Being stuck in the absolute is not very helpful

If our awakening path is conceptually driven – or conceptually hijacked – it’s possible to get “stuck in the absolute”. To focus on what we are at the expense of who we are, and see the two as opposed to each other. Of course, if we are sincere and put our direct noticing first, we’ll see that both are part of what we are and the richness of what we are. It’s not one or the other.

I have seen this in people who go into a non-dual or awakening teacher role as well. The student comes with a very real human challenge or problem, and the teacher seems stuck in answering from a more absolute view. It’s partially true and valid of course, but it’s not very helpful to leave out the human dimension.

So what do we do if a mouse is stuck in a maze and asks for help?

We can focus on getting the mouse out, which is often what the mouse wants and needs there and then. (“If the maze doesn’t have circles, then take only right turns and you’ll get out.”)

We can focus exclusively on the “inner teachings” or the absolute view, which is partial and not very helpful for a desperate mouse. (“The maze is inside you”, “This whole experience is happening within and as what we are”.)

Or we can include both, which is helpful at two different levels. (“Take only right turns and you’ll get out. Also notice what this brings up in you and examine the stressful stories. And notice it’s all – the maze, you, anything coming up in you – is happening within and as what you are.”)

I have certainly experienced people in an awakening-teacher role who seemed stuck in the absolute. For instance, I have come to spiritual teachers – and often junior teachers – with legitimate concerns about the organization, and they dismiss it and say something along the lines of “notice it’s all happening within you”. Again, it’s partially valid and yet not very appropriate when people come to you with understandable and valid concerns. To me, it seems they are deflecting, coming from a one-sided view, and dismissing the human side of who and what we are.

Exaggerating the distinction between what and who we are

The nature and purpose of words is to make distinctions where there, in reality, is none. All is a seamless whole, and when we use words, we create imagined separation lines in the world to help us communicate and function in the world.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s how we function, and it’s what allows us to function as human beings in the world.

The distinction between who and what we are

One of the distinctions many, including myself – guilty as charged – make, is between what and who we are. Between our true nature as capacity for our world and the world. Between what all our experiences happen within and as, and all the changing experiences.

This can be a helpful distinction since we typically identify with the content of our experience and overlook what it happens within. It can help us notice our true nature.

And it’s not such a helpful distinction if we come to think and believe that this distinction is, in any way, real and somehow inherent in reality.

The reality is that both are aspects of a seamless whole, and even highlighting them as aspects is taking it a bit too far. Still, that’s what we have to do if we are to talk about it, and it can be helpful. It’s just good to notice that we are placing imagined dividing or distinction lines on this seamless whole.

Trying to talk about it in a way that highlights the seamless whole

If I am to talk about it with these distinction lines while trying to point out the seamless nature of it, it can be said simply but it will seem opaque and confusing unless we notice it for ourselves. For instance, our true nature takes the form of all our experiences.

It can also be said in a more detailed and convoluted way…. What we are is awake capacity for our world, it’s what our experiences happen within and as. This awake capacity takes the form of the content of experience, and the true nature of the content of our experience is this awake capacity.

What happens if we take the distinction too seriously?

What can happen if we take the separation line too seriously? If we hold onto the words more than we notice what they point to, and take the words as pointing to a division inherent in reality?

We can tell ourselves that the world is somehow less important or an illusion, perhaps in order to distance ourselves from it and the pain inherent in it (instead of embracing and befriending that pain), and we can live as if this is how it is. This can lead to all sorts of misguided adventures, which then become a valuable part of our awakening path and is not inherently wrong.

In a general sense, we may overlook that our true nature takes the form of all our experiences, and overlook the true nature of each of our experiences.

Leonard Cohen: Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore

Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.

Leonard Cohen

I am not sure in which context this was said, or what Cohen meant by it. 

For me, it means that this reality – as it appears to me and others – is something I cannot afford to ignore. Consensus reality is something I cannot afford to ignore.

I want to live according to it which means to be a good steward of my own life (as Adyashanti says), be a good citizen, be a good member of the ecological community, and be a good ancestor for future generations. At least, as much as I am able. 

Even within awakening, this is the case. Within awakening, we realize that all is the play of the divine, and that consensus reality is created by our ideas in our own minds. And yet, we still wish to live according to it. (Unless wisdom, kindness, and experience tells us something else is better which sometimes happens.) 

Sometimes, there an early glimpse of reality can be followed by the mind telling itself I can do what I want, nothing stops me, I can ignore silly human conventions. This is a pitfall of early phases of awakening, or a childhood disease. If we decide to listen to this voice we soon get the consequences and hopefully learn from it and become a little wiser and more mature. If Cohen had something like this in mind, he wanted to point to this pitfall and how to avoid it. 

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Divine relativity

I listened to the most recent Radio Adyashanti, and heard Adya use a term I instantly resonated with: divine relativity.

It’s when life recognizes itself, and loves itself, as what’s here….. whether it’s sadness or joy, anger or peace, a thought or feelings, people or trees, cars or horses, sky or ground, mountains or water, stars or planets, clarity or confusion, and anything else that’s here. Any state. Any experience. Any appearance.

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Living in integrity

There are many answers to the question what is it all about?

And here is one simple answer: it is about living in integrity.

What does it mean to live in integrity?

For me, it means to live according to relative and absolute truth. The ordinary truths on my ordinary human life, and also the truth of what I am and everything is.

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Not one & not two – no thing & something


The traditional teachings say that reality is not one and not two, and also that there is nothing yet something.

So if I use these as pointers for exploration, what do I find? How does it look in immediate experience, at least here now?

Reality is not one, and not two.

How is it not two? All is awakeness. Whatever happens is awakeness itself, appearing as experienced and experience and anything else.

How is it not one? Through a mental field overlay, we can differentiate in different ways For instance, we can differentiate between awakeness and form, experienced and experience, and so on. Also, this human self appears as a center of perception, thought, action and so on. And there is also a wider world.

How is it both? All is awakeness, and this awakeness appears as many when filtered through a mental field overlay.

How is it neither? All of these are stories. Pointers at most. A medicine designed to meet a specific condition. As stories in general, each of these have value only as a practical guideline in a specific situation.

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Flavors of one and many

Some flavors of one and many…

All is one in a couple of different ways.

Within form, or content of experience, I find that all is one through the Universe Story, evolution, holarchies, systems views, and many other ways of looking at it, some – such as the ones mentioned above – aligned with contemporary science.

When I explore what I am in my own immediate experience, I find that all is one. Content of awareness is awareness itself, and inherently free from any of its content, including the mental field creation of an I with an Other.

And all is many in a few different ways.

All is many when filtered through the mental field, creating an overlay of imagined – and very useful – boundaries placed anywhere within form, depending on what is useful and customary.

Independent of what I appear as to myself, others see me as one among many, as a human and an object among many. And that too is very useful.

All is also many in that any experience is fresh, new different, within the context of time. God never repeats itself, even if a story may say that something is similar to – or same as – something that went before or may come in the future.

And all is many in the context of space. What fills awareness here through this human self, is different from over there in your human self, and over there in my cat. Content of awareness is different depending on the creature.

Said another way, Big Mind is always the same in that all appearances are the play of Ground. Yet the content of these appearances, the content of experience, is always fresh and different, over time and among different beings.

Initial draft…

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Don’t exist?

In advaita circles, it is popular to say that we don’t exist…

As usual, this gets really weird if it is just another belief. And it isn’t even quite true.

We do exist…

When there is a sense of an I with an Other, anchored in this human self, we do indeed exist in this way. It is experienced as real, and we act as if it is real, so it is definitely real to us.

This human self exists. It may be a part of the seamless world of form, and there may not be a separate I inherent in it, but this human self is definitely around, and as before, if we take ourselves to be this human self, then it is more than real to us.

We exist as what we really are, as this field of awakeness and form, as awakeness and whatever content of experience there may be. As this I without an Other.

And we don’t exist…

This human self is a seamless part of the world of form. It does not exist separate from anything else. It is similar to a whirl formed behind a rock in a stream. It is made up of the same water as the rest of the stream, the particular molecules making it up always changes, it has a definite lifespan, yet it is still there, clearly discernible.

