The stories we put on weird experiences

What stories do we put on weird1 experiences?

What do those stories say about me and my worldview? How do they impact my life? How can I find more kind, accurate, and useful stories?

In many ways, those questions are as or more important than the “truth” about these experiences, and what we can find through regular scientific research into them.

I have experienced and gone through a number of states that can be called spiritual. If I took these as some kind of goal or place to get back into, I would create a lot of problems for myself. I would be on a wild goose chase. Instead, I chose to see them as highlighting aspects of what I am, aspects of my nature. I ask myself if I can find the essence of it here and now. That seems more kind, wise, and useful, and I am sure there are other ways to look at it that may seem even more insightful and useful.

I have periods with frequent and amazing synchronicities. I can try to figure what they mean as if there is some meaning inherent in them waiting to be found. That seems stressful since I can never know if I have found it, and it also looks like a wild goose chase. Instead, it seems to point to me being in a kind of flow state and following my inner guidance. I can see if that seems accurate. I can also see it as a question about reality: Perhaps all is connected in a far deeper way than it looks? Perhaps all these surface expressions are movements within a seamless whole? I can also take it as a reminder that the universe seems like a seamless system.

As a kid, I had what seemed like flashbacks to between lives. I shifted into a state of disembodiment and all as consciousness and love. I was profoundly at home, beyond anything I can imagine in this life. It brought up longing and some grief in me. I can try to figure out if this is how it really is between lives. I can try to tell myself I know this is how it is between lives. Again, that’s futile since I cannot know any of that for certain, and somewhere in me I know that. I cannot successfully deceive myself even if I try. Again, it seem more wise, kind, and useful to use it as a pointer for what’s here now. Can I find it here and now? (The answer is yes, I can find it here and now. The essence is the same although it doesn’t look exactly the same, and it’s generally much easier to find it than it has been at some points.)

I seem to be able to sense to some extent what’s going on in the system of others and invite in healing at a distance. Again, I could try to tell myself I know that this is how it is and perhaps even how it works. And again, that’s futile since I know I cannot know for certain. It’s far more comfortable for me to hold the questions and keep exploring. The sensing and healing seem to work, so why not keep exploring it?

I have precognitions, either through dreams or in waking life. Many of these seem accurate. I dreamt I would live in Oregon fifteen years before it happened2. I dreamt I would live in a neighborhood with a very particular schoolhouse in South America, and that happened roughly thirty-five years later3. I also often have a sense of how situations will unfold, and when that sense has a certain quiet solid feel to it, it often turns out to be correct. (Hopes and fears can muddle it, of course.) I find it useful to see these as questions more than anything else.

My nature seems to be able to recognize itself and this whole field of experience as happening within itself. I could tell myself stories about how this is awakening or enlightenment, or that it’s a full awakening, or that it’s some kind of endpoint. It’s the same with this as with the other examples. It seems obviously not true. Those are stories and I cannot know any of it for certain. On the contrary, it seems that this is an ongoing process of exploration, clarification, deepening, maturing, healing, and so on. I cannot find any finishing line. That’s far more comfortable and it seems more aligned with reality.

I seem to have what could be called insights. I could tell myself these reflect some final, full, absolute truth. That seems stressful and it would require a lot of work to try to talk myself into it. The reality is that I cannot know. They seem provisional and more like questions about the world than anything else. I am sure there are other ways to looking at it that would make more sense to me now or will in the future. Taking it that way is far more comfortable for me. It seems more aligned with reality. (And that too is provisional and a question.)

To me, waking life seems like a dream. It’s all happening within the consciousness I am, just like night dreams. The consciousness I am forms itself into all of it. These too are questions more than anything else. If I got caught up in the mental mirroring (representations) of it and told myself that’s how it is, it would distract from the actual alive noticing. Holding those stories as questions frees up attention to actually noticing.

