The universal person

As human beings, we have a certain unique flavor.

And it’s also all universal, in several different ways.

Everything in us comes from somewhere else. The innumerable causes of everything we are and experience go back to the beginning of this universe (if there is any) and stretch out to the widest extent of existence.

We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the local expression of the universe and how it locally brings itself into consciousness.

The world is our mirror. We can take any story we have about anyone or anything, turn it around to ourselves, and find several specific examples of how it’s true for us in the moment and at times in the past.

To us, the world happens within our sense fields. It happens within and as what we are.

There is even a universality to our unique flavor. Every being has a unique flavor. Every being is a slightly different way for the universe to express, explore, and experience itself.

Storror: Be accepting of going in

Be accepting of going in, and then you’ll stick it.

– Storror parkour team in Parkour Water Challenge, 18 minutes in

This is an example of how dedication to excellence in any area of life tends to lead us to similar insights. In this case, the insight is that if you accept failure, you are more likely to succeed. The fear of failure is often what leads to failure, so when we accept the possibility of failure and find some peace with it, we are more able to focus on the task and do our job well.

The Storror guys continue to push the boundaries of what they are able to do in parkeour, and in the process discover universal insights that people through history have discovered.

Standing on a ledge, about to jump onto a beam in the water, it’s easier to focus on the task and do the job well if we accept and find peace with falling into the water. If we are afraid of falling into the water, the fear will distract us and make hesitation and a mistake more likely.

This is what any good psychologist or coach will help us with. And this is also a common thread in Asian philosophy. For instance, the samurai practices finding peace and coming to terms with death (they practiced imagining already being dead) so they wouldn’t be distracted by fear of death at a crucial moment.

Shared dynamics

When I do inquiry in groups, or facilitate others in inquiry, I get to see our shared dynamics.

I see that what I thought was (more or less) unique to me, and perhaps even shameful, is actually a shared dynamic. It’s common. Perhaps even universal.

The way it’s expressed is individual, to some extent, but the dynamic itself is common to most or all (?) of us.

That recognition takes the edge off it. I don’t have to add the “I am uniquely messed up” belief on top to whatever else is here. And that’s a relief.

One thing is to see it. Another is to take it in. And that may take time.

It may take seeing it and recognizing it over and over, for a while.

Why me?

I watched The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies last night.

After Laketown has been laid waste by Smaug, there is a scene where Alfrid crawls onto shore among hundreds of other exiled Laketown residents. They are all in the same situation, and yet Alfrid says why me?

It’s not very subtle, but it’s a good illustration of what many of us sometimes does, including me.

We experience what’s universally human. What millions or billions of people have experienced before us, and what billions may experience after us. And yet, we feel we have been singled out. Somehow, life is especially unfair to me.

There are several reasons for this experience.

One is that most people show the lighter and more glossy side of their life to others, even without intending it. Most of us dress nicely, put on a smile, and are selective with whom we share the most difficult things in our lives. So it’s easy to see the lives of others as easier and better than our own, especially since we are – sometimes painfully – aware of the disappointments and challenges in our own life. As Steven Furtick said, the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Also, since there is identification as a self, including as one or more deficient selves, this self is naturally in the center of our awareness. We overlook or “forget” that others experience many or all of the same things as we do. My life is not necessarily more difficult than that of most others, even if it can seem that way at times.

What is the remedy?

One is to share these things with others, which allows them to share with us. We get to see that our experience is not unique.

Another is to find gratitude for it all, perhaps through an all-inclusive gratitude practice.

We can inquire into identifications and beliefs. And perhaps do ho’oponopono, or tonglen, or loving kindness practice.

We can also pray or ask for these experiences to help us find compassion, humility, gratitude, and a life of service.

And we can live a life of service. Knowing that others experience this too, we can dedicate our life to serve life. This can look like a very ordinary life. And yet it can make a big difference, for ourselves and others.


So general it can be applied to anything

Sometimes, someone will say it is so general it can be applied to anything. 

And I say to myself, great, that means I am onto something. 

In my experience, the most valuable pointers are exactly those that can be applied to anything. They are simple. And when applied to a specific situation, yield a great deal of insights. They are meaty. 

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From private to shared

In life in general, and through practices such as the Big Mind process and The Work, there is a shift from taking something about our human self as intensely private and personal, to it being revealed as universal and shared.

With any belief, there is an identification with a particular view and identity. And when there is identification with it, it is taken as “I”, as personal, and sometimes as quite private… especially when we have shoulds around it. It becomes something to hide, to let out only when it seems safe, to protect, and so on. We take it all very seriously.

When the identification goes out of it, we see that it is universal and shared and the sense of it being private falls away. It is no longer something to protect. There is a sense of freedom around it.

This shift happens in many different ways. It can come about from just knowing that it is similar for other people. Or from seeing it as universal through the Big Mind process. Or allowing attachment to it to fall away through The Work.

So say I am uncomfortable in some social situations and take it as very embarrassing and private. I am closely identified with that role, and with beliefs and identities around it. It becomes something to hide, and only mention in especially safe situations. Yet, as soon as I realize that this is universal and shared, and both see and feel this, or the attachment to beliefs and identities around it fall away, this all changes.

There is a sense of release, relief and space around it. It is still personal, in the sense that it is happening to this human self, but it is not longer private or something I need to tiptoe around. Instead of being something that separates me from others, something that makes me special and different, it becomes something that connects and is shared.

It is seen and felt as universally human, happening here with a particular flavor as it does for anyone else.

Personal and impersonal

There are many ways to explore the personal and impersonal, and one is in terms of how we experience what we take to be ourselves… in short, it seems that when there is a belief, the belief itself and what it relates to tends to be taken as personal, and when the belief is seen through, they are both revealed as impersonal… as universally human, as the inevitable appearance when there is a belief in the particular story, as nothing other than void itself taking a temporary appearance.

If there is the belief in the story people shouldn’t lie, and an identity as someone who doesn’t lie, then any lies here (which there are bound to be) will be experienced as intensely personal and private… the fact that I lie, and what I lie about, will both seem very personal and something to hide from others and maybe even myself. I would be mortified if they were revealed.

But if the belief in that story is investigated, revealing the limited and relative truth to that statement, the truths in each of its turnarounds, and even the gifts of lying (sometimes), the attachment to the story may fall away. And now, the story, the identity it creates (as someone not lying), and what it refers to (what is lied about), is not taken as so personal anymore. It is easier to see how it is universally human to (sometimes) lie, how a belief in the story creates the dynamics I just experienced, how the story itself is impersonal in the sense that it is shared in our culture (and many others), how it is just a thought which has no substance, and even how the story, the belief, the consequences of that belief, and what it refers to, all are temporary appearances of the void itself.

This all sounds quite complicated and convoluted, but the experience itself is simple. First, when there is a belief in a story, an identification with it, it seems personal and private, something to hide and protect. And when that identification falls away, for whatever reason, it is all revealed as impersonal… as universal, universally human, an appearance created from a belief, as anything else arising without identification with it (clouds, mountains), as a temporary face of void itself.

In practical (and relative) terms, as long as there is an identification with the story, and so also what it points to, it is difficult to own it and take responsibility for it. We try to push it away and deny it, and it shows up in our life in ways that only amplifies the sense of drama and struggle. But when there is an disidentification with it, it is actually easier to own it, take responsibility for it, be honest about it, which also changes how it shows up in our life. There is more integrity and a more conscious relationship with it, which makes it easier for ourselves and others.

This disidentification helps who we take ourselves to be (this human self), and it also helps in creating some space for recognizing what we are… an opening in the cloud cover created by beliefs.