There is no I with an Other inherent in anything, including this particular human self. An I with an Other does not exist anywhere, apart from in temporary experience.

As usual, we need to take our immediate experience seriously.

If there is a sense of a separate I here, then that is our starting point. That is where we are, so that is what we need to work with. Any journey starts where we are.

Also, any exploration of who and what we really are depends on taking our own experience seriously. It is one of our main tools and skills in the process. Trying to believe and make real something that doesn’t fit our immediate experience is only an exercise in strengthening that particular, opposite, pattern.

The same is true for our relationship to others. If they experience themselves as a separate I, as most do, then that is their reality, and that is where we need to meet them, no matter what is real to us. Anything else only shows our own lack of clarity.

Practicing working with ourselves where we are, and taking our own immediate experience seriously, is not only the most effective way for us to discover who and what we really are, it is also an exercise for meeting others where they are.

Mistakes and No Mistakes

A quick look at mistakes…

Something can be a mistake or not according to our stories about it, and what they tells us is important. (Happiness, wholeness, wider circles of compassion, awakening, etc.) At our human level, and filtered through certain stories, there are certainly mistakes and avoided mistakes.

There are also no mistakes in two ways.

First, whatever happens gives us feedback, it is a guide towards more fully investigate who and what we really are, so there are no mistakes in that sense. Whatever happens is an invitation to investigate beliefs, what happens when experience is resisted or not, and much more.

One way to discover this is to find, and bring into daily life, the grain truth in the reversals of our initial stories telling us that something is a mistake.

And there are also no mistakes in the sense that everything is already awakeness itself. Whatever happens already and always happens within, to and as, awakeness. Said another way, it is all Big Mind, God, Brahman, and all good as is, independent of content.

This can be explored through finding the grain of truth in all reversals of a story, revealing each permutation as having only limited truth, and the inherent neutrality of the situation beyond stories.


A few things about choice…

As human beings, we have a range of options available to us. We move along the different spirals of development (cognitive, moral, value memes, etc.), we notice patterns and dynamics of behavior, we can see directly how thought/sense gestalts are created, we can get to know and embrace disowned aspects of ourselves, and so on.

There is a disidentification with one thing, and identification with a new more inclusive pattern. And in each of these cases, the landscape of options available to us is a little larger, so there is a sense of a little more freedom.

At the same time, for all of this there are infinite causes. There is no freedom in that sense. Whatever happens – any sense of choice, decisions being made, any thoughts, actions, reactiveness – it all has infinite causes, stretching back to the beginning of time and out to the extent of the universe.

There is doing but no doer. This human self make decisions, but there is no “I” there. Actions follow thoughts, there is evaluation of options, there are decisions, but no evaluator or decider.

Finding ourselves as Big Mind, we are already and always free from all of this. We are this field of awakeness and its content which goes beyond and includes anything in the world of form. The human self and its wider world is all awakeness, inherently absent of an I with an Other. There is only doing and no doer. There is of course still relative freedom and choice for our human self, and it will still work on finding more of it (or not), but the substance has gone out of it.

So there is a range of options for our human self, which widens as it heals, matures and develops. There is no freedom of choice since every decision has infinite causes. And we are already free from it, as awakeness and what happens within, to and as it.

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Not knowing in two ways

Not knowing comes in two distinct flavors…

There is the not knowing outside of thought and stories, and the not knowing inside of thought and stories.

Awareness is inherently free from knowing, and this is noticed when this field of awakeness and form awakens to itself as a field, inherently free from the filter of any story, including the stories of a separate self, a center, a subject and object, and so on. This is the not knowing outside of thoughts and stories, the not knowing inherent in the Buddha Mind. And we can notice this one in a simple way by asking ourselves: is knowing inherent in the awareness of what is happening here now, or does a sense of knowing come from the filter of thought overlaid on this?

Then there is the conventional not knowing, the not knowing within the context of stories. The world is always more than and different from our stories about it (our maps, theories, assumptions, guesses, beliefs), so our stories are of temporary and practical value only. They help us orient and navigate in the world, but not much more than that. Inherent in any story is the not knowing from it having only limited and practical value, at best, and from the equally limited truth in each of its reversals.

Noticing and becoming familiar with both of these forms of not knowing is of great value in our lives. The first not knowing help us notice what we really are, free from and outside of any stories. The second not knowing helps us see stories as only tools of practical and temporary value. Both help us find ourselves as that which is already free from stories, see thoughts as just thoughts, and free us from taking stories as anything more than just stories. There is a mutuality between both, one offering insight into the other.

And they are really just two ways of talking about the same.

Stuck in the absolute and the perfection of it all, preventing us from more fully appreciating the perfection of it all

When we are stuck in the absolute, in the idea of all as the field of awake void and form, and all as inherently perfect as it is,  we – ironically enough – don’t fully appreciate the perfection of it all.

We tend to be unable to fully appreciate and meet people where they are, with all that is real to them.

This attachment to the idea of the absolute can be there whether the field of awake void and form is noticed and alive in immediate awareness or not. As Byron Katie says, we are awake or not to a thought, and in this case, we are not fully awake to the limited truth in that idea, the truths in the reversals of it, and all those ideas as just ideas.

When the attachment to that thought falls away, there is a more wholehearted appreciation of what is, including an ability to meet people where they are with all that is real for them, and their desires and longings.
Read on for the initial draft which started as something else, and has more details…

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A simple way to talk about the absolute and relative

Here is a simple way to talk about the absolute and relative:

The absolute is what is, when not filtered through stories.

The relative is using the filter of thoughts to help this human self navigate and function in the world.

And it is all happening as the absolute, as awake void and form, as temporary form manifestations of God.

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What is a relative truth relative to?

Any story has only a relative truth. It has limited and temporary validity only, and there is also a grain of truth in each of its reversals.

And it is relative for several different reasons.

First, stories differentiate within the seamless whole of the world, which means that any segment only exists relative to something else. Here is relative to there. False relative to true. Life to death.

The appearance of anything distinct is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to a boundary and something on the other side of the boundary.

Then, there is a grain of truth in each of the reversals of any story. The appearance of limited truth of any story happens when we recognize the grain of truth in its reversals as well. We recognize the relative relationship between the initial story and its reversals, and the grain of truth in each of them.

And if we ignore this, trying to put all truth into one story and remove truth from its reversals, then that appearance too is dependent on the relative relationship between the initial story and its reversals.

When I see the grain of truth in each of the reversals, I may find that I appear as a separate self, but when I look, I also find that this sense of separate self only comes from an image, a thought, and is not inherent in what arises. There is a grain of truth in both. Or, I lie, and I can find that in my life. Sometimes I lie blatantly, and even if I try to be honest, what comes out of my mouth is a lie because it is a limited truth.

Or, if I take I am honest as an absolute truth, then that truth can only appear because there is no truth in its reversal, I lie.

The appearance of a limited or absolute truth in any story is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to, its reversals.

Also, any story has a grain of truth only as related to a set of other stories. It is dependent on a particular context of other stories to have even this grain of truth. And it is when we switch this context of other stories that we can see the grain of truth in its reversals.

I lie. Yes, I can find a set of stories that says that – in memories of times when I did, and even here now because any storytelling, any use of words, is really a lie. It leaves out a great deal, simplifies horribly independent of how complex it is, and splits the world when the world itself is not split.

I am honest. Yes, I can find that too, in another set of stories. Even if I blatantly lie in some situations, there are many other situations where I am quite honest. And here now, I try to use stories that honestly reflect my experiences, as much as possible. I try to be true to what appears as true to me here and now.

The appearance of truth in any story is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to, a set of supporting stories.

And finally, a relative truth only exists because there is an absolute truth. It is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to an absolute truth.

Relative truth is what arises filtered through stories, whether these are recognized as only stories or not. And the absolute is this field of awake void and form, recognized as awakeness itself. And in real life, both go together very well.

Awake void and form is inherently absent of and untouched by any stories, including the one of I and Other, whether it recognizes itself as awakeness or not. And the overlay of stories, whether taken as just stories or not, is essential for this human self to function in the world.

The appearance of a relative truth is dependent on, in contrast to, and relative to an absolute truth. And the relative truth arises due to, from and within the absolute, so is dependent on it that way too.
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What is a mystery, and what is not?

