There are many signs or byproducts of noticing our nature.
One is our perception of distance.
How do I experience distance?
I experience it as anyone else in terms of things being closer or further away. I know where things are in space just like anyone else.
And at the same time, there is a sense of no distance.
Everything is happening here, within and as what I am. There is an absence of distance.
It makes sense. Since, to me, the world happens within and as what I am, there is no sense of distance to what’s happening.
MENTAL FIELD OVERLAYS
There is another side to this as well.
I am aware of my mental field representations that create a sense of conventional space and distance in the first place. It’s a kind of mental overlay depicting space. It’s an overlay on the other sense fields, mostly the visual one. And it also serves as an image to put other mental representations onto, including objects and physical locations. There are also other overlays, including the ones serving as a kind of yardstick telling me roughly the distances between objects in the world.
These mental field overlays are essential for me being able to orient and function in the world.
In a sense, there are three layers to this.
In my immediate perception, there is no distance to anything. It’s all happening within and as what I am.
In a conventional sense, I operate with distances just like anyone else.
And I am also are of how my sense of space and distance is created by my mental field representations of space, distance, and so on. I am aware of these since I have taken the time to explore them in some detail so they are more easily recognized by me and they are familiar to me.
This shift happened in my teens, and I have lived with it for a while, so I don’t remember specifically how it was to notice this at first. I assume it took some getting used to. What I do remember is that I was frequently disoriented for a while after the initial shift, perhaps a few years. I had trouble functioning normally in the world. For instance, I remember walking straight into a glass door that I normally would have easily avoided.
I can find three types of space, and the difference between them are interesting. (At least, to me!) And the last one both is and isn’t space.
We are all familiar with physical space. This is the one we can measure, move within, and so on.
MENTAL REPRESENTATIONS OF SPACE
The next is one we are equally familiar with, perhaps without noticing. And, in reality, we are more familiar with it.
This is our mental representation of space.
Our mind places our mental images of space on top of the physical space we are currently within, in order to orient and navigate and so there is a mental space to put objects within.
Our mind also creates an image of space beyond the physical space we are currently in, and puts whatever objects we imagine in the wider world within this space.
These mental images of space are essential for us to orient and function in the world.
We can explore these and get a better sense of our mental images of the world by closing our eyes, and noticing how we imagine what’s around us. When we open our eyes, these images are still there as an overlay on our other sense impressions. We can close our eyes and notice our images of the wider world, beyond where we physically are, and that these are images. And we can even notice our image of space itself, stretching out without end, allowing us places to put all these other mental images of objects.
CAPACITY FOR SPACE
There is a final form of space, which both is and isn’t really space. To talk about this, I first have to mention something about what we most fundamentally are in our own experience.
In one sense, we are this human self in the world.
That’s how we appear to others, and it’s not wrong. In another sense, what we more fundamentally are – in our own direct experience – is something else. We are capacity for our experience of our human self, the wider world, and anything else. We are what our experiences happen within and as.
Some call this space, and I understand why. I can’t find any beginning or end in space. It seems to stretch out infinitely.
At the same time, calling it space doesn’t seem quite accurate.
Our nature seems to be capacity for space, what allows our experience of space. This capacity takes the form of space and allows us to experience space and everything within space.
It seems that what I am, most fundamentally, is capacity for space. Not space itself, although this capacity can certainly take the form of space, and always does. (And when I say “I”, it’s convention. This capacity is also capacity for any sense of I.)
Our perception of space, time, solid objects and a sense of reality to them all is central to our human experience.
It can be very interesting to explore this basic perception and how our minds create it, and inquiry – for instance the Living Inquiries – is a good way to do it.
In general, the mind creates its experience of the world through (a) sensory input with (b) an overlay of thoughts (images and words) combined with sensations. And sometimes, just (b). And that’s how it is with its experience of space, time, and solid objects as well.
Space. As I am sitting in this room, there is (what my thoughts label as) sensory input about the – visual, sound, touch. On top of that, my thoughts put mental images and words to make sense of it and make it into a room with floor, walls, ceiling, table, chairs and so on. And physical sensations combine with those thoughts to make it seem more real and substantial. When I close my eyes and see images of the table, and hear the word “table”, sensations – for me now, in the front of my upper body – lend a sense of solidity to those thoughts of table.
Time. Similarly, I have the word “present” overlaid on top of this room as it appears to me now. And I see images of a timeline with past, present, and future, and certain other images and words in certain spots on this timeline. For instance, for the part of the timeline that represents “this evening” I see “6pm SETI talk with Dan Werthimer” and “8pm Tallis Scholars concert” along with “Oakland” and an image of going there with Lyft and a map of San Francisco (where I am right now) and Oakland. Wherever my attention goes, images and words pop up to create content and an impression of past, future, and present, and more generally of “time”, with a range of events placed on it.
Here too, certain sensations are associated with each image and word to lend a sense of substance and reality to them. Sometimes, it’s just enough for my mind to think to itself “this is real”, and sometimes there is more of an emotional charge to it. For instance, I remember first learning to ride my bike as a child, and see an image of my father supporting the bike, letting go, and me cycling for the first time without support. I feel sensations in the forehead and front of the belly that lends a sense of substance and reality to these memories. These sensations, along with some other images and words, tells my mind these memories are “real”, they represent – more or less – what happened.
