refers to. It’s a simplification. And reality is always more than and different from our maps.

What we know and are familiar with is about the past. And what’s here now is fresh and different. (Even when a thought says otherwise.)

And when it comes to our nature, realizing what we are is something we can only do through direct noticing. We have to set aside what thoughts tell us and instead notice. Often guided by structured inquiry and a good guide familiar with the terrain.

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How does God see us?

We believe that God sees us from above. But he actually sees us from the inside.

– Shams Tabrizi

If we have adopted a sky-god view of God, then we may imagine that he sees us from above.

If we have a more immanent view of God, we may say that God sees us from the inside.


We can say that…

God sees through our eyes. Hears through our ears. Senses through our body.

God thinks through our thoughts. Feels through our emotions.

God lives through our life.

If we say that reality or existence as a whole is God, then this is clearly true.


And it’s also accurate in a more immediate sense.

If I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, what do I find?

I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. My nature allows any and all experiences that are here.

I am what my experience of the world happens within and as. To me, the world happens within and as what I am. It happens within and as what a thought can call consciousness. To me, the world is like a dream since both happen within and as what I am, within and as consciousness.

If I use a big or spiritual interpretation of awakening, I can say that this is all Spirit or God.

And that means that God, quite literally, sees through my eyes. Hears through my ears. Lives through my life. And so on.


It’s something we can explore and find on our own.

If we haven’t noticed it for ourselves yet, it may seem abstract, distant, a philosophy, a fantasy, unrelated to my life, without any practical use, and so on.

If we noticed it sometime in the past, it becomes a kind of reference. A pointer inviting us to notice it again here and now. Our nature is always here, so it’s always here to be noticed. It’s always here to notice itself as all it is in its own experience. It’s always here to find itself as what the world, to itself, happens within and as.

And we can find it on our own. We can explore what we are in our own first-person experience.

How? If we are not familiar with this terrain, we may not even know where to start.

That’s where more structured pointers come in. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

That’s where being guided by an experienced guide comes in. Someone we trust, to some extent, and who is familiar with this terrain and in guiding others.

And that’s where any number of supporting practices come in, for instance, basic meditation, sense field explorations, heart-centered practices, training a stable attention, body-centered practices, ethical guidelines, and so on.

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Hope for the past

Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept

– from Thanks, Robert Frost by David Ray, 2006

How we see the past always changes.

The way we understand our collective history changes. We see it in the context of how we understand the present. We see it in the context of what happened since. We have different values. We include new perspectives. We may have new information.

And so also with our personal history. We forget and remember different things. We see it in the context of how we understand our present, and we see it in the context of what happened since. We may have a different understanding of why we did what we did. We may understand our parents and childhood differently. And so on.

The way we relate to what’s here now is how we relate to our past. After all, the only place we can find our past is in our current mental representations of our past.

Without any intentional healing practice, how we relate to live and our past may go three ways. We may fuel painful stories and go into issues and hangups. We may find more peace with our life and our past. Or it stays more or less the same.

And with an intentional healing practice, we are much more likely to find peace with our life and our past. As we find healing for our relationship with ourselves, others, and life in general, we find healing for our relationship with our past. We see it with more understanding. We tell ourselves more kind and honest stories about our past.

What about hope? Do we need to rely on hope? Not if we have an intentional healing practice. Then we can find what we hope for here and now.

And how does finding our nature change this? It helps us recognize that the past, to us, only happens here and now in our mental representations of it. We can notice that they are part of the creativity of the mind, and our nature is their nature. They are a flavor of the divine, and we can rest in this noticing. We can – as before – heal our relationship with these mental representations. And we can examine them and find what’s more honestly true for us, which tends to be far more kind than our initial painful stories.

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Hakuin: What is true meditation?

What is this true meditation?
It is to make everything:
coughing, swallowing, waving the arms,
motion, stillness, words, action,
the evil and the good, prosperity and shame,
gain and loss, right and wrong,
into one single koan.

– Hakuin Ekaku

When I look, I find that in my first-person experience, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my world happens within and as. I am what any experience – including the list in the quote – happens within and as.