There is another irony here:

Conventionally, we tend to think that the Truth with capital T is a mystery, and always will be. Possibly, at best, something revealed after death, if we are lucky and the universe is set up that way. We can always know quite a bit about this physical world, the world of form, so that is not really a mystery, but the Ultimate Truth will quite probably always remain a mystery.

But when Ground awakens to itself, this too, as so much else, is reversed.

Now, we see that the Ultimate Truth is revealed to itself, so simply and plainly that it is difficult to express in words. All is God, awake void and form. There is no separate self anywhere, no I with an Other. The nature of all is God, is awake void and form. The ultimate truth is no longer a mystery.

And we also see, equally plainly, that the content of world of form is always a mystery. Whatever maps we put on top of the world of form is always only a map. There is an infinite number of ways to filter the world of form, and even if it was filtered only one way, there is an infinite number of maps possible to account for the world of form as it appears.

The nature of everything is clearly revealed, but the content of everything ultimately remains a mystery, independent of how refined and sophisticated our maps are.

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More conventional & radical

Buddhism is often described as the middle way, and it may be middle in that it goes beyond and embraces any polarity. But it is equally radical by going beyond the polarities, and also by deepening into each pole of the polarities.

In my own life, I see how the path is a deepening into both the conventional and radical.

It is a path of befriending the conventional and having it available as a part of the repertoire at the human level. Finding peace with, discovering the gifts in, and even enjoying the conventional in whatever form it comes up, from views to the universally human. It is a deepening into my own humanity and a discovering of the universally human in myself.

And it is also a radical path way beyond and outside of the conventional. It is an embrace of both ends of each polarity, a fluidity among any view and its reversals, a widening of identity to include any polarity. And it is a seeing of the inherent neutrality of any situation and form as the play of the awake void itself. It is a seeing, feeling and loving of all as God. In this way, the conventional is left far behind.

Here too, there is a mutuality between the two. Deepening into, finding peace with and embracing the conventional is an embrace of what is, and allows for it to be part of the repertoire of this human self. And deepening into the radical wide embrace of form, and a noticing of all form as the awake void itself, allows for a deepening into and embrace of the conventional, which is also an aspect of developing skillful means.

Together, it is a radical neutrality which allows the free play of any views and behaviors including the conventional ones.

And as a natural compassion arises beyond beliefs, this free play becomes in the service of compassion.

It is a radical nihilism which takes the form in the world as mature, ethical and compassionate.

Good and evil, absolute and relative


Over the last few weeks, I have come across several references to Buddhism and The Work, and other similar approaches, as leading to nihilism… It is obviously coming from people who haven’t tried it out for themselves, and project something onto it, but it can still be useful to look at.

The easiest way to talk about it is through the filter of the absolute and relative

From the absolute, from void awake to itself, no stories are real… they have only limited and temporary truth to them, their reversals each also have truth to them, and altogether they reveal the inherent neutrality of any situation. It is all God, God’s will, the play and appearances of God. No matter how it appears, it is just appearances temporarily covering up God’s play. The world of form, the content of awareness, is the infinitely varied faces of God.

If this becomes a belief, a story taken as true, it can look pretty weird… it can easily take the form of nihilism, apathy, anti-social behavior, lack of empathy, reckless disregard for social norms and rules, and so on, dependent on what else is going on in the personality.

But if it is realized, if void is awake to itself, it is very different… here, it is expressed through natural empathy and compassion, through a deepening and maturing of the human self it is expressed through. It is expressed in a deeply human way… It looks like clarity, wisdom, compassion and wholehearted engagement in the world. It looks like a life lived for the benefit of the larger whole, in a deeply (and deepening) mature and skillful way.

It is the void playing the game through a human self, knowing it is a game, and acting from the compassion, wisdom and engagement that naturally comes up in this human self when it functions in the context of void awake to itself.

And this difference between belief and realization is why, on the relative level, all nondual traditions emphasize ethics and norms… before the void awakens to itself, live your life in an honest and sincere way, in a way that does as little harm to others and the larger whole as possible, and in a way that supports life as much as possible. These may all be the temporary appearances of the awake void, but this path is one that leads to the void to be awake to itself, and the suffering is real in that it is experienced as real… so why not reduce it as much as possible.

The absolute is free from good and evil (or bad), but at the relative everyday level, it is a useful distinction… live your life in a way that minimizes suffering and optimizes well-being and joy for yourself and others, including future generations.

The absolute & relative of meaning of life

As with anything else, we can look at the meaning of life from the emptiness and form sides.

From the emptiness side, there is an absence of even the question.

When we include form, and form is recognized as no other than emptiness, then what is, as it is, is the meaning of life. Put another way, it is God’s will. It is God manifesting and exploring itself. It is perfect as is, or rather, not touched by ideas of imperfection and perfection. It is emptiness dancing.

And from the form side, in the context of all form as God exploring itself, then we see that one of the many relative meanings of life is evolution and development, since this allows God to explore and experience itself in always new ways.

So meaning of life can take on many different flavors… Finding ourselves as emptiness, as awake void, there is an absence of the question. Finding ourselves as awake emptiness and form, the meaning of life is what is, as it is. What is, here and now, is God’s will. It is what comes out of and is made of the void. It is the local manifestations of the movements of the whole. And as form, evolution and development takes on meaning as well, as it allows God to explore and experience itself in always new and more complex ways. And finally, the meaning of life is what we make it to be, through our stories. When we believe a story about the meaning of life, either in general or for our own life, then that becomes our living reality. And that too, is God exploring and experiencing itself in just another way, another flavor.

If beliefs are gone, what is left?

When we are used to live with and from beliefs, and we hear about allowing beliefs to fall away, then the natural question comes up: if beliefs are gone, what is left?

First, what is a belief?

It is taking any idea, which only has relative truth, as an absolute truth. More precisely, it is adding a story onto another saying that it is absolutely true. And right away, we see that there has to be a dissonance here. We cannot know that any story is absolutely true, yet we try to make it so for ourselves. We make it appear true at a surface level, yet know at the same time that we cannot know if it is or not. Also, any belief creates boundaries for life, for what can and should happen. So when life shows up outside of these boundaries, or even when we fear/hope that life may show up outside of these boundaries, there is also stress. When there are beliefs, we get stress from two sources.

Then, what is left when they are gone?

It is simple. It is the same stories, without beliefs. The stories are there, as before, but not believed in as true. They are seen as only relative truths with limited, temporary and purely utilitarian purposes… nothing more. If we go one step further, we see that all the reversals of any story also contains a grain of truth, revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

We can still use the stories in daily life, and really, we have to. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to function. But now they are revealed as only stories, added onto the inherent neutrality of any situation. They are revealed as tools of limited and temporary value only.

There is a tremendous freedom here. A freedom to play with any story and its reversals. A freedom to not get stuck on the inside of the boundaries of any story, because it is only a relative truth.

Looking at knots from the emptiness and form sides

Knots are the whole complex of a belief in a story (as absolutely true), and the accompanying emotional and behavioral patterns. It brings identification into the content of awareness, and comes from and props up a sense of a separate self.

To see what is already more true for us, we can explore these knots from the emptiness side and the form side.

Exploring from the emptiness side

From the emptiness side, we find ourselves as awake emptiness, and see that all of it – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors – are nothing other than this awake emptiness. We can explore and become more familiar with this through the headless experiments, the Big Mind process, or other forms of inquiry.

Exploring from the form side

From the form side, we can look at the effects of holding onto a particular story as absolutely true, what would happen if it was not attached to in this way, and finding the grains of truth in the reversals of the initial story. Through this, we discover that what we held as an absolute truth is really only a relative truth, which allows the grip on it to relax and identification go out of form and back into the field of awake emptiness (often just experienced as more spaciousness and a sense of peace.) The Work and different (other) forms of shadow work are good ways to explore the form side.

Differentiating the relative and the absolute

Another way to put it is that knots come from taking the relative (stories) as absolute (absolutely true), and the resolution is to differentiate the relative and absolute, seeing the stories as only relative truths, and finding ourselves as the absolute – as awake emptiness, and form as no other than awake emptiness itself.