Substance. I have my laptop on my lap as I sit on the sofa with my legs outstretched. When I close my eyes, I notice sensations on top of my thighs along with an image of my thighs with a laptop resting on top of them. These sensations and images, along with some other ones, creates an experience of “thighs” and “laptop” and thoughts that these are substantial and real. My mind creates an experience for itself of these are real physical objects.
Looking closer. When I look a bit closer, I see it’s all created by thoughts and sensations, and it’s all made up by awakeness. It’s all happening within and as awakeness. As is space and objects in space, time and events in time, and anything else – including any ideas of a body, mind, universe, life, and even Spirit and awakeness.
If we continue to explore this, with some skill and guidance, we come to see our experiences more as just that – as they happen. And that can be quite a relief. The heaviness goes out of it, and the sense of it being “real in itself”.
Notes. As usual, I have taken some shortcuts in writing about this and there is always a great deal more to say about it. Any of the ideas used here are made up in the same way, including the most basic ones and also including “mental images and words” and “sensations”.
Also, when I write about closing my eyes to investigate, it just because it helps me see my own mental images – and other imaginations – more easily. These are here also when my eyes are open, but the visual impressions tend to “override” them so they are easily noticed, at least at first, with the eyes closed.
And the mind uses a wide range of imaginations, not just images and sounds. The mind imagines all the senses and uses all of it to create its own experience of the world. It takes sensory impressions, puts an overlay of imaginations, and combine these with sensations to create a sense of reality and solidity for itself, and sometimes also an emotional charge.
This is all lila – the play of life (or the divine). This is how we can explore lila in immediacy – right here now. This is one layer in how life creates its experience of itself here and now, and it’s the layer it’s most easy for us to notice and explore, and that has the most practical effects when we do so.
There is nothing new here. Individuals from all cultures and times must have been aware of this, in their own way, with their own take on and flavor to it. These are sometimes called mystics, but that makes it sound too special and far away. This is very simple, ordinary, and immediate.
For some reason, some folks like to set working on global hunger and thirst up again space exploration.
I have never quite understood it. Obviously, we could use the money used for space exploration in that way, but it’s a tiny bit of just a very few countries public budget, and a great deal more money is spent on things like war, the military, pet food, products used once or twice and then thrown out, and even celebrity magazines. Knowing that, why use space exploration as an example of supposed waste of money?
To me, alleviating and preventing hunger and thirst comes from a similar place as space exploration. For humanity and Earth life to survive for any significant length of time, we need to become a multi-planet species. Being limited to one location makes us far too vulnerable. We are Earth exploring space and contemplating seeding itself onto nearby planets and perhaps even further out.
That’s also preservation of life, and if we think preserving individual lives is important (which I do), then preserving whole species and ecosystems over longer time spans is equally important.
To mention a few more things: Space technology and exploration has also allowed us to get a much better overview on the Earth as a whole in terms of science, sustainability, and in our minds (we are the Earth seeing itself from the outside, and that has tiny but profound effects for humanity). Space technology and science have helped us down here in many ways. And it’s inherent in us humans to explore and space is one of the current frontiers. (It’s not the frontier since there are many, and it’s also not final.)
I have explored space more lately, both in my own experience and in working with clients.
Notice the space around the sensation. Notice the space the sensations happen within, and the space around and within the sensations. Notice the space around the image and between you and the image. Notice the space between the letters of the words, around the words, between you and the words.
Also, is there a sense of a boundary to the space? If there is a sense of a boundary, examine that boundary. Is there an image of a boundary? If so, look at that image. Is that an actual boundary? If yes, what makes it seem a real boundary? Is it a sensation? If so, feel that sensation. (And so on.)
I heard a good analogy a few days ago: If you put a teaspoon of salt in a small glass of water, it’s almost too intense to drink. If you put the same teaspoon in a big bucket of water or a lake, it’s fine. It’s more diluted.
Something similar happens when we notice the boundless space around something that seems to have a strong charge to it: a physical contraction, emotional or physical pain, a strong emotion, cravings and more. When I notice the space it happens within, the space within it, and that it’s the same space, its intensity is “diluted”. It becomes more manageable, and there is also more “space” to examine it further.
Also, if unexamined, a physical contraction or pain may seem very solid, real, and dense. By noticing the space it’s happening within, the space within it, and that it’s the same space, my experience of it shifts. It seems less dense. And if it seemed a problem or a threat, then it may seem less like a problem or threat. Again, there is more “space” to examine it further.
There seems to be two different forms or experiences of space.
One is the space we experience when there is an overlay of images of physical 3D space. This is what we use to navigate in the world, or explore 3D space in our imagination. This is how space appears when the 3D overlay and the objects within the space is emphasized and focused on.
Another is the space we experience without this overlay, or where this overlay is lighter and more transparent. This is a space that’s boundless, since any boundaries are literally imagined and happens within this space. This is how space appears when the space itself and its boundlessness is noticed.
It can be very helpful to notice the latter space. Notice that even the strongest bodily or mental contraction happens within space, and that this space is – quite literally – boundless. It makes it easier to meet the experience of contraction, rest with it, and perhaps see what’s there with gentle curiosity.
A stuck sensation dissolves when there are no words or mental pictures containing it, only pure space surrounding and permeating it.