I could tell myself that having weird experiences with the “spiritual” label on it makes me special. That too seems stressful because it’s not true. Many if not most people have unusual experiences once or several times. Many have had far more experiences than me. (It’s not a competition.) I didn’t choose or create any of these experiences, they just happened. I cannot keep them or make them come back. They live their own life. At most, some of them are pointers for aspects of what I am and what I can find here and now.

I have had ghost and UFO experiences. Again, I could make up stories about these and tell myself I know how things are. I don’t. I can explore and have questions about it, and that’s about it. That’s more interesting and aligned with reality, and allows me to keep exploring.

With the things that relate to something “out there” – ghosts, UFOs, synchronicities, and so on– I take it as only “out there” in the world. That way, I would miss out on the richness of also seeing it in here. I can notice that it all happens within and as my sense fields, and that my sense fields happen within and as the consciousness I am. I can identify my stories about them, turn these stories to myself, and find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true.

These are all provisional stories, and I keep exploring to see if something else may seem more useful for me. Of course, to be useful, they also need to be as sincere, honest, and true as possible – in a conventional sense and in my experience.

NOTES

(1) When I say “weird” it means weird as seen in our mainstream culture. Something that doesn’t fit the mainstream materialistic worldview and the views of our current science. In some subcultures and in most other cultures, it will not be seen as weird. It fits their worldview. (For a couple of hundred years, our culture has worked to shed superstitions, and that’s good. Now, it may be time to include some of it again, and to do so in a more grounded and science-based way.)

(2) I was a teenager and lived in Norway at the time, and had absolutely no intention to go to the US. I didn’t like much about the US so it was very far down the list of places I wanted to visit and even less live in. Through a set of circumstances, I did eventually find myself in Oregon and in the setting described in the dream.

(3) I almost fell out of the car when I saw that schoolhouse while we were in the process of buying the land. At some point, we had given up since it seemed impossible – there was no road access – but the dream suggested that it would happen. Now, I can see that school from our tiny house.

Image by me and Midjourney

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When no-self comes into the foreground

About twenty years ago, there was a shift1 where no-self2 came very strongly into the foreground.

The noticing of no-self has been here since the shift in my teens, and this new shift turned the volume way up on that aspect of what I am. It was so strongly in the foreground that it was inevitable and noticed all the time.

While it happened, this human psyche didn’t know if it was a new deepening into reality which would stay, or if it was a state that would come and go.

It turned out to be kind of both.

The noticing is there, although the volume is not turned up so high. In that way, it wasn’t a state. The notice seems more inevitable and effortless than before.

At the same time, having it so strongly in the foreground was a state which lasted about six months.

Why do these shifts happen? I see it as life showing itself aspects of itself. It’s so clear and so strongly in the foreground that it cannot be missed or overlooked. We get used to it, and it’s easier to notice even after the state goes away.

NOTES

(1) It followed a period of deepening in meditation. There was a deepening that “I” didn’t do but happened by itself. This particular shift was triggered by doing one of the Headless experiments. (The “invisible crash helmet” experiment if I remember the name correctly. It’s where you cut out a circular hole in a piece of paper, notice the hole is full of the world – that you can see through the hole – and also empty. It’s nothing full of the world. Then, you bring the hole up to your face and eyes, and notice you are that nothing full of the world.)

(2) What does “no-self” mean? It’s a label like anything else, and I use it because I cannot think of another label that’s better right now. It just means that what I more fundamentally am is what any and all experience happens within and as. To me, the wider world and anything related to this human self happens within and as what I am. I am not most fundamentally this human self or any other kind of self. (Victim, doer, observer, etc.)

Image by me and Midjourney

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States highlight characteristics of who and what we are

We always experience different states.

Anything we experience – the fullness of our experience – is a state. It always changes.

And each of these states highlights characteristics of who and what we are.

WHAT THEY CAN TELL US ABOUT WHO WE ARE

Some of what we experience tells us something about who we are as a human self in the world.

