Free & not free

As long as we believe that we’re our bodies, we don’t have to know that we are infinite, our cells without limit, like music itself, free.

— Byron Katie

There are two sides to this.

FREEDOM THROUGH RECOGNIZING OUR NATURE

Yes, as what I am, as my more fundamental nature, I am – in a sense – free. I am what any experience happens within and as. I am what forms itself into any experience.

It’s a kind of freedom.

It’s a freedom from taking myself as fundamentally something within the content of experience, as a thing in a world of things.

When this recognition is more thorough and lived, there is a freedom to more fully and consciously allow what’s already allowed, which is the experience that’s already here no matter what it is, how it looks, and how my personality likes it.

That also opens for the freedom to be more honest about all of this, as it is.

FREEDOM THROUGH RECOGNIZING THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

There is another freedom.

That’s the freedom that comes from recognizing the nature (and limitations) of thoughts in general, and especially through examining specific thoughts.

Here, there is freedom from holding the thought as true, there is freedom to recognize the limited validity in the thought, and there is freedom to more fluidly use a range of thoughts as pointers.

We are more free in our relationship with thoughts.

BOUND

We are also bound, in a sense.

This human self in the world has all kinds of limitations, although I don’t know exactly what those are or where any imagined boundary goes.

In my case, this human self lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). That puts a limit on my activity levels and what I can do. (I lived very differently when it was less strong.) I don’t know exactly the limits, they are to some extent stretchable, and all of it can change at any moment.

There are also the limits of physics and biology. I can’t fly unless I go in a machine that can fly. I can breathe underwater. I need air, water, food, and shelter to survive.

Society and culture also have limits, which again often are a bit fuzzy. I need money to survive unless I happen to find a situation where that’s less of an issue. If I break a law, I have to be ready to face the consequences.

There are also other kinds of limits, which all are a bit fuzzy. There is a kind of limit to the profound interconnectedness of all life. All of life supports me. Society and humanity support me. I wouldn’t be alive without it. I can’t thrive without it.

BOUND BY WHAT I FIND WHEN MY NATURE NOTICES ITSELF

As usual, there are a lot more wrinkles to it. Here is one:

The more I find and live from my nature, the less free I am, in a sense.

In my experience, I am more bound to living from what’s wise, kind, and sane. Of course, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, unresolved issues in me hijack my life and I act and live from reactivity. But, in general, that’s the tendency and movement.

The same goes for living from my inner guidance. The more my nature notices itself and lives from that context, the more I find I need to live from my inner guidance.

I also have a responsibility to life and the larger whole. That too limits my life to a great extent.

These are all limits that feel profoundly right and I love and seek to be more bound by. (There is still a long way to go.)

FREE & NOT FREE

So yes, there is a limited freedom in my nature noticing itself.

It’s a freedom from certain types of identifications, or at least a freedom from blindly believing them.

There is a freedom to allow the experience that’s here as it is, which includes my human self’s reactivity to it. At least, there is a freedom to notice that my nature allows it all freely..!

There are also many ways there is no or not much freedom, and that includes living from integrity, authenticity, inner guidance, responsibility to the larger whole, and so on. I don’t always live from it, and when I don’t, I notice the consequences in me and in my life.

Image by me and Midjourney

Kevin Fox: Before trusting an AI to tell you about stuff you don’t know, ask it to tell you about things you are an expert in

Several years ago, I listened to a few episodes of Stuff You Should Know. This is a podcast with two guys who spend a brief time learning about a topic before making an episode about it. I enjoyed it until I heard an episode on a topic I happen to know a lot about and realized how full it was of mistakes and misconceptions. They filled in the gaps with stories that seemed plausible to them. It was painful to listen to, and I unsubscribed to that podcast. If they got it so wrong on a topic I know about, they likely do the same with topics I know less about.

As a starting point, or out of curiosity, I do sometimes ask AI on a topic. If it’s important, I always check with other sources. Often, it is surprisingly good, and sometimes it’s way off.

I also often do what this quote suggests. I ask it questions on topics I know a lot about to see how well it does. When I started with ChatGPT, I asked it about topics I know a lot about, and I could see the misconceptions it had and how it would fill in gaps with plausible – and often completely wrong – information. For instance, I asked ChatGPT about the origin and history of Breema, and since there is little to no information about it online, it made up something that sounded plausible. That seems to be the nature of AI as it is right now.

Paul Hawken: What I see in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore grace, justice, and beauty to the world

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Both are part of the bigger picture.

Also, if you want to find encouragement, I find that making changes in my own life helps me see that change is possible. Even small changes do that. And that’s much easier if I do it with others.

Rewild your garden. Plant wildflowers. Plant fruit trees and bushes. Buy second-hand clothes. Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of a car. Buy less, local, and something that lasts and can be repaired. Downscale. Save money instead of spending it all so you can retire early. Volunteer. Find others to do all of this with for mutual support. There is a lot we can do in our own life and small changes help us viscerally get that change is possible.

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One or many consciousnesses?

Are we one or several consciousnesses?

SEVERAL

We can say we are several consciousnesses.

Each conscious being is, by necessity, consciousness to themselves.

That also means that, to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

Every conscious being is a consciousness full of the world.

ONE NATURE

The nature of the consciousness we are seems to be the same. If we want, we can say there is one consciousness in that consciousness is consciousness whether it happens here or there.

We have the same kind of nature, just like water is always water.

That doesn’t mean that the content of consciousness is shared or the same. That’s obviously not the case. Even if we listen to the same music or eat the same food or all feel joy, the experience of it is unique and individual.

ONE TO ME

There is another oneness of consciousness, and that’s how it appears in direct perception.

When I look, I find I am consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.1

This consciousness is seamless, it’s one.

So to me, the world appears as consciousness, and it appears as one.2

It has a dreamlike nature, and it’s seamless.

It appears that way because of my own inherent oneness.

ONE CONSCIOUSNESS CALLED SPIRIT?

It’s also possible that all that is – all of existence – is consciousness. Everything, this whole universe and everything else, happens within and as that consciousness.

If so, that’s what we would call God, the divine, Spirit, Brahman, or whatever label we would like to put on it.

ALL TOGETHER

To me, there is some validity to each of these views, and likely many more.

Just one or the other is too one-sided.

Together, they can better hint at the richness of life.

A NOTE ON THE CARTOON

Although the quote may be a little simplistic, I like the cartoon.

Yes, religion can create a quite small space for us. Religions often include beliefs and shoulds which have their place and also confine us.

Spirituality is a little more open, although also often comes with shoulds, beliefs, and identification.

Consciousness is what it all happens within and as. It has no inherent boundaries, and it contains and makes itself into the boundaries of religion, spirituality, and anything else.

NOTES

(1) As mentioned above, I assume it’s like that for any “conscious being”: They are consciousness to themselves, and to them, the world happens within and as the consciousness they are.