– Scott Kiloby
Although it’s not important in this context, a brief note about space:
Space here can be experienced as physical space, but it’s really something slightly different. It’s spaciousness (for lack of a better word) with an added image of 3D space added onto it. Our experience is space is partly that spaciousness or boundlessness, and partly the overlaid image of a three dimensional space. It can be interesting and helpful to explore this in immediate experience. I notice the spaciousness or boundlessness. (Literally, without boundaries.) And I notice my own images of three dimensions overlaid on it.
Even the strongest contraction happens within boundless space.
If I don’t notice that, attention may get absorbed into the contraction itself and the stories creating and reacting to it. I may experience my world becoming hard and small, and experience and act from that hard and small world.
When I do notice the boundless space it’s all happening within and as, something shifts. It’s all allowed to be as it is, and it feels less small, less contracted, perhaps even less real and solid. The qualities of the space I am noticing becomes my experience, and what I am. It always was and is what I am, and by noticing it there is a shift.
It’s pretty obvious. When all I notice is my contraction and contraction-inducing stories, that’s how I experience myself and my world. When I notice the boundless space it’s all happening within and as, that’s how I experience myself and my world.
Why is it boundless? How can I explore the boundlessness? The easiest is to notice that any boundary is imagined, it’s created by my own images and perhaps words, sometimes associated with sensations, and these too happen within space. Any boundary happens within space, so the space itself is boundless.
In modern physics, they discovered that what initially appears solid is really mostly space, and looking even more closely, even the “particles” are really energy and also space. It’s all space.
When I look, I find the same in my own experience, as so many have before me, and so many do these days too. My field of experience is mostly space. Images, words, sensations, sounds, taste, smell all happen within space. Space with no findable end.
When I look more closely, even these – the images, words, sensations, sounds etc. – have space within them, and are space. It’s all space.
More accurately, it’s all awareness, and space, and appearances within and as – made up of – awareness and space.
It can be very helpful to notice this. Especially for appearances that at first appear quite solid, such as strong emotions, or physical pain, or contractions, or suffering, or seeking, or neediness, or a sense of me or I. Anything identified with will, at first, tend to appear quite solid. And when I look, I notice the space around it, and the space within it, and even the space (awareness) making it up.
Some people take this analogy quite literally and make it into something solid (!). I find it more helpful to see it as an analogy.
Even this analogy can be noticed as happening within space, with space within, and as space.
I finally got around to watch Interstellar, and liked it very much. I thought it was very moving at times, the story was tight, and I like well made science fiction movies in general.
It also brought up the topic of sustainability vs space colonization. To me, those go hand in hand. They both have to do with big picture questions. And knowledge from each may well inform the other. For instance, what we learn from sustainability will be of help if (when?) we create space colonies or terraform other planets, and what we learn from those will give us valuable information about how to live in a more sustainable way back on Earth. (Although we probably should have figured that our before we get around to space colonizes and/or terraforming.)
In the short and medium term, we need to learn to live in a more genuinely sustainable way. (Which will require significant reorganization of how we do just about everything, including our institutions.)
In the medium and long term, we need to explore space further, and learn to move beyond this planet. We need, as so many points out, to become an multi-planet species. We need to branch out. It’s what life does. It’s part of our built-in draw to adventure and exploration. It’s how Earth will propagate. It’s what’s necessary if Earth life is to continue beyond the lifespan of this one planet and solar system. It’s what’s prudent, considering that having just one location for Earth life is far more precarious than two, or more.
All life propagates, and Earth is a living system, so why wouldn’t Earth propagate? In that sense, we are in service of Earth life. We are the part of Earth that may be able to make it happen.
And although Interstellar contrasts sustainability with space colonization, it’s the type of movie that makes these ideas more mainstream. It’s part of spreading these ideas, making them familiar, and even attractive.
One is the conventional space, the imagined space that stretches out in in three dimensions. The is the space that’s created from quite literally imagining – having an image of – a 3D space, and then – again using images – placing any other content of experience within that space.
The other is the “space” that allows for the experience that’s here now, including the imagined three dimensional space, and any other content of experience.
When I look for either, when I look for the actual 3D space or that which allows for this experience here and now, do I find it? The images I have of each one, is that the actual IT that I am looking for? The sensations connected with it, is that IT? The words, are those IT? Can I really find it, in immediate experience?
A belief in time is required for postponing something that can be done now.
Mind imagines time stretching out ahead of me, as a field or a line. Mind identifies with that image, and takes it as (reflecting something) real and true. And mind puts a task that could be done now into the future.
For me, I notice that I do with with more completely shifting allegiance from identified mind to nonidentified mind. There is a hesitation here, a less than wholehearted intention, because I imagine it can be done in the future. I imagine there is a future, that the future is something real.
As this is examined more closely, mind comes to see what’s actually happening. That there is no time outside of my images of time. That imagine putting it into the future is just that, imagination. And there is a shift to doing it now. There is a more wholehearted intention of doing it now, and a movement to find it now.
The same is the case with space. As long as there is a belief in the image of space, I can imagine it happening “out there” in others, and in another me in the future. Looking at this, I also see that the image of time is really an image of space. It’s an image of time stretching out into the future, and that image relies on an image of space. A belief in space – it seems – underlies a belief in time.