For instance, I am in a situation that brings up anger in me. What’s behind the anger? Is it an energy I use to get things done and protect myself or someone else? Does it come from an unquestioned painful story? Does it come from love and a wish to protect, perhaps with some layers of confusion on top?

Or I notice I am drawn to something. What is it about it I am drawn to? What do I hope to get out of it? And what do I hope to get out of that? What’s the essence of what I am drawn to? How can I bring that into my life? How can I give it to myself here and now? How can I rearrange my life to bring it in more often?

WHAT THEY CAN SHOW US ABOUT WHAT WE ARE

And some of what we experience tells us something about what we more fundamentally are.

Here are some examples from my own process:

When I was fifteen, my system was shifted into a strong observer-observed duality. I experience the world, including anything connected with this human self, as very far away. I was what observed it all. (To me, this was distressing since I didn’t understand what was going on. I went to a lot of doctors and specialists to figure out what was going on, but they didn’t find anything.) This showed me – clearly and at a visceral level – that I am not, most fundamentally, anything within content of experience. (At the time, I wasn’t really consciously aware of any of this, but my system got it at a deeper level.)

A year after, there was another strong shift and this one into oneness. Everything without exception was revealed as God. This human self, and any tendency for the mind to take itself as this human self, was revealed as the play of God. It was God temporarily expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself that way. (These days, I would say “consciousness” instead of God.) This was especially strong for the first few years, and the oneness aspect of what I am was in the foreground and unmissable. It showed me the oneness aspect of what I am so clearly so I can notice it through shifting states and experiences.

Some years later, in the mid-2000s, my system was shifted into a strong no-self state. No-self was already part of the oneness shift, but for about six months, this particular aspect of what I am was brought into the foreground. This period highlighted something about what I am that’s undeniable and I can now more easily notice through shifting states and experiences.

There has been many shifts and states like this, highlighting features of what I am. One that followed the previous one was a shift into noticing what can be called the luminous dark or the divine feminine. I experienced a luminous dark aspect of the divine peering out through and as all forms. It’s difficult to describe but this also highlighted something that it’s now more easy for me to notice.

A small synchronicity: When I re-read and pondered “anything we experience is a state” the lyrics of the song I listened to said “What we feel now”. (Got to be real by Cheryl Lynn.)

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

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

– Roshi Shunryu Suzuki

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

WHY A FEELING?

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

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

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

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

FEELINGS RELATED TO OUR NATURE RECOGNIZING ITSELF

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

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

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

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

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

GETTING IT VISCERALLY

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

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

WHAT DOES THE QUOTE REFER TO?

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

OUR NATURE

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

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

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

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

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

ONENESS AND NOT WANTING TO HARM

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

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

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

OUR HUMAN SELF MAY NOT BE COMPLETELY ON BOARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s part of the process too.

MIRRORING

There is an interesting mirroring here.

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

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

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

WHY IS THE TITLE LAST?

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

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

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

I like to put Roshi first.

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

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Is it possible to directly perceive change?

I remember my old Zen teacher (GR) saying that meditation helps us directly perceive impermanence.

But is that true?

As so often, the answer may be yes and no and it depends.

YES

At some level, basic meditation does help us recognize impermanence. We notice that all content of experience, including what we take ourselves to be within the content of experience, comes and goes.

Over time, we may get a more visceral sense of impermanence. We know it with our being.

As mentioned in a previous article, this can help us appreciate what’s here since everything is a guest, it can help us orient so we can find more peace with the changing nature of everything, and it also points to our more fundamental nature.

NO

This one is equally interesting to me.

When I explore this in my own experience, I realize I cannot have a direct perception of impermanence. It’s always filtered through my mental field.

Any sense of change or impermanence comes from comparing my images of what’s in my sense fields now with images of what was in my sense fields a moment ago. It comes from comparing mental representations.