To myself, I am oneness and the world happens within and as this oneness.

This is already happening, whether I notice it or not. And when I notice, I find it’s all happening within and as the oneness I am. It’s all one single koan.


This noticing has an active and receptive aspect.

It’s active in that there is intention in the noticing, and a bit of (relaxed) effort. And it may be guided by pointers and/or an experienced guide. Also, there is some effort in keeping noticing.

And noticing also has a receptive aspect. I notice what’s already here. Nothing needs to be created or fabricated. My nature is here independent of states and any content of experience. All that’s needed is noticing and finding receptivity to what’s already here.


This form of true meditation can happen anywhere and at any time. It can happen within any spiritual practice. It can happen through situations in daily life.

Basic meditation is similar. It’s to notice and allow what’s here. And then to notice that what’s here is already noticed and allowed. The first is more effortful and ultimately impossible. And the second a bit more relaxed, essential, and possible, and something we can notice anywhere and at any time.


Hakuin calls it a koan, so in what sense it is a koan? Perhaps because it’s all inherently a mystery? And how I live my life with all of this – with all of the richness of experience and life – is an ongoing exploration. There is no final answer. There is no finishing line.

Drawing: Ink on paper by Hakuin Ekaku

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Joanna Macy: If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by… people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear

If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.

– Joanna Macy

That’s what creates any change. When our love is greater than our fear. When we realize that continuing will be more painful than making a change.

Anandamayi Ma: The seer, the seen and the act of seeing

The seer, the seen and the act of seeing – where these three are One, there the Brahman is realized.

– Anandamayi Ma

How do we discover this for ourselves?

The most direct may be to find our nature, what we are in our own first-person experience. And then notice that seer, seen, and seeing all happen within and as that.

Even here, parts of us – and old habitual patterns – may still take these concepts as something we fundamentally are. That’s where a more thorough inquiry comes in, for instance through examining how each of these – the seer, seen, and seeing – happens in the sense fields. How do each look in the mental field? What mental images and words are there? What sensations in the body does the mind associate with these mental representations?

What happens when I examine the mental representations and notice that’s what they are? What happens when I rest in noticing the associated sensations and notice them as physical sensations? Does it weaken the link between the two?

Through this, we may notice that our nature is capacity for the seer, seen, and seeing. That each one happens within and as what we are. (They are not what we more fundamentally are.) And we may notice how our mind creates its experience of each, we see through the magic trick, and the sense of solidity and reality of each weakens.

As usual, knowing about this mentally is a good first step. And it’s transforming – for our perception, life, and psyche – only to the extent we keep noticing and living from it in daily life. 

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Working on vs allowing inner transformation

As far as inner transformation is concerned, there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot transform yourself, and you cannot transform your partner or anybody else. All you can do is create a space for transformation to happen, for grace and love to enter.

– Eckhart Tolle

This quote is medicine for a condition. It’s medicine for the idea that we need to work on inner transformation for it to happen. It’s medicine for holding onto that position too tightly.

And that means that while the quote is accurate, it’s not the whole picture.

Yes, creating a space for grace and love to enter is what allows for a deep transformation and healing. This happens most deeply when we notice our nature, notice ourselves as oneness and love, and notice and allow anything in us that needs healing and transformation and holds it within this space of oneness and love.

And yet, we can also do a few things to support this process and help unlock some of the locks that hold wounds and identifications in place.

We can identify and explore painful beliefs and identifications.

We can identify and find love for unloved parts of us.

We can dialogue with wounded parts of us. Hear what they have to say and how they perceive us and life. Ask what they need from us. Help them recognize reality. And so on.

We can intentionally explore noticing and allowing our experiences, including of wounded and unhealed parts.

We can notice that these, and all our experiences, are already noticed and allowed and more consciously align ourselves with this primal noticing and allowing. They are already noticed by consciousness before that’s reflected in an intentional noticing. And they are already allowed – by mind, space, and life – even before any intentional allowing. This noticing and allowing is built into our nature. We cannot avoid it.