There are two Mars related stories in the news these days: The quite exciting landing of Curiosity on Mars a few days ago, and Elon Musk’s plan to bring people to Mars within 10-15 years.
I have been interested in astronomy and space exploration since I was a little boy, and this interest was fueled even more when I saw Cosmos by Carl Sagan at age ten or eleven. It brought me directly into a profound sense of awe of the universe and life itself, of us all – quite literally – made of star dust, the product of 13.4 billions years of evolution, and that these eyes, these ears, these thoughts, these feelings are the eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. In the words of Carl Sagan:
And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.
In my teens, I became interested in systems views and the Gaia theory, and it was quite clear that the Earth as a whole can be seen as a seamless living organism, where we as humans have specific roles and functions, as any other species and ecosystem does. What is our role? We are, clearly, an awareness organ for the Earth and the universe. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to bring itself into awareness. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to experience itself. Through us, the Earth and the universe develops technologies which allows for it to explore itself even further, in even smaller details (microscopes), even further out in space (telescopes, space travel). Through us, Earth is able to see itself from the outside, as one seamless whole, and that feeds back into and even transforms our human society and culture.
Perhaps most importantly in the long run – we may be a way for the Earth to reproduce. The Earth has already taken the first steps in this direction, through our space travel and ideas of Mars colonization and terraforming. It’s an universal impulse for life to wish to (a) survive and (b) reproduce, so why wouldn’t this also be the case for Earth as a whole? There are several mechanisms which may make this happen. It’s a natural consequence of our combination of (a) curiosity and passion for exploration, and (b) our current and future levels of technology. It makes sense. Having two – or more – planets with human colonies and Earth life (plants, animals, ecosystems) makes humanity and Earth life far more resilient. A large space object may crash into the Earth, wiping out civilization and large portions of life, or we may do it ourselves. So if we have a “backup” civilization and Earth life somewhere else, life can continue there and perhaps even support or re-seed life on Earth. In a longer perspective, we know that the sun will eventually engulf the Earth.
It’s fifty years ago today since Earth saw itself from space – from earth orbit.
It’s only 16 years since Earth found the first planet around another star.
And it may be only a matter of years or decades until this living planet finds another living planet.
Earth came to life, then formed itself into humans and technology, and through humans and technology experience itself from space, find planets around other stars, and may well find another living planet – a sibling in another solar system.
I notice I find it equally helpful to explore time and space.
In both cases, I see and feel it is all happening here, in my own world of images.
I am caught up in stories about the world. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of space, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined space. It is all happening here.
I am caught up in stories about the past or future. Then, I recognize how the mental field creates a sense of time, and how all these stories are mapped onto this imagined time line. It is all happening here.
The most effective way to explore time I have found so far is exploring it through the sense fields.
How does time appear in each sense field, and in the combination of the sense fields?
How does time appear in sound, sensation, taste, smell, sight, thoughts/images? How does change appear? Do I find past or future there?
When I explore time this way, I find that the only place I find a sense of time is in the mental field. Any sense of time appears through an overlay of images and thoughts. An overlay of images of what has happened, what may happen, and what is happening “now”.
Here are a few things about stories, which can be explored through the sense fields…
Is a projection of a story and a quality. Imagination is taken as saying something about the world, out there and in the past, present or future. And what that imagination is about is taken as being out there as well. When it is recognized as imagination, it can be a very useful and practical tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. When it is taken as truth, it becomes a blind projection. We are blind for it as an imagination.
Is imagination, and the world we relate to is quite literally imaginary. It is an overlay of images relating to each other, and those images include images of me. Any drama happens among those images, mostly in the way other images relate to the images of me.
Is a question, an innocent question about the world. It is sometimes taken as something more, as a statement, fact or truth, which itself is just a story about a story.
Is a tool. It is a tool for our human self to orient and function in the world. And as any tool, it is sometimes useful and sometimes not. It has only practical value.
Is no thing appearing as something. Any mental field creation is insubstantial and ephemeral. Like a hologram, it has form but no substance. When it is recognized as a mental field creation, it is noticed as insubstantial and ephemeral. As no-thing appearing as something. When it is taken as true, it appears real, solid and substantial. (Sensations combine with the story to lend it a sense of substantiality, and muscles often tense up to make those sensations stronger.)
Is a mental field overlay. It is a mental field overlay on top of the other sense fields. And separating it out in sense fields (sensation, sight, sound, smell, taste, mental) is itself from a mental field overlay.
For instance, there is a sensation, a story of “pain”, and additional stories of pain as undesireable. All of these create the gestalt of “pain”, and this appears substantial and real when the gestalt is not noticed as a gestalt, and quite differently when it is noticed as a gestalt.
I had forgotten and this recent photo reminded me: My name is one of a quarter of a million names on that little disc attached to the Phoenix spacecraft, now safely landed on Mars.
I have written earlier about some aspects of the bigger picture of space exploration, so I won’t repeat it here. But it does give me pleasure to think that if there are future colonies of martians (humans), this little disc and its content will be displayed at their museum.
Seen in the context of Earth reproducing itself – through humans and terraforming – that disc represents the contemplation of reproduction, and the first steps of the foreplay.
When I explore space, I find two quite distinct ways space appears.