(2) A layer of mental representations put on top of it can make it appear differently. Mental dividing lines can appear real and true and inherent in the world, which will distract attention from the inherent oneness of our experience. These mental overlays can also make the dreamlike experience appear more solid and substantial.

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When things are what I am

This quote describes what seems common when our nature starts recognizing itself.

The consciousness we are is used to taking itself to be something small within its own content and then starts to intuit or glimpse that it’s all happening within and as itself.

I haven’t heard this interview, so will just write a few things that come up for me.

WHO AND WHAT I AM

As I often say, it’s not wrong that I am this human self in the world. For most practical purposes, it’s true enough. In my experience, this human self is mostly here (apart from in some dreams and visions) so it makes sense to make that assumption. It’s an assumption that works relatively well in daily life. It’s also an assumption that creates stress since it’s out of alignment with what’s more true.

More fundamentally, I find I am what the whole field of experience happens within and as. To myself, I am what a thought may label consciousness, and any experience – of the wider world, of this human self –happens within and as the consciousness I am.

THE EXPERIENCE IN EACH CASE

The consciousness I am can create the temporary experience for itself of fundamentally being this human self. Here, “it” is not “me”. A tree is not me, it’s a tree over there.

This is true in a conventional sense no matter what, and it can feel deeply and obviously true if the consciousness we are is fundamentally identified as this human self.

The consciousness I am can also recognize itself, and that it forms itself into any experience. It’s all happening within and as what I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into (the experience of) a tree, this human self, stars, and anything else.

Here too, we can differentiate between a tree there and this human self here, and it’s all recognized as happening within and as what we are.

THE SHIFT

The shift itself can be gradual or sudden.

GRADUAL

The shift can be gradual, as it seems was the case for the person quoted.

The consciousness we are takes itself to fundamentally be this human self. There is a transition where there is a sense that something else may be more true. And then there is a more clear recognition of its nature and everything happening within itself.

In the middle phase, a lot of things can happen, including what’s described in the quote. There is a sense that the tree over there is me2. That it’s enveloped in love. That there is no difference. And so on.

It may happen in daily life, in meditation or during a spiritual retreat, it may happen in a psychedelic vision, it can happen in a dream, and in any other situation.

This transition can happen through intuitions, glimpses, having a sense of it, and more.

First, the center of gravity stays in the assumption of fundamentally being this human self while something else breaks through and in. Then, the center of gravity shifts into our nature recognizing itself. It happens through seeing it all as within itself. Finding love for it all within the context of oneness, a love independent of fleeting feelings and states. And our human self and psyche reorganizing itself within this context and getting it more viscerally.

SUDDEN

The shift can also be sudden, as it was for me. See below for more details.

When the shift is sudden, it doesn’t mean that it necessarily is as clear and thorough as it can be. It can always be more clear. More stable. More lived. More thorough in terms of the reorganization of the human self and the psyche. And so on.

MY EXPERIENCE

For me, this shift happened in my teens.

THE WORLD WENT DISTANT

On January 1st when I was fifteen, it was as if the world went very far away1. I still remember it. I was outside my parents’ house, talking with some friends. It happened over just some seconds or perhaps minutes. The world – wider world, this human self, thoughts, emotions – all seemed very distant.

This was profoundly disturbing to this human self, and the doctors couldn’t find an explanation. Later, I understood that this was a kind of observer-observed split. Identification went into the observer construct, and everything else seemed very distant. There was a disidentification with everything except the observer construct.

In a way, this is the reverse of what the quote above describes.

ALL AS THE DIVINE

One year later, there was another shift, this time into oneness. I walked along the dirt path to the house in the dark, with a big wind going through the landscape and the sky full of stars. This was between Christmas and New Year. I looked up at the stars and felt the extra expansiveness from the wind going through it all. Suddenly, there was a shift. All was revealed as God. Everything, without exception, is God. Nothing was left out.

This was home. This is home in the most profound sense. It’s more than familiar. At the same time, although very much secondary, it was a shock and surprise to this human self. He was an atheist, and then this? And it’s what always is here and just wasn’t noticed?

In my case, all was revealed as God, as the divine, as Spirit. There wasn’t so much the interpretation that “that is me”, although that is included in it. (The “that is me” idea still assumes that the idea of me and it has some substance and reality to it, which it doesn’t really.)

NOTES

(1) The Chronic Fatigue Syndrome started at the same time, somehow the two seem intertwined although I am not sure exactly how. My human self was under a lot of stress at the time, so it may be that the observer-observes split became a safety value, and the CFS may also have been a safety valve.

(2) For whatever reason, a lot of people use a tree as an example for this. Maybe that’s how it often starts for people? Is it because trees are quite noticeable, stand still, and are alive, and that makes the shift easier?

The image is created by me and Midjourney

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Do what’s important and not just what’s urgent

I just read Yeon Sik Hong’s Uncomfortably Happily and thought this was a good pointer.

What’s important to me? How can I do more of it? What does it look like if I prioritize it?

SIDETRACKED BY DAILY LIFE’S URGENT SMALLER TASKS

It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of everyday tasks and projects and lose track of the bigger picture. What are my real priorities? What’s really important to me? At the end of my life, when I look back at my life, how would I have liked to live it? What would I have liked to bring into life?

TWO KINDS OF PRIORITIES: REVEALED BY MY LIFE & WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO ME

When I look at my priorities, I find they come in two kinds.

One is revealed in my daily life. What do I spend time and energy on? My life reveals the priorities I live by. It can be sobering to look at this, and it’s important.

Another kind is revealed by exploring my dreams and wishes, what I genuinely value, my inner guidance, and so on. What’s more important to me than what I spend time on in daily life? How would my life be if I spent more time on what I really value? How can I bring it into my life, even in small ways?

SUPPORTING THE PROCESS

Several things can support this process: Examine the gap between these two kinds of priorities and bring it into awareness. Clarify my more real priorities. Finding an accountability buddy I can share daily updates with. Make small changes and make them into a new habit. Examine my fears and stressful beliefs that keep me to the first kind and away from the second.

FINDING THE ESSENTIALS

One of the ways to explore this is an inquiry from Adyashanti.

I take anything I am drawn to or want in my life, even if it’s something as simple as eating ice cream.

What do I hope to get out of that? I keep asking that question of what comes up until I find the most essential. What I find is something universal and simple. For instance, love, safety, being seen and understood, and so on.

What are some ways I can bring that more into my life?

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

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

– René Magritte

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image created by me and Midjourney

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Paul Bowles: Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.

– Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

In a conventional sense, everything in our life will happen only a certain number of times, and the number is often very small.

In a more real sense, what’s here is even more precious. What’s here now is the only that’s here, it’s all that is for us. Anything else exists as a thought, a dream, an image of the past or future.

Alan Watts: My philosophy is not concerned with what should be but with what is

People often ask me why I smoke and drink. I don’t preach, remember. My philosophy is not concerned with what should be but with what is.

– Alan Watts

Another beautiful Alan Watts quote, and, as usual, there is a lot to explore in it.