We can invite in shifts in the energetics of the hangup, through different types of energy work and inner yoga.

And so on.

The quote is not wrong. It’s medicine for a condition. And it’s not the whole picture.

And that applies to just about any quote and pointer.

Awakening: Realization and embodiment

If we do not live and manifest in our lives what we realize in our deepest moments of revelation, then we are living a split life.

– Adyashanti

Adyashanti is here talking about realization and embodiment.

This has several parts.

One is to notice our nature, what we are in our own first-person experience. This can be relatively simple and doesn’t need much time or preparation, especially with the support of guided inquiry like Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

Another is to keep noticing in daily life and through more and more situations and independent of experiences and states. This takes some intention and effort. It’s an ongoing practice.

Then we have living from this noticing. How is it to live from this noticing, in this situation? How does it look?

How can I support living from this noticing? What in me – beliefs, identifications, hangups, wounds –  stops this from happening? What do I find when I explore unquestioned painful stories? How is it to find love from unloved parts of me? How can I invite healing for this human self? How can I prepare the ground for maturing of this human self?

By necessity, living from the noticing lags behind the noticing itself. It’s natural and inevitable, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The question is, how can I reduce the gap between the two?

And all of it – the noticing and living from it and the healing and maturing – is an ongoing process. There is no finishing line.

In Ken Wilber’s terminology, this is about waking up, cleaning up, growing up, and showing up.

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Adyashanti: Recognizing our imperfection takes a lot of humility

Recognizing our imperfection takes a lot of humility. Spiritual people, for all their desire to be humble, are often not humble. They’re kind of horrified at their own imperfection.

– Adyashanti, Commitment to Truth and Love

This quote touches on many topics. 


These days, many who are into spirituality are a little more sophisticated than this. We know it’s better to embrace ourselves as we are. We know it’s better for us psychologically. We know that if our spirituality is about truth and love, then we need to be honest with ourselves and find love for ourselves as we are. 

We know that ideas of perfection are human-made and often used to control people. And in our modern culture, ideals of perfection are used to encourage us to be good consumers and buy products that will help us appear more perfect.

And yet, many of us are also caught up in some ideas and shoulds around perfection. Secretly, somewhere in us, we wish to live up to certain ideas of perfection. Often because ideas and shoulds are common in our culture and we have absorbed them almost without noticing from early childhood, and we are now applying these secret shoulds to our approach to spirituality.

What are these images? What are the images of perfection I wish to live up to? How does it influence how I see myself and how I present myself to others and the world? What happens when I try to live up to these images? What’s the cost? What am I trying to achieve? What am I afraid would happen if I don’t live up to these images of perfection? Do I assume others will judge me? That God will judge me? That I won’t get what I want? 


Why is spirituality sometimes associated with perfection?

Is it because God or the divine, almost by definition, is perfect, so if we aim to connect with the divine we too should be perfect? Or because we assume we need to be perfect to be saved, whatever saved is for us? Or is it as simple as wanting to be accepted by others? Or ourselves?

Or by an image of our parents from when we were little and needed and wanted their acceptance, love, and protection?

What form does this drive to perfection take for us? And for the spiritual tradition we are in? Or the culture we grew up in?

And more generally, what form does this tend to take in the different spiritual traditions? Are there traditions where we find less of this? Or do some here too try to live up to certain ideas of perfection even if they, on the surface, may appear not to?


As usual, this is a fertile ground for exploration.

What beliefs, assumptions, and identities do I have about this? What do I find when I investigate these? How would it be to find love for the parts of me scared of imperfection? How would it be to find peace with what I fear the most would happen if I am imperfect or seen to be imperfect? 

What are the genuine upsides of embracing my imperfection? The general answer for me is that it’s a relief to not have to try to live up to images of perfection. It helps me find and embrace more of my wholeness. It gives me a wider repertoire. It helps me more genuinely connect with others. It helps me recognize we are all in the same boat.

More importantly, when I look at specific situations and specific ways I try to live up to perfection, what genuine benefits do I find in embracing my imperfections?