Of course, I directly perceive these mental representations. But I am not directly perceiving change or impermanence. That’s something that only comes through comparing different mental images.

Without this overlay and comparing of mental images, what’s here is just what’s here without any ideas of past, future, or even present, and without any idea or sense of change.

During meditation, there have been times when this mental overlay drops away and any sense of continuity or even of change falls away with it. For instance, I had music on when this shift happened, and the music fell away. There was just a sound here and now without any experience of continuity or past notes. This state highlighted certain aspects of how my mind works and motivated me to later explore it more intentionally through inquiry.

IT DEPENDS

So it depends.

We can certainly have the experience of directly noticing impermanence. And we directly perceive the concepts that give us an experience of change and impermanence.

At the same time, when I look a little closer (or when it’s shown to me through shifting states), I realize I cannot directly perceive change or impermanence. I can only get a sense of it by comparing mental images – labeled now and then – happening in immediacy.

It depends on what we mean. Do we mean a more general and somewhat unexamined experience? Or do we mean what we find when we look a little closer?

Note: I can’t remember hearing anyone talk specifically about this, but I am sure it must be a common noticing. People may not talk about it very much because other things are more important, or because this is something we discover for ourselves in time. To me, it is somewhat important since it shows me – through direct noticing – something about how my mind works.

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Is oneness a state?

I saw a quote from Jac O’Keefe saying “the oneness state is….”. while others emphasize that oneness is not a state.

So is oneness a state?

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

ONENESS INHERENT IN REALITY

Most fundamentally, oneness seems inherent in reality and not a state.

The physical universe is a seamless system evolving into everything within this universe, including us and our life and experiences. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

And if we look with some sincerity in our own first-person experience, we may find we are oneness.

We may find that our more fundamental nature is capacity for all our experiences – for the world, this human self, and anything else. And that we are what our experiences happen within and as.

The world, to us, is one. We may not notice it, but that’s our nature whether we notice or not.

So in these ways, oneness is not a state. It’s inherent in the universe, and it’s inherent in our more fundamental nature.

ONENESS AS A STATE

We can also see oneness as a state.

When we notice our more fundamental nature, it’s a state of noticing. It’s a state of oneness noticing itself.

Within this noticing, we notice we are capacity for time and space, and time and space happen within and as what we are. So here, the oneness noticing doesn’t seem like a state. A state happens within time, and time happens within what we are.

And yet, from the perspective of time, noticing oneness – or oneness noticing itself – can certainly be a state. It’s something that can come and go. It can come and go and come again over years and decades. When we notice more easily, the noticing will also come and go to some extent depending on where we have our attention.

ONENESS AS A STATE AND NOT

Oneness is inherent in reality and what we are.

When oneness notices itself, it recognizes that time and states happen within and as oneness. So here too, we find that oneness is not a state.

And from the perspective of time, noticing oneness can certainly be a state. We can shift into oneness states for a while, then shift out of it, and then back into it differently, and so on. And when we shift out of it, it’s an invitation to notice our remaining unquestioned beliefs and identifications.

Transcendent state of oneness?

I saw someone use this phrase, partly as a joke.

Recognizing oneness can happen here and now, it doesn’t require any particular state (apart from the state of noticing) and it doesn’t require transcendence.

As I often write about, certain simple and structured inquiries can help us notice oneness here and now. For instance, Headless experiments and the Big Mind process.

And, over time, exploring sense fields is another effective approach.

I notice that all my experiences happen within my sense fields – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, thoughts, and whatever else we want to label and look at.

I notice that my sense fields are a seamless whole, and any “outside” and “inside” are both parts of this seamless whole and only come from an overlay of mental representations (mental images, words).

I notice that my nature is what allows all of this and takes the form of all of this. I am what all of it – this human self, the wider world, and anything else – happen within and as.

And here, it’s oneness. It’s all a seamless whole.

To me, the world and all of existence happen within and as what I am. It’s all one.