I too am interested in the descriptive more than the prescriptive. I am interested in the exploration and what I find. I am interested in what’s already here.

That doesn’t mean that the prescriptive doesn’t have a place. It has often been used by religions, philosophers, governments, and those in power to regulate society. In the best case, it can help society to function more smoothly.1 In the worst case, it’s used to maintain hierarchies and power for the few privileged and to justify inequality and injustice.

At an individual level, it can be used as a temporary (artificial and external) guideline to keep us out of trouble. For those on a spiritual path, it can also roughly mimic how we would live if we did live from our nature recognizing itself.

It also doesn’t mean that exploring our nature can’t be transformative. It often is. When our nature consciously recognizes itself – and recognizes that it’s forming itself into all of its content, including anything related to this human self – that creates a context that can be transformative for our human self and life in the world.2 This too is more about noticing, exploring, and describing more than anything prescriptive. The way this unfolds cannot be prescribed, no more than we can prescribe how a plant should grow.

When it comes to smoking and drinking and similar things, I take a pragmatic approach. I was never drawn to smoking, and alcohol doesn’t feel good in my body. I’ll have a small amount of wine or beer (oatmeal stout) very occasionally, and that’s it. My mind is weird enough as it is so I don’t need to make it weirder. My health is challenged enough so I don’t need to make it worse. It’s not from shoulds or morals. It’s just what happens to work for me, it seems.

To state the obvious (?), our nature recognizing itself doesn’t mean that our human self or our human life is automatically very different. Our human self and our human self may continue much as before, or it can shift in several ways. It seems different in each case, and it depends on how our human self – our psyche and patterns – responds to it. It’s fully possible for our human self to continue much as before, at least for a while until life catches up with us and brings up anything not aligned with oneness, inviting it to become more aligned with oneness. And even that is an ongoing process.

NOTES

(1) The Ten Commandments is an example of guidelines to help society run more smoothly. Other guidelines also have a practical function. For instance, when some religions say you should stay indoors during a solar eclipse (and add to the motivation by saying it’s “bad luck” to look at it), I assume it is so people won’t damage their eyes by looking directly at the eclipse.

(2) It seems that, over time and in its own time, the human self and psyche transform to be more aligned with this oneness. In the best case, old wounds, hangups, and traumas – which are created by and operate from separation consciousness – realign more with oneness, which is what we call healing, and when the human self operates less from these wounds it lives more from (a very ordinary kind of) kindness and sanity. This happens more easily when we actively join in with that process and invite in that healing for the wounded parts of us. I assume it’s an ongoing process without any finishing line, at least not within the relatively short lifetime of this human self.

Image dreamt up by me and Midjourney

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Alan Watts: No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along

No one imagines that a symphony is supposed to improve in quality as it goes along or that the whole object of playing it is to reach the finale. The point of music is discovered in every moment of playing and listening to it. It is the same, I feel, with the greater part of our lives, and if we are unduly absorbed in improving them we may forget altogether to live them.

– Alan Watts, This Is It and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience

Yet another beautiful quote from the weird and wonderful Alan Watts.

QUALITATIVELY BETTER?

Why do we get sometimes caught up in ideas of progress and improvement? I suspect it’s largely because of our Western culture. At another level, it’s often because we try to compensate for a sense of lack.

There is nothing wrong with aiming to change our life or the world. That’s a natural and healthy impulse. There is not even anything wrong with the ideas of progress and improvement. And yet, it’s good to examine our thoughts about it.

Do I assume that when I label something progress or improvement, it’s anything else than my own label? Do I assume that what I label progress or improvement is qualitatively better? Do I assume it will somehow give me what I really want? If I explore what I really want, what do I find? What’s the essence of it?

IDEAS OF IMPROVEMENT

We have this idea that we or our lives should improve in quality over time. To us, improvement in quality may mean that… We should be more mature. More healed. More perfect. More awake. More evolved. More embodied. Our lives should be more together. We should have more in place. We should achieve more of our dreams.

We often have an idea of a finishing line. If only this happens, then I will have arrived. I will be loved. Saved. Understood.

We think that our life has to have some significance or meaning apart from just living it as it is.

These are ideas inherent in our Western culture and some religions. We need to improve to be worthy of love, safety, acknowledgment, and so on. We often learn this in childhood. Our parents give us love and approval if we improve in certain ways.

QUESTIONING THESE IDEAS

It’s good to notice and examine these ideas and dynamics.

Does progress and improvement mean an improvement in quality? Does it mean I am better? More lovable? More acceptable? More safe?

Does it give me what I really want? Does it give me the essential universals I really want? Love? Acceptance? Safety? Being seen and understood?

Can I find progress and improvement outside of my ideas?

What if (what my mind calls) progress or improvement is not inherently or essentially better or worse?

Ideas of improvement and progress are mind-created. They are not inherent in life or existence.

THE UPSIDES

Of course, it’s understandable if we wish to find more healing or change certain aspects of our lives. That’s natural and even healthy. It can help us to find some peace or healing or a more comfortable life. It can make us a little easier to be around.

It’s also easy to see how these dynamics have fueled much of the art, science, and what we think of as progress in our society and civilization. They are not bad. They have upsides. They can help us achieve and find some kind of success in society.

It’s important to acknowledge this. I love much of what we think of as progress in our society. I am grateful for whatever healing and maturing has happened with me. (Difficult to tell what’s actually happening though.)

THE DOWNSIDES

These dynamics also come with downsides, and it’s good to notice.

If we get caught up in some kind of improvement project, it’s often in response to a sense of lack. We feel we are not enough, so we want to improve ourselves or our lives until we are enough. That won’t happen. As long as we try to compensate for the wound in us, nothing will ever be enough. Our only choice is to examine the sense of not being enough and find some healing for how we relate to it, and perhaps even find healing for that “not enough” part of us.

Also, what we think of as progress in society and our Western civilization comes with downsides. In our case, it has meant ecocide and massive destruction of nature. It has meant occupation and theft around the globe. It has meant massive suffering for women, children, non-Europeans, and non-human beings. (And also for the ones doing all of this.) It has meant abuse of nature and destructive extraction of natural resources around the world.

MY STORY

In my case, life placed me in a position where I had to face this part of me. I have the “not enough” wound in me. I did a lot to try to compensate for it. (I often excelled in academics and got top grades. I was at the University library and poured over articles when others were out partying. I put my heart and soul into art and even, for a little while, became a kind of art star in my teens. I threw myself into meditation and several forms of spiritual practice and did it for hours a day. (I even found a way to do it 24/7 through the heart prayer/Jesus prayer). I went to therapists. I worked to improve my local community and help make it more sustainable. I did a lot more than what was expected of me in whatever I was doing.) Then it all came crashing down with my health. I no longer could do these things. I could not read books anymore. I could hardly express myself coherently verbally. My memory was shot. The awakening shift from long ago was not anything “I” could take credit for since it was so obvious that “I” did nothing to make it happen. I had nothing in my life to help me feel better about the “not enough” part of me. So I had to find more peace with it. What if I am not enough? What if this, my life as it is in all its mundane lack of glory, is enough?