Can I find safe spaces for exploring embracing my imperfections? Perhaps in a journal? With a good therapist? With accepting and relatively mature friends? Can I find ways to talk about it that make it easier for me to embrace it?

And maybe most directly, how is it to meet and get to know my fear of what may happen if I don’t try to live up to perfection? How is it to feel it in my body? Allow it? Notice it’s already allowed? See what it really wants (love? acceptance? safety? support?) and give that to it? Notice its nature? Notice how its nature is my nature? Rest in that noticing?


If I find what I am, my nature, does this change these dynamics? Does it create a different context for exploring all of this? 

I may find myself as capacity for the world as it appears to me. I may find myself as that which the world to me – this human self, the wider world, and any other content of consciousness – happens within and as. Here, there is a kind of perfection. Nothing is missing. It’s all there is. And yet, it also includes and embraces and IS all the apparent imperfections in me and the world. 

This can help me shift my relationship with imperfections in a few different ways. The perfection inherent in what I am makes it easier for me to embrace the many apparent imperfections as who I am. I can recognize my nature even in the imperfections, they too happen within and as what I am. Noticing my nature helps me explore my old beliefs and assumptions and find what’s more true for me. And finding myself as oneness and love helps me find love for these parts of me. 


When it’s written out like this, it can seem like a relatively simple and clean process. And that’s one of the ways we can try to live up to some ideal of perfection. We may try to live up to how someone else has described something.

In reality, the process is typically far from simple, clean, and perfect. When it’s lived, this process, as so much else, is flawed, messy, and imperfect. And It’s an ongoing process without a finishing line.

And that’s OK. That’s life. That’s how it is for all of us. 

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Alejandra Lobelo: If we are really present, the fantasy of becoming something other than what we are…. becomes completely ridiculous


If we are present, to the Truth or to the Reality or to God, which is the same thing, what importance can ascension have, or the quantum leaps to higher dimensions, or the high or low vibration, or the arrival on a new earth, or a new life that’s better or more this or that?

If we are really present, the fantasy of becoming something other than what we are, or being in a place other than where we are, of transcending, of finding something else, somewhere out there, becomes completely ridiculous.

– Alejandra Lobelo


Si estamos presentes, a la Verdad o a la Realidad o a Dios, que es lo mismo, ¿qué importancia puede tener la ascensión, o los saltos cuánticos a dimensiones superiores, o la vibración alta o baja, o la llegada a una nueva tierra, o a una nueva vida, mejor, más esto o lo otro?

Si estamos realmente presentes, la fantasía de convertirnos en algo diferente a lo que somos, o estar en un lugar distinto al que estamos, de trascender, de encontrar algo más, en algún lugar allá afuera, se vuelve completamente ridícula.

– Alejandra Lobelo in the original Spanish

The more we try to make life fit our ideas, the more chaos we create

The more you try to make it fit, the more chaos you create. 

– Adyashanti, in Ale’s dream

Adya is, as usual, clear and spot-on, even when he appears in Ale’s dreams. 

The more we try to fit life into our ideas about how things should be, and the more we push and pull and struggle, the more chaos we create. 

When this happens, it’s a sign that we are perceiving and acting from unclear parts in us. From parts that are wounded, caught up in beliefs, unloved, and so on.

And this gives us an opportunity to explore what’s going on. 

What are the unexamined beliefs this part of me is operating on? What do I find when I examine the belief or beliefs? 

How does this part of me perceive the world? 

What does it need? (Safety, love, support, feeling seen?) 

What happens if I give this part of me what it deepest down wants and needs? 

What’s the nature of this part of me and these painful dynamics? Is it different from my own nature?

And so on.

Alan Watts: You are it!

They say in the Upanishads, those ancient texts of Hinduism, they say: Tat Tvam Asi. You’re it! Ha! You are everything that’s going on. In other words, you are a partiucular place in which the whole universe is focused.

– Alan Watts, see this video on FaceBook

For me, there are two different parts to this.