It’s already this way. It’s already my nature and here. All that’s required is to notice it, and that’s independent of any particular states (although strong states can be distracting) and it’s independent of any transcendence. It’s also independent of any spirituality or religion, and any dogma or even worldview.

All of this – states, transcendence, ideas – happen within and as what we are.

There is a slight irony here. Some who seek awakening assume it’s a state or connected with a state, so they seek certain states. In reality, their nature is already here and is what already allows any and all states. And it’s in some ways easier to notice in a more mundane and ordinary state since we are not distracted by the fireworks of unusual states.

In many cases, we may have some strong states which help us recognize certain things. These then fade, and we are invited to notice our nature here and now, in this more ordinary and mundane state. And then to keep noticing as states come and go.

Oneness = pragmatic love

Here, we find ourselves as love. This is a love that’s not dependent on states or feelings. It’s the pragmatic love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

– from a previous article, The Importance of Love

Most people think of love as a feeling. We experience love for a partner, family, friends, ourselves, animals, and so on.

And yet, love is not always dependent on a feeling. We can have love for people without feeling it. We can be annoyed, and yet care for someone and act from that care.

Even in daily life, we know that love doesn’t depend on fleeting feelings. (Although moments of feeling love can certainly enhance and feed that deeper love.)

This is even more so when we find what we are. When we find ourselves as capacity for the world as it appears to us, as what our experiences – the world of phenomena as we experience it – happens within and as. Here, we find that the world to us is one, and when we notice this it takes the form of love.

This is a love not dependent on states, feelings, or emotions. It’s the pragmatic love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.

And, of course, any love – whether from a feeling or the pragmatic love from noticing what we are – can be covered up by our painful beliefs, identifications, hangups, emotional issues, or trauma. I have written about that in other articles, including how to explore and work with it.

The role of states in the awakening process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When in a funk, careful about drawing big conclusions

A funk or any strong emotional state tends to color our experience of everything. And that goes for our thoughts as well. Our thoughts tend to reflect whatever emotional state we are in. It’s as if our mind wants to be helpful, so it creates or brings up thoughts aligned with the emotional state.

It’s good to notice this pattern.

I notice I am in a funk or an emotional state. I notice my mind creating certain stories that goes with that funk or emotion. And I notice that as the funk or emotional state passes, as it does, then those thoughts pass as well. They were linked to the emotional state. They were not as true as they seemed when they were supported by the emotional state.

As I notice this pattern over time, a part of me also recognizes and knows what’s happening and not to believe those thoughts. A part of me knows they are fueled by the funk or the emotions, and as the funk or emotions pass, the thoughts will not seem as true or real.

And that helps me avoid fueling the thoughts further, draw big conclusions (about life, others myself, situations) based on them, and especially to act on those conclusions.

This is kindness towards myself.

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Seeking a feeling or state 

It’s very common to seek a certain feeling or state. It’s also very understandable.

Most of us are very familiar with changing the content of experience and are less familiar with changing the context of experience. So we set out trying to change the content of experience. We try to avoid certain experiences and seek other experiences. We seek a feeling or a state. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s natural. It’s good to be a good steward of our life in an ordinary sense. And yet, to compulsively attempt to change the content of our experience is in itself suffering. It creates an additional layer of suffering. It creates an ongoing struggle with our experience.

The alternative is to change the context of experience. To notice what’s here: sensory input and imagination, and how they combine to create certain experiences. Notice that this experience is already noticed and allowed. Notice what it happens within and as (AKA awareness, presence).

I can explore this in different ways:

What would I have to feel if I didn’t try to change my experience now? Feel that. Stay with it for a while. Notice any resistance, fear, impulse to change experience, and feel that too. Include that too in the noticing and allowing.

How does my mind create the experience of something lacking or missing here and now? (UI on this lacking state or a deficient self.)

How does my mind create the experience of something else that’s better? (UI on the desired state.)