One is how the mental field creates a sense of space. When I close my eyes, the mental field can easily produce a visualization of space and its content. It can easily visualize this body, the various body parts and their relationships to each other, the room, the relationships between the objects in the room, how my body moved and was positioned in the past and may be in the future, and so on. And when I open the eyes again, I can get a quite clear sense of this mental field overlay on top of the visual field.
Space does not seem inherent in any field, and only appears through an overlay of the mental field. An overlay that helps map whatever happens in each field (visual, sound, sensation, smell, taste) in space. Even the mental field itself is mapped in space, giving a sense of thoughts happening in/around the head/body area.
This overlay of a visualized space is crucial for our human self navigating in the world. And also, it is crucial for creating a sense of a separate I. Without space, no I with an Other. A sense of a separate I is anchored here, in and around this body, and the rest of the world is out there, in the periphery.
The imagined separate I depends on visualized space to exist. And when I don’t notice how the mental field combines with the other fields to create a sense of space, space and the sense of a separate I seems solid, real and substantial. When I notice it, the sense of a separate I softens and fades.
The other seems to be free from an overlay from the mental field. This is just a sense of spaciousness absent of any end, inherent in awareness itself.
The first type is essential for mapping the sense fields in space. The second may be just an inherent property of awareness, existing independent of the first one.
I continue to explore thoughts through the practice of labeling the different sense fields: sound, sight, taste, smell, sensations and thoughts.
It is a great help in differentiating perception and thought, exploring the different interactions between them, and also how thoughts are really just another perception, mimicking the other sense fields and arising as anything else in the sense fields.
Some things I notice…
When I close my eyes, I notice how thoughts create images of what is in the space around this body, and of the body itself. In fact, thoughts create the whole experience of space, when the eyes are closed and also when they are open. An overlay of thoughts organize and makes sense of perception, creating a sense of space.
Attention is guided by thoughts in terms of sense field, location and boundary. For instance, with eyes closed or open, thoughts guide attention to any sense field, any location, and an area of any size. It can guide attention to sensations of my whole body, or the toe, or sounds from the street, or anything else.
Thoughts label perception, often just as an image or also with associated sounds, tastes, smells, sensations. Something arises, it is placed somewhere within the image of space, and an image guessing what it comes from is placed on top of it. For instance, there is the sound of a car from the road, it is located in relation to the space image, and an image of a car is placed there. This happens all the time, with most or nearly all sense perceptions.
Thoughts mimic the other sense fields: sounds, sights, taste, smell, sensations. It creates an imagined world that mirrors the world of perception, whether it is overlaid on or separate from perceptions arising here and now. In the first case, it is often not noticed. In the second case, we call it imagination or daydreaming or thinking about the past or future.
Thoughts create a sense of continuity. Thoughts mirror perceptions that just left, anticipate what may be about to happen, and string them all together into an appearance of continuity. There seems to be a funny mix of thoughts of past (perceptions from a while ago), present (perceptions that just left), and future (anticipation), and of perceptions arising here now, all together creating an appearance of continuity and time.
Through the labeling of nearly all perceptions, thoughts trigger responses and reactions. For instance, there is a thought of hunger (image/sensation), a thought of food in the fridge, and then the response of getting up to make some food and eat it. Or an image of me as man, someone else as a particular type of woman, images of a potential combination, and attraction. Or rain, me miserable in rain, and aversion. Without these thoughts, and an identification with them, none of it would happen. The whole world of attractions and aversions is created in this way, through these overlays of thoughts.
Thoughts create the basic organization of perception, such as extent/space and continuity/time, and also a sense of I and Other, with a particular boundary and content of each. The field of perception is filtered into Other, which is typically whatever arises as not this human self, and I, which is typically whatever is associated with this human self such as sensations, sights of this body, sounds made by this body, thoughts, and so on. Combined with this imagined I-Other boundary, there are thoughts of inside and outside, center and periphery, and so on.
The sense of I is anchored in whatever arises in the field of perception that falls inside of the I-Other boundary, and some of these more than other. For instance, within the sense field I notice how – for me right now – the sense of I is especially anchored in sensations in the upper neck/lower head area.
Thoughts also filter perception to create a sense of a doer. Something arises, and is seen as happening on its own or through the actions of someone else, of the wider world, of Other. Or it may happen within the boundary of this human self, and still for some reason be filtered as Other. Something else arises, filtered to appear within the boundary of this human self, of I, and of I as a doer, and there is a sense of this I being a doer of whatever happened.
And the interesting thing about all this is that it can be seen as it happens. Simply. Clearly. And in that way, thoughts appear transparent, and there is also a transparency in a different way in terms of how this whole sense of an I with an Other is created.
I was reminded of an interesting parallel at a science pub last night…
In terms of our current scientific creation story, space unfolded from the Big Bang, and with it time (which is change within the world of form). There was no space before BB, so no time, so the question of what was before BB has no meaning.
Similarly, an overlay of thoughts on pure perception creates a sense of space and time, or of extent and continuity. Outside of this overlay of thoughts, there is no space or time. Prior to, or outside of, this layer of thought, questions of before or after have no meaning. (Other posts have more on this.)
So our story of the Big Bang mirrors what is alive here and now.
As any creation story, and any story in general, it is a projection of what is alive here and now, in two ways…
It is a projection of what is on the inside of a thought, making it appear out there, in the past or the future or at another location. In this case, making it appear in the past, as something substantial and real, even as it is all from just a thought.