The experience of the absolute changing over time

In real life, it doesn’t always look exactly like this of course. The exploration of the form side of the knots may not change so much over time, although it may become more clear and differentiated over time. But the experience of ourselves as the awake emptiness and form may change over time. Initially, just as a sense of release, spaciousness, ease and peace. As we go along, more as a clear noticing of the awake void that all forms dances within, to and as – a field inherently absent of any separate self anywhere.

The mutuality of emptiness and form

This came up again when I read a quote by Jnaneshvar:

Unity becomes strengthened by the expansion of diversity.

The more emptiness is realized, the more we can wholeheartedly engage in form, and the more we wholeheartedly engage in form, the more we need and are invited to realize emptiness.

Emptiness is the awake emptiness that is here now, reading these words. Timeless. Unchangeable. Unstained. Always already. Distinct from form, yet also arising as form.

And form is the world of form, and in our case, specifically this human self and its wider world.

Identified as this human self, and resistance

When this field of seeing and seen, of awake emptiness and form, takes itself as a segment of itself, there is immediately resistance.

It identifies as this human self, there is a sense of I and Other, there is a sense of an exclusive and comprehensive identity, and there is something to push away and something to hold onto.

There are experiences, people, places and situations to hold onto, and there are experiences, people, places and situations to push away. In short, there is resistance – to what is, to what may be.

There is drama, confusion, and resistance.

And with resistance, there is a holding back, or a pushing forward.

I hold back from engaging, from experiencing. I try to distract myself, change the situation, modify my experience. I am ambivalent. Half-hearted.

Or I push forward, I push into situation, into experiences, into the world. Which is just another way of resisting.

Field awakening to itself, realizing emptiness and allowing engagement in form

If this field of emptiness, awakeness and form awakens to itself as this field, absent of I anywhere, it all changes.

Now, there is a realization of being awake emptiness, inherently free from the world of form, unharmed by it. Always here, timeless.

There is also the realization of being form, not just this human self but all form, this whole seamless field of form. Anything arising is this field itself. It is just another expression of this same field.

And there is the realization that awake emptiness arises as this field of form. Form arises within, to and as this awake emptiness. They are not two, although they can be discerned as two.

So in that sense, there is full engagement in the world of form since the field realizies it is not separate from form. It is awake emptiness and form. It is beyond full engagement. It is it.

At the same time, and more interesting here, is what happens for this human self. It is realized as having no inherent I. It is just an aspect of this field of awake emptiness and form, which has no I in it anywhere (or we could say it as a whole is an I).

This means that there is no longer anything to resist. With the absence of I and Other, there is also absence of resistance. It falls away.

And this allows for a more wholehearted engagement in the world of form for this human self. It can more wholeheartedly engage with its experiences, and it can more wholeheartedly engage with the wider world.

With no resistance, a more full and wholehearted engagement, all around.

Mutuality of emptiness and form

So the more fully emptiness is realized, the more wholehearted our engagement in the world of form can be. And a more wholehearted engagement requires and invites a more full realization of emptiness.

Engagement without realizing emptiness is painful. The only solution is realizing emptiness, and when emptiness is first tasted, a more full engagement – and the tastes of pain that comes from not fully realizing form as also emptiness, invites and encourages us to more fully realize emptiness, and form as emptiness.

The two go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. They mutually invite and encourage each other.

Free will – how the question arises and can be resolved

When there is a sense of I in this human self, the question of free will becomes very important. Do I, as this human self, have free will, or not, or is there a mix?

Spirit awakening to itself, realizing infinite causes in the world of form

But when Spirit awakens to itself as the Ground of seeing or seen, or the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere, it becomes different.

Now, the whole world of form is revealed as a seamless field, and any change in any part of this field is a an expressions of the movements of the whole of this field. Or we can say that any change in any aspect of the world of form, including our human self, has infinite causes and infinite effects.

So even here, there is a taste of no “free will” in the world of form.

And when the field of seeing and seen, which includes the world of form, is revealed as inherently absent of any I anywhere, it becomes even clearer. If there is no “I” in the world of form – not in this human self, not in the soul, not anywhere, how can there be free will? There is no room for free will, there is nowhere for it to be.

This human self and everything else in the world of form just happens. It is the expressions of the movements of the whole, it is Spirit manifesting as form. It all lives its own life.

The field identifying as a segment of itself, the question of free will arises

What is happening when there is the question of free will is a belief in the idea of I as a segment of this field of seeing and seen. And the most plausible candidate for what to place this idea or sense of I on is this human self. Now there is a sense of I as this human self, and Other as anything else. There is an identification with an object which is finite in time and space. Which has a birth and death. Which interacts and relates with the wider world of form.

There are thoughts arising. Decisions made. Behaviors. There is a thought arising, then a decision, then a behavior, following mostly predictably and logically from the thought and the decision.

And when there is a sense of “I” placed on top of all this, there is the sense of “I” thinking, deciding, acting. I think, decide, act.

So then there must be a free will, right? After all, I am the one doing all this.

Yet, logic says that anything has a cause. And that has a cause. And anything may have infinite causes, each of which has infinite causes, which suggests causality and no free will.

So which one is right?

That is how the question arises.

Spirit awakening to itself, resolving the question in two ways

Yet, when Spirit awakens to itself as the Ground of seeing and seen, or the field of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere, it is revealed in a different way.

There is no free will in the world of form, due to infinite causes of anything, and also that there is, and never was, any “I” there in the first place.

Yet as the Ground, as emptiness and awakeness, there is complete freedom. It is free from form. Unstained by it. Unimpinged by form. Distinct from form. Free from any of the many polarities within form, such as freedom and no freedom.

And as Spirit, there is no I and Other. There is no Other to be free from.

The whole question falls away in two ways.

There is full freedom as awake emptiness, and no freedom within and as form.

And there is no Other to be free from. It is all Spirit.

Time out of the timeless, space out of the spaceless

I noticed the DVD set of Cosmos at the library a few days ago, and thought it would be fun to watch one or two episodes again (it made a big impact on me when I watched it as a kid.)

The episode I watched was The Edge of Forever where Carl Sagan explores some of the most basic and universal questions about our existence, such as where does the universe come from? When did it start, or did it have a beginning? How will it end, or will it end? Does it have an edge or boundary? What happens if we continue infinitely in one direction? Will we end up where we started?

He spends a great deal of time on the Vedic cosmology, which in many ways parallels modern scientific cosmology.

So how did the universe, or space and time, begin?

Emptiness, awakeness and form

When I look at it for myself, right here now, I find that space and time arise within and as the timeless.

There is empty awakeness here, which time and space and all forms arise within, to and as. And this empty awakeness has a definite sense of timelessness and spacelessness. It is distinct from time and space, not touched by time and space, which is why it can allow time and space and any forms to arise within, to and as itself.

It is very simple, and (most likely) alive in the immediate awareness of all of us, yet we typically don’t notice it, or we only notice it as a glimpse, which is then covered up by attachment to the many different stories about who we are and how the world is.

And I also notice that the world of form is in flux. Nothing stays the same. It is always fresh, new and different, and that is especially alive when the empty awakeness is aware of itself. When timelessness comes more to the foreground, the transient nature of forms similarly comes to the foreground.

So in a sense, the universe is born right here now. It continuously dies as it was, and is reborn in a fresh and different way. (There is obviously enough continuity in the processes of the world of form so we can use ideas to orient, make models, predict and analyze what is going on.)

If we assume that the universe as a whole, as it unfolds in space and time, follows a similar process, then there are two pretty obvious options for how form relates to the formless.

Existence “started” with this timeless empty awakeness as a “ground” state. Then, the form aspect emerged from it and the universe was born. At the large scale, form was birthed from the formless, as it is right here now in immediate awareness. Here, there was of course not any “before” because form (and space and time) did not exist then.

Or, emptiness, awakeness and form have always been. The timeless and time, the spaceless and space, the changeless and changing, the formless and form, the empty awakeness arising as the world of phenomena, always are, as two aspects of the same whole, beyond and including all polarities.

Both of these versions are independent on any specifics about how the form aspect unfolds. Today, the Big Bang (or inflation) models are most frequently used, and these easily fits into both of the views mentioned above.