That’s a key too. I have found a little more peace with it because all other avenues seemed impossible.

Image by me and Midjourney

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Hans Børli: I see and know that I see / Jeg ser og vet at jeg ser

I see
And know that I see
So simply is happiness created

Jeg ser.
Og vet at jeg ser.
Så enkelt blir en lykke til.

– Hans Børli

The consciousness I am sees and the consciousness I am knows that it’s seeing. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it – what’s seen, what sees, what knows the seeing. Noticing that is like coming home and brings up a kind of quiet bliss and happiness.

Sting: You could be me in another life, in another set of circumstances

Don’t judge me
You could be me
In another life In another set of circumstances

– Sting in Tomorrow we’ll see

This refrain from Sting frequently comes to mind when I see people in different situations and with other values and orientations from me.

I could be them, in another life, in another set of circumstances.

We are both the product of a slightly different set of infinite causes going back to the beginning of time and out to the widest extent of existence.

Their life, my life, are both expressions of existence, of this universe. We are expressions of this living planet. We are expressions of the same seamless whole.

I can find them in me. I could be them.

In a very real sense, I am them. Whatever story I have about them, I can turn around to myself and find genuine and specific examples of where it’s true. To me, they happen within and as the consciousness I am. The consciousness I am forms itself into my experience of them and all I see in them. It’s me.

Danielle LaPorte: Right now there are Tibetan Buddhist monks in a temple in the Himalayas endlessly reciting mantras for the cessation of your suffering

Right now: There are Tibetan Buddhist monks in a temple in the Himalayas endlessly reciting mantras for the cessation of your suffering and for the flourishing of your happiness. Someone you haven’t met yet is already dreaming of adoring you. Someone is writing a book that you will read in the next two years that will change how you look at life. Nuns in the Alps are in endless vigil, praying for the Holy Spirit to alight the hearts of all of God’s children. A farmer is looking at his organic crops and whispering, “nourish them.” Someone wants to kiss you, to hold you, to make tea for you. Someone is willing to lend you money, wants to know what your favourite food is, and treat you to a movie. Someone in your orbit has something immensely valuable to give you — for free. Something is being invented this year that will change how your generation lives, communicates, heals and passes on. The next great song is being rehearsed.

Thousands of people are doing yoga right now intentionally sending light out from their heart chakras and wrapping it around the earth. Millions of children are assuming that everything is amazing and will always be that way. — Someone is in profound pain, and a few months from now, they’ll be thriving like never before. They just can’t see it from where they’re at.

Someone who is craving to be partnered, to be acknowledged, to ARRIVE, will get precisely what they want — and even more. And because that gift will be so fantastical in its reach and sweetness, it will quite magically alter their memory of angsty longing and render it all “So worth the wait.”

Someone has recently cracked open their joyous, genuine nature because they did the hard work of hauling years of oppression off of their psyche — this luminosity is floating in the ether, and is accessible to everyone.

Someone, just this second, wished for world peace, in earnest.

Someone is fighting the fight so that you don’t have to. Some civil servant is making sure that you get your mail, and your garbage is picked up, that the trains are running on time, and that you are generally safe. Someone is dedicating their days to protecting your civil liberties and clean drinking water.

Someone is regaining their sanity. Someone is coming back from the dead. Someone is genuinely forgiving the seemingly unforgivable. Someone is curing the incurable.

YOU. ME. SOME. ONE. NOW.

Danielle LaPorte

This is beautiful because it’s true.

Of course, I may not be the one doing these things. Some of this may happen to someone else. Someone I haven’t met may dream of adoring me, and we may not meet. I may not resonate with yogis and heart chakras. None of it may directly have anything to do with me. That’s not the point. The point is that this too is the world we are living in, and it’s part of what makes it beautiful and precious. And if some of it happens in my life, that’s icing on the cake.

David Attenborough: Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist

We have a finite environment—the planet. Anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.

– David Attenborough in an interview at the World Economic Forum 2019

I love David Attenborough and what he says, although I would say it slightly differently.

ASSUMPTIONS OF INFINITE RESOURCES AND CAPACITY

The problem is not growth in itself, since growth can be defined in many different ways.

The problem is to assume that our planet can provide infinite natural resources to sustain our civilization, and to assume it has infinite capacity to absorb the waste and toxins of civilization.

That assumption is clearly madness. That’s the assumption at the core of the economic system we have today. It’s at the core of the ecological crisis we find ourselves in. It’s at the core of why our current civilization will end. And it’s at the core of the crisis we as humans find ourselves in.

A TRANSITION INTO A DIFFERENT CIVILIZATION?

Will we be able to transition into a different kind of civilization? How many of us will die before we do? How many species will go extinct? How much damage will we see to our life-support systems?

Will we make it all? Will our planet change so much that it’s the end of humanity? (It’s perhaps not as unlikely as many assume.)

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM

How did we get ourselves into this situation?

There are many answers.

Our economic system was developed at a time when we could assume infinite natural resources and an infinite capacity of nature to absorb our waste. We were not that many and our technology was not as advanced, so we could live in that fantasy for a while.

Today, the situation is very different. We are far into overshoot. We are using far more resources than the Earth can recreate. We are putting far more waste and toxins into the planet than it can handle.

Just like using money from a bank account, it may look OK for a while, and then there is a sudden crash. We are seeing the beginnings of that crash.

ALTERNATIVES

Our current economic system is just one of many possible.

It’s easy to imagine an economic system that takes ecological realities into account, and many have worked on developing and implementing versions of that.

We have the solutions.

The real question is: Do we have the collective will? Are we going to find it in time to avoid a massive collapse of our civilization?

OUR WORLDVIEW

Another answer is our worldview. We have a worldview that assumes separation – a separation between humans and the rest of this living system we call Earth. We assume a kind of superiority of humans and the right of humans to do what they want with the rest of this living system. We assume no limits to nature and what it can do for us.

We have a power-over orientation rather than power-with. In a power-over orientation, we see nature and sometimes even other people primarily as resources, as something we can make use of for our own benefit. In a limited sense and in some situations, that’s OK. But in our civilization, that’s the primary orientation. In a power-with orientation, we seek cooperation with others and nature. We seek to find mutually beneficial relationships. We seek to live within the natural limits. We seek to live in a way that benefits life as a whole and not just ourselves.

We also have an idea of a sky god, a god that’s transcendent and somehow outside of this universe. That too allows us to see nature as primarily a resource and something to use for our own narrow and often short-sighted benefit. If we saw Spirit in the universe and in Earth and ourselves, it would be very different. In this kind of worldview, we would treat others, ourselves, and nature with more reverence.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

Our civilization will not last. All civilizations come and go. Humanity came and will go.

Everything that comes together falls apart.

Death creates space for something new.

In our case, another human civilization may develop in the place of our current one.