It is also a projection of what is happening here and now. There is a field of awakeness and form, prior to and free from space and time. And there is an overlay of thought creating the appearance of extent and continuity, mapping perceptions in space and time. The story of Big Bang mirrors this process quite closely, and is projected onto the universe as a whole and back in time to the very beginning of form.
With an overlay of stories, a sense of extent and continuity is created, and this allows for the whole rich multitude of differentiations and processes we experience in our daily life. A whole universe is created from these stories, whether we see recognize them as just stories or take them as something more than that.
And this too is reflected in the BB creation story. With the BB, space and time unfolds which allows for a whole universe, increasingly rich and complex, to come into being and evolve in time.
Realizing the BB story as a projection does not take anything away from it, apart from its possible sense of solidity. It is only placed in a different context, and has another layer added to it.
In continuing to explore thoughts, I keep discovering how thoughts first create a sense of extent and space, and then use this space to map perception and thoughts themselves.
For instance, all perceptions get mapped onto space, which also allows for a sense of I and Other. I, as a separate self, is located here, in the center, somewhere in or around this body and especially this head, and Other is out there, in the periphery, as anything else arising. A sense of extent allows for an easier differentiation, and it also allows for a sense of an I with an Other.
And thoughts in general also get spread out in space. When I notice the play of thoughts and images arising, and how the mind creates connections among them and shift from one set to another, it is very clear how the mind spreads thoughts – mimicking any and all senses – out in space, and then uses it as a canvas for shifting focus around, for exploring relationships, and so on.
At least for now when I explore it, it seems very similar to the gestural interface used in Minority Report. A wide range of images and information are spread out in space, and manipulated in space to make sense of it.
Here is an experiment I have found useful for noticing how thoughts create an appearance of extent or space.
Close your eyes, and visualize the room you are in. Notice how any sounds and other sensory inputs are imagined to occur in particular locations within this space. And notice how the experience of space, and of perceptions being located within this space, all comes from imagination, from visual thoughts.
Then open your eyes, and see if you can notice how there is pure perception, and also an overlay of this same image of space, which then helps spread out, organize and locate the various perceptions in different locations in space.
With some practice and exploration, it is possible to experience directly this overlay, and see that it comes only from thoughts.
A space-shuttle type vehicle needs to be more lean and simple for an upcoming mission. It goes from a crew of four or five down to one (me), and the size is reduced as well, although there is still room for the passengers.
To me, it seems the Earth can easily be an image of the full human self (centaur, Jung’s Self) and outer space what is beyond the human self. (Hameed Ali talks about this in “Spaceship Inquiry”.)
In this case, there is a functional space shuttle, but it is too complex and elaborate for the next mission. It needs to be simplified and made smaller and more lean. Only one crew member is left, although there are still passengers on this mission, and quite a few of them as well. They are apparently essential to the mission, although I don’t know, and don’t need to know, anything more about the mission at this point.
I find three different ways space & time can appear…
First, when there is a belief in stories, an appearance of I and other, and I as a segment of what is, specifically an object in the world. As an object in the world, time and space seems very real, and I am at the mercy of time as space. Time and space has a life-and-death importance to me, and appear very substantial and real. I take myself as something within time and space, so time and space has to look very real to me.
Then, there may still be a belief in a separate self, an I with an Other, although now, the I is placed on the witness, seeing itself. Here, all form appears as a fluid seamless whole, beyond and including this human self and the wider world, and the boundary between the two is revealed as just appearing because of a story, of taking “I” to be this human self. In this case, I – as pure seeing, is timeless and spaceless, and something that time and space appear to and within.
Finally, when there is a Ground awakening, when void awakens to itself, and itself as awake void and form, the sense of an I with an Other falls away. It is only this awake void, free from time and space, arising as fresh, new, fluid form. Time and space is revealed as appearing when what is is filtered through stories about past, future, present and continuity.
Time and space arises within, to and as awake void and form, when what is is filtered through these stories.
It may be worth mentioning how everything arising is revealed as timeless and spaceless here. In short, void is absence of anything, so also absent of time and space. And when form is recognized as nothing other than a temporary form aspect of this awake void, form is also recognized as absent of time and space. It happens within and as this timeless and spaceless now.
The hills over there, and this hand right here, are both awake void, so no distance and no separation is involved. It is all the always fluid form aspect of awake void. At the same time, it is possible to create an overlay of space so this human self can talk about here and there, close and far, feet and miles, and function in the world.
And with time, everything happens as this timeless now, but also here, it is possible to create an overlay of time so this human self can talk about yesterday and tomorrow, and function in the world.
Again, not really anything new here but something that is coming to the foreground again…
Whenever there is resistance, there is a split of space itself.
There is a field of 3D space, with sensations, sights, sounds and so on arising within (and as) it.
And some particular sensations in the upper neck/lower head area are used as an anchor for a sense of a separate I. These sensations seem denser than the rest of the field (the rest is space & sometimes form), and there is a sense of tension there.
With this as an anchor for a sense of I, other forms in the field can be made into Other, and when they are, there is also a resistance towards these. The space is split up into I here and Other there, and there is a sense of boundary, limitation, contraction, narrowing, tension and precariousness (I don’t know if the boundary can be maintained, or what will happen if what is on the other invades this side or the other way around.)