How does my mind create the experience of a threat in what’s here now? (AI on threat.)

How does my mind create the experience of a command to change my experience? Or not change it? (CI to change / not change.)

This impulse to change the content of our experience has an evolutionary function. It is, in a sense, built into us. And yet, it’s possible to examine it and shift focus to the context of our experience as described above. We may seek to change the content of our experience through food, entertainment, being loved, sex, status, being right, and also through trying to hold ideas as true. These ideas can be any ideas at all, including ideas about ourselves, others, life, politics, religion, and spirituality.

As usual, this exploration intertwines in how we ordinarily do things in ways that are simple and also complex. It’s simple in that (a) I continue to be the best steward of my life as I know in a very ordinary way while also (b) explore the things mentioned above. It’s complex in that this exploration will shift how I go about being a good steward of my life. It shifts the emphasis on changing the context of my experience rather than the content. It removes a layer of struggle and suffering, which brings more of a sense of ease into my everyday life. I go about being a good steward in a slightly more effortless way. And there is an ongoing deepening here.

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From states, to insights, to recognizing it through changing states

Some states of consciousness highlight an aspect of reality. For instance, a state may turn the volume of bliss, love, oneness or selflessness up so it’s unmissable. States can also highlight and turn the volume up on aspects of delusion, such as suffering, or even how suffering is created.

Combined with curiosity, this turned up volume of an aspect of reality can give insights.

And the invitation is to take these insights as a question and starting point for inquiry in any state, and through changing states.

Here are some examples:

There is a state of bliss. An insight that consciousness is bliss, it’s inherent in reality. And an invitation to find this in any state of consciousness, including those that at first look anything but blissful.

There is a state of love. An insight that consciousness is love too. And an invitation to find love through other states, including those that do not appear particularly love-filled from a conventional view.

There is a state of oneness. An insight that reality is one, always. And an invitation to notice this oneness, perhaps especially when mind makes reality not appear one.

There is a state of selflessness. An insight that there is no I here. And again an invitation to notice this through changing states and experiences.

There is a state where the dynamics of identification, delusion and suffering is particularly clear. There is an insight into these dynamics. And an invitation to recognize this as it happens through the changing states and experiences.

 These states of consciousness are a gift in that they highlight aspects of reality. They offer insight. And this insight is then an invitation for inquiry through the changing states and content of experience. It’s a starting point for inquiry, and this inquiry may lead to further insights.

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Supported by a state vs not

I notice I am curious about this, partly because it’s not very clear to me yet.

Sometimes, shifts in perception is supported by a state. There may be a state that makes it easier to notice (what a thought may say is) all as one, all absent of any “self”, all as Spirit, all as love, meeting all as love etc.

So there is a shift in state, which invites a shift in perception, which in turn invites a shift in insight, and a shift in noticing.

When the state shifts again, perhaps into something (apparently) very ordinary again, the invitation is to keep noticing and questioning. Is it true it – the noticing, all as Spirit/love etc. – went away? Is it true this is not one, Spirit, love?

This noticing throughout changing states and experiences is in itself (sort of) a state, a state of noticing.

And it is also a shift from something that may appear extraordinary, an extraordinary state, to something very ordinary, noticing what’s already here in (and as) any state, any content of experience.

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Two forms of peace

I have received a few biodynamic craniosacral sessions lately, and notice that they seem to put me in some form of trance for about three days. It’s peaceful, and yet something feels a little strange about it. I realize it’s because it’s a peaceful state, one that keeps me from going “down” into shadow material and personal material, and also from going “up”. It feels a bit artificial, almost like, from what I hear, a tranquilizer or drug aimed at stabilizing the emotions. I am not sure if this is typical for bcs or is more from the therapist. (Whom I like and respect very much.)