Or humanity may go sooner rather than later, and – given a few million or billion years – another species may develop another civilization.

It’s not wrong or bad. It’s how this universe works. It’s how we came to be here.

The death of stars created most of the elements of this planet that formed themselves into us and all we know. The death of species allowed our species to evolve as it did. The death of individuals created space for new individuals, including us.

We are transitory just like anything else, and something else – equally amazing – will take our place.

The larger whole we are a part of will transform itself into something else.

Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann: My people are not threatened by silence

My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness. My people today recognise and experience in this quietness the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all. It is easy for me to experience God’s presence. When I am out hunting, when I am in the bush, among the trees, on a hill or by a billabong; these are the times when I can simply be in God’s presence. My people have been so aware of Nature. It is natural that we will feel close to the Creator. Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course – like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth…

When twilight comes, we prepare for the night. At dawn we rise with the sun.

We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly.

We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care.

We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to. There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.

We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his word clear to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.

We are river people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways.

We hope that the people of Australia will wait. Not so much waiting for us – to catch up – but waiting with us, as we find our pace in this world.

If you stay closely united, you are like a tree, standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burnt; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree, you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn.

Our culture is different. We are asking our fellow Australians to take time to know us; to be still and to listen to us.

– Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann (Aboriginal activist, educator, artist and 2021 Senior Australian of the year)

I have noticed a few things in my own life related to much of what she so beautifully mentions here.

When I am in nature – for instance at the cabin in Norway or in the countryside in the Andes mountains – I naturally get up at dawn and go to bed early. I follow the natural cycles. It just makes sense in those settings. (A more urban setting tends to disconnect me more from nature, although only to a certain extent.)

In general, it’s difficult for me to do anything unless the time feels ripe – the situation and something in me is ready for it. I organize my life, as far as possible, so there is some flexibility in when I do my tasks so I can do it when it happens naturally.

It’s also very difficult to know anything very far in advance. I cannot easily plan more than two or three weeks ahead because my intuition and inner guidance don’t work that far in advance. Too much may happen and too much may change in me between now and then.

I love silence. I love the sounds of nature without too much human noise. I don’t really understand the tendency of some in our civilization to want noise and to want to play loud music or anything loud. (I understand it may be fun and exciting for a little while, they enjoy the contrast, and that some may want to drown out their own inner distress that way, but I cannot connect with it viscerally so much.)

I sometimes have a strong inner guidance about a situation, and it turns out later to be accurate. If others are involved, it can create a challenge for me since I cannot explain it rationally so they understand.

The image is created by me and Midjourney, very loosely inspired by aboriginal art.

Non-existent self?

The tragedy and comedy of the human condition is that we spend most of our lives thinking, feeling, acting, perceiving and relating on behalf of a non-existent self.

– Rupert Spira

To me, talking about a non-existent self seems a little one-sided.

THE SMALL SELF

If we experience a self, then for all practical purposes there is a self.

It may not exist the way we think it does, and it may not be what we think and assume it is, but it’s real to us.

For practical purposes, there is a human self here functioning in the world, and what the passport tells us about this self and the identities we have created for it all has some validity.

More essentially, there is also the appearance of a doer and observer. If I have the experience of a doer and observer, and perhaps even being this doer and observer, then that’s real for me.

WHAT I MORE FUNDAMENTALLY AM

At the same time, it’s not what I more fundamentally am. When I look, I find I more fundamentally am what this whole field of experience – which includes the wider world and this human self – happens within and as what I am.

For lack of a better way to talk about it, I may call that consciousness. To myself, I am more fundamentally this consciousness that any content of experience – to me – happens within and as.

WHAT I AM FORMS ITSELF INTO ITS OWN CONTENT OF EXPERIENCE

The consciousness I am forms itself into an experience of the wider world and this human self, and perhaps also a doer and an observer, and sometimes also into BEING this doer, observer, and/or human self. (It may even form itself into an experience of being the IDEA of consciousness, which then distracts from a more direct noticing.)

This is all the play of the consciousness I am. It’s some of the many ways it’s expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself and it’s apparently infinite potential.

MEDICINE FOR A CONDITION

I assume Rupert Spira talks about a non-existent self as medicine for a condition.

It’s medicine for the condition of being stuck in the idea that there is a self here and that it’s what we most fundamentally are.

I also assume that his phrasing is intentional and that he in other situations talks about it in other ways and addresses the other side(s) and the bigger picture.

STUCK?

The alternative is that he is stuck in the idea of a non-existent self.

He may be stuck out of a phrasing habit while really knowing better.

Or he may actually be stuck in the idea, which then distracts from a more direct noticing and a more fluid way of talking about it.

I don’t know him or his way of talking well enough to say. (I have never been drawn to his pointers too much, perhaps because they seem a bit one-sided?)

In any case, I prefer to take the more generous view. I’ll assume it’s intentional and that his direct noticing is more sincere and that his talking is generally more fluid and inclusive.

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

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

– Byron Katie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW IT IS FOR ME

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

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

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

SOME COMMON EXPRESSIONS

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

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

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

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

THOUGHT-TERMINATING CLICHES

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

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

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

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

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Rumi: Things are such

Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
Or watching the rain, petting a dog,
Or singing, just singing — could be doing as
Much for this universe as anyone.

– Rumi

Yes, that’s my sense of it as well.

VALUING PRODUCTIVITY

Does this poem have to do with value and productivity? It’s at least easy for us, in our Western culture, to see it that way.

There is nothing wrong with valuing productivity. We need some level of productivity to collectively and individually survive and thrive. (1) It makes sense that it’s part of our culture, and probably any culture. (2)

At the same time, if it goes too far it has downsides. In our Western culture, we have valued productivity to the extent that we often equate our worth with what we do in the world. We have lost sight of our value from just being who we are and being part of existence.

THE VALIDITY OF THE POEM

When I explore what Rumi points to, I find a few different things.

Doing simple things, or just being, does a lot for our universe. For the universe we each are. When I sit outside hearing the birds and looking at the trees and flowers, does as much for my universe as just about anything.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. So even the simplest of activities, or just the experience of rest, does as much for the universe as anything.

The idea of productivity or value is mind-made. It’s not inherent in reality. So anything does as much for the universe as anything else.

WHY IT’S APPEALING

So there is no wonder this poem, in this particular translation, is attractive to many in the modern world.

We are trained to (over-) value productivity and equate our worth with what we do. And that comes with downsides. It fuels over-work. It may lead us to ignore our deeper interests and passions. And if or when we are unable to be as productive as our culture tells us we should, our self-worth may take a hit.

So this poem is an antidote to that idea. It’s medicine for that particular condition.

NOTES

(1) And the right kind of productivity. The kind of productivity that puts food on the table, a roof over our heads, and so on.

(2) Although the form this value takes in different cultures probably varies enormously. It can take the form of degrading and devaluing those who are unable to be productive. And it can take the form of valuing everyone and each person’s unique contributions, even if they are not very active in a conventional sense.