One is that to me, I am everything that’s gong on. My nature is capacity for every experience I have and am. The world and universe as I experience it happens within and as my sense fields. The universe, to me, happens within and as what I am. This is something I can explore in my own first-person experience and find for myself.

The other is that I am a particular place in which the whole universe is focused.

As this human self, I am a part of the seamless and dynamic whole of the universe, a holon in a wast holarcy.

Every experience, thought, feeling, action, state, and so on, that I experience (and am, in that moment), has innumerable causes stretching back to the beginning of time (if there is a beginning) and out to the widest extent of the universe (if there is a boundary). What’s here as this human self – and any experiences and activities of this human self – is created by the universe as a whole.

As Carl Sagan said, I am the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. I am the universe bringing itself into consciousness. 

This is something I can find within stories, including western science, the universe story, the epic of evolution, and so on. 

Byron Katie: What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal

What’s called bliss and what’s called ordinary mind are equal. One is not a higher state than the other.

– Byron Katie

Can I find this in my own experience?


When I look, I find I am capacity for all of it

I am capacity for all of it. And it’s all happening within and as what I am.

In that sense, bliss and ordinary mind are equal. To what I am, any state and experience are equal.


And to who I am, to this personality, they are not necessarily equal. Here, there are preferences.

As my human self lives and operates within a more conscious noticing of my nature, these preferences are held more lightly.


How does this look in daily life? 

I notice that any state and experience happens within and as what I am. That my nature is capacity for all of it. And that they are equal in that sense. There is “one taste”. 

If I want to clarify this, or explore it in a more structured way, I can use Headless experiments, the Big Mind process, Living Inquiries, or other forms of inquiries aimed at helping us notice our nature here and now. (More accurately, aimed at inviting our nature to notice itself – as capacity for all experiences and what all experiences happen within and as.)

At the same time, my personality and human self have preferences, and it’s important to take these into consideration. Sometimes, these preferences come from some kindness and wisdom, and I chose to follow them. Other times, I may notice or suspect they come from reactivity, and then I instead chose to explore them and see what’s more true for me. 

It’s an ongoing process and exploration, and it’s often a bit messier than this. And that’s part of the process too.

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Adyashanti: For the vast majority of people that awaken and sustain in it…. Truth is the most important thing in their life

For the vast majority of people that awaken and sustain in it, there is something similar among them. Number one is that Truth is the most important thing in their life. Truth and reality is number one on their agenda, and usually it’s been that way for a long time.

– Adyashanti, The Intention of Spirit

Yes, awakening requires us to be radically honest with ourselves. It requires us to prioritize what we honestly and genuinely find we are in our own immediate experience and what the world is to us in our immediate experience. And set anything else – anything we have been told and anything we tell ourselves – aside.

The main way to do this is to radically prioritize truth and to prioritize truth in all areas of our life. It creates a habit and an atmosphere where we more easily can be honest with ourselves about what we find and notice in our own first-person experience.

Two of us – perceiving ourselves as observer and observed

You can talk about ‘myself’ as if there’s two of you: one that is doing or has done something, and the other one who’s watched it and is talking about it. Strange, isn’t it?

– Adyashanti, Silent Retreat Vol. 80, Q&A Sessions, Day 4

In daily life, we tend to take this for granted. We talk about ourselves as something we observe. And we talk about ourselves as someone who observes. And we may not give it a second thought.

It seems a given, and most of us may not even point this out or question it. And if we do, it may just seem like an interesting curiosity.


When we take a closer look, we may find something else.

And it helps to do this exploration with guidance from more structured inquiry, for instance, sense field explorations (traditional Buddist inquiry, Living Inquiries), the Big Mind process, and even The Work of Byron Katie. We can explore it through the Headless experiments. We can explore it through basic meditation, through noticing and allowing any content of experience, and noticing it’s already noticed and allowed before the mind comes in and does something about it. And many other approaches.

Each of these gives us a slightly different view of what’s happening.

What do we find through these forms of explorations?

We may find that any sense of observer and observed happens within the content of our experience. They come and go. Our nature is capacity for both. And they happen within and as what we are.