In both versions, we account for the empty and awake and the form aspects of Existence, which is beyond and includes any and all polarities.

And in both versions, we extrapolate from what is alive in immediate awareness to the larger scale, here the birth and cycles of the universe as a whole. (This is of course what many of the spiritual and mystical traditions do, in many more areas than just cosmology.)

The curse and the blessing of impermanence

Impermanence can be a curse or a blessing.

The curse of impermanence: when identified with the seen

It is a curse if there is an identification with the seen, typically our human self. Then, we are at the mercy of birth and death, illness and loss, getting what we don’t want and don’t getting what we want. Identified as our human self our happiness is precarious at best.

The blessing of impermanence: as a guide to find ourselves as that which does not change

And it is also a blessing, as a reminder to find ourselves as that which does not change. We can notice sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts come and go. All of this which makes up our human self, which we have been so closely identified, comes and goes, constantly, in our own immediate experience.

Yet, something does not change. What is it that does not change? It is this awake space that all of this comes and goes within, it is the awareness it happens to and as.

Here, impermanence becomes a blessing. It helps us shift out of a blind identification with the seen and find ourselves as the seeing itself. It helps the center of gravity shift our of our human self and into and as the witness.

And here, there is first an intuition and feeling of no separation between the seen and the seeing, both seem to have the same flavor, to be aspects of a larger whole, be born from the same Ground.

Shifting into realized selflessness

Then, there is the noticing of both the seeing and the seen as inherently absent of any I. They are Ground in its seeing and seen aspects, yet with no I anywhere.

The sense of center falls away. The sense of I and Other falls away. The seeing and the seen arises as a field absent of center, absent of I anywhere.

Relative and absolute

Impermanence as a curse or blessing is a relative truth.

The absolute shows us that impermanence is inherently absent of either, so allows both. It allows any relative truth about impermanence, including any and all stories about impermanence that comes up in us, including this one.

The third eye: transcend and embrace, and how to develop it

The third eye (ajna chakra) has to do with seeing auras, seeing into the future, seeing past lives, and such. Right?

Holding polarities: transcend and embrace

Well, maybe, but more simply, it has to do with holding polarities. It is the third eye that transcends and embraces the views from the two conventional eyes.

It transcends in that it sees and holds both, yet is inherently free from and is not identified with either.

It embraces, in that it includes and is informed by the conventional views.

So how can we develop or connect with the third eye?

How to develop the third eye: Big Mind process

One way is the Big Mind process. We explore the different voices at the personal level, and see that while all of them are very useful in our human life, none of them holds any absolute truth.

More specifically, we can explore polar opposite or complementary voices. We see see that they each have an important function, they each serve our human self in a very real way. Yet, they also hold apparently opposite views of the world.

So we can move beyond these two into the voice that sees both.

This voice is inherently free from and not identified with either.

Yet it embraces both. It can freely engage with either. It can bring either forth as needed in a situation. It can draw on information from both, integrating it into a fuller picture. It is the voice that holds and engages with the polarity.

How to develop the third eye: The Work

Another way to develop these aspects of the third eye is The Work.

We take a belief in a thought. Explore the consequences of holding onto this belief. Explore who or what we would be without attaching to the thought and seeing it as inherently true. And turn it around to its many opposite versions, and explore the grain of truth in each of these.

In this way, we see that any statement – any story, idea, thought, map, model, interpretation, is inherently free from any absolute truth.

They are all relative truths.

They can be very useful as practical guidelines, for helping our human self orient and function in the world.

Yet if there is an attachment to them, if they are seen as absolutely true, if there is a belief in them, it creates no end of drama, suffering and discomfort.

Through this form of inquiry, we find the space that is free from yet embraces all of the relative truths, in this case the initial statement and all of its turnarounds.


Why the photo of the bindi in the previous post?

It is a reminder of transcendent truths, of that which is free from and holds all conventional truths.

Of Existence inherently free from, beyond, and including all polarities of existence and nonexistence, spirit and matter, emptiness and form, living and inanimate, life and death, mind and body, nature and culture, a forest and a city, Jesus and Hitler, you and I, clarity and confusion, awakening and delusion, sense of I and realized selflessness.

It is the eye that beholds and intimately embraces the pair of conventional eyes, of polarity.

Meaning of life?

One of the big questions, after having the basic needs taken care of, is what is the meaning of life?

Ground inherently free from any meaning

Ground or Big Mind is inherently free from any meaning or lack of meaning, which means that any sense of meaning or lack of meaning, and any particular content of meaning, is free to arise.

What is, is the meaning

Moving a short distance into the relative, we see that what is, right now, can be seen as the meaning of life. Whatever happens right now, whatever arises as the content of awareness right now, that’s it. That is the meaning of my life, right now, just as it is. That is how Ground, Big Mind, Spirit, Brahman manifests as form, right now.

This is of course not helpful if this realization is not arising on its own, but when the realization is there – it is clear. This, as it is, is the meaning of life. That which arises right now, fresh, immediate, always new, before any ideas are put on it.

Finding one’s own meaning

And then there is of course the conventional way of looking at it, at least in contemporary western societies: life may be inherently meaningless, but find your own meaning. That is the meaning of your life, to find what is meaningful for you. I guess this is Orange and beyond, in Spiral Dynamics.

At Blue (or amber in KW’s new model), the answer tends to be given by whatever tradition one adheres to. If you are Christian, then it is salvation. If you are Buddhist, then awakening – or at least a good rebirth.

And at Green, it may be partly finding one’s own meaning, and partly to live a life good for the larger whole – for humanity as a whole, for the Earth as a whole, for future generations.

Each of these are of course completely legitimate, and can be very helpful, although they are also relative truths.

The Sting & Reversals

I watched The Sting again last night, and was reminded of how much I enjoy well-crafted stories with surprising reversals. In The Sting, the audience is repeatedly led to believe certain stories about what they are seeing. Later on, the audience is given new information and insights which completely reverses what they see as going on.

For us humans, there seems to be a built-in delight in these forms of reversals, especially when they appear in what is clearly just entertainment. In my own life, I see that I either appreciate the reversals as they happen, or at least learn to appreciate them later on.

Reversals in awakening

In the various forms of awakenings, there are also numerous reversals. Here are some variations of just one reversal…

  • The reversal from identification as a human being, an object in the world, to that clear space and awareness within which these objects, and this human self, arises within and as.
  • The related reversal from seeing myself as an object, as finite in space and time, subject to birth and death, to that clear space and awareness these objects, space and time, and birth and death arises within and as. The clear awake space inherently free from any of these, from any characteristic, which allows any of them to arise.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as finite in space and time, to that which space and time happens within and as.
  • The reversal of seeing myself as identified by certain characteristics, to inherently being free from characteristics and thus allowing any to come and go on their own.
  • The reversal of identification as an I, to realizing that everything is inherently absent of any I.

Dance of emptiness

Seeing existence as lila, as the play of God, as God playing hide-and-seek with itself, we could see this delight in reversals as reflected in both human and divine life. And that seems accurate in a certain way.

Yet, the Ground, the clear awakeness everything arises within and as, is inherently free from any wants, any desires, any delights, any suffering, any polarities. It is free of these, so it allows any and all of them to arise within and as Ground.

And in that way, the delight in reversals found in human life, is indeed God’s delight in reversals. Although it is only a delight at the relative level, temporary, not absolute in any way, not an inherent characteristic of what is. And it exists side-by-side with the resistance to reversals, which is also found in human lives. That too arises within and as Ground, within and as clear awakeness.

Ground forms itself into delights in and resistance to reversals, and is inherently free from either. It sheds both as a teflon pan.

And that Ground is that which reads this.

Cravings, Addictions & The Hole

I talked with a friend yesterday about cravings and addictions, and what we are trying to get out of those addictions.

Working within the relative

On a relative level, and when there is a sense of I, addictions can be seen as a strategy to meet a need, and if that need is clarified, it may be possible to find other strategies that can meet it in a more effective and fulfilling way.

Process Work is one way to explore this. Sometimes, what is uncovered makes good sense. Other times, it may not make much sense but still work. For instance, I explored my sugar craving a while back, ended up with a movement that filled the same need as the sugar, and the sugar craving fell away (mostly). The movement is a jump up and down, similar to the dance of the Masai warriors. On the surface, there seems to be no connection to eating sugar. But from the inside, in my experience, it gives the same effects as eating sugar does, in an even more fulfilling way.