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Nothing matters, everything matters

We can explore this in different ways.

CAN APPEAR AS A PARADOX

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

How can both be true?

THE NATURE OF THOUGHTS

If we recognize thoughts as thoughts, this seems different.

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

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

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

THE VALIDITY OF BOTH

And there is validity in both.

When I explore this, I find…

Nothing matters

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

Everything matters

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

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

It’s all true in its own way.

NOTES

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

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

CG Jung: Among those in the second half of life… there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.

– CG Jung

I don’t know exactly how Jung understands the term “religious outlook” and I won’t speak for him.

For me, I understand it in the widest sense possible. I would perhaps say “meaning, purpose, and connection with the larger whole”.

We all seem to have a deep need for meaning, purpose, and a sense of connection.

Why? Because existence is already a seamless whole. If we don’t consciously notice that, we will have a sense that something is missing. What’s missing is our conscious recognition of the connections that are already here, and perhaps the conscious cultivation of connections that are especially meaningful and important to us.

That connection is with ourselves as who we are, as a human being with a body and psyche. The connections here are with our body, subpersonalities, deepest needs and wishes (which tend to be simple and universal), and so on.

The connection is with our nature, with what we are. With our fundamental nature as consciousness, and noticing that the word to us happens within and as this consciousness. (And oneness.)

The connection is also with others, social systems, ecosystems, Earth as a living and evolving whole, the universe as an evolving seamless system, and existence as a whole. (I would call existence as a whole God.)

All of this is already a seamless whole. We are already in a relationship with it all. And as what we are, it’s all already happening within and as what we are. And if we are not consciously noticing these connections – and how it’s happening within and as what we are, we’ll feel we are missing something.

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Dogen Zenji: When buddhas are truly buddhas, they are not necessarily aware of themselves as buddhas

When buddhas are truly buddhas, they are not necessarily aware of themselves as buddhas.

– Dogen Zenji in Genjo Koan

In some cases, the oneness we are recognizes itself and lives its life through and as a human being, and there is no awareness of it being unusual or having a name. It may not ever have heard about it, or it has heard about it but doesn’t apply it to itself. It’s just a natural and uncontrived living from and as itself as oneness.

In some cases, the oneness we are recognizes itself and there is an awareness of it as having a name, but it’s not a focus, and it’s mostly forgotten. The metaphorical center of gravity is mostly in oneness, it knows full well about labels and perhaps maps of the process, and labels are not important in daily life.

It’s mostly when the oneness we are has a tenuous conscious grasp on its own nature that it feels a need to hold onto labels and to remind itself about those labels. And that’s not wrong. It’s natural and innocent and a part of the process.

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Claude Monet: Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love

Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.

– Claude Monet

How would it be to set aside the impulse to understand, and instead find love for what’s here?

How would it be to find love for what’s here as an expression of life or existence?

Or find love for it as happening within and as the consciousness I am? (As it appears to me.)

And in this context, we can explore how to understand it.

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Adyashanti: The ego is waiting for a cosmic finish line: “I’ll be really really conscious so I can cross the finish line, then I don’t have to be conscious anymore”

The ego is waiting for a cosmic finish line: “I’ll be really really conscious so I can cross the finish line, then I don’t have to be conscious anymore.”

– Adyashanti

This fits my experience.

A part of me is scared and tired of having to deal with things all the time, so it wants it all to be finished. It wants the challenges to be finished. This can take many forms, including ideas about awakening or enlightenment being that finishing line.

That’s natural and innocent.

And it’s good to be aware of. It helps me see that this is a part of me. It feels scared and tired. It wishes for some comfort and care. And I can give it that. I can be with it. I can understand. I can find love for it. I can notice that its nature is the same as my nature.

What is the “ego”? As far as I can tell, it’s the dynamics that happen when we – or a part of us – hold a story as true. The oneness we are takes on the perspective of the story, identifies with and as it, and perceives and lives (to some extent) as if it’s true. That’s inherently stressful since it’s out of alignment with reality. That stress may lead to that part of us wanting it all to be over, perhaps through a kind of cosmic finishing line.

These parts of me wish for liberation. And I am the one who can give it to them. I can be their friend and guide.

I can be there for them. Listen to the painful story they operate from. Identify the painful story. Examine it to find what’s genuinely more true for me. Feel what these parts of me are feeling. Meet it with kindness and love. Recognize that these parts of me come from love, they wish to protect me. Give them what they really want. (Often a variation of something simple and universal like a sense of safety, being loved, understood, or supported.) Recognize that their nature is the same as mine. (AKA consciousness.) And rest in and as this and allow that to transform me, it, and our relationship.

Roshi Shunryu Suzuki: When you feel the oneness of everything, you naturally don’t want to harm anything

When you feel the oneness of everything, you naturally don’t want to harm anything.

– Roshi Shunryu Suzuki

I love exploring quotes. What do I find when I look at this one?

WHY A FEELING?

First, why does he use the word “feel” in this quote?

After all, when our nature recognizes itself, it’s not a feeling. As they say in Zen, it’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right. It’s a love that’s not dependent on shifting states and feelings.

I imagine he may phrase it so it’s more relatable. He knows it’s not a feeling, but it’s an easy shorthand even if it’s also a bit misleading. And quotes always come in a context where it may make more sense.

He could also refer to a sense of oneness, a kind of intuition of oneness. That’s something that can happen before there is a more clear and direct noticing. That too would make it more relatable to more people.

FEELINGS RELATED TO OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

There can be feelings related to our nature recognizing itself. When it happened here, there were many, probably partly because this human self was an angsty teenager not at all prepared for it.

From what I remember, it was first mostly just recognition and a sense of finally coming home to the reality that’s always been and that I have always known even without consciously knowing it.

And then a little later a mix of amazement, wonder, awe, overwhelm, shock, enthusiasm, and more. These were my human reactions to it, the response from my human self. And they were very much colored by the personal situation and make-up of my human self.

There was also another feeling created by these responses and one that’s difficult to describe in words. It was a kind of very comfortable bliss, like a kind of blanket. And for a while, I got a bit attached to this feeling. (This particular feeling went away later.)

And there is also another kind of bliss inherent in this recognition, or in our nature. This is a quiet bliss that seems less related to my human response to it.

GETTING IT VISCERALLY

There is another side to this, and that is what happens when the recognition matures us into it. As we get more familiar with this new terrain, and as more parts of us align with it, we get it more viscerally. We get it more with our whole being. Our center of gravity shifts into it.

This too is not really a feeling in the way we typically use the word, but since it’s more visceral it also fits.

WHAT DOES THE QUOTE REFER TO?

All of this is peripheral to what the quote really refers to.

OUR NATURE

In a conventional sense, we are a human being in the world. That’s an assumption that works for most practical purposes. Here, not wanting to harm anything depends on conditioning, empathy, feelings, and so on.