In daily life, this is very tangible, and a very good help in noticing what is going on. As soon as the space appears as less than infinite, in any direction, or as soon as some part of the field appears as dense, I know that there is a resistance, an identification with a particular identity.
And in allowing it all, including what is on the other side of the boundary and the boundary/resistance itself, the sense of vast space again arises. There is a release of identification with just a segment of the field, and so a release of being caught up on one side of the boundary and the other side arising as Other.
mirroring the beauty of inner space. Take some time… can you find it in yourself? You recognize the beauty of there, because it is right there in you as well, as a closer reflection of this outer beauty than you can imagine. (And any ugliness as well, but that is for another time.)
Since I was a kid, I have had a deep facination with outer space and Earth-bound nature as well.
One of my first “awakenings” was watching the Cosmos series on TV as a kid, and experiencing not only the awe of the infinity and beauty of this universe, but also that I am seamlessly part of this universe. I, as a human being, is made of stardust and am intimately connected with the whole of the universe, including all the stars I see in the night sky.
We, who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun, at last, to wonder at our origins.
Starstuff contemplating the stars.
Organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps throughout the cosmos.
– Carl Sagan, in Cosmos
This was my first introduction to deep ecology, deep time and evolutionary spirituality, and one that gave me a taste of the profound shift that comes from taking this in, allowing myself to soak in it, allowing it to work in me, allowing me to experiencing this directly – and the deep sense of intimacy, connection of no separation that comes with it, of the sense of belonging to the Universe. Coming from a science oriented rational culture and family, where we and everything are all fragments with tenous connections at best, it was a profound revolution in how I experience the world.
Exploring space and mind
A few years later, as I started exploring these things in my mid and late teens, I also became aware of how outer space can be seen as an analogy for the mind and the explorations of the mind.
When we are identified only as frgaments of our human self, then it is similar to being on the surface of this planet and only knowing the local region.
Then, as we get to know ourselves as a whole beyond and including our psyche and body, it is similar to for the first time seeing the Earth from local space, as a whole. This centaur awakening may come about through various forms of body-oriented or -inclusive practices, such as yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema and so on, maybe in combination with meditation practice. First, it comes through a taste, and is then more stable. (For me, now, the experience of my human self as a whole beyond and including psyche and body is so familiar that I usually don’t even notice, until I am reminded of the integral map and the centaur level, or talk with someone who experiences their human self differently.)
We can then venture beyond, into finding ourselves at the soul level, as essence, which may be similar to seeing the solar system as a whole. There is the human self, as the Earth, and there is the local area around it, the soul level, timeless, giving a sense of direction and guidance, of quiet bliss and joy, as the sun and the other planets.
Going further out, into (mostly) empty space, can be seen as similar to finding ourselves as pure awareness, as seeing, as Witness. Here, I am empty space and awareness, witnessing whatever happens, witnessing the distant stars and galaxies. If there is a relatively strong sense of I here, placed on pure seeing, it can be somewhat cold and detached, although that can be a useful exploration as well.
Then, going even further out to seeing – or rather being, the universe as a whole, it all shifts again. The Ground awakens to its own nature of no I anywhere, free of any beliefs in the idea of I, allowing everything to happen, embracing and including all polarities. This is the nondual. There is absolute intimacy with everything, yet no I anywhere.
Space as more than just an analogy
One of the surprises for me, when Ground awakened to its own nature (for a couple of months last fall), was how physical space awakened. The nature of this mind is really the physical space which allows anything and everything to manifest, from stars and galaxies to clouds, birds, cities and people, to sensations, emotions, thoughts and experiences. It is the same crystal clear space that allows all of these manifestations. It is this very ordinary space which awakens to its own nature. It is this space that everything arises within and as.
When Ground awakened to its own nature, still functionally connected to this particular human self, it was the Ground of everything that awoke to itself, the Ground of the universe that awoke to its own nature. And this is reflected in what Sakyamuni Buddha said upon his awakening, All sentient beings, the great earth, and I have awakened together. This is the literal realization, although it is the Ground of all sentient beings, the great earth and the whole of the universe that awakens to its own nature, functionally connected to this particular human self. It does not mean that this awakening is consciously reflected in or through the lives of all these sentient beings, because it is obviously not.
There was a quiet shock in seeing that it is this space, that we all know so well from everyday life, that awakens to its own nature – crystal clear, empty, allowing all manifestations to freely come and go as they do, with no I anywhere.
Saying that physical space awakens to its own nature is also just an analogy, an approximation. It may be more accurate to say that the Ground that awakens to itself has no space or time, it is space/timeless, yet allows for (the appearance of) space and time.
This last winter and spring, there were several months where everything was experienced very clearly as space. It is not a new experience for me, but this time the “volume” of it was turned high up. This body and everything else was clearly just space. At the same time, there was a sense of all dials going to zero, of being held by complete neutrality. And there was also a sense of profound fatigue, of inactivity (maybe inviting me to see something I typically don’t want to see).
Now, the space is still the same – everything as space. Space is still in the foreground, yet a little more subdued. And the energy and engagement is coming back, yet now within a context of neutrality.