Working within the relative can be very helpful. Yet, we are still only shuffling around the content. Moving the pieces so they find a relationship to each other that seems to work a little better. It is a temporary and incomplete fix, at best.


From a more ultimate view, it seems that any craving, any addiction, any sense of need, any sense of lack, comes from a mistaken identity. And it will not be resolved until what is awakens to its own nature, with no I anywhere.

What is is the context and content of awareness here now. And the context can be a sense of I, placed on something in the content, or it can be realized selflessness.

When there is a sense of I, placed on a segment of the content, there is immediately a sense of I and Other, of lack, of needs, of something missing. And we try to fill this hole through rearranging the content to the best of our ability, through partners, food, substances, music, entertainment, status, money. Or, if we are more sophisticated, through working on ourselves, our human self, but still just rearranging content.

It may work to some extent, it may work for a while. But ultimately, it does not resolve the sense of lack, of something missing, of something not being complete.

The only release from this discontent is through awakening. Through what is awakening to its own nature, of no I anywhere.

Needs as an attempt to find home

From this perspective, any sense of need is an attempt to find home. Any craving, addiction, need, want, is a sincere attempt to escape the confines of seeing oneself as separate, and find home in realized selflessness. It is a sincere and innocent attempt, although ultimately futile.

The only way to find home is for what is to realize that there is no I anywhere, and the way for this to happen is to set the stage for it to happen, to prepare the ground, for instance through meditation, prayer and inquiry.

Turnarounds and Relative Truths *

Absolute truth is only revealed when the Ground awakens to its own nature, when Big Mind awakens to itself, when Buddha Mind awakens to itself, when Spirit awakens to itself. When the Ground of all phenomena awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere.

As soon as any of this is reflected in ideas, as soon as it is formulated, made into a statement, made into a map, then it becomes by necessity a relative truth. And relative truths are always limited, incomplete, provisional, of temporary and limited usefulness only, subject to revision, modification, replacement.

Absolute truth is immediate, beyond and including any and all polarities. Relative truth is considered and thought out, using ideas, symbols or words that split the world. It can never touch absolute truth, only be the finger that points to it, helping people get a taste of it in their own experience.

In formulated, expressed and relative truth, there are always opposite statements that each also reflect a relative truth. That is why they are all relative truths.


And this is exactly what happens through the turnarounds in The Work.

We take the initial statement, for instance she shouldn’t lie, and turn it around any way possible. She should lie: that is the reality of it, according to my story. I shouldn’t lie: I shouldn’t lie to myself about her, as I do when I tell myself that she shouldn’t lie and she does. I should lie: well, I do, that too is the reality of it. Whatever I say is really a lie, because it is only a story.

We get to see that in the realm of ideas, abstractions and words, every statement has a number of opposite statements that each contains some truth. They are all different perspectives on the same topic, and each one has some validity.

By seeing this, there is a natural release from attachment to any one of these views, perspectives and statements. We find ourselves as the space that can hold each one of them, genuinely seeing how each one has validity, yet is not an absolute truth.

In our human life, we become a little easier to get along with.

And there is also a closer alignment with what is, beyond and including all polarities.

Planting Seeds

I notice that if I plant a seed in the form of a question (and maybe some information to go along with it), an answer will usually surface some days, weeks or even months later.

This has been noted by many people of course, including in writing by many psychologists, inventors and scientists, and Adyashanti as well, on the Spontaneous Awakening CDs.

The most recent example for me was the question of Sakyamuni Buddha’s statement following his awakening: all sentient beings, the great earth and I have awakened together. I remember having the question come up briefly some weeks back, and then an answer of sorts came up yesterday, out of the blue. In between these two instances, there was no attention to or even conscious awareness of the question.

The answer surfacing, at least in its expressed form, is of course always relative, provisional, temporary, to be refined, modified, replaced. Any formulated or expressed answer is by its nature relative: It can be very helpful in orienting in the world of phenomena, yet at the same time is not absolute, limited in scope and even of temporary usefulness.

No Being Has Ever Awakened

I think this is a statement found in many different traditions. Again, it is a statement obscure before awakening and clear after, and clear even through for instance the Big Mind process.

When there is an awakening to selflessness, it is Ground – Spirit, Buddha Mind, Divine Mind, emptiness, awakening to its own nature of no I anywhere. And this Ground is functionally connected to a particular human self.

From this awakening, it is clear that there are no beings, only the appearance of individual separate beings. There is only Ground (somehow separately) functionally connected to all the different beings, and in many cases temporarily identified with and as a sentient being. It is only an appearance, a temporary experience, a temporary misidentification, however real it may seem at the time.

For Ground still identified as a human being, it will appear as if another human being awakened. Yet from the view of awakened Ground, no being every existed – at least not as separate or individual in any way.

To speak in a very approximate way, we can say that in the absolute, there is no room for compassion. Big Mind is cool, detached, seeing itself everywhere, seeing no real (separate, individual) beings anywhere. Yet, moving towards the relative and Big Heart, there is tremendous compassion for all the suffering experienced, even if it is just Ground temporarily misidentified, experiencing itself, as a sentient being.

Speaking more accurately, we can say…

Ground awakened to its own nature, functionally connected with a human self, will naturally manifest compassion when this human self encounters Ground misidentified as a sentient being, manifesting suffering.

Inquiry :: He shouldn’t see relative truths as absolute

Several weeks back, a scientist in the audience at the Center for Sacred Sciences got worked up around the types of truths as they relate to science.

Joel said that science deals with relative truths, and today’s accepted theories are tomorrow’s garbage pile of obsolete views (paraphrased). It seems obvious, from both a mystical and scientific view. All theories and models are limited and they are of only temporary value as well. Everything is provisional. Even the absolute truth, revealed to itself and expressed through mystics of any tradition, can only be expressed in a relative and limited way.

The science guy was very reluctant to admit that our current worldviews and theories are provisional, and I noticed it triggered a reaction in me. I could clearly see how he tried to made relative truths into apparent absolute truths, but could not – in the moment, see how I do the same. Instead, I went into a story that I see relative truths only as relative truths, and he does not. I get it, he does not.

From the discrepancy between (a) already noticing that this is not true and (b) trying to tell myself otherwise, many things happened including stress, discomfort, stronger sense of I and Other, sense of something to protect.

He shouldn’t see relative truths as absolute.

  1. Is it true?

    Yes. He is a scientist, and should know better (even a child knows that any map is incomplete and provisional, for god’s sake!)

  2. Can I absolutely know it is true?

    No. And I don’t know what is best for his path, nor for mine.

  3. How do I react when I believe that thought?

    I feel I am right and he is wrong. I see myself as superior. I become righteous. I have something to defend. I experience a split between us, a sense of separation and alienation.

    How do I treat him?

    As rigid. Inferior. Somebody who doesn’t quite get it. Somebody who is reactive, who allows emotions and irrationality take over.

    How do I treat myself?

    As superior. Somebody who gets it. Somebody who is more cool headed. As right. As separate from him, and others who don’t get it.

    Also, I blame myself for going into this. I see that believing the thought brings contraction and discomfort for myself, and I know it cannot be true. Yet I still act and react as if I believe it. I am in the grips of this belief, which I know cannot be true. There is some despair coming up from this. A sense of hopelessness. Of being stuck. Of not quite knowing what to do about it, at least in the moment.

    When did I first have that thought?

    Probably in my early and mid teens, when I realized – to my shock and amazement, how apparently irrational many or most adults seem to be. I still haven’t quite gotten over that shock and disbelief.

    Where in the body do I experience it?

    A contraction and holding in my chest and abdomen. A contraction of the muscles in my lower leg. Tension in my neck. Holding my breath back some.

    What is the payoff?

    I get to be right, superior, more insightful, clearer, more cool headed.

    What is the cost?

    Stress, discomfort, sense of separation, getting caught up in emotions, caught up in and to some extent blinded by my reactiveness.