It’s also a reminder that one form of peace is a state, which I appreciate when it’s here. And another is the peace of finding that which already allows what’s here, that which allows any and all states. Finding it, noticing it, and perhaps finding myself as that – and the deep rest that comes with it.

As I have noticed after these sessions, the first form of peace allows less activity. And the second allows any and all activities.

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Supported by states, independent of states

As life brings itself more into awareness, shedding beliefs and assumptions and revealing to itself what’s here, it seems to often go through certain phases. Many have outlined these, including Evelyn Underhill and Ken Wilber, and I am by no means an expert on these maps and models. (In any case, life is kind enough to show up outside of and independent of any maps, reminding us they are imagined.)

What I know from my own experience, and have heard from others, is a simple shift from (a) knowing to being, and from (b) love and insight supported by certain states to independent of states.

From knowing to being

During the initial opening in my teens, there was a clear recognition that everything – with no exception – is God. God – life, reality – woke up to itself out of the dream of being identified as a human being. The sense of I did return to some extent, and the identification with/as this I also returned to some extent, although even here there was a recognition that all is God or Spirit. Then, there was (is!) a dark night which invited remaining beliefs to wear out and be seen through, and these tend to be quite primal and deep seated beliefs with a strong emotional component. The shift to being what was initially seen involves a deep healing at a human level, a clearing up of these primal beliefs and their emotional components, and alignment of more of the human self with reality, with what was initially seen.This is an ongoing process, and I assume it will continue as long as there is a human self here.

From supported by states to independent of states

Initially, love and insight was supported by certain states. There was a very strong experience and feeling of love – for everyone and everything. And there was a clarity which allowed for a great deal of insights, typically mirroring what I later read by Taoists, Buddhists and mystics from Islam and Christianity. These states were so strong it seemed “I” couldn’t fall out of love or this clarity. Then, during the dark night, these states did shift – as life always does. They went away in my experience, and there was an invitation to see my remaining beliefs about these states and reality. There were a few basic sets of beliefs here for me: (a) I lost something wonderful. I made a mistake. I lost my course. I got off track. I am a disappointment to God. (b) Awakening has to do with these states of love and clarity. (c) There is an I here this is happening to. (Although this was seen through initially, there was still a more deep seated belief in an I here and this one had/has a quite strong emotional component.) Another invitation is to recognize this love and clarity in any situation and state. This is the next phase. Can I recognize anyone and anything as the Divine, just as it is, independent of particular states? Can I notice this clarity – specifically that it’s all the Divine, the play of life – no matter what’s here, independent of particular states?

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Even keel through shifts

I notice shifts between three different states.

The first is into wounds, beliefs and hangups. A belief surfaces to be seen, felt, loved.

Another is into what I am, into Big mind. The veils are thinner. It’s easier for what I am to notice itself.

And yet another is a release from either, just ordinary life.

Each of these is an invitation to see, feel and find appreciation for what’s here. An invitation to befriend experience and stories, notice I am what happens and inquire into stories.

These shifts are also an invitation to find a more even keel throughout states, and one way to do that is to befriend experience and inquire into stories – especially those saying something is not OK.

And these shifts is an invitation to notice what I am throughout states. Content of experience changes – what is it that does not change?

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Keep noticing within any state

Keep noticing within any state.

That’s one of the reminders for myself these days.

Keep noticing (a) all as awareness and (b) how appearances are created, within any content of experience.

This is very useful before and within an awakening, and perhaps especially so if there has been a glimpse or genuine recognition of what we are.

Why is this so tricky, at least for some of us?

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State independent

What we are is of course state independent, and that is a great pointer for practice.

Independent of what is happening in content of awareness – dullness, bliss, clarity, tension, relaxation, anger, joy, confusion – can I notice what I already and always am? Can I find myself as that which all this happens within, to and as?

Having this as a basic practice throughout the day makes it all into an adventure, no matter what is going on.

And it also helps us release identification with whatever within form we tend to identify with, all these things that come and go.