For instance, when I bring attention to the experience of this body, it is space and even the few fragments of sensations arising and fading away are themselves space. Sensations come and go, here and there in space, but they in no way make up a “body”. They just arise within and as space, as everything else.
I should also mention that during this period, things got dredged up for me – some deep and stressful beliefs and their corresponding emotions including despair. The intensity got to the point where resistance had little or no chance of working. There was little choice but to surrender to and just allow the experiences. This resistance and surrender happened over and over, and I saw the pattern of resistance=suffering and being with=the experience itself transforming, including finding a quiet joy in the midst of it.
I also see that the word “space” is a rough aproximation. More accurately, it is emptiness, void, nonexistence arising as existence. And then there is a story on top of it making it appear as space and extension, just as there is a story of it as time. And neither of those are really there.
At the time, and now looking back at it, it seems that this was part of the process catalyzed by the diksha.
Hearing other’s reports of how they experience themselves help me see what is going on for me. They reflect what has been for me, what is alive now, or what may be.
For me over the last several months, there has been a phase of a sense of neutrality and space. Mostly, there is just space – within which everything happens. There is little or no boundary between this human self and the rest of what is happening, it is just one field of space and phenomena – none of which appears solidly as I, or Other for that matter.
For this physical body where there are just a few disjointed sensations appearing here and there in space, some emotions now and then, and some thoughts now and then. There is a vague sense of center around the head and upper chest area, but it goes away when I look at it – it is just revealed as phenomena arising in space just like everything else. If I don’t look, there may be an equally vague sense of “I” here at this “center”, and if I look, both vanish – literally – in space.
Whenever I do Breema, either giving or receiving, there is a similar sense of space and a few sensations. The whole from which I can find a body and psyche is very clear, as a whole – as space within which sensations, feelings, emotions and thoughts arise (although it seems that only the sensations seems localized in space, the feelings, emotions and especially thoughts just seem to happen – nowhere in particular in space, not really connected with this human body or not).
The word fragmentation came up in a conversation this morning, and I realize that I cannot find that so easily in my own experience now. There is just space and then everything happening within and as this space. I can see that I can heal, mature, develop and so on as a human being, but it is also beyond fragmentation or no fragmentation.
Over these months and within this space, there has been a sense of dryness and flatness, of neutrality, a sense of fatigue, and punctuated by periods of watching stressful thoughts and images arising, and other periods of seeing some of the old exitement coming up.
In Anatomy of Miracles (on Sat Nam Rasayan), Subagh Singh Khalsa mentions something that seems quite obvious when pointed out: when we shift our attention from one object to another, it is inevitably accompanied by a sense of space and time.
To say it in a different way…
When there is an identification with any segment of what is, when I believe in the idea of I and place it on a segment of what is, then my identity narrows down to an object in the world, to something finite, appearing in space and time. I apparently am – in my own experience – “trapped” in space and time.
So identifying with focus of attention is one example of this. When I identify with focus of attention, I see how it moves – or I move – from location to location, one after another, and this gives a sense of being trapped on the “inside” of space and time.
When the belief in the idea of I drops, there is only what is – beyond and including all polarities, including space and time. If I call this “I”, then I can say that space and time unfolds within me.
When I look at it, I see that it is not the shifting of attention itself which gives rise to this experience of space and time. It seems to be the identification with the focus – and sometimes the content of the focus – which brings this about. As soon as this focus becomes “I”, then there is space and time. “I” becomes the one moving around bringing first one thing, then another, into focus of attention. “I” am the one travelling from destination to destination, one after another.
Going one step back, I see that this comes from the belief in the idea of “I” as a segment of what is. And in this case, the “I” is placed on the focus of attention (and maybe other things as well, such as the object of attention, intention, awareness, thoughts, and so on).
If there is no identification with anything happening, there is also no identification with space & time. Everything is just happening in an always fresh and eternal present.
Here, the focus of attention can move around as it naturally does, and space and time unfolds as it does, yet there is no identification with either – so no contraction of identity down to ay segment of it, such as focus of attention and/or space & time.
One of the characteristics of an awakening beyond our human self – to F7 (nature mysticism), F8 (deity mysticism), and/or to F9 (witness) – seems to be a deepening sense of intimacy with the whole world, a deepening sense of no separation.
Jen has shifted in and out of the witness over the last few weeks, and I asked her tonight if she also experiences a sense of intimacy with the world. She immediately said yes, and that it seemed that the world had become two dimensional – that there is no distance anymore, although also of course the usual distance in meters or feet that we all are familiar with.
There is the conventional space, measured in meters or feet, within the context of a sense of intimacy with it all, of no distance.
Early sense of ground
And why is it so?
It seems that it is an early intuition or sense of the ground, an early taste of nondual realization. Consciousness is beginning to be aware of itself as everything, including the seer and the seen.
Early sense of God watching God
In addition to this deepening sense of intimacy with the world, there may also be glimpses beyond this – where there is a stronger realization that this is God watching God.
When I look into somebody’s eyes, it is God watching God through God. And this can be very obvious sometimes, especially with the right people in the right setting.
We can have tastes of this even as there is still a vague sense of I placed on this human self or the witness.
As this deepens further, it shifts into a more clearly nondual realization. There is not any inherent I anywhere. It is all just happening. There is no doer, only the doing. It is all the play of God, all emptiness dancing.