  4. Who or what would I be without that thought?

    Somebody who sits there and listen to and watch somebody else speak, with clarity, ease, interest and curiosity. I am interesting in what he has to say, where he is coming from, why he would see it that way, and (especially) how that mirror myself.

    Instead of stress and reactiveness there is interest and curiosity. There is a sense of connection and intimacy.

    There is a human being speaking, just like me. And he mirrors me perfectly. Whatever I see in him I can find in myself (if I look).

  5. Turnarounds

    (a) He should see relative truths as absolute.

    Yes, because he does, according to my story. It is his path right now, until it isn’t. He is doing what he has to do, right now – as we all do, myself included.

    When he sees relative truths as absolute, what are the gifts for me?

    I get to see my beliefs around it, and explore how I do what I see him doing. I get to see myself more clearly, in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without him.

    He mirrors me, whether I see it or not. If I don’t see it, there is stress which is a motivation to see more clearly what is going on. If I explore and see it, I learn something new about myself and also about the process of believing in thoughts and projections, and then seeing through it.

    I see that he is my teacher, in a very real sense. Without him, I wouldn’t see this in myself. His presence there is a gift to me.

    (b) I shouldn’t see relative truths as absolute.

    Yes, that is more true. I am far more interested in what I do here, and in finding clarity for myself.

    What are some examples of how I see relative truths as absolute?

    Whenever I believe a thought – any thought, I take a relative truth and make it into an absolute. And in this, there is stress, unease, sense of I and Other, separation, not being at home.

    For instance, in believing that he should not see relative truths as absolute, I do the same as what I see in him. I am the one making this relative truth into an absolute. I attach to that thought as if it is an absolute truth, eternal, always valid, unquestionable.

    (c) I should see relative truths as absolute.

    Yes, when I do. When I see relative truths as absolute, then that is what I do – and have to do, until I don’t.

    When I see relative truths as absolute, what are the gifts?

    I get to experience, from the inside, the dynamics of believing thoughts. I get to become more familiar with the process, from living it.

    I get to experience the stress in it, which encourages me to find some clarity around it, to see more clearly what is going on.

    Also, I find myself in the same boat as anyone, anywhere, who believes in abstractions. This opens up for empathy, and possibly for helping others see it for themselves later on (through mirroring for them what they already know).

    (d) I shouldn’t see absolute truths as relative.

    Hmm… That is an interesting one. I shouldn’t see absolute truths as relative. How do I see them as relative?

    Another way of phrasing this turnaround is…

    I shouldn’t make absolute truths into relative truths.

    The only absolute truth arises when what is remembers its own nature, of no I anywhere, and this cannot be expressed through any abstractions. I cannot see it, apart from being it. How do I then make it into something relative?

    I make it into something relative when I try to reflect it in abstractions, at which point it automatically becomes relative truths, at best.

    So this turnaround is a reminder to see this more clearly, that the absolute truth is revealed when what is awakens to its own nature, and anything expressed automatically is a relative truth, at best. There is no need to get too caught up in terminology or ways of speaking, in comparing or trying to find the one best approach, because it is all relative truth. I can hold it loosely. This is a good reminder.

    As soon as the absolute is expressed, it becomes a relative truth, and I should know the difference.

    (d) I should see absolute truths as relative.

    Whatever is expressed, even when it points to the absolute, is a relative truth. And that means it can be expressed in many different ways. It is similar to many different artists trying to depict the same landscape, each one will do it a little (or a lot) differently.

    And it is all OK. Some depictions resonate with some folks, and other depictions with others. Some are highly realistic, others are more poetic. Some use broad strokes, others include lots of details. Some are rough and approximate, others are more faithful to the landscape. Some are dramatic, others are toned down. Some come directly from the artist, others come through numerous copies of the original. It is all OK.

    Together, all the depictions give a more comprehensive and rich picture. And each one resonates with some people who may not be able to hear it in any other way.

From Absolute to Relative **

Nothing new here either, but something I am still curious about…

When there is an awakening to selflessness, to what is with no I inherent anywhere, there is also the recognition that everything is the play of God. It is perfect and complete as it is.

Before this awakening, we may say that sounds very cold and detached. What about all the suffering in the world? Is that perfect as well? How can you say such a thing?

From this awakening, we would have to say – yes, even the suffering is perfect as it is. It is God temporarily experiencing suffering. It is God, period.

Yet, from this awakening, something else is happening as well.

When what is awakened to its own nature functions through a human self, and this human self encounters another human self manifesting suffering, then there is the recognition that she is I. This is I suffering. Why wouldn’t I do whatever I can to help?

From realization of selflessness, helping becomes a manifestation of this awakening. She is I, and she is suffering, so I help in whatever way I can.

Or maybe more precisely, I will make myself available for helping, and if she welcomes it – I will do it in whatever way I can.

This is how the Absolute becomes the Relative. This is how Big Mind gives birth to Big Heart.

This is how awakening becomes rehumanized.

This is how God lives more fully as a human being, awakened to its own nature, embracing the ultimate and the relative truths.

This is how God as awakened to its own nature, and as deluded and confused about its own nature, is embraced.

This is how awakening and delusion is lived in a human life.

This is how this awakening – manifested over here, sees itself as still deluded – manifested over there, and makes it self available.

This is how it comes to it to offer its assistance.

Absolute & Relative

The Absolute is what is without or distinct from any stories about it. It is stories when they arise, but cannot be described by them. It is the essence of thoughts themselves – yet not what thoughts tell.

The Relative is what arises with stories – filtered through stories – it is distinctions and polarities, this and not that. It is essential for functioning as a human being in the world. And it is peaceful when stories are not attached to, and stressful when they are – when the stories are taken as an absolute, as a truth, as anything else than fictional.

When what is awakens to its own nature, of everything absent of any I, then the Absolute is revealed as well. It is all God. It is all beyond and including all polarities. It is all emptiness dancing. And that is all.

And when what is awakened to its own nature meets what is (apparently) not awakened to its own nature, the Relative arises as well. Emptiness dances as the Relative. I am you, and if you manifest the Relative, then that is what I am as well. Your wish for liberation is my wish for you, as me. And that is all.

The Absolute – what is awakened to its own nature, and the Relative – what is (apparently) not awakened to its own nature, are emptiness dancing as the Absolute and as the Relative. Both are Ground temporarily manifesting. Both are God exploring itself.

And this is a story too. As any story, it can appear to be an help for navigating the world or not. And as any story, it is peaceful when not attached to and stressful when attached to.

If this story is seen as true, then something else becomes not true – something to defend against. There is an attachment to this story, and an attachment to protecting against other stories. In being caught up in a battle of stories this way, there is stress. And stress is the signal of being caught up in a fictional battle, of taking a fictional battle as real, as all there is.


There are different ways of looking at this situation – however it appears – as perfect.

One is that it is all God, a temporary manifestation of God, emptiness dancing. It is inherently complete, perfect, distinct from any stories we put on top of it, beyond and including any and all polarities.

Another is that whatever this situation is, it allows me an opportunity to get to know myself. Whatever I see as out there is also in here. You are my mirror. And when I recognize this, I return to an experience of completeness and perfection. It is a taste – or sometimes a more full blown realization – of this very situation as God, as complete, as perfect.

So any situation is perfect and complete. Any partner is a perfect partner for me. Any body is a perfect body for me. Any role in the world is a perfect role in the world for me.

It all allows me to see myself. To see whatever I see as out there also in here. To see that I am you. To find the Ground this all arises within and as.

Everything is an invitation to awaken – to ourselves as complete, and everything as Ground, as emptiness dancing.

On a more relative level, this taste or realization gives a sense of freedom. I realize I don’t have to worry so much, I don’t have to get it “right” according to some abstract idea.

And it also gives me freedom to meet people where they are at, still caught in the world of preferences. Of wanting this and not that. And be of assistance from within that world as well. I am both the Ground, emptiness dancing, and I am you wanting certain things and not other things. I am you wanting to be free from suffering. I am you seeking happiness. And as soon as you are there, wanting to be free from suffering and seeking happiness, that is my wish as well. I become in service of that.

It may look many different ways. It may appear that you want health, and then that is my wish as well. Yet, I may also see that what you really want is freedom from suffering, and that is also my wish for you. Your wish becomes my wish for you, which is another name for me.