And when we take another look, we may find that both are mental representations. We have an image of ourselves as observed, as an object in the world. And we have an image of ourselves as observer, as an I. The mind associates each one with a lot of other mental representations, and it also tends to associate each one with certain sensations in the body. These sensations lend a sense of solidity and reality to the mental representations, and the mental representations lend a sense of meaning to the sensations. And it’s all happening within and as what we are, which a thought may (unsuccessfully) label consciousness.


This shows the creativity of the mind.

To ourselves, we are capacity for all our experiences. And we are oneness. We are the oneness our experiences of anything – this human self, the wider world, anything else – happen within and as.

And that goes for any sense of observer and observed as well.

Our nature temporarily forms itself into a sense of observer and observed.


Why does Adya point our this apparent oddity?

Because it shows that we often take something for granted – in this case perceiving ourselves as both observer and observed – and on investigation, it may reveal itself as something we didn’t expect.

If we look more closely, we may discover something about our nature. We may discover what we are, in our own first-person experience.


We can read about this and understand it, to some extent, within the realm of stories. That may be a good initial step, but it doesn’t lead to any real transformation.

The real transformation comes when we engage in an exploration of our own immediate experience and see what we find for ourselves, and when we keep noticing and exploring this.

Image: John William Waterhouse’s Echo and Narcissus 1903

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Rabbi Rami Shapiro: A person who imagines herself separate from God

A person who images herself separate from God imagines herself greater than God, for she points to her skin and says to God, “You may come this far, and no further”.

– Rabbi Rami Shapiro

This can show up in different ways. In an awakening process, it often shows up in different sets of identifications remaining even if we mostly and generally notice what we are.

We may notice our nature. And yet, somewhere in us, there are still identifications with a range of mental representations… As a human. A being. An I. A me. A doer. An observer. An observed. Consciousness. Awakeness. Space. Timeless. Oneness. Love. Capacity. And so on.

These are the places where we tell ourselves: Yes, it’s all God, except these little things that are me.

That’s why it’s helpful to identify and examine these. What do I take myself as? What story or mental representation do I, somewhere in me, hold as true? What do I feel I need to defend? What in my field, here and now, appears the most as an I or me?

What happens when I notice that they – these representations and what they point to – happen within the content of experience, and within and as what I am? What happens when I notice they come and go? What happens when I explore the effects of identifying with and as these? What’s genuinely more true for me? How is it to intentionally notice and live from what’s more true for me?

Carl Sagan: Think of the rivers of blood spilled

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

– Carl Sagan

Image: Pale blue dot taken by Voyager 1 in 1990.

There is an inner desert into which each one of us must one day go

There is an inner desert into which each one of us must one day go, an empty space for solitude and testing. Do not expect to hear God’s word immediately upon arrival. But God will speak through the silence.

– attributed to Desert Fathers and Mothers

I assume this may be the desert of what we are. It’s a kind of desert since it’s not a who but a what. It’s a kind of desert since it’s capacity for all our experience. It’s a kind of desert since it’s what all our experiences is made up of.

It’s silent because it’s capacity for sound. It’s still because it’s capacity for movement. It’s the silence and stillness all sound and movement is made up of. It’s silent and still because it stays the same even as it takes the form of sound and movement.

It’s our nature. It’s what we are, whether we notice or not.

We can go one step further and say it’s also the nature of existence or the divine or God.

And as we rest in this noticing, and as it, it can profoundly shift our identity and be profoundly transforming for our perception, life, and human self and psyche.

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A few quotes from Ramana Maharshi

In my teens and twenties, I was mostly drawn to Taoism, Buddhism, Christian mysticism, and ecospirituality, and the spirituality of India never pulled me. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I started reading Ramana Maharshi and others from the Indian tradition.

When I first read Ramana Maharshi, it was immediately clear that he spoke from and about what we are with clarity. So I thought I would explore a few of his quotes here. (His expression is also inevitably colored by his culture and personality, as it is for all of us.)


You can only stop the flow of thoughts by refusing to have any interest in it.