Having worked with tension/stress as a pointer to when I believe a story, it is easy to think that when there is tension/stress, I can’t notice what I really am. But that is of course not true. That tension and stress is also just happening within, as and to what I am, and I can notice that as it happens. (And still inquire into those beliefs of course, the two are not at all mutually exclusive.)

Ground awakening – state or not?

It is often said that the Ground awakening, as opposed to everything else, is not a state.

And as usual, it seems to be a truth with modifications.

It is not a state as it is only the void awakening to itself, and then to itself as awake void and form, allowing any forms to come and go as they do anyway. The only difference is that now, as the void is awake to itself, any thought is seen as just a thought, and there is an absence of identification with any stories, including the one of a separate self, of an I with an Other, and any other identities used to elaborate this sense of a separate self.

(There is an absence of identification with any stories, and so with any particular content, since the void is absence, and also since thoughts and everything else are recognized as nothing other than the void itself taking temporary forms.)

It is the Ground awakening to itself, allowing any state, any form, any change in content of awareness, to come and go on their own, living their own life on their own schedule, as they already and always do.

Said another way, it is the bottom dropping out, leaving all form suspended in space with no identification. The bottom – the sense of I with an Other, falls out, leaving form – the content of awareness, absent of identification. No change in states, only a change from identification to a an absence of identification and a realization that there was never any I with an Other there in the first place.

Yet, it also is a state, in a couple of different ways.

First, it is the state of void awake to itself, and all forms as nothing other than void itself. This is not a conventional state in the sense of a change in content of awareness (bliss, absorption, clarity, oneness, etc.), but it can certainly be called a state.

Then, it can also appear as a state as seen from within time. When there is a story of time, it happens at a particular (often well defined) point in time, and it may even go away in a particular point in time (and then it is called kensho instead of daikensho).

It is really the timeless now awakening to itself, always fresh, new and fluid in its form aspect, and from here time is recognized as only coming from a story overlaid on what is. Past, future and continuity is recognized as only appearing when what is is filtered through stories.

Yet, when this gets clouded over, a sense of a separate self, an identification with content of awareness, and with this a sense of the reality of time and space, reappears. And from here, the Ground awakening appears as having happened within time and space, so also as a state.

The gifts of states

Here are a few of the gifts of states, of shifting contents of experience…

Over time, they invite us to recognize and realize impermanence… inherent in anything that comes is its going. Sadness, joy, oneness, bliss, suffering, a particular insight, different types of samadhi… they are all temporary visitors.

They also invite a noticing and differentiation of different areas of the terrain… in my own experience, I can see how different states has allowed me to discover and differentiate aspects of the terrain… the void (allowing identities to fall away), alive presence (soul level), endarkenment (feminine divine), luminous emptiness (masculine divine), the three centers (head, heart and belly, each one in the foreground at different times), oneness (a vague sense of an I one with God), suffering (being caught up on the inside of beliefs), and so on. Each of these are noticed, clarified and differentiated from the other ones by dipping into them through various states.

As Ken Wilber would point out, the states and what they reveal are interpreted through our psychograph… our lines of development and where they are at (their stages) and in particular through the conscious framework we operate from (cognitive line).

Some states offer their particular gifts. For instance, the state of unusual clarity and stability of attention invites us to inquire with more differentiation into what is… including the mechanisms of samsara.

Finally (?), they also offer glimpses of what is ahead on the path, and what we thought was behind us but wasn’t…! For instance, void temporarily wakes up to itself, and is then covered up by a sense of a separate self, which offer a new context to the path and our life… it offers a glimpse of how it is when all identifications are vaporized, and a direction for our continued practice. And dipping into being caught up in particular beliefs, and their accompanying drama and suffering, shows us that more work is required, we were not quite done with that one.

States are visitors which come on their own time, whether invited or not… and they can also be explored in a more systematic way through for instance the Big Mind process (filtered in a limited way through the head center).