When we explore what we are in our own first-person experience, we may find something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for what happens in my sense fields, my content of experience. I am more fundamentally capacity for the world, for any sight, sound, sensation, smell, taste, and mental image and word. I am more fundamentally capacity for anything any thought or sense may tell me I am.

I find I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what any content of experience happens within and as.

Said with other words, I find I am what a thought may call consciousness, and the world to me happens within and as the consciousness I am.

ONENESS AND NOT WANTING TO HARM

Here, there is oneness. The world to me is one.

And when the oneness I am recognizes itself, and explores how it is to live from this recognition, it’s natural to not want to harm anything. It would be like harming myself. It wouldn’t make sense.

This is not dependent on any changing feeling or state. It’s just dependent on the recognition. (Which is, in a way, a state – a state of recognition.)

OUR HUMAN SELF MAY NOT BE COMPLETELY ON BOARD

And yet, that’s not all that’s in play here.

Our nature may recognize itself, and doing harm may not make any sense.

And life is more complicated. In some situations, doing what seems the most right may bring some harm. For instance, right now, I have a family situation that requires me to be away from my cat. I know it brings her distress but something else takes priority. That’s just a simple example, but it’s the kind of situation we often find ourselves in.

Also, our human self may not be completely on board with oneness.

Our psyche and personality were typically formed within separation consciousness, and many parts of us may still operate from separation consciousness even after there is a more general recognition of oneness.

These parts of us inevitably color our perception and actions in the world. They sometimes get triggered more strongly. And we may even get caught up in them in some areas of life and at some times.

That’s part of the process too.

MIRRORING

There is an interesting mirroring here.

When the oneness we are takes itself to most fundamentally be something within itself, a separate self, then not wanting to harm depends on conditioning, empathy, and so on.

And when it recognizes itself, then conditioning tends to interfere with living from and as oneness.

Of course, it’s not that black and white. In the first case, the oneness we are shines through often enough. And in the second case, much of our conditioning does support living from not wanting to harm ourselves or others.

WHY IS THE TITLE LAST?

Then there is something peripheral that I have been curious about from the first day of getting into Zen when I was twenty-four in Salt Lake City.

Why do we put the title after the name? Why do most say “Shunryu Suzuki Roshi”? It’s like saying “John Smith, priest” instead of “priest John Smith”.

Yes, they may do it in Japan, but that’s because several languages in Asia use a reverse order from us.

I like to put Roshi first.

And yes, I know this has to do with a few different parts of me. One that wants things to make sense to myself and others. A part of me that likes to investigate and look at things from different angles. And also a slightly contrarian part of me that ties into the two others.

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Byron Katie: “I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

“I don’t know” is a lot of freedom

– Byron Katie

There is a lot to explore in these types of quotes.

I DON’T KNOW

It’s accurate that I don’t know. I don’t know anything for certain.

Any story is more or less accurate in a conventional sense. They fit the data more or less well.

Even if they seem relatively accurate, they highlight some features and leave a lot out.

They always come from a certain perspective and worldview. And there are inevitably many other perspectives and worldviews that make as much or more sense. Some would make as much or more sense to us now if we knew about them. Some may make as much or more sense to us in the future, with a bit more experience. And some of these would even turn our perception upside-down and inside-out.

Stories are different in kind from what they are about. (Unless they happen to be about mental representations). And that means they are inherently imperfect in terms of capturing anything in its fullness or in a very accurate way.

Reality is always more than and different from any map. (Any story – any mental representation whether it’s a mental image or words – is a map).

Stories cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth. That’s not their function.

Any story I have about the world is provisional and a question.

It’s here to help me navigate and function in the world.

That’s why it’s helpful to examine any story we hold as true at some level in our being. And it’s good when we are able to hold them lightly.

THE FREEDOM OF “I DON’T KNOW”

“I don’t know” gives me freedom.

It frees up more of my natural receptivity and curiosity. It gives me the freedom to explore the validity in a range of different stories about the same topic.

It gives me the freedom to relate to these stories more intentionally and make use of them in whatever way makes the most sense in the situation.

WHAT I KNOW

At the same time, I know some things.

In a provisional and conventional sense, I know certain things.

I know what name I go by in this world. I know some about my history. I know how to read and write. I know, to some extent, how to take decent photos and make decent drawings. I know a few things about meditation and many spiritual practices, both from my own experience and from what others say about it. I know some things about the world. I know some things about ecology and sustainability. I know some things about what I feel and think and experience here and now. I know some of my preferences and likes and dislikes. And so on.

I can have an inner knowing or intuition. This too is a question about the world. (Although it often turns out to have wisdom and kindness in it.)

Also, it’s possible to know some things about my nature. I directly perceive something about what I more fundamentally am. I find myself as capacity for the field of experience, and what this field of experience happens within and as. And that is also provisional and a question. I know that this too can be turned upside-down and inside-out at any moment. I know there is always infinitely further to go.

WHEN IT’S USED TO HIDE

“I don’t know” can also be used to hide.

We can use it to hide from others what we know. We say “I don’t know” when we actually do know something but don’t want to share it for whatever reason. Or we just stay silent when it would be more appropriate to share something.

And we can use it to hide from ourselves what we know. We know something we don’t want to know, and pretend to ourselves we don’t know. Or we distract ourselves from it, perhaps by going into compulsions.

In my case, a part of me wants to hide in general to feel more safe. This is a response to challenging situations from early in life, and I still live out that pattern in some situations and areas of life. For instance, I don’t use my name on this website, and I very rarely talk with anyone about the topics I write about here, even if they are central to my life. (I hide to stay more safe, but it doesn’t work. If anything, it just leads to frustration in the long run.)

In some situations, we can use “I don’t know” as a shield or a weapon. (And when that happens, we know.)

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Ibn ‘Arabi: O Lord, increase my perplexity concerning Thee!

O Lord, increase my perplexity concerning Thee!

– Ibn ‘Arabi in Fusus al-Hikem and quoted in The Honesty of the Perplexed: Derrida and Ibn ‘Arabi on “Bewilderment”

Why would we ask for perplexity?

The simple answer is that it helps us with receptivity, and it’s closer aligned with reality.

NOTICING MYSTERY

This is not about creating perplexity.

It’s about noticing that everything is ultimately mystery.

THE MYSTERY THAT’S ALREADY HERE

What we think we know is just that, what we think we know.

Any thought is a question about the world.

Thoughts are maps to help us orient and function in the world.

They are provisional and always up for revision.

They will change with experience and information.

And there are other contexts and worldview that fit the data as well or better, and will make as much or more sense to us, and that will turn everything inside out and upside down for us.

They cannot hold any final, full, or absolute truth.

The world is always more than and different from any map.

And that leaves the mystery. The mystery that’s already here.

NOT ONLY ABOUT GOD, AND ONLY ABOUT GOD

This is not only about God. This applies to everything.

And if we call everything God, then it is only about God.

RECEPTIVITY

Why is this important?

As mentioned above, it’s closer aligned with reality. It comes from noticing what’s already here.