– Ramana Maharshi

I understand where he is coming from, and would phrase it differently.

Refusing to have any interest in thoughts is not possible if some part of us holds the story as true. That’s what creates the fascination and glue. His advice here seems well meant although with questionable practical usefulness.

What we can do is identifying the stories some parts of us hold as true and examine them. What are the stories and the underlying assumptions? What do I find when I examine each one? What happens when I hold it as true? What’s genuinely more true for me? How would it be to live from this? (The Work of Byron Katie.)

What are the mental images and words making up the story? What physical sensations does my mind associate with these? (Does the sensations lend a sense of solidity and truth to the stories? And does the stories give a sense of meaning to the sensations?) What happens when I rest in noticing respectively the mental images and words and the sensations? Does the “glue” that ties the two together in my mind soften?

This is how we more easily can recognize the stories we – somewhere in us – hold as true and perceive and operate from. This is is how we more easily can recognize them as not true in the way we initially may have taken them. This is how we recognize thoughts as thoughts and sensations as sensations. This is how the fascination and glue can go out of the stories.

I assume Ramana Maharshi gave his students more specific pointers as well. He must have had more practical ways to guide his followers.


There is neither Past nor Future. There is only the Present.

– Ramana Maharshi

Yes. I cannot find the past or future outside of my mental representations about the past and future. I have memories and ideas about the past, which happen here and now. And I have images and visions of the future, which happen here and now. My ideas about the present also happen here and now.

We don’t need to “be” present. We just need to notice that it’s all there is and all there ever is.

Similarly, we don’t need to somehow abolish any thoughts about the past or the future. We need them to function in the world. We just need to notice that they are mental representations happening here and now.


Let what comes come. Let what goes go. Find out what remains.

– Ramana Maharshi

The content of our experience is always changing. We may understand this within stories, and it’s more effective and immediate to notice it directly and regularly stay with this noticing for a while.

Am I really this human self which happens within the content of my experience?

If all content of experience changes, can any of it be what I more fundamentally am?

What is it that’s always here? Is it my nature as capacity for all my experiences?

Is it this no-thing that all my experiences happen within and as? This no-thing thoughts can try to label, and which these labels also happen within and as?


Realisation is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.

– Ramana Maharshi

It’s noticing what we already are.

We may take ourselves to be this human self. And is that what we more fundamentally are in our direct first-person experience? Is it what we already are to ourselves, when temporarily set aside what we are told we are and tell ourselves we are?

We can use structured inquiry to notice what we already are in our own first-person experience. Two of my favorites are the Big Mind process and the Headless experiments. We may also find it through other forms of inquiry, for instance traditional Buddhist inquiry or a modernized version like Living Inquiries. And over time, we may find it through engaging in Basic Meditation.


No one succeeds without effort… Those who succeed owe their success to perseverance.

– Ramana Maharshi

Yes, this is generally true.

With good guidance, we may notice our nature relatively easily and quickly. And to keep noticing it and living from it takes engagement, sincerity, and sticking with it.

In my case, the noticing happened out of the blue without any previous interest and effort. And it’s taken a lot of effort to clarify and deepen into it, and invite my human self to transform within it. (This is ongoing and I still feel like a beginner here.)

Note: I was looking for an image of Ramana for this article. The next session in my online Vortex Healing class (Angelic Heart IV) started. And I found myself looking at an image of Ramana during the first meditation. I could sense his deep commitment, and it put my own relative lack of commitment in relief.

For many years, I used to have a strong commitment to awakening and exploration. I went deep in practice for hours each day. When I went through the darkest part of the dark night some years ago, this got a bit out of whack. Likely from how I and my system reacted to the strong and overwhelming trauma that surfaced. And likely also from CFS and Lyme disease which made it more difficult to engage in any form of focused activity. I got scared of going deep because what I met was overwhelming pain and trauma, and I also didn’t have much energy or focus to do it. I am still practicing with sincerity, but with less of the dedication and commitment I used to have. Maybe it’s time to refind some of that commitment again and be less causal and more serious and unflinching in my own immediate exploration.