The Absolute arises in this immediate experience of it all. In God awakening to its own nature, as everything absent of I.

The Relative arises in I as you, when God has (apparently) not awakened to its own nature through you yet. You arise, manifesting a more dualistic view, and that is how the Relative arises in and as me.


Stories can appear true or untrue in different ways.

We can believe in certain stories and not others, and the ones we believe in – of course – seem true to us. We have no end to reasons why they are true, we have a network of other stories supporting them, we filter the world to fit and so on.

At the same time, stories in general – all of them – can seem untrue, either partially or completely.

Partially untrue

In our conventional views, we see that any story is – at the very least – partially untrue.

Any story is incomplete, it highlights some features and leaves other out and so on. The world is always more than and different from our maps and stories about it.

The difference between stories (abstractions, models, theories, images, thoughts) and what they refer to is at best the difference between a map and the terrain, a menu and the meal, or an image and the real object.

Partially untrue – yet good enough to clutch onto

So we may know somewhere that any story is partially untrue.

Yet, we may also experience stories as indeed partially true. Often, that is good enough for us to often act as if they are true, and create a good deal of confusion and suffering for ourselves in the process.

It happens to all of us.

Even for spiritual teachers, sometimes holding onto particular maps and beliefs for dear life.

Even for people in science, who’s whole professional life revolves around the principle of any map being incomplete and inherently different from the terrain, can get caught up into believing in a particular map – not being able to see beyond it.

What is it that I see as so clearly true that I don’t even bother question it? What is it that I feel I need to defend? What do I need to protect? That is exactly where I am holding onto an abstraction as if it is true.

Completely untrue

Stories can also be seen as completely untrue.

And this happens in the realization of selflessness – or tastes of it – in at least two ways.

:: Past and Future ::

We see that there is only this Eternal Now. There is only this Timeless Present. It is Always Already. In its form aspect, it is always fresh, always new, always different. God never repeats itself.

The past and future are so clearly only abstractions, only stories. They do quite literally not exist.

And it becomes so clear that our stories are always about the past or the future. What is is too slippery for thoughts. It is gone before it arrives. Thoughts are too slow. They miss it. They are always about the past or future.

So in this sense, stories are always untrue. They are always about something that quite literally does not exist.

:: Free from abstractions ::

At the same time, it becomes so clear that what is is free from any abstractions. It cannot be touched by any abstraction, any image, any words, any story, any theory, any model. To take an simple example, words split while what is is free from any split or wholeness.

What is temporary appears as abstractions – as it appears as anything and everything else, and yet it is not in any way described or touched by abstractions, no matter how refined and apparently sophisticated they are.

In this way too, stories are always utterly untrue. They cannot touch what they attempt to refer to.

Useful tools

At the same time, abstractions and stories can be invaluable and helpful tools for navigating in this world of phenomena. And if we see that they are completely untrue, we are also free from any attachment to them.

We can deepen into both – stories for navigation and freedom from these stories.

I am You

The deepening experience of I am you (and you are I) comes from both the Absolute and the Relative levels.


From the Absolute, I am literally you and the other way around. Everything is Big Mind, Buddha Mind, God, Spirit forming itself into the myriads of forms. Everything is emptiness dancing.

When there is a glimpse or realization of selflessness, there is no I or Other anymore. Everything just is, absent of any inherent I. And when there is no I, there is no Other. It is all just movements within the same ocean, distinctions within a seamless whole.

I – as Big Mind functioning through this human self, is you – as Big Mind functioning through that human self.

As Big Mind, everything and everybody becomes a mirror for myself. I reflect myself in everybody and everything. I fall in love with myself in everybody and everything. I get to know myself through everybody and everything.

This deepens as there is more familiarity with myself as Big Mind. It deepens as there is more familiarity with everything absent of any “I” anywhere.


From the Relative – the Absolute with an overlay of abstractions – I am also you.

I am a human being, and in myself I can find anything I see in you. You are a mirror for myself.

As a human being, everybody and everything is a mirror for myself. Anything I see in everybody and everything is also here in me. I can find any quality out there, also in here. I see it out there, exactly because I recognize it from in here.

This deepens as I become more familiar with seeing in myself what I see in you. It deepens as I continue to explore, notice, and live this. For me, it especially deepens through inquiry. It becomes more and more clear – in a very down to earth way – that I am you. Everything I see in you is also here in me.

Stories Pointing Beyond Themselves

Anything is a story – any scientific model, any spiritual map, any personal or collective history.

Some of these stories point beyond themselves, acknowledging that they are a map only, and that the terrain is more than and different from any map of it. Other stories either omit this point (maybe it is not so clear to those telling it, or they take it for granted, or they don’t see the significance of it), or explicitly counter it by presenting the story as somehow true – presenting the map as the terrain. If it is omitted, confusion can set in. And if it is countered, dogmatism neccesarily follows.

The Universe Story – or The Great Story – typically points beyond itself in one way, and not another.

The title itself does acknowledge it as a story only. It points beyond itself the way science points beyond itself, acknowledging that it will change with new information. And it will also change as social and cultural needs change, since it also has a role as a myth – as a guide.

Yet, it typically does not point beyond itself the way stories in a mystical and spiritual context point beyond themselves – to the eternal timeless Present within which time and space unfolds. Realizing selflessness, any belief in any story falls away. What is, is just emptiness dancing. Any story is revealed as just a temporary and practical tool, absent of inherent value or truth.

Befriending Shiva

My process – as it shows up in dreams and otherwise in my life – is inviting me to radical letting go of attachment to ideas (of past, future, present and anything else). As this has been coming up in Process Work explorations of my life and dreams, I see how helpful it can be to personalize this shift for me.

In its impersonal form, it is a finding peace with the continuous death of everything as it is and its rebirth as something else. The content of the eternal Present is always fresh, different, new. God never repeats itself.

And a radical peace with this is only found in the realization of Selflessness, in awakening to/as the Ground happening as the phenomena in the eternal Present. Awakening to what is, with no I anywhere.

This is all fine – it is a beautiful process in itself. Yet, it also has a somewhat impersonal tint to it.

Absolute and relative

From the Absolute, this all just is.

It is Ground forming itself into the world of phenomena. It is emptiness dancing. There may be distinction of this end (human self) and that end (Ground), of impersonal and personal, but also the recognition of it all as just stories – just labels and a level of abstraction added to what is.

From the Relative, the realm of polarities (and stories) emerge. The process can be seen as personal and impersonal, at this end (human self) and at that end (Ground). And if that is a useful way of looking at it, then why not.

Impersonal and personal at this end

This is impersonal at this end, in that it goes far beyond my human self. The Ground is all phenomena. It is one ocean, forming itself into waves of particular discernible phenomena. It is God appearing as trees, mountains, clouds, dogs, cats, flowers, humans, cities, cultures, planets, galaxies, universe(s).

And it is also personal at this end, in two ways.

This human self is Ground happening as phenomena. Any human self already is Ground forming itself into the appearance of a human self, so the Ground is already personal in that sense.

And this human self can reorganize and mature within the realization of Selflessness. When the Ground awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere, then Selflessness becomes personal in a different way – lived in, through, and as a particular human life.

Impersonal and personal at that end

It can also be seen as impersonal and personal at that end, as Ground.

In its impersonal form, it is emptiness dancing, Ground forming itself in the world of phenomena. Continuous death of what is and rebirth of something else. Always new, different, fresh. A continuous radical rebirth.

And it can also be seen as personal. Or rather, the connection with it can be personalized, as they do in Hinduism and (especially) Tibetan Buddhism. There is already something personal at this end, in the form of this human self. And there can also be something personal at the other – Ground – end. In this case, it can take the forms of Shiva and/or Kali and similar deities of death and rebirth.

Coming from a habitual identification as a human being, this may be an easier way into it. It is no longer a somewhat cold impersonal process, but personal as well – an intimate process of befriending Shiva and/or Kali. In a certain sense, it becomes more real for us that way.

It can be very helpful, as long as we also recognize that this too is only a tool, a story, an abstraction – a way of easing into it. The danger here is obviously that we can take it as more real than it is, that we mistake the map (Shiva, Kali) for the terrain (Ground).