And it helps open us to be a little more receptive. It helps us find curiosity and go outside of what we already think we know.

NOTICING WHAT WE MORE FUNDAMENTALLY ARE

It’s also a kind of prerequisite for noticing our nature. The more we shift out of any ideas of being anything in particular, or that any view has any real truth in it, the more we can find what we more fundamentally are.

As soon as we hold onto any ideas of being anything in particular, we identify with an identity, we identify with the viewpoint of that story, we take ourselves to be something within the content of experience. And what we more fundamentally are is something else. We are capacity for it all, and we are what it all happens within and as.

Holding onto that as an idea does the same, it ties us to a particular view and we take ourselves as something particular within the field of experience instead of the field itself.

The solution here is noticing what’s already here. Noticing what we already are. Noticing what we already are most familiar with. Noticing what’s all we have ever known.

And to notice with some guidance from someone familiar with that particular terrain.

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Something comes from nothing

When you combine the Uncertainty Principle with Einstein’s famous equation, you get a mind-blowing result: Particles can come from nothing.

“Nothing” doesn’t exist. Instead, there is “quantum foam”, Big Think

Any map or worldview is something we can explore as a projection. We can use it as a pointer for what’s already here in our experience. And that goes for worldviews from science as much as it does for worldviews from religion or mythology.

In this case, it points to our nature.

For daily life practical purposes, I am a human being in the world.

And when I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity. I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am capacity for any and all experience.

And from and within and as this capacity appears experience. This capacity takes the form of consciousness and experience.

From nothing comes something.

And I am all of it. I am capacity taking the form of consciousness and content of experience.

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Chelan Harkin: The worst thing we ever did was put God in the sky

The worst thing we ever did
was put God in the sky
out of reach
pulling the divinity
from the leaf,
sifting out the holy from our bones,
insisting God isn’t bursting dazzlement
through everything we’ve made
a hard commitment to see as ordinary,
stripping the sacred from everywhere
to put in a cloud man elsewhere,
prying closeness from your heart.

The worst thing we ever did
was take the dance and the song
out of prayer
made it sit up straight
and cross its legs
removed it of rejoicing
wiped clean its hip sway,
its questions,
its ecstatic yowl,
its tears.

The worst thing we ever did is pretend
God isn’t the easiest thing
in this Universe
available to every soul
in every breath

– from “Susceptible to Light” by Chelan Harkin

I agree with the essence of this poem, love that it is expressed in the form of a poem, and understand it’s written for effect.

At the same time, I would nuance it a bit.

SKY GODS

The sky-god phase was a phase in our western human culture. It didn’t happen in all cultures or for all of humanity. And I I suspect we are seeing the end of this phase, or at least the end of its monopoly.

It’s not inherently bad or wrong, but it does come with drawbacks and limitations as any view, and more people realize that these days and seek a different approach.

THE PLAY OF THE DIVINE

And who did all of this if not the divine, through and as us, culture, and evolution?

In some ways, we can say we did it. And it’s more fundamentally life who did it through and as us. Or the divine that did it, through and as us. And it’s also life – through and as us – that’s becoming aware of this now and seeks another way to see it.

All of it is life (or the divine) expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

EASY AND NOT SO EASY

And yes, that makes God the easiest thing. It’s everywhere and every experience. It’s what’s experiencing and the experience, and those two are really one.

And that’s not always so easy for the divine – when it locally and temporarily takes the form of us – to fully comprehend. After all, as us it’s living within a culture where the sky-god view is ingrained, and where it has trained itself to see itself as separate.

That too is part of its dance and exploration of itself in always new ways.

FINDING IT HERE AND NOW

As usual, I like to explore this as a projection.

This is all happening here and now.

When I explore what I am in my own first-person experience, I find I am what the world to me happens within and as. To me, the world happens within and as what I am. Any ideas – of sky-gods, immanent divinity, people doing this and that, this person being a certain way, and so on – happens within and as what I am.

To me, all happens within and as the consciousness I am. I can project this out and say that all of existence is consciousness (AKA the divine, Spirit, God), and all of existence is the divine exploring itself, and that may be accurate. And yet, it’s more honest for me to stay with my own immediate noticing.

For me, all happens within and as what I am. I am this consciousness taking all these forms, and metaphorically exploring itself as all of these forms.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky: I am the others, the others are me

I am the others, the others are me

– Alejandro Jodorowsky in Jodorowsky’s Dune

I can find several ways it’s true.

The first two are more loose and poetic. The next three are something we can check out for ourselves in our direct noticing. And the last one either depends on our definition or is an assumption – at least for me now.

POETIC & SENSE OF US

We can mean it in a loose and poetic way.

I have a sense of fellowship and a sense of us.

So I am you and you are me in the sense that we are all in it together.

SYSTEMS VIEW

We are all part of and expressions of larger social and ecological systems.

We are expressions and parts of a larger whole, just like cells are part of a larger organism.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

In this sense too, I am you and you are me.

MIRROR

I see in others what I know from myself, whether I know I know it from myself or not.

I can take any story I have about someone else (or anything in the world), turn it to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of where it’s true.

You are my mirror. You are me.

I am your mirror. I am you.

This is something I can find for myself by exploring projections. One of my favorite ways is through inquiry and especially The Work of Byron Katie.

SENSE FIELDS

To me, the world happens within and as my sense fields.

To me, any experience is found within sight, sound, smell, taste, sensations, thoughts, and so on.

To me, you happen within and as my sense fields.

Here too, you are me. And to you, I am you.

This is something I can explore and find for myself, by noticing my sense fields and how any experience happens within them. Traditional Buddhist sense field explorations are especially good for this.

WHAT I AM

In one sense, I am this human self in the world. That’s an assumption that’s not wrong and it works pretty well.

And when I look closer at what I am in my own experience, I find something else.

I find I more fundamentally am capacity for the world and anything that happens in my sense fields. I am what allows any and all experience, including what I think of as you.

I am what the world, to me, happens within and as. I am what you, to me, happen within and as.

If I want to put labels on it, I can say that to me, I am consciousness and the world happens within and as this consciousness I am.

In a very literal sense, you are me. And to you, I am you, whether you notice or not.

This is also something I can check out and find for myself, perhaps most effectively through forms of inquiry like the Big Mind process and Headless experiments, and also Basic Meditation.

SPIRIT

We can take this one step further.

If we call all of existence Spirit, the divine, or God, we can say that we are all aspects and expressions of Spirit.

I am you and you are me.

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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.

FINDING LOVE FOR MY OWN EXPERIENCE

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

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 AND OUR 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.

AN EXAMPLE

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

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.)

ANOTHER MORE IMMEDIATE EXPLORATION

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?

FINDING IT FOR MYSELF

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.

HELPING MY INNER COMMUNITY FEEL 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?

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

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.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

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.

IS IT ACCURATE?

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.

NOT ALWAYS THE WAY WE WANT

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.

IT’S ALWAYS HAPPENING

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.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

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.

FINDING IT FOR OURSELVES

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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