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Adyashanti: In the end, we’re all held accountable to our own depth

In the end, we’re all held accountable to our own depth.

– Adyashanti, Facets of Unity

What does Adya mean by this?

I don’t know but here is how it matches what I have found.


This becomes more clear through inquiry and also in an awakening process.

We can never really trick ourselves. Somewhere in us, we know.

Even when we pretend to hold certain thoughts and assumptions as true, we also know what’s happening.

Something in us knows when we get caught up in beliefs and fears. And something in us knows when we are more honest, authentic, and sincere.

We are all being held accountable to our depth.


The most simple and accessible way I have found is The Work of Byron Katie. We start with a stressful thought that most often seem true to us. We examine it. We find what’s more true for us. And we may find that this was already more true for us. We already had that wisdom in us. We just needed a little help from structured inquiry and perhaps an experienced facilitator who knows the right questions to ask.


I cannot help noticing the parallels with this and Freud’s super-ego or over-I.

Freud’s over-I comes from culture. We internalize the common values and shoulds from our culture during our upbringing. This helps us fit in, be accepted, and function in society. And it also comes with costs depending on how strongly we identify with these shoulds.

Adya’s Depth is different. This is the part of us that inherently knows what’s going on. It knows what we are – capacity for our world and what our world happens within and as. It knows when we are more aligned with this through honesty, sincerity, and receptivity. And it knows when we are more out of alignment with it by getting caught up in beliefs and reactivity.

Neither one is an object or thing. In the first case, it’s internalized values, norms, and shoulds. In the second case, it’s a simple knowing inherent in what we are.


I assume for a few different reasons.

Many already have an intuition and sense about this, and he is encouraging them to trust it.

If we realize we are being held accountable to our depth, it’s a bit easier to align ourselves consciously with that depth. It’s a little easier to shift towards honesty, sincerity, and receptivity.

We may realize this through our own noticing and experience. Or it may just be hearing what Adya said about it and it resonated and sounded right.

In either case, his words encourages us to hold ourselves a bit more accountable.

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Awakening and altered states

To perceive everything as one is not an altered state of consciousness. It’s an unaltered state of consciousness. It’s the natural state of consciousness.

– Adyashanti

Enlightenment is not an altered state of consciousness. It’s coming out of an altered state of consciousness.

– Adyashanti

It’s interesting to look at the relationship(s) between awakening and altered states.


Why is Adya pointing this out?

Likely because some assume that awakening is a kind of altered state. The pointer is medicine for the condition of assuming it’s about altered states.

If we assume it’s a state, we’ll chase states – something that’s “out there” in others or in our future or even past. We’ll miss it right here. So by pointing this out, Adya is inviting us to look at what’s here and now independent of the presence or absence of any particular states.

Awakening is about noticing our more fundamental nature and living from this noticing. And this nature is here no matter what our content of experience is, and no matter what state is here.


Altered states is conventionally defined as the altered states we can experience through drugs, insanity, or something similar. These are not what Adya talks about.

When he says awakening is coming out of an altered state, he probably refers to the altered state created by holding stories as true. The mind believes certain assumptions and stories about ourselves, others, life, and the divine, and – to some extent – perceives and lives as if these stories are true. Most of these assumptions and stories are not very conscious. It will also interpret whatever is happening from within the stories it more explicitly holds as true.

Since thoughts are questions about the world, have a pragmatic function only, and cannot – by their nature – hold any final, full, or absolute truth, holding stories as true brings us out of alignment with reality. It’s a kind of insanity. And it’s responsible for nearly all of the insanity we see in our own life and the world.


There is one benefit to altered states. If we experience some of them over time, we’ll eventually notice that their nature is to come and go. They are visitors. They are not what this is about.

And there is the same benefit to noticing that we are always experiencing altered states. The content of our experience is always changing. It’s always altered. Noticing that, and really getting it in our bones, helps us notice that we cannot – most fundamentally – be any content of our experience. It all comes and goes. Even anything related to this human self comes and goes and is always changing. So what it is that’s more fundamental? What’s not changing?

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